23 06 2008

That debate I had on Saturday motivated me to form more cohesive arguements for position among other things. My wife suggested I follow the 80/20 rule when it comes to to talking. Listen 80% of the time and talk 20%. I’m not gonna get into that too much now because I want to talk about some objections raised by my position on the atonement and eternal security. I’m very well aware that I have not posted the final point in the five points of Calvinism (or Doctrines of Grace as they should be called)  “Perseverance of the saints”. Please be assured I will get to this in due time. I want to spend a bit more time revising my posts of the previous 4 points before attempting the fifth one. My heart tells me I havent given full credit to the other positions in the arguement and this needs to be addressed. I feel that I will not win anyone over the Calvinist side if we engage in “I am right and you are wrong” debates. I think the postmodern generation does not respond to well to that kind of discussion. However I do feel that certain objections should be met as best as possible, and if you are going to hold to either side of the arguement you should be able to give cohesive biblical reasons for your position.

When it came down to my stance on the sovereignty the most common objection was thus
 “You can’t get around the fact that salvation is a gift, and you have to receive a gift.”

To be honest the argument stumped me at that point, I knew the logic was totally flawed but I could not think of an example at the time that would answer that. My friends all agreed that before Christ we are dead in our tresspasses. Spiritually dead to be precise. If that is true then how does one receive the gift of salvation except by that “Gift” being implanted or imputed to us. That was my first inclination to the lack of foresight in their doctrinal positions.

Suddenly last night in bed it came to me. Ironically it came from Rob Bell’s book “Velvet Elvis”. I say Ironic because I am not keen on the whole postmodern emergent church movement, but I think with this example Rob hit the nail on the head with regards to salvation. (He does contradict his position after this with a strange dissertation on how people who are in hell have forgiven sins but thats beside the point….)

Rob tells the story of a time when he was in a cafe with a friend. They enjoyed a good meal and a coffee but when it came time to pay the bill the waitress came over and said “Oh it looks like someone has already paid your bill”. Rob said he felt useless and helpless. To try and and pay for the bill at that point would be usesless and impossible. It had already been paid. Whether or not he accepted the fact that it had been paid, something had taken place. The payment that would be demanded of him to pay for his meal had been paid by someone else, and there was nothing he could do about it.

Now in terms of salvation this is the best possible example I have ever heard about salvation. It captures the nature of the gift, as well as our response. Rob could do nothing to accept this gift, it wasnt that kind of gift. He could show gratitude, but regardless of that the person who paid the price was probably long gone and there was no one to show gratitude to. He could demand the money paid by the kind patron be refunded to him and he pay with his own money but in reality the bill had been paid. There was nothing he could do. He had to accept the FACT that it had been paid, and live with that fact. He couldn’t accept the gift in the same way that someone gives us a physical gift like a box of chocolates. That really quashes the argument from the other side. There is no “accepting” with this gift. Thats not how it works in the most strict sense of the word.

Another objection that came up all the time:
If God has chosen certain people to be saved and certain people not to be saved, why should we preach the gospel to all people, and arent we just giving people false hope?”This is a strange one and a very illogical argument. It presupposes that I as a man know WHO God has chosen to be saved. Its like saying that I have an all access pass to the inner counsels of the trinity. Thats absurd. God has not revealed that sort of information to anyone, and thus it would be absurd to not offer the Gospel freely to anyone. In fact I would argue it takes a significant burden off our own shoulders. We can preach the gospel till we’re blue in the face, but ultimately it is God who opens peoples heart and enables them to believe.

The final objection I encountered that night was this:
If God chose certain people to be saved from before the foundation of the world how can he hold others accountable for sin? 
If 100 people face deathrow by firing squad and at the last minute the president of that country comes in and says I have decided to pardon 20 of you for your crimes, and the firing squad can shoot me in your place. Do the other 80 have any claim on that pardon? None at all. They still stand as  guilty as the rest of them. It is only by the merciful pardon and substitutionary atonement of the President that the 20 are allowed to live. The President in his power could have let all 100 go for their crimes, but he Chose 20. I think this example is helpful in understanding the Biblical position. If Jesus saves a certain portion of people out of the whole group of people, the rest of those people can certainly be held accountable for their crimes, or sin. But I do recognise that people view that as unfair. For that I don’t have any suitable answer except for appealing to God’s Nature and Character. If God is perfect and Holy and all knowing, all seeing, all present etc then he must have a really good reason for saving some and not others. But it is a reason nonetheless that we are not given.

Now I think its high time I got on the offensive with some objections of my own to the positions posited by my friends on Saturday.

1. If your salvation depends on your ability to “walk towards” or “draw near” to God then do you not think you are assuming a burden too big for yourself? Have you not bitten off more than you can chew?

2. Would you consider that “walking away from God” is a sin? If you say YES then you are in effect saying that Christ did not pay for THAT sin, but paid for the others. If you say NO then how can God demand that you be punished for walking away because you will only go to hell if your SINS ARE NOT Forgiven.

3. What do you think free will actually is? Define it, and do you think that the one who created the universe would be stumped by your free will?These are important questions we need to ask in consideration with the other ones.  We need to wrestle with these issues. Just because I am a Calvinist doesn’t mean I don’t wrestle with the ideas of Free Will, Evil and Justice any less than anyone else does.




2 responses

23 06 2008

The 80/20 idea is a good practice, and one I need to keep in mind as much as anyone, especially in this area.
Insofar as your Calvinism posts go, I’ve found them quite interesting, and I myself am pretty sympathetic to a generaly Calvinist soteriology. Couple questions though..

1st, do you make a distinction between our pre-salvation situation as dead in sin and thereby unable to even accept the gift we are freely given without God graciously doing even that in us on the one hand, and “free will” in day to day life on the other hand? In other words, does Calvinist soteriology also require some sort of Christian fatalism/determinalism? If so isnt that very hard to fit into the Biblical narritive?

2nd, for you personally, what is it about Calvinist theology that strikes you as so important to a heathy and Scripturally faithful church? It seems to be a very important touchstone of the faith for you here and elsewhere, what is is that makes it so?

23 06 2008

Hey thanks thats a great comment and some good questions.

I’m actually going to answer that in my next post, see keep watching 🙂

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