Horribly Resistible

Apropos of some recent discussion of Lutherans and resistible grace, I was listening to the latest episode of Table Talk Radio in the car this morning, and they addressed this topic again. For the fuller discussion, crack open the podcast and jump to 6:20, but here is the most relevant snippet:

The Calvinist has the doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, the teaching of the Holy Headlock, where God is like the Incredible Hulk, and once he’s gotcha he’s not gonna let you go (til you pass out)…and the reason is because, for the Calvinist, the overriding theological construct is the Strength of God — the Glory of God, the Power of God, the Sovereignty of God they like to say, but that means God is Strong. And so even when he comes in his means of grace he’s coming in strength.

What we see in the scriptures is that the means of grace — and God’s grace in general, and in fact, Jesus, when he comes to save — is Resistible. Fantastically Resistible. Or Horribly Resistible, however you want to say it. He is Resistable. He comes to us in meekness. “See, your King comes to you lowly.” So the way that Jesus comes to us is in humility and lowliness to save us, even to die on the cross. So when he comes to us in baptism, he comes with his great gifts and promises, but he comes in weakness there; the same way he comes in his word, in his supper, in his grace he comes to us in highly Resistible ways. What this means then, is that it is possible for us to resist the Holy Spirit (that’s what the Bible calls it), or to fall from grace (that’s another thing the Bible calls it).

This sounds pious and all, but I think the proper understanding is very neatly set forth by this pair of Shorter Catechism questions:

Q. 27. Wherein did Christ’s humiliation consist?
A. Christ’s humiliation consisted in his being born, and that in a low condition,[73] made under the law,[74] undergoing the miseries of this life,[75] the wrath of God,[76] and the cursed death of the cross;[77] in being buried, and continuing under the power of death for a time.[78]

Q. 28. Wherein consisteth Christ’s exaltation?
A. Christ’s exaltation consisteth in his rising again from the dead on the third day,[79] in ascending up into heaven,[80] in sitting at the right hand[81] of God the Father, and in coming to judge the world at the last day.[82]

Note carefully the change in tense. Christ’s humiliation did consist vs. Christ’s exaltation does consist. I think the bible is pretty clear that, since the resurrection, Christ is no longer humiliated (resistible) (“All power in heaven and on earth is given to me”) — or to the extent that he is, it is in the second kingdom (“At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”)

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60 Responses to Horribly Resistible

  1. Echo_ohcE says:

    Q. 26. How doth Christ execute the office of a king?
    A. Christ executeth the office of a king, in subduing us to himself, in ruling and defending us, and in restraining and conquering all his and our enemies.

    “in subduing us to himself” – that’s what it means for him to be our King.

  2. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rev 19:11Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in[d] blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

    Dan 4:34 At the end of the days I, Nebuchadnezzar, lifted my eyes to heaven, and my reason returned to me, and I blessed the Most High, and praised and honored him who lives forever, for his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and he does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand or say to him, “What have you done?”

  3. RubeRad says:

    I never thought of “subduing us to himself” in terms of Irresistible Grace before. Cool!

  4. RubeRad says:

    Lutheran’s Advocate: these eschatological passages are not so relevant for this time before the Last Day

  5. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. – John 6:44

    I’ve heard a few times that the word draws should be rendered “drags” as in a “kicking and screaming” sort of drag. That is what ties it for me. I’m not a huge fan of simple explanations for theological problems but this one works. The argument that God’s call is irresistable seems off-key to me, because it maintains an appearance of pleading and cajoling.

    Is this a bogus approach to irresistable grace? I don’t hear the Lutherans tackling this point. Maybe I’m just too newb to the whole thing.

  6. RubeRad says:

    I think you’re right on, but then again, I’m also a Calvinist.

    You were saying you’ve been listening to Office Hours lately, so you’ve probably heard this one, in which Horton has some very interesting things to say about why Calvinists should not accuse Lutherans of being Arminians. (Although, being a Calvinist, he also can’t grok how the Lutheran system makes sense)

  7. John Yeazel says:

    If one really analyzes the Lutheran idea of the resistability of grace, the conclusion that you come to is that they only hold to it to maintain the idea that no one is coerced or forced to believe. The persuasion of the effectual call is so overwhelming that no one will resist it even though they maintain that it is a remote possibility. I look at it like Barth’s comment about the fall of man in the perfect environment of the Garden of Eden- an “impossible possibility.” I’m sure all you Calvinists will accept that explanation- not!!!!

