Monday, January 16, 2012

"I" - Irresistible Grace: Summary and Thoughts

I'm currently reading through the books For Calvinism by Michael Horton and Against Calvinism by Roger E. Olson.  This post is one of a series of posts where I discuss the thoughts, impressions, and questions that surface during this study.  Click here for the first post in this series. 

Chapter 3 continues with Olson describing irresistible grace like this:

A person chosen by God for salvation will not, because he or she cannot, resist the "inward call" of God because God "bends their will."  It is not a matter of coercion; the Holy Spirit does not overwhelm and force the person to repent and believe; rather, the Holy Spirit transforms the persons heart so that he or she wants to repent and believe.

And then a little later,

[T]he work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating grace, although irresistible, never violates the person's free agency: "The elect are so influenced by divine power that their coming is an act of voluntary choice. 
And then, before the words were out of my mouth:

This seems peculiarly paradoxical, but that doesn't bother Boettner or other Calvinists.

Okay, the first statement makes sense to me: The Holy Spirit fundamentally changes a person's heart, so that they want to (and always will) believe.  But that's not a violation of free agency?  Did the person have any say in whether their heart was transformed?  Obviously not.  I think you get the point.  This is another area where it will be interesting to see Horton's perspective.

Olson also raises two scriptural concerns with irresistible grace that I thought were interesting:

1) "Draw" vs. "Compel"
Olson describes how Calvinists claim that the word "draw" in John 6:44 really means "compel". Olson suggests that if the Greek word for "draw" can only mean "compel" then John 12:32 (which uses the same word) teaches universal salvation.

Obviously Olson must make the case that the Greek word for "draw" cannot have two similar (but different) meanings in the two contexts for this to be a valid argument.  I'm not one to dig into the Greek and try to make a determination myself.  (I know people that would, and more power to them, but I'd just be fooling myself.) I'll look forward to Olson's full discussion in chapter 7, and (I assume) Horton's opposite viewpoint in For Calvinism.

2) The order of regeneration and faith
This concept was completely new to me: Since repentance and faith are not possible unless a person has been regenerated (according to the Calvinist system) then logically regeneration must precede repentance and faith.

This is obviously opposite of typical experience, as well as counter to the message of "believe and be saved" as normally presented (even by Calvinists).  In reference to this, Olson cites John 3:1-21:

Jesus tells Nicodumus that he must be born again and that belief in him will accomplish that (v. 14).  There is really no way to reconcile this passage with belief that regeneration precedes faith. (pp. 52, emphasis mine)

I'm not sure how verse 14 relates to that (did he mean v. 15?) but even so, this whole issue of regeneration preceding faith seems like one of these theological fabrications that just must be so, because a theological system requires it...  

1 comment:

Vengiletti said...

It is always curious to me how some seem to box God into a formula. And I guess it wouldn't be terribly significant if it was individuals, but when a whole faith system produces formulas, I get nervous.

Election readily stands out to those outside the system as a Calvinist doctrine, and though I have put in hours of reading myself trying to understand it (always fizzling into irrationality for me) I hadn't ever come across, at least to my memory, the "order of regeneration" put that plainly. If it indeed is the prescribed order, I have an additional problem with Calvinism.

But even so, I'm not sure stating the opposite is entirely accurate. I rather think, as we grow in our relationship with God, the three - repentance, faith, regeneration - continuously feed one another.

I have often thought man tries to make God's business linear, when I'm not sure He is so constrained.