Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Calvinism Part II D -  Irresistible Grace

I have to wonder if  the implications of the claim that 'God's grace makes a person ‘willing' have been carefully thought through.

Carol Brooks.

Index To All Sections

 Part 1: An Introduction to John Calvin and his Doctrines of Grace

Part 2Introduction to the acronym T.U.L.I.P - each letter stands for one of the five fundamental tenets of Calvinism.
  2A. Total Inability
2BUnconditional Election
 2C. Limited Atonement
You Are Here 001orange 2D. Irresistible Grace
  2E. Perseverance of The Saints

 Part 3: When the Gospel Becomes a Lie
 Part 4: God’s Sovereignty and Character
Part 5: Hypocrisy Unlimited
 Part 6: Conclusion

  Part 7: The Sins of Augustine.

Part 8: Calvinism in the First 1500 Years

  Calvinism And The Book of Romans HERE


The Gospel Is Not The Power Of God For Salvation
 In Romans 1:16 Paul said the gospel "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes..." However, Calvinism teaches  that a person cannot exercise faith unless regenerated. In other words, the Gospel has no power to save unless a person is regenerated or born again. He is unable to grasp the gospel unless given the grace to do so and if he happens to be one of the lucky ones he can then believe the Gospel and repent

So according to Calvinism it isn't the Gospel that has the power to save but God's irresistible grace.


Irresistible Grace
Because totally depraved people never could, nor would they ever want to, choose to repent their very wills have to be changed. This is accomplished by His grace that he or she is unable to resist it. Hence the name 'Irresistible' Grace..

The Verses/Parables That Say Otherwise
What Happened At Nineveh?

Implications Of The Claim That God's Grace Makes A Person Willing
I wonder if the implications have been thought through

"Common Grace" Vs. "Special Grace"
there is not one shred of evidence in the Bible which points to Jesus' death on the cross having anything to do with the beneficial aspects of this planet that are equally accessible to all men - regenerate or otherwise.

Whatever Is Not From Faith Is Sin (Romans 14:23) - In Context
Romans 14:23 does not affirm that the actions of impenitent unregenerate people are sinful. That is if you quote the entire verse (not just the second half) and take the context of the chapter into consideration.

If Calvinism is True, Why Does The Bible Praise Faith?

Irresistible Grace
is represented by the fourth letter of the acronym TULIP.

Since, according to the Calvinist, people are supposedly dead and cannot of themselves respond to God or the Gospel, God has to initiate salvation in their lives. Because totally depraved people never could (nor ever want to) choose to repent, their very wills have to be changed. This is accomplished by His grace

Article 11 of the Canons of Dordt says... (Emphasis Added)

    Moreover, when God carries out this good pleasure in his chosen ones, or works true conversion in them, he not only sees to it that the gospel is proclaimed to them outwardly, and enlightens their minds powerfully by the Holy Spirit so that they may rightly understand and discern the things of the Spirit of God, but, by the effective operation of the same regenerating Spirit, he also penetrates into the inmost being of man, opens the closed heart, softens the hard heart, and circumcises the heart that is uncircumcised.

    He infuses new qualities into the will, making the dead will alive, the evil one good, the unwilling one willing, and the stubborn one compliant; he activates and strengthens the will so that, like a good tree, it may be enabled to produce the fruits of good deeds. [01]

In other words God chooses a person who, in turn, then chooses God. Not only is it out of the individual's hands as to whether he will choose God's grace, but he or she is unable to resist it. Hence the name 'Irresistible' Grace.

The Verses/Parables That Say Otherwise

However, there are very many verses in Scripture that clearly and unambiguously state that God wishes all men to come to repentance and be saved but many are unwilling, disobedient, obstinate etc. That people can and do resist Him.

    Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.  (Matthew 23:37 NASB) More about this verse in chapter Hypocrisy Unlimited

    As for Israel He says, "all the day long I have stretched out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people." (Romans 10:21 NASB)

     You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.  (Acts 7:51 NASB)

And that is not all. Consider Jesus' parable about...

The Marriage Feast - Matthew 22
In one of His parables Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven with a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. When the king sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, they were unwilling to come (V.3). He then sent out other slaves saying, tell those who have been invited that he had prepared everything  "But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business". Some seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them. 

