>

Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.
The Collect.

O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A Brief Response to "Why I Am Not a Calvinist"


A Brief Response to “Why I Am Not a Calvinist”
by Charlie J. Ray


That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, "Free-will" is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert "Free-will," must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them.
Martin Luther, The Bondage of the Will.




Over at Evangelical Arminianism someone who claims to be a former Calvinist said the following in his article, Why I Am Not a Calvinist:
Calvinism’s Biggest Weakness

The problem with mongerism, or the argument from grace, is that it ends up taking so much away from the human will that it takes on things it would rather distance itself from. If God is solely responsible for our salvation, then it seems that he is also solely responsible for our damnation. God’s eternal choice to save some and not others is unconditional. Yet if we hold to unconditional election unto salvation, then it seems we must hold to its logical corollary: unconditional reprobation unto damnation. Therefore, in same manner, we are apparently saved by God’s grace apart from works and we are damned by God’s condemnation apart from works (Rom 9:11-13). To be sure, I know of no Calvinist that would accept this, and there are a number of reasons why we shall examine below.

I generally do not bother refuting the posts at Evangelical Arminian or even Roger Olson's blog simply because the majority of the arguments are straw man fallacies. The article cited above is no exception. One does not have to read very far before finding this so-called former Calvinist misrepresenting the Calvinist position.  The first thing I noticed is the person is posting anonymously, which raises red flags right off the bat.  There is a nickname at the top of the page, namely "Omelianchuk".  Hereafter I will utilize that nick in writing this counter point critique of his "intellectual" and "personal" reasons for rejecting Calvinism.


Let me begin by critiquing the quote above.  First of all, it is a non sequitur to say that God "unconditionally" damns the reprobate.  Reprobates commit actual sins and do actual wickedness from birth and are therefore justly damned for their own actual sins.  (Psalm 58:3; Romans 3:9-11, 23; Romans 1:18-21).  Of course the real complaint that Omelianchuk has is against the imputation of original sin to all individuals and the whole of the human race since Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the Garden of Eden (Romans 5:12-21).  Omelianchuk does not distinguish between God's decrees and the just condemnation of the reprobate based on their refusal to obey God and instead to commit idolatry by trusting in their own abilities and their own righteousness rather than the righteousness of Christ. (Romans 1:18-21; Romans 10:1-5). The decrees of God are logically necessary since God is absolutely sovereign and predetermines whatsoever comes to pass. (Isaiah 46:10; Acts 4:27-28; Acts 2:23).


But here the writer contradicts himself.  He wants to accept the doctrine of original sin in the earlier portion of the article:


Calvinism’s Strongest Argument

Historical theology’s teaching on the freedom and bondage of the human will almost always begins with the dispute between Augustine and Pelagius. Without diving into all of the historical details of the debate, the disagreement was simple yet profound in answering the following question: Do we do righteous works by our own power or by the grace of God? Pelagius argued the former, Augustine argued the latter. History sided with Augustine and “Pelagianism” was deemed a heresy.
And history got it right. The human will is so in bondage to sin that it is incapable of pleasing God in any meaningful way. So much so that it is necessary for God to graciously intervene and “regenerate” our hearts so that we can move towards him. The analogy often given to help us understand this parallels that of resurrecting from the dead: we are dead in sin and God makes us alive in righteousness so that we might have faith in him. Calvinists are wholly and biblically correct to insist that we need divine assistance to draw near God.
From this, Calvinism makes its strongest argument: the argument from grace. Simply put, the argument states that since we are so incapable of pleasing God by our good works he must intervene to save us according to his own power and will.

As we can see from this second quote the "former" Calvinist does not get the Calvinist doctrine correct.  He is continually reading Arminianism into the Calvinist position.  There is an implied synergism even in this portion of his presentation.  He says that God "graciously" intervenes and regenerates "our hearts so that we can move towards him."  This is not the Calvinist position at all.  In fact, it is Wesleyan Arminianism.  The Calvinist position is the effectual calling of the elect and irresistible grace, not our moving “towards” God. (John 6:37-39, 44, 65). Prior to regeneration the elect sinner is dead in trespasses and sins.  The analogy of death makes the point that no one is able to respond to God's commands to obey perfectly His moral laws revealed in Holy Scripture (Deuteronomy 29:29; Matthew 5:17-21, 48; Ezekiel 18:20; Galatians 3:10).  The problem, in other words, is that the person is incapable of pleasing God by good works. 

