Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Are We Saved by Free Grace or Free Will?

"John," of Reformation Theology, states: "There are many persons in the visible church who declare that we must meet a condition before God will extend His grace to us. But if there is a condition we must meet, then how can it still be considered grace?" (link) One may naturally assume the audience of his criticism being anyone who is not a Calvinist -- anyone who does not hold to unconditional election and irresistible grace, or the theory that regeneration precedes faith. John, then, commences with a faulty supposition -- an ill-constructed strawman that he triumphantly, in his mind at least, dismantles -- and then presents us with what he believes is the biblical answer to his self-created conundrum. Yet, all sinners without distinction breathe the air of God's grace daily, for the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matt. 5:45), as God Himself sustains the beating hearts of all without distinction every nanosecond of every moment (Heb. 1:3). No one must meet any condition to be a recipient of God's grace, as demonstrated in Arminian, and hence biblical theology.

From his presupposition, John continues, "Grace is unmerited favor granted to sinners, not based on any condition the sinner must first meet, but based on God's unconditional love for those he came to save (Eph 1:4. 5)." The proof-text offered merely suggests that God has elected or chosen those in Christ to be holy and blameless before Him, not "God's unconditional love for those he came to save," which is a demonstration of how one's presuppositions inform one's interpretation of Scripture. John continues: "Indeed God does make us responsible to meet His condition(s), but thanks be to God, His love for His people is not based on meeting those condition(s)." (emphasis added) Here we find an implicit statement that God does not love the non-elect, thus rendering "the world" of John 3:16 to reference "the unconditionally elect," an impossible viable interpretation of Scripture.

But did you note his inconsistency? First, he complains that there are "many persons in the visible church who declare that we must meet a condition before God will extend His grace to us," implying that there are no conditions to obtaining the grace of God for salvation, and then insists that "God does make us responsible to meet His condition(s)." So, there are conditions? Perhaps he was merely qualifying his own statement -- we are not informed. Evidently, what John was trying to convey in this muddied, brief, and overly-simplistic presentation is that, though there are conditions we must meet in order to obtain God's conditional gift of salvation, God Himself meets those conditions for His unconditionally elect individuals by Christ's "living the life we should have lived and dying the death we justly deserved ... giving us everything we need for salvation, including a new heart to believe (Deut 29:4, 30:6; Ezek 36:26; John 6:63, 65, 37)."

Never mind that Scripture, from our perspective, does not teach this theory; from what I can gather, that was the tenor of his intent. What we protest is the insistence that God unconditionally chose to bestow His grace only on a few people, irresistibly giving such persons "a new heart to believe" (Ezekiel 36:26), when, clearly, God loves the world (John 3:16), wants the salvation and repentance of the world (Ezekiel 18:23; 33:1; 1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet. 3:9), and sent Christ to die for the sin of the world (John 1:29: 1 John 2:2) -- the world that He graced with His light (John 1:4, 9; cf. John 8:12; 9:5; 11:9; 12:32, 36, 46).

This cherry-picked passage (Ezekiel 36:26) is telling, is it not? Forget the context being a message to the Jewish people (Ezekiel 36:22); forget the promise following that passage insisting that the Jewish people would then "live in the land that I gave to your ancestors; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Ezekiel 36:28 ff.); forget God's prior instruction to those Jewish people: "Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit!" (Ezekiel 18:31 NRSV, emphasis added): the Calvinist finds a promise of God giving someone a new heart and presumes the meaning to include the notion of an irresistible conscription, the nature of which is entirely unconditional. This is Calvinistic-methodical hermeneutics at its best! It begins with a misinterpretation of a decontexualized passage and concludes with theological error.

Arminians, however, do agree with John's concluding remark: "Grace is not a reward for those who obey God's summons to believe," since grace precedes our believing, "but the cause of our obedience to the summons (John 17:9, 12, 17, 20, 24)." Since the grace of God -- via the instrumental means of the gospel (Rom. 1:16, 17); the work of the Holy Spirit in the conviction of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11); and His leading of one to repentance (Rom. 2:4) -- precedes even our believing, and can be regarded as the instrumental means or cause of our faith, then Arminians can agree with their Calvinist brothers and sisters on this matter of grace, even if we disagree with them that God's grace is irresistibly granted, and that to only the alleged unconditionally elect.

In effect, in Calvinism, one is saved by grace to faith, not through faith, as Scripture teaches (Eph. 2:8), and this distinction must be accentuated. Arminians posit a theology of God's free grace and humanity's freed will, not free will. We find the following on the Society of Evangelical Arminians website:
Finally, the concept of freed will also implies that God has ultimate and absolute free will. For it is God who supernaturally frees the will of sinners by his grace to believe in Christ, which is a matter of God’s own free will and sovereignty. God is omnipotent and sovereign, having the power and authority to do anything he wants and being unconstrained in his own actions and will by anything outside of himself and his own judgment (Gen 18:14; Exod 3:14; Job 41:11; Ps 50:10-12; Isaiah 40:13-14; Jer 32:17, 27; Matt 19:26; Luke 1:37; Acts 17:24-25; Rom 11:34-36; Eph 3:20; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:11). Nothing can happen unless he either does it or allows it. He is the Almighty Creator and God of the universe to whom we owe all love, worship, glory, honor, thanks, praise, and obedience. Therefore, it is good for us to remember that behind human freed will stands the One who frees the will, and that this is a matter of his glorious, free, and sovereign grace, totally unmerited on our part, and provided to us by the love and mercy of God. Praise his holy name! (link)
In Calvinism, one biblical doctrine is sacrificed at the altar of the other, thus concluding with an imbalanced and erroneous soteriology and theology. We seek to bring further honor and glory to God by promoting a biblical theology, and exposing the errors of any theology which hinders the same, including Calvinism.

6 comments:

>Yet, all sinners without distinction breathe the air of God's grace daily, for the rain falls on the just and the unjust alike (Matt. 5:45), as God Himself sustains the beating hearts of all without distinction every nanosecond of every moment (Heb. 1:3). No one must meet any condition to be a recipient of God's grace, as demonstrated in Arminian, and hence biblical theology.

You're conflating common with special grace.

It's still grace regardless of the distinction. I seriously doubt God compartmentalizes His grace as do Calvinists.

I think your first paragraph is terribly confused. I'm not taking you up on your post in general. I'm just pointing out that common grace and special (or saving) grace are different. They have different effects. The former is indiscriminate, the latter is not.

As for regeneration, listen to Jesus: Ye must be born again. Quickened by the Spirit.

You are operating under a different hermeneutic than am I; are you not assuming that God's "special" grace is only reserved for certain, unconditionally elected individuals? This is not my hermeneutic at all, nor do I see Scripture making such sharp distinctions with regard to grace or His gracious actions.

As for regeneration, listen to Paul interpreting Jesus: "And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses" (Col. 2:13 ESV). Since we are forgiven our sins by grace through faith in Christ, after which God "makes us alive" in Christ, then faith precedes regeneration.

More power to you. Your a greater Lazarus, being able to walk out of your tomb without Jesus calling you.

You, like so many others among your ilk, misunderstand and thus misrepresent our theology. So very typical. Less power to you.

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