Lead a group of men in my church through this book. A lot of them found the initial chapters a bit more difficult to weigh through. I would agree that part 1 felt more polemical, and could feel a bit more technical or abstract for those less familiar with this sort of writing or subject matter. However, part 2 seems to take a shift in tone. In these latter chapters especially, one of the things I appreciated about this book was the doxological tone and orientation naturally woven throughout. As I read, I found myself experiencing gratitude to God and standing in awe of Christ. I believe this book originally came out of a series of lectures Murray delivered (?). And it certainly reads like that. It feels a bit different in that way from other systematic treatments of soteriology. Very insightful and well done.
“We believe that election is the eternal purpose of God according to which he effectually regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners, not on the basis of anything foreseen in them, but solely based on his free and sovereign grace. We believe that this election comprehends all the means connected with its end such that the salvation of all who trust in Christ is guaranteed, that by God’s unfailing grace all genuine believers will persevere in faith unto full and complete salvation.” – SCC Statement of Faith
In Exegetical Fallacies, D.A. Carson dismantles an analogy by which Donald Lakes seeks to deny alleged differences between the Arminian and Calvinist understandings of grace. Carson then counters with an example of his own that helpfully exemplifies the difference that is truly at play.
Donald M. Lake, for example, in attempting to argue that grace is no weaker in an Arminian system than in a Reformed system, offers us the analogy of a judge who condemns a guilty criminal and then offers him a pardon. Although the man must accept it, such acceptance, argues Lake, cannot be thought of as a meritorious work, a work that in any sense makes the man deserving of salvation. “Calvin and later Calvinists,” he adds, “never seem to be able to see this fundamental distinction unfortunately!”
But to argue that the role of grace in the two systems is not different, Lake would have to change his analogy. He would need to picture a judge rightly condemning ten criminals, and offering each of them pardon. Five of them accept the pardon, the other five reject it (the relative numbers are not important). But in this model, even though those who accept the pardon do not earn it, and certainly enjoy their new freedom because of the judge’s “grace,” nevertheless they are distinguishable from those who reject the offer solely on the basis of their own decision to accept the pardon. The only thing that separates them from those who are carted off to prison is the wisdom of their own choice. That becomes a legitimate boast. By contrast, in the Calvinistic scheme, the sole determining factor is God’s elective grace. Thus, although both systems appeal to grace, the role and place of grace in the two systems are rather different. Lake fails to see this because he has drawn an inadequate analogy; or, more likely, the inadequacy of his chosen analogy demonstrates he has not understood the issue.
D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, 2nd ed. (Carlisle, U.K.; Grand Rapids, MI: Paternoster; Baker Books, 1996), 121–122.
The following was originally formulated in partial fulfillment for the requirements of an independent study course on Reformed Baptist heritage for completion of the M.Div. at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Deerfield, IL, November 2014.
This passage exists within The Institutes of the Christian Religion’s third book entitled “The mode of obtaining the grace of Christ. The benefits it confers, and the effects resulting from it” (especially note the “benefits” and “effects” “resulting from” grace received). In this section Calvin seeks to refute the idea that the reformers “destroy good works, and give encouragement to sin” by their doctrine of justification by faith alone. On the contrary, Calvin desires to prove that “justification by faith establishes the necessity of good works” (emphasis mine).
Our last sentence may refute the impudent calumny of certain ungodly men, who charge us, first, with destroying good works and leading men away from the study of them, when we say, that men are not justified, and do not merit salvation by works; and, secondly, with making the means of justification too easy, when we say that it consists in the free remission of sins, and thus alluring men to sin to which they are already too much inclined. These calumnies, I say, are sufficiently refuted by that one sentence; however, I will briefly reply to both. The allegation is that justification by faith destroys good works. … They pretend to lament that when faith is so highly extolled, works are deprived of their proper place. But what if they are rather ennobled and established? We dream not of a faith which is devoid of good works, nor of a justification which can exist without them: the only difference is, that while we acknowledge that faith and works are necessarily connected, we, however, place justification in faith, not in works. Continue reading