Thursday, November 11, 2010

"A Cooperative Union"

Today, my theology class studied 2 Timothy. The professor recommended that we take time to read through it at least once a year from here on out. In his words, it would “aid you greatly in your ministry.”
The most interesting thing about his read of 2 Timothy was his commentary on 2 Timothy 1:12-14. I’ll place the text here:
“For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day. Hold fast the pattern of sound words which you have heard from me, in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:12-14, NKJV).
For many, these verses have been used to argue for eternal security. Molinist author Ken Keathley writes:
“Paul gives the two aspects of assurance of salvation when he states, ‘For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day’ (2 Tim 1:12 KJV). The apostle affirms that (1) A PERSON CAN KNOW WITH CERTAINTY THAT HE IS PRESENTLY SAVED (‘For I know whom I have believed’), and that (2) HE CAN KNOW WITH CERTAINTY HE WILL REMAIN SAVED (‘and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day’)” (Ken Keathley, “Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach.” Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 2010, page 165).
It is not the first fact Keathley quotes regarding Paul’s affirmation that I disagree with; rather, it is the second fact he deduces from Paul’s statement. Now before I go further, let me state that I too, as did Arminius, affirm that a person can have assurance of their salvation, that someone can know they are saved. Regarding assurance of salvation, Arminius himself had this to say:
“With regard to the certainty [or assurance] of salvation, my opinion is, that it is possible for him who believes in Jesus Christ to be certain and persuaded, and, IF HIS HEART CONDEMN HIM NOT, HE IS NOW IN REALITY ASSURED, that he is a Son of God, and stands in the grace of Jesus Christ. SUCH A CERTAINTY IS WROUGHT IN THE MIND, AS WELL BY THE ACTION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT INWARDLY ACTUATING THE BELIEVER AND BY THE FRUITS OF FAITH,---AS FROM HIS OWN CONSCIENCE, AND THE TESTIMONY OF GOD’S SPIRIT WITNESSING TOGETHER WITH HIS CONSCIENCE. I also believe, that it is possible for such a person, with an assured confidence in the grace of God and his mercy in Christ, to depart out of this life, and to appear before the throne of grace, without any anxious fear or dread...” (James Arminius in his “Declaration of Sentiments,” from “Works” I: 667).
Yet and still, the same Arminius that affirmed such a strong assurance of salvation also wrote the following after the above statement:
“...and yet this person should constantly pray, ‘O LORD, ENTER NOT INTO JUDGMENT WITH THY SERVANT!” (Arminius, “Works” I: 667).
The first portion of Arminius’s quote above shows what factors (for Arminius) combined to produce a certainty of one’s salvation: (1) one’s heart does not condemn the individual; (2) the conscience is certain of one’s salvation before God; (3) the Holy Spirit testifying with the conscience of the individual; and (4) the fruits of faith. It is the last one of the four (the fruits of faith) which is where Calvinists, Molinists, and Arminians find common ground. We all believe that fruits are necessary for one to have any assurance of salvation whatsoever. However, I’ve not seen a Calvinist or Molinist write regarding the individual conscience and heart like Arminius did. Calvin and Luther had things to say about the heart and mind toward God, but few Calvinists and Molinists do today.
Back to the point of the Arminius quote regarding assurance of salvation: one can be assured of his salvation, but not one-hundred percent guaranteed. In other words, “assurance” and “guarantee” are two different things in Arminius’s theology. And I agree with him. The Bible speaks plainly of assurance...but never do we ever find the word “guarantee” used in the Scriptures. Those translations that attempt to substitute the word “guarantee” for the Greek word “arrabon” do a great injustice to the biblical text. The word “arrabon” means “down payment” in Ephesians 1:14. The New King James Version is guilty of this, as are other translations out there. If you know of any, feel free to comment on them in the comments section. That would help me further my theological studies.
