Q344 : Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (Again)

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Q344 : Divine Sovereignty and Human Responsibility (Again)

Your answer to my previous question related to divine sovereignty in relation to human responsibilitya was very helpful.

To be clear: those represented on Spirit and truth would not teach that some are granted faith while others were not granted faith (as a gift from God) and were created for destruction? In other words your ministry team are NOT Calvinistic?

I know this is a tiresome debate, I am just trying to have a clear understanding so I can decide whether I can recommend your ministry.

Thanks again.

A344 : by Tony Garland

You are going to get slightly different answers from different teachers on our site as to where they place themselves on the spectrum between full Arminianism and full Calvinism. We all uphold the doctrinal statementa (which was taken, as-is, from the Society of Dispensational theology some years ago).

Myself and Paul Henebury are "monergists" — it is our belief that the only ones who come to faith are those whom God enables: that God does all the work—even though those are responsible to respond in faith. So we fall roughly in the camp that one would term "4 point Calvinists" (we both reject limited atonement, sometimes called "particular redemption"—and believe instead that the Scriptures clearly teach that Jesus died for all mankind). If I have to summarize my views, and am not in a venue where I can go into details to clarify particular aspects, I would say I'm a close to a four-point Calvinistb.

Having said that, both Paul and I differ from traditional Calvinism in our understanding of specifics about the 4 points: what the Bible teaches on the topics as opposed to how the points have been formulated by Calvinistic logic. For more on that, see the articles by Paul on aspects of TULIP: Tc Ud Le If and Pg.

It is my view that both extreme ends of the spectrum (whether Arminian or Calvinistic) elevate "tidy logic" over God's revelation: in making aspects of sovereignty, free will, and election "make sense" to the limits of human logic, the true biblical tension on the topics is distorted. Much like trying to explain the Trinity using human logic: you can only make the doctrine fit into a nice comfortable box by distorting Scriptural revelation.

I believe we are better served living with the tension of the various passages and trying to faithfully teach them—wherever they lead.

Perhaps no better example of applying human logic over Scriptural revelation can be had than watching 5-point Calvinists teach on limited atonement (also known as particular redemption). They are absolutely convinced that God wouldn't/couldn't pay for the sins of the world unless all men were actually/effectually saved. This all seems nice and tidy, but bypasses the Scriptural tension which teaches that Jesus paid for all the sin of the world, but the imputed righteousness He then is able to offer is conditioned by faith on the part of the recipient.

The 5-pointers find this illogical. They reason: if Jesus paid for the sins, then those sins—in their view—can no longer be judged by God. Seems like reasonable logic, but it runs roughshod over Scriptural revelation.

To read or hear more of my thoughts on these areas, see the Q&A responses under the topic of Calvinismh, and my teaching through Romans 9-11i (especially Romans 9).

But, at the risk of brushing over numerous subtleties and details, I would have to answer your question, "in other words your ministry team are NOT Calvinists," with "each teacher has their own views, but our site upholds the biblical teaching of election and security—which are typically associated with a Calvinistic viewpoint."

One other thing I'll throw in as I close: the Calvinistic viewpoint is typically vilified because if God doesn't draw all men equally, then He is unfair and His passing over some essentially destines them to hell. Those of the Arminian persuasion feel they need to defend God by avoiding this situation. But the Arminian viewpoint shares this problem of understanding God's goodness in relation to sovereignty—it's just less obvious. The Arminian view of God has Him looking down through history to see who, on their own volition, will respond in faith ("choose Him"), then declaring them among the "chosen" and "elect" before birth. But then you have a God who sees which ones will respond in faith, but still creates those whom He knows—in advance—will never respond such that they wind up in hell. Both views are impaled on the horns of this dilemma: God is all powerful (sovereign), all loving, yet He creates those whom he knows in advance will reject and wind up in hell.

It is my view, and experience, that many (not all) who begin looking into these issues from the Arminian side of the fence wind up moving more toward Calvinism with time because the bible—when plainly read—has more in common with Calvin than Arminius.

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