Drinking Deeply

Sunday, April 23, 2006 at 2:35 PM

From a blog I read

Arminian: God is willing but unable to save everyone.

Calvinist: God is able but unwilling to save everyone.

comments? I would say that represents my belief fairly accurately.

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Blogger Eric said...

I don't think it represents mine, though. I would say that Arminians think God is willing to save everyone but doesn't.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, but why doesn't He save everyone?
you're left with a couple options:
1) He can't
2) He doesn't want to
3) He wants to but people reject Him, and since He loves us He'll give us free choice to choose whether we want to make use of Jesus' sacrifice (or, Jesus' offer) or not
4) He has foreknowledge so He knows whether in our nature we would seek Him out or not. OR, He knows us so well that He can see if we would want to be saved - and thus does what we really want.
5) We just have no idea, because we're finite beings: "who can know the mind of God?"

1) is what MXU proposed
2) contradicts the first part of the statement
3) makes light of Jesus' sacrifice. If Jesus' blood was SO valuable that God would forgive our grievous sins and make us heirs of His kingdom, then how can we be so presumptuous as to claim that Jesus' death does not have any power over the will of the human? let's just go through a thought experiment- if everyone rejected Jesus, then would He have died for nothing?
4) this argument falls because this makes God some sort of powerless being.. ALSO, we would never seek God out of our own wills. we are fundamentally opposed to God. We HATE God from the gecko.
5) yea, true, but God reveals Himself to us through Scripture. and scripture is clear that
- no one can seek God, Jesus' death actually does have power, God chooses those who He calls, God predestines.

(sorry, i have to run, but if you want me to expand on my last point, i can. just leave a comment here)

- J.  

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Blogger Inheritor of Heaven said...

In Christ's work on the cross, God HAS paid the price for everyone's sins though not everyone will be saved. They reject God's gift. I agree with anonymous' 5th point and reason.  

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Blogger mxu said...

as something complete aside,

I think the statement "hate God from the gecko" was an amusing typo  

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Blogger Eric said...

My understanding of the Arminian account of salvation includes both 1) and 3) actually, as long as we flesh those out a little bit.

To start with 1), what do we mean by "can't?" I can think of two possible meanings of that I think deserve consideration:

(a) The proposition that a person who rejects God can be saved is logically coherent, but God lacks the power to bring such a thing to pass
(b) The proposition that a person who rejects God can be saved is logically incoherent, and God "can't" bring this to pass any more than he can bring to pass a rectangular circle

The reason I think this is important is because to my mind (b) is not an assault on God's omnipotence or sovereignty, whereas (a) is an assault on both. Neither is (b), to my mind, a stretch of language. When I care to be precise I will not say "God can't create a rectangular circle" in order to avoid confusion, but in everyday conversation I very well might say "God can't create a rectangular circle."

In order for 1(b) to be applicable, I think we need an Arminian view of what it means for God to draw people to himself - the Arminian, as I understand it, thinks that God draws everybody to himself, and as he does by grace gives those so drawn the capacity to accept Jesus' offer/sacrifice (a capacity which they did not have before, nor could have except by God's grace). It is at the point after the person has been drawn, both Arminians and Calvinists agree, that the believer responds in faith. I think (and I know Mickey disagrees with me on this, but we've had that conversation at length already) that the very verb we use for this step - "have faith" - logically entails the possibility of not having faith; i.e., rejecting the offer. I have no problem, at the end of an account like this, of saying that God "can't" save the person who has rejected his offer, so long as we mean "can't" in the logical incoherence way of 1(b).

Moving on to 3), I don't think I agree with your account of it, J. Let us suppose that everyone in our thought experiment rejects Jesus, and that we conclude therefrom that we have made Jesus' death of no account. Something smells fishy about this to me. Are we not then saying that if one person had accepted Jesus, his death would be made of more account? But I am leery of any account in which God ever counts human beings. That seems contrary to the spirit of parables such as the ninety-nine sheep and the nine coins. It also seems contrary to the picture of God as our heavenly Father. One of the most salient characteristics of the parent-child relationship is that the parent loves the child no matter what. Your thought experiment seems to imply that God loves us (i.e., is willing to send the Son to die for us) only if we are at some future time going to love him back. It seems to me that cannot possibly be right. Rather, to my mind 3) makes much of God's extravagant love for us, that he is willing to die for our sins come what may. I can't recall any passage in Scripture that suggests we care about the value of Christ's sacrifice in order to assess its power. Rather I think the Scriptural model is for the believer to look upon the extreme value of the sacrifice and be awed that God would purchased him at such an extravagant price, as if a man were to offer as his brideprice the Hope Diamond or the entire United Kingdom.

So I don't really have a problem with 3), either, because to my mind 3) assaults neither the value of Jesus' sacrifice (rather, it helps us see that value more clearly) nor God's sovereignty (since it is God who decrees the "free choice," rather than the "free choice" existing independently - whether such an action assaults God's sovereignty is another point on which Mickey and I disagree, but we've had that conversation at length too).

So now we insert 3) into the story just at the point that God has drawn our human being to himself, and given the human the capacity to accept Jesus' sacrifice. Now, the story goes, God offers the human a choice. He has the capacity to choose Jesus or to reject Jesus (previously, of course, he only had the "choice" to reject). God decrees that this choice will be "free" (I think it has to be or the entire account becomes logically incoherent, but whether the choice has to be "free" or not is not really germane to the story). If the human chooses Jesus, he will be saved as before. If the human rejects Jesus, he will not be saved. Now, the story goes, God will want to save that person, but that is just not a logical possibility.* But this should not surprise us; God knew going into it that this person would reject him, and he drew him to himself anyway.

* The relationship of this story's internal chronology to actual time is, of course, imprecise. Many an undoubted believer has rejected Christ deliberately and thoughtfully before accepting him. When I say that the human in my story "rejects" Christ, I am referring to rejecting Christ and then passing some cutoff point - death is the traditional candidate.  

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