Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why hast Thou made me thus?

I've heard an awful lot of "ministry" recently attempting to refute "calvinism". I'm afraid for the most part what the speakers are offering is actually worse than "calvinism", but that might be a post for another time.

But I can't help but notice that [almost] without exception, the attacks on "calvinism" prominently feature an argument that goes something like this: God would be a monster if He demanded that all men everywhere repent, when He knows very well they can't.

This sort of emotional rhetoric tends to get traction with people; I guess it catches the attention of the audience pretty effectively.

Setting aside the question of whether men really can repent, this is a very serious accusation. Regardless of all the merits of anyone's views on "calvinism"– regardless of the correctness of a person's reasoning about election or freewill or predestination– anyone making a claim that God would be wrong to do something is on very shaky ground.

The thing is, scripture specifically condemns that argument. Consider Romans 9:19–20 for a moment. Romans 9:19 poses the question: why does God find fault with men if God's will cannot be overcome? Doesn't God always get what He wants? How can He find fault with someone if the outcome is what God chose? The answer is in the very next verse: "who art *thou* that answerest again to God?" (v. 20).

We can argue about what Scripture teaches about election. Some see corporate election in Romans 9. Some find a doctrine of Reprobation in Romans 9. But regardless of what you think about all those issues, there is one indisputable fact: Romans 9:20 teaches that man has no right to judge God.

But here's the thing, when you say "God would be a monster if He…" then you're doing exactly what Scripture says you've no right to do. There is no other way to interpret Romans 9:19–20.

In the end, there is nothing in the whole question of God's sovereignty or man's responsibility that is more important than our personal submission to God. This is exactly what the book of Job teaches (Job 32:1–3). Elihu was angry at Job's friends because they kept condemning Job even though they couldn't answer him. But he was angry with Job because he justified himself rather than God. Job was right in what he said, but he was wrong because he did not justify God. And that's exactly the position these speakers are putting themselves into.

Sometime within the last couple years I was listening to William McRae's excellent series on Romans (available at Voices for Christ). One of the messages is called "Scriptures Greatest Theodicy" (on Romans 9:1–13). Right around the 30 minute mark, he says something to the effect that "nothing provokes the flesh like the doctrine of election". That's something to bear in mind when we're thinking about this whole subject.

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