Sunday, March 11, 2012

...And am Persuaded That He is Able...

In the third part of a four-part series on eternal security, Dr. Steve Lemke continues with an excellent defense of the doctrine that a believer who has been genuinely born again will not utterly abandon his faith but will remain saved. The reason is because the protection of the believer's salvation does not depend upon the believer, but on God. Dr. Lemke states,
If salvation were put in our fallible human hands, we would inevitably lose it, ...(b)ut we can join with Peter in praising God that it is His omnipotent hand that protects our salvation. And no one can take away that which God holds and protects! Believing that we cannot lose our salvation is in no way confidence in ourselves or our own righteousness. It is based only in our confidence in God!
Dr. Lemke's thorough investigation of the doctrine of the eternal security of the believer contrasts in an interesting way with a post at the same blog a few days earlier in which Dr. Lemke offered a comment. What makes the contrast interesting is Dr. Lemke is essentially defending the "P" in TULIP, or doctrine of perseverance of the saints, and he is doing so in a manner consistent with historical Baptist teaching and with the Baptist Faith and Message.

 However, in some ways the Arminian who believes in eternal security must contradict his own reasoning in disagreeing with the "I" in TULIP, or irresistible grace. Consider a post by Matt O'Reilly, a United Methodist pastor,defending the Wesleyan Arminian view of prevenient grace over irresistible grace.  Dr. Lemke insists in the meta that Calvinists such as James White claim the doctrine of irresistible grace means the elect are drawn to Christ against their will. James White issued a corrective  response from his blog, while a very interesting discussion ensues in the comments of Matt O'Reilly's post. O'Reilly advocates for the Arminian position on the issue, contending that even if the Calvinist view is more accurately described as God changing the elect sinner's heart and making them want to come to Christ,  that is supposedly still just like forcing them to come against their will. After all, the argument goes, God imposed His own will on the sinner and changed their heart.


This line of reasoning creates a problem for those who would deny irresistible grace but defend eternal security. And the fact that the inconsistent argumentation of those holding these two views appears on the blogpost of a United Methodist pastor lends greater irony to the situation. While I am not familiar with Matt O'Reilly's personal view of the doctrine that the true believer cannot lose their salvation, if he holds to the traditional United Methodist/Wesleyan Arminian view, he does not hold to the doctrine of eternal security as detailed in Dr. Lemke's posts. Thus, when he argues against irresistible grace, his argument can also be applied to the Arminian view that claims it is possible to fall from grace. But Dr. Lemke would disagree that a true believer could fall from grace. Matt O'Reilly states in his own comment that,
It is difficult for Wesleyans to understand, though, how unilaterally overcoming a person's resistance is different from doing something against a person's will.
He can as easily use this same argument from his comments in the meta to oppose either the "P" in TULIP or the "I". The same holds true for a statement in the post itself:
It is difficult to conceive how an irresistible relationship, one that must be had against the will of one party, can be a relationship of mutual self-giving love. A relationship of love is one in which both parties freely desire to engage.
Stipulating as we have previously that Calvinists do not affirm that faith is exercised "against the will" but rather that the heart, and thus the will, is changed so that it comes to have faith, I would suggest, (and have done so before) that it is very difficult to apply this "not changing a person's will" logic to deny irresistible grace but ignore it when the subject of eternal security comes up. And it would not suprise me if O'Reilly agreed (although I don't know whether he would) even though he holds to an Arminian soteriology and I hold to a Calvinistic one.To claim that God does not overrule the sinner's proclivity and does not actually, "unilaterally" change their will in drawing them to Himself, but that on the other hand He does sovereignly impose His will on the believer's heart in causing the believer to remain in the faith is a course which brings us into non sequitur land.

Now many adherents of eternal security will argue, as Dr. Lemke has so effectively, that God has saved and God has justified and God sanctifies and God has willed and thus the believer will remain saved because it is up to God and not up to the believer. And what's more, the believer's heart has been changed so that they will ultimately want, will, desire, etc to remain saved. Because God has sovereignly acted upon the will of the believer so that the believer will continue in the faith. And I'm guessing the Weleyan Arminian then comes along and says "Well then what is the difference between God imposing His will on the believer to cause them to continue in the faith, and God imposing His will on the elect sinner in causing them to come to Christ?" And one who holds to the doctrine of irresistible grace simply responds:


But the one who says eternal security is up to God but conversion is up to man has a difficult argument to make.

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