Section 8A .. A Question Of Salvation/Calvinism

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Calvinism Part II D -  Irresistible Grace

I have to wonder how carefully the implications of the claim that 'God's grace makes a person ‘willing' have been 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 standing 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.. God’s Sovereignty, Character and Will.
Part 5:
Hypocrisy Unlimited
Part 6:

Part 7: The Sins of Augustine. Early Church Theologians


 On This Page

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..

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 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. That is if you quite the entire verse (not just the second half) and take the context of the chapter into consideration. 

Where The Bible Lays The Blame
If they were not among the elect that God had pre-destined to eternal life one has to wonder why Paul and Barnabas accused the Pharisees of had judging themselves unworthy of eternal life'

Exhorting Believers to Make Their Election Sure
Verses that do not make any sense against the backdrop of Calvinism.

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

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 would they 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 then, in turn, 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.

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

    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". [02]

So that person who once or repeatedly hears and rejects the Gospel message is doing so because, at the moment of hearing, the influence of the Holy Spirit has to fall into the 'resistible' category. But a moment later, God's Holy Spirit could make his influence "irresistible" and cause the person to do something that they would have soundly resisted minutes before.

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, (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. [03]

And certainly this could be likened to 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 people 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, a Christian who wishes to walk away from the faith and does not want to be saved can not do so... He is being forced into something that he no longer desires.

Additionally, 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 without any outside influence would have chosen to continue in rebellion towards Him and His Word. They 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 am led to believe is used in many conservative colleges and seminaries, 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. [04]

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 God, on an everyday basis, imparts to all men rain and sunshine etc in "what measure it seems good to Him", can the rains failing or failing in a particular geographic location be directly attributed to Him and make Him personally responsible for floods or famine?

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. [05]

Using the term common grace to apply to the fact 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 speculate 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.

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 whether, except for Christ's atonement, another penalty would have been inflicted upon the whole 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." [06]

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). What Steven J. Cole, pastor of Flagstaff Christian Fellowship said is entirely feasible,

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. [07]

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.

It really didn't matter one way or the other to God except if the person concerned considered it unclean. As Paul said, (Emphasis Added)

    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).

The simple act of eating something could hurt a brother because if he doubted what he was doing his eating was not from faith; and "whatever is not from faith is sin". 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 teetotaler.

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

Where The Bible Lays The Blame
The argument is made that the Jews rejected what the apostles had to say because they were not among the elect that God had pre-destined to eternal life and had no choice but to do so. However, this does not square with what Paul had to say after he and Barnabas preached in the synagogue in Antioch.

Their success did not sit well with the Jews who seeing the multitudes of people "were filled with jealousy, and contradicted the things which were spoken by Paul, and blasphemed" (V. 45). Upon which Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and, with more than a hint of dry sarcasm, made the accusation that they had judged themselves unworthy of eternal life'...

    "It was necessary that the word of God be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles. (Acts 13:46 NASB)

In another later incident in Corinth, Paul reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath trying to persuade the Jews that Jesus was the Christ (Acts 18:4-5) but when the Jews "resisted and blasphemed", he was very clear that they were the cause of their own destruction. He shook out his garments and said,

    Your blood be on your own heads! I am clean. From now on I will go to the Gentiles." 

So if the first group were entirely responsible for their own fate, why can the same not be said for the second? As pointed out by David Servant, (Emphasis Added)

    It is utterly impossible to have freedom to resist God if one doesn't have freedom to yield to God. [07]

But, one would imagine that after people had come to faith in the Gospel the apostles could put their feet up, confident in the "Efficacious Grace" of their God. Instead they endlessly continued...

Exhorting Believers to Make Their Election Sure
The following verses do not make a whit of sense against the backdrop of the reformed belief in Perseverance of the Saints.

2 Peter 1:10-11: Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. (2 Peter 1:10-11 NASB)

    In Peter's first Epistle written to believers he said that they needed to apply diligence, moral excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, and brotherly kindness (Vs. 5-7) for as they practiced these things, they would never stumble.

1Corinthians 10:12:  Paul advised against being too sure of salvation. He said "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall".

The Book of Hebrews: While no consensus of opinion has ever been arrived at concerning the authorship of the book of Hebrews, the target audience has never been in question. The late Dr. Walter Martin, is said to have humorously remarked that the Book of Hebrews was written by a Hebrew to other Hebrews telling the Hebrews to stop acting like Hebrews. This quip, although light-hearted, was nevertheless very true. As said by commentator Albert Barnes, the book of Hebrews...

    ... all along supposes that those to whom it was sent were familiar with the Jewish history; with the nature of the temple service; with the functions of the priestly office; and with the whole structure of their religion. No other person than those who had been Jews are addressed throughout the Epistle... At the same time, it is equally clear that they were converts from Judaism to Christianity who are addressed.

However, the author appeared to be no less confused than Peter and Paul.

Hebrews 2:3 asks "how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard".

    (Emphasis Added). I guess he never read Calvin's Institutes since he did not seem to know that it is impossible for the elect to neglect salvation, while the non-elect have no choice but to neglect it. Worse, he seemed to be under the impression that people already converted could let their salvation slide.

Hebrews 3:12-15 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called "Today," so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, "today if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me." 

    Note carefully that the abover verse is addressed to the "brethren" - regenerate saved believers who are being warned against developing "evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God". How is this possible for people who have been Unconditionally Elected and given the gift of Efficacious and Irresistible Grace? Either God's grace is not quite as efficacious as is made out to be or the author of Hebrews was talking through his hat.

Hebrews 4:9-11: So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience. 

    The context of the verse tells us that entry to Heaven is being compared with entry into the Promised Land promised to the Israelites... or His "rest". (Read 3:15 on). The verse quoted above urges "the people of God" to "be diligent" to enter into His rest but, according to Calvinism the "people of God" have already been preordained to salvation and will therefore undoubtedly enter into His rest. How can they give diligence to something that they have no control over?

Hebrews 10:38-39:  but My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul. (NASB)

These four verses from Hebrews indicate that we are responsible for our own salvation and have to be diligent throughout our natural lives to ensure that we do not fall before entering the Promised Land... just like Paul spoke of doing in 1 Corinthians 9:27 -

    "but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified". 

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 marveled (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. Why did Jesus marvel at the centurion's faith?


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

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

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

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

[06] 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

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

[08] David Servant. Calvinism’s total depravity and irresistible grace


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