Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Calvinism is Wrong Because Love Must Be Free?

I've heard an objection to Calvinism along the lines of the title of this post many times.  The argument is that "irresistible grace" is at odds with the nature of God, since God wants us to love Him freely.  Paul Manata has a succinct answer to that kind of argument.

I would like to build a little on my friend Paul's point.  Often we are told that Calvinism's teaching on irresistible grace is some equivalent to divine rape.  This analogy is necessarily wrong.  First, rape involves violation of the will of the rape victim.  However, God's efficacious grace does not violate man's will, it transforms it.  God's transforming act of regeneration is not coercion of the will (like a rapist), nor is it a fooling of the will (like a hypnotist).  God actually changes the desires of a person so that they not only no longer hate God, nor imagine they love God, but actually love God.

Second, in addition to the fact that God commands love (which is my friend Paul's point, and he makes it effectively), God also threatens punishment to those who do not love.  Roger Olson technically may be able to maintain his position that "it must be factually possible for both [parties] to a possible loving relationship to be able to say 'no' to the other" (p. 167 per Paul's post) even in the face of a command.  After all, people in fact do say "no," to God's commands that we love God and love our neighbor.  However, if this escape is employed the analogy breaks down.  After all, we would still consider someone a rape victim if they gave consent only after a gun was pointed at their head, even if they technically could have said "yes."  But the coercive power of the message of Jesus is even stronger than that: "But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him, which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you, Fear him." (Luke 12:5)

So, on the one hand, irresistible grace is not coercion and on the other hand God does (undeniably) employ coercion.  So, the objection posed by Olson cannot stand both because it misses the mark and because it strikes a point that Olson must accept as true.  Olson (and other non-Calvinists) have to admit that God employs coercion by threatening punishments on those who do not do as they are told.  Yet irresistible grace is a means that God uses that does not itself involve coercion, but transformation.



Paul said...

Thanks for the link.

I'd add that we physically can say "no," but not morally. One can't choose to disobey a moral ought as if it were up to him.

I'd also add another interesting detail Arminians forget. They say they believe in total depravity. On this view, we hate God, do not seek him, and do not want to seek him. But, Arminians employ prevenient grace. God gives this grace to all, thus allowing them to seek him if they wish. They claim God does a kind of proto-regeneration on all. That he makes all men born again, in a weak sense. But here's the problem. Did he ask totally depraved man what he would like? No. Did he ask them if they wanted to be regenerate-lite or born-again-lite? No. If he would have, they would have said *no* (per the def. of total depravity). So, what happened? God must have *forced it on them against their wills*!

Again, looks like Arminianism doesn't have the moral high ground they pretend.

Francis Turretin said...

a) Agreed that one *may* not say "no", though my understanding of English usage is that we typically distinguish between "may" and "can" with the former relating to permission (what ought to be) and the latter relating to ability (what is possible). On the other hand, "can" is often used for "may" in common parlance (e.g. "You can't do that!"). In any event, I agree with what you are saying in that paragraph.

b) Likewise, I like your observation about prevenient grace. Arminians (and other supporters of PG) advocate it on the grounds that it is freeing for man. However, this seems to be an arbitrary judgment - after all, while freedom is a good, isn't salvation a higher good?

Natamllc said...

TF: "Yet irresistible grace is a means that God uses that does not itself involve coercion, but transformation."

Jesus said some things that show me that God is actively involved in His Children's welfare during our stay in this world, devils filled and drooling, actively moving about the nations molesting the hearts of men only according to the Will of God:

Joh 5:15 The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him.
Joh 5:16 And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.
Joh 5:17 But Jesus answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I am working."
Joh 5:18 This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
Joh 5:19 So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.
Joh 5:20 For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel.
Joh 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will.
Joh 5:22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son,
Joh 5:23 that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
Joh 5:24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.


Joh 17:25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me.
Joh 17:26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them."

Notwithstanding, given a choice, I don't think I am able to choose to love either God or my neighbor of my own free will.

Am I glad I am one of His Elect?


That in and of itself does not keep me from being taken behind the proverbial wood shed! :)

Gal_6:7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
Gal_6:8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

At the end of the day, the dead do not claim victory!

Col 2:11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
Col 2:12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
Col 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
Col 2:14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.


Php 3:20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,
Php 3:21 who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.

You would have thought that by now we would have resolved this argument?

But, still the questions need be asked:

Rom 9:18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.
Rom 9:19 You will say to me then, "Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?"
Rom 9:20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, "Why have you made me like this?"

Paul said...

b) It may free man, but then (a) this doesn't remove the fact that it was forced on them against their wills, and (b) they're justifying this by appeal to a greater good—a theodicy the Calvinist can equally employ, e.g., God ordained some evil for a greater good. So again, the Arminian doesn't have the moral high ground they pretend.

Francis Turretin said...

I would add to what you've said only that there almost seems to be a view (amongst these non-Calvinists) that it would be wrong for God to leave men in a state of total depravity. Thus, what is called "prevenient grace" loses its gracious character and becomes a matter of divine duty. God not only *can* impose prevenient grace preveniently, but he *must* do so in their view.

Paul said...

I agree. I am working on an issue that involves this. Do you have any scholarly sources who make this claim?

Aronmckay said...

Dr. Thad Williams holistically addresses this in his recent work Love, Freedom and Evil. His simultaneous use of precise exegesis and command of all the contextual literature enables him to make progress moving the ball down the field. Horton has endorsed it. Highly recommend it.