Saturday, April 10, 2010

Lutherans and immutable election

I made the comment that Lutherans in some sense agree that there is such a thing as "irresistible grace." What I mean by this is that election will result in one's actual salvation. Thus in some sense, God will "irresistibly" save his elect. This is a poor term to use because of its Calvinistic connotations, meaning that saving grace is given only for the elect. Someone challenged me on this stating that my words, "God will infallibly convert and preserve His elect in the faith" were Calvinistic. I put together some quotes from the Confessions and American theologians to show that election is particular, immutable, and cannot be lost.

SD Article XI. 8. "God's eternal election does not just foresee and foreknow the salvation of the elect. From God's gracious will and pleasure in Christ Jesus, election is a cause that gains, works, helps, and promotes our salvation and what belongs to it. Our salvation is so founded on it that "the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18), as is written in John 10:28, "no one will snatch [My sheep] out of my hand." And again, "and as many as were appointed unto eternal life believed" (Acts 13:48)

SD Article XI. 22. "Finally, He will eternally save and glorify in life those whom He has elected, called, and justified."

Early Missouri and Wisconsin synod theologians were very clear on this as well:

Pieper, Christian Dogmatics Vol. III pg. 479, "The elect are only those actually saved, for Scripture teaches that without fail all elect enter eternal life."

Hoenecke, Evangelical Lutheran Dogmatics Vol. III pg. 52, "The immutability of election has clear proof in Matthew 25:34, 24:24; John 10:28, Daniel 12:2; and Romans 8:29,30. Our Confession expresses the Scripture doctrine very clearly and plainly. And when our confession says that God 'ordained it [salvation] in his eternal purpose, which cannot fall or be overthrown,' then it is asserted very definitely and clearly that no elect person finally remains in impenitence and unbelief and thus is lost."

None of this is to say that God does not truly give grace and offer salvation universally. However, God has not elected all men unto salvation. As Walther even says, "He gives everybody enough grace to enable him to be saved, but he does not give everybody the same amount." God's grace alone the cause of man's election. In The Theology of American Lutheranism pg. 178

Some try to say that because grace is given to all men through the gospel, whoever resists God's grace less than the other would then be saved. Walther replies to this idea, "If my non-resistance were the real and ultimate ground, then I would be my only savior." ibid. 188

The Lutheran Confessions, and the Confessional theologians during the American predestinarian controversy agreed that election is infallible, thus irresistible. An elect man cannot simply choose to be non elect.


Kelly Klages said...

I happen to think that you're right, and that the other poster was overreacting somewhat. But I do understand the allergy to the phrase "irresistible grace," because as you say, the phrase itself is so closely bound up in the Calvinist idea that since saving grace is only given to the elect, it cannot be resisted. And in my (somewhat limited) experience, whenever Lutheran conversation turns to believers receiving God's grace or unbelievers rejecting it in certain circumstances, the conversation is not usually about election as such. The topic of election seems to be reserved more for the encouragement of believers, particularly those going through trials.

Jordan Cooper said...

I agree with you that election is primarily for the encouragement of believers. The reason I even bring up the subject is because Calvinists will ask if we believe in irresistible grace. It is better to give an informed and balanced answer to the question rather than simply saying no right off the bat.

Kelly Klages said...

Yeah... the shorter Lutheran answer to the Calvinist is going to be "sort of, and no... but no, as you mean it." As soon as you say that we believe in irresistible grace "in a sense," it's no longer really irresistible.

David Cochrane said...

Thank you for interviewing on Issues Etc. It was very good and a good tool to witness to my Calvinists.

Yes when one trusts in Jesus there is no reason whatsoever to fear being cast off. Jesus promises to not cast anyone off.

God's peace. †

Jordan Cooper said...

Well the thing is, when a Calvinist uses the term he is using it in the context of election. So what he often means by the question is, "does God convert and save the person whom He elects, or does He let them choose to accept grace or not?" If this is the question they are asking, we would agree more-so with the Calvinist than the synergist.