Calvinism and Arminianism 36

“This false idea of ‘free-will’ is a real threat to salvation, and a delusion fraught with the most perilous consequences” (Luther).

In order to protect the idol of man’s own ability and of his good will as being the cause of his own salvation, the Arminians would prefer to do away with the distinction between the external and internal call, between the noneffectual and the effectual call. They would view them as being the same, and thus recognize only one calling. The effect would then not be due to the efficacious operation of God working more in one person than in another. Instead, it would be related to the outcome; namely, that the one person obeys the call by his free will (which enables him either to respond or to reject this call) and thus be saved. Another person will despise and reject this call by the same neutral free will. Scripture, however, rebukes and refutes such foolish thoughts and demonstrates first of all that the calling is effectual unto salvation as a result of God’s purpose, “…who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28); “for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Rom 11:29). The actual exercise of faith in those who are called proceeds from this purpose. “And as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).   A’Brakel

A ‘Brakel makes another point here that is very powerful. The Arminian position of the ability of man and his good/free-will being the ultimate cause of salvation is one way to preserve free-will at the expense of the effectual call of God. Notice again that the issue at hand is an issue on whether the focus is on man or on God. The issue at hand is on whether salvation rests upon the ability of man or the ability of God. The issue has to do with whether the power of God saves sinners by grace alone or whether it is the power of the free-will that salvation rests upon.

This comment by a ‘Brakel is so vital and so full of insight. When man trusts in himself rather than God, the will of man is an idol. In order to protect his great idol, man will hack and hack some more at biblical doctrine and even the doctrines of God and the Gospel. The great issues of theology are not just so much discussions over philosophy as such, but it is over whether man of God is the center of all things. The Arminian position does not make open efforts to denigrate the character of God, but it must do so in order to protect the system of free-will. The freedom of God must go if the freedom of man is to be upheld. The effectual call of God, which many think of as the same thing as regeneration, must not be held as more important than the free-will of man when man is at the center of Christian theology and life.

This has been seen in the history of the Church. The older way (that the Puritan’s used) of “evangelism” was to set people on seeking the Lord that He would have mercy on them and grant them life in regeneration. They saw that God was the center of all things and that He must make the soul alive if the soul is to be alive. They saw that God must make the first move or the soul would never come to God. The newer way is to focus on man’s ability and free-will in order that man would make the move toward God and that man must choose God.

The ultimate choice in salvation is either man or God and it must come from the free-will of man or the efficacious operation of God. It is either the case that each man’s free-will must choose for himself to be saved or the choice is for God to make to choose one and pass over others. It is either for each man to choose for himself to be saved or not to be saved or it is the choice of God to save those whom He pleases. The contrast between the man-centered way and the God-centered way has been set out in different ways, but that was to make the point with great clarity. It must be seen that these two ways are really the only two ways and that the difference is huge.

The positions can be seen by this analogy (coming from a ‘Brakel). The outward call is given in preaching the Gospel. Sinners will hear the outward call and will either respond to the outward call by their free-wills or by the inner call or the effectual call of God. Scripture sets out that “as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48). The Arminian position says (by implication) that as many who choose to believe will have eternal life. Regeneration either comes by grace alone by the effectual working of God and so man believes, or it comes when man chooses to believe and God seeing that belief regenerates the man. The difference is enormous and the difference gets at the heart of the Gospel. There appears to be no other way of holding to the Gospel of grace alone or justification by grace alone unless we hold to the efficacious grace of God working regeneration by grace alone and that regeneration producing faith rather than regeneration as coming as a result of the faith of free-will.

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