Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Human Responsibility and Ability

One of the most common errors of Arminianism is that it assumes that since humans are responsible for their souls, then they have the ability to choose salvation or damnation. Tied in with this assumption is the assumption that Calvinists deny human responsibility. They do not. They recognize that human beings are completely responsible for their sinful states. Calvinists affirm that men have wills and have a responsibility to choose Christ. However, Calvinists take seriously the numerous Biblical passages that speak of man's enslavement to sin. The notion of a libertarian free will is nowhere found in the Bible. The Bible repeatedly speaks of the will being enslaved to sin. There was freedom. Man was free in his original state. But he freely chose to become enslaved to sin. But Arminians think that humans have a libertarian free will simply because the Bible commands men to choose Christ. They argue thus: "God wouldn't command men to do something that they can't do, would He? That wouldn't be fair." It is completely fair because it is man's own fault that he is unable! The relationship between human responsibility and human ability is this: humans are responsible for not being able! But if you were to say that this matter of ability is not clear enough (because words like dead and enlsaved are just too ambiguous for you), then I would ask you this question from a matter that is more clear to us. The Isrealites were commanded to obey every single law given by God (Deuteronomy 28:15). Now the question must be raised: Were the Israelites able to do so? We must say no, unless we decide to abandon even what orthodoxy remains in Arminianism and become full-out Pelagians. If man is able to keep all the commands of God, then why do we need a Savior?

Now this is where grace comes in. If man were able to achieve his salvation, even just a tiny part of it, then he could boast. Salvation is wholly of grace.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The First Sin

So I was at my place of work the other day, and this fellow came in who comes in now and again. He's a complete freak of the vegan type. Shaved bald, including his brow. No eyebrows. That's new, actually. He used to have eyebrows. But he has those big huge ear hole things, you know, those piercings that they make big like them people in Africa. And he has whole sentences tattooed on his body, sentences that spew forth liberal tree-hugger crap. So, you know, a freak. Anyway, he had a shirt on this last time that had a liberal message on it. It said, "Living your life for God? Live your life for yourself." Which immediately brought to my mind the very first temptation given by Satan to our parents in the Garden of Eden: "You will be like God" Genesis 3:5. The living of life for self is the most basic form of idolatry and is the root for all sins. It is precisely this that Jesus commanded people to reject if they wanted to follow Him (Luke 14:26-27).

As a side note, I should mention one other thing. There are many people who have dedicated their lives to follow Christ and are true believers, and may even with their mouths claim that all of salvation is of the grace of God alone, yet in their theology that manage to retain some of the glory for themselves. They see that to be a Christian you must reject your self, and so they believe that their work (rejection of self to follow Christ) is what allows them to be Christians. Oh, they'll say that salvation is not of works, yet a simple examination of how their beliefs work out in practice will show that they manage to claim some glory for themselves by claiming the work of self-denial. But even this work is of God. No work of man can get him into heaven because then he would have room to boast, and this is impossible (Ephesians 2:8-9). Jesus told the rich young man to reject himself by giving up all that was precious to him, but this was too hard for the man. Then Jesus tells the disciples that it would be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to be saved. The disciples, exhibiting a rare astuteness, realized that it would be hard for anybody, rich or poor, to be saved, so they asked Jesus, "'Who then can be saved?' But Jesus looked at them and said, 'With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.'" (Matthew 19:21-26) This is a familiar verse to us. Whenever something looks impossible, such as paying the bills, we say, "With God all things are possible!" Or maybe we think we'll never get to work on time today, but "with God all things are possible!" Now this is all very fine and good and is true, but the exact context in which Jesus speaks these words is the matter of salvation. With man, salvation is impossible. With man, self-denial is impossible. With man, following Christ is impossible. But with God, this is possible. So next time you judge the man who is honest enough to speak of his rejection of God and love of self plainly, and you begin to pat yourself on the back for not being like him and choosing to follow Christ, stop yourself. The pat doesn't belong on your back. God did it all. Glory to God in the highest, who chose to save a wretched sinner like myself whose only desire was to sin continually (Genesis 6:5).