"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Post-Thanksgiving | Main | Images of the Savior (47 – His Trials and Scourging) »

    What Love is This?

    "[Arminians] ... say that the Augustinian tradition subordinates the love of God to the will of God ... But this is not what distinguishes the Augustinian tradition from the Arminian tradition. The distinction is between intensive and extensive love, between an intensive love that saves its loved ones, and an extensive love that loves everyone in general and saves no one in particular. Or if you really wish to cast this in terms of willpower, it's the distinction between divine willpower and human willpower. Or, to put the two together, does God will the salvation of everyone with a weak-willed, ineffectual love, or does God love his loved ones with a resolute will that gets the job done? The God of Calvin is the good shepherd, who names and numbers his sheep, who saves the lost sheep and fends off the wolf. The God of Wesley is the hireling, who knows not the flock by name and number, who lets the sheep go astray and be eaten by the wolf. Which is more loving, I ask? - Steve Hays

    An illustration that may further shed light on this is as follows:

    Two parents see their child run out in the street. A car is coming. The first parent calls out to the child hoping he will get out of the way in time. In other words, he gives him a choice. The second parent on the other hand, due to his love for the child runs out at the risk of His own life, scoops up the child and MAKES CERTAIN his child is not run over.

    Even on an earthly level we see that true parental love acts and gets the job done. This kind of intensive love does not stand on the sidelines worried about whether their child's will was violated or not. He cares too much for the child to make his will the deciding factor. Yes the child will believe and trust in his parent, but the parent loves the child first, not because of what he does (conditional acceptance) but because the parent loves the child. Therefore the Arminian tradition has a view of God whose love is conditional while those in the Augustinian tradition see HIs love for His people as unconditional.

    To clarify the illustration so you can see how it explicitly explains the two positions:

    First of all, both positions believe that Christ died for sinners .... but there are clear differences in what Christ's death actually accomplishes for His children:

    1) The Arminian position believes that Christ does a great deal to bring salvation to His people, but His death does not actually secure that salvation. It is not sufficient of itself to save lost people. There is still a requirement that sinners themselves must meet if Christ's death is to be effectual ... in other words, what Christ does for sinners in the Arminian scheme is really conditioned upon man fulfilling another requirement that is in addition to Christ's death ... in this case, faith.

    2) The Augustinian position, in contrast, believes that Christ's death and resurrection actually secures the salvation of His people. It is completely sufficient in itself to save sinners. God does require faith of His people but Christ's death even pays for the sin of our unbelief and thus He meets all the requirements necessary for our salvation ... requirements that we were morally impotent to meet ourselves. Thus, Jesus Christ gives His children everything necessary to secure salvation. This is an unconditional love ... salvation by grace alone in Christ alone. Christ pluys nothing. Salvation is not conditioned upon our prior faith but Christ actually secures our faith. The finished work of Christ guarantees that none of his children will be lost.

    Posted by John on November 26, 2007 05:14 PM


    Calvinists seem to always have the most illustrative explanations on salvation ;-)

    Straw men are quite easy to burn. The real challenge is to extend your analogy and explain why the loving earthly parent would only rescue one of his children playing in the street while letting the other get run over. "Because the kid deserved it!" still sounds like parental neglect.

    Hi Tim

    Thanks for your comment. First of all, Scripturally, people are adopted into God's family - it is not something that human beings naturally have by right. He saves all of his children and "none of them will be lost". This is, in fact, a Biblical illustration that God saves only those who are his children but not the children of the Devil. Lets look at the Text:

    Of the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him....Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

    In other words, one must first be a part of the family of God if you are to hear the words of God. The reason, Jesus says, they do not hear them is BECAUSE they are not of God, but rather, children of the devil. Likewise, in a similar analogy jesus says you do not believe BECAUSE you are not my sheep. (John 10:26)

    So there is no biblical ground for your supposition. It is simply your assumption. The illustration squares with Scripture.

