Faith is the Condition of Salvation and Grace is the Work of Salvation | Part Two

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

Click HERE for Part One.

I do believe that since the fall, man is totally depraved (extensively); therefore, I do not believe in partial depravity. My difference with Calvinism is that we hold to essentially dissimilar views regarding what total depravity means, which is determined by two drastically different and irreconcilable views of man, i.e. freedom; accordingly, we differ regarding what it takes to make fallen man savable. Calvinists are correct regarding depravity as affecting every part of man. They are tragically mistaken in their understanding of the nature of man being comprised of compatible freedom.

“Depravity can be understood as an inability to initiate or attain salvation without the grace of God.”[1] As a result, man is so affected by the fall, that he, unlike Adam before the fall, must receive additional grace enablements beyond creative grace enablements in order to have a genuine opportunity to choose to walk with God. This includes such things as God’s redemptive love, Christ’s payment for sin, conviction of the Holy Spirit, drawing of the Father and Son, power of the gospel, etc. None of which were necessary for Adam and Eve prior to the fall because God’s provision of creative grace was sufficient.

In Calvinism, faith is the predetermined result of God’s creative and redemptive grace provision, whereas in Extensivism, choice is the predetermined result of God’s creative and redemptive grace provision. This means that whatever decision is made, it arises from grace provision and is therefore a grace choice rather than a meritorious or self-virtuous choice (Romans 4:16; Ephesians 2:8—10). Within God’s options, He could have created man to be able to only determinatively exercise a free choosing of faith, or He could have created man to be able to deliberatively exercise a free choice of faith, and the latter is no less a work of grace than the former, Calvinists asseverations notwithstanding.

Rather than succumb to the insistence of some Calvinists that this puts salvation in man’s hand, somehow makes man deserving or participating in the work of salvation, or makes God dependent upon man, it actually is a strong point of Extensivism and poignantly highlights Calvinism’s inadvertent low view of God’s plan, man’s creation, and the simple reading of Scripture. I see no biblical problem with believing that if a person trusts Christ, he will not perish, and if he does not he will (Luke 13:3, 5), and that God sovereignly and graciously determinatively provisioned for that choice to reside within man; such choice existing without any contrary or cryptic programs running in the background known to only a few, which ultimately reduce the former from true to trivially true.

Upon reflection, it does seem quite odd that one can become more comfortable creating non-biblically attested to covenants,[2] extra biblical decrees that trump the simple meaning of revelation, two will hypothesis (which secret soteriology will ultimately trump the revealed soteriology), a selective internal call for the elect only (making the preaching of the gospel a vacuous proclamation for most, and I would even say a misleading one), election as taught in the Scripture transmogrified into an unconditional election (thereby making every passage that reflects opportunity and the need to choose a ghastly phantom), substituting a good faith offer for the good offer of Scripture (offering what does not exist for the vast majority who hear), having a salvific love for the unconditionally elect while only a temporal love for His creation (which if understood biblically actually appears to exist in concert with salvific love not in lieu of it), and usage of such language in presenting the gospel that leaves every lost person who hears believing they can and should believe, all the while the Calvinist knows his words are actually an encryption for God calling out His unconditionally elect and actually have nothing to do with the non-elect except to further condemn them. All of this dependence upon speculative theology might at least cause one to temper such hubris pronouncements as mentioned above regarding those who disagree.

When I compare Calvinism and Extensivism, just based upon the unclouded teaching of Scripture and apart from speculative theology whose fecundity of producing other such speculations is vast indeed, it results in recognizing that God’s decision to condition the restoration of man’s walk with Him upon grace-enabled faith, seems so simple—apparently too simple for some.

The understanding of Scripture presented here simply means that faith is the condition for receiving God’s work of salvation, but faith is not the basis or work of salvation. The basis of Adam’s relational ability and fallen man’s relational ability (salvation) is always the love of God for His creation (John 3:16). This fact is the same as with Adam because he related to God by trusting God’s word, which relationship was corrupted when he chose to distrust God’s word (Genesis 2:17—18). As the first man related to God by faith and broke his relationship by not trusting God, every subsequent person returns to God by faith (Acts 16:31, Hebrews 11:6), or remains separated from God for one reason; he refuses to trust God (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30), which is the ultimate sin of Adam. That dynamic has not changed. It further seems that since man will forever be finite, he will always relate to God by faith even though the range of options will change.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

 

 

[1] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 756.
[2] Referring to the chapter title and part one in his Systematic Theology Charles Hodge states, “This statement does not rest upon any express declaration of the Scriptures….Although the word covenant is not used in Genesis, and does not elsewhere, in any clear passage, occur in reference to the transaction there recorded, yet inasmuch as the plan of salvation is constantly represented as a New Covenant, new, not merely in antithesis to that made at Sinai, but new in reference to all legal covenants whatever, it is plain that the Bible does represent arrangement made with Adam as a truly federal transaction.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. II (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 117.