    Lutheran’s also feel no obligation to try to explain away the seeming contradictions in some of their dogmatics by an appeal to reason either. If you listen to that tape that Rube linked one will come to understand that.

  8. John Yeazel says:

    Rube, what’s up with the provocative pictures? I am glad you have a sense of humor. That is often helpful when Lutherans and Calvinists are about to lash out at each other.

  9. John Yeazel says:

    knowing how Lutherans and Calvinists have brawled and argued the last 500 years, perhaps the Lutherans held to the doctrine of the resistability of grace just to spite the Calvinists.

  10. RubeRad says:

    And btw, here are all the uses of that greek word. I think you are right. (e.g. I don’t think Paul&Silas were resistably drawn from the marketplace to their beating in Acts 16)

  11. RubeRad says:

    If one really analyzes the Lutheran idea of the resistability of grace, the conclusion that you come to is that they only hold to it to maintain the idea that no one is coerced or forced to believe. The persuasion of the effectual call is so overwhelming that no one will resist it even though they maintain that it is a remote possibility.

    I also agree that God’s grace is not coercive, though it is irresistible. I think a better sense is present in our common english phrase “you gotta love it!” The way that effectual calling works is, God monergistically reveals his greatness — the greatness of his holiness (thus the depth of our sin) and the greatness of his grace — to some. Those to whom God has elected to grant this revelation cannot help but (cannot resist) repenting and clinging to God’s gracious promises.

    God’s grace, you gotta love it. I mean, really, if you understand it, you HAVE to love it; you can’t not love it.

  12. RubeRad says:

    And what’s wrong with being coerced and forced to believe anyways? It’s lines like that that make it hard for me to listen to Horton and stop calling Lutherans Arminians. But if we really believe in Total Depravity (dead in trespasses and sins, God first loved us while we were still enemies), why wouldn’t it take coercion to make us repent and believe?

  13. Echo_ohcE says:

    The Greek word means to propel something that is unable to move itself (think of drawing fish out of the water with a net) OR to compel someone to do something they are unwilling to do. This is the primary use of the word. However, this allowed for the word to also be used figuratively to refer to attraction through persuasion. There is also even a third use of the word to refer to the current of a river or stream.

    In John 6:44, the word can mean to forcefully drag kicking and screaming, or it can simply mean to attract or to woo like a moth to a flame. We can speak of someone being compelled to do something even if its in keeping with their own desires. People often speak this way when talking about being attracted to a woman, feeling compelled to talk to her or ask her out, etc. We can use the language of compulsion, but no real compulsion has taken place, other than a man’s own submission to his own desires.

    To demand that this can ONLY mean to be dragged kicking and screaming is to over interpret this Greek word.

    However, one thing we can definitely affirm using the words of the verse is this: Jesus says that no one is ABLE to come to him apart from something the Father does. So that means that God is for sure the initiator of our salvation, NOT US.

  14. Echo_ohcE says:

    Rom 8:30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

    To be in one category is to be in them all. If predestined, necessarily also called. If (effectually) called, necessarily also justified and glorified.

    Why are these verbs all in the past tense? Why does Paul speak about our glorification as if it has already happened? Much ink has been spilled over this question. First, it’s important to understand that in the Greek, it’s not simple past tense. It’s the aorist tense. There are lots of different possibilities for what the aorist tense means. Sometimes past tense is appropriate, sometimes it’s more complicated than that.

    Greek has a simple past tense (basically), called the imperfect. The imperfect refers to an action that was ongoing in the past. “He was running”. The aorist looks not at an ongoing action, but at the action as a whole: “he ran”. There is also the perfect tense, which looks at a completed action with ongoing effect: “he died” (implication: he remains dead). There is also something called the pluperfect, which looks at an action completed in the past with an ongoing effect which is also now in the past: “he had run a race” (or something like that – it’s rare).

    So when it comes to the aorist, it CAN mean simply a completed action, which means the verb should be understood as having happened in the past. But it’s not primarily a past tense verb; it’s primarily a completed action verb, but this almost always implies something that has taken place in the past since the action is completed.

    Here in Rom 8:30, Paul uses the aorist to convey that God has completed his work of bringing these things about, even if they haven’t taken place yet in history (e.g., we are not yet glorified, but nevertheless the action that God took to bring about our glorification is already complete). How do we know? Just ask yourself, who is doing the action of these verbs? It’s God. The focus is on what God has done. Thus his point is that God’s work of accomplishing these things is finished. It’s a completed action.

