Monday, January 27, 2014


     I was chatting up a friend of a friend the other day, and we started into a discussion on the gospel; 
Calvinism never looked so beautiful!
this guy used the title of "pastor" on his ministry website, and so I was eager to hear his position on man's ability to respond to God.  He took on the tone of voice you'd recognize in a heartbeat, the one people use when laying down their first presupposition in an argument, the one they know no one would question. Are you hearing it in your head?  And what he said was this:
"Well, we all have free will!"

     I wasn't sure if we had time for a full exposition of the doctrines of grace, so I let him develop his point;  he cited a classic text to buttress the strength of human choice... Josh 24:15:  "And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve...".   I inwardly grimaced at the fallacy that is so rarely questioned, namely that if God commands us to do a thing, we must have the innate power to do that thing.  I always want to point out to the proponents of this idea: "So if the greatest commandment is to love God supremely, we can do that, right?  Then why did Jesus die, if we can merit heaven by our supreme love of God?"  But I have been reading through Joshua periodically during breaks in the bus and I came to this passage yesterday;  it turns out, Joshua makes my case for me!
     The Israelites make their choice in vs. 16, proclaiming their loyalty to God and their desire to serve Him.  What's Joshua's response?  Does he rejoice in and affirm their free-will choice to follow God? Not in the slightest!  "You are not able to serve the Lord, for He is a holy God."  This seemingly makes no impact on the congregation, and I think they hear what they want to hear, repeating their pledge to serve God.  Surely then Joshua congratulates them?  Maybe the Israelites thought Joshua was testing them, trying to trick them by discouragement.  But sorry... his response only deepens the culpability of the Israelites:  "You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve Him." (vs. 22)  You get the sense that Joshua is shaking his head, hearing his people condemn themselves, knowing what is right, yet lacking the wisdom to see their own evil inclinations (i.e. David in 2 Sam 12:5).  I guess a modern equivalent could be a mortgage loan officer
Racking up debt you can't pay...
(pre 2007, of course!), knowing the folks in front of him can't afford the house they're buying, yet helpless to stop them from signing themselves into bankruptcy.
     What can we say in conclusion?  The reformed position is not that men have no choice, but that we have free will in anything not contradictory to our nature.  So as inveterate God-haters, fallen human beings have no potential in our nature to love God, to choose Him, or to obey Him or His gospel.  Isa 64:6-7 says poignantly:
"We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.  There is no one who calls upon your name, who rouses himself to take hold of you..."
     This reality puts the grace of God in its proper, magnificent setting:  God is pleased to save (at the supreme cost of His beloved Son) not His friends, or those in allegiance to Him, or even people who are neutral or undecided... but God chooses and saves people who despise Him with all their hearts, who would spit in His face and kill Him if they had the power.  He changes us from the inside out and grants us a new nature that can choose, obey and love Him, so that "in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace toward us in Christ Jesus." (Eph 2:7)

Photos courtesy of nerdcoregirl, 4thgloryofGod

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