Friday, June 08, 2007

One reason that I am a Calvinist/ Monergist

I've been thinking, in response to the posting of my friend Barry over on Strange Baptist Fire, about what to do with Scriptures that appear to contradict one another. Especially on my mind (because of the discussion over there) is the age-old question: Calvinism or Arminianism? The names change over time (Augustinianism vs. Pelagianism, monergism vs. synergism), but the question remains substantially the same. [Note: I added the word "substantially" because I know that Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, synergism, and Arminianism are not identical. However, the key idea, that we ultimately choose our eternal destiny of our own free will, remains.] Does God choose us, or do we ultimately choose Him?

There seem to be some Scripture verses that are hard to reconcile on this subject. For example, (a) you have verses (actually, I would submit, almost the whole of Scripture) that say God elects and we don't. (b) You also have verses that clearly uphold the lostness of men in sin. (c) You have verses that indicate that man is held responsible for his own sin. Finally, (d) you have verses that say that any who will come, let him come to Christ and they shall be saved. What to do with these?
  1. You can uphold only #3 and #4, which means that you must find ways of explaining away #1 and #2, usually by redefining them. Thus, you become a full Arminian or worse (semi-Pelagian, Pelagian, etc.) This includes the folks who say "All means all, and that's all it means," etc.
  2. You can uphold only #1 and #2, which means you must find ways of redefining #3 and #4. Thus, you become a hyper-Calvinist.
  3. You can uphold #1 through #4, and try to find some way of understanding them that make sense in the overall frame of mind of Scripture. This requires recognizing that God is God and we are not: we are both finite and sinful. Thus, there will be things that we cannot ultimately understand 100%.
The third option, I submit, is what monergists/Calvinists/Augustinians have taken. God DOES elect - because it's stated clearly, and that's what the whole Bible is about. Man IS lost in his sins and trespasses, because that's what the Bible says. Man IS responsible for his own sin, because we want to sin. (Even C.S. Lewis admitted that you even if you do not accept original sin, surely there are SOME sins that we could avoid committing, yet we commit them anyway.) Every time we sin we do it for one reason only: because we want to do it more than we want to keep God's laws.

Finally, anybody who hears and wants to accept the Gospel CAN freely accept it. But how can all these things be (echoing Nicodemus)? I submit that the monergist understanding of a will held down or "fettered" by sin (as expressed by Jonathan Edwards) best explains it. Anybody can, in theory, accept the free gift of Christ's sacrifice; but because our wills are fettered by sin, only those who have been regenerated by God WILL accept it.

Is the gospel offer then not a real offer? Not at all. Anybody who is willing, can accept it. You may have read the thoroughly bogus bus stop analogy where Nelson Price argues against Calvinism. Well, I have news for you, Dr. Price: your "missionary couple who with zeal have served Christ all their lives" and your "persons who from youth have loved and ministered in Christ’s name" ARE among the elect, and they have proved it by their actions. Of course, some people may be missionaries though they are not actually regenerated: God knows their hearts, not us. But, if those missionaries truly did it because they loved Jesus Christ, then that is the de facto evidence that they are in fact saved/regenerated/one of the elect. The bus stop analogy may be a "graphic understood by many Baptists regarding predestination," but it's so poor it should not be used unless one is arguing against hyper-Calvinism.


Anonymous said...

Dear Gary,

I'm delighted that you consider me a friend.

It really warms the heart to hear of people like you who are open to diverse opinions (not everyone is).

I've been married 28 years, have three daughters (need I tell you my nerves are mostly shot!), I used to play guitar (martin D-35) but gave it up because I sucked. I love golf (I suck at that too, but I'm too stupid to give it up).

I'm a mechanical engineer living in a little village just north of Detroit. I'm a RC who would like to see more bridges built between all Christians and non-Christians.
That's a mighty struggle, but one worthwhile. I think. Seeing the other side even if you don't personally buy into it. I think life is too short to be constantly hating one another. I'm starting to ramble...



fool4jesus said...

Barry, I can hear your heart and I really do appreciate your thoughts. Besides, I like you because your "brokeback moment" comment cracked me up. :-)

I hope to talk more. I agree that we need to talk (respectfully if possible) to non-Christians. I consider one of my own mission fields. It's a zoo, and there are some awfully obnoxious atheists over there, but every now and again I get an opportunity to witness to somebody.

Anonymous said...

"Finally, anybody who hears and wants to accept the Gospel CAN freely accept it."

I believe that "CAN" is the wrong word to use in this context. The correct word would be "MAY". "May" denotes permission, while "can" denotes ability. The unregenerate sinner has permission to come to Christ, but doesn't have the ability. "No man CAN come unto Me unless it is given to him by My Father." (John 6:65)

Dan said...

Opps, I missed the "wants to" in the original post. "Wants to" indicates desire which results from regeneration. God gives us new desires through the Holy Spirit.

Gary (aka fool4jesus) said...

You're right, my point was about the regenerated: only they will want to respond, and so they are the only ones who will.

It's a good point, though. I should be careful about "can" vs. "may." Commentators (including Jonathan Edwards and Spurgeon) talk about different senses of the word "can" - physically able, intellectually able, morally able. I would use "may" and "can" (the latter in all but the "morally able" sense) for the non-elect; and for the elect, in addition, the morally able sense of "can," as well as "will." (The latter addition to differentiate from some "4 point Calvinists" I find in Calvary Chapel: the idea that they can have faith morally, but they can still resist it.)

Dan said...

My experience with "4 point Calvinists" is that there are two types. The type that are proto-Calvinists who haven't come to understand that having people pay for sins Christ died for would be a contradiction, and the ones who are "4 point Arminians" who don't like being called "Arminian."