Thursday, April 17, 2008

My wee response to "why I am not a Calvinist" Part 2/3

My interaction is in blue.
By Tartanarmy

The argument from grace would have us believe God is 100% responsible for our salvation and that we are 0% responsible for it, for grace alone is causally sufficient for our faith in Christ (See Paul Helm in Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views, 170). If this is true, however, compatibilism is false and we are left with hard determinism. Human freedom, thus, is nothing more than an illusion.

How so? Where is the refutation?
If a person is “as a created being remember as distinct from God who is God” is actually determining actions based upon his own desires and will, and God is at the same time using said actions for His purposes, then where exactly is the illusion?
The Arminian says “illusion” where he ought to say “I do not like that kind of freedom”, just like the person in Romans 9 argued against the Apostle Paul! see Rom 9:19, "You will then say to me, Why does He yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?"

Ant tell me this. In Gen 50, did Joseph and all those events and people seem illusory, even when God used their actions etc for the very purpose of saving many people alive? Those actions included so many sins and desires of men, and yet God’s will was done by these exact actions of men!
Gen 50:20 But as for you, you thought evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save a great many people alive.

How about the death of our Savior? Scripture tells us that God ordained exactly what the wicked and responsible actions of men were doing, but exactly for God’s purpose to be done! Same actions, same events and yet God’s will is perfectly done and men are rightly judged for these very sinful and freely desirous actions! Act 2:23 , Act 3:18, Acts 4:25-28.
Act 2:23 this One given to you by the before-determined counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and by lawless hands, crucifying Him, you put Him to death;

Ironically enough, an argument for incompatibilism seems to be given in the end. Of course, the more careful Calvinists theologians deny this and hold that human beings are responsible for their salvation (as we will see below), but in my view this softens the idea that God is “solely responsible” for our salvation and leaves the argument from grace significantly qualified, rendering its rhetorical value greatly diminished.

Therefore, while it is in the view of this author that Calvinism puts forward many interesting and even believable arguments from Scriptural proof texts, it nevertheless leaves us with an illogical and unintelligible construct that is inconsistent and confusing, and in my case, damaging.

This is nothing but bare assertion. Where is the argumentation?
Am I missing something here?

My Journey to this Conclusion

My journey away from Calvinism began not unlike other journeys with intense reflection on the last letter of the so called “TULIP”: the letter “P”—perseverance of the saints. The first four points of the TULIP all focus on the order of salvation before the moment of saving faith, the last point deals with the state of the believer afterwards. Many who have not studied “5 point” Calvinism in depth are attracted to the teaching of the fifth point, because it ensures a “once saved always saved” theology of eternal security.

Just for the record again, no Calvinist holds to this “once saved always saved” idea that is so common today. The idea has become a shadow of what the “P” is teaching, and incidentally, the idea of “perseverance of the Saints” logically and more importantly Biblically follows from the four other points of Calvinism. The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints is stated in the Westminster Confession in the following words: “They whom God hath accepted In His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.”1 Or in other words we believe that those who once become true Christians cannot totally fall away and be lost, — that while they may fall into sin temporarily, they will eventually return and be saved.

This doctrine does not stand alone but is a necessary part of the Calvinistic system of theology.

This certainly was the case with me. The possibility of falling away is a dreadful prospect, and the idea of God’s sustaining grace guaranteeing my safety was most assuring. How the letter “P” in the TULIP could be said to be the weakest link was not apparent to me.

Nor me. The Scripture proof for this doctrine is abundant and clear.

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord,” Rom. 8:35-39

“Sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under law, but under grace,” Rom. 6:14. “He that believeth hath eternal life,” John 6:47. “He that heareth my word, and believeth Him that sent me, hath eternal life, and cometh not into judgment, but hath passed out of death into life,” John 5:24.

if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever,” John 6:51
“Whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up unto eternal life,” John 4:14
“Being confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Jesus Christ,” Phil. 1:6. “Jehovah will perfect that which concerneth me,” Ps. 138:8

“The gifts and calling of God are not repented of,” Rom. 11:29.
“The witness is this, that God gave unto us eternal life,” I John 5:11.
“These things have I written unto you that ye may know that ye have eternal life,” I John 5:13.
“For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified,” Heb. 10:14.
“The Lord will deliver me from every evil work, and will save me unto His heavenly kingdom,” II Tim. 4:18.
“For whom He foreknew, He also foreordained. . . . and whom He foreordained, them He also called; and whom He called, them He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified,” Rom. 8:29.
“Having foreordained us unto adoption as sons through Jesus Christ unto Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,” Eph. 1:5.

