For and Against Calvinism 9

For and Against Calvinism 9 November 16, 2011

Michael Horton examines a basic question contested between Calvinists and Arminians: Is the grace of God resistible? Well, he reframes this with what is surely a more accurate framing of the issues into effectual calling rather than “irresistible,” arguing as he does that the latter sounds like coercion. Further, he addresses yet another topic: perseverance and apostasy. As you may know, we are this series on Roger Olson’s Against Calvinism and Michael Horton’s For Calvinism.

Horton’s sketch here roams freely from Bible to the major statements in the Reformed tradition, and he has a constant eye on the Arminian and tosses some barbs at them. Central to this whole debate is whole debate is the human condition, and he makes much of humans being “dead” in sins and that means they need to be awakened — by God’s grace — to new life. That awakening is a sovereign act of God. And Michael Horton knows the golden chain of Romans 8:30 – what God begins, God finishes. It’s all of God.

Do you believe in “eternal security”? Do you believe all genuine Christians will persevere to the end? Do you think genuine Christians can “fall away” and be finally lost?

The new birth, then, is an act of God; it is not dependent on human decision. (Here Horton pushes against synergism.) He thinks grace is always resisted by humans apart from God’s regenerating grace which then awakens a person to obedience.

Horton believes we must carefully distinguish “new birth” (an act of God; we are passive) from “conversion” (we are active). The commands to respond to God are not “conditions” but “gifts” from God. [This sort of distinction requires positing information when the NT texts don’t talk like this very often.] But the odd thing for me in this chp was that I think Horton becomes, in effect, synergistic in conversion but not in new birth. Yet, he works hard to deny that his approach here is synergistic. He sees us as “covenant partners,” not “synergists.” {My first response: OK, then, Arminians then can be covenant partners in the new birth.]Horton has a reasonable sketch of perseverance, esp when it comes to apostasy. Essentially, his argument is that there is real apostasy (it is not hypothetical) but by those who are visibly connected to the church but not inwardly regenerated. None of this can be found in the texts in Hebrews so in his explanation he captures those texts through the grid of this approach. So, in Hebrews 6 we are reading about “those who belong only outwardly” and taste etc are not regenerative words but the experience of those outwardly connected to the visible community.

He then pokes the views of synergists: consistent and inconsistent synergism (former see everything in grace but push for it is a possiblity until the person responds, the latter emphasizing eternal security without perseverance where the emphasis is on personal decision). He sees Lutherans as inconsistent monergists.

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