Friday, January 18, 2013

Knew Review: For Calvinism (6)

We come now to the 6th installment of my thoughts on Michael Horton’s “For Calvinism.” In this chapter, he deals with the final two letters of the TULIP acronym. First, he discusses “effectual calling,” which is his replacement for the more famous “irresistible grace” (the “I” in TULIP) since “irresistible suggests coercion.” He also deals with “perseverance” and the question of whether one could potentially lose their salvation (the P in TULIP stands for perseverance of the saints). I’ll limit myself, here, to addressing two issues I deem most significant.

First, Calvinists (including Horton) are very adamant that regeneration precedes justification. In other words, God unilaterally does a work (regeneration) which makes you new and enables you to repent (bringing conversion). In his own words, “Only because of God’s one-sided act of regeneration does anyone repent and believe.” The seeming motivation for this insistence (that the new birth provokes justification rather than being the consequence of justification) is to assure that God gets all the glory for salvation.

But I must ask… how is this really different from the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace (I know there are differences, of course, but I think the similarities make my point worthwhile)? I believe that God’s prevenient grace comes before any positive move in me. God initiated my salvation. God gets all the glory for it in my Arminianism. I could have made no move toward God without God’s grace coming before-hand. The very thing that Calvinists are trying to protect is protected just as well, it seems to me, by any Arminian with a good understanding of his/her own beliefs. The only difference is that in Calvinism the beginning of the process is not genuinely relational at all (Horton seems to accidently admit this in the middle of page 111 by stating that subsequent work involving us is “genuine relationship”).

Second, and by far the most frustrating aspect of this chapter, was Horton’s insistence on having his cake and eating it too, without a real explanation on how the cake remains unified while in both his fridge and his belly. This happened so often in the chapter that I got hungry just thinking about it. 

For instance, God’s calling renews our (genuine?) freedom, but ALWAYS (in terms of getting saved) results in our choosing rightly. So people are genuinely free… but will always do what God wants… but are not mere puppets. The will is liberated (like Adam was), but will not say no (like Adam did). The Spirit’s work is MORE than persuasion, but LESS than coercion. Huh?

Or, again, Horton says that after regeneration/justification, we get our “voice” back and enter into genuine relationship in which we are partners with God, but this is still monergism because our faith, obedience, are produced in us by God. So people are partners (at least at that point), but the term synergism is still out of bounds? Horton gets to include partnership (eats his cake), but gets to keep his monergism (has it too).

Or, even more annoyingly, Horton says that “apostasy… actually happens” (because of all the verses that make it sound like it does), but goes on to argue that nobody that REALLY had IT apostatizes, only fakers. So, again, Horton plays with language so that he can admit the Bible speaks of real apostasy… and yet not really admit that it is real apostasy. How can Horton lose!?!?

Horton also argues, in the chapter, that “eternal security” is actually an Arminian doctrine as it is practiced. I won’t take the time to respond to that, but it is another piece of evidence that Horton resorts to an awful lot of rhetorical technique in this chapter. Yet even with “eternal security” dismissed, believers are… umm… secure… umm… eternally because “the believer’s perseverance is guaranteed by God’s perseverance.” Actually, for Horton, the believer’s perseverance IS God’s perseverance.

Do I sound frustrated? Frustration is fitting at this point because I have now responded to all 5 of Horton’s defenses of TULIP (TUPEP). Each layer is built upon the previous foundation, so it is to be expected that if I thought the layers were getting increasingly unstable, the final layers would cause a tumbling tower. Or maybe its more like a cake… and by the end I can just no longer swallow what he’s trying to sell me, nor do I think it deserves to be saved for future enjoyment.

At least there are 3 more chapters! Perhaps we can end on a better note :)

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