Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Irresistible God? A Considerate Search into Calvinism, Part 5 of 7

Regarding again the topic of Total Depravity: True, man is “dead in sins and trespasses” but spiritual death is not the same as physical death. Physical death is the passage of one state into another. The body is inanimate and moldering; the spirit has passed on into an eternal abode. The physically dead can’t speak, think, act, etc. Spiritual death means that your sin has separated you from God, Genesis 2:17; Isaiah 59:2.

Someone physically dead can do nothing at all, good or evil. Someone spiritually dead is quite capable of exercising their volition, a trait that reminds us that we were made in God’s image, capable of choice. True, Romans says that the carnal mind is enmity to God and those in the flesh cannot please God (Romans 8:7-8), and the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God because they are spiritually discerned (1st Corinthians 2:14), but Paul is in neither case referring to the gospel, but deeper spiritual matters which only the Holy Spirit can illuminate.

Being dead in trespasses and sins meant that one needed spiritual life imparted to him so He might become a partaker of the divine nature and have the right to become a son of God, John 1:12-13; I read nowhere in the Bible that it means man is incapable of responding to the message of the gospel, which God commanded to be preached. We don’t regenerate ourselves; nor can we grant eternal life to ourselves. Salvation is God’s prerogative. But He has given it as a “free gift,” Romans 5:15. Revert back to my example about the $1,000 in the bank. Could the person I intended to give that to really brag that they “earned” that money if I were to just give it to them out of sheer love? That is a na├»ve assertion which could not honestly be maintained.

Furthermore, what of certain passages that teach us we are “dead to sin” or have “died with Christ,” Romans 6:2; Colossians 2:20; 3:3; 1st Peter 2:24? If such verses as Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 supposedly teach that man is incapable of receiving the gospel without God quickening him, then the verses that speak about believers being dead to sin must mean that we are incapable of sinning after being saved. That is, if you attempt to force the word “dead” to mean what the apostle did not intend it to mean. If “dead” equates into inability, then not only can man not respond to the gospel (something the Bible never tells us; this is Calvin’s logic at work) but saints cannot sin; there is an inability in them to do so, because they are “dead to sin!” That saints are more than capable of sinning after believing is apparent, as John teaches, 1st John 1:7-10. Could it just possibly be that Calvinism’s doctrine distorts the meaning of said passages? There are apparent Biblical and logical inconsistencies in Calvinism.

If Calvinism holds true then hearing the gospel is actually a formality rather than a necessity; and men will not be in Heaven because they believed on Jesus for eternal life, they will be there because God predestined them. I maintain that the Bible teaches that election is conditional, not unconditional. Those who love God are those called according to His purpose, Romans 8:28. “Whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son…moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified,” Romans 8:29-30. So those predestined are those who believe, and God foreknew this. Peter agreed when he wrote that the saints are “elect according to the foreknowledge of God,” 1st Peter 1:2. Foreknowledge appears to precede predestination: God knew (not ordained) who would believe on His Son, and then predestined them to a Christ-like conformity. Otherwise the “good tidings of great joy which will be to all people,” (Luke 2:10) would hardly seem fitting, since most of mankind could not respond to the good tidings of the gospel. Calvinists who evangelize zealously do so despite Calvinism’s claims, not due to it.

I have heard Erwin Lutzer say that God’s revealed will is one matter (that men be saved) but He has another, a hidden will that holds a greater purpose. That purpose, whatever it may be, includes the damnation of countless billions as well as the forced preservation of the elect as God works out some agenda that does not take into account the many, many lives He brought into being merely to destroy them. Is this the God of the Bible? “For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them,” Luke 9:56. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit,” Acts 2:38. “To you first, God having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities,” Acts 3:26. “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes,” Romans 1:16.

How is God glorified when men have no choice but to believe on Him? He is not winning men but coercing them, no matter what dressing you put on it. Nor is punishing the wicked (who are created by Him to this end) revealing His glory in judgment or justice. It is a perversion of justice of the worst order. God is just, as He reveals in the Old Testament; according to a man’s doings, so will He recompense them, Ezekiel chapter 7. God’s punishment is always commensurate to the crime. God is morally outraged by humanity, who has been instilled with the capacity to hear God’s revealed will, yet rejects it. Presently our Lord sits on a throne of grace and receives all who come to Him without fail. Calvinism, properly understood, looks more to me like a demonstration of God’s severity and capriciousness rather than love, mercy or justice.

So, do the terms in the New Testament “all, everyone, anyone, whosoever, the world, any, all men, etc.” mean without exception only the elect when used to describe the sufficiency of Jesus’ blood? At the risk of sounding terribly uneducated, why would the Holy Spirit-inspired apostles and writers not simply say so? Radical explanations and subtle alterations of simple meanings betray a weakness in the doctrine such verses purportedly support. Again, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe, for there is no difference,” (Romans 3:22) is a free gift of God (Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8), is to any willing to receive it (John 7:37-38; Revelation 22:17), being entirely of God’s grace through faith (Romans 11:6; Galatians 2:16). What “ability” does it take to receive the free gift of salvation? None. You simply receive it; there need be no work, ability or otherwise on our part: our faith is accounted for righteousness (not God’s predestinating purposes).

John Calvin has erred, and led many into deep and terrible inaccuracy in their interpretation of Scripture; electing to view Scripture by of Calvin’s pen instead of the Holy Spirit’s light. God’s sovereignty—which I am not debating here because our Lord reigns—crushes human will in Calvin’s eyes. This is due to our apparent Total Depravity. Total Depravity for a Calvinist implies lack of ability on our part to respond to God in any way, except in rebellion; though this doctrine is never clearly stated anywhere in Scripture. The concept which stems from this stream goes like so: man is utterly depraved and cannot respond to God; God will in turn, by virtue of His election save some by giving them Irresistible Grace (these two doctrines are conjoined); the rest He hardens and condemns. In other words for the reprobate: God withholds man’s ability to believe on Him by refusing to grant them faith, and then punishes them for said lack thereof. Yet where is this in the New Testament? This is not what John the Baptist told us in John 3:36; nor what Jesus said in Mark 16:16.

Yes, we are entirely lost in sin and morally ruined. But again, spiritual death does not constitute physical death; this analogy is falsely used by Calvinists because it sounds quite impressive. The gospel has gone out, and we are commanded to “make disciples of all nations,” (Matthew 28:19), “go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature,” (Mark 16:15), “that repentance and remission of sins might be preached in [Jesus’] name to all nations,” (Luke 24:47). This certainly rings of a universal, indiscriminate call to evangelize that assumes all men have the capacity to hear and accept the message. Those who hear and reject the message are certainly “without excuse,” Romans 1:20; 2:1; more so than natural revelation or the conscience could inflict on them. But that is their choice; not divine decree that they should reject the message so God would destroy them.

1 comment:

  1. Once again you've shown how an approximation of what he Bible teaches, rather than the exact statement leads to serious error. Good post.

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