Sunday, April 26, 2009

Tripping TULIP Part 5: Irresistible Grace

Please find Part 4 here.

Here’s what GraceNET has to say about Irresistible Grace: When the gospel is preached, an invitation is issued by the Lord to all people to come to him for salvation. However, as the first article clearly states, the natural state of all people renders them incapable of responding to this invitation, except to reject it. So when God calls an elect sinner to repentance and faith in Christ Jesus, he does so by sending his Holy Spirit to work a great change in that sinner's heart, enabling them to see their sin and their need of a saviour and leading them to put their faith in Christ alone for salvation. The Lord, by his Spirit, irresistably draws his elect to himself, raising them to spiritual life and making them willing to trust in Jesus.

Scripture references: Matthew 11:28-30; John 6:37; Matthew 23:37; John 5:40; Ephesians 1:12,19; Ezekiel 11:19-20; Psalm 110:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:11

My initial thoughts on TULIP’s Irresistible Grace: The author of the article again notes that this doctrine is founded in the doctrine of Total Depravity, making the mistake of assuming that people have to be good enough to seek Salvation. The “work a great change in that sinner’s heart, enabling them to see their sin and their need of a savior” is of particular importance. While the author does not term this as “regeneration” his description of the work matches what I have read other Calvinists say happens. They say that one is regenerated (more commonly known as being Born Again) and then they are able to accept Salvation. This would mean a person is first born again in Christ apart from Faith, and then they come to faith. One would be saved before they “received” the Gospel. Such makes God a liar on many counts not the least of which when He says that salvation is by Grace through Faith.

Even setting regeneration apart from faith aside the very doctrine makes Christ out to be a liar in describing the Holy Spirit’s ministry to the World after His ascension. John 16 makes this clear.

Joh 16:7-11

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

Note that the Lord says the Spirit will do this for the World, not the Elect… not Christians… but the World. He also doesn’t say that the Spirit will regenerate people so they can be convinced of these things. He says the Spirit will do so directly to the World.

The systematic theology of Calvinism needs the doctrine of Irresistible Grace to be true because it has set up the impossibility for anyone to respond to simple truth. It is a convoluted thing to try to explain. Because people cannot respond to the Gospel, there must be something that isn’t just appealing it must be irresistible. Also the idea that someone simply found out that help is available and asked for it is offensive to the Calvinist so they must have it so that the person didn’t have a choice.

People resist God’s grace constantly. Scripture tells us that God has shed His grace over the whole world. That people see and know His attributes from what they see in Creation but reject Him. I have no doubt that God could make a person do anything He wanted, however there is no need for this doctrine due to the fact that people can know and respond to the Gospel.

Let’s look at the Scriptures referenced by GraceNET:

Matthew 11:28-30

This is His call to all who are working for their salvation. I’m not sure how the author thinks this supports the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. It may very well be a failing in my understanding of the doctrine, but I see no relation between the description of the doctrine and any possible understanding or misunderstanding of this passage. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

John 6:37

The Cross is where He drew all men unto Himself. John 12:32 Some will be drug to Judgment others will respond and come for Life. I can sympathize with those who think this verse supports the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. This is an instance of God citing those who are Elected to come will, they will do so themselves but they will be drawn by God. This is obviously irresistible, however this does not confirm the doctrine of Irresistible Grace because that says this is God’s only method of Salvation. There is nothing in this verse that limits Salvation to only those who are drawn in this way.

It is clear that the Father gave Christ the disciples, they were Elected to their rolls. This was discussed previously. As I have noted it’s clear that God does elect some to Salvation. I would say that God has chosen some people to live at particular times and carry out particular things in order that God’s plan for History would play out exactly as He has declared.

The temptation for the person seeking to prove Irresistible Grace is to see this instance and say it is all encompassing. If the language were “only those the Father has given Me will come” then it would be exclusive and we would have strong evidence that TULIP is true. However, what we see here is just the same as everywhere else. Many are called, few are chosen. This verse does show God working Election, but it does not limit Salvation to only those who are drawn in this way which is what the doctrine of Irresistible Grace is about. Thus it does not support the doctrine as it is defined in TULIP.

Matthew 23:37

This is an example of God’s own people resisting His Grace. It is God lamenting over the hardness of the hearts of the people who He longed to lavish with love. This is hardly an example of Irresistible Grace. I suppose the argument could be made that since God didn’t draw them “irresistibly” that this is why they didn’t come…. Such is just human reasoning nonsense however. It is adding to Scripture what is not written there. This verse does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

John 5:40

This is also an example of people resisting God’s grace. The same can be said of this as the last verse. It does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Ephesians 1:12,19

I must admit I don’t know why the author chose verse 12. It is in the same passage of Scripture discussed under Unconditional Election but it doesn’t seem to offer anything about Irresistible Grace. Verse 19 is clearly not talking about His power to draw to belief, but His power to work on behalf of those who believe. Neither of these verses offer support for the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Ezekiel 11:19-20

Reading the chapter from the beginning shows that this is the Lord speaking of “His people” Israel, these are people already set aside for Him. This is a promise to be faithful to Israel, not an irresistible drawing of people to salvation.

What is the purpose of Israel? To be a people set apart for God. They are to be the image of Righteousness in the world. That nation is a testimony to the world of Who God is. This is why Israel has the problem of the Pharisees, because they recognize they are supposed to be this image of righteousness.

In the cited passage this is God promising to make Israel that image in His power not theirs. The author of the article conveniently fails to cite the very next verse which is God saying what He’ll do to those who resist His grace.

Eze 11:21

But as for them whose heart walketh well-pleased with their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their way upon their heads, saith the Lord Jehovah.

This passage has nothing to do with drawing people to Salvation, and when read in context actually shows people resisting God’s Grace. Thus it offers no support to the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

Psalm 110:3

This is again a promise about Israel. This is the promise that God is going to work it so they receive Christ when He returns. This is what the Tribulation is all about. The time of Jacob’s trouble, is the preparation for Israel to finally receive her King. The Tribulation makes no sense if God’s method of bringing people to repentance was to irresistibly draw them. Israel will be judged and God’s wrath is going to be poured out on her in ways that the world has not even dreamed of yet for those 7 years. At the end of it she will say “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the LORD!” and she will receive Her King.

This is not an instance of Irresistible Grace, it is a promise to do what it will take. Notice also that it says the “people will be willing” not that I will regenerate them to make them willing. Thus this does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

2 Thessalonians 1:11

The calling that Paul is talking about is perseverance through all these sufferings. I don’t know why the author of the article believes this verse might support Irresistible Grace. I see nothing about drawing people to Salvation here. Thus this does not support the doctrine of Irresistible Grace.

My closing thoughts on TULIP’s Irresistible Grace: It is true that God irresistibly draws those who are elected to salvation. However this is not God’s common or exclusive method of drawing all who will be saved. The common method is through conviction and convincing by the Spirit of God, this can be resisted and sadly most often is. Scripture bears witness to this over and over again; the least of these witnesses surely isn’t Romans 1. The problem for the person who already believes in this doctrine is sort of like this. If I tell you that my car is red, and it’s the only car you’ve ever seen or had color information about, and then I tell you that there are many other cars is it reasonable to think that all cars are red? What if I then tell you that every color is available. It becomes even less reasonable right? That a person might think all cars are red because that’s the color of the only one in his experience is a forgivable mistake, but it is not a reasonable deduction.

Please find Part 6 here.

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