Welcome to blog #4, “Has the Atheist made God a failure?” This week we are again looking at TULIP, specifically the Doctrine of Irresistible Grace. By this point you will have understood how the very foundation of Calvinism starts with God, and that salvation comes only from God. Man is unable to do anything to prepare himself for salvation, nor is man willing. Irresistible grace is built upon the foundation of Total Depravity, Unconditional Election and Limited/Particular Atonement.
For when it comes to the concept of resisting God and His will, that a particular person be saved, where do you land? Is man able to resist the will and call of God and undo the plans of God? Has God granted man this freedom to choose, and with that the ability and right, to resist God? If man is able to resist that call, was God ever really wanting that person saved to begin with? And if God knew the call would be resisted, why even offer the choice?
How you answer these questions will determine what your foundation is, is it the Bible, or something outside the Bible. Rome places its “Tradition” (with a capital T) over the Bible. For Rome has stated it alone has the authority to interpret the Bible for all Christians. What does Rome say on this issue? Can man frustrate the plans of God?
Rome would tell you that man is ultimately free to reject the offer of salvation that is placed before them. God places no coercion upon His creatures and that in fact God pleads with them to repent and take Christ as their savior. For Rome, man is the deciding factor if Christ work on the cross was successful, if the convicting ministry of the Holy Ghost is successful and if the entire plan and actions of redemption are a failure or a success. This leaves nothing for God. The glory has shifted from God to man.
Rome would tell you that:
- “Catholics must say that, while God may give efficacious grace only to some, he gives sufficient grace to all. This is presupposed by the fact that he intended the atonement to be sufficient for all. Vatican II stated, "Since Christ died for all men, and since the ultimate calling of man is in fact one and divine, we ought to believe that the Holy Spirit in a manner known only to God offers to every man the possibility of being associated with this paschal mystery.” (Source)
- “The Catholic and biblical position, though, holds that we must “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”—meaning we must do something— meaning God’s grace must precede and accompany every meritorious action that brings about our salvation.” (Source)
- Hence the Council of Trent declares (Sess. VI) that Christ died for all men, it condemns (Canon XVII) the main propositions of Geneva, that "the grace of justification comes only to the predestinate," and that "the others who are called receive an invitation but no grace, being doomed by the Divine power to evil."(Source)
The Catholic teaching tells you that God presents man a possibility, an option from which to choose. That while God intends and desires for all humanity to be saved, man can disrupt the plan of God and shatter His plan of salvation by rejecting the work of God in Christ. This renders the entire mission of the cross pointless for those who reject the Gospel, leading back to the L in TULIP, and why would Christ have suffered and died for those whom He knew would resist His call to repentance, and why would He atone for the sins of those He knew would reject that very atonement.
Having looked at the views of man’s lack of ability and desire to repent (Total Depravity), how God elects man based upon His own will and not anything in them (unconditional Election) and most recently how Christ died only for the elect and not all mankind (Limited/Particular Atonement), it then makes sense considering the Monergistic (one actor) work of God at this point, to not fail in all that He does. God will effectively call His elect to Himself.
The Bible makes a very strong and clear case that God’s will never fails, that God has an elect group of people He is going to save, and who these people are, is outside of their say and desire. Let’s look at some scripture that makes the case for Irresistible Grace:
for his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
and among the inhabitants of the earth;
and none can stay his hand
or say to him, “What have you done?”
- God tells you that He and He alone will give men a new heart to believe and the direct result of this is their obedience: Deu 30:6; Eze 11:19; Eze 36:26-27
- God gives certain people to Jesus, and Jesus says those people will come to Him John 6 37-39, 44, 65
- God states the entire process of salvation and details that those who are predestined (think of the U in TULIP) will be conformed to the image of Christ: Romans 8:29
- God and Jesus give life to whomever they will, it is not dependent upon man: John 5:21
Martyn Lloyd-Jones in Romans Assurance said this: “Not only is grace irresistible, it must be irresistible. For if grace were not irresistible no one would ever have been saved… The idea that grace presents itself to us, but that the final choice remains with us as to whether we are going to take advantage of it or not, is not only a contradiction of the verse we are considering, it is a contradiction of the entire biblical teaching concerning the way of salvation.”
All the points of TULIP work together. For God only effectively calls His elect. The Bible shows us a distinction between the call that goes out to the non-elect, without the power of the Holy Spirit, and the call that goes out to the elect empowered by the Holy Spirit. You can preach the truth of the Gospel to an atheist friend in the car on the way to the airport, but unless the Holy Spirit brings to bear the power of God upon his dead stony heart, those words will have no effect. However, when those words are empowered by the Holy Spirit, that conviction brought to bear through the Gospel will not fail to bring about the new birth of the rebel sinner.
Keep this in mind: No atheist is angry with God for refusing to let him repent. And have you ever met a Christian who is angry with God for forcing her to repent and believe? You never have.
This is because when that irresistible grace acts upon a sinner, the free desire in accordance with their fallen nature to hate God and deny His very existence is removed as the heart of stone is taken out. With the gift of a heart of flesh and a rebirth, comes a new nature. One that is free to love God in accordance with its holy desires. In both instances God allows the person to act freely within the confines of their natures. There is no violence done to the creature, nor is there any coercion. Merely a setting free from the slavery and bondage of sin to freedom and joy to seek after the God who created them.
In the final analysis, if grace can be resisted, then God can fail. Even if it is only one person who resisted it in all time, it still meant that God’s will to save that person failed. In contrast, the Bible never suggests God could ever fail to fulfill His will. Rather as Jesus said: All the Father gives me, will come to me.
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 " . . . no one, relying on his own skill, shall,--in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine,--wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church,--whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures,--hath held and doth hold," (Trent, Session 4, "Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books")