    This necessarily DEMANDS irresistible grace. Why? Because it has all been laid out and carved in stone already. The events of the future (e.g., our future glorification) has already been determined by God. All those he has elected for salvation will be glorified. It’s already a done deal. We can’t do anything to thwart God’s plans.

    This, by the way, is the fundamental futile notion that sinners cherish in their hearts. From the very beginning, the essence of sin has been to try to thwart God’s plans and purposes for humanity. The temptation of man from the beginning was to try to do things on his own apart from God. That’s why Paul highlights, in Phil 2, that what made Jesus’ work so great was that he didn’t seek to glorify himself: he didn’t count equality with God a thing to be grasped. You can almost add the words, “unlike Adam, who reached out and grasped the forbidden fruit to try to make himself equal with God.” After all, that was how Satan tempted him, “You will be like God”. But the point is, no matter how hard humanity has tried to thwart God’s plans, God remains sovereign. As Joseph said to his brothers, “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.”

    People sometimes do try to explain away the use of the aorist tense of these verbs in Rom 8:30 in various ways (e.g., it’s a prophetic use of the aorist, meant to describe something that will happen in the future), but I find the explanation above to be the most satisfying and natural.

  15. Echo_ohcE says:

    what did you previously think it meant?

  16. Echo_ohcE says:

    True, Rev 19 depicts Jesus second coming. But he WILL come as he CURRENTLY is, for he is currently reigning as king right now.

    1Cor 15: 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.

    He must reign until death is utterly destroyed – at the resurrection (as is crystal clear from the context, because the whole chapter is about the resurrection). That means Christ is reigning prior to the resurrection.

    Matt 28:18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

    And this was just before his ascension, just after his resurrection. So Jesus has been reigning from the time of his resurrection, and will reign until the time of our resurrection. It may be that he reigned before that and that he will reign after that, but what we can say for sure from the combination of these two texts is that it MUST be the case that Christ is currently reigning as King over his kingdom.

    So when you say (in the guise of a Lutheran) that these are “eschatological passages”, you may have some semblance of a point in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is, unless of course you mean that we are currently living in the last days, and thus in an eschatological age in which the Risen Christ is reigning.

    However, I am puzzled as to how your retort even speaks a word to Dan 4, since it does not refer to a future time at all, but only the current time from the standpoint of the text – which, as we all know, is several hundred years prior to the birth of Christ (ca. 4-500 years). And yet, even from the standpoint of that ancient text, the Lord still is able to thwart the will of man.

  17. Makes me wonder what part of dead the Lutherans don’t undersand. Dead, like dry bones, zombies, pushing up daisies and so on.

  18. RubeRad says:

    I’m with you man; remember I’m the guy that first made the point about Resurrection being the dividing line between humiliation and exaltation.

  19. RubeRad says:

    I dunno, more along the lines of Sanctification I guess.

  20. John Yeazel says:

    I do not think this issue of whether grace is irresitable or not is a critical Gospel issue. I do not worry whether I can resist God’s grace or not. I know that God imputed my sin to Christ and Christ’s righteousness to me. And I not only know it, I believe it. And, as Luther stated at the disputation, I believe this imputation is “in perpetuity.”

    What’s up with the “what part of dead the Lutherans don’t understand?” Lutherans are monergists not synergists. Read Luther’s The Bondage of the Will. All that Luther taught in the Bondage of the Will is also taught in the Lutheran Confession (the book of Concord).

  21. John Yeazel says:

    I don’t think I said anything different than what you said here Rube- so, what’s the problem?

  22. RubeRad says:

    Lutherans reject Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and Perseverance. And depending on what “coercion to believe” means, possibly Total depravity and Unconditional election as well.

  23. John Yeazel says:

    Ok Rube, you win- I think Lutherans are more prone to say that Atonement, irrisistable grace and perseverance are more mysteries that seem to have contradictory scripture passages about them and therefore Lutherans reject the TULIP scheme. There is more involved than that. i believe in limited atonement like I explained it to you, I believe it is an impossible possibility to resist God’s grace and I don’t believe in the model of perseverance that the Calvinists adhere to. You have to keep wondering if you are fully following the Law enough to know that you are truly one of the elect. And I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that Lutherans do not believe in Total Depravity or unconditional election. Like I have said about 5 times now, you cannot read Luthers Bondage of the Will or the Lutheran Confessions and come to those conclusions.