The king was so enraged that he sent his armies and destroyed those murderers and set their city on fire. Finally, because those who were invited were not worthy he told his slaves to 'Go to the main highways, and as many as you find there, invite to the wedding feast' 

About this parable gotquestions.org says (Emphasis Added)

    Note that it is not because the invited guests could not come to the wedding feast, but that they would not come (see Luke 13:34). Everyone had an excuse. How tragic, and how indicative of human nature, to be offered the blessings of God and to refuse them because of the draw of mundane things! [02]

Yet on their page What is Calvinism and is it Biblical? they say (All Emphasis Added)

    Unconditional Election - Because man is dead in sin, he is unable to initiate response to God; therefore, in eternity past God elected certain people to salvation. Election and predestination are unconditional; they are not based on man's response (Romans 8:29-30; 9:11; Ephesians 1:4-6,11-12) because man is unable to respond, nor does he want to. [03]

There is a world of difference between being unable and unwilling.

The guests invited to the wedding feast were unwilling (Gk. ouk ethelon - third person plural) and is the phrase Jesus used when He told the Jews "you are unwilling (Gk. ou thelete - not willing - second person plural) to come to Me so that you may have life" (John 5:40)

If 'Irresistible Grace' exists then why in the world would Jesus have said "unwilling" rather than 'unable'

Convinced By?
Besides which the New Testament neither says nor implies Jesus used an inward, irresistible calling or work of regeneration to convince his disciples. For example, Thomas wasn't persuaded until he was shown Jesus' scars. 

Similarly when Peter healed Aeneas, who had been bedridden for eight years, the Bible specifically says all who dwelt in Lydda and Sharon turned to the Lord because they witnessed the healing.

    Peter said to him, "Aeneas, Jesus Christ heals you; get up and make your bed." Immediately he got up. And all (Gk. pas) who lived at Lydda and Sharon saw him, and they turned to the Lord. (Acts 9:34-35 NASB)

What Happened At
Then Jonah began to go through the city one day's walk; and he cried out and said, "Yet forty days and Nineveh will be overthrown." Then the people of Nineveh believed in God; and they called a fast and put on sackcloth from the greatest to the least of them. (Jonah 3:4-5 NASB)

According to Calvinism men cannot repent aside from God's Irresistible Grace which, considering their repentance, the people of Nineveh must have received. However, it wasn't long before they were back to their old blood thirsty ways, which is when the prophet Nahum pronounced doom on them.

God's grace did not appear to be very efficacious or long lasting.

Implications Of The Claim That God's Grace Makes A Person Willing
According to Calvinism people do not even have the desire to know God. Therefore, the answer would be resoundingly in the negative should an unregenerate person be asked whether they want to repent and become a disciple of Jesus. John Piper says "we will always use our freedom to resist God", however (Emphasis Added)

When a person hears a preacher call for repentance he can resist that call. But if God gives him repentance he cannot resist because the gift is the removal of resistance. Not being willing to repent is the same as resisting the Holy Spirit. So if God gives repentance it is the same as taking away the resistance. This is why we call this work of God "irresistible grace". [04]

I have to wonder if the implications of the claim that 'God's grace makes a person willing' have been carefully thought through.

Dr Nick Needham of the Inverness Reformed Baptist Church in Inverness, Scotland claims the idea that "God's grace forces people to become Christians, is in reality a wild caricature of Reformed teaching" and goes on to say, (All Emphasis Added)

There is a whole universe of difference, even on the human level, between forcing someone to do something against their will, and changing their minds about something so that they do it willingly. I could force you against your will to drink something you believed to be poison, by pouring it down your throat at gun point. But I could get you drink it willingly, by explaining to you that it is not poison at all, but a medicine that will cure you of an illness you have; my explanation is persuasive, I change your mind, and you drink it willingly.

Something of the sort, albeit on an altogether higher plane, happens when God draws us to Christ. He first works within us to change our minds, our perception of Christ, granting us a new sense of spiritual vision to see Him as the Sovereign Truth and the Supreme Good. Accompanying that radical change of perception comes an equally radical change of will. We now come to Christ gladly. We are not forced to come, but made willing to come. As Christ Himself says in John 6:44-45, "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him. [05]

This explanation can be applied to (for example) two people who have a difference of opinion. Perhaps by a combination of logic and common sense person A persuades person B that his argument is sound, which person B ultimately accepts and embraces. However, in Calvinism, where God is 'person' A and the non believer is person B, there is one outstanding difference and that is that person B has no choice in the matter which happens to be the very definition of the word force

In other words, if God's "Irresistible Grace" causes a person to think a certain way, believe a certain way and act a certain way and they are powerless to change their destiny how do they differ from robots whose every act has been determined by a force outside of themselves

One has to wonder how God can take any pleasure in people who love Him not because they chose to do so, but because their very wills were changed. 

