Ex-Calvinists and SBCToday.com (#4)

This is the fourth 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, Part #2 Here, and Part #3 Here.

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I’ve decided to split up Mr. Flowers’s last two points.  Each are important topics, the 4th having to do with Irresistible Grace, and the 5th with the sovereignty of God.  If the 5th point wasn’t such a massive one (not that his response is massive, but the topic is), I think I could do both, but I wanted to write on God’s sovereignty in more depth.

So on to Point #4:

 

Point #4: I accepted the fact that a gift doesn’t have to be irresistibly applied in order for the giver to get full credit for giving it.

“According to Calvinism, God does not merely enable people to believe (as the scriptures say), but He has to actually change their very nature so as to certainly make them believe.”

Right.  Well, God changes the heart and draws them in love, sure.

“As a Calvinist I remember shaming other Christians for ‘stealing God’s glory’ by suggesting they played any role in their salvation. I insisted they would be “boasting” to believe that they chose to come to Christ unless they first admitted that God irresistibly changed their nature to make them want to come.”

Think I addressed this in the last post, so I will defer to that discussion.  As for shaming them, I don’t know if that’s necessary, a Christian just ought to desire to give God all of the credit—and none to their own libertarian free will (i.e. their right choices…that others didn’t make).

“I recall a wise elder from my home church challenging me on this point by asking, ‘Why do you believe God’s choice of you for no apparent reason is less boast worthy than his choice of me for being a weak beggar?’ I honestly did not know what he meant at the time, but I do now.”

At this point we are still ignoring the crux of the problem, namely, man’s state in sin.  This point, so far, is not much different than the last.  Mr. Flowers has disregarded the main point of the argument, and made it seem as though being a “weak beggar” isn’t praiseworthy.  The problem is, no where in Scripture does it give the indication that man can, wants, or will come as a weak beggar unless God—by His gracious will (election)—brings them under a conviction of their sin, by the Holy Spirit, and makes them recognize their absolute need for a perfect Savior that has fully paid for their [particular] sins.

“I used to think the idea that God chose to save me before I was born and done anything good or bad was humbling, but it is not near as humbling as the reality that God would chose [sic] to save me in the middle of my worse [sic] sin, my brokenness, my humiliation and my shame.  Like the prodigal who returned home from the pigsty of his life, broken and humiliated, seeking to beg for handouts, deserving nothing but punishment, receives instead the gracious love of a father, I too felt the choice of a Father to forgive me right then and there in the middle of my filth.”

I think Flowers has a bit of a misunderstanding regarding Calvinism, despite whatever “formerness” he may claim.  I really want to ask him who put him in the circumstances that led him to his realization that he needed forgiveness?  What brought the thoughts before his attention?  What led him to know he deserved punishment?  It’s a bit naive to think that he was walking in sinfulness, rebelling against God, following the whims of his fallen will, and then one day—apart from the providence, direction, and proactive work of God—he randomly came upon the thought, “hey…I need Jesus!”  But hey, I’ll leave that consideration up to the reader; but be aware that a cursory reading of the Old Testament will quickly reveal that God orchestrates things to His purpose; that includes bringing people to a sense of their wickedness and a need for forgiveness, or leaving them in their sin.

Here’s a quick example, for your careful reflection (emphasis added):

Now Eli…kept hearing all that his sons were doing to all Israel, and how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting.  And he said to them, “Why do you do such things? For I hear of your evil dealings from all these people.  No, my sons; it is no good report that I hear the people of the Lord spreading abroad.  If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” But they would not listen to the voice of their father, for it was the will of the Lord to put them to death” (1 Samuel 2:22-25).

And there’s many more like it.  Only by recognizing the condition of man and the sovereignty of God does the Calvinistic system—or these difficult passages—even begin to make sense.  Unfortunately, Flowers has shown no due consideration for the Scripture’s testimony concerning man’s condition, and he leaves the issue of God’s sovereignty to the end, but we’ll get to that in the next point.

“It was not some theological concept of God picking me for no apparent reason out of the mass of humanity at some distant inexplicable time before time was.”