Notice the obsession of the Arminian with good works?  The real problem is that mankind is at heart totally corrupt.  That is every area of the human nature--including the mind, the emotions and the will--are tainted by original sin and an inborn depravity that is both imputed on the basis of Adam's rebellion and passed on from one generation to the next via natural generation or traducianism.   Children do not need to learn how to sin.  They are born with a "natural" propensity to sin and actually do sin from the time of their birth.  (Psalm 58:3; Psalm 51:3-5; Romans 3:9-23).  I might point out also that our former Calvinist conveniently glosses over the issue of the federal headship of Adam and the just condemnation of the entire human race based on Adam's original sin.  In short, God is totally just and holy in damning the entire human race with a curse of sin and death and even eternal hell.  God owes no one salvation since Adam brought that curse upon us all.  Even the elect deserve hell.  (Romans 3:23; Romans 6:23).


So the idea that reprobation is unconditional as the author asserts is really an attack on the sovereignty of God in damning the entire human race on the basis of Adam's federal headship.  If original sin cannot be imputed to the entire human race and all of Adam's progeny then it logically follows that justification by faith alone cannot be justly imputed to believers either.  The subtlety here is that the author emphasizes individual freedom to the point of denying original sin and total depravity, although he wants to give lip service to some sort of innate bent toward sinning.  Thus, for the author mankind is not dead in sins and trespasses (Ephesians 2:1-3) but merely sick with sin.  The sinner does not need a literal resurrection but only a little help from God so he or she can make the right decision on his or her own.  Ultimately it is the sinner who saves himself or herself by working up faith from within by their own power and strength.  Basically, for the Arminian the chicken does not hatch from the egg.  Rather the chicken creates itself and then starts laying eggs. 


However, new birth is literally a gift from God above and not something the believer initiates by his own antecedent faith.  Faith itself is a result of regeneration and is a gift of God that precedes actual believing.  A person who is dead in sin cannot believe anything or accept Christ unless and until he or she has been born from above.  (John 3:3-8).  Even then the person must be effectually called and irresistibly drawn to Christ by the Father (John 6:37-44, 65).


The elect person is chosen by God's sovereign choice prior to the creation of the world and prior to physical birth.  (Ephesians 1:3-7, 11).  Therefore, salvation itself is an unconditional gift of God and completely outside the choice of the person who is saved.  (Romans 8:28-39).  Election is an absolutely sovereign decree of God just as reprobation is an absolute decree of God.  Basically the objection of the Arminians is:  "Who is God to damn someone simply on the basis of original sin and the fall of Adam?"


There is no such thing as libertarian free will.   That did not exist even before Adam fell since there is no such thing as an equal ultimacy between good and evil.  Only God can be said to have absolute free will since there is nothing outside God than can cause God to choose anything whatsoever.  Also, God does not choose between good and evil since God is by nature omnibenevolent and absolutely holy.  God cannot do anything evil because He is by nature good in and of Himself.  The idea that God creates moral evil is contradictory to His nature.  On the other hand, via secondary causes God is in absolute control of every single choice humans make.  For example, God could have prevented the fall of Adam by not putting the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden of Eden and by not giving him a wife to tempt him into compromising the moral law of God.  Thus, God by eternal decree predetermined the fall and knew ahead of time that Adam and Eve would rebel.  For His own secret purposes God willingly permitted what was against God's moral law.  And since it was predetermined by the circumstances and by the setup of a libertarian choice to obey or disobey God fully decreed what happened and every single event that has come to pass since the fall.


