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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Grace Revealed: The Gospel

A Difference in Our View of Who God Is

Not only is Arminianism pride, it is idolatry. How so?

First, the Arminian always appeals to some kind of metaphysical “God is love” argument. They cannot point to a verse which states that a man who has been rejected by God can be accepted.

So, why would this be so? It is simple – we differ in our view of God – not in a fashion which curses the Arminian, but in a fashion that is entirely compatible with our fallen nature.

The Arminian thinks: God is good, holy and righteous. A good, holy, and righteous God would not deliberately save only some of the humans he created. Thus, in order for God to be good, He must have allowed us to reject him.

The follower of the Doctrine of Grace says: God is holy, good and righteous. Then he reads,

Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sara shall have a son. And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.

What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. 15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth. Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” Romans 9:6-24


The follower of the Doctrine of Grace then says, “God has chosen, not us. As God is good, righteous and holy, this election must also be so, as he is unable to be anything else. I do not fully understand it, but I know it must be thus.”

In essence, the Arminian demands that God conform to the Arminian’s idea of what good, righteous and holy is. I quote John, an able proponent of Arminianism –

My problem is that I do not see how we can describe a random "choice" as righteous. If God chooses one and not another based on no criteria at all (as you've said) then that choice cannot be righteous in its nature. It could, I concede, possibly be made by a righteous being...[b]ut that choice itself is not righteous - it is random."

On the contrary, the proponent of Grace recognizes that he cannot possibly comprehend the mind of God, and recognizes that any action of God is the right one – whether we get it, or like it, or not.

When Mark mentioned that “free will” is greater than truth, he honestly expressed the mind of the unbeliever. However, this questioning of the actions of God is answered in the oldest book of the Bible, Job.

Job is very upset with God over the loss of all of his possessions and his children – and understandably so. After ranting at God for this, he is answered with a discourse on what exactly God was doing and why it was righteous….uh, no. Instead, he received:

Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.”
Job 38:4

Wilt thou also disannul my judgment? wilt thou condemn me, that thou mayest be righteous? Hast thou an arm like God? or canst thou thunder with a voice like him? Deck thyself now with majesty and excellency; and array thyself with glory and beauty. Cast abroad the rage of thy wrath: and behold every one that is proud, and abase him. Look on every one that is proud, and bring him low; and tread down the wicked in their place. Hide them in the dust together; and bind their faces in secret. Then will I also confess unto thee that thine own right hand can save thee."
Job 40:8-14

Finally, I end with a comment from “stacy”, from the Effectual Call post:

This post really hit home,and made me cry....because until you are truly saved you can’t understand this, and only Gods grace can open up our hearts and our eyes....God is so good.

Why does she cry? Because she knows the depths of grace. Grace that is merely yet another "choice", just like the "choices" to obey the commandments (which we all fail) would not be grace - it would be self-selection, which is a work of man. Grace is grace because God does for us what we could never do - he chooses right. The Gospel is Grace!

After reducing Arminianism to its logical conclusion, that it is paradoxical and contradictory, you have three “choices”:

1) You can recognize yourself for the false convert you are and reject Christianity, as I believe Mark has done, saying that if God won’t let us choose than we won’t follow him. While you will be damned, you can at least be confident in your intellectual honesty.
2) You can become an Open Theist, and declare that God does not know what you will do freely and does not have a purpose he wills you into. This was my road…for a while. However, it will eventually come into conflict with the Bible, and you will be forced again to evaluate who it is that you serve – the God of the Bible or the god of your own making.
3) The last “choice” is the right one – to recognize God’s righteousness and holiness to be imbued in everything he does, and be thankful for the grace that saved you, even though you would not choose Him on your own.

When you do, it will bring you to tears. There are no ungrateful Calvinists.

(To return to the start of this series click here: Grace Revealed)

2 Comments:

  • "They cannot point to a verse which states that a man who has been rejected by God can be accepted"

    Nor would I want to. As you know, I've continually stressed the idea of relationship in this context, and a salvific relationship must be two-sided. We cannot coerce God to accept us. I merely assert that, although God no doubt could coerce us to obey Him, He chooses not to do so. My reason for asserting this is simple and has nothing to do with exalting human choice: I do not see how we can privilege this one choice (of entering a salvific relationship) to make it different to every other choice in our life (which you seem happy to leave up to us).

    "The Arminian thinks... A good, holy, and righteous God would not deliberately save only some of the humans he created."

    Here, you're confusing arminianism and unversalism. One need not be a universalist to be arminian. Indeed, one could be (in other respects) calvinist and universalist!

    The crucial point is that the arminian believes that a good, righteous and holy God would not save some and condemn others based on nothing more than divine fiat, and that God would not over-ride the dignity of selfhood with which He has gifted each human being.

