Saturday, November 30, 2013

Steve Hays on Divine Rape

Steve Hays of Triablogue responded to an Arminian who asked Arminian scholar Jerry Walls his thoughts on a statement posed to Calvinists: "Hey, Calvinists, if the bride doesn't say 'I do', it's rape." (link) While Steve quite typically overgeneralizes that all Arminians respond to the doctrine of irresistible grace in this manner, which is unfair, he is still spot on in his response and concluding remark: "If you rescue someone against their will, is that 'rape'?" (link) No, it is not rape, and I think Steve's challenge to Arminians and other "non-Calvinists" who make such statements is rightfully presented. If he appears angry in tone in his response I think he reserves the right!

No act can be viewed as more heinous than rape -- not even murder -- and yet some quip that the doctrine of irresistible grace is tantamount to divine rape. This is deplorable language, in the manner with which it is used, and I encourage all Arminians and other "non-Calvinists" to repent of using such an analogy with regard to that doctrine. Steve even quoted from John Wesley himself in using similar language of God ravishing the hearts of sinners with His divine goodness, love, and grace. If a person irresistibly snatches another person from an on-coming bus, the act without which would have ended the person's life, would we consider that act tantamount to rape?

I wonder if the Calvinist could in some sense charge Arminians with some sort of divine rape in our doctrine of prevenient grace. This grace is monergistic; no one initially asks or welcomes the Holy Spirit to convict him or her of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8-11); no one initially asks or welcomes God to bring one to repentance (Rom. 2:4). These divine motions come upon a person without that person's consent -- it even arrives irresistibly. In other words, though we believe that one can resist responding positively to this grace, the grace bursts forth upon our hearts and minds with a force from outside ourselves. Is this not a "divine rape" of the mind and the heart as well?

Arminius states that the efficient cause of God's call to salvation is Himself in and through Christ His Son:
The Son Himself, as appointed by the Father to be the Mediator and the King of His church, calls men by the Holy Spirit; as He is the Spirit of God given to the Mediator; as He is the Spirit of Christ the King and the Head of His church, by whom both "the Father and the Son hitherto work." (1 Thess. 2:12; Eph. 2:17; 5:11, 12; Rev. 3:20; John 5:17) But this Vocation [calling] is so administered by the Spirit, that the Holy Spirit is Himself its Effector. . . . 
The Inly-moving Cause is the grace, mercy, and (philanthropy) "the love of God our Saviour toward man" (Titus 3:4, 5); by which He is inclined to relieve the misery of sinful man, and to impart unto him eternal felicity. (2 Tim. 1:9, 10)1
We may disagree with Calvinists that the grace of God is irresistible, and is directly commensurate with the act of regeneration (that precedes faith), but we need not deny the initial monergistic and irresistible actions of God on behalf of sinful humanity when graciously working in our hearts; and we need not resort to base and crude analogies such as God-rape. This is embarrassing and dishonoring to both Calvinists, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to our majestic King. Arminius insists that "our will is not free from the first fall; that is, not free to good, unless it be made free by the Son through His Spirit."2 We desperately need the intruding grace of God to our fallen will if we are to be saved through faith in Christ.

We need to be very careful about how we argue against an opposing doctrine. I recently heard someone describe unconditional election as God dragging someone kicking and screaming into the kingdom of God. I had to correct the man. Even though I do not believe in unconditional election, I had to inform him that Calvinists believe no such analogy -- that if God did not grace an unconditionally elect individual, then that person could never be saved. God grants the individual grace to believe in Christ, and then justifies and regenerates the person, so that he or she willingly comes to Christ for salvation. (All of this happens simultaneously, even if there is a logical order.) In Calvinism, God does not drag anyone kicking and screaming into His kingdom, nor does He rape the mind or heart of anyone in order for the person to become a bride of Christ -- all such analogies Calvinists reserve the right to disdain, argue against, and call for our repentance.


1 Jacob Arminius, "Twenty-Five Public Disputations: Disputation XVI. On the Vocation of Men to Salvation," in The Works of Arminius, the London edition, three volumes, trans. James and William Nichols (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 2:232.

2 "Disputation XI. On the Free Will of Man and its Powers," 2:194.


Good word, Billy. I have used said analogy in the past and repent of it. Thanks for bringing this up.

WWB - I agree, the term divine rape is not helpful to charitable Christian discourse. CS Lewis also used this term as well.

You said, "If a person irresistibly snatches another person from an on-coming bus, the act without which would have ended the person's life, would we consider that act tantamount to rape?" No, that would not be tantamount to rape.

However, Calvinism teaches that God set up the exact circumstances, by divine fiat from eternity past, that this person to be placed in danger. Then God comes in at the last second to irresistibly save the person so that He can receive glory for the person's salvation. I don't know how you feel about that, but that seems like an awfully complicated way of gaining glory, to set up evil circumstances that have to play out according to every minute detail and then saving at the last second.

To use another analogy, I have heard many Calvinists say that it is more loving to go into a burning house and pull out the person than to point someone to the exit and help them help themselves by offering a supportive shoulder. While I agree with that on first blush, it leaves out an important aspect of Calvinism.

In this calvinist analogy, the fireman starts the fire (either personally or by setting up the necessary elements so that the fire starts as the fireman doesn't want to get his fingerprints on any evidence) and then goes in to save some from the burning house and then is proclaimed the town hero. What will the townspeople do when they find out that the fireman planned from eternity past for this tragic event to occur so that some could be saved so that he could be a hero? He would be charged with arson and thrown in jail.



You are totally right. The other day I posted on the issue of particular grace, suggesting that the idea destroys what I believe to be a biblical concept of grace itself. You're right on track, I think. I just think divine rape is a bit over the top and uncalled for. I hate the sexual connotation (rape) -- I would prefer something along the lines of divine mind control, or some other non-sexual analogy.

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