Can I indulge you a little in some theology? In times past, good men with impressive Biblical knowledge gathered in local taverns and contemplated the thoughts and ways of God.
I challenge you to push through this one and be encouraged by the very heart of God.
Is doctrine dangerous? In some sense, all deep underpinnings of people can be. But human thinking detached from the Bible is darker and more deviant than any person who is stretching at the boundaries of the Bible.
B.B. Warfield gave five lectures at Princeton in June of 1914. It was later published as a book, "The Plan of Salvation" and printed by the Presbyterian Board of Publication in Philadelphia.
I decided to write a blog post that captures the heart of his message.
Is there a plan or process that ends in the salvation of a human being revealed in the Bible?
But the deeper question.. one that has pushed me harder than any comes down to salvation as a monergistic or synergistic act. Is it God alone? What is man's part? Did God choose or does man respond?
And the hardest one of all... if God chooses some but not all... does it discount Him as a God worthy of worship?
So here I am, today.. being helped by a saint who departed this earth a long time ago. But he was used mightily as the Holy Spirit poured out on me as I read this work.
Warfield does not take time to debate whether God acts upon a plan. Warfield says that once we establish the reality of a personal God the case is closed.
"If we believe in a personal God, then, and much more if, being Theists, we believe in the immediate control by this personal God of the world He has made, we must believe in a plan underlying all that God does, and therefore also in a plan of salvation."
In his preface, Warfield takes time to offer a survey of 'varying views' to this subject:
The first division is between 'naturalistic' and 'supernaturalistic' views. His explanation of this division is a difference of opinion whether 'God has planned simply to leave men. with more or less completeness, to save themselves, or whether he has planned Himself to intervene to save them." in other words...'Does man save himself or does God save him?'
The most consistent naturalistic view is the doctrine of Pelagianism.
According to Warfield, "Pelagianismin its purity, affirms that all the power exerted in saving man is native to man himself."
However, 'pure Pelagiansim' rarely exists...but varieties of this scheme is found in a wide spread fashion throughout church history and indeed in the present age.
There are 'intermediate views' of Pelagianism that do allow God some part in the process, but are still 'naturalistic' since they all come down to man taking the ultimate step of salvation by a man's native power.
Supernaturalism declares 'with emphasis that it is God the Lord and not man himself who saves the soul'.
The supernaturalist rests in one statement.
The supernaturalist is not content to say 'some of the power' or 'most of the power' or even 'almost all the power'... He asserts that ALL the power that is exerted in saving the soul is from God.
Now, this creates division- and Warfield continues to explain these 'differences which are not small or unimportant'.
The most 'deeply cutting' difference is between Sacerdotalists and Evangelicals.
The basis from which this difference is revealed is the question whether God (the only source of saving power) saves men by dealing with them individually or by 'establishing supernaturally endowed instrumentalities' in the world by which people are saved.
The typical form of Sacerdotalists is found primarily among Roman Catholics in teaching that the church is held to be the institution of salvation. "Outside the church and its ordinances salvation is not supposed to be found; grace is communicated by and through the minstrations of the church".
Against this view, according to Warfield, is evangelicalism. Evangelicalism 'sweeps away every intermediary between the soul and its God'. This leaves the soul totally dependent on God alone... it is directly upon God and not the means of grace... the Holy Spirit may act where and when and how He will.
Now it is true that evangelicalism is indeed Protestant... but within Protestant views there are both naturalistic and supernaturalistic views.
Warfield drills down to a division in evangelical supernaturalism by labeling them 'universalistic' and 'particularistic'. This division is found in answering the question 'whether God is conceived to have planned actually Himself to save men by His almighty and certainly efficacious grace, or only so to pour out His grace upon men as to enable them to be saved, without actually securing, however, in any particular cases that they shall be saved'.
A 'problem' with a generalized universalism is that it naturally leads to universal salvation, a point from which many evangelicals have pulled back from because of Scriptural evidence that seems to indicate that not all men are saved.
Over and against this, theologians have adopted 'particularism' in the saving process - 'they plead that God deals throughout the whole process of salvation not with men in the mass but with individual men'...'one by one, upon each of whom he lays hold with His grace, and each of whom he by His grace brings to salvation.'
Thus all men owe their salvation..not to the general opportunities of God but by His specific actions. 'And, therefore, to Him and Him alone belongs in each instance all the glory, which none can share with Him.'
And to keep consistent with the ever fracturing of men.... there is differences even within the 'Particularists'. He labels this a "Hypothetical Universalism". This separates those who struggle with the question does God's work open up the possibility for all men to be saved or does the redemptive work of Christ secure the salvation those who were chosen for it to be wrought?
So after this, we are left to explore the divisions:
Men must be either naturalists or supernaturalists.
Supernaturalists must be Sacerdotalists or Evangelicals.
Evangelicals must be Universalistic or Particularistic.
Particularists must particularistic with respect to only some or respect to all of God's saving operations.
Not to bore you, but there are four possible distinctions inside particularism that can be considered:
(Supralapsarianism, Sub(or Infra-) lapsarianism, Post-redemptionism (otherwise called Amyraldianism, or Hypothetical Universalism), and Pajonism (otherwise called Congruism).
These have a lot to do with the timing of choice (whether it is pre-Creation...pre-fall... or pre-conversion) and the application of regeneration- (divine wooing or almighty re-creation).
By the way... there is NOTHING wrong with these discussions, debates, and thoughts... they drive us to Scripture and they elevate the wonder of the mysteries of God.
Then Warfield goes into some thoughts regarding God's intention... and this is where I love reading Warfield's heart.
The bottom line is this...... what is the discrimination on God's part between those whom He chooses and those He does not based upon? Is it variety? a whim?
Consider his explanation:
The motive that moves God is an unwillingness that all mankind should perish in their sins; and, therefore in order to gratify the promptings of His compassion, He intervenes to rescue from their ruin and misery an innumerable multitude which no man can number- as many as under the pressure of His sense of right He can obtain the consent of His whole nature to relieve from the just penalties of their sins- by an expedient in which his justice and mercy meet and kiss each other.
I sat back from this statement and pondered it a long time. Here is the true 'weight of glory'...God is wrestling against Himself and all His truth in all His perfections in all His attributes.
How many can He save and still be faithful to all that justice requires?
The natural heart of man is to regard all authority with skepticism and doubt the good intentions of that authority- and when it comes to man, I sadly agree that the pessimism is justified.
But not so with God..... His heart is pressing because of the weight of His compassion, mercy, and love.
Who knows what we will finally see?