A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace, Part 1. “People Resisting God.”

[Sources cited: In the following posts offering a response to Dr. Lemke's presentation, I draw from my own recollection of his presentation found at Challies.com, from johnMark's account of this presentation, and from the Baptist Press story on the John 3:16 Conference, but the main source I will be citing is the article, "Lemke addresses Calvinism at John 3:16 Conference," found in Vision, the magazine of New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Winter 2008 issue, Volume 64.4.]

NOBTS Provost Dr. Steve Lemke on November 17, 2008 at the John 3:16 Conference:

“Salvation is tied in some measure to our response,” Lemke said, citing several biblical examples of what he said were people resisting God. For example, in Acts 7:51 the Jewish men who stoned Stephen were said to be “always resisting the Holy Spirit.”

Lemke said that while Calvinists don’t deny people can resist the Holy Spirit in some situations, they believe the effectual call is irresistible.

“It doesn’t seem to me that [the effectual call] helps in this particular situation, because the Jews after all were God’s chosen people, they were under the covenant. If you have a covenant theology, then these people would seem to be among the elect… It is precisely these divinely elected people who are resisting God.”

a. “Salvation is tied in some measure to our response.”

I know of no Calvinist who would disagree with this statement in the sense that no one receives salvation apart from personal repentance and faith (except, perhaps, in the case of those dying in infancy). Nor would I think that Dr. Lemke would wish to assert that our response contributes to the provision of salvation, which is made by Christ alone. So I am not sure what his point is in making this statement.

b. Acts 7:51

At the Conference, Dr. Lemke actually cited Luke 7:30 in connection with this verse as well. Both verses show the enemies of Christ resisting God. The Calvinist would add that this is true of all people, as everyone is naturally hostile toward God in their minds (Colossians 1:21). The question is how this natural resistance is overcome, to which the Calvinist appeal to effectual calling (on the basis of passages such as John 6:44). As Dr. Lemke himself notes, “Calvinists don’t deny people can resist the Holy Spirit in some situations, they believe the effectual call is irresistible.”

c. Covenant Theology

According to Dr. Lemke, Covenant Theology teaches that all ethnic Jews were among the elect. This is false: covenant theologians recognize that not all of Israel is Israel (Romans 9:6). Only those in Israel who had faith were among the elect. Dr. Lemke or anyone wishing to defend Lemke’s representation of Covenant Theology needs to cite some sources to support his/their assertions.

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2 Comments on “A Response to Dr. Steve Lemke’s Presentation on Irresistible Grace, Part 1. “People Resisting God.””

  1. Howard Says:

    “According to Dr. Lemke, Covenant Theology teaches that all ethnic Jews were among the elect. This is false: covenant theologians recognize that not all of Israel is Israel (Romans 9:6).”

    I agree. When are they going to cite sources? I have read Coxe’s work on this subject. I would think a man with a doctorate would know more than me. Apparently either he has and doesn’t understand the material, or he hasn’t read the material.


  2. “Nor would I think that Dr. Lemke would wish to assert that our response contributes to the provision of salvation, which is made by Christ alone.”

    I actually think this is exactly what he is proposing. The reasoning seems to be that God makes the provision of faith through Christ. The missing link in salvation is man’s contribution of belief to the sufferings of Christ. And though he might claim that Christ’s sacrifice was exaustively sufficient for salvation, he at the same time divides out of it the application, leaving it for man to work out himself.

    If application is not included in the sufficiency it is insufficient. Beyond that there seems to be a misunderstanding of what “application” means.

    At my blog Treasures Old and New (follow the link at my name), Joe White is contesting the fact that application is part of the sufficiency, following the same mold Lemke does. He obviously has been shaped by the kind of formula stated by Lemke in his “Nine Points of Agreement…”:

    Unconditional election is largely affirmed by Baptists, in the sense that all Baptists agree that salvation is by grace through faith, not by works. But while Baptists believe that salvation is wholly from God, they also believe that in the economy of God’s salvation He has chosen for human response to be prerequisite to actualizing salvation. Most Baptists view limited atonement as the least scriptural of the five affirmations (John 3:16-18, 1 Tim. 2:4-6; 4:10; 1 John 2:2), and this doctrine is rejected by most Baptists, except in a merely functional sense that Christ’s atonement is sufficient for all, but actualized only by the elect. Irresistible grace or effectual calling is also flatly denied by most Baptists, except for the affirmation that salvation is through grace alone.

    What is to be noted is the fact that atonement is not actually sufficient except that it provides for man’s choice to actualize salvation. Christ has not actually purchased anything real, instead, while redefining it as grace and not works, man’s effort is the true purchase price of salvation. While saying that salvation is by grace alone, the actualizing of it is not. In this, Lemke joins Rome against the protestation.


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