When we consider our Preaching calendar we hope this week and next week on this current series. That will bring us to the 1st Sunday in November which Lord Will will be an Election year sermon. I may need one more week on the 2nd Sunday November to complete this series on TULIP. We shall see.
Currently we continue in our series on TULIP. This morning we will complete our discussion on Irresistible grace but first we will spend some time gathering some threads of where we have thus far been as well as teasing out some more significant implications.
What we are doing here is akin to what is done when a house is framed. I have a good friend in Idaho who frames magnificent houses. One can tell how majestic these house will be by just observing the framing of the house.
Well, in what we have been doing we have been framing this magnificent worldview of Calvinism. My friend in Idaho uses timber in his framing , while we – you and I – are using the Word and words to do the same kind of work in the realm of worldview / belief / ideology / theology.
And just as it is the case that people will dwell in those magnificent homes my friend frames so it is the case that we all live in our worldviews and if it is the case that people spend a great deal on their homes how much more should it be the case that we spend a great deal on a magnificent world and life view?
Instead people – including many who live in physical mansions — decide, by in large to live in shacks in terms of their worldviews. Like the hovel that Jane and I lived in during Seminary people spend their whole lives living in worldview homes that are garbage pits… indeed, to call these places homes is to do vast insult to the word “home.”
Choosing to reject Calvinism with all its worldview implications (only some of which we have teased out) people are living in fictitious realities. In rejecting Biblical Christianity and embracing religious humanism, Arminianism, Lutheranism, Roman Catholicism etc what people have done is they have chosen to live in false realities.
Josef Pieper was getting at this when he wrote,
“The Sophists he [Plato] says, ‘fabricate a fictitious reality.’ That the existential realm of man could be taken over by pseudo-realities whose fictitious nature threatens to become indiscernible is truly a depressing thought. And yet the Platonic nightmare, I hold, possesses an alarming contemporary relevance. For the general public is being reduced to a state where people are not only unable to find out about the truth, but also become unable to even search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions, satisfied with a fictitious reality created by design through the abuse of language.”
Abuse of Language – Abuse of Power — pg. 34
So, understand what is going on if we and Pieper are correct. We are living among a whole culture that is itself living in a fictitious reality…. living in framed houses crafted with skubala. In the words of Scripture they are houses built on sand.
We have observed some of these fictitious realities along the way. Here we have framed our house with the timber of Total Depravity. While those who are living in fictitious realities have framed their worldview house with either “man is only kind of depraved” timber or “man is basically good” timber. We have framed our worldview house with the quality lumber of unconditional Election which we saw – when teased out – means the worldview house we live in allows for a God who is discriminatory and gloriously prejudiced allowing us to embrace a biblical discrimination and a biblically based prejudice. Those living in a fictitious reality have framed their house with the trash lumber of a hypothetical Universalism where God loves everybody equally. Their fictitious reality … their worldview house does not allow for discrimination, prejudice and so pursue egalitarianism.
Along the way we begin to see that non-Calvinists are from Venus while Biblical Christians are from Mars. We are living in two different worldview homes … two different realities. The difference between us and them is the difference between Charlie Manson and Charlie Martel. They are living in un-real fictitious realities and we are living in real reality.
So, we see that holding to the Doctrines of Grace is not merely having a view on soteriology (salvation)… it is a matter of living in real reality and it sets us apart from those who have framed their houses with other words besides God’s Word and so are living in fictitious realities.
And we are now living in a time where the difference between those living in real reality and those living in fictitious reality is coming to a crescendo, which is to say, that we are living in a time where two vision of reality are in vicious conflict.
This sermon series then as not been merely about different ways on how to understand how we are saved. Our doctrines of Grace begin to frame for us a whole weltanschauung … a whole way of thinking about everything. Being a Biblical Calvinist who embraces the doctrines of Grace with all their implications means being self conscious about adopting a whole worldview home.
Secondly, along the way in this series we have tried to emphasize that what the Doctrines of Grace as properly understood teaches us is that Biblical Christianity is juridical and legal at its core and NOT relational except as by the Spirit’s work of uniting us to Christ we have a relationship with our advocate.
God gave His law. God’s Law was broken. The penalty promised for broken law must be paid. Man as creature broke the law… man as creature must pay the penalty. Man the creature cannot meet all that the penalty required. God, showing mercy meets His own requirements of His law and pays the law penalty for sin in our place. God then imputes (legally counts) the righteousness of Christ to our account and we have peace with God.
LEGAL … JURIDICAL … FORENSIC … JUDICIAL
Why do I hammer this so decidedly? Because at least since the 2nd great awakening these categories have been dismissed and replaced by relational categories. Jesus my friend. Jesus who meets me in the garden alone. Jesus whom I know lives because He lives within my heart. Jesus is my girlfriend type of worship songs. All this relational sentimentality has made the Christian faith insipid, sentimental and weak. And this is the karo syrup diet the Church has been on for several generations.
Not me… not here. I salute Gordon H. Clark who wrote two generations ago,
“As for having a ‘personal relationship’ with Christ, if the phrase means something more than assenting to true propositions about Jesus, what is that something more? Feeling warm inside? Coffee has the same effect. Surely ‘personal relationship’ does not mean what we mean when we say that we know someone personally: perhaps we have shaken his hand visited his home or he ours, or eaten with him. John had a ‘personal relationship’ with Christ in that sense, as did all the disciples, including Judas Iscariot. But millions of Christians have not, and Jesus called them blessed: They have not seen and yet have believed. The difference between Judas Iscariot and the other disciples is not that they had a ‘personal relationship’ with Jesus and he did not, but that they believed, that is, assented to, certain propositions about Jesus, while Judas did not believe those propositions.”
