The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 4

May 9, 2013

by Ronnie Rogers

Irresistible Grace: The Holy Spirit efficaciously applies salvation to those unconditionally elected sinners whom He personally calls to Christ.

Calvinism believes that the general call of the gospel extends to everyone, but the internal efficacious call of the Holy Spirit that is both required and inexorably results in salvation is only extended to the unconditionally elect. The nature of these two calls is that the former can only be rejected and the latter can only be accepted. That is to say, the non-elect can never do anything but reject the preaching of the gospel, and the elect will do the same until they receive the internal efficacious call, which they can only respond to by believing.

Regeneration is monergistic (God alone), and man is totally passive until regeneration is accomplished. After God regenerates an elect individual, then and only then does the relationship become synergistic. Calvinism’s understanding of God’s work of regeneration (sometimes referred to as or included in the concept of the efficacious call) necessarily involves irresistibility in purpose, availability to the unconditionally elect only, and the inevitability of a subsequent free exercise of faith.

Worth noting is that the adjectives “general” and “efficacious” in both order and description are not explicitly taught in Scripture, but rather are understandings of Calvinism. I would suggest that the term “general call” be replaced with the much more biblically congruent term “sufficient call;” additionally, that the efficacious call (if there is such a thing) be understood as consummating (securing) salvation for all who accept the sufficient call rather than initiating salvation for the unconditionally elect.

It is important to understand that while, according to Calvinism, the act of faith that follows regeneration is a free act, the act of regeneration which inescapably leads to this free exercise of faith is forced upon the totally passive and depraved unconditionally elect (monergism and compatibilism). That is to say, the “free act of faith” is more accurately defined as an eternally predetermined free act of choosing, which excludes any idea of having choices (i.e. compatibilism). Thus, eliminating even the remotest possibility for the elect to do other than what he did in fact do and the non-elect the same end. While this is Calvinism’s portrait of the inner workings of the gospel, I do not believe it is the picture of the gospel painted by Scripture.

God’s choice to ration His salvific grace to only the unconditionally elect necessarily means that the lack of faith and resistance to the gospel by the non-elect is as equally and inviolably a predetermined free act as is the predetermined free exercise of faith of the unconditionally elect. Therefore, the offer of salvation to some and the withholding from the incalculable majority were predetermined by God’s good pleasure; thereby, making the gospel the most unfathomably and ghoulishly macabre news for the great majority of God’s humanity.

Therefore, if a person believes the Scripture teaches the following, he cannot be a Calvinist: the gospel is good news for everyone and not merely some who hear the words “whosever” or “who wishes take the water of life without cost;” God has grace enabled all who hear the good news to receive His forgiveness by faith in the gospel. These truths are embraced by other biblical approaches but not in Calvinism.

Ronnie is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., and is the author of  “Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist.”