Apologetics Thursday – Inwards and Outwards Callings

A Calvinists attempts to settle the “contradiction” between Matthew 22:14 and Romans 8:29-30:

That is a very good question. I would like to call your attention to a text in 1 Corinthians which, I think, clears up any misunderstandings of this issue.

“Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Cor 1:22-24

As this passage demonstrates, there are two types of calls: 1) the OUTWARD call of the gospel and 2) in INWARD call of the Spirit. We preach the gospel indiscriminately to all persons but, if you notice the above verse, the outward call is UNIVERSALLY rejected by both Jews and Gentiles because it is a stumbling block or folly to them … But “to those who are called” (through the gospel) by God’s Spirit, “the power and wisdom of God” i.e. there is salvation. The gospel must not only come in word, but in Spirit (1 Thess 1:4, 5). We can call people to faith in Christ till we are blue in the face, as we should, but outward persuasion is not sufficient to change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh by itself. Only God can do that (Ezek 36:26, John 6:63, 65) and He has chosen to do so through the proclamation of the gospel by the church.

This type of theology distracts from the context of all three passages. The context of Matthew 22 is God explaining the mechanics of what makes someone chosen. God tries and fails to entice followers from one group, and has to turn to another. Within that new group, those who are unwilling to conform to God’s standards are cast out. People are elect by their response.

The context of Romans 8 is that Paul is proclaiming the ultimate victory is God’s and God’s faithful will be rewarded. He states that believers will be killed, but they have the ultimate victory. Paul is not referring to people being unable to reject God. Paul is not even talking about people who were once Christians who recant their beliefs. The idea is the opposite, Paul is encouraging Christians such that they do not recant the faith.

The third text, 1 Corinthians, in context is about the different cultural mindset of Paul’s audience. The Jews are looking for a Messiah to bring about the Day of the Lord. The Hebrew mindset is relational and focused on world shaping events. The Greeks want to talk about metaphysics. Jesus is a stumbling-block to the Jews because he does not fit the Messiah for which they seek. Jesus is folly to the Gentiles because he does not fit their philosophy (the Platonism espoused by this Calvinist author, who quotes Paul without a hint of irony). This verse in NO way proves what this Calvinist would have it mean: that there are two types of calls (Outwards and Inward). It is not about that and the author fails to show his work.

In short, none of these verses contradict when read in context. They are not even about the same subjects in order to contradict.

4 comments

  1. Open theism and divine accommodation/progressive Revelation. I recently have been challenged about open Theism and divine accommodation. The challenge was, if God met earlier peoples where they were and became what he needed to be to reach them, then how can we know that all of the old testament (and new Testament for that matter) scriptures used to advance open Theism isn’t just God stooping to their level and looking like or appearing that he changes his mind or tests people to find out things, then as things “advance” we don’t find those pictures anymore. (Or so this guy says). How does progressive Revelation / divine accommodation and open Theism fit together

    1. There are a lot of answers to that question.

      But, I wonder why these people are Christians, rather than Platonists. Porphyry, the Neo-Platonist, wrote a book on why we need to read Homer as “accommodation” or allegory. Why do these people do to the Bible what they could also do to Homer? Heraclotus also has a book criticizing people who take Homer on face value. Here is an excerpt:

      ////
      It is a weighty and damaging charge that heaven brings against
      Homer for his disrespect for the divine. If he meant nothing allegorically,
      he was impious through and through, and sacrilegious fables, loaded
      with blasphemous folly, run riot through both epics. And so, if one were
      to believe that it was all said in obedience to poetical tradition without
      any philosophical theory or underlying allegorical trope, Homer would
      be a Salmoneus or a Tantalus,

      “with tongue unchastened, a most disgraceful sickness.”
      ////

      To me, it seems arbitrary and dishonest to read Homer in a discounting method. I.E. All Homer’s talk about the gods are really Homer talking about the elements and planets. When Hellos destroys a town, it is really just the Sun helping spread drought (etc.). Would your friends claim Homer is accommodation? If not, why not? How does a reader understand if something is accommodation or not accommodation? To me, it looks like your friends are just projecting what they want to believe on top of the Bible, with no internal support for their beliefs within the Bible.

      John Sanders comments on accommodation:

      ///
      Some, however, have suggested that we do know what God is really like in himself and so they critique some of the biblical language about God. 27 For instance, the notion that God grieves has long troubled many scholars. Many held that it is not appropriate to attribute such changes to God. Instead, such language should be understood as divine “accommodation” to our level of understanding. That is, God is not actually like these biblical depictions. John Calvin, for instance, in reference to the biblical texts about God experiencing changing emotions or changes of mind said that such texts do not inform us what God is really like. Rather, he claimed that in these texts God “lisps” to us as does a nursemaid to a young child. 28 Though God may be lisping to us in the biblical depictions, the question is how we know this. After all, we know that the nursemaid is speaking “baby talk” because we know what “adult talk” is like. But if Scripture is “baby talk,” then from where do we get our “adult talk” about God? Do we obtain it from natural theology? 29 If the Bible contains both baby talk and true talk about God then we need a criterion by which to distinguish between them. Unfortunately, Calvin does not disclose how he decides which biblical texts go into which category. Caution is needed so that we do not allow our preconceived notions of divinity to run roughshod over biblical teaching. By taking the anthropomorphic language of Scripture seriously, proponents of the openness model believe their reading of biblical texts is superior in this regard (particularly regarding divine immutability and omniscience)…
      Sanders, John. The God Who Risks: A Theology of Divine Providence (p. 30). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.

      1. Now I know where the root of this guy’s challenge to me came from. He threw Greg Boyd’s work at me on explaining the voilent portraits of God in Scripture. This guy tells me that if Boyd uses divine accommodation to explain that God really isn’t a violent tribal diety, but was meeting a savage world where they were (Canaan conquest, polygomy, etc.), That God really isn’t that way. Then, why can’t the classical theist say that the verses of God feeling and changing his mind be accommodations as well. I responded with the quote from Sanders you gave me and am waiting for the reply. What do you think of the challenge he makes about Boyd? He says I (open theist) along with all open theists want our cake and eat it too. He says we both (classical and open theists) use divine accommodation when it suits us. Thanks for your response any any guidance you can give.

        1. Boyd has his own special hermeneutic, basically conforming the Bible to what he sees in Jesus (“if you have seen me then you have seen the father”). Jesus has emotions and doesn’t genocide, so Boyd rejects genocide in the Old Testament while accepting the emotions. I would say Boyd’s logic of accepting and rejecting texts is consistent, although I accept more of a straightfoward hermeneutic, myself. I do think that Boyd tends to pacify the Old and New Testament more than warranted. But everyone needs to keep in mind that there are other versions of Open Theism if Boyd’s is faulty.

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