For and Against Calvinism 12

For and Against Calvinism 12 December 2, 2011

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)?


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