    Secondly, your concept of God is that people must fulfil some requirement before God will actually love them, otherwise they will go to hell. Why is it that some people fill this requirement and not others? What makes them to differ? Jesus Christ or something else. You see, in the final analysis, in your view, grace is not what makes you to differ from your unsaved neighbor, but something you did, and thus it leaves room for boasting. You can thank God for all you have except your faith, for this is the one thing you came up. You made better use of grace than your neighbor. But Jesus leaves no such room for boasting. He says that the Spirit gives life (quickens) but the flesh counts for nothing. That is why he said to the unbelieveing Jews that no one can believe in Him unless God grants it (John 6:63-65) and all to whom God grants will believe (John 6:37)

    The gospel plainly teaches that God commands us to believe, yet jesus does for us what we could not do for ourselves.


    Hi John,

    It is curious to me how you know what my suppositions and conceptions of God are for merely challenging an illustration. They are not, in fact, what you stated they are. I am simply asking for the illustration to be sharpened a bit so it can be truly useful, or abandoned altogether if it misrepresents the character of God.


    Brother Tim

    grace and peace to you.

    The supposition created by your challenge was clearly one that was in disagreement with the view that God's covenant love is particular, whether you personally believe it or not. Your posting it did not contain a caveat which said you were advocating for any position other than your own. So I am responding to your post as if you believe it. If you believe otherwise, then great. But I am responding to the post as is.

    Per your response, how does the post misrepresent the character of God? God is a God of great love and mercy and has set His affection on a particular people for Himself and Christ has purchased them with his blood ... people FROM every, tribe tongue and nation, as the Scripture states (Revelation 5:9). True love gets the job done ... He saves all whom He came to save, according our Lord (John 6:39), NOT ONE WILL BE LOST ... so to assume that God is obligated to all men in the same way is Scripturally untenable and, frankly, imho, to create a god of our own imaginations.

    The particular love is how the Scripture represents itself. So far whenever something like this is posted, I have only seen a moral defense from those who oppose it, but not a Scriptural one. If we want to glorify Christ, we must teach the whole counsel of Scripture, not just what we want to hear. If we agree that the Text is our authority in these matters, then this needs to be the final arbiter, not whether it is morally repugnant to you or me (i.e. your illustration of the neglectful parent)

    p.s. I posted your words as soon as I saw them. The fact is, I do not hang out here all day. I have lots of business ...So please do not infer that I purposefully did not post your words [as you wrote me later] because there was a 2 hour delay. Thanks :)

    Solus Christus

    "To assume that God is obligated to all men in the same way is Scripturally untenable." Agreed. And that's what's wrong with the illustration, at least when pressed. A parent who rescues one child while allowing the other to be run over for some "inscrutable" purpose is morally repugnant and criminally negligent, two attributes I'd rather not see ascribed to the Father, as Scripture will not allow it. But that is where these discussions inevitably go in class when such illustrations are invoked and pressed, thus making them more trouble than they're worth. The qal va-homers Jesus used in his illustrations showed that the heavenly Father is far more gracious than any human parent. The parent-child illustrations we concoct, however, can often leave the opposite impression.

    (No problem on the delay. Only God is omnipresent. :)



    I think you're still missing the point of the illustration. Perhaps it would be repugnant for a parent to allow one child to be run over by a car. But that has nothing to do with the discussion. John never said God is like a parent who saves one child and not the other. He said that God is like a parent who does what it takes to save his child (and I think John would say, "all his children). Period. There is no second child in the illustration which the first parent refused to save.

    The second parent in the illustration signifies the Arminian conception of God, one who loves people and wants to save them, but refuses to do anything definite, and only calls out indiscriminately to them all. Then, the person who makes good on the warning is actually saved, although he was loved no more than any of the others who perished.

