For and Against Calvinism 12

Roger Olson is right: at the heart of the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism (or non-Calvinism) is this question: Is grace resistible or irresistible? To this end, I will begin a new series Monday (so come back to see what it will be about). But today’s post is Roger’s chp “Yes to Grace: No to Irresistible Grace/Monergism.”

I will put my cards on the table first: I believe those Calvinists who push hard for irresistible or effectual grace sketch a God who coerces and I am convinced, regardless of their contentions, that they effectively (and effectually) deny free will. If grace is irresistible, it is not chosen; if it is irresistible, humans aren’t free to say No to God. If that it is the case, … time to move to Roger’s chp.

Do you think irresistible grace is defensible morally? Does it deny free will for it to be true? If you and I were capable of saving an orphanage full of children who were starving and we chose instead to save only some, would we be called good? [Where does this analogy break down?]

Big one: If grace is resistible, is high Calvinism undermined? [I think it is.]

We are doing this series on Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism and Michael Horton’s For Calvinism. Monergism is the “belief that salvation is all God’s doing from beginning to end without any cooperation from the person being saved other than what God instills in that person” (156). That is, “God bends the elect person’s will so that he or she wants to come to Jesus with repentance and faith” (156). Since humans are dead in sins, since humans are incapable of turning to God, any turning or sign of life is God’s own doing.

Calvin believes in a kind of monergism and irresistible grace. So do Boettner, Steele and Thomas, Palmer, R.C. Sproul, and John Piper. [One of the features of this book I really like is Olson's rigorous method of citing principal high Calvinists and letting them speak in their own terms.]

Olson’s contention is that monergism necessarily entails God’s choice not to act graciously toward others when God could, and Olson contends this denies the goodness of God or at least impugns the reputation of God as a God of love and grace and goodness. How can God call us to love our enemies and God not do the same? How can God be capable of saving all and not save all if it is God’s choice and not ours?

Olson also argues anyone who argues that humans, because choice is necessary in order for salvation to take effect, are the deciding factor and therefore Arminianism is human-centered is unfair: Arminianism teaches that it is all of God’s (prevenient) grace with the necessary, relationally-necessary, factor of human choice, but the synergism here is vastly unequal.

Arminianism has always believed it is all of grace: prevenient grace. Humans, because this is about genuine relationships, have to choose. God’s grace is resistible by God’s own self-limiting choice.

Is it fair to say “By force/coercion you are saved, and not of yourselves” (as Vernon Grounds once said)?

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • http://morechrist.blogspot.com K.W. Leslie

    “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”

    So said Jesus. (Mt 23.37 = Lk 13.34 ESV; yes, I deliberately picked a Calvinist translation.) He would have, and they would not. Sounds resistible to me.

  • Paul W

    I presume that some of the Calvinist’s will chime in but I don’t think that they deny that all displays of grace are irrestible.

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com John Thomson

    the orphanage is really a pirate ship.

  • Michael F. Bird

    Scot,
    I’m gonna push back on this one. (1) I don’t think any intelligent Calvinist would deny that God’s grace is resistable. People resist God’s particular grace given in the gospel all the time. Even those who are “elect” can resist God’s grace, but what a Calvinist believes is that those who are elect will finally and effectually come to faith at some point. (2) I think coercion is the wrong image here. I tend to think of it more as resuscitating someone back to life from death, that’s not coercion, it’s the gift of life. (3) I do reject the monergism/synergism categories. The only true monergism is universalism. The Calvinistic scheme still retains a tension between divine sovereignty and human responsibility (though with obvious emphasis on the former). For Augustine, human will is freed by divine grace to believe, not over powered and dragged to Calvary kicking and screaming.

  • http://communityofjesus.wordpress.com/ Ted M. Gossard

    Yes. And so many of these Calvinists make a big deal out of this. So it is only right that we should have an answer.

  • scotmcknight

    Mike,
    I’m focusing on the grace that resuscitates; can the elect resist that grace? You say in the end the elect will believe. Could they have done otherwise? If not, I want to say the word coercion is worth serious consideration.
    Monergism, in my mind, effectively denies the free will of the elect in responding to that resuscitating grace; therefore, monergism coerces.
    And when you say what Augustine says, if it is accurate, it is semantics to say the human will is freed (by God) to believe, not overpowered or dragged … it is that act of freeing that is the point of contention. I’m not persuaded that kind of act can be described as compatibilist.
    I’m with you on monergism/synergism; Olson uses synergism of himself and many Calvinists today use monergism for themselves. I’m not convinced high Calvinism can escape the accurate label monergism.

  • Aaron Perry

    Michael (#4), I have a few comments that emerge from your comments:
    Re: 1. Wouldn’t one only need to add “ultimately” to the phrase grace is irresistible, and it would be acceptable? That’s not a significant challenge to Olson’s argument.
    Re: 2. You mention coercion being the wrong image, but the language is already used in your first comment. “Resist” is the action of a live person. The dead do not resist.
    Re: 3. I think Charles Wesley would affirm that Augustinian line: “My chains fell off; my heart was free. I rose, went forth, and followed thee.” That still leaves room for the divinely enabled (and thus free) response of humans.

  • http://nannykim-nannykim.blogspot.com kim

    So Ted , are you reading two books? Are you examining both sides? I was just wondering since you mentioned two authors–Olson and Horton. I have , as you know, been going through a change in my views. We tend to come to scripture with our faith’s particular glasses on our heads. We tend to interpret the same scripture in different ways. I am coming to the position that God enlightens our reason and strengthens our wills so we can respond (this is prevenient grace as I have found it defined in a Catholic doctrine book). The RC catechism says, “Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act.” One place I read says the council of Trent teaches: “….the Council of Trent declared that the free will of man, moved and excited by God, can by its consent co-operate with God, Who excites and invites its action; and that it can thereby dispose and prepare itself to obtain the grace of justification. The will can resist grace if it chooses. It is not like a lifeless thing, which remains purely passive. Weakened and diminished by Adam’s fall, free will is yet not destroyed in the race (Sess. VI, cap. i and v).” I think a lot of this has to do with what we believe are the actual affects (effects?) of original sin. What does Original Sin actually do to us. Different views on this doctrine will affect what we believe about the will of man after the fall.

  • RJS

    Mike,

    Is one is freed by God’s divine grace to believe one must also be freed to fall away again … which is the story of scripture from Genesis to Revelation. I agree with Olson that this is about real genuine relationships, by God’s design (and it is good) for his own reasons.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AnwothWill Will

    Sounds like we’re unclear on what it means to be “dead” in sin. There seem to be assumptions about that imagery that may need to be defended rather than assumed…from both sides.

  • gingoro

    “How can God be capable of saving all and not save all if it is God’s choice and not ours?”

    Roger told me that in Arminianism thought previent grace is given to an individual upon hearing the gospel and that prior to that the indicidual is dead in his sin. At that point the individual is free to make a choice. I presume that hearing the gospel needs to be a presentation of the gospel as Scot outlined in TKJG and not simply hearing the gospel as some might say from nature around us and thus given to all mankind. Thus as I see it not all are given previent grace. This results in two questions in my mind:

    One. In the Arminian system how can one call God good since not all receive previent grace. In other words don’t the Arminians have the same problem, just slightly different, that we Calvinists have?

