Does Dortian Calvinism have weight of Scripture in its favor? (Part 3)

In the article “Does Dortian Calvinism have weight of Scripture in its favor?” found in the August 2, 2007 edition of The Alabama Baptist state paper, Dr. James Leo Garrett, Jr. of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas states that his goal is “to inquire whether the tenets of Dortian Calvinism are indeed supported by Scripture.” Ostensibly, Dr. Garrett seeks to examine the traditional “five points” of Calvinism, as expressed in the acronym “TULIP,” which stands for “Total depravity, Unconditional election, Limited atonement, Irresistible grace, and the Perseverance of the saints.” In Part 1 and Part 2 of this post, I have responded to Dr. Garrett’s presentation of Limited atonement and his argument for General atonement. (Limited atonement is mentioned first in Dr. Garrett’s treatment, and is given more space, and understandably so, because this is the most obviously controversial doctrine of the traditional “five points”.) In this post, I will address the remainder of Dr. Garrett’s article.

After addressing the “L” of “TULIP,” Dr. Garrett dedicates the next portion of his article to avoiding the “T”. As SBF blogger Timmy Brister pointed out, Dr. Garrett never addresses “Total depravity” in any of the six articles he wrote on this subject for The Alabama Baptist, except in “Calvinism: What does it mean?” where he basically asserts that it is a non-issue. In the section where a discussion of “Total depravity” would most naturally be found, Dr. Garrett instead discusses whether repentance and faith are duties, concluding, “Those not committed to Dortian Calvinism do not have to prove that repentance and faith are in no sense the gift of God. They only have to prove that repentance and faith are also duties or obligations resting on human beings.” But if “those not committed to Dortian Calvinism” do “prove that repentance and faith are also duties,” etc., then they have done nothing other than what “Dortian Calvinists” have already done centuries ago. For, as mentioned before, “Dortian Calvinism” has always recognized faith and repentance as “human duties,” as obvious from reading Canons of Dort, quoted from below [emphases added]:

The cause or blame for this unbelief, as well as for all other sins, is not at all in God, but in man” (1.5).

“However, that many who have been called through the gospel do not repent or believe in Christ but perish in unbelief is not because the sacrifice of Christ offered on the cross is deficient or insufficient, but because they themselves are at fault” (2.6).

“The fact that many who are called through the ministry of the gospel do not come and are not brought to conversion must not be blamed on the gospel, nor on Christ, who is offered through the gospel, nor on God, who calls them through the gospel and even bestows various gifts on them, but on the people themselves who are called.” (3/4.9)

It is only Hyper-Calvinists- enemies of the Great Commission- who deny faith is a duty and that we should command people everywhere to repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.

Dr. Garrett addresses “Irresistible grace,” distinguishing between the outward call of God, which is through the proclamation of the Gospel, and the inward call of God, by which He applies the outward call to the heart of those who will believe. Dr. Garrett then abruptly jumps to the conclusion, “We should never tell an unbeliever who scorns the message of the gospel that he or she can never be saved. Remember how the unbelieving, persecuting Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle!” All I can say to that is, “Amen!” If this statement is meant to be an argument against Calvinism- against the idea that God may irresistibly call those who are opposed to Him, then I suppose that the situation with the thief on the cross is an effective argument against salvation by grace apart from works.

In his treatment of “Unconditional election,” Dr. Garrett indicates that he believes “the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition has over-individualized the doctrine of election. He basically asserts that Romans chapter 9 is about nations, an understanding of the text that Dr. James White has thoroughly debunked HERE.

Dr. Garrett does not examine “Perseverance of the saints” as he notes, “most Southern Baptists hold to this doctrine.”

The following is a line-by-line response to Dr. Garrett’s conclusion to this article:

“significant biblical support can be gathered for general atonement and for repentance and faith as being human duties.”

-Biblical support for general atonement is dependent upon verses wrenched out of context, and the fact that repentance and faith are human duties is irrelevant, as “Dortian Calvinists” have always believed this.

“irresistible grace rests on a differentiation of external call and internal call that obscures the resistance to the external call.”

-How does “Irresistible grace” necessarily obscure “the resistance to the external call”? This assertion has nowhere been proven in this article.

“It is also clear that unconditional election of individuals may obscure the collective meaning of an elect people and setting an exact number for the elect can be misused.”

-I’m sure that the above statement is true, but this does not mean that we should therefore neglect the biblical teaching concerning the unconditional election of individuals. This is analogous to the Roman Catholic objection that “grace alone” will obscure the need for good works. I would also like to add that the term “an exact number for the elect” may be misleading- whereas we are certain that God knows “an exact number of the elect,” no one should think that any “Dortian Calvinist” claims to be privy to this number.

In my next post, I hope to examine some statements Dr. Garrett has written concerning Charles Spurgeon and John Piper.

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3 Comments on “Does Dortian Calvinism have weight of Scripture in its favor? (Part 3)”

  1. genembridges Says:

    It’s also important to note some elementary distinctions that he assumes but does not argue for:

    Grace is necessary but insufficient.

    Ability limits responsibility.

    Grace is quantitative not qualitative.

    Also, I’d point out too that Tom Schreiner has responded to the “corporate election/nations” argument re: Romans 9 here:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qa3817/is_200606/ai_n17176281

  2. Thomas Twitchell Says:

    Gene,

    Helpful here would be an extended definition of grace.

    Is grace a thing or an act?

    If it is one and not the other, what difference does that make to the discussion? If it is both?

    How does grace in regeneration differ from grace in sanctification?

  3. genembridges Says:

    The standard definition of grace in Reformed theology really is “God’s unmeritied favor.” However, it’s really twofold, depending on the context of the discussion. It can mean “God’s unmerited favor” (A) or “empowerment” (B). A is a necessary condition for B.

    Regeneration is grace is monergistic, and there is some discussion as to whether to construe sanctification as monergistic or synergistic. Strictly speaking, sanctification is a result of “irresistible grace” as “perseverance of the saints.” So, it’s root is monergistic, but it has generally be construed as synergistic, insofar as regeneration (that is the wider sense – a person converted is said to be regenerate), keeps us teachable but it does not do the studying, practicing, growing in the faith for us.


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