Jesus declared, “I give unto them (the true followers, or ‘sheep’) eternal life; and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who hath given them unto me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” John 10:28

“Because I live, ye shall live also,” John 14:19
Paul warned the Ephesians, “Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, in whom ye were sealed unto the day of redemption,” Eph. 4:30. He had no fear of apostasy for he could confidently say, “Thanks be to God who always leadeth us in triumph in Christ,” II Cor. 2:14.

Christ makes intercession for His people (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25), and we are told that the Father hears Him always (John 11:42)

Hence the Arminian, holding that Christians may fall away, must deny either the passages which declare that Christ does make intercession for His people, or he must deny those which declare that His prayers are always heard. Let us consider here how well protected we are: Christ is at the right hand of God pleading for us, and in addition to that, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered, Rom. 8:26.

In the wonderful promise of Jer. 32:40, God has promised to preserve believers from their own backslidings: “And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, and I will not turn away from following them, to do them good; and I will put my fear in their hearts, that they may not depart from me.” And in Ezek. 11:19, 20, He promises to take from them the “stony heart,” and to give them a “heart of flesh,” so that they shall walk in his statutes and keep his ordinances, and so that they shall be His people and He their God. Peter tells us that Christians cannot fall away, for they “by the power of God are guarded through faith unto a salvation ready to be revealed at the last time,” I Peter 1:5. Paul says, “God is able to make all grace to abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work,” II Cor. 9:8. He declares that the Lord’s servant “shall be made to stand; for the Lord hath power to make him stand,” Rom. 14:4.

And Christians have the further promise, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, and will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it,” I Cor. 10:13. Their removal from certain temptations which would be too strong for them is an absolute and free gift from God, since it is entirely an arrangement of His providence as to what temptations they encounter in the course of their lives, and what ones they escape. “The Lord is faithful and will establish you and guard you from the evil one,” II Thess. 3:3. And again, “The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear Him and delivereth them,” Ps. 34:7. Amid all his trials and hardships Paul could say, ‘We are pressed on every side, yet not straightened; perplexed, yet not unto despair; pursued, yet not forsaken; smitten down, yet not destroyed; . . . knowing that He that raised up the Lord Jesus Christ shall raise us also with Jesus,” II Cor. 4:8,9,14.

The saints, even in this world, are compared to a tree that does not wither, Ps. 1:3; to the cedars which flourish on Mount Lebanon, Ps. 92:12; to Mount Zion which cannot be moved, but which abideth forever, Ps. 125:1; and to a house built on a rock. Matt. 7:24. The Lord is with them in their old age, Is. 46:4, and is their guide even unto death, Ps 48:14, so that they cannot be totally and finally lost.

Another strong argument is to be noticed concerning the Lamb’s book of life. The disciples were told to rejoice, not so much over the fact that the demons were subject to them, but that their names were written in the Lamb’s book of life. This book is a catalogue of the elect, determined by the unalterable counsel of God, and can neither be increased nor diminished. The names of the righteous are found there; but the names of those who perish have never been written there from the foundation of the world. God does not make the mistake of writing in the book of life a name which He will later have to blot out. Hence none of the Lord’s own ever perish. Jesus told His disciples to find their chief joy in the fact that their names were written in heaven, Luke 10:20; yet there would have been small grounds for joy in this respect if their names written in heaven one day could have been blotted out the next. Paul wrote to the Philippians, “Our citizenship is in heaven,” 3:20; and to Timothy he wrote, “The Lord knoweth them that are His,” II Tim. 2:19. For the Scripture teaching concerning the book of life, see Luke 10:20; Phil 4:3; Rev. 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27.

An Excurse on the TULIP

A common misconception of the TULIP is that it is thought that one can affirm one, two, three, or even four of the points and still be a Calvinist. Hence, the phenomenon of “4 point” Calvinists who commonly affirm all but the “L”—limited atonement (who would want to limit the atonement?).

Just to be clear. All views limit the atonement in one way or the other, so let us bear that in mind.