The trouble with Arminians is that they cannot accept the fact that God has indeed predetermined that some of His creatures would go to eternal hell.  That is true whether or not one takes the infralapsarian position or the supralapsarian position on the logical order of God's decrees to election and reprobation.  Both views acknowledge that God predetermines election and reprobation prior to creation and prior to the individual birth of every person in real time.  To say otherwise is to compromise the very nature of God as omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent.   If God foreknows something in the future then there are no alternatives to that future but the future event itself necessarily happens just as God foreknows it will.  (Acts 2:23; Isaiah 46:10).  God raised up Pharaoh for the very purpose of demonstrating His justice against the wicked and to contrast that justice with His mercy for vessels chosen for salvation.  (Romans 9:16-24).


Basically the Arminian objection to the sovereignty of God is the same as every other anthropocentric argument, including atheism.  God would be unfair if He predetermined the fall and cursed the entire human race before the birth of individuals.  The Heidelberg Catechism answers this objection clearly:
LORD'S DAY 3
Question 6. Did God then create man so wicked and perverse?
Answer: By no means; but God created man good, 1and after His own image, in 2true righteousness and holiness, that he might rightly know God his Creator, heartily love Him and live with Him in eternal happiness to glorify and praise Him.3
Question 7. Whence then proceeds this depravity of human nature?
Answer: From the fall and disobedience of our first parents, Adam and Eve, 4in Paradise; hence our nature is become so corrupt, that we are all conceived and born in sin.5
Question 8. Are we then so corrupt that we are wholly incapable of doing any good, and inclined to all wickedness?
Answer: Indeed we are; 6except we are regenerated by the Spirit of God.7

1 Gen. 1:31;
2 Gen. 1:26-27; Col. 3:10; Eph. 4:24
3 Eph. 1:6; 1 Cor. 6:20;
4 Gen. 3:6; Rom. 5:12, 18-19;
5 Psa. 51:5; Gen. 5:3;
6 Gen. 6:5; Job 14:4; Job 15:14, 16;
7 John 3:5; Eph. 2:5;

Simply because God predetermines the fall of Adam by secondary means does not make God morally responsible for Adam's rebellion.  In fact, God is ultimately the cause of the fall since He decreed the fall as part of His secret plan, a plan intended to bring glory to Himself by saving some of fallen mankind and eternally damning the rest.  (Deuteronomy 29:29; Romans 9:21-23; Proverbs 16:4; 1 Peter 2:8).  The true Calvinist is a hard determinist.  So-called soft determinism is really a failed attempt to reconcile Calvinism with Arminianism.
The fact of the matter is predetermination is of necessity a problem for Arminians and for atheists.  If humans have no control over their environment, their circumstances, and a host of other particulars in their life situations, then it follows that the problem of suffering and evil is a reality.  How the Arminian and the atheist deal with that reality on philosophical and theological terms is telling since both base their views more on rationalizations rather than sound theology and divine revelation in Holy Scripture. 
Furthermore the Arminian does not understand that the Protestant Reformers believed in the sovereignty of God for good reason.  Semi-Pelagianism and Pelagianism undermine the security of the believer and the assurance of salvation.  Ironically Omelianchuk says he rejected Calvinism because he did not know if he were elect or reprobate and that he had no assurance of salvation.  This is a telling misunderstanding of the Calvinist position since the Bible clearly teaches that none of the elect will be lost.  Even more telling is that Omelianchuk's objection is based on a dream he had rather than the teaching of Scripture:
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. 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?
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. Was I chosen by God for salvation or was I eternally damned before I had done anything good or bad?