Look, I get it that there will always be a relational aspect to our undoubted catholic Christian faith but it should not be given its head so that the Christian faith becomes some kind of harlequin romance novel. The Christian faith is primarily legal and any relationship that exists, exists because of how our legal Advocate fulfilled God’s law in our place – obeyed all that God’s law required for us and received all the penalty that God’s law required as against our disobedience.
We have to understand that one reason that Calvinism has such rough sledding is that the Church has been taken over by those who argue for the necessity of a “personal encounter with Jesus” by which they are calling for the same kind of feeling for Jesus required in conversion that a 18 year old guy has when he meets the woman of his dreams. And if isn’t that kind of expectation unto conversion then we get the minister who preaches that Christianity is about trusting a person not believing a creed as if it were possible to Trust the person of Christ without having a Creed. Both of this bushwah ratiocination has just decimated the Church so that our Churches and pulpits are filled with the simplistic, the moronic, and the vacuous. Just see if you could join any other organization and be so completely brain dead about what the organization is all about as you can when being part of the modern Church.
As we have been looking at the Doctrines of Grace we have seen that Christianity has substance and that you can’t be part of Christianity unless you can affirm that substance. You can’t make up your own Christianity and if you do it is no longer Christianity. You can’t, in an epistemologically self conscious fashion, reject the Doctrines of Grace and be a Christian.
And irresistible Grace is an one of the pedals of our Tulip.
Insuperable grace explains how it is that in time and space the elect chosen by the Father and atoned for by the Son are delivered from their total depravity and intense Christ hatred. Undefeatable grace is what moves us from what the writer of Hebrews calls being spiritual bastards to being sons of God. (12:8).
Last time we considered this doctrine we looked at John 6 but let us see that we also find it articulated by the Spirit of God in Romans 8:29-30
29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
To get this passage right we have to understand that the word foreknew means “knew before He knew,” or “knew ahead of time.” We could even say it means “foreloved.” Gen. 4:1 tells us that Adam knew Eve. In Eternity past God had an unique and special knowledge of His elect.
Secondly, the word “call” here refers to the effectual call and not merely what we have spoken of as the external call. This effectual call is another phrase for the Unconquerable grace we have been speaking of. It is what explains why a a totally depraved person comes to life and so trusts Christ.
So what we are seeing is the unity of the Doctrines of Grace. St. Paul states that there is an inexorable sequence of realities that begins with the eternal love of God (His foreknowing us) and our calling in space and time. Because God foreknew His elect there was a certainty they would be effectually called …. and conformed to the image of His Son.
This passage is often referred to as “the golden chain of salvation,” and the reason that the word chain is used is that each reality … foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying conforming to the image of the Son and even our glorification are all links in one chain. There is a certainty to all this. God, even more than the Canadian Mounties, “always gets his man.”
Now of course I say again we Calvinists are alone in believing this. But that’s ok… Calvinists have broad shoulders and bright minds.
Our opponents on this score in the Church are everywhere.
The fight between Augustine and Pelagius that occurred in the 4th century gave us one the earliest conflicts on this in Church History. Augustine articulated the position on irresistible grace that the Bible sets forth while his sparring Partner denied it. Pelagianism taught that man was NOT totally depraved but rather sinned by way of bad examples around him. The problem was not man’s sin nature but man’s environment. As such Pelagius and his peeps denied denied that man needed Insuperable grace since Unconquerable grace presupposes total depravity. Per the Pelagians there is no need for the Holy Spirit to help man do good.
Another position raised up against the Doctrines of Grace was a mediating position between Pelagianism and Augustinianism. This position came to be known as semi-pelagianism. As its names implies it held the position that a little less poison in one’s doctrine than full poison would be delightful.
The semi-pelagians believed that man was not as evil as the Augustinians said but neither was he quite as good as the Pelagians said. So, they basically said man was sick but not dead and there byword… which remains the by word for Arminians and Roman Catholic is that man must cooperate with grace. God does his part and man does his part and between the two of them man can convert.
I heard this kind of thing growing up. The Evangelist would come to town and at some point along the way I would hear some version of, “There is one area of your life that God will never touch and that is your will. He will never cause you to believe. That’s your job. Only you can do it,” as if even God didn’t know which way one would choose. God wants you to choose for Him but there are some things that even a God can’t get.
This is why our standards can say, (Canon of Dort)
Article 10 –
But that others who are called by the gospel obey the call and are converted is not to be ascribed to the proper exercise of free will, whereby one distinguishes himself above others, equally furnished with grace sufficient for faith and conversions as the proud heresy of Pelagius maintains; but it must be wholly ascribed to God, who as He has chosen His own from eternity in Christ, so He confers upon them faith and repentance, rescues them from the power of darkness, and translates them into the kingdom of His own Son, that they may show forth the praises of Him who hath called them out of darkness into His marvelous light; and may glory not in themselves, but in the Lord according to the testimony of the apostles in various places.
Look, at the end of the day if your theology teaches that one can say “no” to God’s “yes” of irresistible grace unto eternal life you don’t believe that God is sovereign. That God is a weemus and like Elijah @ Mt. Carmel I mock him.
If like Lutherans, Pentecostals, and Arminians, and Evangelicals in general say we say that man can of himself accept or reject the gospel as he pleases, we have made the eternal God dependent upon man. We have then, in effect, denied the incommunicable attributes of God.
Evangelicals talk to us of a pleading God
As if man were the True inspector
As if man were casting the tiebreaking vote
To determine if God would be victor
As if God is submitting His career resume
For the position of our ‘Lord Protector’
And they wonder if God can secure the job
From those who are His electors