Saturday, October 29, 2016

More from Lesslie Newbigin on free will

Here are three short quotes from Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in Pluralist Society, chapter 6, “Revelation in History”, pages 69, 71 & 73 (you can view the Google Preview here, or Find in a Library):

And yet everyone is conscious of exercising the power of personal decision expressed in action. All arguments designed to show that free will is an illusion break down into absurdity. The question how our consciousness of having the power to make personal choices is related to the operation of the cause-effect links which are studied by neurologists, physiologists, sociologists, and economists, of how the mind is related to the brain, is a matter of continuing debate. But no outcome of the debate can be accepted which simply denies our daily experience. Like every human being I know the difference between taking action as a personal decision, and being the victim of a force to which I did not consent.


Everything that I do is an expression of my mind except insofar as I am compelled by outside forces to act against my will. If, by definition, God is not under compulsion by outside forces, it would seem that everything that happens is an expression of God’s mind. Plainly the Christian tradition affirms that some things which have happened express God’s mind, but not all. God reveals himself in history, we would say, but not all history reveals God. How can these two things be affirmed? In part the answer lies in the subject of our next chapter, the logic of election. In part it lies in our belief about the relation of the world to God. In contrast to the monistic, pantheistic, and panentheistic thinking which is always present as an attractive option, we believe that in his creation of the world God gave it a measure of independence and to that extent limited his own freedom. Things therefore happen in history which are not in accordance with the will of God but represent a contradiction of his will.


The created world has been given a degree of autonomy, of independence from God’s will which is clearly other than the rapport which exists between the human mind and the body when the whole person is in proper health. Not only are there regularities of cause and effect within the natural world which appear to work autonomously, butmuch more significant for our argumenthuman wills have an autonomy which enables them to act in rebellion against the purpose of their creator.

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Saturday, October 22, 2016

Does a Classical Arminian view of grace (also) lead to a more missional worldview?

What I've learned: a church's dominant soteriology
indelibly shapes its culture (the way people think about and do) for mission.
                                     -Dr David Fitch

*For Part 1, "Does a Wesleyan view of grace lead to a more missional worldview?" click here.

In his journal article, "Regeneration and Resistible Grace: A Synergistic Proposal", Dr Adam Doddswho seems to take a Classical/Reformed Arminian view of Prevenient Grace but without calling it that [1]writes:
Therefore my proposal is to develop an understanding of regeneration that bears many similarities to Wesley’s but which identifies God’s prevenient grace as particular and not universal because God’s self-revelation through the missions of the Spirit and the Church is specific and not general, most obviously through the communication of the gospel. 
Saving faith follows the communication of the gospel (Rom. 10.13-15) and God has specifically ordained that the gospel be communicated through the Church.  
[...] the modus operandi of God’s prevenient grace is not by general but special revelation, for it is through the witness of the Church that God’s prevenient grace operates. [...] God’s prevenient, awakening and convicting grace acts through the Church’s sharing of the gospel. 
And concludes:
Finally, the fact that God’s prevenient grace that enables and causes belief in Christ is offered through the Church’s communication of the gospel is of immense missiological importance. As the Church carries out her missionary task she can be confident not only that Christ has died for all, but also that there is inherent power in gospel proclamation and demonstration, for it is through the Church’s mission that God makes His grace available and people are enabled to repent and believe, and thus experience regeneration/conversion. 

His full article is available in PDF here (this PDF link is from the author's biography at his church website here).

Interestingly, Dr Dodds does not seem to rely on any Classical/Reformed Arminian theologians (that I can recognize anyway), save Arminius himself (and perhaps Bangs and Pinnock, though I am not sure of the view of either), for the view he proposes even though on this point it is basically the same as that which they hold. Instead, he relies on many of the Reformed theologians who moved away from the traditional Calvinist view, including Newbigin, Brunner, Moltmann, Torrance, and Barth.

Here is the abstract: 

This paper presents a synergistic account of regeneration/conversion focusing on the resistibility of God’s grace and the nature of human participation in regeneration. The synergistic proposal is advanced whilst avoiding the twin dangers of monergism, in which God is the sole determinant of eschatological salvation and damnation, and Pelagianism, which undermines the gospel of grace. Differing crucially from John Wesley’s account of prevenient grace, I sketch the resistibility of God’s grace in divine providence and revelation thus establishing a pattern of divine working from which to interpret God’s resistible work in regeneration/conversion. I then give an account of human participation addressing the bondage and freedom of the will, the nature of human cooperation in regeneration/conversion, and how this is commensurate with salvation by grace through faith alone. Therefore, this accounts for God’s desire to save all and the fact that only some have responded in faith to Christ.


[1] For the difference between a Classical Arminian understanding of Prevenient Grace and a Wesleyan understanding, see my article: "An Introduction to Prevenient Grace".

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