"Common Grace" Vs. "Special Grace"
Special Grace is God's Irresistible and Transforming Grace described above. Common Grace is.. well.. everything else.

Louis Berkhof, who graduated from Calvin Theological Seminary in 1900 (of course), wrote some twenty-two books including Systematic Theology that I believe is still very influential in many conservative colleges and seminaries. He once said (Emphasis Added)

    In general it may be said that, when we speak of "common grace," we have in mind, either (a) those general operations of the Holy Spirit whereby He, without renewing the heart, exercises such a moral influence on man through His general or special revelation, that sin is restrained, order is maintained in social life, and civil righteousness is promoted; or, (b) those general blessings, such as rain and sunshine, food and drink, clothing and shelter, which God imparts to all men indiscriminately where and in what measure it seems good to Him.  [06]

Civil righteousness and order in social life are both rapidly disintegrating and the frequency and ferocity of criminal acts are ever increasing. This brings up the question of whether God's "common grace" is either not as abundant or not as effective as it used to be. Besides which if, on an everyday basis, God imparts to all men rain and sunshine etc in "what measure it seems good to Him", can make Him personally responsible for floods or famine in a particular geographic location ?

Reformed theologian Dr. Loraine Boettner explained it thus... (Emphasis Added)

    "... Calvinists do not deny that mankind in general receive some important benefits from Christ's atonement. Calvinists admit that it arrests the penalty which would have been inflicted upon the whole race because of Adam's sin; that it forms a basis for the preaching of the Gospel and thus introduces many uplifting moral influences into the world and restrains many evil influences. Paul could say to the heathen people of Lystra that God"left not Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, filling your hearts with food and gladness," Acts 14:17. God makes His sun to shine on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust. Many temporal blessings are thus secured for all men, although these fall short of being sufficient to insure salvation. [07]

Using the term common grace to mean that God causes "His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous" (Matthew 5:45) is one thing. It is a completely different kettle of fish to say that these general benefits resulted from Christ's atonement. We can pontificate all we want to but there is not one shred of evidence in the Bible which points to Jesus' death on the cross having anything to do with the beneficial aspects of this planet that are equally accessible to all men - regenerate or otherwise.

Also saying Christ's atonement "arrests the penalty which would have been inflicted upon the whole race because of Adam's sin" is completely baseless. In Genesis 3:14-19 God outlined several curses which were the result of disobeying Him, all of which are still in effect. Centuries later, man still toils to eat and woman still suffers in childbirth. Everyone still returns to the dust from whence they came. Unless the Father Himself whispered in their ear, no human being could possibly know , if it was not for Christ's atonement, another or worse penalties would have been inflicted upon the human race.

All Paul was saying in Acts 14 was that the very orderly functioning of the seasons and crops were evidence of the living God whom they needed to turn to instead of worshipping worthless idols. 

Whatever Is Not From Faith Is Sin (Romans 14:23) In Context
While claiming that there isn't a single person alive who would have chosen to believe and be born again, the Calvinist maintains that we do have some free will, which we can use to make moral choices. According to John Piper,

    There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his "virtue" is evil in the sight of God. Romans 14:23 says, "Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin." This is a radical indictment of all natural "virtue" that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God's grace." [08]

Note that Mr. Piper quotes only the second half of the 23rd verse totally ignoring not only the first half of the verse but the entire context. Romans 14:23 has absolutely nothing to do with "a radical indictment of all natural "virtue", nor does it affirm that the actions of impenitent unregenerate people are sinful.

The entire chapter was written to settle some difficult questions that arose between the Jews and Gentiles respecting food and the observance of particular days, rites, etc. The Jews were inclined to insist that the Gentiles keep the laws of Moses (See Acts 15:1-2 for example). As Steven J. Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship said,

The Gentile believers, coming to Christ out of paganism, didn't understand why there was all the fuss over food. They had no problem eating a steak that had been offered to an idol in the pagan temple before it showed up at the meat market. So the Gentile Christians tended to look with contempt on the Jewish believers for being legalistic, whereas the Jews tended to judge the Gentiles for being licentious. [09]

Paul personal belief was that "nothing is unclean in itself" but to some people some things (the afore mentioned meat sacrificed to idols for example) were unclean. While no form of meat was forbidden under the New Covenant, a Jewish Christian might have recoiled from the thought of sitting down to a bacon breakfast. Worse, a Gentile Christian tucking into a plate of ham could very well have caused the Jewish Christian to doubt this new religion or even to imitate the other against his own conscience.

