Sunday, August 19, 2007

Garrett on Calvinism in the Alabama Baptist, Pt. 4

Dr. Garrett helpfully distinguishes the internal, effectual call of God from the external, general call. Many less thoughtful critics of Calvinism fail to recognize this distinction and, consequently, often wind up dismissing a straw man in their critique of "irresistible grace." Garrett writes,
Dortian Calvinists normally differentiate the external, or outward, call of God from the internal, or special, call of God to salvation. The external call includes the public preaching of the gospel. It can be rejected. In fact, we are told that it is uniformly rejected by nonelect human beings.

The internal call, on the contrary, cannot be rejected and always results in conversion because the Holy Spirit is at work. Neither the new birth (John 3:8) nor the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17) nor "God's workmanship" (Eph. 2:10) can be resisted, according to Edwin H. Palmer in "The Five Points of Calvinism." Furthermore David N. Steele and Curtis C. Thomas in "The Five Points of Calvinism: Defined, Defended, Documented" cite as proof-texts for irresistible grace numerous texts that specify God's internal call: Romans 1:67, 8:30, 9:2324; 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2, 9, 2331; Galatians 1:1516; Ephesians 4:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 9:15; 1 Peter 1:15, 2:9, 5:10; 2 Peter 1:3; Jude 1; and Revelation 17:14.

However, these allusions to God's effectual internal calling apply only to the irresistible grace that relates to internal calling. They do not invalidate the rejection of the outward call and indeed of the gospel of Christ by those who persist in unbelief (John 3:18, 5:47, 6:64; Rom. 11:23; Heb. 3:19).
I don't disagree with Dr. Garrett in his treatment of this point. His final comments on it, however, leave me wondering why he included them. Again, he writes,
We should never tell an unbeliever who scorns the message of the gospel that he or she can never be saved. Remember how the unbelieving, persecuting Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle!
No Calvinist would disagree. And no non-Calvinist would disagree. It may be that Dr. Garrett felt compelled to include this statement in case some might tempted to entertain the notion that rejection of the Gospel at any point means the forfeiture of any hope of ever being saved. With him, I renounce any such thought.

In his treatment of "unconditional election" Dr. Garrett makes the following helpful observation when commenting on Romans 8:29-30,
Dortian Calvinists are probably correct in interpreting "foreknew" as "loved beforehand" rather than "knew beforehand."
Furthermore, he observes,
The standard Arminian answer to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election is to posit that God knew beforehand who would repent and believe and hence chose such persons to be the elect. As noted, such a position may rest on a faulty understanding of the biblical term "foreknew."
His main point of critique comes when he questions whether "the Augustinian-Calvinist tradition has over-individualized the doctrine of election and downplayed the corporate or collective aspect of the doctrine." While that may be demonstrable in certain writers, it is certainly true that belief in both is not mutually exclusive.

Dr. Garrett does not address perservance of the saints because, he says, "most Southern Baptists hold to this doctrine."


TheSaxonHus said...

Concerning "perseverance of the saints", not all Southern Baptists believe this in the same way. Many of our folks today believe in "Security of the Believer" or "Once Saved, Always Saved" theology, not necessarily perseverance. While all three slogans MAY mean the same truth (if properly defined), too many Southern Baptists who hold the latter two positions believe a profession of faith gets you into heaven even if the remainder of your life looks like that of a heathen.

I fear we have too many "saints" sitting on their security rather than "working out" their own salvation.

Bruce D. Walker

Tom said...


I concur completely. I almost addressed that very issue in the post. Too much of what passes for "perseverance of the saints" in our day is little more than antinomianism. "Once saved, always saved," has become a mantra that is used to dispel all doubt about the state of a person's soul, despite what that person loves or how he or she lives.

Thanks for your comment.

Sojourner said...

If the average Baptist could articulate the difference between the "internal" call of the Holy Spirit through the gospel and the "general" call to repentance like this, I would be ecstatic.

Tom said...


Me too!!


David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom,

I have appreciated your posts and reviews very much, and appreciate your gentle spirit in what you write, as always.

As I've been reading what you've written though, one question has come back to mind, not about the quality of your writing, but in general:

Why is it that when when some state or national convention organization wants to talk about Calvinism or review it that they never as a Calvinist to explain what it is that we believe? Why do they go to those who do not hold to the DoG's to explain it? Very rarely have I seen an accurate portrayal of one or two of the doctrines, much less five, by someone who is not soteriologically Reformed. It would make much more sense to me for agency heads and directory to seek out someone such as yourself or Al Mohler or Sam Waldron, etc.

Any thoughts?


Tom said...


It is peculiar, isn't it? Years ago I had a self-described "moderate" editor of a state paper ask me to contribute articles on a "point-counterpoint" series on Calvinism. For various reasons, that never happened, but I have always appreciated his willingness to ask people who actually hold to the views in question to articulate them. Similarly, I have wondered, as you have, why that approach is so rare.


David B. Hewitt said...

Dr. Tom:

First, I apologize for the typos in the last post; I should have proofread it better.

I'm thinking perhaps part of the reason is that the powers-that-be might be afraid that, if a Calvinistic or completely Reformed Southern Baptist were to be asked to articulate the Scriptural rationale for the DoGs, it (Calvinism) might be contagious. I can only hope it would be. :)


GeneMBridges said...

I'm thinking perhaps part of the reason is that the powers-that-be might be afraid that, if a Calvinistic or completely Reformed Southern Baptist were to be asked to articulate the Scriptural rationale for the DoGs, it (Calvinism) might be contagious. I can only hope it would be. :)

So, what're sayin' is readers might have a reason to believe the doctrines of grace, in other words, an antecedent cause for their belief. Hmmm, I wonder how having a reason to believe would comport with their predilection with libertarian freedom. Think on that...

lordodamanor said...


Having responded now to Garrett (I take it that he will consider what is being said around the net), do you expect that he will return volly? And, if he does, do you expect that he will answer exegetically your and others challenges?

Tom said...


Dr. Garrett is not in great health. He is in his 80s and is recovering from a serious car accident last year. I doubt that he reads blogs. I have sent him advance copies of my posts as a courtesy and inviting his comments. In no way do I believe that he owes me any kind of response.