A brother in Christ recently sent me this quote in an email to which I include my reply:
Men choose their course by what seems to them a free will and they glory in the fact that they are wise enough to adjust themselves to circumstances, but God is the Author of circumstances.He may give latitude to men, but their sphere of freedom is never outside the larger sphere of His eternal purpose.The failure at this point with high Calvinists [hard determinism] arises from the fact that, in their zeal to defend the doctrine of divine sovereignty, they do not recognize how the very sovereignty of God in its out working utilizes the human will as its instrument, not, however, by any form of coercion, but by that form of persuasion which enlightens and engenders holy desires to which the will may respond and by which it may be motivated.Only tragic misconceptions have been the fruit of an extreme Calvinism which conceives of the human will as overpowered by God, and of a fallacious Arminianism which makes no place in its reckoning for the inherent, constitutional necessity of immediate divine action upon the human will before the right choice can be made at all.Lewis Sperry Chafer, American Theologian (1871-1952)
Thanks for sending this along! Can you give me the source for Chafer’s quote? I would have to say that I agree closely with this position. I have long-held to the dangers of categorizing oneself as being in the Arminian camp or the Calvinist camp. We should never define a Christianity and a faith, which supersedes by 1500 years these two well-respected men and their writings, with these anemic labels. I refuse to do it if for no other reason than the fact that a single label can conjure up all kinds of pre-conceived ideas and opinions about that moniker, whether real or imagined.
When I see Scripture as presenting two obvious truths in multiple places in the Bible, and good, God-fearing men of the Word in disagreement as to the conclusion that must be drawn from these truths, I then am apt to conclude that perhaps both are true. Such is the case with Jesus‘ humanity and divinity. He is fully human and fully God. How can that be? It is difficult to understand this paradox, but it is nonetheless true and something we all agree upon as a basic tenet of Orthodox Christianity. Jesus could not have pulled this off if he were not fully God first (from eternity past) but were only a man (at the incarnation) trying to be God.
Another example is the Trinity. Is God one God or is He three? The truth is that He is both, another paradox that challenges our ability to grasp fully intellectually. And so it is with the whole Sovereignty /Free Will debate about our salvation. Does God choose who will be His or do we have a part in the process with our own God-given free will? It is a difficult paradox to reconcile, but both are true I believe. And just as Jesus could never have become fully man, at the same time as being fully God, without first being fully God from eternity past, so too our salvation flows from God first as an act of His sovereign will. He, in His sovereignty granted us a will to choose to respond in faith to the conviction and “persuasion which enlightens and engenders holy desires to which the will may respond and by which it may be motivated”. It is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone! Make no mistake, only God saves us, not we ourselves. He gives us an opportunity as creatures created in His image to respond to His free gift of grace.
Just as a husband chooses to woo and court his bride-to be and then proffer a proposal, she must accept his proposal or they cannot be legally wed. So too, no matter how much this woman may want to become the wife of a man she may love and admire, until he proposes and carries through with his intent by choosing and then consummating union with her as his bride, there is nothing she can do to become his, though she may desperately seek it even at great lengths and with many tortured tears. Unless, of course, one believes in coerced or arranged marriage. But I think that we all see the Biblical picture painted of marriage as being one of mutual love and submission, where both husband and wife choose to spend the rest of their lives together, not out of coercion or duty, but out of love and desire and commitment. God (Our Husband-Jesus) initiates this relationship (and without this initiation it could not exist) and we (His Bride-The Church) respond willingly and joyfully and fully.
This to me is a much higher, more beatific view of God’s sovereignty than that of the “hard determinism” of high Calvinists and elevates His sovereignty to something more than just a “big stick”. His sovereignty rather becomes a marvelous and yet mysterious expression and out-working of His good and loving heart, the kind intention of His will! It also explains the paradox of scripture, which to any honest inquirer, reveals multiple verses which speak both of the primacy of God’s initiation and gracious gift being first necessary to bring about our salvation (and extended to the world at large-which it is said He “loved”) as well as of the exercise of our power to respond and choose, to see and believe the unseen (faith), and to enter into an eternally lasting relationship with our Creator.
This is a wondrous relationship based in spirit and truth. And such the Father seeks to be His worshippers; to be His children forever!