Ex-Calvinists and SBCToday.com (#3)

This is the third post in a series of observations about Leighton Flowers’s post on SBCToday.com, The Five Points that Led Me Out of Calvinism.  

Find the Introduction Here and Part #2 Here.

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In the last post I looked at Mr. Flowers’s first two points that led him out of Calvinism.  In his effort to help us to REALLY understand why he left, we haven’t seen anything too convincing or helpful to this point.  Hopefully his next point will offer a bit more (I’ve changed my mind on how many to deal with in this post, as this one took a bit more evaluation).  It is:

 

Point #3: I realized that the decision to humble yourself and repent in faith is not meritorious. Even repentant believers deserve eternal punishment.

I think you may find some Calvinists who feel that “faith” or “repentance” is a “work” in the same sense as Sabbath keeping or ritual sacrifice in the OT—but its not that common.  When Paul makes the statement, “for we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law” (Rom 3:28), he clearly makes the distinction.  That said, faith and repentance, if not graciously imparted, becomes a grounds for boasting if it is thought that the person exercising faith and repentance merely expresses it by their libertarian will—something no Calvinist believes, because we believe in the depravity of man.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Eph 2:8-9)

In Paul’s discussion here, there is no mention of works of the law, only a distinction between “trespasses,” “sin,” “disobedience,” (v.1-2) and “good works” (v. 10) that we are predestined to perform by the enabling grace of God (v.4 & 10).  To say that faith does not merit/earn justification is really to flip this verse on its head; prior to the God’s action to regenerate us, we are considered the “sons of disobedience.”  Conversely, because of God’s action, we become the sons of obedience, as Paul calls it in another place: “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26).  This is important to keep in mind as we go through this point.

“Calvinists are notorious for asking the unsuspecting believer, ‘Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?’ I asked this question more times than I can remember as a young Calvinist. What I (and likely the target of my inquiry) did not understand is that the question itself is a fallacy known as ‘Begging the Question.'”

Here’s the issue with Flowers’s argument: 1) it’s not a fallacy if the person asking the question (P1) assumes that the person being asked (P2) holds to a Biblical worldview.  That is, P1 assumes that P2 does not believe man’s will is so autonomously free from outside influences, the effects of sin, or God’s sovereignty that he makes choices based on no conditions, circumstances, contexts, presuppositions, etc.  If P2 believes that, then we need to back up and discuss that first.  2) The question itself is not really “begging the question” in the first place; there really is no conclusion being assumed by the premise.  If someone asked you, “Why do you like guacomole?  Is it tasty or something?”  Your response likely won’t be, “that’s circular reasoning! You’ve assumed that I make choices based on experience or facts!”  But that’s pretty much what Flowers does here to obfuscate the reader from any sensible understanding of man’s condition and God’s grace in salvation.  You’ll see what I mean.

“For instance, if the issue being disputed was whether or not you cheat on your taxes and I began the discussion by asking you, ‘Have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?’ I would be begging the question.”

Hate to nitpick, but this—for those interested—is a loaded question, not begging the question.  If this is the fallacy he’s talking about, it would fit closer with the question he is trying to undermine.  But again, point 1 above still holds true, namely: we assume that P2 has a Biblical view of God and man.

“…in the case of the Calvinist asking ‘Why did you make this choice,’ he/she is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging.”

No.  We are presuming a Christian worldview.  Only with Flowers’s explanation does anything really get confounding…

“The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.”

Again, this has several problems.  1) Man’s will is not free in the sense of libertarian free will (i.e. it is not free from the effects of sin and a depraved mind; it is not free from the influences of satan; it is not free from the sovereign purposes of God; it is not free from temporal circumstances or experience).  2)  This gets back to what I was saying about us assuming they have a worldview grounded in the Biblical account of man’s nature and man’s will.  Verses like Rom 8:5-8 only make sense in a theology that properly accounts for how man’s will is affected by the fall:

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.”

As I said in the last post, they must downplay the sinful condition of man.

“The cause of a choice is the chooser.  The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, ‘Why did God choose to create mankind?’  He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?”

I hesitated to respond to this smoke screen; I’m not a big fan of those who can’t sustain an argument by using Biblical language.  But 1) we are not God.  We are not the first cause.  2) God chooses according to His nature.  His nature is good, perfect, holy, etc.  Whatever His reasons were, they were according to His nature.  Our nature is evil, disobedient, sinful, etc.  It’s the opposite; and we choose according to our nature just as He does.  3) I’ll say it again, they must downplay man’s condition.

“Why not appeal to mystery BEFORE drawing conclusions that could in any way impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He had something to do with determining the nature, desire and thus evil choices of His creatures?”

Only when they have fit the Calvinist system within their Synergistic box does this sentence even make sense.  Perhaps the questions to ask a Synergist at this point is: how does God know the future?  Why did God allow sin in the world (hint: “free will” doesn’t answer the question)?  What is the purpose of sin and evil?  Is it purposeless?  Does it happen outside of God’s plans?

Or more to the point.  How do you make sense of Biblical passages like Gen 50:20; Prov 16:33Isaiah 10:5-19; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; Eph 1:11?  God is not the author of sin, this is true.  But He is in control, He does ordain all that comes to pass.  Holding the two together might be a mystery, but knowing that both are true is not; it’s revealed to us—you must deal with it.

“What also must be noted is that the decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work.  Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven.”

Touched on this earlier.  The question is really not “what does forgiveness merit?” but, “how does one come to a position of asking for forgiveness?”  That Flowers would paint it this way shows a lack of accuracy for the position he is attempting to debunk.

When speaking of forgiveness, or repentance, the Scriptures speak of it as something received graciously from God, like faith.  And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth…” (2 Tim 2:24-25).  Also, “When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).  So the rest of Flowers’s example (“Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home?  Of course not. He deserved to be punished, not rewarded“) really doesn’t address the right question; it isn’t whether his asking for forgiveness merited reception, it’s how he came to the position of wanting to ask for forgiveness.

“Humiliation and brokenness is not considered ‘better’ or ‘praiseworthy’ and it certainly is not inherently valuable.  The only thing that makes this quality ‘desirable’ is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do.  God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.”

Addressed this already.  But again, he’s missing the point.  When he says, “God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves,” he has neglected the entire problem of man’s fallen condition.  And most of these guys don’t go this far, they typically admit to some sort of prevenient grace that enables a person to “humble themselves”—but that is another unbiblical position that would require a much longer blog post.

For now, this should suffice.  I may try to lump the last two points into one, but I never know until I start writing.

SDG,

Jon

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~ by TSL on January 14, 2015.

 
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