Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on Calvinism and Sanctification

I wanted to post the following excellent comments left by "Westwind" in the Quick Question for My Calvinist Friends combox as it relates to my recent post on sanctification in Calvinism.

I never have had a Calvinist of any level of education or experience come forward and offer an explanation why effectual grace cannot be resisted but sanctifiying grace can be resisted. As I've argued in the past ( http://www.ovrlnd.com/theology/arminianthought.html ):

1) Within Calvinist theology, common grace is given to all with the goal of sustaining the good, but never with salvation in mind. Only effectual grace has the goal of justification in view. Hence within Calvinist theology there are differing kinds of grace. Therefore to the Arminian mind, the Calvinist apologist must make a case from the Bible that differing kinds of grace do indeed abound and the Arminian apologist needs to set forth that there is but one kind of grace that operates within differing modes.

2) Within Arminian thought, there is only one kind of grace which is said to go before, or, operate ahead of, (hence the term "prevenient") that enables all good and righteous acts and thoughts, thereby providing to our Lord all the glory of such acts and thoughts—for it is His doing. Ultimately within Arminians thought, prevenient grace has the goal of sanctification but its more immediate goal is justification and these two different goals can be thought of as simply modes of operation by the same kind of grace that always goes before encouraging and enabling. Within the Arminian system of thought, prevenient grace is said to be offered to all. In this sense prevenient grace is irresistible because the offer of grace to all cannot be denied. Nevertheless because prevenient grace has justification and sanctification in view and not all are justified and neither is sanctification ever complete or perfect even for the most holiest of saints, prevenient grace is also said to be resistible in both its justification and sanctification modes of operation. Positively, in acceptance, prevenient grace is said to be passive and negatively, in rejection, the heart is said to be active—a volitional stand against God and the willful suppression of truth (cf. Paul's argument in Romans 1). Consequently, arguments against prevenient grace that hold as a premise that the human will as the basis of salvation, are simply in error—although they are very common. So common that I'll state it again: arguments against freewill are not addressing Arminian theology. The only people who give a hoot about freewill are underinformed lay persons, philosophers, and Calvinist apologists who believe they are addressing Arminian soteriology in a meaningful way when they talk about free will but are, in fact, not.

3) In Calvinist thought, one must be regenerated before being able to exercise faith. This prompts a question: is regeneration by grace and is this grace not "going before"? Remember prevenient simply means "going before."

Furthermore, as stated above, to the Arminian mind there is an inner ambiguity within Calvinist thought that says, in effect, there are different kinds of grace. Some kinds of grace are resistible and some kinds are not. This is clearly illustrated when we consider that the elect may not resist saving grace, but for some reason they can resist sanctifying grace. Herein we have two different kinds of grace within the same individual. As an additional note: in all the Calvinist systematics I have read, I have never heard of a Reformed thinker argue that even common grace is resistible. This is one area I would like to confirm from those who have conducted similar surveys because if true, if the Calvinist scheme of grace is never resistible, howbeit that sanctification is resistible? I'm wide open for folks to share and teach me.

Ultimately, Arminian thinkers hold that Calvinist apologists need to first build an argument of differing kinds of grace from the discipline of biblical theology before assuming differing kinds of grace that operate differently depending upon the situation and they need to do this as an a priori before basing other arguments upon it—especially so when Calvinist apologists seek to prove other points supported by this premise to Arminians who will, in turn, reject these arguments because of the unproven premise.

In contrast to Calvinist thought, in Arminian thought grace is said to always be going before. In point of fact, grace is said to always operate preveniently: it is going before we are justified drawing and empowering our faith. Following justification, grace continues to move preveniently, preparing the way for "righteous responses" to and with our acts of faith, generating elements and fore-tastes of God's perfection within us. When we "improve" upon grace, it moves on ahead, preveniently improving us still further toward the glory which our Lord has for us. In every act of grace, our Lord's action is first, our faith is responsitory.

Therefore, in so far as grace is concerned, Arminian thought has a unifying principle as to how grace always operates.

5 comments:

Justin K. said...

Would it be fair to say that in Arminianism there are different degrees of grace or would you say that grace stays the same throughout the whole process?

