As I related in the PREVIOUS THEAD, a number of Calvinist bloggers have leveled numerous charges my direction for comments I made in the Beggars All thread, Answering the charge of “rape” against the doctrine of God’s effectual grace -Part 1. If one takes the time to read through all the posts made in both of the above threads, I cannot help but believe that many will come to the conclusion that much of the ‘heat’ I took was an overreaction (and for some of the posters, a gross overreaction).
In my last thread, I provided a quote from a novel written by the very popular Reformed apologist/theologian R.C. Sproul, that used much ‘stronger’ terminology than I would use to describe the “irresistible call” of God (i.e. regeneration prior to faith), which is a crucial element of Reformed soteriology. I got the impression from some Reformed posters that this was an anomaly within the Reformed tradition, which should be quickly ‘brushed under the rug’—basically ignored and/or forgotten. But, I remained unconvinced, and pulled Dr. Sproul’s, Chosen By God (a theological work, not a novel), down from the shelf last night and reread the first 102 pages (1986 edition), before falling asleep. I would like to share a few selections from the book (note: bold emphasis in the quotes mine; all the selections are from the 1986 edition):
When we consider the relationship of a sovereign God to a fallen world we are faced with basically four options:
1. God could decide to provide no opportunity for anyone to be saved.
2. God could provide an opportunity for all to be saved.
3. God could intervene directly and insure the salvation of all people.
4. God could intervene directly and insure the salvation of some people.
All Christians immediately rule out the first option. Most Christians rule out the third. We face the problem that God saves some and not all. The Calvinist view of predestination teaches that God actively intervenes in the lives of the elect to make absolutely sure that they are saved. Of course the rest are invited to Christ and given an “opportunity” to be save if they want to. But Calvinism assumes that without the intervention of God no one will ever want Christ. Left to themselves, no one will ever choose Christ.
This is precisely the point of dispute. Non-Reformed views of predestination assume that every fallen person is left with the capacity to choose Christ. Man is not viewed as being so fallen that it requires the direct intervention of God to the degree that Calvinism asserts. The non-Reformed views all leave it in man’s power to cast the deciding ballot for man’s ultimate destiny. (Pages 33, 34.)
I think it is important to point out that the vast majority of non-Reformed Christians DO NOT adopt a Pelagian view of fallen man, but rather, firmly maintain that unregenerate individuals need the grace of God—the drawing/prompting of the Holy Spirit (i.e. prevenient grace)—prior to regeneration in order to accept/turn to God, but that this grace can be rejected.
On the next page, Dr. Sproul continues with:
The nasty problem for the Calvinist is seen in the relationship of options three and four. If God can and does choose to insure the salvation of some, why then does he not insure the salvation for all? (Page 35.)
“Does God have the power to insure the salvation of everyone?” Certainly it is within God’s power to change the heart of every impenitent sinner and bring that sinner to himself. (Page 35.)
The non-Reformed thinker usually responds by saying that for God to impose his power on unwilling people is to violate man’s freedom. To violate man’s freedom is sin. Since God cannot sin, he cannot unilaterally impose his saving grace on unwilling sinners. To force a sinner to be willing when the sinner is not willing is to violate the sinner. The idea is that by offering the grace of the gospel God does everything he can to help the sinner get saved. He has the raw power to coerce men but the use of such power would be foreign to God’s righteousness.
That does not bring much comfort to the sinner in hell. The sinner in hell must be asking, “God, if you really loved me, why didn’t you coerce me to believe? I would rather have had my free will violated than to be here in the eternal place of torment.” (Pages 35, 36.)
The question remains. Why does God only save some? If we grant that God can save men by violating their wills, then why does he not violate everybody’s will and bring them all to salvation? (I am using the word violate here not because I really think there is any wrongful violation but because the non-Calvinist insists on the term.) (Page 36.)
Dr. Sproul cannot be any clearer on this issue: in the context of dialogue between Calvinists and non-Calvinists it is appropriate describe the “irresistible call” of God as “violating their [the unregenerate] wills”.
On the issue of terminology, Dr. Sproul and I are in total agreement. And for the record, if the Calvinist position is truly the ‘Biblical one’, and I have not yet been regenerated (I believe that I have been, by the grace of God), I am pleading with Him that He “violate” my will!!! (I suspect that every God fearing, non-Reformed, individual would echo my sentiment on this issue.)
Grace and peace,