This posting will be part two of my review and analysis of Elder Joseph Holder's writing "Studies in Romans: Chap 6:19-22."
"Logically this teaching reduces the obedient disciple to something of a robot, mechanistically and irresistibly responding to the divine decree, making even the believer's willingness itself the result of a divine decree."
Clearly this is an example of "errant thinking," the thing Holder thought that other Christians had experienced. We would ask Holder 1) whether God has predestined or caused any righteous acts of his people? and 2) whether it is only true in cases where God has caused every good deed? Are his people "robots" only when he "irresistibly" causes them to do a righteous act? Further, in that single divinely caused act of obedience, are his people acting "mechanistically and irresistibly"?
Further, why is it a bad thing, or a falsehood, to say that regeneration, transformation, sanctification, etc., are, in some respects, "mechanistic" and "irresistible"? Have not the Hardshells historically taught that God calls his elect people to life and salvation "irresistibly"? Have they not also traditionally taught that people, in effectual calling (according to Ephesians 1: 19, Eph. 2: 8, etc.), "believe"? Would not "believe" be a righteous act that God caused?
However, Holder and today's Hardshells either deny what their forefathers taught on this issue, or they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths, i.e. contradicting themselves.
When the person is regenerated, is he not made or caused by God to believe and repent? Further, would this not be "irresistibly responding to the divine decree"? Let us consider the sinner who has been convicted of his sins by the Spirit. Every Hardshell would say that such a conviction is what is instantly produced in regeneration. It is an immediate and certain effect. Now, this being the work of the Spirit, he certainly determined to convict the sinner before he actually did so, since the Spirit has only what are eternal purposes. It is clear that his conviction of the sinner shows that sinner "irresistibly responding to the divine decree" (or prior divine purpose). Holder's Hardshell premised demolished!
Holder objects to the idea of "making even the believer's willingness itself the result of a divine decree." This is quite interesting in view of the fact that, until recent times, the Hardshells have, like other Calvinists, saw Philippians 2: 13 as applicable to the experience of regeneration or effectual calling. That passage says that God is working in the believer "to will" in relation to pleasing God. Surely God did not do this without forethought, but as a result of "the divine decree"
Keep in mind that Holder is coming from the perspective that says it is not possible for there to be such a thing as "forced obedience." (tell that to the man in prison!) By this rule, there is of course no "obedience" of the heart in Hardshell regeneration. He therefore would not interpret Philippians 2: 13 as did his forefathers nor see that it completely overthrows his man made proposition. Holder's proposition says that it cannot be true that God causes the "willingness" of his people (for this would make them into robots, a thing which cannot be true). But, here his proposition is positively denied. God is working in his people such a willingness.
Also, keep in mind that Holder is also coming from the perspective that says that God cannot be credited, praised, or thanked for the righteous acts that his regenerated people do, for once he is credited with them, he must be blamed for his people not doing righteous acts. So, who will Holder credit for his believing? Himself! Who will he credit for his repenting? Not God! Oh no! He must protect God's purity by taking away from him any presupposed blame.
"…even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness." These words describe a personal, voluntary, and cognitive decision to do something-something altogether righteous. "…yield" is in the active voice; it requires a conscious decision by the Roman believers. It does not describe an involuntary response to a divine decree."
Holder is correct in saying that the yielding of the text, (as well as the obeying) shows that the actions described result from a "personal, voluntary, and cognitive decision." He thinks that it is an impossibility that such a voluntary response to the Gospel and its call could be the result of a divine decree. He upholds the idea that all "responses" (or effects?) to a divine decree, respecting acts of rational creatures, can only be "involuntary." But, where is his proof for this proposition?
1. All human acts that result from a divine decree are involuntary
2. The acts of yielding and obeying in Rom. 6 are voluntary
3. The acts do not result from a divine decree
Anyone can see how Holder's major premise (or proposition) is what is false. Where did he get that proposition? Is it found in Scripture? Or, is the opposite found there? I have already shown, in other postings previously referred to, what false premises and presuppositions that Hardshells have invented and which they take to the Scriptures and interpret Scripture in conformity with those premises. This is but another example.
Ephesians 1: 19, as we have seen, overthrows the major premise of Holder. Holder's forefathers would not have accepted Holder's premise, but would have viewed it as false. They were constantly citing Isaiah 26: 12 "Lord, you have wrought all our works in us," a verse that clearly overthrows Holder's premise.
"Now the God of peace...Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ." (Heb. 13: 20-21)
Notice that becoming "perfect in every good work to do his will" is the result of the omnipotent God "working in you," and that this working was itself the result of his good pleasure, and "through Jesus Christ." What does Holder and today's Hardshells say about God's working? Do they believe that God fails in his working? Do they believe that the experience of sanctification and perseverance in Christ are the works of God or not? What possible response can they give to this difficulty?
He could again say that this is not God's work, and refuse to give him the credit for it. After all, by Holder's thinking, he cannot say that it is God's work and responsibility to perfect the believer, which entails causing him to do those good activities that please him. One wonders what Holder thinks about life in Heaven in the eternal state. Does he believe that it will be possible to sin? If he says no, then why will it be impossible? Could it be because the people there have been so made, so programmed, that they cannot sin? Will not this eternal obedience to God be the result of a divine work and decree? Does this fact not also demolish the Hardshell reasoning of Holder?