    So, remembering that the illustration has nothing to do with God's dealings with the reprobate, I think it makes a very good point. When the elect are in view, the Calvinistic conception of God is Someone who does whatever it takes to save those whom he had purposed to save. The Arminian conception of God is Someone who gives a call and then awaits a free response. He does not do everything necessary to save anyone, but leaves the conclusion of the transaction out of his own hands. The former God is more loving.

    Now, if you want to illustrate God's attitude toward the reprobate, you'll have to come up with a different example, because this one doesn't touch that question.

    Tim and Nathan

    The real point of the illustration is to emphasize the gospel in a way that the Bible does. Modern Evangelicalism has often shifted gears and taken a more Roman Catholic view of salvation by putting the emphasis more on man's faith and innate will power as opposed to a salvation that is soley reliant on God's grace. In the Biblical gospel, Jesus does not allow such an imbalance in His approach. He only leaves room for a kind of salvation that is by grace ALONE. God's particular election of a people to Himself has the effect of stripping man of all hope in himself and leaving salvation to Christ's mercy, and nothing else. This forces us to look completely away from our own resources and only to Christ as our hope. "So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy." Rom 9:16

    Reformation Scholar Michael Haykin says, "it is wrong to suppose that the doctrine of Justification by faith alone, that storm center of the Reformation, was the crucial question in the minds of such theologians as Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, Martin Bucer, and John Calvin. This doctrine was important to the Reformers because it helped to express and to safeguard their answer to another, more vital, question, namely, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith."

    We need to return to the Biblical emphasis. If Jesus teaches that no one can believe in Him unless God grants it (john 6:65) then this is what we should teach about Jesus. A semi-pelagian might respond by saying, "this would only lead to despair". EXACTLY!. This is the whole point that God emphasizes in the pages of Scripture. Without Me you can do nothing, Jesus says. It is only when we completely despair of all hope in ourselves that we truly understand grace and are in a place that is open to receiving Christ.

    Solus Christus

    Yes, I get the point of the illustration. And yes, I do understand the Calvinistic conception of God. And yes, I agree that a new illustration (preferably a biblical one, such as the potter and the vessel devoted to destruction) is needed for God's attitude toward the reprobate. That was my original concern--an extra-biblical parent-child illustration that, when pressed and carried to its logical conclusion (as any of my seminary students or educated laypersons inevitably do) leaves a distorted picture of God's character. Such illustrations must be used with the greatest of care.

    Lest I get lectured again about things I already know quite well, I'll make this my last post on the matter so as to not irritate any further.


    Hi Tim

    First let me say, you are not irritating me or anyone else on this blog at all. Your comments are appreciated. They serve a very good purpose, I believe, to those reading the exchange. So, no worries.

    Your response to the illustration, I would argue, is tantamount to someone rejecting divine election because they don't like it on moral grounds or that it offends one's personal sensibilities. An erroneous extra-biblical belief that God should treat everyone the same and if he doesn't then one impugns Him with evil. But the bible rebukes any response that would see God unjust because He chooses to save some and passes over others. So the your response to the illustration simply does not hold up under biblical scruitiny and the illustration remains intact.
    Monergistic Regeneration itself shows that Christ dies in a way for the elect that he did not for the non-elect.

    I understand you only concern was to note that your
    illustration, if pressed, makes God out to be quite partial (at best) and a neglectful parent (at worst). Neither of these things is Scripturally true of the Father - we agree And my response is to demonstrate that the illustration does make God appear this way at all because this is how the Scripture itself presents God's love to us. In love God predestined us.

    Further, the illustration does not make God partial. God would be partial, however, if he based it on some quality he saw in man over the other. Remember partiality, when demonstrated in Scripture, is when people put someone in the first place because they are wearing a golden ring or demonstrating partiality to the rich ...etc. God gets no advantage by choosing you over someone else. He does it because He loves us and he knows better than we do what is good and right, in fact He defines what that is. So God has reasons within himself why He chooses one over another... BUT because we do not know what these reasons are, we cannot therefore assume the worse of God that He must therefore have bad motives. That is a logical falacy. His not explaining to us what the reasons are should therefore not force us to reach this false conclusion about him. To do so would be to impose our finite human understanding and decide he must be bad if he choose one over the other. He certainly has reasons we have not even considered. And being God, they are good reason.

