Putting God In A Box By Placing Him Under Man’s Obligation
Posted by Job on October 20, 2008
Is free will salvation, or Arminianism (truthfully Coornhertism for Jacobus Arminius rejected the soteriology of the reformers in favor of the viewpoint of a Roman Catholic, and the doctrine is associated with Arminius rather than its true originator and exponent for it is not convenient for Protestant free will Christians to broadcast and advertise that the one who came up with this doctrine also defended praying to the host of heaven and bowing to dumb idols) a works theology?
On its face, it is not. However, we must consider what was ironically a debate that took place not between adherents to the Reformation and those who like Coornhert remained in semi – Pelagian Roman Catholicism, but rather within the Reformation (to use a broad term) itself, such as between Lutherans and Anabaptists. The former reached “salvation by faith alone” and, being satisfied, pretty much stopped. Please recall, for instance, Martin Luther’s claim that the book of James “was made of pure straw” (but accepted its canonicity nonetheless) because of its statement “faith without works is dead.” Anabaptists and others who came out of Roman Babylon went on to appropriately apply James’ doctrines to justification and the need to produce an external witness (please recall that James was only repeating what he heard from His teacher Jesus Christ on this matter, please remember for example Jesus Christ’s statements on the sheep versus goats, and the difference between those who called Him “Lord Lord” that would be accepted versus those that would be rejected?).
What this argument centered on, truthfully, was the sovereignty of God. Is God completely sovereign, free to act entirely according to His own will, desire, and volition in every aspect concerning His creation that He produced out of nothing merely by speaking? Or is God in some way beholden to and in a sense in arrears, in bondage, imprisoned to His creation in any matter? Both groups held the belief that works doctrines were to be rejected because they denied God’s sovereignty. The idea that if man does something then God is obligated to respond is troubling enough. What is more troubling still is the idea that if man does something then God is obligated to do something that He does not want to do, making it possible for man to not only defy God but actually overpower and overcome God by doing works. This is precisely what the Roman Catholic Pelagian system taught, and what the Reformers appropriately rejected. The dispute between the Lutherans and Anabaptists (and also the Reformed i.e. Calvinists and Zwinglians I might add) were simply over the details.
Now those who justify works based doctrines claim that they are due to God’s willingly ceding His sovereignty to man in certain areas to accomplish whatever purposes He willed. An example of this: God’s giving up dominion of the earth to Adam, and the Word of Faith purports to seek to reclaim it. Leaving aside the fact that the Bible clearly states that Adam’s dominion will be restored to Jesus Christ upon His return and not the church that awaits Him (claiming that dominion belongs to the church in this time is Origen amillennialism adopted by Roman Catholics), God gave Adam dominion over creation alone, not Himself. Prosperity doctrine advocates claim that the old covenant obligates God to bless those who keep the portions of it pertaining to blessings, some going as far as saying that even the unsaved will receive health, wealth, family, etc. benefits from tithing. Not only did Paula White explicitly say so to Larry King, but new age witch and occult spiritist Oprah Winfrey, who reportedly tithes, is often listed as an example. While this is based on a rather corrupted understanding of the true purpose and nature of a covenant that only applied to national Israel and moreover doesn’t even exist anymore, even if true it has no bearing on salvation. After all, the old covenant was never given for salvation, for even in old covenant times salvation was by grace (but Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord) and furthermore the book of Hebrews makes it clear that even Old Testament saints were redeemed by Christ’s blood, and without the cross there would have been no salvation for those such as Enoch, Elijah, Samuel, Deborah, Huldah, Moses, etc.