    Two. A more minor point. Upon a proper clear hearing of the Gospel previent grace awakens a sinner from the dead. I presume that such awakening is irresistible? How then is Arminianism much less deterministic than Calvinism is? Note that I am not talking here about meticulous providence which as it happens I reject.
    Dave W

    ps I am not being sarcastic here and I have read two books by Roger plus I follow his blog. Maybe Arminians have an answer to my questions and I am interested in hearing the answer.

  • Paul W

    I am no High Calvinist. I am on other grounds, however, highly skeptical of the category of free will. I am even more skeptical that the power of contrary choice is somehow necessary for real and genuine relationships.

    So if I find my wife and her love to be something that is irresistible then am I to understand that our relationship is something less than real and genuine?

  • Gloria

    So Mike, you are contradicting yourself in point 1 as you say that any intelligent Calvinist does not deny that grace is resistible, and then that God’s elect will eventually come to grace (irresistible). We humans have free will which is also taught in the Bible. We are not puppets.

  • Scot McKnight

    Gingoro …

    Maybe Roger will weigh in on what you say he says about when and where prevenient grace begins.

    I’m of the mind that when we start making inferences from our theological inferences we enter the realm of speculation. God calls humans to accountability and responsibility (all kinds of nuances, debates, and footnotes omitted) and humans are charged to respond to God.

  • http://johngreenview.wordpress.com John Thomson

    I think I understand the arguments on both sides of this debate. I am ‘calvinistic’ (though hate the label as I do labels in general). I agree with Mike and others in their perspective and logic, however, my view in the final analysis is not based on the logic of arguments which seem to me in both sides to eventually collapse; I base my conviction on what seems to me to be the overwhelming witness of Scripture. A witness that may lead me naturally to say,

    Rom 9:14-19 (ESV)
    What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?”

    Only to receive a counter that does not answer the question but berates the audacity of the questioner

    Rom 9:20 (ESV)
    But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”

    For Paul, the final unimpeachable reality is that God is sovereign and that is his right as God. It is this sovereignty that is both a source of great celebration and comfort and also the source of much agonizing – especially the why of the innocent sufferer forsaken. Of course this means that the place God’s sovereignty finds its fullest exposition and resolution is at the cross.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    (1) Paul W (#12), I was going to raise the same issue. My wife, for example, seems to find my love more meaningful precisely because I found myself unable to do otherwise. In fact, I think its libertarian free will that has the problem with love since it can’t account for the efficient cause of any action without becoming self-refuting. So when Scot says that Calvnists can’t get away from coercion, I don’t see what the fuss is about. It all depends on what’s doing the coercing. If the beauty of Christ forces me to love him, how exactly does that make my love less meaningful? It seems to me it makes it more so.

    (2) On the apparent discrepancy of God not loving his enemies, this one still befuddles me. There is an underlying assumption that only a love that desires the salvation of the individual counts as real love. If that’s the case I just find it puzzling that Jesus did not appeal to this form of love in the very passage that calls us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). Arminians are trying to force a red herring on this one. So I want to ask Arminians: is rain and sunshine enough love for you? Or is God’s love flaky if that’s the most he ever gives to someone?

    (3) I think prevenient grace is the sticking point. If I could see it in Scripture, I could seriously consider jumping ships but I can’t find it. Where does Scripture teach of a universal grace that restores the fallen human will? I’ve seen some cite Tit. 2:11 but it’s reading too much to see a will-restoring grace there and its reading badly to see the grace as extending to every individual.

    Okay, I’ve spoken my piece ;). Enjoying the conversations on these posts, Scot. Thanks.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    gingoro (#11), I asked Roger the same question in an email about the irresistibility of prevenient grace wasn’t quite clear on his answer. I also got mixed answers from outline in Arminian Theology. I would cite pages but I don’t have my copy with me. It seems to me that prevenient grace has to be irresistible in order for it to solve the Calvinist dilemma. And I don’t see how it can be resisted if it is the very thing that restores the fallen will. So it looks like a conundrum to me.

  • Alan K

    Scot,

    I am a little confused by how use are using freedom in your opening comments. Is not saying “no” to God akin to saying “I’m going to stay in Egypt” and thus is not freedom?

  • Rick

    Keith Drury did a nice paragraph on this issue, in regards to the positions held by Luther, Calvin, and Wesley (Drury is a Wesleyan):

    “Calvin and Luther argue that God’s electing grace is “irresistible.” Human beings to Luther and Calvin do not have a say in their election to either salvation or damnation. There is no cooperation between human beings and God and human beings cannot resist the sovereign God’s grace when it comes. Wesley parts company with Calvin and Luther here. Wesley understands grace as “resistible”—a person can either receive or resist the grace that creates conviction, repentance, and faith. As moments of opportunity to “believe” happen as people are placed (or place themselves) in the means of grace, and the Spirit of God brings conviction, repentance, and is creating faith—people can choose to cooperate with what God is doing or not. However, if they choose not to cooperate in that given moment, there is no guarantee another moment—the moment in which God is drawing, convicting and convincing—will happen again. To Wesley people can not have saving faith without divine grace from God, but Wesley argues that people can reject or resist this grace from God. Though Wesley claimed he was a “hair’s breadth” from Calvinism these two points of disagreements are the width of that hair.”

  • Scot McKnight

    A comment on the distinction between effectual and irresistible grace. I see the attempt to change from the second to the former to miss the whole point. The issue here is not if God’s grace is effectual and effective; no one disputes that God’s grace can and does do its work. The issue in the soteriological debate is whether or not God’s grace, effectually experienced, can be resisted (disputing election in some sense) and then abandoned (genuine apostasy).

    I’d prefer not to get lost in a debate about Arminianism’s prevenient grace since that is an attempt to make sense of how God’s grace works in a way of thinking that values human choice as decisive. Somehow we all try to make sense of God’s grace at work in the human heart. I’m for a universalizing of grace so that God’s summons to responsibility leads to genuine free will. The attempt to explain how that kind of grace works stretches biblical texts and often goes beyond them, and defeating the stretch marks doesn’t, in my opinion, undo the major ideas that we are attempting to explain: namely, free will et al.

  • Sherman Nobles

    I believe that grace is like gravity. One can fight it for a while, but will eventually succume to it. One can also submit to it and fly.

    From experience I’d say grace is irresistable and salvation is completely a work of God in my heart. And of course there is plenty of scriptural evidence suggesting grace is irreistable and the salvation is completely a work of God.

    Concerning free-will, I see it as very limited and not equally distributed. Some are given more choices than others and we are responsible for the choices we are given, but not ulimately responsible for choices we do not have. To whom much is given much is required.

    I believe we are all created for relationship with God and I trust that ultimately God completes the good work He has begun in all of us. I also understand election to not be about exclusion but about inclusion. The elect are chosen so as to participate in the reconciliation of all.