I fail to understand how trading the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints and justification by faith alone for a religion of works and self preservation and conditional election can give assurance?  It is the Arminian position that undermines the security of the believer, not Calvinism!   For Omelianchuk the final authority seems to be his subjective impressions received through nightmares and not the final authority of Holy Scripture. In fact the 39 Articles of Religion, which summarize what Reformed Anglicans believe the Scriptures say, clearly teaches that predestination brings godly comfort to the believer while those who refuse to believe are driven to even greater depravity because the sentence of reprobation looms against them:


Article XVII



Of Predestination and Election

Predestination to life is the everlasting purpose of God, whereby, before the foundations of the world were laid, He hath constantly decreed by His counsel secret to us, to deliver from curse and damnation those whom He hath chosen in Christ out of mankind, and to bring them by Christ to everlasting salvation as vessels made to honour. Wherefore they which be endued with so excellent a benefit of God be called according to God's purpose by His Spirit working in due season; they through grace obey the calling; they be justified freely; they be made sons of God by adoption; they be made like the image of His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ; they walk religiously in good works; and at length by God's mercy they attain to everlasting felicity.
As the godly consideration of Predestination and our Election in Christ is full of sweet, pleasant, and unspeakable comfort to godly persons and such as feel in themselves the working of the Spirit of Christ, mortifying the works of the flesh and their earthly members and drawing up their mind to high and heavenly things, as well because it doth greatly establish and confirm their faith of eternal salvation to be enjoyed through Christ, as because it doth fervently kindle their love towards God: so for curious and carnal persons, lacking the Spirit of Christ, to have continually before their eyes the sentence of God's Predestination is a most dangerous downfall, whereby the devil doth thrust them either into desperation or into wretchlessness of most unclean living no less perilous than desperation.
Furthermore, we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture; and in our doings that will of God is to be followed which we have expressly declared unto us in the word of God.

Notice that the final line of the Article says that "we must receive God's promises in such wise as they be generally set forth in Holy Scripture...."   In other words, the Scriptures declare that God will not turn away anyone who comes to Him believing the Gospel and accepting the sacrifice of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for the sins of His elect.  How do believers know they are elect?  They know because they have the assurances of the Gospel promises.  The Westminster Confession of Faith says:
Chapter 18: Of Assurance of Grace and Salvation
1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favour of God, and estate of salvation;1 which hope of theirs shall perish;2 yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love Him in sincerity, endeavouring to walk in all good conscience before Him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,3 and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God; which hope shall never make them ashamed.4
See also: WLC 80

1 Job 8:13,14; Micah 3:11; Deut. 29:19; John 8:41.
2 Matt. 7:22,23.
3 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14,18,19,21,24; 1 John 5:13.
4 Rom. 5:2,5.


The Westminster Larger Catechism, question 80 clarifies the security of the believer as well:


80. Can true believers be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and that they shall persevere therein unto salvation?
Answer: Such as truly believe in Christ, and endeavour to walk in all good conscience before him,1 may, without extraordinary revelation, by faith grounded upon the truth of God's promises, and by the Spirit enabling them to discern in themselves those graces to which the promises of life are made,2 and bearing witness with their spirits that they are the children of God,3 be infallibly assured that they are in the estate of grace, and shall persevere therein unto salvation.4
See also: WCF 18.1





If Omelianchuk did not have assurance of his salvation as a Calvinist, I am wondering how trusting in his own ability to keep himself from falling gives him any assurance at all?  It seems to me that only someone with a low view of God's moral law and the demands of the moral law could possibly think that he or she could persevere merely with assistance from God.  The Calvinist on the other hand does not believe that God merely "assists" the believer, hoping the believer will endure to the end.  Rather for the Calvinist the salvation of God's elect and the true believer is guaranteed.  The warning passages are there not because it is possible for a true believer to lose his salvation but to warn against apostasy.  For the Arminian apostasy is possible as well.  But for the Arminian enduring to the end is a crap shoot since salvation is ultimately up to the Arminian's own efforts to keep himself.  God can only give him or her a general grace and not an effectual grace that guarantees salvation. In short it is comical that the Arminian claims to reject Calvinism on the basis of the lack of assurance while it is in fact the Arminian who has no guarantee of God's promises or of any perseverance to the end.


While the Calvinist is warned against apostasy the true believer knows that God will forgive any fall from grace and that salvation is ultimately based on sovereign grace and not good works, one's own ability to believe, or one's own ability to persevere to the end. It is God who works in the elect to stir them up to do good works (Philippians 2:13) and it is God who keeps His elect from falling. (Jude 1:24-25).