But going back to the “works promises” that allegedly existed in the old covenant, please recall that all of those were irrevocably tied to the land of Israel itself, the land flowing with milk and honey. No land meant no blessings, works or not, and the land was freely given to the children of Abraham as part of the promise given to Abraham by grace. So no Israelite ever received a new thing by doing works of the law, but rather was benefitting from what was given to him by grace already. The old covenant was a conditional covenant, true, but the condition was entirely based on forfeiting what one had already been given by refusing to do the works rather than doing works and receiving what had not been given. An analogy can be tied to a wealthy man (or woman) who has a son (or daughter) and composes a will leaving the heir a portion of the estate. If the heir basically behaves, he or she will receive the inheritance that he or she never worked for or merited in any sense. If the heir grievously offends the benefactor with disloyal or immoral behavior, the wealthy person has the sole prerogative to “write him or her out of his will.” Even if the benefactor writes some conditional clause such as “in order to receive the inheritance he must get married” (the plot of not a few bad movies) if the fellow acquires a wife for the purposes of receiving the wealth he would not have earned the money in any sense but instead would have received something that he never worked for and his benefactor had the sole right to give or deny, including the right to alter the will shortly before expiring based on a dislike of who his heir chose as a spouse! So please explain this to any prosperity Word of Faith teacher or adherent you come across.
So then, there is not a shred of Biblical evidence that speaks of God having an obligation to His creation in any area, including salvation. While God certainly gives dominion of some portions of creation over others, there is no evidence that God surrenders His own sovereignty or prerogative to creation in any sense. After all, how could an eternal spiritual God be limited by what is natural and temporal? Even though Jesus Christ was lowered and thus limited while existing in the natural plane upon His incarnation, He was still fully God in the spiritual realm, a fact which evil spirits were forced to recognize when they asked Him if He had come to destroy them!
So instead, the entirety of Biblical revelation consists of creation having an obligation to God. Creation cannot compel God one way or another, and in spiritual matters involving eternity it is all the more important that this truth be recognized and operated within. So then, as free will salvation doctrine places God in a box by compelling Him to honor human decision, it must be rejected.
But wait, you say, it is not forcing God’s Hand when a person accepts eternal salvation because it is God’s Will that all men be saved, you reply. Even were I to concede that part for argument’s sake, what about the other way around? Does not exercising this free will to reject Jesus Christ compel God to send a person to the lake of fire that He does not wish to? Under this doctrine, no matter how God may desire it, no matter how God may strive and work for it, no matter how God may beg, plead, or even try, His best efforts, His very will and volition, can all be undone by a mere creature’s standing athwart grace and saying NO. Anathema that such a thing should be allowed to happen, because even in this one very limited sphere, man is God and God is man. Let it be stated that for any man to have the right to damn himself removes the right of God to damn anyone at all, making Him no God at all, and that is true even when one does not factor in God’s sending His Son to the cross. Please know that a man’s ability to make a decision to reject God the Father sending Jesus Christ to become human, die on a cross, and be resurrected from the dead is no trivial cosmic matter! Believing that it is a matter of such triviality makes God a mere triviality. Again, anathema!
So then, the doctrine that does not place God in a box of being under obligation to creation is one that recognizes that God alone decides who will be saved by His personal decision and command – the same decision and command that brought man into existence along with the rest of creation in the first place – and places man under obligation to obey God. That is something that none other than the tale of Jonah and the whale should teach us. It is more than a fantastic Bible story perfect for aweing children and proving the truth of the Bible to skeptics using apologetics (as in the fact that men have been swallowed whole by sperm whales and later rescued). Instead, this event illustrates God’s sovereignty. God told Jonah to preach to the Ninevites, and Jonah had no choice in the matter but submit to the will of the sovereign God and respond.
There is an interesting cross reference here. Remember the Pharisees. They came to Jesus Christ demanding that He show them a sign upon which they would believe that He is the Messiah and then they would follow Him. Again, creation trying to place the Creator in a box by making His actions dependent on human desires. (Later, this same bunch tried to compromise and bargain with God by lifting the miracle requirement and saying “Just tell us whether you are the Christ!) Jesus Christ never placed Himself under their obligation. Instead, He stated that the only sign that they would receive … was that of Noah.
God is not obligated to even give man a decision – why should He regarding His solely entirely owned property that He created and whose destiny He controls! – let alone honor said decision. The Bible declares this to be true, and we are obliged to acknowledge it and to consider its implications.