Tuesday, February 17, 2009

It's All Grace Unless You Run Out of Will Power

(Note: This is an old post from my stint at Reformed Mafia. JCT was a frequent visitor there.)






The condemnations of Arminianism from Dort:
Who make use of the distinction between obtaining and applying in order to instill in the unwary and inexperienced the opinion that God, as far as he is concerned, wished to bestow equally upon all people the benefits which are gained by Christ's death; but that the distinction by which some rather than others come to share in the forgiveness of sins and eternal life depends on their own free choice (which applies itself to the grace offered indiscriminately) but does not depend on the unique gift of mercy which effectively works in them, so that they, rather than others, apply that grace to themselves.

For, while pretending to set forth this distinction in an acceptable sense, they attempt to give the people the deadly poison of Pelagianism.
The fact that others who are called through the ministry of the gospel do come and are brought to conversion must not be credited to man, as though one distinguishes himself by free choice from others who are furnished with equal or sufficient grace for faith and conversion (as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains). No, it must be credited to God: just as from eternity he chose his own in Christ, so within time he effectively calls them, grants them faith and repentance, and, having rescued them from the dominion of darkness, brings them into the kingdom of his Son, in order that they may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called them out of darkness into this marvelous light, and may boast not in themselves, but in the Lord, as apostolic words frequently testify in Scripture.
Who teach that in spiritual death the spiritual gifts have not been separated from man's will, since the will in itself has never been corrupted but only hindered by the darkness of the mind and the unruliness of the emotions, and since the will is able to exercise its innate free capacity once these hindrances are removed, which is to say, it is able of itself to will or choose whatever good is set before it - or else not to will or choose it.

This is a novel idea and an error and has the effect of elevating the power of free choice, contrary to the words of Jeremiah the prophet: The heart itself is deceitful above all things and wicked (Jer. 17:9); and of the words of the apostle: All of us also lived among them (the sons of disobedience) at one time in the passions of our flesh, following the will of our flesh and thoughts (Eph. 2:3).


JCT said:
Once again you display your raving ignorance of Christian doctrine, Twitchell. You demonstrate quite succinctly what I pointed out before: you have no clue as to what the word 'Pelagian' even means; you toss the term around heedlessly, using it as a tar-brush to spuriously incriminate Christians who dare to disagree with you.

Pelagianism and Semipelagianism were not condemned for being synergistic, they were condemned as heresy because they denied the necessity of grace (The Canons of the Council of Orange, Canon 5); the very same canons affirmed that men are saved by aid from and cooperation with Christ.


I never mentioned Orange. To disabuse any who think JCT's claims are true:

From the Council of Orange:

CANON 3. If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, "I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me" (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

CANON 4. If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, "The will is prepared by the Lord" (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, "For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

CANON 5. If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism -- if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, "And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6). And again, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God" (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

CANON 6. If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).

CANON 7. If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, "For apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5), and the word of the Apostle, "Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God" (2 Cor. 3:5).

CANON 8. If anyone maintains that some are able to come to the grace of baptism by mercy but others through free will, which has manifestly been corrupted in all those who have been born after the transgression of the first man, it is proof that he has no place in the true faith. For he denies that the free will of all men has been weakened through the sin of the first man, or at least holds that it has been affected in such a way that they have still the ability to seek the mystery of eternal salvation by themselves without the revelation of God. The Lord himself shows how contradictory this is by declaring that no one is able to come to him "unless the Father who sent me draws him" (John 6:44), as he also says to Peter, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 16:17), and as the Apostle says, "No one can say 'Jesus is Lord' except by the Holy Spirit" (1 Cor. 12:3).

CANON 16. No man shall be honored by his seeming attainment, as though it were not a gift, or suppose that he has received it because a missive from without stated it in writing or in speech. For the Apostle speaks thus, "For if justification were through the law, then Christ died to no purpose" (Gal. 2:21); and "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men" (Eph. 4:8, quoting Ps. 68:18). It is from this source that any man has what he does; but whoever denies that he has it from this source either does not truly have it, or else "even what he has will be taken away" (Matt. 25:29).

CANON 17. Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us" (Rom. 5:5).

CANON 25. Concerning the love with which we love God. It is wholly a gift of God to love God. He who loves, even though he is not loved, allowed himself to be loved. We are loved, even when we displease him, so that we might have means to please him. For the Spirit, whom we love with the Father and the Son, has poured into our hearts the love of the Father and the Son (Rom. 5:5).



What is evident is that Orange did indeed condemn synergism. So did Dort. The Arminian position is always in some facet of explanation heresy, whether the dishonesty resides in a well respected SBC hero, or in the rantings of bitter internet preachers. And while the Canons of Orange did soften the notions of imputation and exclusivity of God working monergistically in all ways in sanctification, it can plainly be seen that the initiation, source and completion of all things is finally God's work alone:

Concerning Christian courage. The courage of the Gentiles is produced by simple greed, but the courage of Christians by the love of God which "has been poured into our hearts" not by freedom of will from our own side but "through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us

My position has always been that it is exclusively a monergistic work of God, but agree, that man is not merely passive. I describe it as passive/active, acknowledging what Paul taught, that he worked harder than all, yet not he, but Christ who was in him. As the White Horse Inn selection explains, the Pelagian error is more than just the particulars of Pelagius' original sin rejection. It goes to the usurpation of God's work of grace as monergistic. In both the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian systems grace is only that assistance to the natural ability of self-attainment, turning grace into works. Pelagius even went so far as to say that man did not need grace at all. And, as I have contended, as RC Sproul and John Hendryx conclude, as the men of WHI conclude, when it comes to Arminianism, the result of their view of grace and man's cooperation with it simply results in Pelagius' Island, that little area, where man does not depend upon the grace of God as sufficient for all things, but is finally on his own to make the choice.

I hope this is enough to convince the readers of this blog just who JCT is. Both Orange and Dort condemned the semi-Pelagian notions of grace. Again, I refer the reader to Canon 5 that JCT referenced to see that what JCT claimed about it was false:

For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers

And also later in Cannon 6:
if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10).
Notice, that JCT does not make faith itself the grace which is given. And notice that the Canon clearly states that it is a supernatural faith not common to man. In effect, the grace of faith is the "conduit" or that which receives and rests in Christ, and not the will of man. It is also clear that it is grace that bends the will towards God and not man, contrary to the assertion of JCT. It is not left to man to will from neutrality, but it is the very gift of grace that kills the resistance and moves the will irresisably to trust in Christ.

Our final authority is not the councils, it is Scripture. We do, however, look to them as an appeal. What we find is that men before us saw in the Scripture undeniable evidence of the monergistic work of God in all facets of our salvation. It was the impetus of the Reformation. To exalt the humanistic free-will and the power of contrary choice is to embrace Erasmus and to return to Rome and condemn Luther. Our separation from Rome hinges upon the denunciation of the free-will doctrine; that is, justification by grace alone through faith alone. Paraphrasing Luther: as justification by grace is the hinge, if by reenshrining free-will, we remove the hinge pin upon which the whole of the protestation hangs, the Wittenburg door falls.

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