    God is soveriegn. God is love. God is just and merciful. The convergence of these three results in universal reconciliation. Calvinism diminishes God’s love. Arminianism diminishes God’s sovereignty. And both diminish God’s justness, mercy, and righteousness in affirming ECT, imo.

  • Joe Canner

    It seems to me that one’s belief in irresistible grace is correlated with one’s personal experience with it. The Apostle Paul experienced irresistible grace on the Road to Damascus. The Apostle Peter saw it at work at Pentecost and in the life of Cornelius. Many modern-day converts have seen it at work in their lives. One the other hand, those of who grew up in the Church and/or in Christian homes have a different perspective. We are no less thankful for our upbringing, but perhaps do not see it as irresistible as others might.

    All this leads me to believe that (irresistible) grace is a practical truth that is easily recognized in retrospect by the believer, rather than a theological truth that can be prospectively defined, predicted, and systematized.

  • Richard

    I used to be a strong advocate of libertarian free will being necessary for justice but Jurgenn Moltmann has really challenged my thinking on this. I’m not settled yet but here is one of the quotes that pushes me hardest:

    “Who makes the decision about the salvation of lost men and women, and where s the decision made? Every Christian theologian is bound to answer: God decides for a person and for his or her salvation, for otherwise there can be no assurance of salvation at all. ‘If God is for us, who can be against us…’ (Rom. 8:31f) – we may add: not even ourselves! God is ‘for us’: that has been decided once and for all in the self-surrender and raising of Christ. It is not just a few of the elect who have been reconciled with God, but the whole cosmos (II Cor. 5.19). It is not just believers whom God loved, but the world (John 3.16). The great turning point from disaster to salvation took place on Golgotha; it does not just happen for the first time at the hour when we decide for faith, or are converted. Faith means experiencing and receiving this turning point personally, but faith is not the turning point itself. It is not my faith that cares salvation fro me; salvation creates for me faith. If salvation and damnation were the results of human faith or unfaith, God would be dispensable. The connection between act and destiny, and the law of karma, would suffice to create the causal link. If, even where eternity is at stake, everyone were to forge their own happiness and dig their own graves, human beings would be their own God. It is only if a qualitative difference is made between God and human beings that God’s decision and human decision can be valued and respected. God’s decision ‘for us,’ and our decisions for faith or disbelief no more belong on the same level than do eternity and time. We should be measuring God and the human being by the same yardstick if we were to ask: what, and how much, does God for the salvation of human beings, and what, and how much, must human beings do? To see God and a human being on the same level means humanizing God and deifying the human being. ‘Offer and acceptance’ is a frequently used formula which brings divine grace and human decision on to the same level in just this way. The trivial slogan ‘the church on offer’ turns God into the purveyor of a cheap offer in the religious supermarket of this society of ours, which has set out on the road to ‘the global marketing of everything’. The customer is king, says a German tag. So then the customer would be God’s king too” (Moltmann, in The Coming of God, p. 245-6)

    Like I said, I’m not settled yet but its a challenging argument

  • Aaron

    Peter G – Previnient grace is found in all the places in the bible that calvinists use as proof texts for Irresistible grace. John 12:32 for example :)

  • gingoro

    Scot If previent grace is given to all whether or not they hear the gospel then I have to ask How is Arminianism different from semi Pelagianism? In such a case with grace given to all then natural religion must be sufficient to point to God or at least so it seems to me.

    It was Roger’s answer that previent grace is given upon hearing the gospel that drove me to acknowledge that Arminianism is not logically equivalent to semi Pelagianism.

    By the way I think that preserving grace is not always effectual and the people can and do walk away from Christ but that such an coinsurance is somewhat rare. I also do not hold to meticulous providence.
    Dave W

  • http://evangelicalarminians.org Arminian

    Richard (comment # 23),

    I have to say that I did not find that Moltmann quote challenging at all. He seems to be terribly out of touch with the Bible’s revelation of the relational nature of God’s dealings with human beings and his position is basically universalism, which again is terribly unbiblical.

    I can see how a quote like this could be challenging apart from keeping the biblical narrative in view. But for just one example of its discord with what the Bible actually says, just apply his logic about offer and acceptance to the many texts in which God pleads with people to do his will and speaks of the blessing he wants to give them if they would only yield to him, etc. Or think of Jesus weeping over those who would not yield to his will. For a more biblically based view than Moltmann, you might want to check out something like Glen Shellrude, “Calvinism and Problematic Readings of New Testament Texts Or, Why I Am Not a Calvinist” (http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/1138) or much more simply, Paul Copan, “Divine Exasperation”(http://evangelicalarminians.org/node/1052) in which he simply points out a number of places in Scripture in which God shows frustration and exasperation with sinful, human resistance to his grace. Moltmann’s noble sounding reasoning just does not accord with scriptural reality.

  • Donnie Bryant

    I resisted the idea of irresistible grace for years. But the more I study scripture, the more evidence I see that seems to confirm it.

    I can no longer believe in free will in any comprehensive sense. Every human is a doulos/slave (Rom. 6:16-17). Either sin rules your life, or God’s righteousness.

    Even if our wills were completely free, who would choose God? What would it take to undo the “no one is seeking God” of Rom. 3:11?

    If everyone is equally dead in sin, and God extends equal grace to all, why do some accept that grace and some reject it?

    Would that give those who respond positively to grace a reason to boast? Paul tells us that God will not allow anyone grounds to boast about salvation (c.f. 1 Cor. 1:29).

    You know what it takes to undo Rom. 3.11? Phil 2:13! Any God-ward desires we have are worked in us BY HIM! (Is. 26.12)

    Regarding the orphanage analogy mentioned above:

    When we read fictional books or watch movies in which people die, do we accuse the author or producer of being unjust or unloving to their “creation?”

    Although this is a poor and incomplete analogy itself, I find it helpful. God has the right to do whatever he pleases in His story (history). Who are the characters in the story to answer against the Author?

    Great conversation!

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    I confess I have a hard time understanding what people mean by “arminianism”. In trying to understand this particular Protestant debate (which comes up a fair amount in my Baptist context), I read what Calvin and Arminius taught and where their points of disagreement were. “Calvinism” is typically used to describe the theology taught by Calvin, though perhaps modified or expanded over time. That’s fairly clear.

    From that, it seemed reasonable that people where using “arminianism” to describe agreement or affiliation with the theology Arminius taught. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. The distance between Calvin and Arminius theologically was not all that great. To a surprising degree, they were in a agreement (or at least not far removed). Their shared doctrine of total depravity is a good example.

    It was easy for me to determine that I’m essentially a zero point Calvinist. But I don’t agree all that much with Arminius either. I can maybe agree with him on a couple of points if I don’t press too closely, but that’s about it. I certainly wouldn’t describe myself as “arminian” if that means I agree with Arminius. But from the things people say, I don’t get the sense that the term is used today to describe affiliation with a particular theology the way “calvinism”, for example, is.

    I wonder if “arminian” has come to be used as a sort of generic label for any Christian who believes, for instance, in free will in some sense and in the universal nature of Christ’s work? (I don’t think I would limit that to atonement.)