    By challenging the illustration are you claiming that God selects us (and not others) based on something other than His sovereign good pleasure? Some good motive He find in us perhaps? You affirm in an email to me that you reject synergism and yet you seem unconfortable that God might make certain of some persons salvation and leave others to themselves. Is this correct?

    The "logical extreme", as you put it, can only be taken in the illustration when the premise of one's understanding of God is distorted, IMHO. It requires presuppositions that are not found in the text anywehre, but rather, only imposed (i.e read into) on the Text from the outside. If I am wrong on this I am open to being challenged on it.

    Again, the whole point of making illustrations like this on a blog is to get people to think and respond as you have. And your concerns have been, I believe, Scripturally responded to and, in doing so, revealed that there is nothing wrong with the illustration but that it is a good reflection of what the Bible actually teaches. it does not distort the character or reality of how God saves at all.

    It is about what kind of love God has and doesn't have, according to the Scriptural witness. It has been demonstrated thouroughly that the illustration aptly fits the biblical description of God love toward us. You have not responded to any of the Scripture I have shown that does so. You may know these things well,as you say, but if you cannot respond to the Scripture presented then you may not be being honest with yourself. If the Scriptures we have posted do not demonstrate the same truths, then please show us how they are a distorted understanding of them. We are all ears. We want to be biblically faithful. Your response so far has only been to oppose the points made on moral grounds, not exegetical ones.

    To say that you are being lectured and that you already know these things and so you will not respond again, is no answer. If Jesus does not teach the same thing as I have plainly shown He does (John 6:63-65, 37, 39, 44; Rom 9:15-16) then prove it wrong . Saying you know something is quite different than being able to show Scripturally that it is wanting. The key is, whether it is Scriptural. And I believe the semi-pelagian view of God's conditional love has been shown to be utterly baseless ... a human construct, not found in the Text. While the image of God coming to save a particular people for Himself is Scripturally abundant.

    A more accurate example would be that the car is hurtling down the road and Jesus steps in the path of the car. Some individuals step with Jesus and die with him in the accident, only to then be raised with him. Other individuals do not die with Jesus and so are not raised. As for how those individuals come to die with Christ, such an illustration could never answer that question.

    The initial quote misrepresents both sides, as does the illustration.


    The illustration would only be problematic if the Bible didn't openly speak this way, but it does. Jesus saves all of his own and none will be lost the Scrioture says... Remember, of the unbelieving Jews, Jesus said, "You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him....Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God."

    In other words, one must first be a part of the family of God if you are to hear the words of God. The reason, Jesus says, the unbelieving Jesus do not hear them is BECAUSE they are not of God, but rather, children of the devil. Likewise, in a similar analogy, Jesus says, "you do not believe BECAUSE you are not my sheep." (John 10:26) He does not say that you do not believe therefore you are not my sheep (or children) it says rather you are not my sheep, therefore you do not believe. Please look carefully at these texts - this is what they plainly says.

    So the illustration squares with how the Scripture represents itself. It uses the analogy of a parent who saves all of those who are his own so that none will be lost, but does not save the children of the Devil.

    The Bible does not speak in the way of your illustration. We are saved only when we die with Christ. In your illustration, no one dies. In mine, everyone dies, but some are saved by dying with Christ. The question still remains as to how those individuals end up dying with Christ, but the illustration has nothing to do with that. Separate from the illustration, the quote you offered does not well represent either Calvinism or non-Calvinism. Of the non-Calvinist it does present a straw man and makes no attempt to be precise in presenting the non-Calvinist position. Such things are annoying and win Calvinists no credibility. Not that non-Calvinists tend to do much better at presenting Calvinism.