This just kills me, that he can be so dismissive of the Calvinistic concept of God’s perfect decrees, when he claims to have once been a lover of the doctrines of grace.  Theological concept?  How about “Biblical concept”?  We already touched on the verses that clearly speak to it.  Should there have been a reason?  Does that not make God a respecter of persons?  Not to mention how he has carefully avoided any discussion of Romans 9:11 in this particular place.  It’s okay to denigrate the position so long as you paint it as “Calvinism”; but I’d like for him to quote Romans, Eph 1:4 & 8-10, 2 Tim 1:9, or 1 Thess 1:4-5, then immediately follow it with the words he’s been using here.

“Why can’t we give God all the glory for enabling mankind to respond to His gracious truth?  Why must he irresistibly cause our acceptance of that truth in order for Him to get full glory for giving it?”

Simple.  Because the Scriptures never speak of this general “enablement,” that spreads out God’s grace peanut-butter style, but never actually accomplishes anything without man’s 2 cents—i.e. self-humilation, self-manufactured faith, or repentance.  God must give us a new heart, that new heart will be alive to God, and desire to know Him.

“It in no way robs God of glory by suggesting He does not irresistibly determine men’s choice to accept or reject the gospel appeal.”

Forget the way he paints this in a negative tone; I think the Scriptures speak plainly enough for themselves; and notice to whom thanks is given:

But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…” (Rom 6:16-18).

“But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess 2:13-14).

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out…this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given me, but raise it up on the last day” (John 6:37&39).

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved…” (Eph 2:4-5).

Here are more to consider: Deut 30:6Psa 115:1; Ez 36:26-27 (and really the whole section); Rom 8:29-30; Eph 1:6 & 12; 1 Thess 1:4-5.  These are not meant to be read as proof text, but in their context, with the full understanding of the argument or point being made.

The conclusions ought to be simple; it’s sad that there are those so opposed to it that they must find emotional, philosophical, or deceptive arguments to work around it.

“In fact, it seems to lesson His glory by making Him appear disingenuous in that appeal sent to all people.  Should not God get the glory even for the provision of those who reject Him?”

It would’ve been good for Mr. Flowers to elaborate at this point, because it is merely an assertion with no argument—and no Scripture.  Not many a Calvinist would say the offer is not genuine.  This is, again, the Synergist framing the Calvinist position in their Synergistic box and claiming that we use double-speak when we say God freely offers the gospel to all those who hear it.  But this is another misunderstanding of Calvinism, that Flowers should know.  I’ve said it before, but it’s worth saying again…

The reason men won’t come to Christ is not because God won’t enable/allow them, it’s because of their sin. But they won’t come unless God enables them, because of their sin.

The Synergist always tries to place the blame on God, rather than where it rightly belongs: the sinner.  The gift is free, and freely offered, but men are dead, blind, lost, rebellious, disobedient—only the Calvinist position remains true to the Scriptural account of man’s condition and God’s grace.

Mr. Flowers ends with a Lewis quote, and I agree with it.  I don’t agree with it in the way he’s trying to use it, but I think I’ve said enough to deal with this point.  Again, Mr. Flowers does not adequately deal with man’s condition, or the Biblical record, therefore we are left wanting to REALLY understand why he left the Calvinist position.

SDG,

Jon

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~ by TSL on January 16, 2015.

2 Responses to “Ex-Calvinists and SBCToday.com (#4)”

  1. Jon,

    Good series. As you know I’m one of a thimble full of Reformed people, along with you, commenting at SBC Today. And as you can see there, some really get worked up when someone challenges them.

    Anyway, you said, “The Synergist always tries to place the blame on God, rather than where it rightly belongs: the sinner. The gift is free, and freely offered, but men are dead, blind, lost, rebellious, disobedient—only the Calvinist position remains true to the Scriptural account of man’s condition and God’s grace.”

    Exactly. The whole matter comes down to man’s condition. The synergists believe there is something left in man post fall giving him the ability to, for example, hear a preacher preaching the gospel and within himself have the ability and desire to believe with no prior intervention by God. It’s a sad reality to see some learned men continue to miss what the scriptures make so clear.

    Blessings brother.

    Les

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