    Not exactly on topic, I know, but I thought someone on this thread might know and could shed some light on it.

  • Tom F.

    Peter G.-”On the apparent discrepancy of God not loving his enemies, this one still befuddles me. There is an underlying assumption that only a love that desires the salvation of the individual counts as real love. If that’s the case I just find it puzzling that Jesus did not appeal to this form of love in the very passage that calls us to love our enemies (Matt. 5:43-48)…So I want to ask Arminians: is rain and sunshine enough love for you? Or is God’s love flaky if that’s the most he ever gives to someone?”

    I suppose it depends on how you define love: if you define it as desiring the truest, deepest good for a person, irrespective of your own benefits, than it creates significant tension. I can’t really think of any other way to define it that would work around this problem. How would you define love?

    And besides, what if we made God’s justice as “flaky” as you are proposing to make God’s love? God only expresses his justice in some cases not all, and sometimes he only expresses a superficial and non-ultimate part of that justice. (This superficial and non-ultimate justice would correspond to your “rain and sunshine” love”.) Heresy! In Calvinist circles, God’s justice is paramount, and it gets invoked to solve the problem of hell. But why is God’s justice so much more demanding than God’s love?

    So, no, “rain and sunshine” love is not enough. What would you think of a parent who said to a wayward child, “Well, I know your life was headed in a bad direction, and I had the ability to change that, and I chose not to, but I should still be seen as loving because I made sure you had enough to eat, and that your immediate needs were provided for.” We would judge them as an unloving parent.

    “And this renders heaven a world of love; for God is the fountain of love, as the sun is the fountain of light. And therefore the glorious presence of God in heaven, fills heaven with love, as the sun, placed in the midst of the visible heavens in a clear day, fills the world with light. The apostle tells us that “God is love;” and therefore, seeing he is an infinite being, it follows that he is an infinite fountain of love. Seeing he is an all-sufficient being, it follows that he is a full and over-flowing, and inexhaustible fountain of love. And in that he is an unchangeable and eternal being, he is an unchangeable and eternal fountain of love.”- Johnathan Edwards on Love

    You mean to say that you can use this kind of language as a Calvinist, calling THAT love, and then say that “rain and sunshine” fully expresses THAT love?

  • Sherman Nobles

    I think scripture defines love well enough:

    Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.

    Yes, God does love everyone; upon everyone the rain falls and the sun shines. God’s love is universal, just as His grace is ultimately irresitable. Have you ever taken the above and, considering God is love, put God in where it says love?

    God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud. God does not dishonor others, He is not self-seeking, He is not easily angered, He keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. God never fails!

  • http://Runtowin.blogspot.com Jeff_r

    Meh…irresistible grace isn’t nearly as big a deal to me as limited atonement and election. The capricious God of Calvinism is repugnant to my Arminian sensibilities.

  • Stephen Hesed

    My gosh…there’s definitely a bit of vitriol in this post, which is highly uncharacteristic of Scot. I’m surprised.

    Yes, I am a Calvinist. Yes, I believe in Irresistible Grace. No, that does not invalidate “free will” except in a very limited sense. God gives all humans free will. All humans choose of their own accord to reject God. But God responds by effectually bending the will of the elect to choose Him. So yes, in the case of the elect God does override free will, and they are unable to say “no” to Him. But it’s important to emphasize it’s not so much coercion as God changing what your desires so you WANT to choose Him.

    Monergism is most concisely stated in Romans 9:15-16: “For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not of him who wills or runs, but on God, who has mercy.” (Romans 9:15-16) It’s God’s will that election depends on, not human will. We see the same principle expounded in longer form in John 6:35-51. Note the effectual language Jesus uses: “All that the Father gives me will come to me”, “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me”, etc.

    The orphanage analogy breaks down immediately in that we deserve death. It is God’s decision to save sinners that is scandalous, not Him allowing sinners to reap what they sow.

    God DOES love His enemies! That’s the whole point of Matthew 5:43-48. And as a result, He desires all people to be saved (2 Peter 3:9, 1 Timothy 2:1-4, Ezekiel 33:11). Yet though He desire all people to be saved and He is capable of saving all people, He does not choose to save everyone. I will not claim to able to explain this. God never guaranteed that we would be able to rationally explain all of His actions. I hope that one day He will make it all clear for us, though.

    In summary, yes, God’s grace is coercive in nature. And I’m eternally grateful for that.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Stephen Hesed says “In summary, yes, God’s grace is coercive in nature. And I’m eternally grateful for that.”

    So you were specifically chosen by god? You must really feel good about that. Wow, great. Did he chose me too?

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Let me ask the next question for Stephen.

    What makes you think he has chosen you? Is it because you believe in Jesus and follow him? If so, wouldn’t it be, perhaps, and incorrect conclusion if indeed you are not actually following Jesus but a distortion of Jesus and god? What if the Jesus and god you are following is not like the real one? Are you still chosen then?

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Tom F. (#29), I like the Edward’s quote. Where does it come from?

    You raised a number of questions but here’s main one I want to hear more on from some Arminians: if love is always desiring to do the most helpful thing for the other person, regardless of the cost, then how do rain and sunshine fit into this? You seem to admit that they don’t. But this troubles me because Jesus was impressed by them and seems to think we should be too. So, if salvation is the greatest demonstration of God’s enemy-love, why doesn’t Jesus use salvation as his example of God’s love in Matt. 5:43-48?

    Thanks for the discussion.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    One more on the Edwards quote, Tom. He does restrict the love he so eloquently describes as being in heaven (“And this renders heaven…”). I don’t think he would extend that outside those boundaries, for what it’s worth.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    DRT, what would the ethical consequences be if Stephen was wrong about his being personally chosen by God? What would the consequences be of not caring?

  • Stephen Hesed

    @DRT: Please, let’s keep this civil. The sarcasm isn’t necessary. The elect can’t feel any pride about being chosen for the simple fact that God doesn’t choose based on their own merits, but based on His own unfathomable purposes.

    I would also like to point out that the Bible almost certainly teaches that God personally chooses all who are saved, as Ephesians 1:3-6 says as much. The question is rather whether God conditions His choice on ours or His choice causes ours. Arminians believe the former, Calvinists the latter.

    As for the tongue-in-cheek question about whether or not you are chosen, Romans 10:9-11 says it well.

    I apologize, but I can’t make heads or tails out of your second post. If you’d restate what you’re trying to get at I’d appreciate it.

  • http://www.theologymatters.blogspot.com Jorge

    Scot,

    I don’t think your “orphanage full of starving children” analogy resembles the picture the bible paints of fallen humanity. I mean, what end does the bible hold for fallen humanity apart from Christ? Judgment. Eternal punishment. That doesn’t sound like a fitting end for poor, helpless, innocent orphans does it? (I mention “poor” because you said they are “starving”; I mention innocent because you said they are “children”).

