Calvinism has what is considered to be a very strong argument from grace. Simply put, man is so incapable of pleasing God by his good works that God must intervene to save us according to his own power and will. We contribute nothing to our salvation.
Jesus had done when He came what none of us could do for ourselves without spending eternity away from God in hell and that for us is no solution. He is the author and perfector of our faith from beginning to end, and any claim that we make for the explanation as to why we are saved, be it good works, wise decision-making, or persistent perseverance under trial, would result in our “taking credit” for our own salvation and thus render grace meaningless. God’s soverinty is thus compromised and we would be able to boast before God. You may want to look up “mongergism,” which means that God is solely responsible for our salvation. So if I believe in what God has done in providing salvation to man. My belief means nothing to God. It is just head knowledge. But Israel’s unbelief meant everything to them and to God. For it they were cut off. So God must have been behind it, the cause of it. This is where Calvinism must lead.
The main weakness in this understanding of Grace is contained in the promises we find in Scripture. God promises to all that this saving faith comes from hearing the word of God. God holds us accountable to His word. The word is free to all who have ears to hear. The problem concerns the ground on which the word falls. All of us have a wicked and deceitful heart which must be dealt with and reborn spiritually or replaced. This is why prayer for others on the part of the believer is so important. The soul or wicked heart must be prepared for the word as ground is prepared for seed. The parable of the sower tells us why. God promises that if we raise our children in the way that they should go when they are old they will not depart from it. That’s our responsibility, that’s not Gods. We can and often do lose children because we do not obey. That is not Gods fault. He has told us what to do. But Calvinism must lead to it being His fault if you do not obey.
So Calvinism has this weakness. The problem with mongerism, which is the argument from grace, is that it ends up taking so much away from mans will that it makes God take on things that even most Calvinist’s do not want to believe.
If God is solely responsible for our salvation, then would He also be solely responsible for our rejection of salvation? For Israel’s unbelief? God’s eternal choice to save some and not others is said to be unconditional based on His choices which only He knows. Yet if we hold to unconditional election unto salvation, then it seems we must hold to its logical corollary: unconditional reprobation unto damnation. Therefore, in the same manner, we are believed to be saved by God’s grace apart from works and we are thus damned by God’s condemnation apart from works. Yet, when He returns we are judged for our works — every Man Rev.22:12. A read of Romans 9:11-13, is what is in play for the Calvinist here.
Thus “A loving God desires to save all and at the same time desires the damnation of most for his glory”. How can we think this to not be contradiction. For God so loved the world. But most of the world is unconditionally predestined to hell.
Yet, there is an illogical in my way of thinking selling point from the Calvinist to dispel what is this more logical conclusion.
We are told that God is absolutely sovereign over the outcome of human decisions in such a way that we are still responsible for them. In this view God cooperates with human beings in every action, directing their distinctive characters and natures to cause them to act as they do. Thus every event is said to be 100% caused by God and 100% caused by the creature.”*
Grudem states, “God has made us responsible for our actions.” He says “If we do right and obey God, he will reward us” and if we do not do right we will be punished.
Doesn’t this create a problem for the argument from grace in that God is no longer “solely” responsible for our salvation. Since the decision of faith was caused 100% by God and 100% by the creature, we must conclude that we are responsible at least for accepting our salvation, or it becomes our belief for it that brings it to us in the same way we are responsible for our sin by not believing. The argument from grace would have us believe God is 100% responsible for our salvation and that we are 0% responsible for it. Grace is the cause sufficient for our faith in Christ all by itself**
There are Calvinist theologians who would deny this and hold that human beings are responsible for their salvation but doesn’t this destroy the idea that God is “solely responsible” for our salvation?
ELECTION A MAJOR PROBLEM FOR ETERNAL SECURITY
If God is responsible solely and unconditionally for salvation and damnation before the foundation of the earth, then how does one know that he is elected? This was a great problem for me before I made my commitment to Christ. I wanted to be saved but could I be? It has been stated that the only way one could know that he/she was saved was by knowing the status of his/her eternal election. This kind of election then gets in the way of what the word says: these things were written that you may know… but what I know if I follow The Calvinist doctrine is that if a man including myself turns his back on Christ at some future point after having made this commitment then it is because God programmed him to do so. He had no choice, because he was not chosen.
In order to have assurance We would need to know the status of our election, something that by definition cannot be known.
Covenant theology more or less states the terms and conditions of the promises that we must believe in order to be saved because we are elect. This does not in any way give us assurance that we will be able to meet these conditions, for the ability to meet them, according to the argument from grace, is contingent upon God’s unconditional choice to grant one eternal life with Him.
A huge question is:
Does one truly have the “reliable signs” at work in one’s heart that Calvinism tells us to look for? Answering our questions almost always is subjective.
John Owen’s treatment of assurance, in what we consider warning passages in scripture — such as Heb. 6: 4-6 makes a number of claims that are almost overwhelming. He states that a insincere believer (one that is not truly saved) can be “enlightened” yet not changed, renewed, or transformed. This one has believed. He or she may “taste of the heavenly gift,” meaning the Holy Spirit, yet still not experience the regenerating work of the Spirit. Any one of us could fall into this category. If we believe that this man was truly saved but can lose his position because of his own choice (not Gods), than we can guard against doing this. But as the Calvinist believe this we may even experience gifting of the Spirit (like Simon did in Acts 8, yet fail to taste “the goodness of God, and the powers to come” Schreiner & Caneday:****
So I can have the experiences of a chosen Christian, yet not be a chosen Christian. Therefore, whatever “evidence” we muster in favor of making our election sure could very well be deceiving us. Many have shared a long standing fellowship with those who are no longer walking with the Lord. But they did not “fall away;” or at least not from salvation; rather, they never were truly saved. We thought they were saved for the same reasons we think we are saved, (by their fruit you shall know them), yet, we are led to conclude they never were saved because they went away. Therefore, we have no reason to be assured of our own salvation since our faith is really not from God if we are not chosen, and we truly can’t know what God has planned for us. We can’t have total faith in the promises because we don’t know. We believe, but we don’t know. The warnings are either ignored by us as calvinists or we just don’t know.
So what is their answer? With Calvinism no true believer will fail to heed the warnings, thus rendering them compatible with God’s sovereign election and human responsibility. Yet no man is perfect, and when and if we fall into sin, while indoctrinated with this Calvinist thinking assurance is brought squarely into question.
How can we know the Father has given us to the Son and that Christ is interceding on our behalf if we have fallen? Without having the knowledge of our eternal election we can have no assurance. And the warnings of Scripture are meaningless to the unregenerate and being the “means of salvation” according to some still gives the individual no assurance of his/her own election. If you do have assurance of salvation under Calvinism, are you just being deceived? Will you do to God’s programing one day walk away?
So what do I as a literalist Armenian do with these questions? I’m working on that post. You’ll have to wait.
*See Grudem: Bible Doctrine, 145
**See Paul Helm in Divine Foreknowledge: 4 Views, 170
***Bible Doctrine, 152)
****The Race Set Before Us, 195-96).
Ps, I’m not trying to sell you these books. Look them up in the Library.
Picture from SO4j.com