I’m reading through Tell The Truth by Will Metzger for an evangelism class in school. He’s a pretty strong Calvinist, but from that position he makes a very thorough case for evangelism. I agree with much of what he says. I love the comfort and boldness that comes from an understanding that God is the one changing hearts. He is the one responsible for the outcome of our evangelism. I can share my faith and the story of Jesus freely and rest knowing that God brings the increase.
However, Metzger occasionally throws in some fairly heavy reformed theology, attempting to convince the reader to adopt it. He argues for predestination under the assumption that his readers don’t already believe it and that it’s hard to understand. Those are probably good assumptions, but the way he does it comes across rather odd sometimes. In chapter 10 he focuses almost exclusively on predestination. God saves individuals that he chooses to save based on His unknowable good pleasure.
I’m just barely beginning to kick this idea around, but why does it seem like the Calvinist doesn’t allow anyone to speculate about God’s good pleasure? It’s ok to say God’s ways are not our ways, and we can’t possibly understand, but if we throw out some possibilities for why God chooses people, we are somehow cheapening grace. A Wesleyan would argue that God chooses people because they will respond in faith. The truth is they do respond in faith. To the Calvinist though, this subjugates God’s sovereignty and free grace to the condition of the faith-choice in the person. It makes God’s will a slave to man’s. I understand that argument, but doesn’t any reasonable articulation of what could possibly be the source of God’s good pleasure subjugate his sovereignty to some factor outside of Himself, albeit a factor that He Himself has chosen?
For instance, say it was God’s good pleasure to save everyone with a taste for classical music. A love of mozart was the basis for salvation. Let’s go further and say that God implants this dormant love in the hearts of those he will save at birth. It will blossom in college and God will grant salvation to them. God chooses the criteria. In this example, God hasn’t really chosen criteria for saving people. He has simply chosen people through an affinity for classical music. The “why does God choose people” question still hasn’t been answered. The Calvinist responds “we don’t know.” That doesn’t mean that a reason doesn’t exist however. If there is no reason, if God is just throwing darts at a board full of faces, isn’t he capricious? Isn’t he just playing with souls?
I think Calvinists believe that there is a reason why some are saved and others aren’t, that’s why they use “God’s good pleasure” in the first place. When I say I choose to eat blueberries because of my good pleasure, it’s because there are characteristics of blueberries that I prefer over strawberries. I don’t choose strawberries because there are things lacking in strawberries. I choose blueberries because of the things about blueberries that I like. That’s what “my good pleasure” means. That there are reasons behind choices is implied by the statement.
For some reason though, the Calvinist can’t have anyone listing the reasons behind God’s choices, because that somehow lessens God. Scripture however is pretty clear that God is looking for faith in people. I believe that God has known who will possess that faith since before time began. He has chosen us from before the foundation of the world. I don’t think that makes Him any less sovereign. If anything, it makes Him more sovereign. He is discriminating in His choosing based on solid criteria that He Himself has come up with. Saying that God gives us the faith and then chooses us doesn’t protect God’s sovereignty, it just pushes His real reason for choosing people farther back and forces us to either speculate about what that reason could be, or in the case of Metzger, just say we don’t know any glory in His grace anyway.
I think we should definitely glory in His grace, but when we ask the question, “why does God save people,” scripture tells us that it’s because they have faith in Him. To ignore that solid reason in favor of some unknown one deeper in the mind of God (not that there aren’t many things deep in the mind of God that we can’t know) seems a little forced.
So, that’s my little soteriology rant today. Thank you for joining me.