    It seems the bible holds that fallen humanity is guilty, justly deserving of punishment. Hence, an apt analogy would be of a prison full of condemned murderers, all sentenced to death. What then, if a governor decides to pardon one criminal and not the rest? Would it be unjust for him to not pardon the rest? Of course not. I think this picture comes closer to that depicted by the bible.

    So that’s “How can God be capable of saving all and not save all if it is God’s choice and not ours?”

    Grace is not a right, or else it wouldn’t be grace. It is undeserved and hence cannot be demanded. So I don’t think it’s fair to say “By force/coercion you are saved, and not of yourselves.” Grace is liberating; God opens one’s eyes to see “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6).” And once one truly sees, the beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ becomes irresistible. (Those who do turn away from a professed belief in Christ simply prove they were never really truly saved; cf. 1 John 2:19; Heb. 3:6,14).

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Stephen, there was no sarcasm in my post.

    What I am driving towards is that you feel you are saved, therefore you feel that god has chosen you. Right?

    Don’t you feel that since god has chosen you that it gives you some basis for thinking that your beliefs are, for lack of a better phrase, correct. Right? Now I am certain that you feel you are subject to error since you are full of depravity, but humor me and see if you can see it from my perspective.

    Now imagine another person, Fred, who feels he has been chosen and reads the precepts of Calvinism and Fred feels that he is indeed part of the Calvinistic tradition and that he is part of the elect. Fred has a church that feels he is correct, and that he is worshiping the one true lord and savior.

    But what if Fred is wrong? What if he has been taught a version of Jesus and god that is not, in fact, like Jesus. What if the god he worships is like Jesus my Lord only in name? And what if this person, Fred, were to believe that he is truly part of the elect, but those who think differently were not.

    Wouldn’t that create quite a significant problem? Wouldn’t Fred, potentially, feel that he is right as long as his view conforms to what he was taught and be guarded against any false teaching since he is, indeed, part of the elect?

    How do we know that we are the elect?

  • Percival

    John #3,

    That pirate ship is full of orphan babies being held hostage by pirates, and all the orphans will grow up to be pirates too unless someone can get them off that ship.

    And to show that even a Jesus music pioneer like Randy Matthews can grow up to be a pirate, check this out! :)

    http://www.redbeardrules.com/

  • Chris White

    Christ Jesus commissioned the Church to go and make disciples and teach them to obey all his commands(Mt.28). The Word of God is the seed of our salvation. The Holy Spirit is the One who convicts. When believers share the Gospel and the Holy Spirit moves upon those hearing the word (which needs to land on fertile soil), the opportunity for good fruit is present.

    It does not have to be at a church service/building (Phillip and the Ethiopian, Paul and Silas in the jail) but the powerful Word (Heb.4) has to be shared (knowledge –> faith Rom.10) and the individuals have to respond in faith (the kind of faith that produces obedience).

    It is not what one thinks happened in the past that matters, (was it really a conversion or just hopeful wishing?) but one that continues in a relationship to the end (endure to the end to be saved-Mt.24).

    Focusing on who is the elect, or am I the elect is wrong, for our focus is to be on Jesus, on things above (Col.3). We understand that faith that truly connects to the God of grace in a saving relationship continues to connect with the God of grace in a sanctifying relationship in the power of the Holy Spirit in the community of believers.

    In the community we seek to encourage and urge each other to love others (to do good works) and we all need to continue to grow in the fruits of the Spirit to make our calling and election a point of confidence (2 Pet.1).

  • Chris White

    I do think that prayer plays an important part in preparing the soil of a person’s heart and the life of love lived by believers as they struggle through life, (like everyone else) also plays a part in preparing the soil. If we think in the soterian Gospel frame we think about these issues we a perspective that is markedly different than when we look at these issues (Arminian vs. Calvinism) from a Gospel Gospel frame.

    [Why do you think these issues did not come to the forefront before the Reformation and the emphasis of the individualized Gospel framing?]

  • Chris White

    And not knowing who are the elect among the unsaved, the Calvinist preach and share the Gospel to all, knowing only the Elect will respond–while the Arminians preach and share the Gospel to all, knowing that those who respond are the Elect.

    This issue only creates disunity–a category that does not need to be debated–which forces either side to view the other side as suspect (when taking their position to the logical ends–the Calvinist have an ugly God and the Arminians are pegalianists.)

    I suggest that we not only stop debating it among ourselves but stop preaching/teaching the particulars–rather spend the energy making disciples and teaching them to obey all that Jesus commanded.

  • Chris White

    Do you know any Calvinist who declares they were forced to believe the Gospel? Or an Arminian who thinks he conjured the will power on his own to believe the Gospel?

    These are straw men and not worthy of the Church of our King Jesus, Lord and Creator, Savior and Judge to engage.

  • BradK

    Peter asked “Where does Scripture teach of a universal grace that restores the fallen human will?”

    Where does scripture teach that human will is fallen? There are countless indications that humanity clearly has the capacity to make moral choices even after the fall. From God telling Cain that if he did well his countenance would be lifted up to Moses telling the Israelites that the commandments he was giving them were not too difficult and that they should follow them and live, there seems to be a strong underlying assumption in scripture that humans have free will.

    For me prevenient grace is just another name for the gospel. God is merciful and offers forgiveness for all just like he has always done.

  • http://blogforthelordjesuscurrentevents.wordpress.com Mike Gantt

    Calvinsim-versus-Arminianism is a sickness. It is a distraction to Christ and His cause. Would that Calvinists and Arminians both throw down their swords and go back to their first love, Jesus Christ.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    BradK (#46), you might check Paul’s use of Lev. 18:5 in Rom. 10:5ff and compare it with your own. There’s some interesting stuff happening with Lev. 18:5 in Rom. 10. And when the NT speaks of us being dead apart from Christ and enslaved to sin, that’s the fallen human will. It’s in bondage, as Luther put it.

    Classic Arminianism avoids the charge of semi-pelagianism because it affirms that the human will is fallen. If you’re not worried about that charge, okay. But classical Arminians are (and rightly so, in my view). Prevenient grace is needed precisely because the human will is fallen. So I think we’re using the same term for two different things. We’re not just playing semantics.

    And by the way, a fallen human will does not mean we don’t have meaningful moral choices to make. It means the choices we make will never be right because we will always make bad ones so long as our will is corrupt.

    Does that clarify things any?

  • Tom F.

    Jorge- Ridiculous! No one has said its unfair that God condemns sinnners, only that it falls short of God’s love to condemn them when he could save them.

    I swear, next time I’m just going to copy-paste from previous blogs, as this particular line of argument shows up nearly every time.

  • Tom F.

    Peter G.- Certainly “rain and sunshine” do fit into God’s love, but the question you asked was whether they were enough. Your argument essentially proceeds from a silence on Jesus’ part, in that Jesus doesn’t say that salvation is the truest expression of God’s love, at least in that particular passage. Not a lot to stand on in a silence.

    If I was forced to speculate, I would say that since Jesus is about to encourage his disciples to imitate God, he is not going to recommend them to save their enemies, since that is most basically God’s work. We can not imitate God in that way, we can only announce what God has already accomplished. Therefore, Jesus focuses on the part his disciples can do, which is to bless them tangibly and lift them up in prayer to God.

