Genuine Relationship or Machines
A visitor recently made a comment, one that is a common argument among Arminians and other synergists. Thought I would share with you the question and my response:
Assertion against Calvinism The Bible, from front to back, is about God desiring a genuine relationship with those he has made in his image. This relationship takes place through influence and response, not cause and effect (as in your system). Your system will always reduce men to mere machines that can only act when acted upon, or can only move when moved.
Response: This is quite an incorrect understanding of what we believe. God saves us by mercy alone, and there is nothing mechanical or automated about it. Here's why:
First it is important to note. God's law reveals to us, not our ability, but our inability ("though the law comes knowldge of sin" Rom 3:20) So Jesus, in mercy, does for us what we could not do for ourselves. Pays the debt we ourselves are unable to lift a finger to repay. The gospel says, "WHILE we were still HELPLESS, Christ died for us." And "while we were yet dead in sin, God quickened us." If He didn't act first to give us life, in mercy, we would not have been able to respond, even more importantly, would not. Our entire edifice was rotten to the core so if any were to have hope God would have to intervene to resurrect our spiritually dead souls. So it isn't about machines (or cause and effect), it is about God's mercy doing something for us that we could not do ourselves.
As an example to help express how this works, take a a friend who is drowning. Do you merely hold out your hand for him and ONLY help if he first helps himself by reaching to you? Is that what makes it personal and a relationship? What kind of love is that? No, you jump in the water to make certain he is saved from drowning. True love gets the job done. A relationship of love (a genuine relationship) is there EVEN when the friend is unable to respond and is in mortal danger. But the kind of love you appear to believe is that God loves everyone in a generic sense but really has a conditional love for these persons based on what they do. This is not unconditional love.
We would agree that God does indeed give us conditions. But it is Christ who fulfills them on our behalf. Yes we must pay our debts in full, but thanks be to God, Christ is our paymaster. Our response is only possible because of the grace we have in Christ, apart from which we would have no hope whatsoever. Unless you are willing to acknowledge that we have no hope save in Christ's mercy ALONE, then your understanding of the gospel, I would argue, is only partial.
"God knoweth we have nothing of ourselves, therefore in the covenant of grace he requireth no more than he giveth, and giveth what he requireth, and accepteth what he giveth." -Richard Sibbes: From The Bruised Reed
See My essay To Cut off the Sinner from All Hope in Himself