"If we accept that their (our) sins were not the result of an irresistible divine decree, we must accept that their righteous conduct was also not the result of an irresistible divine decree. Otherwise the "as…even so" parallel cannot hold."
Holder here argues that whatever is true in regard to God causing righteous acts must also be true in regard to his causing unrighteous acts. Of course, Holder is speaking about what he thinks is only hypothetical, for he does not believe that God has ever irresistibly or effectually caused either a righteous or unrighteous act of any human being.
It is true that both righteous acts and unrighteous acts are included in the eternal divine decree respecting all things, as the old reformed confessions affirm. But, it is not true that how and why each occurs is the same. Further, Holder is assuming one of his unproved presuppositions, in arguing as he does here, which says that a voluntary free will decision cannot possibly be the result of a divine decree.
We have already seen in previous postings that "all things" are of God (Rom. 11: 36), as well as "through" him and "unto" him. We have seen how it is the "work of God" to bring his people further and further into the likeness of Christ, to bring them to the end for which he created them, which is "unto good works." (Eph. 2: 8-10) As God is constantly at work in the regenerated soul to bring him to perfection, it must be the result of his eternal purpose and divine decree because "known unto God are all his works from the beginning." (Acts 15: 18)
We have already seen how the major premise of Holder is shown to be false by the words of Eze. 36: 27 where God promised that he would cause his regenerated people to walk in his statutes. In that passage God is revealing his eternal purpose to so work in the hearts of his chosen people as to cause them to willingly obey him. Why does Holder think that God cannot effectually create a willing heart and mind? Holder's whole argumentation is nothing but an example of "errant thinking."
"Conscious and voluntary choice is the driving force of our lesson. What motivated the Romans to pursue sin so enthusiastically as to be termed "servants" of sin, literally its slaves? Was it a mechanistic response to a divine decree? No! It was a conscious and voluntary choice to practice that conduct. It was based on their dominant nature at the time, depraved and godless sinners."
Here Holder shows how far removed he is from the views of the first generation of his Hardshell forefathers.
One of the first errors to notice is how Holder errs in giving the reason for people being styled "servants of sin." Holder thinks that one is only a servant to sin because of "conscious and voluntary choice."
First of all, the Greek word "doulos" translated "servant" in the KJV, means a bond slave, someone born into slavery (See Luke 7:2). Thus, one who is a slave to sin, initially at least, is one involuntarily! The thing Holder says can't be! I know that Holder believes that all are born in sin and under condemnation. Were they "slaves to sin" at the moment they were born? Was it the result of a voluntary choice alone? Obviously not.
Holder could respond and say that he does not deny that people are born into the slavery of sin, but that this is not the kind of slavery being talked about in Romans 6, for it is wholly voluntary. But, this would be hard to do because of all the Greek words for "slaves" Paul chose "doulos," denoting one who is born into slavery as well as someone committed to his master.
Of course, being a slave is not to be restricted in definition to one merely born into slavery. It will also include living the life of a slave. It will involve existing for the pleasure of one's master. It will involve obedience to the will of the master. Such a servitude is most often what is called “involuntary servitude.” A slave can either love or hate his master. If he love his master, he will not seek to be free from his servitude. If he hates him, he will seek to be free from him. Further, his obedience can be either voluntary or involuntary. But, Holder would deny that being a servant to sin is ever involuntary!
Let it be remembered also that the premise of Holder is also refuted by the fact that God created all men and that they were created to serve his purpose. We were not consulted as to whether we wanted to be created or as to what purpose we would serve. Is this not a kind of "involuntary servitude"?
Does Holder not know that "The king's heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will"? (Prov. 21: 1) Notice also these passages:
"Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2: 23)
"Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done." (Acts 4: 27-28)
These verses demolish the idea that God's decree does not cause the acts of men, including sinful acts. They were voluntary. But, they were the result of God's eternal purpose.
Holder says that the choices and deeds of those who have only a sinful nature are all voluntary and made without any compelling power. But, he also said that such choices and deeds are "based on their dominant nature at the time, depraved and godless sinners." We might ask Holder - "is the sinful nature resistible?" Can men live a life without acts of sin? Does not the depraved nature compel men to sin?
"What distinguishes them now from what they were then? Now they have been born of God."
"Now" when? Surely not when they "yielded" and "obeyed that form of doctrine," nor when they were "made free from from sin" nor when they "became servants of righteousness"! Such a view would demolish Hardshellism's faulty, yet beloved, presuppositions.
If Paul is talking about being "born of God" in this passage, he does it not by express use of the terminology, as Holder would admit, so he must do it some other way. How so? First, by contrast with "doulos." One becomes a slave to sin when he is born into it. One becomes a slave to God when he is born into it by a new birth. The birth into sin began a life of service to sin. The second birth begins a life of service to God and righteousness.
Holder is not being careful here in protecting Hardshellism's propositions. He seems to be equating the experience of being liberated from being servants of sin with being born again. But, it only seems this way because he is not being careful, not thinking that his writing would be given the thoughtful review that it is now getting from me.
In the next posting, I will complete my review of Holder's commentary on Romans 6: 19-22.