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Discussion Forum : Scriptures and Doctrine : A letter on graciously responding to opponents of grace

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Joined: 2007/1/30
Posts: 926

 A letter on graciously responding to opponents of grace

I wrote this letter tonight to a frustrated friend and thought to share it here. May God bless someone through it.

Hello, ___________. May this letter find you comforted through the grace we have received in Christ.

I can imagine it was discouraging for you to receive that long diatribe [against your beliefs]. I have received my share, too.

Before commenting, I would like to remind you of some passages.

2 Tim 1:9-12
"God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 8 Therefore, thou art not to be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; 9 Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, 10 But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: 11 Whereunto I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles. 12 For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."

And 2 Tim 2:24-26
"The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, 25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth; 26 And that they may recover themselves out of the snare of the devil, who are taken captive by him at his will."

Some time ago, through passages such as this, the Lord brought to my attention that there are few acceptable instances amongst Christians for railing, hasty, or vitriolic disputes. We are taught to be meek, redirecting our passions from outbursts, into discipline and faith in the Lord. This means that we patiently trust our God to reveal His truth through the unlikely means of humility and gentle instruction. There is a time for earnestness, yes, but godliness does not excuse bitterness or inconsiderate attitudes in the name of zeal. We are at all times to love our neighbors, which, I remind you, includes our theological opponents, even as we love ourselves. I have repented of battering the men who disagree with me, choosing instead to carefully, fearfully, prayerfully, and soberly dismantle their arguments. And even when I speak with another who I believe to be in the wrong, I speak only in hopes that "God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth," or that He may graciously reveal my error to me.

Prepare yourself through prayer and study to maintain faith and peace while being misunderstood, caricatured, and mocked. You will be called "overly intellectual" by those who do not study. You will be considered a gullible fool by some who have read more broadly - or think themselves more thoughtful, at least - than you. The same verses and arguments will be raised a thousand times. After you are familiar with the most common objections, and their answers, you will need to be merciful towards those who once again speak confidently, naively believing that their brave attack is novel.

There was once a time when I strove with a young man, calling him a heretic and a wolf, for believing these "doctrines of grace". You must remember that there was also a time, in a certain kitchen in Appleton, when a young woman became exasperated over these points and left the room without interest in considering them further. And what brought her later to listen and understand? Was it not patient persons who spoke kindly and used much scripture? My experience is that God most frequently uses humility as the means to communicate these truths.

I read most of the post which you sent me. You are right, a great deal of time would be needed to refute the message point-for-point. I am willing to cover certain "highlights" over the phone but I will not likely write out a full retort. There are already many articles, books, and sermons, such as the series you posted, which answer these statements better than I would. In fact, this person's questions might be answered if he or she would cease writing for a moment and listen to the series.

My answer is brief -

I have skimmed little more than a few paragraphs of Calvin's work, and then only after having come to these views. My perusal of Luther is hardly more extensive. Discard Calvin, remove Luther, and what remains? Moses, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Paul, Peter, John, and Jesus! Even as you read the names you may have thought of specific passages. I have not yet read these reformers, but I have read all of my bible, some passages dozens of times. The doctrines of grace become more radiantly exposed with each month.

To suggest that salvation by free, electing grace through faith is Calvin's original thought is historically naive. It is dangerous to read no other historical perspectives than those written in the last hundred years, and from one's own camp. If necessary, I can site various academic sources from both sides of the issue, which confirm that Calvin clarified the message received from others such as Anselm. Anselm, in turn, gained it from such as Gottschalk, who embraced this truth passed from Augustine, who had it from Paul, who was given his revelation of the Gospel by Christ Himself. These beliefs did not erupt in the 1500s, but were again and again repressed by the enemies of free grace. Entire councils and churches taught this so-called Calvinism long before Calvin lived. For instance, in 855AD, the Council of Valence affirmed, "a predestination of the elect to life, and a predestination of the wicked to death; that, in the election of them that are saved, the mercy of God precedes anything we do, and in the condemnation of the wicked, evil merit precedes the righteous judgment of God."

There have always been people who valued their faith as a gift from God, which, by definition implies that they had no faith until it was given to them! And if it were said that we must cooperate with God to receive this grace, then we cannot say we are saved by grace at all, but only offered salvation and saved by our wills to receive it.

I am willing to discuss some of these points with you but would prefer to do so over the phone. Writing is somewhat tedious.

Allow me to at least make one example of the doctrines as taught in scripture.

Romans 8:30
"Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified."

The sense in which Paul here uses the word "called" is contextually exclusive to those who are justified and glorified. It must then differ from the general gospel call which men naturally refuse, or at best cannot see to receive. The sense of this term "called", in Romans 8, is synonymous with the term "chosen" in "many are called but few are chosen." [Matthew 22:14] These called-out ones are referred to in John 6 as being "drawn out", when Jesus says, "No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me."

Look with me at this verse, one piece at a time. "No man can come" - because no man has a desire or ability to. Even if the law stirs up a sincere desire for salvation, sin creates a distrust of God apart from works, thereby paralyzing the man to any true faith.

"Except the Father... draw him" - the sole exception whereby a man may come to Christ is that the Father initiates a drawing, by sending His Spirit. Is this a universal drawing? Some assert that this drawing is performed equally upon all men, only to be resisted by some and accepted by others. This mis-understanding denies the context of the verse, or else Christ would not follow with "and I will raise him up at the last day."

Certainly not all are raised to life on the final day, but only those who are saved. Therefore, the sense in which the father draws these people is one that results unavoidably in their being raised to life at the last day.

Now look at the statement, "they shall be all taught of God." Does this term "all" include every last person in on the planet? Certainly not. In the first place, not everyone hears the gospel message. Secondly, Jesus says emphatically that "Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me." Every last man and woman who has "heard" and "learned" in this sense of supernatural drawing, does infallibly come to Christ. All who come to Christ shall have life everlasting; all who the Father gives and calls, come.

This helps us to see the beautiful relationship between the passages which say, "Come unto me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I shall give you rest," [Matt.11:28] and "He that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst... All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." [John 6:35,37] He that promised rest and satisfaction also supplied the them to His people on whom He takes gracious pity.

May Christ bless you continually with an overflow of grateful holiness. Pray the same for me, I am in daily faults and attacks.
Your brother, Mike:.

 2008/5/16 5:03Profile

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