Thursday, August 13, 2015

VIDEO: Dr William Lane Craig, "If We Are Dead In Sins, How Can We Respond to God?"

Here is the transcript.

In the teaching that led up to the above Q&A, Dr Craig discusses both prevenient grace and Romans 9. Here is an excerpt:

I want to suggest that man is indeed free to respond to God’s grace. He is not simply a passive participant in the process of salvation but does participate actively and has the freedom to respond to God’s grace. So God does take the initiative. I think the Catholic view and the Reformed view is correct here. The natural man left to himself does not seek God. So apart from the prevenient grace of God, no one would ever be saved. God must take the initiative in convicting of sin and drawing persons to himself. But then at some point along the line human beings have the freedom either to accede to that drawing of God’s grace and to go with it or to resist it and push back and refuse to receive God’s grace of salvation. 
Someone might say, but doesn’t Romans 9 (which we read together) teach that human beings are completely passive in this process? That it is entirely of God’s will who is elect and who is reprobate or passed over and left unsaved. Doesn’t Romans 9 teach a strong doctrine of predestination and election that excludes any sort of human role in terms of a free response such as I have suggested? Well, I would like to suggest for your consideration a very different reading of Romans 9 today than the one that you usually hear. Usually, people think of Romans 9 as God’s narrowing down the scope of election to just those few people that he wants to save. And he passes over the broad mass of humanity to selectively save those few that he has picked out. I want to suggest that Paul’s burden in Romans 9 is exactly the opposite. What Paul wants to do here is to broaden the scope of salvation, not to narrow it down to a select few. He wants to broaden it as wide as possible.  
If I am understanding Romans 9 correctly, this is not meant to be teaching a kind of predestinarianism that takes no cognizance of the human free response to God’s grace. Quite the contrary, it seems to me it is broadening out the scope of God’s election to say that it is going to include everybody who meets the condition of having faith in Christ. That is the human response to God’s grace. God’s grace comes preveniently, that is to say it seeks out sinful, alienated, spiritually estranged people, and draws them to himself to that point where one can respond or not by faith. 
You might say, but didn’t we read in Ephesians 2:8-9 that faith is a gift of God, not something that we can produce. Look at Ephesians 2:8-9 again. Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God— not because of works, lest any man should boast.” Doesn’t this show that faith is simply God’s gift to you and not something that you do on your own? I think that is incorrect and I think demonstrably so. Let me ask those of you who are our vigilant Logos software users to tell us what is the gender of the word for “faith” that is used in verse 8? I should mention here that in Greek, as in modern day German, every noun has a gender. There are three genders – masculine, feminine, and neuter. It is the same in Greek. Now, what is the gender of the word pistis or faith? Feminine. So it is feminine gender for pistis or faith. What is the gender of the pronoun in verse 8 “this.” Neuter! Touto is the word. It is neuter. So the antecedent of “this” is not the word “faith.” You would have to have a feminine pronoun in order to refer to “faith.” Rather, what the word “this” refers to is the whole preceding clause, namely, salvation by grace through faith. That is not your own doing. This is the gift of God. This is the way God has elected to set it up; he is going to save by his grace everyone who has faith in Christ. That is not your own doing. But it does not teach that saving faith is the gift of God. That is grammatically prohibited. 
In fact, I want to say here something about the way our Reformed brethren treat the idea of faith. For many of them they think that if I exercise faith in Christ, if I respond to God’s grace by receiving it through faith, that this is somehow my meriting or winning salvation. It is something I do; I have faith and so I have somehow done some meritorious work which is excluded of course by Paul because salvation is by grace not by meritorious works. But in so saying I think they have completely misunderstood Paul. When you read Paul, he always opposes faith to works. For Paul, faith is the antithesis of works. He does not think that placing your faith in Christ is a work much less a meritorious work. Paul always contrasts faith and works. So, in receiving Christ by faith in acceding to God’s grace, you are not doing anything meritorious to save yourself. You are simply yielding, as it were, to the grace of God and allowing it to do its saving work and justifying work in your life. That is not in any sense a meritorious work.
You can read the full transcript here.

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