Arminian Today

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Grace For All Book Review (Chapter 3) Part 2

In my previous post on this chapter, I noted that the author is building a case that divine determinism simply does not fit into a cursory reading of the Bible.  One gets the feeling from reading the Bible that free will is implied though not stated.  Calvinists often build their case against free will by saying that the term does not appear in the Bible.  I would agree but many theological notions we have are not found in the Bible though implied.  This is true of the holy Trinity for example.  This is true of free will as well.  While I would argue that the issue of free will is not the main issue regarding Arminianism, free will plays a part because we believe that our sovereign God has sovereignly chosen to give those made in His image the true capacity to love and interact with Him as their God and creator.  True loving relationships are not created by bondage and force but through wooing, caring, and true interaction.

The author points out that one of the problems with Calvinism is the moral exhortations in the New Testament.  The author writes:

Every text in the New Testament contains a wealth of moral exhortations as to how God’s people are to live, e.g. remain committed to their marriages (Matthew 5:31-32), forgive those who wrong them (Matthew 6:14-15), be other focused rather than self-centered (Philippians 2:1-4), love and care for their wives (Ephesians 5:25-33), live worthy of the gospel (Philippians 1:27), resist sin (Romans 6:12).  These moral exhortations are comprehensible on the assumption that God has gifted His people with libertarian freedom and extends the grace that enables them to obey.  God’s people are challenged to respond to God’s grace by daily striving to live obediently.

Remember that within Calvinism, everything happens because God not only allows it (permission) but He ordains it.  All that comes to pass comes to pass because God wills it so and He renders it certain.  Many Calvinists use this to teach a positive view instead of the obvious negative.  They imply that the reason that we can trust Romans 8:28 is because of the sovereignty of God (all determiner in this case).  Dr. James White likes to call this “evil with a purpose.”  White teaches that if God is not willing all things, there is no purpose to evil.  Of course, the Arminian reply is that there is a purpose to evil: it makes heaven that much glorious (Revelation 21:1-4)!

When it comes to Christians sinning, the determinist view is that God did not give a person sufficient grace to overcome that sin so as to render that sin certain.  In other words, when a Christian looks at porn, they are looking at porn because God did not give them the ability to freely reject the sin of porn.  The Christian then is looking at porn because God knew that the Christian would and for His glory God wanted the Christian to sin so in order to render the sin certain, God withdrew His grace that would have enabled the believer to resist the porn.  I had a Calvinist friend who very much knew this struggle and he continued in his sin of looking at porn (eventually moving on to prostitutes) because he resigned to the fact that God did not want him to overcome his lust and this was his thorn in his side to keep him humble (2 Corinthians 12:7).

One Calvinist noted, “God sovereignly directs and ordains our sinful acts as well as the good that we do.”  And they see no problem with this.

The moral exhortations toward believers is to bring God glory (Ephesians 1:12).  Believers are called to do good works (Ephesians 2:10), to do what pleases God (Philippians 2:13), to be holy (1 Thessalonians 4:3-7), to love God and others (Luke 10:27), and to be conformed to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29).  Yet if these are all true and divine determinism is true then it logically follows that the reason that a Christian does not do these is because God wills them not by not giving them the grace necessary to do what He has called them to do in the New Testament.  If a Christian is not living holy, it is not because the Christian is neglecting the command to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) but because God has willed that the Christian not be holy and thus He has rendered certain whatsoever comes to pass.

The many exhortations to holiness, to prayer, to fasting, to evangelize, to love our wives, to worship God, to obey God, to not sin, to live a godly life, to preach the Word, etc. are all rather pointless if in fact God is the one who must give us the grace to live them and if He lifts His grace, we are unable to obey them and thus whatever happens happens because God ordains it by His sovereign will.

The gospel empowers people to live righteous lives (Philippians 1:11) and enables us both to will and do what pleases the Lord (Philippians 2:13) but these only make sense in a grace-enabled libertarian freedom sense.  God’s grace is sufficient to help us to be holy and to live lives that honor the Lord.  When we sin, we sin because we choose to walk in the flesh and disobey the Lord (Galatians 5:16-17).

The author goes on in this chapter to talk about the sins in the Church (1 Corinthians 5 for example) and how does this fit into a divine determinism view.  Again, if divine determinism is true then Paul’s rebuking of the Corinthians is in vain since it was God who rendered their sinfulness certain by withdrawing the necessary grace to overcome their sins.  The author also looks at over New Testament exhortations such as in James (Jacob) and even the Lord’s prayer.  He also briefly writes about apostasy and how apostasy makes no sense if freedom is not allowed.

Overall this was a great chapter.  I commend brother Glen Shellrude for this chapter.  He has logically thought through the Bible and how does the exhortations line up with divine determinism as compared to libertarian free will.  In the end, his case is strong that God has indeed given His creatures free will to choose to obey Him, follow Him, love Him, seek Him, glorify Him, and worship Him.

You can purchase the book here.

Written by The Seeking Disciple

09/23/2015 at 1:15 PM

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  1. […] Ingle, of Arminian Today, reviews chapter three of the latest Arminian book: Grace for All: The Arminian Dynamics of […]

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