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5/02/2006

CALVINISM PART 4: IRRESISTIBLE GRACE

Finally picking up the "series" on Calvinism again. If you've joined the ranks of SHLOG.COM in the last few weeks you might be asking, "Why is Shaun blogging about Calvinism? Is he a Calvinist? What's a Calvinist? Is that legal in my state?"

I hang out a lot with college aged folks who've just recently discovered this thing called "Calvinism" and they have lots of questions. So in an effort to say "So do I" instead of "Let me tell you what's right" (because I truly don't know) I decided to post the basic Calvinist views on "salvation" represented by the clever acronym T.U.L.I.P. and my questions about it all to get discussion, and hopefully learning, going.

So far we've covered T (Total Depravity), U (Unconditional Election), L (Limited Atonement) and today we hit I (Irresistible Grace).

Apparently Calvinists do admit that God's grace (his goodness that we don't deserve) can be resisted. BUT, they add, not forever - not successfully. The bible says, for instance, in Acts 7:51 "You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit!" There it is: "always resist" God. But Calvinist seem split into at least two camps when it comes to explaining this passage and others in which resistance obviously takes place.

CAMP ONE: God may very well woo a person to Him, allow them to experience His goodness and that person may fight against God for a while but if God really really wants them to believe they will - resistance is futile. God cannot be resisted forever. Those He woos He always "wins." As one theologian wrote, "God's saving grace and effectual calling are irresistible, not in the sense that they are never resisted, but in the sense that they are never successfully resisted" (A. H. Strong, Systematic Theology, p. 793).

The basis for this "resistance if futile" stance SEEMS to be, so please correct me if I'm wrong, not so much based on scripture as it is logic. The logic goes like this: If God can be resisted then He's not all powerful and therefore is not God.

The same kind of thing was said about God by Greek philosophers in Paul's time (Stoics). They argued that God cannot be limited by flesh and bone, crammed into a man named Jesus, because infinite powerful God cannot be mixed with depraved weak humanity in this way. God cannot be limited in this or any other way, even if He chooses to be, or else He's not God.

Not exactly the same argument but similar...I think.

CAMP TWO: Other Calvinists argue that the person resisting God was never really chosen by God (Unconditional Election), never died for by Christ (Limited Atonement) and so of course resists God. Only people in this state can resist God. If they stop resisting God and come to believe the story of Jesus to be true, then that person was chosen and atoned for all along.

And this is the camp I have the most questions for. If the person resisted but "came around" eventually because they were "chosen" ALL ALONG - then, how did they EVER resist God? Can a "chosen" person resist at all, ever? Even temporary resistance proves God is resistible doesn't it? Even if that resistance is ALWAYS temporary for the "chosen" person, such resistance would still be proof that God can be resisted and the argument against irresistible grace would crumble.

Truth is though that questioning the last two letters of T.U.L.I.P. theology (Irresistible Grace and Perseverance of the Saints) is pointless if the first three letters/points are not negated in some way. Once someone has tested the wrungs of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election and Limited Atonement and decided they are strong, there is little reason to doubt the stability of the next steps and then the whole T.U.L.I.P. ladder. If we believe T.U. and L. are true then I. and P. make total sense to us. They're logical if not scriptural.

Read the comments of the first three posts in this series and decide if you believe the first three letters of TULIP to be solid enough to stand your theology on. And, as always, correct, challenge and question at will.

OTHER POSTS IN THIS SERIES:
Total Depravity
Unconditional Election
Limited Atonement

18 Comments:

Blogger Shaun Groves said...

I put out some feelers on a few message board that discuss theology. We'll see who we get. Hopefully some new brains can bring new insights to the table and get us all stirred up in new ways.

SG

5/02/2006  
Blogger Jeff Wright said...

Hello Shuan. You're looking for good resources on the topic and I actually just posted about good a resource for this on my blog this morning. It is http://monergism.com. The site is filled with tremendous resources on Reformed theology. I hope you find it helpful. Another particularly entertaining and informative site from a Reformed perspective is Pyromaniacs, http://teampyro.blogspot.com.

Nice blog by the way. I noticed that your quote and archives got pushed all the way down to the bottom of your blog. This happens to me sometimes when I include pictures in my posts that are too big.

One more thing, we had a big thread on the ooze called The Calvinism Thread. The address is http://www.theooze.com/forums/discussions.cfm?forumid=10&topicid=67219&bookmark=1&kw=calvinism.

I hope you enjoy your study of Calvinism. Have a great week.

Jeff

5/02/2006  
Blogger Jeff Wright said...

Sorry, I should have just made links. Here you go:

Monergism.com

Pyromaniacs

The Calvinism Thread

5/02/2006  
Blogger introriff said...

