Category Archives for SBTS

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.

 

Loyal Opposition

July 3, 2017

By Dr. Eric Hankins, Pastor
First Baptist Church Fairhope, AL

Editor’s Note: This was the keynote address at the annual Connect 316 Banquet held June 13, 2017, in conjunction with the Southern Baptist Convention’s Annual Meeting.  It was a tremendous address, gladly and enthusiastically received by those of us in attendance.
This is the full, unedited version of Dr. Hankins’ address in it’s entirety.  We are taking a pause from our usual standard of articles ranging between 1,000-1,500 words, as I feel this address needs to be read in it’s completeness to allow you, the reader, to get the full force and context.

Let me begin this evening by offering a word of thanks to those of you who have given your support to the Traditional Statement, by signing it, by speaking up for it, or both. As I found out within the first few minutes after we made the TS public, affirming these beliefs vis-à-vis Calvinism sets one up for surprising levels of criticism and ill-treatment. By affirming the statement, you were, among other things, sticking your neck out for me. A special thanks to Rick Patrick and the leaders of Connect 316 for their encouragement over the years and for keeping the torch burning for Traditional soteriology. Continue reading

“False Piety and Self Righteousness” Used In Case Against GOP Nominee- A Follow Up

November 3, 2016

Kyle B. Gulledge, Associate Pastor
Southview Baptist Church, Rosharon, TX
Editor, SBCToday

Editor’s Note:  Following the publishing of Mr. Richardson’s article by the Louisville Courier I contacted him regarding his personal experience and said article.  I asked him what led to his writing the op-ed he stated that he was asked to write it as a kind of “point-counterpoint” to Dr. Mohler who was also writing an op-ed.  He further told me that he only received one negative comment, which was from one professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Dr. Hershael York (which he provided us to also run), and that other professors and staff at Southern Seminary were in agreement with his article.   Continue reading

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