Category Archives for Front Page Posts

Calvinists Believe in Unequal Grace

December 5, 2017

By Ronnie Rogers, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church Norman, OK

Calvinists are deterministic in the compatible style.[1] All determinists argue that events happen because they were determined to happen in the way they happened. Events are the result of God’s determined plan and salvation cannot be conditioned upon faith.

Arguing for determinism, Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange wrote, “The singling out of one from another must finally be sought not in the human will, but in God who singles out one from another by His Grace.”[2] He cites such verses as 1 Corinthians 4:7, Romans 9:15, and Philippians 2:14.[3]

He specifically engages the issue of libertarian free choice in his argument against Molinism. He provides a good example of how determinists argue against libertarian freedom in general and as related to salvation in particular. Garrigou-Lagrange says, “Let us suppose that Peter and Judas situated in equal circumstances receive equal prevenient grace; then God sees Peter consenting to accept that grace, and hence singling himself out from Judas who does not consent, not on account of the grace, for an equal grace is indifferently offered to each. Therefore it is because the will decides to accept the grace. Thus do all Thomists argue against Molina, and they thus affirm as revealed the principle that can be called ‘the principle of predilection,’ namely, that no one would be better than another unless he were loved more and helped more by God.’”[4] Here are my thoughts on his comments according to my understanding of Scripture.

  1. The principle of predilection highlights Calvinism’s commitment to the deterministic inequality of God’s love and grace (Peter could not have made a better choice without God providing him more love and grace than Judas). It also equates a person being better than another because he made a better decision. As Calvinists see it, if Peter exercises his will to believe, he is better than Judas because he made a better decision. But that is not actually true. Simply making a better choice does not necessarily make or demonstrate the person doing so is essentially better than someone else; it only demonstrates the choice is better.

    Humans are essentially equal (Gen 1:26–27), even the ones who make bad decisions. According to libertarian freedom, Peter is not saved because he is a better person even though he did make a better choice, which is precisely the nature of libertarian beings—choosing between options, some of which are better or worse than their counterparts. Sometimes the better person, non-essentially speaking, may actually make a worse choice than his less noble counterpart within a given range of options. For example, we see this when an atheist or thief may make a better choice than a Christian in the context of a particular choice, range of options, or an equivalent opportunity. This does not entail that the atheist, person without God in his life, is better than the Christian in whom God dwells. 

Once the better choice is made by Peter, the consequences of salvation do clearly make Peter an essentially better person, but obviously that is only because of grace. Therefore, according to Extensivism, both the choice and the betterment resulting from the choice are due to the grace of God.[5] To wit, no aspect of salvation in Extensivism (or existence for that matter) happens apart from grace. It is neither necessary nor expected that this fit Calvinism’s determinism; only that it fits what we find in Scripture. Thomists (Calvinists) seem not to be able to conceptualize God’s plan being comprised of his equal love and help for everyone, including grace-enabled freedom to choose differently. We should not be surprised to find Calvinism’s exclusivism here since it pervades the core tenets of Calvinism—unconditional election, limited atonement, and selective regeneration.

  1. Garrigou-Lagrange relates the will to grace differently than seems best. Although he begins his argument by saying there is “equal prevenient grace,” he then seems to move the will to a place that at least appears to be less dependent upon grace. He says, “God sees Peter consenting to accept that grace . . . not on account of the grace . . . Therefore it is because the will decides to accept the grace.” 

First, I would note it is not the will per se that decides, but it is the libertarianly-endowed Peter and Judas as the efficient causes of their actions who decide. Each decides and carries out his decision by exercising his will. Second, being so constituted to possess libertarian freedom is solely a grace act of God in creation, and therefore, not some rogue force operating outside or contrary to the plan and grace of God; it would only seem to be so in a Calvinistically-determined system. Third, the ability to exercise their will in choosing is always by grace, regardless of their choice. Peter’s choice to consent was no more a choice provisioned by grace than Judas’s choice to not consent. Each is able to choose differently because it was the will of God for man to be able to do so. That is to say, God’s endowment of man with libertarian freedom does not attenuate the need for and presence of grace. Consequently, Garrigou-Lagrange’s issue seems to be with God’s decision to endow man with libertarian freedom. What if God said to him, I chose for the will to work libertarianly rather than deterministically as you teach? Would he say that cannot be?