Man's freewill is God given and God promises to give all men the opportunity to make a decision about their place with Him. I don't believe that God would interfere with His own promise that would conflict with the principal of faith that He wants us to have in Him. If man's freewill is cast out of the salvation equation, does faith go with it? Only upon us entering heaven will we not have to rely on faith. Without faith, how can we truly appreciate what God is doing for us as His Son prepares for our arrival?

Deep subject, lots of facets. I have really enjoyed following this series Shaun. :thumbup:

5/02/2006  
Blogger preachin said...

said this over at theOoze

CALVINISM: TRUE OR FALSE?

yes...both and...

maybe we should look beyond simple this is right and this is wrong categories on this particular issue and find other responses which edify the body more

my particular brand of theological thought is more reformed (Calvinistic if you must) than not, but the basis of my soteriological work up is a mixture of free will and determination that (imho) is a balance between the competing theological positions of Jean Calvin and Jacob Arminius.

I classify myself as a historical, traditional Baptist

Your input would be much appreciated. What resources would you suggest to those wanting to know more about Reformed Theology?

read The Institutes of Christian Religion first! You must know what the founder believed in order to understand his complimentors and adherents. The Institutes isn't a tough read, if it's a good translation, but will give a very good look at Calvin's formal positions.

also check into Debating Calvinism: Five Points, Two Views by Dave Hunt and James White. This is pretty good overview with some legitimate replies by a non-Calvinist.

Finally, you can't beat R.C. Sproul's What is Reformed Theology?: Understanding the Basics. This is completely Calvinistic in base but gives an excellent overview

of course the aforementioned Grudem is good too

and as always PJ is at the ready to help where needed :)

I enjoy your tunes man!

5/02/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

introriff, you said, "Man's freewill is God given and God promises to give all men the opportunity to make a decision about their place with Him. I don't believe that God would interfere with His own promise " Where is this "promise" found in scripture?

5/02/2006  
Blogger Tracy said...

Hi Shaun,

Thanks for posting on TULIP theology. I struggle in the same way that you do with it. Honestly, I feel like what TULIP doesn't take into account is humankind's free will. I do believe that man is sinful. I don't fully understand election. I don't believe that God's atonement is limited. As the scripture says, "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God." 1 Peter 3:18 I love the grace of God, and it is by His grace that we are saved through faith. (Eph. 2:8) That verse implies to me that the choosing is a two way street. Our salvation requires that God choose us through His grace and that we choose Him through our faith (belief). I am realizing that I'm not a Calvinist. There. I said it. I am definitely a Christian. But I don't think I'm a Calvinist. I don't have all the petals on the TULIP. :o) I have always believed that God doesn't force Himself upon us. Rather, He offers us a wonderful gift of forgiveness, salvation, and an abundant life with Him. But like all gift-giving goes, the gift does not become mine until I accept it.

5/02/2006  
Blogger introriff said...

John 3:16 is a promise to the world. To me, the world reference applies to all men.

John 3:17 "that the world might be saved through Him", implies a decision be made to either receive or reject God's gift of salvation through his Son.

5/02/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

i'm not remotely qualified to participate here. . my faith is way too simple. This kind of stuff gives me a headache. All I know is having read this 'tulip' thing. . it leaves me with a bad taste in my mouth. God is great and good and I love him -- good enough for me. I think he loves everyone. I think he sent Jesus for everyone because everyone needed him and everyone has a choice whether they will give their hearts to him, or to someone or something else.

5/02/2006  
Blogger GrovesFan said...

I'm with you Kat. I believe (and scripture tells us) that God is paitent because He wants all of us to come to Him. It's true that He is the one that draws us too him by the Holy Spirit. People will reject Him. He knows that too and I believe that He knows who will reject Him. It's difficult for me to explain predestination and freewill because I don't fully understand it myself. I know that God sought me out, drew me unto Himself, gave me a desire to know Him, revealed Himself to me and has a place for me in eternity with Him.

While it's true I've had many a Shaun-induced headache, I've never failed to learn, grow and deepen my faith. The pain is well worth it. I have been tempted to send Shaun the bill for my Excedrin however!

Beth

5/02/2006  
Blogger Kathryn said...

thank you Beth for your humour and just for being nice! free will is this big thing. . God is a big God. When I'm tempted to think I know what He's about I think of how he talked to those blowhards in Job. . and I remember my place.

5/02/2006  
Blogger introriff said...

Beth, you said "While it's true I've had many a Shaun-induced headache, I've never failed to learn, grow and deepen my faith. The pain is well worth it. I have been tempted to send Shaun the bill for my Excedrin however!"

