“Paul teaches that God granted people grace before creation: ‘God...saved us...not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began (2 Tim. 1:8-9). That is, before we even existed, let alone did anything good or bad, God placed his love upon us. The same passage teaches that election is based on God’s purpose and grace, NOT ON ANYTHING HUMAN BEINGS DO. This teaching does not fit with the Arminian idea that GOD CHOOSES BASED ON HIS FOREKNOWLEDGE OF FAITH IN HIS SON” (Robert A. Peterson, “Election and Free Will: God’s Gracious Choice and Our Responsibility.” Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2007, pp. 101-102).
Today’s post will tackle head-on a charge that has been leveled against all Arminians (whether Classical Arminian, modern Arminian, or Open Theist). The charge that Arminians have been given is that they believe that salvation comes as a result of human merit.
As Peterson states above, election is “not [based] on anything human beings do.” And then he says that God does not elect “based on His foreknowledge of faith in His Son.” The connection between work and faith is so clear here that one would have to be all too optimistic to see it in the Calvinist stance.
I’m all for seeing the holes in arguments; after all, I maintain a blog here on theological studies----and I attack bad argumentation all the time. However, what I desire most is to see true attacks that make a good case against one side or another...not bad attacks. If you’re gonna attack an argument, have a good exegetical reason to do so.
I think this is where Calvinists fail. When they come to the issue of faith, they label it as “human merit.” However, Scripture is very clear about the distinction between work and faith:
“Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who DOES NOT WORK but BELIEVES ON HIM WHO JUSTIFIES THE UNGODLY, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Romans 4:4-5, NKJV).
In the verses prior to four and five of Romans chapter 4, Paul discusses the justification of Abraham and makes it clear that Abraham was not justified by works (v.2). Instead, he was justified by faith: “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness” (Rom. 4:3, Gen. 15:6). Faith is clearly presented here as something which is OPPOSED TO WORK, so faith cannot be a work (for they are not the same thing).
Abraham believed God, and this happened BEFORE HE WAS CIRCUMCISED. Paul’s point is to say that the law is not what justified Abraham, but faith in God to make good on His promise to Abraham.
If God has promised that our faith will “is accounted for righteousness,” (Rom. 4:5), and faith is a work, then the Lord has not been honest with those who believe. However, God is true, and if He is, then we can trust that there is a distinction between faith and work.
God in His sovereignty comes to man bringing salvation; but He will not make any man receive it against His will. I hope that, in the future, Reformed writers such as Robert Peterson and others will think twice before they continue to label “faith” as a “work.”