[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Friday, February 24, 2006

Boasting?

by Rose~
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.

25 Comments:

  • Excellent post, Rose!

    Wow!

    Those passages are so clearly saying that we don't boast because instead of working we believed. Implicit is that no one boasts about believing something.

    And your discussionof Eph 2: 8 & 9 is exactly how I see that verse.

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Friday, February 24, 2006 7:28:00 AM  

  • My husband took me out to dinner and we talked about this issue of boasting.

    He said that in the ancient times a person chosen by an emporer or monarch for some sort of honor would have definitely had something to boast about, for the rest of their lives even.

    Even if he was chosen for completely arbitrary reasons. It wouldn't take away from him being considered special and better than people who had never been picked out of the crowd.

    So this agrees with what our saying :)

    Great post :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Friday, February 24, 2006 7:36:00 AM  

  • Rose, I mean it when I say it has been a pleasure discussing this with you and Jodie. I think we both have a better understanding of what the other is saying. As I have said over at the Moor, don't take my questions as a statement that you do believe in works salvation, I just raise the question for discussion because I think one can make that a logical conclusion (just like you can with my position on faith and repentence!).

    Since you pasted your comment from my blog, I hope you don't mind if I paste my response:

    "You write, '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?'

    You could argue this from the Arminian [generic ref.] perspective that God, in eternity past, looked into the future and elected you because He saw that you would believe. On the other hand, the Calvinist would appeal to unconditional election (Rom 9 – “Jacob I loved, Esau I hated” before they were born and did anything good or bad).

    I would throw my hands up and say that I was elected on the sole basis of “the good pleasure of His will” (Eph 1:5) and for nothing in me (theocentric). The real question for me is WHY ME WHY ME WHY ME? I am a dirty, rotten, stinking sinner that deserves nothing but wrath. BUT GOD . . ."

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at Friday, February 24, 2006 8:05:00 AM  

  • H. K.,
    What you and your husband were talking about it could be said of the other position. I just think that it is not a helpful word to throw around when we are discusssing this. Any born-again Christian who has come to Christ as a needy sinner with nothing to offer understands that he has nothing to boast of. Calvinist and non-Calvinist can agree here. We can't boast, save in the cross of Christ. I don't think either side needs to accuse the other of setting up a system whereby we can boast, and we both could about the other theology, that is all I was trying to say. You got my point!!

    Jonathan,
    Thanks and WELCOME to this blog. I also am glad that we could discuss civily. I find it helpful to educate myself on schools of thought from the ones who think within them.
    Of course I don't mind if you paste your response.
    The good pleasure of His will is that He should save those who come to Him by faith. Do you have faith in Christ? If yes, then there's your answer to WHY ME WHY ME WHY ME?
    It is Christ, not me.
    :~) ;~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, February 24, 2006 8:25:00 AM  

  • Excellent reasoning, Rose~. I totally agree.

    God Bless

    Matthew

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, February 24, 2006 8:58:00 AM  

  • I agree with what you are saying, Rose. I don't think people like J. Piper/J. Moorhead are boasting :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Friday, February 24, 2006 9:06:00 AM  

  • I totaly agree with your conclusion here that neither side claims that boasting is merited and neither should claim the other does, boast that is. I would love to see the works arguments removed as well as the same applies. Both agree it is incumbant on a man to believe. If that is works for the one then so it is for the other.

    By Blogger Kc, at Friday, February 24, 2006 10:13:00 AM  

  • Rose,

    It's really puzzeling why people attempt to read more into this text than what you have just shown. Todd

    By Blogger Todd, at Friday, February 24, 2006 12:53:00 PM  

  • Just in case someone is wondering what I am talking about, Matt has posted a brief comment over at the Moor that encapsulates my question:

    "If God is equal in His attempts to convince both person A and person B of the truth of the gospel [Jodie has said this may not be the case, for the record], and person A believes it while person B rejects it, the dividing line between the two is found in man. Why is person A in heaven and person B in hell? Because of something that person A did and yet person B failed to do."

    By Blogger Jonathan Moorhead, at Friday, February 24, 2006 1:23:00 PM  

  • Rose,

    Nice Post!

    By Blogger Nate, at Friday, February 24, 2006 1:26:00 PM  

  • Jonathan,

    What is the thing that person A has that person B doesn't have?
    John 3:18
    Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.

