Wednesday, February 23, 2011

How is This NOT a Contradiction?

"Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called 'knowledge.'"  -First Timothy 6:20
In his book The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination Loraine Boettner attempts to diffuse the offensive nature of the Calvinistic concept of "Irresistible Grace" (the "I" in "T.U.L.I.P."). In a chapter that he calls Efficacious Grace Boettner tries to explain how man's free will is not violated, and, in fact, remains in full operation, during the five steps of Calvinistic salvation.

Boettner writes on page 176:
"It is a common thing for opponents to represent this doctrine as implying that men are forced to belief and turn to God against their wills, or, that it reduces men to the level of machines in the matter of salvation. This is a misrepresentation. Calvinists hold no such opinion..."
OK, so Boettner seems to be saying that men are not forced to believe nor are they forced to turn to God. The key phrase being "against their wills." I think the impression he is trying to leave is God does not "force" belief on individuals, but instead men are placed in a state in which their free will responds positively to the gospel. Boettner then says that Calvinism does not reduce "men to the level of machines."

Boettner supports this with a quote from the Westminster Confession to explain his statement of belief:
"Yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace."
Again, Boettner is trying to prove that God is not making men come to salvation and that the Calvinistic doctrine teaches no such thing. It is grace that makes men willing to come. So, it appears that if grace does the work then it is not God forcing men against their will? But notice the phrase "being made willing by His grace." God does not make men come to salvation, but God's grace makes men willing. Then once men are "made willing" they will come freely. What does this mean?

It is like the natural man who breathes oxygen from the air. Man does not want to breathe oxygen from the water. In this example God, or the grace of God, would first turn the man into a fish. Once the man has been turned into a fish he now wants to get in the water to breathe. This is Calvinistic salvation that Boettner says does not "force" men to be saved or treat men like machines. God simply turns a man into a fish and by God's grace man freely and willing starts to breathe oxygen with gills.

Boettner attempts to mock the accusation that Calvinism reduces men "to the level of machines," but turning a man into a fish so that he breathes with gills is nothing but mechanical. Turning a man who resists grace into a man who swims in grace is to change the man. This Calvinistic change is mechanical.

Boettner says that God does not force man to believe and turn to God. This is true only because God (or, grace) is said to first change the very nature of man. According to our example, God does force the man to turn into a fish, but he does not force the man to breathe with gills once he is a fish. What is the point of Boettner's argument? I mean, if you turn a pig into a frog with no input from the pig then the pig is being forced to be a frog against the pigs will. So, if a frog begins to hop after he has been changed from a pig into a frog, how does that lessen the fact that he had once been a pig and had been forcefully changed into a frog. This is more than a contradiction. This is an argument that proves nothing concerning the issue that was put forth.

Boettner's point is the simple, basic Calvinistic thought that says, God first causes the new birth* (regeneration, "born again") to change the man deep in his soul beyond the point of consciousness** in order to change man's nature. Once man has been changed by the power of God (and, this with out man's consent, approval, faith or even consciousness), then man will naturally repent, come to God and place faith in Christ.

I hope you understand this...Boettner says that man is saved by God without faith in Christ. Only after the nature of man is changed forcefully by God will the man trust Christ as naturally as a fish breathes with gills. This is Boettner's defense against those of us who say that God forces salvation on men mechanically.
"A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved." (p. 101)
** ("Regeneration or the New Birth) is an instantaneous change...It is not even a thing of which we are conscious at the moment it occurs, but rather something which lies lower than consciousness."  (p. 165)

Who is Loraine Boettner?
Certainly we study this Reformed Theologian because of his work “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination.”  His agility in rewriting the doctrines commonly held in a Reformed setting placed him among the current authorities on the subject. It is important to note that he did not introduce any new doctrine, but renewed the old. In this book he explained the traditional five points of Calvinism, total depravity, unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace and perseverance of the saints.  He molds into this the theological aspects of the plan and decrees of God; and also the relevant attributes of God.  He very convincingly answers criticisms of Calvinism. (this quote taken from:

Galyn Wiemers
Generation Word

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