    The Edwards quote can be found in “The sermons of Jonathan Edwards: a reader”. It is available and searchable on Google Books. I understand that Edwards restricts this love to heaven, but my question is how Calvinists see that love expressed to those who God has decided not to let into heaven. How does that love show up in “rain and sunshine”?

    Sherman- Going by 1 Cor, than certainly we would have to say that God does not love the non-elect. For certainly it is not kind to decide not to save someone, or to keep a record of their wrongs and then damn them, no? I don’t see how the 1 Cor passage helps to explain why God loves the non-elect.

  • Chris White

    In him, (the logos of Jn1.1), there was life, and that life was the light of all people. There was a man named John (the Baptist) who was sent by God. he came to tell the people the truth about the Light so that through him (Jesus) all people could hear about the Light and believe. John wasn’t the Light. The true Light that gives light to all was coming into the world. The logos (the Light) became a human. Those who accept Him and believe in Him he gives the right to become the children of God. They did not become His children in any human way–by human parents (lineage) or by human desire–they were born of God.

    Those who accept Jesus and believe in Him are born of God. Do not make less of this than it is–do not change it to something else.

    When we try to focus on one aspect of this over the other we distort the Word of Truth and cause disunity within the Church–and so negate, to a degree, the command of Jesus to love one another and the unsaved will NOT see that we are His followers by our love for each other.

    Please fulfill the law of Christ.

  • http://www.theologymatters.blogspot.com Jorge

    Tom F:

    “No one has said its unfair that God condemns sinnners…”

    Right. But remember Scot’s analogy:

    “If you and I were capable of saving an orphanage full of children who were starving and we chose instead to save only some, would we be called good? [Where does this analogy break down?]”

    What is this presupposing about God and humanity? I get no hint of guilty sinners deserving judgment here, and without this the analogy breaks down – which is my point.

    “…only that it falls short of God’s love to condemn them when he could save them.”

    But you have to answer this as well as an Arminian, don’t you? (I presume you are not a universalist.) Do you think God could have chosen to create a world where everyone would be saved? If so, why didn’t he?

    And even if you don’t think it is possible for God to create this kind of world, then why does God *have to* create the “free creatures” he knows will choose to reject him? Couldn’t God have just created those he knew would, of their own “free will,” choose him? Why didn’t he? Is that “loving” in your mind for God to create people he knows will not turn to him when he could have chosen not to have created them at all?

  • Tom F.

    “What is this presupposing about God and humanity? I get no hint of guilty sinners deserving judgment here, and without this the analogy breaks down – which is my point.”

    But the problem is that there is no problem of guilty sinners because of the cross. In Calvinist scheme, one’s status as a sinner has nothing to do with one’s election or non-election, as everyone is a sinner. The analogy breaks down if you talk about the orphans deserving grace, but when there was plenty of grace to go around in the first place, why does God withhold it if he loves the orphans/pirates/whoever?

    “But you have to answer this as well as an Arminian, don’t you? (I presume you are not a universalist.) Do you think God could have chosen to create a world where everyone would be saved? If so, why didn’t he?”

    Sure, I have to answer it, but it is hugely different to say that God could have created a world where everyone is saved, but chose not to, than it is to say that God was totally responsible for the loss of some portion of humanity, from start to finish.

    If you can answer the question: “Why are lost not saved?”, with some form of “they chose not to be”, in whatever way that is meaningful, then there is still mystery, yes, but not a problem that necessarily impinges on God’s love, in the way that Calvinistic non-election does. In Calvinist scheme, you end up having to answer it by saying, “God decided not to save them, even though he loved them.” Or even more weird, you have to say that God doesn’t love the non-elect, or doesn’t love them salvifically, which I think is the tack that Peter G. is taking, which I respect at least for its consistency.

    Bottom Line: Just because Arminians have to explain the existence of evil and damnation cosmically, and there is some mystery there, doesn’t mean we’re on the same level as Calvinists who have to work very, very hard to salvage a notion of God’s love in election. Especially when he is not compelled by anything else (not justice! the non-elect COULD have been included in Christ’s death!) and yet still decides not to save them.

    I think it would still be worthwhile for God to create human beings who would turn against him, because human beings, as created, are good. (God says as much.) So yes, human beings may ruin things, and then not even respond to God’s saving grace, but I don’t have a problem with that because his creation of them is still good. Additionally, I think God could still meaningfully love the lost in this scenario all the way up to and through judgment, in this case. Besides, I’m somewhat partial to annihilation arguments anyway. But even in ECT, I still think you end up “ahead” with far fewer problems in some form of Arminianism than in Calvinism.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    Tom F (#50), the NT has no qualms about using God’s work in salvation as a model for our behavior. Just look at Matt 18:21-35. But even more seriously, your explanation of Jesus’ silence would render Scot’s original question near-blasphemous, wouldn’t it? Scot asked, “How can God call us to love our enemies and God not do the same?” And “doing the same” here means something like “helping his enemies by saving them.” But wouldn’t your explanation require us to simply respond that “we can not imitate God in that way.” In order to work at all, Scot’s question requires that God can (and should) call us do imitate his actions in salvation. It looks to me like that particular explanation of Matt. 5:43-48 creates more problems than it solves.

    So my question: if rain and sunshine are examples of God’s love for his enemies that we should imitate, why can’t God love enemies he never saves? And if he can’t, how does your answer avoid deconstructing Jesus’ moral logic in Matt. 5?

    Also, FYI, I wouldn’t claim that salvation is the “truest” form of God’s love. I would say that love is diverse and reflects the diversity of relationships and contexts in which it’s displayed. My love for my best friend is very different in expression from my love for my wife, but both deserve to be called “love.” I’m not convinced from Scripture that God has the same relationship with every human or that he expresses his love in the same exact context with each one. His love is diverse like ours and is impressive in its variety just as human love is.

    So God’s love for his enemies expressed in rain and sunshine impresses me in ways his love for the elect does not. And his love for the elect impresses me in ways is love for the non-elect does not. Personally, I now (I didn’t always) find it pretty cool to think about just how undiscriminating rain clouds and sunbeams are. I’ve never once been able to plot the relative moral failings of my neighbors by the weather patterns. If God directs the weather (as Jesus assumes) then this is actually pretty impressive, isn’t it? I wish my goodwill and kindness were half that blind to the relative moral status of those who I rub shoulders with on a regular basis.

    It’s taken a lot of re-wiring for me to start to get this. Naturalism has affected me much more than I knew. For me, it helped to keep pressing the silly-sounding question: am I as impressed with rain and sunshine as Jesus is? My answer was “no” for a long time. Doing some work in Psalm 104 helped a lot and so did a sermon by Don Carson on omnipotence.

    Maybe it will help some here too.

  • http://www.theologymatters.blogspot.com Jorge

    Tom F:

    “But the problem is that there is no problem of guilty sinners because of the cross. In Calvinist scheme, one’s status as a sinner has nothing to do with one’s election or non-election, as everyone is a sinner.”