  24. RubeRad says:

    I am not sure how you came to the conclusion that Lutherans do not believe in Total Depravity or unconditional election.

    I did say “depending” and “possibly”, but the point is that if people are not forced to believe, they must be sufficiently non-depraved to choose to believe. And in that case, maybe God’s foreknowledge of that salvific act has a role (is a condition) in election.

    I am sure Bondage and Concord and all (confessional) Lutherans everywhere would swear up and down that they don’t believe that, but Calvinists understand (and even Arminians understand!) that the 5 points are really 1 and the same point, logically it’s all or none. And that’s why we get called Rationalists.

  25. John Yeazel says:

    I also find much more comfort and assurance in the Lutheran system than the Calvinistic system- at least the way some Calvinists write about it.

  26. RubeRad says:

    I don’t see how “I am assured that I am really saved now, but I might not be tomorrow” is any more (or less) comforting than “I wonder whether I am truly elect (really saved now), because if I am today, then I am guaranteed to be so forever”. Note WCF 18 speaks of “infallible assurance of faith” (but not for all believers at all times: “a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it”)

  27. John Yeazel says:

    In perpetuity, In perpetuity

  28. Paul M. says:

    “No one can come to me unless the father who sent me draws him, *and* I wil raise him up on the last day.”

    It’s a conjunction. All those drawn are raised. If you’re raised, then you didn’t resist grace. If you could resist the grace, then Jesus could be wrong, and it’d be possible to have some drawn and not raised.

  29. Paul M. says:

    The guy’s comment is simply rhetorical. One might ask who you’d rather be *saved* by. The man with the strong grip, or the man with the weak grip? If your own child was drowing, would you reach down and grab her with vice grips? The Calvinist also posits a God who has an intention, plan, and desire to save. He’s not a failure. He saves all and only those he tries to save. God’s plan is not thwarted. The reason he must be so strong is because our sin is so strong. God knows the strenghth of the jaws he seeks to grab us from, and he pulls accordingly. He’s a God who succeeds. A God who doesn’t fail.

  30. "Michael Mann" says:

    JY, in all honesty (Midwesterners say that when they are fudging the truth a bit, but I’m a transplant), I have learned something of the weaknesses of some Calvinistic churches by interacting with the Lutheran perspective. For example, spending too much time on sanctification can blur the grace of the gospel. Here, election can do the same thing.

    Properly, the gospel invitation is to rest in Christ. Then, the man resting in Christ is further assured. Be of good cheer, you who rest in Christ are elect by his eternal decree. Then, be of good cheer you who rest in Christ because, though you are weak, the God who saves will enable you to persevere. So we have faith with two powerful (and related) kinds of assurance. All of these, presented in this way, enable us to rest in a gracious and powerful God.

    But if election is mishandled, it can be an invitation to peer into a crystal ball to see if we are elect. It can be prying into things that are not ours to see. Then, the crystal ball failing as the object of our faith, works can become the salvific focus. Just be aware that this is not the reformed gospel but a misrepresentation of it.

  31. Paul M. says:

    Jesus comes weak and lowly. Does that show that God’s grace is resistable and that God doesn’t come with strength? Or, does is show that God’s weakness is stronger than man’s stongest?

  32. John Yeazel says:

    I do not think it is a matter of God enabling us to persevere- Christ already persevered for us. It is in this matter of perseverance (and sanctification) that it seems that the Calvinists are the synergists. Also, I find it very unclear how Calvinists define perseverance. Is it a perseverance in regards to belief in what Christ has done for us or a perseverance to adhere to the 3rd use of the Law? And is this an outward adherance to the Law or an adherance to the Law in thought, word and deed? Because we remain simul iestus et peccator Lutherans believe that it is only Christ’s perfect adherance to the Law imputed to us that sanctifies us. It has nothing to do with us and we cannot pat ourselves on our backs, ever, for any intrinsic holiness the Holy Spirit may have worked in us. Our good works simply flow out of the new nature we have been given and we are mostly unaware of these good works.