Molinists use 2 Timothy 1:12 as a way of arguing a “guarantee.” In Keathley’s quote, however, he substitutes the word “certainty” for “guarantee.” How can I know this? Look at the second fact he believes Paul affirms: “he can know with certainty HE WILL REMAIN SAVED” (Keathley, 165). How can one know this? Because, to Molinists and Calvinists, God “unconditionally elects” individuals to salvation. In other words, one can know they will remain saved because God picked them; God is the one who decided they would go to heaven against everything their actions say to God. All that matters is that God decreed their election. They are guaranteed final salvation because of the eternal decree. But once again, I ask, how can we know of an eternal decree when the Bible never speaks of such a decree? Eventually, it becomes clear that many believers advocate eternal security because of philosophical notions about God which may or may not be true. But I would love to see them admit their philosophical notions and stop planting them onto Scripture.
In any case, I was pleased to hear that my professor espoused an awesome interpretation of 2 Timothy 1:12 in class today. My professor read verses 12-14 and then responded in the following manner:
“Notice that prior to it [verse 14] Paul expresses confidence in God regarding ‘guarding’ or ‘keeping’ that which Paul committed to Him. There are several places in the New Testament where GOD AND MAN WORK TOGETHER IN A COOPERATIVE UNION. It’s not an ‘either’ man ‘or’ God situation. It’s not either man working or God zapping us. It’s God keeping what we give to Him, and us keeping what He has entrusted to us. He gives, we keep; we give, He keeps.”
These words were like music to my ears because they are the words of Classic Arminian theology. We hold to the same notion of both God and man working in salvation: that is, that God purchases our salvation but we must receive it by faith. Arminius goes on to comment on this cooperative union of God and man in his Disputation XLII:
“The Antecedent or Inly-moving Cause is, the grace, mercy and philanthropy of God, by which He is inclined to succour the misery of sinful man and to bestow blessedness upon him. But the Disposing Cause is, the wisdom and the justice of God, by which it is proper for this vocation to be administered, and by which He wills to dispense it as it is proper and right” (Disputation XLII, Sec. III, “On the Vocation of Sinful Men to Christ, and To A Participation of Salvation In Him,” “Works” II: 396).
God is the first cause of salvation. It is because God desires to save us from our sins and eternal damnation that He bestow His kindness upon us through grace. Grace itself is a condition, without which, no one could come to faith (Eph. 2:8-9).
However, there is a second cause, which is the acceptance or rejection of such grace via the sinner:
“The accidental [per accidens] issue of vocation is, the rejection of the doctrine of grace, contempt of the divine counsel, and resistance manifested against the Holy Spirit; of which the proper and per se cause is, the wickedness and hardness of the human heart: and to this not unfrequently is added the just judgment of God avenging the contempt shewn to his word; from which arise blindness of mind, hardening of the heart, and a delivering up to a reprobate [sensum] mind, and to the power of Satan” (James Arminius, “Disputation XLII: On the Vocation of Sinful Men to Christ, and To A Participation of Salvation In Him,” II: 397).
Arminius’s last words reveal that, although the grace of God desires that all be saved, God will not save the person WITHOUT THE PERSON! Grace itself can be rejected, and the individual can resist the Holy Spirit and the grace that the Spirit provides. Arminius stated that the direct result of the sinner’s rejection of the Spirit and His grace is “blindness of mind, hardening of the heart, and a delivering up to a reprobate mind, and to the power of Satan.” Arminius’s words here refer to Paul’s words in Romans regarding those who have knowledge of God but do not give God the glory that is due His name: “because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and THEIR FOOLISH HEARTS WERE DARKENED...and even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, GOD GAVE THEM OVER TO A DEBASED MIND, to do those things which are not fitting” (Romans 1:21, 28, NKJV).
The goal of this post was to show that Scripture itself attests to the nature of God’s grace as wooing or cooperative, not overwhelming or irresistible; and to also point out that God and man work together, as my professor said, in “a cooperative union.” When will Calvinists and Molinists learn that, whenever they find the sovereignty of God, Arminians will continue to find divine sovereignty and human responsibility side-by-side?

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