  1.  Garrigou-Lagrange seems to contend that equal grace must result in the same outcome. This seems to presuppose the correctness of determinism, which necessitates a rejection of otherwise choice. Looking at it in reverse, different outcomes necessarily demonstrate either an unequal grace opportunity or that something outside of grace is in play; here it is the will. It seems he is willing to accept libertarian freedom so long as it means one can only choose a certain action given the same past, opportunity—libertarianism compatibly defined.

    This idea is either explicit or implicit in all the arguments I have encountered that contend if salvation is conditioned upon faith, then the person who gets saved is either wiser or more virtuous than the one who does not; therefore, he is saved by a mixture of grace and human merit. If their argument was correct, such can only mean that man receives some of the glory or credit for his salvation. I think the premise that equal grace must result in the same outcome is invalid. He also appears to presuppose that God’s granting of grace is only given to procure a determined choice rather than the certainty of otherwise choice. To wit, determinists make the only possible goal of grace to be a predetermined outcome rather than an outcome resulting from grace-enabled otherwise choice; they simply assume determinism is correct before the conclusion, thereby, subtly and unjustifiably superimposing the restraints of determinism upon Extensivism. Garrigou-Lagrange does not demonstrate why grace is so restricted apart from determinism. 

It may be cogently argued that equal grace is the raison d’être (reason for being) for otherwise choice resulting in different outcomes, as Extensivism contends. Garrigou-Lagrange says that Peter’s singling himself out is “not on account of the grace, for an equal grace is indifferently offered to each. Therefore it is because the will decides to accept the grace.” In this, he presupposes, but does not demonstrate, if individuals can exercise their will differently given the same grace, that such ability cannot be the result of grace. But there is actually no reason, outside of a deterministic system, why a person’s freedom to will different outcomes cannot be because of grace as indeed Extensivism argues.

He is simply limiting the purpose of grace to ensure a certain outcome rather than grace enabling man, at times, to create different outcomes. This means that Garrigou-Lagrange’s limitation is not imposed by Scripture, logic, the inability of God, or a deficiency of grace, but rather determinism’s narrowness precludes such a state of affairs. He seems to have simply drawn his conclusion that the equal grace did not include the will (technically the efficient cause) to be able to choose differently within the same grace, which is, in fact, the essence of libertarian freedom. Therefore he says that the singling out is “not on account of grace” (if libertarian freedom was true). But Extensivism contends that the singling out is precisely because of grace that affords otherwise choice in an equal opportunity.

  1. Garrigou-Lagrange seems to elide the grace permitting Judas’s choice. He notes only Peter’s act of “singling himself out.” Of course, Peter’s choice did single him out, but did not Judas, having the same grace opportunity, single himself out by not consenting to the invitation of the sovereign God? One may easily infer, as I do, that his argument (about how libertarian freedom operates) includes the reality that Judas’s act to reject God was not one of grace; at least if he does consider it so, it is neither stated nor obvious. However, I contend that every sin and thought of defiance about or regarding the sovereign that does not lead to instant obliteration from the face of the earth and being hurled into eternal torment is because of grace. One does not so choose and then continue to live because of some intrinsic merit of the person (Rom 2:4; Acts 17:26–31).

    Libertarian freedom is given and operates only because of and in God’s grace, and it is God’s will that a person exercises his will. God does not desire man to choose evil, but he does desire man to make an actual choice between accessible options, which happens only in the context of grace. Libertarian freedom entails that different people, given the same opportunity, can make different choices because equal grace does not necessitate equal outcomes.
  1. Garrigou-Lagrange indicates that Calvinism’s compatible and decretal freedom is all grace, but yet libertarian freedom cannot be by grace, as though God is incapable of such a feat. Although I do not accept Calvinism and compatibilism, I do believe if God did choose to so operate, it would be by grace; it is not something beyond the ability of God. Calvinists seem to either find it impossible, or they are unwilling to consider the same is true of libertarian freedom. Maybe because it requires thinking God is not limited to determinism.

    It is clear to me that whether God endowed man with a compatible free will or a libertarian free will, each would have been designed by God and given by God. Therefore, each is, including all its entailments, by God’s grace. According to Compatibilism, the person freely chooses but does not have a choice. God decided this by grace. The result of the determined person’s choice is a determined act of the grace-provided will. According to Libertarianism, the person chooses between accessible options. God decided this by grace. The result of the non-determined person’s choice is a non-determined act of the grace-provided will.

Garrigou-Lagrange’s portrayal is that if a person can by an exercise of his will choose a better outcome than someone else, it demonstrates a greater grace and love from God. This conclusion is true in Calvinism’s determinism but it is not demonstrated in Scripture nor is it logically necessary in a non-deterministic approach such as Extensivism. Extensivism contends Scripture teaches everything is by grace, including libertarian freedom and its entailments.

