Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Is Grace Resistible? Sure it is!

The following quotation was found in a recent post on a popular Arminian blog. It is by James Arminius, the founder of Arminianism, and purports to put the whole controversy between Calvinists and Arminians into perspective by getting down to the root issue:

The representations of grace that the scriptures contain, are such as describe it capable of “being resisted,” (Acts 7:51) and “received in vain” (2 Cor 6:1), and that it is possible for man to avoid yielding his assent to it and refuse all cooperation with it (Heb 12:15, Matt 23:37, Luke 7:30).  While, on the contrary, this [Calvinist] Predestination affirms that grace is a certain irresistible force and operation.
In this manner, I ascribe to grace the commencement, the continuance and the consummation of all good.  To such an extent do I carry its influence that a man, though already regenerate, can neither conceive, will, or do any good at all, nor resist any evil temptation , without this preventing [i.e. preceding] and exciting, this following and co-operating grace.
From this statement it will clearly appear, that I by no means do injustice to grace, by attributing, as it is reported of me, too much to man’s free will.  For the whole controversy reduces itself to the solution of this question, “Is the grace of God a certain irresistible force?’  That is, the controversy does not relate to those actions or operations which may be ascribed to grace (for I acknowledge and inculcate as many of these actions or operations as any man ever did), but it relates solely to the mode of operation, whether it be irresistible or not.  With respect to which, I believe, according to the scriptures, that many persons resist the Holy Spirit and reject the grace that is offered. (From Arminius Speaks: Essential Writings on Predestination, Free Will and the Nature of God, ed. John Wagner, pp. 45, 69)

Resistance is Futile.
If I was an Arminian I would avoid presenting this quotation, for it only proves that Arminius did not understand the teachings of Calvinism on this subject. We do not teach, "Grace is Irresistible," and just leave the statement there as if it was an absolute fact in all cases. On the contrary, we teach that "Grace is Irresistible when it Works to Effect the Salvation of the Elect." We name this working of grace the Effectual Call because it consists in both the outward and inward call of the Gospel, which, working in combination, bring us out of our blind rebellion and into genuine faith. We call it "saving grace" simply because its effect is to save. Grace is extended and offered to the non-elect as well, but it does not result in salvation. Thus it is not called "saving grace" and it is not irresistible. The person effectively (and voluntarily) resists this grace that could have saved him, had he not resisted. Arminius thoroughly misreads the Calvinist's view.

Scripture is clear regarding the fact that grace is resisted by unbelievers:
Jonah 2:8 Those who pay regard to vain idols forsake their hope of steadfast love.
Isaiah 26:10 If favor is shown to the wicked, he does not learn righteousness; in the land of uprightness he deals corruptly and does not see the majesty of the LORD.

Calvinists actually affirm, with these and other statements of Scripture, that grace is resisted continually by the non-elect--and by the elect themselves prior to their conversion. This is mankind's default mode under Adam. The obvious question is: what could ever be so powerful as to turn a person from this self-destructive course? Well . . . nothing but the irresistible saving grace of a Sovereign God!

It has been said that the real divide between Calvinists and Arminians lies in this question: Whose will is ultimately decisive in salvation: my will, or God's? Both wills are clearly involved; but which one is ultimately decisive? Those who say "God's will" are monergists of one sort or another; those Christians who say "my will" are synergists of some kind (and badly mistaken, I might add). Calvinists are among those who joyously declare, "God's will was ultimately decisive! He chose to save me when, otherwise, I would only have resisted Him forever." And they thank Him for turning their stubborn hearts, granting repentance, bestowing faith in Christ, and bringing them from death to life.

They know it was not their will, but His mercy, that accomplished their salvation. They know because they remember how utterly lost they were when they themselves resisted that mercy.

Here is a song by Sovereign Grace Music that sums it all up very well:

10/13/13 Addendum 
An Arminian commenter has insisted that Arminius actually did understand the Calvinistic teaching on Irresistible Grace, and has asked that I amend my post to reflect this. So noted. I may have misread Arminius (which seems easy to do, since his writings are not as clear as, say, Calvin's, or even Wesley's). In any case, I believe Arminius is now in heaven with the Lord, so he certainly understands the whole truth today, including Irresistible Grace, and likely thanks God for it on a regular basis. Perhaps he is even singing the song in the video above right at this moment!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Elect or Non?

Recently, a friend was struggling with assurance and the concept of divine election. He looked at me and said, "How do I know if I am one of the elect? How do I know I am not among the non-elect?"

I replied, "The answer to that question is simple. What do you want? Anyone can be lost if they want to be. The rest are elect."

It is a disarmingly straightforward truth: lost people are lost because they want to be lost. Saved people are saved because God has given them the will to know Him. Damnation is according to our own choice; salvation is according to His.