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

William F. Buckley’s “Conservative Movement” Still-Born, Dead-On-Arrival, Decades Ago, Because It Was Godless, Against Christ, Ignored God’s Word

Recovering Republican John Lofton, Editor of TheAmericanView.com and co-host of “The American View” radio show with the Constitution Party’s 2004 Presidential candidate Michael Anthony Peroutka, has issued the following statement:

“Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.” – Psalm 127.

The Lord Jesus Christ did not build the “conservative movement” house. Thus, it was a house built on sand, it fell and great has been the fall of it, a recent example of this fall being the “conservative movement’s” support for President of George W. Bush who has given us the most Godless, unconstitutional, debt-ridden, big spending Federal Government in our history.
Even though most of its “leaders” claimed to be Christians, the “conservative movement” was dead-on-arrival because, from the beginning, it’s political plan was Godless, against Christ, and ignored the Bible. This “movement” vainly imagined succeeding without honoring Christ, succeeding through bread-alone, flesh-and-blood-only-politics when God tells us the REAL battle is a spiritual war which must be fought in the full-armor of God (Ephesians 6:10ff).
An example of the Godlessness I allude to occurred when I was on Bill Buckley’s “Firing Line” program June 24, 1987. Referring to him having told Malcolm Muggeridge that he (Buckley) did not believe there was a Christian means of organizing society, I asked Bill: “Wouldn’t God’s Laws, wouldn’t the Laws of Christ be a means of organizing a society?” Buckley said: “No. No….The consent of the governed in societies ruled by the people is the ultimate source of authority.”
Alexander Solzhenitsyn was once asked how just a few Communists could take over his country when it had a thousand years of being Christian? He replied: “We forgot God.” The leaders of the “conservative movement,” politically-speaking, forgot God. They forgot that the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord over ALL, including politics. They forgot that He is King of kings, Lord of lords, with ALL power in Heaven and on earth. They forgot Psalm 2:12 commands: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.”
I know all of what I say here is true because, from the inside, I ran with this “conservative movement” from the mid-1960s to 1980 when God, by His grace alone, raptured me from among this Christless crowd – something for which, literally, I will be eternally grateful.
To hear much more on this subject, please click here to hear the latest “The American View” radio show http://www.theamericanview.com/dictator/media/997/show_145.mp3. If you’d like to interview John Lofton, you may reach him by calling: 301-873-4612; 410-760-8885; or by email: JLof@aol.com.

Bill said...

Arminius never taught that prevenient grace is offered to all. This is exactly why a lot of calvinists charge Arminius with heresy. Arminius taught that prevenient grace is administered by God at his discretion. It is clear that at the time of Arminius there were many places in the world where the gospel had not been preached. God in his sovereign election decided to pass by those people and whithold his grace from them. Just like the book of Acts where the spirit tells Paul not to preach the gospel in Asia. The gospel and the kingdom of God are not a democracy where everybody gets to decide his own salvation, God has mercy on whom he will have mercy. But God does not have mercy on all. And prevenient grace is not offered to all. In the old testament it was offered primarily to the jews, in the new testament the gospel is offered to all people, but many people have never heard the gospel and are without God's grace. Arminius never, never taught that prevenient grace is offered to all.

Bill said...

Also, I've never heard that the elect resist God's grace after salvation (in sanctification). God's grace is irresistible, both in justification (unconditional election) and sanctification (perseverance of the saints) for the calvinist.

kangaroodort said...

Bill,

This blog has been moved to Wordpress a long time ago. You can find it at www.arminianperspectives@wordpress.com.

Do you have some documentation for your claims concerning Arminius? I have read a great deal from Arminius but do not remember him ever saying that God's grace did not extend to those who have so far been unreached by the gospel.

When speaking of the specific prevenient grace that enables a faith response to the gospel, Arminius would say that this grace comes by the Spirit and the word when that person is exposed to the gospel. Obviously, the grace to believe the gospel can only come when the gospel is preached. But this does not mean that God's grace is not at work in those who have not yet been exposed to the gospel.

As far as your comments about sanctification being irresitible, many Calvinists do see sanctification as synergistic. If you see it as monergistic, that would seem to lead to some rather serious theological absurdities. You can read about it here:

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/examining-inconsistencies-in-calvinistic-monergism-part-2-sanctification/

As far as perseverance of the saints, you may be interested in my 13 part series on the subject:

http://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/perseverance-series/

God Bless,
Ben