[1] Compatibilism contends that determinism and moral responsibility (free choice) are compatible; hence the name. Free choice is not attained by lessening the deterministic nature of compatibilism. Rather, it is derived from defining free choice to mean so long as one chooses from his greatest desire, he has made a free choice. Importantly, the greatest desire is determined; consequently, compatibilism provides only a determined free choice.
[2] Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, The One God, tr Dom. Bede Rose (St. Louis: B. Herder, 1944), 462. Garrigou-Lagrange was a prominent 20th century neo-Thomist. See also Thomas P. Flint, Divine Providence, The Molinist Account, ed. William P. Alston (New York: Cornell University Press), 117.
[3] “Theological Determinism” from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, A Peer-Reviewed Academic Resource, http://www.iep.utm.edu/theo-det/ accessed 1/3/16. See responses by indeterminists to his argument.
[4] Garrigou-Lagrange, One God, 463, quoted by Flint, Divine Providence.
[5] Extensivist is used in the place of non-Calvinist.

 

Alcohol and Cancer

December 4, 2017

By David Brumbelow
Author, Ancient Wine and the Bible
Blogger, Gulf Coast Pastor

A sobering Statement has been released by the American Society of Clinical Oncology on “Alcohol and Cancer.” 

Excerpts from that article: 

“The importance of alcohol drinking as a contributing factor to the overall cancer burden is often underappreciated. In fact,alcohol drinking is an established risk factor for several malignancies.” 

“Alcohol is causally associated with oropharyngeal and larynx cancer, esophageal cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma, breast cancer, and colon cancer. Even modest use of alcohol may increase cancer risk, but the greatest risks are observed with heavy, long-term use.”

“Beyond oncology [medical study of cancer], alcohol use and abuse together pose a significant public health problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 88,000 deaths were attributed to excessive alcohol use in the United States between 2006 and 2010. Approximately 3.3 million deaths worldwide result from the harmful use of alcohol each year. Population surveys demonstrate that 12% to 14% of adults have a current alcohol use disorder and that 29% have had such a disorder at some point in their lifetime.”

“Alcohol use during childhood and adolescence is a predictor of increased risk of alcohol use disorder as an adult. College-age and younger people who drink are prone to develop an alcohol use disorder later in life.”

People who do not currently drink alcohol should not start for any reason.

“In a thorough systematic review of the world’s evidence that adhered to prespecified criteria for drawing inferences, a World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) report judged the evidence to be convincing that drinking alcohol was a cause of cancers of the oral cavity, pharynx, larynx, esophagus, breast, and colorectum (in men). Also, alcohol was judged to be a probable cause of increased risk of liver cancer and colorectal cancer (in women). An updated review of the evidence for liver cancer upgraded the conclusion for an association between alcohol drinking and liver cancer to convincing.” 

“…The associations between alcohol drinking and cancer risk have been observed consistently regardless of the specific type of alcoholic beverage.”

“…The index of suspicion is high that alcohol drinking leads toexcess risk of pancreatic cancer and gastric cancer.

“As evidence continues to accumulate, the list of alcohol-associated cancers is likely to grow.”

“…For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.

“The results of meta-analyses and pooled analyses that have focused directly on this question for upper aerodigestive tract cancers indicate that risk of these cancers declines in those who quit drinking alcohol compared with those who remain alcohol drinkers.”

“As such, the benefit of alcohol consumption on cardiovascular health likely has been overstated. As reviewed in the Magnitude of the Association section, the risk of cancer is increased even with low levels of alcohol consumption, so the net effect of alcohol is harmful. Thus, alcohol consumption should not be recommended to prevent cardiovascular disease or all-cause mortality.

Low physician knowledge of alcohol use and cancer risk is another barrier to addressing alcohol use with patients.”

“…Alcohol use among physicians may make them less likely to counsel patients about the risks of alcohol use.”

“Worldwide, alcohol-related cancers are estimated to be 5.5% of all cancers treated annually…”

Alcohol and Cancer: A Statement of the American Society of Clinical Oncology; November, 2017.  (Bold print is mine.  -DRB)

For entire Alcohol and Cancer Statement and footnotes see: 

http://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1155

Fox News article:

http://www.foxnews.com/health/2017/11/20/top-cancer-doctors-have-some-advice-about-alcohol.html

The bad news is, we are all eventually going to die of something (Hebrews 9:27).  The good news is we can significantly reduce our chance of death from cancer and other causes by not drinking alcohol.  As many have observed, what is the worst that can happen from not drinking? 

