Monday, August 13, 2012

Middle Knowledge Response to "Salvation is up to man" Argument

Many Calvinists argue that if conversion is free in a libertarian sense, then we have some role in if we end up saved or not, an so we get some credit for ending up saved.  Now the simplest line of response is we play a role in believing, but not in salvation.  Believing does not save and believers would still go to hell, were it not for God's mercy.

However, the lingering problem is that given God's decision, to save believers and offer of salvation, God obligates Himself to save believers.  Given this covenant, God should save believers and it would be morally wrong not to.  Consider Hebrews 6:

13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself,14 saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” 15 And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise. 16 For people swear by something greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation. 17 So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he guaranteed it with an oath, 18 so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us. 19 We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, a hope that enters into the inner place behind the curtain, 20 where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

This passage does teach the rock solid nature of God's promises, such that God is somewhat "locked in".  Given His promise, He is morally obligated to save believers and if we believe and take God up on the grace He offers, we are putting God in a position where morally He should save us.  

So God's promise makes the situation similar to legalism.  Per legalism, if we have enough good works, God should give us eternal life.  But given God's promise, if we believe, God should give us eternal life. 

One line of response it to argue the problem is non-unique.  Per Calvinism, believing is our action not God's. Per Calvinism, we are responsible for our actions.  So per Calvinism, we are responsible for our faith. However, this only spreads the problem, it doesn't solve it. 

Another more promising line of response is that what God promises is mercy and so what He gives is mercy.  So salvation is still mercy.  This is true, but it seems to create a contradiction rather than solve the problem.  God morally has to give something He doesn't morally have to give.

I wonder if open theists or those holding to simple foreknowledge have much more to offer by way of response, but middle knowledge is not done yet.

The real problem is treating God's decision to offer mercy to believers as separable from God's decision to have mercy on Joe and Timmy and Sue, who are believers.  While these events are separated by time and logically one helps explain the other - they need not be ontologically separate events in God's mind.  God knew who would believe if offered salvation through faith when deciding to offer salvation through faith or not.  The objection attempts to prize apart God's unified purpose and pit the elements against each other.  But on the other hand, if per simple foreknowledge or open theism, God did not know who would believe if offered salvation through faith, then God was not deciding to save Joe, Timmy and Sue while choosing to offer salvation to believers.  Hence, per open theism and simple foreknowledge, conversion does seem to prompt God to save. 

William Lane Craig said middle knowledge is one of the more fruitful theological concepts he has come across and he has used it to explain things like perseverance of the saints, inspiration of scripture and Christian particularism.  I agree and see it here explaining how God gets all the credit for salvation, even though we believe.

11 comments:

SLW said...

I don't see the issue whatsoever. God did not offer salvation to believers, he offered salvation to sinners through the universal provision of Christ. Nothing is offered to believers at all. Belief is merely trusting that provision to work. Why would anyone think a cure or resolution would be of any benefit to any one who didn't rely upon it?

Furthermore, there is no obligation on the part of God in the provision of Christ, for that implies something yet to do. The provision was complete before any offer was proffered, at least widely.

What am I missing?

Godismyjudge said...

Hi SLW,

I do think Christians naturally see salvation as 100% of God. It's not that people are running around bragging that they saved themselves, but rather a question of consistency. It it consistent to say salvation is of the Lord and also say given God's promise, He has to save believers?

God does promise to save whoever believes. So the question isn't some much one of if those don't take medicine remain sick, but rather does taking the medicine lead to the cure. Since there is a connection between taking medicine and feeling better; taking medicine is partly responsible for feeling better.

What is needed is an understanding that taking the medicine does not make you feel better. The medicine doesn't fit the illness. It's like taking Tylenol for cancer. Rather, God moves in an miraculously removes the illness.

Grace and mercy can't be something God has to give. It can't be forced or morally obligatory. It has to be something God can not give without injustice. That's why I avoid a medicine/cure type connection in describing the relationship between faith and justification. Faith is not the cause of justification, but sometimes it looks like a cause because with faith you are justified and without it you are not. But between faith and justification is God's free act of grace and mercy - an act He could have not done without injustice.

God be with you,
Dan







SLW said...

But the Calvinist objection doesn't hold water, and doesn't force Arminians to explain anything.

It would be sophistry to suggest that once God has said something that he isn't obligated to do as he says. All that matters in properly designating whether or not what he says befits the description of mercy and grace is determining whether or not he had any obligation to say it in the first place. If nothing compels the promise to be given, then it does not matter that the promise becomes obligatory to fulfill.

As long as Arminians do not posit that God was obligated to offer salvation to sinner in the first place, or that faith caused God to send his only Son, our approach to efficacious faith cannot be seen in legalistic terms.

Godismyjudge said...

Hey SLW,

Granted the C's objection doesn't hold water - in the end. I still like understanding it just to understand it.

Ultimately I agree with you, but maybe we have some differences in the details.

"As long as Arminians do not posit that God was obligated to offer salvation to sinner in the first place, or that faith caused God to send his only Son, our approach to efficacious faith cannot be seen in legalistic terms."