    You're also being unfair in suggesting that it is a simple case of opinion versus the Bible. As you know from our discussions and elsewhere, that's simply not true. For all your squirming, there are plenty of places where the Bible talks about our making choices - as well as plenty where the Bible talks about us being chosen. Quite apart from that, there is no context-free reading of the Bible. None of us reads the "true objective Scripture", if such a thing even exists.

    And, for all your talk about arminianism (or free will in general) being a logical contradiction, you still ignore the logical contradiction at the heart of calvinism: that it makes salvation into a lottery and reduces God's Love to a shadow of its glory.

    "In essence, the Arminian demands that God conform to the Arminian’s idea of what good, righteous and holy is. I quote John, an able proponent of Arminianism"

    Setting aside that final description :-) that demand applies equally to the calvinist. It is better to say that the two sides have different ideas of what constitutes "good, righteous and holy", and different ideas about the relative importance of certain things.

    You also still haven't dealt with the objection I put in that quote: that a choice that is based on no criteria at all cannot be truly described as righteous. Not that God (being righteous) could not make an arbitrary choice, but that the choice itself is correctly described as "righteous".

    Your final summary, offering three choices for the arminian, suffers one fatal flaw - God doesn't fundamentally care whether we're arminian or calvinist. We may be saved whether we hold either position, or neither. From the calvinist perspective, God's chosen us, however we choose to understand that, and no misunderstanding of ours can alter that fact. From the arminian perspective, if we have chosen to follow Christ then the way we understand that choice makes no fundamental difference as long as we continue to follow.

    The central problem in this sort of discussion is that either position (arminianism or calvinism) becomes idolatrous when taken to extreme. Neither position adequately explains the totality of the Biblical evidence and the Christian experience. And so neither position can be totally correct. Each has hold of certain aspects of the truth and, by insisting on the truth that they can see, denigrate the truth that the other sees.

    It is better, I think, to avoid the extremes, and to avoid anathematising those with whom we disagree (as some are prone to do - present company excepted!).

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 5/17/2006 03:12:00 PM  

  • John,
    Some of are disagreements in this series are simply because, as I have found, you are not an Arminian! I should address your concerns, because they add clarity to the discussion.

    I do not see how we can privilege this one choice (of entering a salvific relationship) to make it different to every other choice in our life (which you seem happy to leave up to us).

    While I can understand you not agreeing with my assertion that this choice is privileged, I doubt you do not see why it is - it is simply the most important "choice" of our lives, which sets our eternal destination. It's not that I think that we have all the other choices free to us (we've discussed that before, I'm not sure why you keep mischaracterizing me that way), but that I'm not sure which choices he makes and which he leaves to us, if any. Read Jeremiah, and it is clear that God chooses what some people will do (outside of election). But does he choose my t-shirt for today? I don't think he cares, but I may be wrong.

    The Arminian thinks... A good, holy, and righteous God would not deliberately save only some of the humans he created."

    Here, you're confusing arminianism and unversalism. One need not be a universalist to be arminian. Indeed, one could be (in other respects) calvinist and universalist!


    No, I'm not. I'm categorizing all non-Calvinists in the same mold for this issue. Arminians believe that we choose, not God, because the choice is open to all. So do open theists. Universalists believe that all receive salvation, which would NOT be a choice! All three would claim that God would not only save some, whether they use their own choices or universalism as an alternative.

    For all your squirming, there are plenty of places where the Bible talks about our making choices - as well as plenty where the Bible talks about us being chosen.

    I never disagreed - but what the Doctrines of Grace do is recognize our limitations of comprehension and the need for God to speak to us in a fashion we understand. As I have said several times before, we live in an existence now that feels like every choice is self made, fresh and new. Furthermore, God's exhortations to choose his ways both speak to us in our existence and show our sinfulness and inability to meet his standards for us.

    On the other hand, Arminians have no answer for the powerful texts of election I have cited in this series. They are, by and large, ignored in their presentations, as you have not addressed even one of them!

    That said, I think your current theory you are developing does NOT ignore God's selections, which is a big reason why I felt I should link to it. Your theory is not Arminian!

    You still ignore the logical contradiction at the heart of calvinism: that it makes salvation into a lottery and reduces God's Love to a shadow of its glory.

    That's not a contradiction. I'm sure you have some education in philosophy, and know better. You call it something that "reduces God's love to a shadow of its glory", yet that does not make it so. I think it makes his glory far greater than a crapshoot left in my hands. Love is not putting poison and water in front of your children, advising them which one is better, and hoping it all works out. That's the heart of Arminianism, and why it is heresy - it puts the eternal salvation of a man in his own hands, while the God who knows best hopes it all works out.

    God doesn't fundamentally care whether we're arminian or calvinist. We may be saved whether we hold either position, or neither.

    I disagree. I think he does care - but we may be saved and hold either position. We may even be saved and be neither, or in your case, both.

    Peace in Christ,

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 5/18/2006 04:21:00 PM  

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