While all these quotes are significant, some I especially noticed because of contrary pro-drinking arguments.  I’ve, of course, added some of my own thoughts. 

While not outright saying you should not drink alcohol, the study did say if you don’t drink, do not start.  And frankly, if you drink, you encourage others to drink. 

Many have argued drinking is good for your health.  This study says just the opposite.  Alcohol should not be recommended for heart health, or over-all health. 

Even modest use of alcohol can increase your risk of cancer and other problems.  Alcohol is a poison; its use is abuse. 

Your medical doctor is not necessarily an authority on beverage alcohol.  My dad used to joke since he was overweight, he tried to find a doctor who was overweight, so the MD would not get on to him about dieting.  Apparently, the same is true when it comes to alcohol.  Any supposed medical benefits from alcohol can come from safer sources such as grape juice (unfermented wine), grapes, other fruit, and vegetables.  Sadly, many MDs have caused people to begin drinking; don’t be one of them. 

“For cancer prevention, it’s best not to drink alcohol.”  Not drinking alcohol, or taking other recreational, mind-altering drugs (marijuana, opioids, etc.), will prevent a host of other problems as well. 

Hope you all have a drug-free Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

For a detailed study on biblical teaching on alcohol, see: 

AncientWine and the Bible.”

Star of Wonder

December 1, 2017

By Walker Moore
Awestar Ministries

I love globes. I am not sure how many I own, but I could start my own globe store. I have big globes that are made of precious stones; I have plastic globes; I have square globes; and I have a globe that floats between two magnetic fields. Some of the globes are antique and some were roughly carved by an African villager.

My collection of globes comes from all four corners of the world. Most of these globes were gifts from my family, friends and associates. If you ever visit my office, you can’t reach it without passing a huge map that covers much of the hallway. I tell everyone that is my job description: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19).

My love for maps and globes started very early in life. I would get excited whenever my father pulled into a gas station, drove over the air hose and made the bell go “ding, ding.” A smartly dressed attendant always came running out to pump the gas, check the oil and wash the windows. Before we pulled out, he would ask if we needed a road map. Maps were part of the advertising for the oil and gas industry back then; every major company had its own map marking its gas stations along your route along with points of interest.

Before the internet or cell phones, the only way you could navigate from place to place was with a physical map. I got interested in collecting maps from different states because they were free, and since I lived on a fixed income of 25 cents a week, “free” sounded like a bargain.  For me, those road maps became treasure maps. I have never lost the wonder of using a map and discovering what lies ahead.

Last week, I took Titus the Honorable and his mom to see the movie “The Star.” This film portrays the birth of Christ as seen through the eyes of a small but brave donkey named Bo and his feathered sidekick, Dave. The story follows the star that brought the wise men to find Jesus in the town of Bethlehem.

Our local theater has electric seats that both recline and raise a foot rest at the push of a button. (I am wondering when churches are going to install seats like this. They would give “Sunday is a day of rest” a whole new meaning.)

As the movie began, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Titus going backward, a huge grin on his face, and a few seconds later, an even bigger grin as he passed me on his way back up. If the recliner had been an exercise machine, he would have done 100 sit-ups during the movie. Halfway through the film, he looked over as he passed me once again and yelled, “This is the best theater ever!”

As I was watching the movie and Titus was going up and down, a thought crossed my mind: Stars were the first road maps. In fact, stars were God’s original navigational system. Many vessels have crossed the seas as they followed the stars. And 2,000 years ago, a star had the task of marking a point of interest. Those who knew how to read the celestial map realized that on that day, the King of kings, the Savior of the world was born.

 “After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw the star, they were overjoyed” (Matt. 2:9-10).

Not only did the old-time gas stations use road maps in their advertising, but they also used jingles. I still remember the one for Texaco, and many of you can sing it along with me: “You can trust your car to the man who wears the star …” The corporate logo for Texaco was a big red star with a capital T emblazoned on it. This star appeared on their marquee, uniforms, hats and of course their maps. Anytime your car had a need, you were to look for the star.  

The Texaco people almost got it right. You can trust, not the one who wears the star, but the One the wise men found under the star. You can trust Him with your salvation, your peace, your hope, your family, your business, your finances, your everything. You may have more ups and downs than Titus in his theater seat, but through them all, you can trust Him.