I like Shaun's presentation and choice of topics. It adds some flare to my study that I enjoy and inspires me to ponder, discuss, and strengthen my faith.

ike

5/02/2006  
Anonymous Ryan G. said...

I think if you believe the Unconditional Election that Irristable Grace goes hand in hand with it. I'm a "4-pointer" as Limited Atonement has too many solid arguments against it.

Someone once gave an example of a large tub of bugs packed full, and if you reach in your hand the bugs would squirm to get out of your way, you'd have to forcably grab them to get them out of the bucket. (Sounds like an episode of Fear Factor) This is how God and man were compared, that unless God forcably grabbed our attention we would avoid him due to our "Total Depravity"

I think you nailed it when you said Calvinism is a logical argument.

5/03/2006  
Anonymous Qatfish said...

(CMCentral post)

Back when I was a Calvinist, I thought the best books were Lorraine Boettner's Reformed Doctrine of Predestination and R.C. Sproul's Chosen By God, though I once had lots and lots.

But the downfall of Calvinism is its total reliance on the late-medieval philosophy of Nominalism. Without Nominalist philosophical presuppositions, Calvinism makes no sense and cannot stand (the same is true, by the way, of Arminianism). And making one's interpretation of scripture dependent on a late medieval philosophical movement, like Nominalism, is just foolish. The Bible wasn't written that way and shouldn't be read that way.

My own cure for Calvinism was liberal doses of St. Augustine (his actual writings, not snippets interpreted by Calvinists), St. Thomas Aquinas, Louis Bouyer's The Spirit & Forms of Protestantism (absolutely essential), and Servais Pinckaers' The Sources of Christian Ethics (especially the chapters on "Freedom of Indifference" and "Freedom for Excellence"). But the key is eradicating the false dichotomies of Nominalist presuppositions from one's reading of Scripture.

5/04/2006  
Blogger Shaun Groves said...

Can you explain nominalism for us?

5/05/2006  
Anonymous Qatfish said...

Not better than the books, and certainly not in the space that blog comment boxes allow, which is why I recommend the books so highly.

Nominalism is a late medieval philosophy, popularized by philosophers like William of Ockham (a.k.a. Occam, etc.) in the 13th century.

One of the most important shifts, as regards the debate between Calvinism & Arminianism anyway, is that Nominalism does not really allow for multiple levels of causation, which all the ancients (as philosophical Realists) believed in.

In a Nominalist system, two or more causes must always be in competition. Both Calvinists and Arminians take this Nominalist presupposition forgranted. But this was not a problem for the Realist ancients.

These days, almost all of us in the modern West are Nominalists at heart. It's difficult to simply describe such a vast philosophical revolution. It literally changed the way everyone in the West viewed the world.

(BTW, I also recommend Frederick Copleston's History of Philosophy series, especially volumes 1, 2, & 3)

5/05/2006  
Blogger Seth Ward said...

Fantastic. Can't wait to check out those books and Nominalism. I was (and still am being) cured of many things by Augustine and Aquinas, although I have not thought much of Nominalism other than hearing churches refered to as Nominal. Just made my day.

Shaun, couldn't find the Resident Alien book, is it at Barnes or do I have to go to the Olsteen, Warren and Lucado shrine to find it?

5/06/2006  
Anonymous mikew said...

Freewill is not incompatible to Calvinism.

Man is lost because he/she doesnt want God. People dont want to submit to His authority but they need more than themselves.

They recognize the need for God but reject His authority. So they suppress the truth, and make up a god for themselves in their own image. This god is 'created' by them and this instead of them being servants of God, 'god' is servant of them.

Sometimes this god even has the same name as Jesus. But he is not the same.

Man freely rejects God and freely makes up his own god or gods. His foolish heart is darkened; he becomes spiritually blind unable to discern the truth.

The Bible says that man is dead in his trespasses and sins, and that the natural man [the man without the Spirit] is unable to discern spiritual truths.

God though is not without a witness in the man's heart: the conscience condemns the man for his sin and selfishness. The man hates this internal condemning and turns even more and more to his false god[s].

The Gospel is preached and the natural man thinks it is foolishness, and therefore freely turns away from it. How, he asks, can a dead man, dead 2000 years ago, save me? Miracles and resurrection is mumbo jumbo fake stuff, he muses.


How then is any man saved? God moves in the man's heart to enlighten his spiritual eyes and open his spiritual ears and to bring new life to the man so that in conjunction with the Gospel, the man believes and freely confesses the truths he holds in his heart: that Jesus is the Risen Lord.

1st Cor 1 tells us that "the words of the cross are foolishness to those perishing, but to us being saved they are the power of God."

mikew

8/11/2006  

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