Traditionalist, What is Wrong with God Having the Master Choice?

When it comes to salvation, what is wrong with God having the “Master choice?” I’ve studied the arguments of both sides, and it all boils down to the issue of God having the ultimate decision. All the other stuff in the debate over Calvinism is peripheral. Even if the Calvinists all gave up such repugnant ideas as regeneration before faith, total inability, limited atonement and irresistible grace—and even if they all showed more evangelistic zeal than Traditionalists—the Traditionalists would still reject their view. The real bone of contention is the idea that God chooses some for salvation, and by default, does not choose to save others.

What if we threw away all the caricatures and discussed the real issue? What if we tried an honest discussion, where we did not put the other side in the worst possible light? What if we let the light of truth shine on both views as they actually are, weakness and strengths?

If you reject the idea that God has the ultimate choice in whom He will save, then let’s talk about why you reject it. But let’s leave the false claims out of this, such as the following, which are listed not as points to argue but points to avoid in this discussion:

  • “Calvinism has no Biblical authority or support.” Calvinism has more books of systematic theology, showing their case from Scripture, than any other “ism” out there. You might be able to argue that their theologians are in error in their understanding of Scripture, but you will not find any lack of scholarship in interpretation, exegesis or hermeneutics.
  • “Calvinism has God forcing people to believe.” This has never been the case in proper Calvinism (the extremes of a few aside). All men have a spiritual hunger for God, though sinners do not recognize it for what it is and their sin makes them averse to God. But their aversion to God is not as deep as their hunger for God. In Calvinism, God finds a way to get beyond the aversion to begin to satisfy that deepest hunger with the sweetness of His Spirit, waking the man out of his stupor of hatred toward God and into conscious repentance and belief.
  • “Calvinism has God forcing people to reject the gospel by making them unable to believe.” While later Calvinism has strayed into this, older Calvinism held that the nature of all men sinned in Adam, incurred the just consequences of that sin, and was propagated to all men with both the culpability and the consequences justly inhering. In other words, all men are born depraved and with an aversion to God because all men sinned when we were in Adam’s “loins.” It is not God who made us sinful, but we ourselves who—as a corporate whole in Adam—chose to sin and become sinful.
  • “The Calvinist God does not love all, since He chooses to not save some, based only on His plan.” Even in the Arminian and Traditionalist schemes, God is capable of saving all men but does not, because He has another concern that weighs more heavily than His concern for the salvation of those who are ultimately lost. That other concern, in such views, is the concern for the [libertarian] free will of men. Traditionalists would not say that God loves the freedom of men more than he loves them, but rather, that God cannot violate His own nature (His concern for the freedom of men) in order to save the men whom He loves. It need be no different in Calvinism, insofar as God cannot violate His own nature in order to save the men whom He loves. Both Calvinism and Traditionalism holds that it is the sin of Adam (and mankind in him) alone that results in the fact that only some will be saved. Had Adam not sinned, none would go to hell. Both views hold that Adam’s sin is the ultimate cause for why any man would reject God. Why would God allow Adam’s sin to affect mankind in such a way as to result in so many perishing? One possibility is that it was out of a divine concern for freedom, but the other possibility is that it was out of a divine concern for justice. Sin brings consequences, as cannot be denied even under the Traditionalist scheme. Are not those consequences just?

Calvinism has its rough edges and its extremists, but these are not necessary to real Calvinism (or what Calvinism ought to be). It is only a waste of time to address the peripheral problems of Calvinists that are not even needed by Calvinism itself.

Do we dare address the real disagreement in an honest way, without using the false defense of caricature, and without using the diversion of peripheral issues? The real disagreement centers on whether or not God ultimately decides whom He will save and whom He will not. So then, how about it? Of course, all men do freely choose to reject or embrace God, but… Does God have the Master choice or not?

Ken Hamrick

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4 comments

  1. SAGordon

    Ken,

    I also would like to hear some Neo-Trads articulate their understanding of divine sovereignty and human responsibility without it being a negation of either classic Arminianism or five-point Calvinism.

    I have even heard a classic Arminian do a better, more consistent job of dealing with the issue of God’s choice and grace as it relates to the doctrine of salvation than the recent Trads Doc posted prior to this year’s SBC annual meeting. At least his argument made sense and could be set within a framework of arguing from biblical texts rather than arguing against systematic theology while creating a new systematic theology.

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