  33. "Michael Mann" says:

    John, I’ll just give you an excerpt from the Westminster Confession of Faith:

    1. They, whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by His Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

    2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

  34. John Yeazel says:

    Lastly, because we are still simul iestus et peccator and we battle with what Lutherans call the Anfechtungen (spiritual warfare or trials, tribulations and suffering), the only relief we get from this continuous existential angst and warfare on our faith, is our turning to the Gospel and looking back on our baptism on a day by day basis. We also turn to the Law, the Gospel and the Sacrament each Sunday. It is by these means of grace, and these means of grace only, that God continues to work the promises of the Gospel into our lives. This is what I mean there is more to the Christian life than the Tulip scheme. Even Richard Mueller expanded the TULIP scheme to 10 points instead of 5. One really cannot be a Calvinist unless he adheres to the 10 points.

  35. I get that they aren’t synergists and think I get Luther’s position, based on what I’ve read in his Galatians commentary and Concerning Christian Liberty. That’s all I’ve actually read of him, but I can’t see where he was agin God’s sovereign grace which is irresistible. What I don’t get is the persistence with still saying resistible. It’s not. Unless there’s another meaning for resistible, like a rare Latin genitive lower case emphatic pluperfect or something.

    I guess, in the end, since the terminology is apparently disagreeing, we have to disagree, even if both Calvinists and Lutherans agree on the monergism and effectual call. I guess maybe I don’t get it. If we are on the same page, as claims claim, a valid distinctive to separate Lutherans from Calvinists isn’t the term “irresistible.” If this doesn’t make sense, it’s probably because I’m behind the theological power-curve.

    Not trying to be obtuse and especially not derogatory. I really enjoy the TT guys and they’re very, very edifying. There should be a Calvinist show so we could make guest appearances on each others’ games. Specially Bumper-Sticker Theology and Praise-Song Cruncher. Horton + Iron Preacher = much groaning over praise songs which would be a riot. But on the other hand, would there be as good a nickname for Horton?

  36. I didn’t hear it. But it found its way onto my MP3-player this week, so it’ll be heard shortly.

    Grok: exactly good term. There’s something more than surface comprehension here. It’s gotta be a language/semantics thing. Just finished re-reading the source code for Grok, by the way. You want a one-ism, that’s it right there.

  37. John Yeazel says:

    I would also ask, not belaboring the point I hope, how can anyone interpret the parable of the sower of the seed without thinking that there are forces that are trying to take us away from our faith (the world, the flesh and the devil- the anfechtungen triumverant). This all makes the church all the more important. Faith flourishes within a community of believers.

    I too also take comfort in those passages in John where Christ promises that no one (or no thing) can snatch us from his hand.

  38. John Yeazel says:

    “Faith flourishes within a community of believers.” At least it does when the pure Gospel is being being preached regularly and the sacrmaments administered properly.

  39. RubeRad says:

    I do not think it is a matter of God enabling us to persevere- Christ already persevered for us. …I find it very unclear how Calvinists define perseverance. Is it a perseverance in regards to belief in what Christ has done for us or a perseverance to adhere to the 3rd use of the Law? And is this an outward adherance to the Law or an adherance to the Law in thought, word and deed? Because we remain simul iestus et peccator…

    We are not Wesleyan perfectionists; perseverance does not mean 3rd use of the law (that would be sanctification). As for “thought, word and deed”, we confess that (SC 82, etc.) “No mere man, since the fall, is able in this life perfectly to keep the commandments of God, but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.” and that we are simul iustus et peccator. Therefore, Christ’s perseverance for us was of a different nature than our P in TULIP. His was perfect thought, word, and deed, all iustus and no peccator. For Christ perseverance meant to keep working until he accomplished the work he had been given (jn 17). For us perseverance means to keep resting in Christ.

  40. John Yeazel says:

    If that is how you define perseverance (resting in Christ) than I am in total agreement. That is not the way I interpret how a lot of Calvinists explain perseversance.

  41. Paul M. says:

    perseverance is not defined as “resting in Christ,” that may be a *means of* perseverance, but that’s not what perseverance *means*. 🙂 Someone has their “means” mixed up.

  42. John Yeazel says:

    To anyone with any interest, here is a good explanation of the Lutheran idea of anfechtungen:


  43. John Yeazel says:

    I’m interested Paul in how you interpret perseverance- if you don’t want to address it to me you can address it to Rube. I know I am not a very good dialog partner.

  44. RubeRad says:

    Well lookit that, it’s our old friend David Scaer!