    Brother Chris

    Thank you for your input. Obviously we disagree. Not every illustration Jesus uses about salvation has someone die in it either, so your response is really a non sequitur. Are you critiquing Jesus as well? Of course not. The point of the illustration was more about whether salvation is by the grace of Christ ALONE, as opposed to grace PLUS something else ... not an attempt to flesh out every detail of how one is saved.

    When you respond to my post, please consider responding to what was spoken of in the Scripture texts I posted, which affirm the illustration. It may annoy you, and you may not like it, but at least be considerate enough to respond to the Scripture which demonstrated that some will not come to Christ because they are "not of God." Only those who the Father gives to the Son will believe, which the Text unambiguously communicates (John 6:65, 37, 39).

    This is not about Calvinism, as I care much more about what the Scripture Text affirms. That is all either you or I should be concerned about, right?. Does The Bible teach that God saves ALL those he came to save, or do people come to faith in Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit changing their heart of stone to a heart of flesh? We would agree, I believe, that all are spiritually blind prior to salvation right. Do we make ourselves see or does the Spirit, rather, open our spiritually blind eyes and open our heart to the gospel?

    What I think I find the most amazing about this interchange, and other like it, is that people deny that God's love is like that expressed in the illustration, and then when I provided a host of Scripture to back it up, no one responds to the Scripture but instead just repeats the phrase that the Bible does not teach it, as if saying this magic phrase a dozen times will make it true. If the Scriptures I posted do not affirm that God effectually saves us by grace alone in Christ alone, then show me where I have erroneously interepreted them. I am open and willing to be corrected if I am distorting revealtion.


    My purpose in commenting is not to address a few proof texts. Proof texting is always bad anyway, so I won't play that game. My purpose in commenting was to say the illustration is flawed, which I feel I've sufficiently demonstrated though I know you disagree, and to say the initial quote misrepresents both parties. I won't get into an outright Calvinist/non-Calvinist debate.


    Thank you again for your time and your response.

    To clarify the illustration so you can see how it explicitly explains the two positions:

    First of all, both positions believe that Christ died for sinners but there are differences in what Christ's death actually does for his children

    1) Arminian position believes that Christ does a great deal to bring salvation to his people, but His death does not secure that salvation. It is not sufficient in itself to save. There is still a requirement that man must meet if Christ's death is to be effectual ... in other words, what Christ does for sinners in the Arminian understanding is conditioned upon man fulfilling a requirement, in this case, faith

    2) The Augustinian position believes that Christ's death and resurrection secures our salvation. It is completely sufficient in itself to save. God requires faith of his people but Christ's death even pays for the sin of unbelief and thus he meets all the requirements for us that we would not do for ourselves, giving everything we need to assure us of salvation. This is an unconditional love and salvaiton. The finished work of Christ guarantees that none of his children will be lost.

    This is why the illustration works and does not misrepresent either side.

    I believe you are most likely genuine in your faith. But please let me challenge your most recent statements. Since you declare with authority that any prooftexting is bad, from all appearances, you must, therefore, rely on your own authority then, not Scripture? How do you know your assertion about anything is true then, including your assertion that prooftexting is bad? Can you back this up with Scripture? ... oh, that's right, this would be prooftexting, and your own assertion must carry more weight, well... not really, right? ... I know you don't really believe that ... just pointing our the inconsistency in the comment. In other words, your statement cancels itself out because it has no inherent authority. Either the Text is your authority or something else.

    If you believe the Bible and its assertions are true revelation from God, then Jesus' statements have meaning (John 6:63-65,37, 39, 44). Otherwise, if Scripture is not our reference point then your affirmations and denials are all meaningless and you and I have no point of reference to communicate. I am asking you to respond to Scripture (which I know we both acknowlege as authoritative) and a theme that repeats itself over and over throughout the unfolding drama of redemption.

