Please understand that I know the whole Augustinian / Pelagian (Calvinism / Arminianism) debate has been running its course for 16 centuries or so now, so I don’t intend to solve it here. That being said, I’m a little frustrated this evening at the “non-logic” employed by many Christians when it comes to working through these thoughts.
Augustine (and subsequently Calvin, Luther, Edwards, et al.) taught the freedom of the will. This surprises many, but it’s true. The will is free to choose whatever it should so desire. The biblical picture, however, is that the unregenerate heart will always choose evil; hence the “bondage of the will” (ie. it can only choose evil, therefore, it knows nothing of true freedom
). God’s grace, according to Augustine, is his active changing of our hearts, so that we delight in him above all else, so that we freely choose him over everything else (thus God is, to Augustine, his sovereign joy
) and every other false pleasure.
I believe firmly that this is a concept firmly rooted in the biblical portrait of man and God’s redemptive work and would be prepared to argue that at length. That’s not what I’m hoping to discuss here, however.
My problem is when I get into discussions like one I had recently with a brother (whom I love dearly) who refuses to acknowledge God’s sovereign grace for patently unbiblical reasons. He made no attempt to argue from Scripture, exept to cite a single verse from 1 Tim 2 without rooting his argument in context. He then based his whole theology of grace around the idea that he created from that one verse. His argument went something like this:
1. God elects some to salvation.
2. This necessarily implies that he has willfully, actively chosen to create some, make them sinful, and send them to hell.
3. This is unacceptable.
4. Therefore, God does not elect unto salvation.
The problem, of course, with this syllogism is that 2 does not follow from 1.
The problem in the grander scheme of things, however, is that he has worked himself into a tough corner when it comes to actually dealing with the biblical texts which clearly delineate God’s electing in salvation. What does one do with Ephesians 1 when he has already decided in his mind that God’s greatest desire is for every single person to be saved?
The simple fact of the matter is that the Bible places the blame for the damnation of sinners on sinners. Out of a fallen race of humanity, God elects a people unto salvation. God is responsible for salvation, because his grace has to change our hearts so that we can delight in him. God is not responsible for the damnation of a sinner, that sinner chose what he desired.
Some may well ask “how can God judge me when he didn’t elect me?” To that we’d have to answer with
Paul, “Who are you, o man, to answer back to God?” Or with Moses, “The revealed things belong to man, but the hidden things belong to God.” Or with Isaiah, “His thoughts are not our thoughts, nor his ways our ways. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so are his thoughts above our thoughts and his ways above our ways.”
It frustrates me to no end how Christians are willing to take certain things by faith, but then when the Bible doesn’t answer every question they have, they reject what the Bible does teach for their own ideas of what it should teach.
Deal with the text and let that frame your thoughts and questions. Be willing to submit to whatever it teaches… it is the word of God. Be willing to accept “foolishness” when it presents itself. This type of humility usually leads to the greatest insights of wisdom.