The Heidelberg Catechism also emphasizes the sovereignty of God as a source of assurance and comfort to the believer and not some morbid obsession with one's ability to save one's self by one's own righteousness and one's own ability to believe and persevere in the faith:


Lord’s Day 1

1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,[1] am not my own,[2] but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,[3] who with His precious blood[4] has fully satisfied for all my sins,[5] and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;[6] and so preserves me[7] that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;[8] indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.[9] Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,[10] and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.[11]


The short answer is that the true believer can know he or she is elect because of the Gospel promises. God will never leave nor forsake His elect and not one of them will be lost (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22; Hebrews 13:5; John 10:27-30).
Finally, Omelianchuk's contention that the Molinist position solves the problem of God's sovereignty and his alleged human freedom completely fails for the simple reason that if God foreknows something will happen then it must be certain to happen. And if something is most certain to happen then it must have been predetermined by God Himself to happen just as God decreed it to happen. (Acts 2:22-23; Isaiah 46:10). Even Martin Luther had sense enough to see this and Luther pointedly refutes Erasmus' semi-pelagianism and contention for “free” will in his book, The Bondage of the Will:
Sect. 9.—THIS, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: That God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes, and does all things according to His immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, "Free-will" is thrown prostrate, and utterly dashed to pieces. Those, therefore, who would assert "Free-will," must either deny this thunderbolt, or pretend not to see it, or push it from them. But, however, before I establish this point by any arguments of my own, and by the authority of Scripture, I will first set it forth in your words.
Are you not then the person, friend Erasmus, who just now asserted, that God is by nature just, and by nature most merciful? If this be true, does it not follow that He is immutably just and merciful? That, as His nature is not changed to all eternity, so neither His justice nor His mercy? And what is said concerning His justice and His mercy, must be said also concerning His knowledge, His wisdom, His goodness, His will, and His other Attributes. If therefore these things are asserted religiously, piously, and wholesomely concerning God, as you say yourself, what has come to you, that, contrary to your own self, you now assert, that it is irreligious, curious, and vain, to say, that God foreknows of necessity? You openly declare that the immutable will of God is to be known, but you forbid the knowledge of His immutable prescience. Do you believe that He foreknows against His will, or that He wills in ignorance? If then, He foreknows, willing, His will is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so: and, if He wills, foreknowing, His knowledge is eternal and immovable, because His nature is so.
From which it follows unalterably, that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God. For the will of God is effective and cannot be hindered; because the very power of God is natural to Him, and His wisdom is such that He cannot be deceived. And as His will cannot be hindered, the work itself cannot be hindered from being done in the place, at the time, in the measure, and by whom He foresees and wills.
There is no such thing as free will. All humans are in bondage to sin and only God Himself can make the sinner free. (John 8:32-36). Calvinism is the Gospel. By that I do not mean the teachings of John Calvin are the infallible Word of God. Rather I mean that only the classical Calvinist position is truly faithful to the holistic teaching of the Bible in systematic form. Scripture must be understood and applied and it is Calvinism, not Arminianism, that is faithful to Scripture and to the Gospel. In fact, Arminianism is not merely another preferred view of the Gospel. Arminianism is in fact a false gospel that is centered in man's own abilities and efforts. Arminianism is nothing short of a return to Pelagianism or the idea that mean are not born sinful but only become sinful by following Adam's example. The Arminian may protest this assessment but the fact is prevenient grace as understood by Arminians is simply a dissimulation meant to deny original sin and the complete corruption of the divine image and likeness in mankind. Arminianism is simply a distortion of the Gospel and should be rejected as the false religion it truly is. (Galatians 1:6-9; 2 Corinthians 11:3-4; Galatians 3:10; Romans 4:3-8).


May the peace of God be with you!


Charlie




--
Reasonable Christian Blog Glory be to the Father, and to the Son : and to the Holy Ghost; Answer. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be : world without end. Amen. 1662 Book of Common Prayer

No comments:

Support Reasonable Christian Ministries with your generous donation.