Being a different Worldview Perspective on Calvinism Old and New, from one who was himself a Five-Pointer for 30 years, but who 12 years ago reached the settled conclusion that four-and-a-half of the five points of TULIP are utterly bankrupt, and who now argues with his Reformed brothers, without apology, (ironic pun intended) for semper reformanda on the so-called “doctrines of grace” (he DOES, however, apologize for the ridiculous length of this subtitle).
Divisive? Well, Duh
It would not be difficult to demonstrate that a generous portion of the heat being generated in the resurgent debate, outlined in Shane Morris’s recent article, stems from the Calvinist’s very-often-offensive vocal insistence that “real Christians” are morally obliged to be Calvinistic.
If other Christians “refuse” to concede the Calvinists’ particular view of God’s sovereignty and man’s inability, many Calvinists hotly contend such folks are either deaf, dumb, and blind to what is “patently obvious on virtually every page of Scripture.” Or worse, that they are willfully -- read “culpably,” read “obstinately,” read “heretically” -- resistant to what they secretly know is true, but through sinful pride are stubbornly unwilling to acknowledge.
Are Christians Morally Obliged to be Calvinistic?
But is there a moral obligation to be Calvinistic in one’s soteriology? Many, if not most, Calvinists assume there is. Their philosophical presupposition is that their viewpoint honors God more than the non-Calvinistic traditions within evangelicaldom. They believe that to be anything but a consistent (read “five point”) Calvinist is to rob God of His glory and to tacitly lean towards, if not outright sanction, salvation by works -- in short, to be a heretic.
But the Scriptures teach that anyone -- Calvinist, Arminian, “Calminian,” or any other flavor of Christian -- who confesses salvation is by faith alone gives God equal glory, for the very nature of faith is that it is not a work; it is entire dependence upon God; it is giving God all the glory for the finished work of sin’s atonement.
The very nature of faith -- its intrinsic property -- is to look not to itself, but to Christ alone for salvation. This is what glorifies God. If we are truly looking to Christ alone for our justification, we are giving God all the glory for our salvation, regardless of what position we may hold regarding the distinctives of Calvinism. There is no moral obligation to be Calvinistic.
But Calvinists stumble at this. They think the reason faith is not a work is that it is bestowed by sovereign fiat -- i.e., that justifying grace is irresistible. Their view of depravity, as Shane notes, is that man is so incapacitated by sin that not only can none believe in Christ without God’s gracious prior help (a.k.a. prevenient grace), but that none can believe in Christ without God’s sovereign, irresistible selection of certain, and ONLY certain, “elect” individuals.
Calvinists do not see that faith, by its very nature, is not a work, but a repudiation of works. They think that if the terminus of faith is posited in the will of man rather than the sovereign will of God, then that which we might call “faith” is actually made into a work, a repudiation of the grace of God, a synergistic mix of God’s mercy and man’s merit.
But this notion is flawed in two fundamental respects: First, nowhere do the Scriptures require a belief in “irresistible grace.” The biblical requirement is to believe in the sufficiency of the atoning work of Jesus, period. Those who cast themselves utterly on Christ’s finished work do, by that very act, give God all the glory for their salvation and are saved as a result, regardless of their thoughts on Calvinism.
Second, as has been noted, faith, by its very nature, is a repudiation of works. Paul says salvation is by faith precisely “in order that it may be in accordance with grace” (Rom 4:16). Faith does not need to repudiate itself in order to avoid becoming a work. Faith is, by definition, a repudiation of works. To qualify it any further, as Calvinists do, is to take our eyes off Christ and His finished work and make a certain kind of faith -- the kind that believes in irresistible grace and a regeneration that precedes faith -- the pivot upon which turns God’s glory.
The Conclusion of the Matter
To use an analogy that will be familiar to every Christian, it is the Ark (i.e., Christ) that saves and makes a man or woman entirely acceptable to God. It is enough that we get in the Ark (i.e., put our faith in Christ). We don’t have to confess, as Calvinists insist, that “God put us in the Ark” (i.e., caused us by His irresistible grace to believe). We don’t have to glory in TULIP. God doesn’t require it as a point of honor to Him, and neither should anyone else.
“God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 6:14).
Rolley Haggard is an IT manager for a multinational corporation in the Southeast, and a frequent nuisance commenter at the BreakPoint Blog.
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