    You state that "the illustration is flawed" OK then, by what authority to you make this judgement besides that you personally don't like it ... if not from the text of Scripture? Earlier you noted that the Bible does not teach this, and when the Bible is quoted in response to your assertion, where it is explicitly teaching the exact same theme, you appear to refuse to look at it, for who knows what reason. So if the Bible does not matter to you in these issues where do you go to find your authoritative answers? And you should not tell me "the Bible does not teach it" unless you are willing to be proven wrong with the Bible.

    Jesus teaches plainly that no one can come to Him unless God grants it (John 6:65) and All to whom God grants will come to Him(John 6:37) This is not prooftexting, it is simply the words of Jesus Christ our Lord and are not to be taken so lightly, as if waving your hand and saying that "this is prooftexting" makes what He openly affirms to dissapear into thin air.

    Not liking something is one thing but being able to demonstrate the truth of your position is another. This is not a game ... if you think Jesus words have no more meaning than a prooftext, which you have self-authoritatively declared as wrong, then where do you go from here? In this case you have no basis for any assertion or denial, do you? yet you continue to make them. To have an intelligible conversation there has to be a basis and making these sweeping statements. If you cannot defend what you affirm and deny with Scripture (but only your opinion) it seems simply like you don't want to be confused with the facts.For what authority have you given to us in your statements besides a mere personal preference. "I like this but don't like that." This is wrong and this is right?" SEZ who? Christianity does not work that way. God determines this, not you.

    If no text(s) of Scripture can persuade you, then what can?. Please challenge your thinking on this. You are in the wrong place if you merely wish to discuss philosophy and human preferences, but have little interest in the Scripture.

    Finally, you say the initial quote misrepresents both parties. Well, how can this be? One of the parties is myself, and it does not misrepresent my own view. Secondly, to say the other party is being misrepresented (in their view of God's love) would be to deny one of the central tenants of their view of God's grace: They deny that Christ make certain they are all saved through an effectual calling but rather lets their own unregenerate will be the determining factor. They do affirm this and without embarrasment. We affirm, on the other hand, that even our will itself needs to be resurrected in Christ. It is grace itself that we believe. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.

    And that, my new friend, is exactly what the illustration demonstrates.

    warm regards

    They deny that Christ make certain they are all saved through an effectual calling but rather lets their own unregenerate will be the determining factor.

    May I respectfully suggest that this is precisely where you fail to accurately represent the Arminian position. Your illustration fails to acknowledge both prevenient grace and the gift of Spirit-enabled freedom given through divine regeneration. Your illustration and subsequent interpretation fails to accurately present the complexity and mystery of grace, personhood, and free-will, which is why the Arminian cannot accept your illustration.

    No doubt all illustrations must fail, but most certainly the Arminian cannot accept the description of his position as one where God merely calls out to the child in warning. This hardly does justice to the Arminian's understanding of the Incarnation, Atonement, and Pentecostal gift of the Holy Spirit.

    The Arminian gladly affirms that God in his sovereign grace rushes into the street and grabs his child. And not only does he grab his child, but he surrounds his child with love and gives him a new heart of love and faith. The tragic mystery--and surely Karl Barth was right to call this the impossible possibility--is that sometimes the child insists upon his own self-destruction and runs back into the street. In love and out of love, God permits his child to destroy himself. His love will not permit him to violently coerce his children.

    This is a different story than the one told by your illustration.

    Fr. Alvin

    Yes, I understand. I treat Arminian Prevenient grace elsewhere quite fairly, I believe:

    "Violently coerce" you say, Hmmm .Well, Arminian prevenient grace is also "coercive" by your definition, wouldn't you say. An unregenerate person, by definition. does not want it. God is violating his will by forcing it upon him.

    But when God gives us new eyes to see, when he renews our heart he is only granting us what is best for us is no more coercion than healing blind eyes, and giving life to a heart that was once dead. I am glad He "violated my will" in this way. Praise the Lord or I would be forever lost for I have no hope save in Christ's mercy alone.

    Thanks for your comment

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