Patton wasn’t using the following so much as an argument but as a retelling of his own theological journey. What’s interesting about the story is that it offered several reasons of how people Know what they Know. I mean, Unconditional Election wasn’t proved point by point for Michael (at least not according to that post) but it was illustrated in a very compelling manner. Likewise, at twelve his mind was influenced by a specific interpretation by his mother, so psychologically speaking you can see where something like that would become important.
But I did want to post a counter illustration because the one Boice used (in Michael’s post) wound up being one of those stories that preachers (and professors) love to use that doesn’t prove anything. It’s an appeal to emotion by using unbalanced data and an unserviceable hypothetical.
Here’s my version based heavily on Boice’s:
Imagine this. Imagine yourself being in heaven and walking with the angels. One of them asks you, “I see your best friend isn’t here.”
You would say “Well, I got here by the grace of God alone.”
The angel responds and asks, “Well, I don’t understand. Why are you here and your best friend is not?”
You say, “Because God had mercy on me a sinner.”
“Yes, but,” the angel replies, “What makes your friend so different? He’s a sinner too: why is he in hell and you not?”
If you are a Calvinist you would ultimately say “I don’t know why God had mercy on me. I do know that I was elect and my best friend wasn’t: he’s in hell because God thought that was for the best.”
“When did God decide that?”
“Before the foundation of the world.”
“Wait,” says the Angel “Are you saying that your friend isn’t here because the Eternal and Holy God damned your friend before he even existed and you are here, strutting about because God chose you over everyone else?”
“Well I wouldn’t put it that way. You’re drawing a logical conclusion from a system that has theological boundaries. I can’t technically say–”
“Wait, wait: you’re actually saying that the Eternal and Holy God who sent His only begotten Son to rescue humanity and all of creation decided, before humanity existed, that humanity consisted of only an elect few and the rest He damned to an eternity of torture. Why on heaven would He do that?”
“For His good pleasure of course. But you see, He saved sinners–”
The Angel here takes a step back, one of his six wings covering his face “Well now I know that Eternal and Holy God indeed had mercy on sinners. How you can impugn His character and still receive His mercy instead of His wrath is beyond me. ”
The point is this: the illustration offers no good reason to accept monergism or deny it. How can we possibly know that an Arminian in heaven would say “I’m in heaven, ultimately because I believed and got here”? An Arminian might say a plethora of things (just as my Calvinist did above). “Ultimately” the Arminian’s mouth might be rendered shut and he’d resort to Scripture to cling to. He could say: “God saved me a sinner, by grace through faith.” The Arminian might even say “God had mercy on me a sinner even on the weakness of my faith which was nothing but the blind grasping of a drowning man.” The Calvinist might say “Because Christ’s blood only paid for me” or might robotically intone “I. Speak. Only. The words. That. The Holy Spirit. Has elected. For Me. To speak. Now that I. Am. Perfected.” Leaving the angel staring in horror at the automaton wondering if he’s on the wrong side.
Or not. You see it’s an illustration: a good writer (which I am not) can do (and teach) anything with it.
One reply on “Calvinism Illustrated”
[…] Calvinism Illustrated […]