    For the record, believing is not the same as doing.
    ;~)
    Why is it a problem that the dividing line is found in man's response to the gospel? God is still at the center of a salvation that we must believe in. He did the work, dying for the sins of the whole world and reconciling the world to himself. He sent the HS to convict the world of sin, etc..
    Theocentric.
    :~)

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, February 24, 2006 2:15:00 PM  

  • Rose, I suppose the Calvinist might respond to your position by saying because the person A (A=regenerate person)is "self-moved", ultimately speaking. In other words, as you say the HS convicts both A and B of sin--but it's when person A moves upon (believes) that conviction that they have done something apart from God's power and done something in their own "self-moved" power--thus the Calvinist pre-sumes that this position is anthropocentric (man-centered).

    There is some mystery here, that mystery is either attributed to God's nature or the imago dei. I.e. What happened in the Garden, with Adam and Eve? The whole posse non peccare thing. Did God decree the Fall (suprlapsarian)in eternity past; or did He respond to the Fall (infralapsarian Gen 3:15)?

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Friday, February 24, 2006 3:27:00 PM  

  • I agree with Rose~. The dividing line lies with man, not God.

    By Blogger Dyspraxic Fundamentalist, at Friday, February 24, 2006 3:33:00 PM  

  • BTW, let me just say you all are much more noble, than I am--I am still un-committed at this point--in regards to my soteriological construct.

    Although I do believe that all that is required for salvation is simple trust in Jesus Christ--which I would imagine both sides, or all sides, would agree with here, right?

    I will say though that I will never be able to affirm the classical theism evinced in the Calv/Arm camps. My struggle is between whether to affirm Affective Theology and its affirmation of an infralapsarian ("post-fall") election or just some sort of an eclectic semi-Augustian position that still some how holds to unlimited atonement and the attendant implications relative to election (whatever that might be). I'm not necessarily confused about the issues--I just don't think it does the interpretive process, of scripture, justice when I impose one theological traditions interpretation upon the text (in other words I don't need to see scholastic rationalistic syllogistic cohesion relative to understanding God's sovereignty and "human freedom")--how about allowing for some tension here?

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Friday, February 24, 2006 3:56:00 PM  

  • Matthew,
    Thank you my dear English friend.

    kc,
    I am WITH YOU in what you would love to see. Cut through the muddle.

    Todd,
    It is a controversial text, from the commentaries I have seen. Thanks for reading.

    Nate,
    Thanks ... PEACE!

    Bobby,
    Thanks for your comments. I can suppose that would be said as well. I guess I don't understand a theology that doesn't require man to believe. God has done all that needs to be done for us to be with Him. He has cleared the way and extends His hand. As far as apart from God's power, we can't even take a breath apart from God's power. I don't see it necessary to say that in order for God to be sovereign, He cannot allow in His plan a requirement for people to respond of themselves. It is weird to say that this means men are then "saving themselves." Think of the illustration of the Bridegroom and the bride. What kind of relationship is it if the husband controls the wife and she never comes to him in and out of a response to his love. Why did God put the temptation in the garden? I think it was because He desires man to see His love for Him, and respond, not just have a sterile relationship where there is no choice. I believe that same desire that operated there is in operation today, but with many more variables.

    BTW, your vocabulary is way over my head! I know the words suprlapsarian and infralapsarian because John has explained them to me years ago. But these:

    posse non peccare
    evinced
    scholastic rationalistic syllogistic cohesion


    Tell me!

    Also - I am all for a little tension. I was always comfortable with tension until I ran across some very dogmatic Calvinists. Thanks for "talking" with me.

    By Blogger Rose~, at Friday, February 24, 2006 7:46:00 PM  

  • Rose,

    Posse non pecarre=able not to sin

    evince=make evident

    scholastic=medieval dialectical methodological framework, i.e. synthesis, anti-thesis, synthesis; the synthesis becomes the new thesis, antithesis again, synthesis--a cyclical process building upon itself. Conceptually, scholasticism is often tied to Thomas Aquinas' integration of Aristotle with Christian doctrine.

    rationalistic=an anthropology that elevates human reason (rationality) as the standard by which all else is measured (that includes revelation). Rene Des Cartes cogito ergo sum, i.e. I think therefore I am.