  45. John Yeazel says:

    Genuflecting and images of Christ have nothing to do with Anfechtungen Rube- as a logician and mathematician yourself, you should understand that. We all know the differences that Lutherans and Calvinists have over the 2nd commandment (oh yeah, I forgot , we skipped over that one)

  46. John Yeazel says:

    Or, we interpret it differently than you do

  47. John Yeazel says:

    Or, we interpret it differently than the Calvinists do

  48. RubeRad says:

    I’m not trying to poison the well here, I’m just sayin, Hey I know that guy! Also, I don’t know that Calvinists have any dispute with the concept of Anfechtungen.

  49. John Yeazel says:

    I did not say you did, but, come to think of it, I don’t think I have ever read a Calvinist who referred to it. I just thought it was an interesting read and maybe someone else might think so too.

  50. John Yeazel says:

    Impressive, poisoning the well. Please don’t take me seriously.

  51. Paul M. says:

    “Perseverance may be defined as that continuous operation of the Holy Spirit in the believer, by which the work of divine grace that is begun in the heart is continued and brought to competition. It is because God never forsakes His work that believers continue to stand to the very end.” Berkhof from Systematic Theology (pg. 546)

    CHAPTER 17
    Of the Perseverance of the Saints

    1. They, whom God hath accepted in his Beloved, effectually called, and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace, but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved.

    2. This perseverance of the saints depends not upon their own free will, but upon the immutability of the decree of election, flowing from the free and unchangeable love of God the Father; upon the efficacy of the merit and intercession of Jesus Christ, the abiding of the Spirit, and of the seed of God within them, and the nature of the covenant of grace: from all which ariseth also the certainty and infallibility thereof.

  52. Echo_ohcE says:

    Perseverance = not apostatizing.

    It is possible, of course, for someone to renounce Christ and abandon the faith and embrace a life of sin. In such cases, we affirm that they were never elect, and that they never truly believed.

    As John says, they went out from us because they were never really OF us (1Jn 2:19).

  53. Tony says:

    I wanted to share a few quotes re: John 6:44 from the Formula of Concord & Mueller’s Christian Dogmatics. It seems to me that the debate between Calvinism & the Lutheran faith is more semantics than substance. If I understand the Lutheran position correctly, grace is “resistible” prior to conversion because it comes in the “weak” outward means of Word & Sacrament. Stephen rebuked the Sanhedrin for following their fathers in “always resisting the Holy Spirit,” specifically by refusing to repent & believe the Word of God delivered through the prophets (Acts 7:51). However, at the point of conversion, the Holy Spirit monergistically regenerates via the means of grace. At that moment, isn’t His work “effectual” and “irresistible”? Here is the first quote (F.C., S.D., art. II, para. 6) – two more will follow:
    26 To some extent reason and free will are able to lead an outwardly virtuous life. But to be born anew, to receive inwardly a new heart, mind, and spirit, is solely the work of the Holy Spirit. He opens the intellect and the heart to understand the Scriptures and to heed the Word, as we read in Luke 24:45, “Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Likewise, “Lydia heard us; the Lord opened her heart to give heed to what was said by Paul” (Acts 16:14). “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work” (Phil. 2:13). God “gives the repentance” (Acts 5:31; 2 Tim. 2:25). He works faith, for “It has been granted to you by God that you should believe on him” (Phil. 1:29). “It is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent” (John 6:29). God gives an understanding heart, seeing eyes, and hearing ears (Deut. 29:4; Matt. 13:15). The Holy Spirit is a Spirit “of regeneration and renewal” (Titus 3:5, 6). God removes the hard, stony heart and bestows a new and tender heart of flesh that we may walk in his commandments (Ezek. 11:19; 36:26; Deut. 30:6; Ps. 51:12); creates us in Christ Jesus for good works (Eph. 2:10); and makes us new creatures (2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15). In short, every good gift comes from God (James 1:17). No one can come to Christ unless the Father draws him (John 6:44). “No one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27). “No one can say, Jesus is Lord, except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). “Apart from me,” says Christ, “you can do nothing (John 15:5). “All our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:6). “What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” (1 Cor. 4:7). [The Book of Concord the confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. 1959 (T. G. Tappert, Ed.) (526). Philadelphia: Mühlenberg Press.]

