Thursday, August 22, 2013

I is for all the ways you call me an idiot

Tenet: Irresistible Grace

What I Remember it Meaning: I cannot not choose Jesus if I am chosen.

What it Actually Means: When God sovereignly purposes to save someone, that individual certainly will be saved.

Engaging Irresistible Grace

Alright. As we have done the past few days, let's get into what others say about this doctrine starting with the ever orthodox Charles Spurgeon.

I take it that the highest proof of Christ’s power is not that He offers salvation, not that He bids you take it if you will, but that when you reject it, when you hate it, when you despise it, He has a power whereby he can change your mind, make you think differently from your former thoughts, and turn you from the error of your ways.


I believe, that the work of regeneration, conversion, sanctification and faith, is not an act of man’s free will and power, but of the mighty, efficacious ad irresistible grace of God. 

And now for someone much, much older: second century's own St. Irenaeus:

For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore He gives good council to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, shall not be found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what is good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness. 

Now, just a brief bit history. Irenaeus was not actually having to wrestle with Augustine as he predated the man by nearly two hundred years. He was also writing with vastly different purposes. One thing I like about Irenaeus is that he is only two generations removed from the Apostles. Theology had not advanced to the field it was in the time of Augustine, or Calvin or today. In that regard, I think of Irenaeus as being closer to the original beliefs of Jesus. Sure, they never met. But we know this: Jesus mentored John, who mentored Polycarp who mentored Irenaeus. There just isn't the same kind of lineage with Calvin and Arminius.

I think that needs to be accounted for. Ireneaus likely approached Scripture (though not our current Protestant canon) in a more similar way to Jesus than we do. I take comfort in that. I do not discount that there were probably differences in Jesus and this guy, but I do think his witness can be trusted.

So, that leads to the problem of God's grace and man's will. Can our hearts trump God's seduction? Ultimately, this goes hand-in-hand with unconditional election. You believe in one, you likely believe in the other. As I opt for believing along the lines of conditional election, I also think that we have the ability to not choose Jesus. Can this be seen biblically? Sure. I think simply of the story of Israel as an obvious example. How many times did God reveal and woo Israel toward Himself, and yet time and again they rejected Him? 

Some would argue that Calvin's (and Augustine's) understanding of the language of Paul indicates a change from the people of God to individual people. I'm not a Greek scholar myself. I cannot make that call. Asking me to comment on the original Greek is like asking the folks at Yogurt Mountain how to make a proper steak. Sure, they know a good steak when they see/taste one, but ultimately they make yogurt...not steak. I can use my seminary education to engage with the whole of Scripture and Church history, but I cannot at this point tell you the finer points of Paul's Greek.

So when I scroll back and I look at the totality of Scripture, I see a history of God's pursuit of humanity. Sometimes men and women responded by engaging Him back. Sometimes men and women ran away. Sometimes men and women outright rejected God. And that's why I just can't get on board with irresistible grace. That said...

...I can get on board with relentless pursuit, which could look a lot like irresistible grace. I can get on board with God continually presenting Himself to you over and over again until your heart relents. But again, I think the change of your heart was brought about by relentlessness on the part of God, not because there was nothing you could do to resist God outright.

So, at the end of the day, here we are 4 points into Calvinism, and I am still a .5 point Calvinist. I am honestly a bit surprised by that. Also, because of some interactions with friends...I am extending this to a seventh post that I think wraps things up better than ending with Perseverance of the Saints...which is slated for tomorrow.

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