OK, so let's look at an example. Let's said a radio program has a ticket giveaway to the first caller. I do think they have somewhat of a legal obligation, once they have made the offer, to provide the tickets. And while the tickets are still in some sense a gift, in another sense they are "won". Also, some callers learn how to game the system and get good at calling at the right time.

So these are the lingering concerns with this gift. It's a legal obligation won by skillful contestant. Promising a gift to kids who get good grades is similar - though it's a moral obligation rather than a legal one.

Do you see how those situation are different then say a station who, without promotion, gives away free tickets to the first caller, or a parent who without any promise, buys something for the kid with good grades?

God be with you,
Dan


SLW said...

Dan,
Where the ticket giveaway breaks down is that not everyone who responds gets a ticket. Salvation is offered to all, all who call get saved. To be analogous to salvation, everyone who calls, regardless of when would have to be awarded tickets. I don't see anyway to make the illustration of money for good grades analogous. That will always be legalistic.

That said, is God obligated to save all that call? Well, yes because he, unbidden, made that provision and promise in Christ. The only thing that distinguishes the "winners" from the "losers" is that the winners bothered to call whereas the losers didn't want the prize. I wouldn't have a problem with the winners saying they have a ticket because they called anymore than I have a problem with the saved saying they were saved because they called on the name of the Lord. Everyone who walks through the pearly gates will honestly be able to say the are doing so because they believed on Christ (as I think you said even a Calvinist would admit in the post).

Saying that is not mutually exclusive or antipathetic to saying, "I am saved because Jesus died and rose for my justification." They would merely be two sides of the same coin.

Godismyjudge said...

SLW,

OK, I agree that changing the example so all callers get's the tickets is closer to salvation. But my point was more basic. Just because it's a gift does not mean there is not a legal obligation. The change (all callers get tickets) only minimizes the callers role, but it doesn't get rid of the fact that calling in creates a legal obligation. So in the end, the modification helps but doesn't solve completely.

"I wouldn't have a problem with the winners saying they have a ticket because they called anymore than I have a problem with the saved saying they were saved because they called on the name of the Lord. Everyone who walks through the pearly gates will honestly be able to say the are doing so because they believed on Christ (as I think you said even a Calvinist would admit in the post)."

I am a little hesitant here because I think there's two ways to take "because they believed". If we mean faith is a cause, such that given faith, God had to save us, then I wouldn't say that. But if we mean it's a condition, such that given faith, God freely choose to save (an act He could have not done without injustice), then yes, it's true.

God be with you,
Dan

SLW said...

Dan,
Just because it's a gift does not mean there is not a legal obligation.

Perhaps, but a legal obligation implies a demand enforceable by one party upon another regardless of desire. It is something that can be held over the head of the one obligated. No part of salvation meets those qualifications: God invented the construct of salvation by grace through faith, God took the initiative to enact it, God made the good-faith offer of salvation, God wants that offer accepted by all men, God motivates the accepters of it to accept by an inward motivation of the Holy Spirit, God rejoices when they do accept, and he regenerates them upon acceptance. To see anything similar to a legal obligation in salvation, one has to artificially segregate the response of faith in the believer from the totality of salvation, or to ignore the role of the Holy Spirit in making it possible. That is such an artificial treatment, it offers no better understanding of what salvation is, and serves no interest, really, other than propping up a defected soteriological system known as Calvinism. The exercise is one of making a categorization that is not valid.

Is God beholden to his Word? Yes, absolutely, that is the entire basis of faith. It is the essential assessment of God's character in the mind of the faithful necessary in order to react with true faith. Faith is really a trust reaction to God's word, one that scripture does not allow to be equated with works (actions, achievements enacted by the worker). Our reaction to God's word doesn't force God's word to be enacted, God's nature does, even if faith is a determiner of who is benefited by a promise of that word. To say that faith is the cause of the benefit, in effect double counts the effect of faith, making it self-referent, while diminishing the impetus of God's word. That being said, God has obligated himself to save those who trust in Christ, and that is true regardless of what soteriological system one might follow. All that is left to dicker with, it seems to me, is where faith comes from.

Godismyjudge said...

SLW,

I do think "artificial segregation" is the issue. But what unites God's two acts (promising to save believers and saving this person, who is a believer)? I offer middle knowledge has providing a tighter union between the two, because He knows who would believe while deciding to save believers.

Non middle-knowledge (and non Calvinistic) approaches are going to be less clear as to how these two acts hold together - opening themselves up to the charge of the two being separable.

God be with you,
Dan

credulo said...

Hey! It's a good argument indeed!

I always contend with Calvinists when I say that God is not morally obliged to save anyone, even the believer only because he is believer.

This argument solves the classical 'conditions are meritorious' Calvinist contention, also. Am I right?

Godismyjudge said...

Hey Credulo,

Glad you like it. Yes, it's meant to address that argument. I always saw that something was wrong with the argument, but now I think I have a clearer view of exactly where it goes off course.

God be with you,
Dan

bantal silikon-b said...

http://bantalsilikon01.blogspot.com/
jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal jual bantal

sangkar jual sangkar jual sangkar jual sangkar jual sangkar jual sangkar jual sangkar jual

anne
cd anne jelita brenda anne caca tasya ruth
bantal web bantal bantal silikon pembicara hellow
bumbu bumbu bumbu bumbu bumbu distro distro