  54. Tony says:

    Quote 2:
    3. Natural man must have a free will in spiritual matters since his conversion without his cooperation would imply coercion on God’s part.—Reply: The conversion of a sinner is indeed the work of God’s almighty power, Eph. 1:19; but it is not an irresistible or coercive power since it may be resisted, Matt 23:37. However, the very nature of conversion excludes the idea of coercion; for it consists essentially in the gracious drawing of the sinner by God Himself, John 6:44, which is accomplished through the means of grace, Rom. 10:17. The Formula of Concord says: “[We reject] also when the following expressions are employed, … namely, that … the Holy Ghost is given to those who resist Him intentionally and persistently; for, as Augustine says, in conversion God makes willing persons out of the unwilling and dwells in the willing.” (Epit., II, 15.) [Mueller, J. T. (1999). Christian dogmatics (electronic ed.) (239–240). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.]

  55. Tony says:

    Last one:
    Of this the Formula of Concord says (Thor. Decl., II, 87): “The conversion of our corrupt will, which is nothing else than a resuscitation of its spiritual death, is only and solely the work of God, just as the resuscitation in the resurrection of the body must be ascribed to God alone, as has been fully set forth above and proved by manifest testimonies of Holy Scripture.” The doctrine of conversion here set forth is that of Holy Scripture, which teaches expressly that, if a sinner is converted, this is due, not to any efforts of his own, but alone to the effectual working of divine grace, Eph. 1:19. The Scriptural proof for this truth may be stated as follows:—
    a. Scripture positively ascribes conversion, or the engendering of faith in man’s heart, exclusively to God, John 6:44; Rom. 1:5–7; Col. 1:12, 13; in particular, to His grace, Phil. 1:29; Eph. 2:8, 9, and omnipotent power, Eph. 1:19; 2 Cor. 4:6. Moreover, it depicts conversion as a new birth from God, John 1:12, 13; 1 John 5:1, or a spiritual resurrection, Col. 2:12, 13. All these passages describe conversion as an act of divine grace (monergism) and excluds from it man’s operation or cooperation.
    b. Scripture expressly denies to unconverted man the power to know or to believe the Gospel, 1 Cor. 2:14; John 6:44, and charges him with the offense of resisting the good and gracious will of God, which earnestly desires his regeneration, up to the very moment when he is converted, 1 Cor. 2:14; Rom. 8:7. Hence also these passages describe conversion as an act of divine grace and exclude from it man’s operation or cooperation. Both positively and negatively Scripture therefore declares itself for divine monergism and against all forms of Pelagianism and synergism. Luther: “We rightly honor God if we acknowledge that we are not saved by our merits and put our trust in His mercy.” (St. L., XI, 2217.)
    That God alone is the efficient Cause of conversion is clear also from the very nature of conversion (forma conversionis). As we have seen, conversion consists essentially in this, that the terrified and penitent sinner believes in Christ and with such faith indeed as strenuously repudiates all work-righteousness and trusts for salvation in nothing else than in the merits of Christ. But such faith in Christ implies a complete and absolute change of the sinner’s heart and mind. By nature man is addicted to work-righteousness and desires no other way of salvation than that of relying on his good works.
    But if that is the case, then the change in his heart by which he repudiates all works and clings alone to Christ’s merits cannot come from man; for by nature he detests and opposes the Gospel way of salvation, 1 Cor. 2:8, 14; 1:23. The change must therefore be of God, as indeed it is. The Apology writes correctly (Art. III, 144 ff.): “This opinion of the Law inheres by nature in men’s minds; neither can it be expelled, unless when we are divinely taught. But the mind must be recalled from such carnal opinions to the Word of God.” [Mueller, J. T. (1999). Christian dogmatics (electronic ed.) (342–344). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.]

  56. Tony says:

    Notice, Mueller is responding to the objection that monergism = coercion.

  57. Tony says:

    If the moment of conversion is the work of God alone (monergism), then why can’t we say that at that same moment, grace is “effectual” and “irresistible”? Again, I wonder if some of the confusion is semantics. When the reformed use the expression “irresistible grace,” doesn’t “grace” mean the work of grace, i.e., the work of the Holy Spirit in conversion? When the Lutherans use the term grace (read “means of grace”), don’t they mean “the favor of God toward the sinner secured by Christ crucified”? So when a Lutheran says “grace” is resistible, it means sinners can and do disbelieve and reject the Gospel to their own damnation (John 3:18). They hear the message of God’s favor towards sinners in Christ, and say, “No thanks!” They are entirely culpable for that rejection (no double predestination). When a reformed guy says, “grace is irresistible,” he means the converting “grace” of the Holy Spirit – which, I think, if properly understood, should not be an issue for a Lutheran. Limited atonement, well, that’s another story.

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