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.