If the person concerned doubted what he was doing his eating was not from faith. As Paul said,

For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died" (V. 15).

    It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles. The faith which you have, have as your own conviction before God. Happy is he who does not condemn himself in what he approves. But he who doubts is condemned if he eats, because his eating is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin. (Romans 14:21-23 NASB)

Therefore we should not try and convert a weaker Christian to our point of view. Instead we are required to be prudent with our liberty and respect individual convictions. This means not do things like invite a vegetarian to a meat only barbecue or push alcohol on a teetotaller.

(In any case, one has to ask how eating meat could destroy a person if he was sovereignly elected by God?)

See Where The Bible Lays The Blame in Unconditional Election

If Calvinism is True, Why Does The Bible Praise Faith?
The Faith Hall of Fame in Hebrews chapter 11 speaks glowingly of the men and women of faith in the Old Testament starting with Abel, Enoch and Noah. Wending his way through the generations, the author of Hebrews had a great deal to say about the faith of Abraham (and Sarah) before moving on to Isaac, Jacob, Joseph and Moses and even Rahab.

In order for Abraham to not only to obey God and leave his home and country and travel to an unknown land even though he was not exactly a young man (Genesis 12:1-4), but also to be willing to sacrifice his son Isaac on the Lord's command, he had to have been the recipient of God's irresistible Grace which changed his will and prompted his decision to do whatever the Lord asked.

Yet, Abraham is literally the father of faith spoken admiringly of by many New Testament figures. Paul said "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:3). James added that Abraham was "called the friend of God"  (James 2:23).

In fact God Himself spoke very favorably of Abraham telling Isaac,

    "I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven, and will give your descendants all these lands; and by your descendants all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; because Abraham obeyed Me and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes and My laws." (Genesis 26:4-5 NASB)

God even questioned whether He should hide some things from Abraham

    The Lord said, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do,  (Genesis 18:17 NASB)

Similarly Luke 7:9 says that Jesus marvelled (Greek thaumazo) at the Centurion's faith, going as far as to say that He had not found so great a faith in Israel. If faith is, as Calvinism claims, a gift of God and that man can do nothing of himself to stir up faith, then what was there to marvel at? Why would Jesus praise the centurions great faith which was merely faith that God has sovereignly bestowed on him.

The point is this... If faith is exclusively a gift of God, then the measure of faith He apportions each one has to be His decision as well. So why was Abraham singled out for his great faith and be commended for something in which he was wholly passive. W

Come to think of it why did Jesus marvel at the centurion's faith?

Continue On To Perseverance of the Saints
is similar to the doctrine of Once Saved Always Saved) states that everyone truly regenerated by God's Grace will never fall away and perish.

Or Return to Index To Tulip

End Notes - Irresistible Grace
[01] The Third and Fourth Main Points of Doctrine. Human Corruption, Conversion to God, and the Way It Occurs. Article 11: The Holy Spirit's Work in Conversion. http://www.apuritansmind.com/creeds-and-confessions/the-synod-of-dordt-1618-1619-a-d/

[02] Got Questions Ministries. What is the meaning of the Parable of the Wedding Feast?

[03] Got Questions Ministries. What is Calvinism and is it Biblical? What are the five points of Calvinism? http://www.gotquestions.org/calvinism.html

[04] John Piper. Irresistible Grace. https://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/piper/irresistable.html

[05] Dr Nick Needham. The Five Points of Calvinism... Irresistible Grace. http://www.wicketgate.org/5points/irresistible_grace.html

[06] Systematic Theology By Louis Berkhof. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1996. Page 436

[07] Loraine Boettner. Limited Atonement. Ch. 9. Certain Benefits Which Extend To Mankind In General.

[08] John Piper. Bethlehem Baptist Church. What We Believe About the Five Points of Calvinism.
http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/articles/what-we-believe-about-the-five-points-of-calvinism 8

[09] Steven J. Cole. Lesson 96: One More Time (Romans 14:19-23. https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-96-one-more-time-romans-1419-23


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