    syllogistic cohesion=TULIP. The need to have all ones theological ducks in a row. This is an expression of approaching the doing of theology from a rationalist anthropology, i.e. see my def. above. What drives most systematic theologies, putting "all" of scriptures teaching into nice and tidy propositional categories. Endeavoring to find the "essence" of scriptures teaching, i.e. find the kernel get rid of the husk theology (husk might be the form or type that a particular passage of scripture communicates in, i.e. narrative, poetry, gospel, apocalyptic, etc.; the kernel is the essence or proposition or principle that a particular passage is communicating--very objectified approach to scripture; often negating the subjective relational nature of God's self-disclosure of Himself in scripture--not good.

    Hope that helps Rose :)!

    Bobby

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Friday, February 24, 2006 10:56:00 PM  

  • The magnitude of such copious exertion is far as seditious to my diminutive comprehension.

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 4:11:00 AM  

  • Rose,
    Good post, good thread, very reasonable interaction (with the exception of my last comment).

    I noticed that Bobby brought up the question, "Did God decree the Fall (suprlapsarian)in eternity past; or did He respond to the Fall (infralapsarian Gen 3:15)?"

    Could both could true since God does not think the way we do? His thoughts are outside of, and separate from time. His thoughts are to Him effortless and simultaneous. Couldn’t this point to a sublapsarian model? The idea that underneath it all God knew man would fall of his own free will (God did not force it), therefore, at the same time He provided Himself the only possible solution… the cross, sufficient for all, efficient only to those who believe. The purpose of course is to restore for Himself a people to honor Him in His holiness which one day will be confirmed on all the saints of all time.

    Wha da ya think?

    brother John

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 5:03:00 AM  

  • Bobby,
    I was being lazy - I should have looked them up. :~) But thanks for listing the exhaustive definitions. So, scholastic rationalistic syllogistic cohesion means:

    an outdated, stuffy, rigid approach to God's Word that excludes the personal, creative communication of Himself to the human being and leaves no room for the fact that some things may be beyond and above our limited understandings.

    Is that right?

    Hi John,
    I like that saying - I have heard you use that before. I am glad you are coming to this blog!

    By Blogger Rose~, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 5:48:00 AM  

  • Rose, basically--yes :)! Your translation is good ;)!

    John, this couldve been the way, i.e. your sublapsarian, esp. if your thinking as a Calvinist. This, honestly is my hang up--election and the extent of the atonement, oh yeah and the extent of depravity--I have lots of hang ups, I go back and forth like a pendulum--who knows where I'll swing tomorrow :). Sorry I don't have more of a substantial response.

    By Anonymous bobby grow, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 8:46:00 AM  

  • Rose, excellent post. Your thoughts are very clear, and it seems the Traditionalists don't have much of an answer.

    Casey,

    The works issue cannot be removed from the Traditional mindset, for they DO condition final salvation on works, they just say that these works are non-meritorious.

    If works are required for final salvation, if they are a condition, the nuance that they are "non-meritorious" proves to be a sophisticated tactic to quell the legitamate charge of works-righteousness.

    If works, in any sense are required for final salvation, this completely abrogates grace.

    Antonio

    By Blogger Antonio, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 10:25:00 AM  

  • John,

    I like how you put this:

    "...underneath it all God knew man would fall of his own free will (God did not force it), therefore, at the same time He provided Himself the only possible solution… the cross, sufficient for all, efficient only to those who believe."

    Would you agree that this means He chose to respond to this scenario?

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 2:44:00 PM  

  • Rose what do you think??

    :)

    By Blogger H K Flynn, at Saturday, February 25, 2006 2:45:00 PM  

  • H. K.,
    Did God plan for Christ to die on the cross? Is God responsible for the betrayal by Judas?
    :-)

    By Blogger J. Wendell, at Sunday, February 26, 2006 11:25:00 AM  

  • Antonio I think we could argue against works for eternal life as a false doctrine held by many and these much more blatantly than the Calvinist. In the main the Calvinist I have talked with do not perceive works as being requisite to eternal life they simply cannot imagine that one who is given eternal life will not do these works. This error is quite different from those who see works as being requisite for eternal life and requires a different approach for resolution.

    By Blogger Kc, at Sunday, February 26, 2006 7:25:00 PM  

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