    I’m not sure what your point is here and how this relates to Scot’s analogy. Yes, everyone is a sinner; and yes, Christ came into the world to save sinners.

    “The analogy breaks down if you talk about the orphans deserving grace, but when there was plenty of grace to go around in the first place, why does God withhold it if he loves the orphans/pirates/whoever?”

    Scot’s analogy is about questioning the *goodness* of someone who chooses to save some, when that someone has the ability to save all. We agree, but I think he cheats here by identifying those with the potential of being saved as starving, orphan children, when that doesn’t due full justice to Scripture’s testimony of the lost. Do you agree? It would have been a better analogy had he left those descriptors out.

    So, to re-frame your question, which gets at the heart of the issue: why does God not extend saving grace to every single person? *I don’t know.* I have to play the ‘mystery’ card here. But I do know that the Scriptures teach that God is love, that he is totally just, and also that he is totally free to extend mercy to whom he desires:

    Romans 9:14-16: What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

    God, for some reason, chooses to grant mercy to some and withhold it from others. Yet the Scriptures clearly teach he is loving and just. So I say “Amen.”

    “Sure, I have to answer it, but it is hugely different to say that God could have created a world where everyone is saved, but chose not to, than it is to say that God was totally responsible for the loss of some portion of humanity, from start to finish.”

    If God is under no obligation to create this world yet chooses to do so knowing that many of his “free creatures” will certainly be lost forever, you can’t escape the charge the he is in some *qualified* sense responsible, for the result could have been avoided had he simply chosen not to create.

    “If you can answer the question: “Why are lost not saved?”, with some form of “they chose not to be”, in whatever way that is meaningful, then there is still mystery, yes, but not a problem that necessarily impinges on God’s love, in the way that Calvinistic non-election does.”

    So the Arminian problem of why God chooses to create those he knows will end up lost is a mystery which doesn’t necessarily impinge on God’s love, yet the Calvinist problem of why God chooses to not save all does? I don’t think so.

    Both of us have the problem of knowing why God chose to do things the way he did (when he could have done otherwise), resulting in the fact that people would be lost. Whether or not one thinks God “passively allowed” (Arminianism) or “actively ordained” (Calvinism) all things, he still signed off on the project. And in that sense, he’s responsible for the whole thing – though the Scriptures clearly teach God isn’t evil nor does he do evil.

  • Tom F.

    Jorge, since you admit you don’t know why God doesn’t save some, then I will concede everything else up to that point. Great, so Scot’s analogy was slightly off. Doesn’t mean a better analogy would have let you off the hook in not knowing, right?

    But you claim also that scripture teaches that God is loving. I think that in simply falling back on this sort of brute force, you empty the word “love” of any meaning.

    If God can “love” someone and not save them, then what does love even mean? Does knowing that God “loves” us give us any prediction of what God will do in the future? Nope. All human analogies break down at this point, since apparently our human ideas of love can’t even predict whether God’s “love” means that he would care about someone enough to save them from infinite eternal torment.

    Bottom line: you can’t “brute force” an attribute of God by simply suggesting that the scriptures teach it. If the scriptures taught that God was “blurple”, and yet “blurple” has no meaning, the scriptures teach nothing. And yet you are doing the same thing by simply falling back on “scripture says God is loving”, without giving it any meaning.

    As to your last point, I just fundamentally disagree that God “signing off” on a project that includes real human choice is somehow the same as God pulling the strings on the whole project. You may be right that its still mysterious why God chose to create knowing that some would be lost.

    But if claiming mystery puts us all in the same box, does that mean I can do whatever I want with mystery and still end up in the same box? What if I wanted to argue that God both saves us and damns us at the same time? I could quote both the “universalistic” scriptures and the “exclusivist” scriptures and if anyone objected, I would just claim that its a mystery. No, clearly some mysteries are more tolerable than others. My point is that the mystery of why God created the possibly lost is much less problematic than the mystery of why God would not save some people when he could. Not all mysteries are created equal.

  • http://www.theologymatters.blogspot.com Jorge

    Tom F:

    “Doesn’t mean a better analogy would have let you off the hook in not knowing, right?”

    What? Scot’s analogy is not about *why* some are chosen and others are not. As I said before, it’s about question the *goodness* of someone saving some when one could have saved all. I’m not looking for an analogy to get me “off the hook.” Apples and oranges here.

    “…you empty the word “love” of any meaning. If God can “love” someone and not save them, then what does love even mean?”

    Don’t you realize you have to answer this as well, Tom? Be consistent here. What does “love” mean for you, as an Arminian, when God could save Bob (and loves him just as much and in exactly the same way as everyone else, given your apparent understanding of God’s love) and doesn’t? How is God loving, in your view, in creating a person he knows will for certain reject him and end up suffering forever?

    You claim I’m emptying the word “love” of any meaning. OK, according to who’s definition of love? Define *true* love for me then and tell me where you’re getting that understanding of love from?

    “All human analogies break down at this point, since apparently our human ideas of love can’t even predict whether God’s “love” means that he would care about someone enough to save them from infinite eternal torment.”

    But you don’t even believe that God’s love entails he actually saves everyone, right, because in Arminianism, people still end up in hell, don’t they?

    “Bottom line: you can’t “brute force” an attribute of God by simply suggesting that the scriptures teach it. If the scriptures taught that God was “blurple”, and yet “blurple” has no meaning, the scriptures teach nothing. And yet you are doing the same thing by simply falling back on “scripture says God is loving”, without giving it any meaning.”

    Interesting accusation. I’m not sure exactly what you mean, but I’m going to try to interpret your words in the best possible light. I think our notion of love should be informed by what the Scriptures teach. As a Christian, I believe the Scriptures are from God so what they have to say, since it comes from God, is by default most meaningful.

    I could go on and on expounding, from Scripture, the greatness of God’s love and what love means and has meant for me personally. But you are assuming certain things about what true love should look like without providing justification for it yourself. John 3:16 says the following about the love of God: God loves the world this way – he gave his only Son for the purpose of saving only those who believe. That’s loving, first and foremost, because God says it is.

    “As to your last point, I just fundamentally disagree that God “signing off” on a project that includes real human choice is somehow the same as God pulling the strings on the whole project.”

    That’s not what I said. What I said was “Both of us have the problem of knowing why God chose to do things the way he did (when he could have done otherwise), resulting in the fact that people would be lost.”

    “My point is that the mystery of why God created the possibly lost is much less problematic than the mystery of why God would not save some people when he could.”

    God didn’t create possibly lost people; he create people he knew were “doomed from the womb” because of their “free will.” I think that’s at least as problematic as the Calvinist who believes God chooses not to save everyone.

  • BradK

    Peter (#48), this discussion is old by now, but I’ve just now gotten a chance to catch back up.

