a house with a door

As a companion post to the question of Arminianism vs Hypercalvinism, this argument is based on the analogy of salvation as a house – one where you’re safe inside and all your needs are met in ways much better than you could wish for, and you live in a state of reconciliation and friendship with the rest of the members of your family, with a Father, an elder Brother, and many many other adopted brothers and sisters.

Written over the entrance to this fortress-home are the words, “Whosoever cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out.” These words (or others very like them) form the main reason why those who are inside the house were encouraged to come – they are the promise, the genuine invitation, the implied command, and the warrant which each of them used as the basis for their temerity to come like the beggars they were and knock on the door to ask to meet the head of the house.

Once these people come inside, it turns out that when they look back at the door they came in by, they see that the words written over the door from this side are: “All that the Father gives me shall come to me.” These words are what provide their total security and safety – the explanation of why they were ever drawn into the house in the first place, and the guarantee that they will never be allowed to wander out of it, ever.

This is another way of thinking about the free offer of the gospel. It’s not Arminianism in disguise, and it’s not the teaching of Hypercalvinism. It’s simply the presentation of the fact that God has provided a Saviour for sinners, the fact that this Saviour is exactly the Saviour who meets the needs of each and every single sinner, and the fact that any sinner whosoever who trusts in him to be the Saviour who he reveals himself to be will not be disappointed in their trust.

Now this needs to be elaborated in the following ways.

1. There is also the fact that the identity of those sinners who trust in him will be an exact match with the identity of those sinners who were elected by the Father and given to the Son in the eternal covenant. Nevertheless the gospel is not addressed the elect, but to sinners as sinners: it’s not a case of establishing whether or not you’re elect, in order to know whether or not to pay attention to the gospel. It’s rather a case of recognising that you’re a sinner who owes God obedience to all his commandments, including his commands to forsake sin and turn to him for salvation.

2. There is also the fact that no one is able to trust in God out of their own resources, nor are they willing – even faith itself is a gift, and one that’s given merely out of the good pleasure of the giver, not for any deservedness about any of those who so desperately need it. Nevertheless this is not an excuse for sinners to do nothing but wait and see if they’ll be given this gift. Sinners, whether or not they think they are elect, are required to make use of the means of grace, the means which God has ordained for sinners to use, and which he blesses in order to make them effective/effectual to salvation in the case of some of those who use them. For example, nobody has any excuse for neglecting to pray to him to have mercy on them, or for neglecting to read the bible when it’s available to be read, or for failing to turn up to church to hear the gospel preached when there’s a minister somewhere in the vicinity. The fact that you might not be “one of the elect” is no excuse for doing only what you ought to be doing. (See the quote from Boston in this previous post, eg.) This, I think, is where Hypercalvinism falls down.

3. Notwithstanding that everyone should make as full use of the means of grace as they possibly can, we cannot leave ourselves under any delusions that doing so somehow qualifies us for God to look at us approvingly, or that we can in any way infuse any spiritual life into ourselves by our activity, or that carrying out religious duties can be anything more than going through the motions, without the Holy Spirit giving us new life and enabling spiritual life to be exercised. (This must be why William Gurnall said, “Go and endeavour … as if all were in thy power, yet looking to Him for the thing, as knowing that it must [all] come from him.”) This, I think, is where Arminianism falls down.

By making the gospel something that’s held out only for the elect, and discouraging sinners from engaging in any activity related to the welfare of their souls, Hypercalvinism ends up looking like a house which has no door – talking about God’s salvation, but with no way for sinners to lay hold of it. Meanwhile Arminianism lets people initiate and maintain their own salvation, which makes it look like a wide-open door which leads to a house that’s no house at all. The advice of a Calvinist to someone who wants to be saved will therefore run along the lines that they should use all the means of grace with the maximum diligence, acting on the truthfulness of God’s revelation of himself as one who has mercy on sinners for Christ’s sake, and depending on his Holy Spirit for all spiritual life and ability. Whoever you are, however bad a sinner you are and have been, Christ is a suitable and sufficient Saviour for you: trust in him to be to you the Saviour he declares himself to be, and you will be saved. This, as far as I understand it anyway, is the real door to the real house, the only way of offering hope to sinners while preserving the integrity of the Saviour.

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