But the fact of the matter is they were designed to be an interlocking logical unit where if you deny one, you deny them all. J.I. Packer argues that if you are a one-point Calvinist, then you are a 5 point Calvinist. If “L” is compromised as “unlimited” then, following from the belief that Christ’s death objectively accomplishes forgiveness on behalf of sinners, universalism—or the doctrine that everyone is saved—is implicated. If “T” (total depravity) is denied then humanity may be able to move towards God without divine assistance. If “I” (irresistible grace) is denied then it is possible for humanity to thwart God’s will to save sinners. If “U” is denied (unconditional election) then God’s choice to save us is conditioned by a foreseen response to him rooting the decision for salvation in ourselves and not in God. And of course, if “P” is denied, then our fallen will is able to overcome God’s saving purposes. All this I learned from good Calvinist teachers before I started to seriously reflect on how “P” could be a faulty premise in the argument.

Just as well I listed those couple of scriptures above regarding this “P”....

An Excurse on Relevance

At this point, if the reader is still with me, I would enjoin him or her to remember that all theology is pastoral theology. I do not engage in this logical exercise for the sake of intellectual escapism or cerebral entertainment. Many of the questions that engage these issues are questions of the heart that muse late in the night, or when prayer is not answered, or when a loved one is resistant to efforts of evangelism. I share these logical parameters and arguments to better explain how I encountered and overcame deep psychological dissonance within my faith that was often filled with doubt and despair. I came to the conclusion long ago that we often opt for our theological positions out of pastoral needs rather than by rational argumentation.

Apart from the highly emotive language, I find it rather interesting that this particular writer seems to be hinting that Calvinism may in fact be the result of “pastoral needs” and then setting up a false dichotomy between that and “rational argumentation”. This thinking seems disjointed and very emotive as I just stated. Why a good Pastor cannot use rational argumentation and yet give good counsel seems strange if that is what is seemingly being said.
There seems to be some kind of presupposition and or philosophical bent to it.

To be sure, our faith seeks understanding as the head follows the heart in its quest to make sense of deep and enduring questions that perplex and befuddle. This is not to say this is a proper way to do theology (for that would be to work towards ascertaining the true teachings of Scripture), but it is typical and incredibly influential. All of us must be in tune with our pastoral needs before we make any big decisions about these matters.

Seems to wishy-washy to me and certainly without argument.

How Can I Know I Am Saved?

My problems with “P” began late one night after awaking from a dream wherein I vividly stood before God as a condemned man. After confidently thinking I would enter the Kingdom for having trusted Christ for salvation I heard the dreadful words, “Depart from me, for I never knew you.” I awoke in an absolute terror and cold sweat as I contemplated the echoing words in my mind. It was perhaps the only moment in my life I could say I felt what it is like to have absolutely no hope.

I dont mean to interrupt the flow here, but my first reaction is how come this thought did not obtain beforehand, before when this writer became a Calvinist, or when he first heard of his standing before a holy God? It is a legitimate thought I think.

No amount of effort, prayer, faith or repentance could change God’s immutable verdict. It had been decided. Of course, was only a dream and I recovered after a few hours of meditation. Yet the experience elicited a profound theological question: Had my eternal fate already been decided?

Why is it, that every error always seems to come from man and his thoughts apart from scripture? Is it just me, or is it that man has decided to be at the centre of all things, including the pre-eminance of our thoughts? I mean, do we get Arminians giving us a rational and Biblical argument that explains how a mans fate is certainly or at least even possiblynot” in God’s hands?
Where is the positive case that mans fate is in his own hands? I want to see the evidence, not from human opinion, but scripture please.

As a student of theology who has wrestled with these issues for a good seven years I now can see how there were many other questions that were contained in this question, but as a terrified believer with seemingly no hope such matters were painfully insignificant. Unfortunately, these moments of dread would continue for six months and I developed an incredible fear of death. It seemed to me that the only way I could know I was saved was by knowing the status of my eternal election.

Big mistake but I won’t go into that here. Whatever happened to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved”.

Was I chosen by God for salvation or was I eternally damned before I had done anything good or bad?

This statement is just like "Hyper"-calvinism only with different presupositions, but with its emphasis upon decree without careful biblical qualification, and an emphasis upon the secret will of God, again without careful qualification, and hence is utterly unbalanced and certainly has no meaningful relationship to Calvinism.

Part 3 next.


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