Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Some talk on assurance and sola fide

David Bryan has been taking some time out of his busy schedule to interact with me on the issue of assurance of salvation.  Here are his latest comments, and here is my reply:


we will to do good but can’t accomplish it, so God has to come in and bring us to where we can, yes?

Ehhhh, kinda.  The HS within us desires to do good, but we fight Him.  We end up with sinful actions and giving into evil temptations.  We'll never get to a perfect state until God finishes the job, when we die or when He returns.

Well, our understandings of 1 Jn 5.13 are obviously very different

See, I wouldn't argue with the statement that you ALMOST made - that ASSURANCE of eternal life is (partly) contingent upon our performance of a godly life.  You said that your ACTUAL POSSESSION of eternal life is contingent upon your works, which makes me sad b/c you seem to have an overinflated sense of personal goodness and an underrated view of God's holiness, that you could ever get close enough to do anything of yourself to fulfill any conditional goodness so as to be with God in Heaven.
Anyway, outworkings of God's grace is part of one's ASSURANCE on my position, but it's not the only one.

God knows what we will do; that’s a huge leap from God’s causing what we will do.

My point was that skeptics can bring the same charge - if God knows what's going to happen and does nothing to stop bad things from happening, He's open to the charge that "He's not all-good, then" and garbage like that.

His bringing about His will even with man’s free will in action

Calvinism teaches precisely that, FYI.  It's just that man's free will always chooses wrong.

His ultimate, greatest glory in spite of the fact that he never once interfered in any way with mankind’s free will.

Sure He did.  He expelled Adam and Eve from the Garden - I bet they didn't want to leave.
He instituted His Law, which condemns some men under its penalties; I bet adulterers preferred not to be stoned.
He perfects the partially-unwilling human at death - if the man were 100% willing, he would've already gotten to perfection.
Man dies when he doesn't want to.  I think your view is too simplistic.

Are you saying that He comes to effect your ultimate salvation through the actions you perform by the grace which He gave you to perform said actions?

Good question, though I see it as a bit of a deviation.  He effects my ultimate salvation by rebirthing me according to His grace, so that salvation is by supernatural means only.  But it is by means.  He uses that means to create faith in my heart and I express that faith with my mouth; both of those are works.

There is no “enough” or “not enough” with God.

Then why say "Suffice it to say that eternal life is contingent on whether or not my faith is made perfect by my works which I am under no compulsion to do"?

Indeed, but a legal perfection is not, istm, a satisfactory solution. It may be the only one you think “works” in terms of tipping God’s hand in your favor, but it’s not satisfactory and, imo, it’s not biblical.

God has a law.  You've broken it, many times.  So do you need forgiveness for that or don't you?
I'm not saying that's the ONLY way to view the atonement of Christ, but it must not be neglected.

God's sovereignty doesn't mean much? 

I mentioned above how amazing I think His sovereignty is and said why.

You'd said:
I get it that the main priority for Calvinists is the maintaining of God's sovereignty (and, in that, causality) over all things, whether or not we're made privy to how all that plays out on an individual level. I just don’t see how that ends up meaning anything.

I have to say I'm pretty confused at this point, as it seems your left hand is taking back what your right is giving.

Sola Fide covers the “Saved by grace” part very well, but leaves no consequences if the “saved for works” part doesn’t “work out”…

I think it works quite well, but maybe your dissension is b/c it's not obvious to your eyes.  You want a nice little bow on everythg, maybe - where the backslidden is definitely out of the family, and where the Visible Church IS the Invisible Church.  Sure, you can't define "backslidden" very well, but that's for later, you don't show those kinds of weaknesses in your position outside the EOC, to unblvrs like me.
The way it works is that our works have nothing to do with our salvation; they have everything to do with our condemnation!  If one's works show that God is "working out" His salvation, we rejoice in that.  If not, if the person is still trying to be called a brother, we exercise church discipline and conclude that he was probably never saved - 1 John 2:18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us.

They might return later, and that's our prayer; whether they got for real saved when they returned or were for a while but were in rebellion is not for us to know.  God knows their hearts, and we can only know their hearts by the works they display.  That said, there's a reason why antichrists were among us for a while - they can fake it.  I don't know with 100% certainty who is saved and who isn't.
As for ASSURANCE that I myself am saved, I have as I've mentioned, the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, the works He empowers me to do, and the fact that I cry "Abba" to the Father.  There are times I have less assurance than others, but that assurance has no bearing on whether I am actually saved.

Well, what does “vessel of honor/dishonor” mean, really? Is it ultimately soteriological?

Rom 9:16It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. 17For the Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

19One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who resists his will?” 20But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’” 21Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?

22What if God, choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? 23What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— 24even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? 25As he says in Hosea:

“I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people;
and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one...”

“in the end you can live without a Ming vase easier than [a toilet] and in a pinch you'd use a Ming vase for dishonorable purposes.”

This is not the first time I've been justified in accusing EOdox of humanistic reasoning.

I would say that the lack of questioning God seems to be over why you seem to be going through every conceivable struggle known to man in order to be saved, not why you had been created, irreversibly, for the sole purpose of eternal damnation.

So you get to question God if you're part of the One True Church?  Where's that in Sacred Apostolic Tradition?
If it's any consolation, the spiritually dead are just that - dead.  They don't really stop to ask themselves that question.

I appreciate your honesty re: your uncomfortable feelings with the idea.

Sure thing.  It remains possibly the most difficult question for me.  The reality of the length and breadth of Hell hit me some years ago and caused a mini-crisis of faith.  It's not nearly what it was now, but it's never been easy.


Ryan said...

I have recently been reading various Reformed opinions on the means of sanctification, which seem to me to be divided. One group says sanctification is partly by works (e.g. 2 Corinthians 7:1), and the other groups says it is not (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:10). The latter seems (to me) to be more palatable, but I would like your opinion.

Rhology said...

ISTM sanctification is partly by works, yes. Could just be the Methodist upbringing and the charismatic vestiges talking, though - that issue has oft puzzled me.

Lucian said...

The Will To Power: Marx I think wrote it. There's no such thing. Power comes from God. Willing to act on it comes from us.

(You also wrote a stupidity about free will *always* choosing wrong, which is plainly false).

David B said...

I will respond after Sunday, Lord willing.

David B said...

My response is here

Ryan said...

I'm not sure if you will see this comment since this post has been bumped off the page, but I was wondering if you think Exodus 31:13 would conclusively prove sanctification is monergistic or what devil's advocate would say.

Rhology said...

13“But as for you, speak to the sons of Israel, saying, ‘You shall surely observe My sabbaths; for this is a sign between Me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I am the LORD who sanctifies you.

Hmm, never saw that before. Certainly would qualify as a text in the Reformed "arsenal", though I suspect our RC and EOx friends would simply engage in their customary doublespeak in dumbing down "works" when convenient, so that "works" in this case = "what God's grace enables us to do, so it's all grace". And then they turn around to their own people and remind them "but it's not all God's work, you know - you need to do good works b/c Abraham was not justified by faith alone", blah blah blah. It's quite disingenuous.

David B said...

Might I ask--since rehashing ideas of synergy here would be unnecessary and, quite frankly, futile--what the teaching of synergism possesses, in Reformed eyes, that so "dumbs down" works as to nullify them completely?

Rhology said...

A great example is where I recently asked you about faith and works wrt baptism, and you said sthg to the effect of "baptism is faith". No, faith is faith, works are works. I don't see what anyone gains by ad hoc category errors.