    One can see the NT discussions of our being dead apart from Christ and enslaved to sin as fallen human will, but there are other ways to see that. One way would be that humans are simply in disobedience to God’s decrees and in need of forgiveness, not because of fallen will but because humans sinned. They had the capacity to choose to obey, but did not. So God offers forgiveness in Christ. If one wanted to argue that God’s offer of forgiveness is what is referred to as prevenient grace, I would have little argument with that. But I don’t see how Leviticus 18:5 supports the corruption of the human will. It seems to do the opposite. If one obeys God’s commands he will live. This would seem to strongly imply the capacity to obey those commands, right? Likewise the passage in Deuteronomy 30 which Paul more directly quotes in Romans 10 (and to which I referred in my comment to which you responded) also seems to strongly assume the capacity to obey.

    You haven’t actually shown that the human will is fallen, but rather asserted it. Rather than asserting that “the choices we make will never be right because we will always make bad ones so long as our will is corrupt” one needs to first show that the will is corrupt, preferably by showing where this is supported in scripture. Which was what I asked in response to your initial question about restoring the fallen human will. I was curious how you saw scripture supporting a corrupt human will in the first place.

    Appeals toward Luther or against Pelagius aren’t too relevant. Both were condemned as heretics, right? ;-)

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    BradK, both were, but no major church body has yet endorsed Pelagius as Christian (certain members of the Episcopal church excepted). I think it has relevance.

    And no, “ought” does not imply “can.” This the fundamental mistake of all (semi-)Pelagian systems. Just because God commands us to do something does not mean we are capable of doing it. In John 10:25-26 the Jews cannot believe because they are not Jesus’ sheep. So how do they become sheep? That’s one to think over.

    On the bondage of the will, you might try Rom. 6 which, again, says we are enslaved to sin. Or even Rom. 7 which I read as a post-Christian perspective on pre-Christian experience. But the most important text is, of course, Eph. 2:1, 5. If you can explain how a dead man can respond to God, I’m all ears. But saying that being dead means we’re in disobedience rather than that we have a fallen will is a false dichotomy. We disobey because we have faulty wills. Actions flow from our will not the other way around. Or, to borrow a metaphor from James, Can a fig tree bear olives or a grapevine produce figs?

    On Lev. 18:5, it sure does sound like that and that may even be how Paul is using it in Rom. 10:5. If so, what becomes very significant is that he contrasts that with grace in the next verse. One might then want to know, Well how many people are able to obey God’s commands and so live? Rom. 3: none. (Yes, that’s still the best reading of Rom. 3, in my opinion, despite some recent attempts to the contrary.) If one obeys he will live. But no one obeys. Hence the need for grace.

    In any case, this is all really beside the point. My main goal was simply to say that Classical Arminians most certainly affirm the bondage of the will. If they did not, they would not need to have a doctrine of prevenient grace (as they define it). So unless your own view of prevenient grace is that it heals/fixes/changes the corrupt human will, you are talking about something else when you use the same term. That’s my only point. And on this, you ought to read Roger Olson. He is an Arminian who has as much trouble with semi-Pelagianism as most Calvinists do.

    And please know that I don’t use the labels as a way to write you off or ignore you but rather for clarity. Also these ideas and the terms used for them have a history.

  • BradK

    Whether a church body does or does not recognize Pelagius (or Luther) as Christian is irrelevant. To reject an argument because it is Pelagian (or semi-Pelagian) is a logical fallacy, just as it would be to write off the bondage of the will because it is Lutheran. An argument must be debated on its merits. So let’s just dispense with the whole Luther/Pelagius thing.

    Any argument that fundamentally claims that God commands anyone to do something of which they are incapable is irrational and is a non-starter with me. The alternative is to believe that God is evil. There is nothing in John 10:25-26 that requires one to believe in any incapacity of the will. The people to whom Jesus was speaking were not his sheep because they did not follow him. They could have become his sheep by believing in him and following him. He specifically criticized them in 10:25 for not doing that, right?

    As for being a slave to sin, Paul goes on to later say that we are slaves to the one whom we obey. This seems to clearly indicates a human choice between slavery to sin and slavery to God.

    How can a dead person respond to God? How can a dead person walk around? Perhaps it is possible to use the term “dead” metaphorically?

    “[S]aying that being dead means we’re in disobedience rather than that we have a fallen will is a false dichotomy. We disobey because we have faulty wills.” You are again asserting what I asked you to demonstrate. Argument by assertion is not very convincing, is it? ;-) God tells his children, the Israelites, that if they obey they will live and that if they disobey they will die. Since they disobeyed (as did the Gentiles – Paul doesn’t let them off the hook either) they are effectively dead as God assuredly keeps his promises, right?

    But where in Romans 3 does Paul say that humans are incapable of obeying God’s commands? He clearly says that all *have* sinned (i.e. disobeyed) and thus have fallen short of God’s glory. He says that no one is righteous and that none do good (of course much of this is quotation of the OT with a specific context.) But where does Paul say that humans are incapable of obedience? He doesn’t.

    I’m have no objection to your statements “If one obeys he will live. But no one obeys. Hence the need for grace.” I agree completely. No one obeys. Hence the need for grace. This implies nothing about the will being fallen or corrupt. Humans simply exercise their will in disobedience. And because they disobey, they need to be forgiven. God offers forgiveness for that disobedience in Christ.

    And I understand that (most) classical Arminians affirm the bondage of the will and see a need for prevenient grace. I would hope you understand that this is irrelevant to my original question. I simply disagree with those folks regarding the bondage of the will. If you were a classical Arminian who claimed that the will is corrupt, fallen, or in bondage, I would still have asked you to support it. :-)

    And I’ve read Olson, as well as Robert Picirilli, who also rejects semi-Pelagianism and also sees a need for prevenient grace. I simply disagree with them, or at least disagree with prevenient grace as usually defined – i.e. some magical change that God mysteriously worked on the human will. If one wants to argue that the gospel itself is prevenient grace then I will happily agree. People are on the hook for their sin until and unless God offers them forgiveness. He has now offered that forgiveness in Christ. That is definitely grace. And it definitely precedes (or is synonymous with) grace.

  • http://www.gurrydesign.com Peter G.

    BradK, thanks. That last paragraph would have been nice right up front. My goal all along was to say that denying the enslavement of the will puts you outside the Reformed (using the term broadly) heritage regarding salvation. Whether that matters to you (and whether it should) is another matter.

    “But where does Paul say that humans are incapable of obedience? He doesn’t.” Rom. 7; Eph. 2

    If you’ve never seen someone hit a ball over a mile with the same bat, would you still say they have they ability to do so? If no one obeys, on what basis (other than your assumption that “ought” implies “can”) do you continue to affirm our ability?

    Thanks.

  • Veronica

    I didn’t read all the comments so forgive me if this was addressed. I would like to point out that Jesus did not ask Lazarus’s permission to make him alive again. Jesus said, “Come forth!” and he obeyed without any complaint about the coercion of his will. God makes someone born again (which they would never complain of a coercion of their will) then they freely choose what they plainly see as the truth – previously the devil has blinded their minds. Another thing I have noted from Arminians is that they use human reasoning over what the Bible says and we subject God to what we believe is right and wrong when the Bible says as high as the heavens are above the earth so are His ways above our ways. If you have a God that you can fully understand with human reasoning, then He is not the God of the Bible.


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