I have been reading some conversations taking place between Jonathan Moorhead, Todd and H.K. Flynn at Jonathan’s blog. The subject of faith and boasting came up. It seems from the Calvinist point of view, if one says that everyone can believe or have faith in the gospel message, but some do not, then those who do, can boast. Did that make any sense? In other words, the “doctrines of grace” (Calvinism) teach that no one can believe in the gospel unless God regenerates the heart first, then they see the truth, believe and receive, and are saved. This all happens because God chose them before the foundation of the world. The only way we believe and receive is if we are chosen. Therefore we cannot boast that we have faith, because we only have faith because we are chosen. If we don’t believe in this theology, then we set ourselves up for boasting because we were wise enough or insightful enough to believe the message, and therefore we must be better than the unsaved person ... so says the Calvinist.
I decided to do a search on the word boast. I found a lot!
… he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. (Romans 3:26-28)
Paul is, as usual, contrasting faith and law or works. If we are saved by faith, what have we to be proud of? We cannot say we have worked our way to heaven. We can only cast ourselves on God’s mercy when we have faith that He will save, that He can save. Does Paul think that we can boast of our “faith” in Christ as being some special insight we have in and of ourselves? I think not.
What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (Romans 4:1-3)
Paul again sites “believing God” as being nothing to boast about.
Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man's strength.
Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him. It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." (1 Corinthians 1: 20-31)
In that passage, Paul says we should and can boast – in the Lord! He chose the weak, lowly and despised so that there is no boasting. The gospel message is for the weak. It is not for him who thinks himself to be alright and righteous. The preaching of the gospel does not appeal to our pride ... quite the opposite. We can only boast of all that God has done by reconciling us to Himself through Christ, not by any work that we have done to gain favor. I don’t see the passage saying that if we believe the gospel, we have something to boast about. It says quite the opposite.
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. 1For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:8-10)
This is probably the verse that the Calvinist would point to most of all to make his assertion that we could boast of our faith if the faith is not a gift given only to the chosen. I have read where they say that the verse speaks of faith as the gift. Taking the verse apart, I don’t see how that can be. What do you think? It seems to me that salvation by grace is the gift spoken of. We see two phrases, “it is the gift of God” and “not by works” – these two phrases are both describing the same thing. If so, can we say that “not by works” could describe faith? Nowhere is the concept of gaining faith by work found in the NT. However, the concept of gaining salvation by work is a concept refuted everywhere in the NT, as it is here. Salvation by grace is the “gift of God” and “not by works.” Read the verse again.
I close with a slightly revised comment that I left on Jonathan’s blog:
I don't get this constant reference to boasting. If I believed in Calvinism, couldn't I boast because obviously God loved me more than those who won't be saved? Couldn't I say that it was ME ME ME ME that God chose?
We can twist it around so the other side is presenting cause for boasting from their theology, but it isn't helpful toward defining the message that we can present to a lost and dying world. I believe the message that I can tell anyone is this: "You are a sinner. Jesus Christ loves you and He died for your sin ... yes, He died for YOU! Believe this gospel and receive Christ and you will be reconciled to God and have eternal life."
This is available to “the whole world.”
Boasting isn't the issue; it is the message ... that is what is at stake with all of this debate and the only reason I take part in it. Bless you all.