First, let me say that I do not believe either the Calvinist or Traditionalist, by necessity, can have true converts who are boasting braggarts in their salvation.
1. If a Calvinist is a boaster, and Calvinism is true, then it’s doubtful he was sovereignly regenerated, as the system claims is true of all genuine converts.
2. If a non-Calvinist is a boaster, and contra-causal free will is true, then it’s doubtful he has actually humbled himself in his brokenness and shame and genuinely confessed his sins in faith.
In both cases, boasting is a sign of false humility and pride, which indicates no true conversion has taken place (whether that conversion was accomplished by irresistible means or not is beside the point).
That being said, I would like to combat the all to often heard accusation that the non-Calvinist has grounds for boasting while Calvinists do not.
Isn’t boasting reserved for those things you can do that most others can’t do?
No one is going around boasting about their ability to stand in front of those who choose to remain seated. Why? Because they know those who are sitting could get up whenever they wanted. There is nothing unique or special about the ability to stand.
It would be comical to boast about doing something that any normal able bodied individual could choose to do.
We (non-Calvinist) are too often accused that we could/would boast in our salvation because we affirm that it is our responsibility to *freely* respond in faith to the gracious Holy Spirit wrought gospel appeal.
Is this really boast worthy?
We are the ones who believe anyone can believe the gospel. Why would we boast in doing something anyone is able to do?
It’s the Calvinists who believe this ability is uniquely given to them and not most people. It makes much more sense for a Calvinist to boast in an ability granted to him that has been withheld from most others.
A great singer, for example, is a given a rare gift from birth and can often become proud or boastful due to that unique gift. But if everyone was born able sing that well whenever they wanted, then boasting in that ability would not make any sense.
Thus, Calvinism leaves more room for boasting than does our soteriological perspective.
Let me be very clear once again. I don’t believe either system actually does have grounds for boasting nor do I (having been in both sides of this issue) believe any good Calvinist or non-Calvinistic believer would desire to boast. But, if one was comparing the two sides objectively, clearly it’s the Calvinist who would have more grounds for boasting given that his God given abilities are more rare and unique to him, not the majority.
For instance, if there was an immature Calvinist next to an immature Arminian, it would make more sense for the Calvinist to boast about His uniquely granted abilities than it would be for the Arminian who is merely doing something anyone else was able to do.
For example, I have four children and if I brought home one toy for one child and not the others, well, you can imagine what an immature child might do. He might boast in his new toy. Ideally, he would recognize that he was given a gift and has no reason to boast and he would share his toy with his siblings. But, we as parents know that is all too rare. His reason for boasting is because he sees himself as being specially picked out and given something unique from daddy that the others were not given. This child feels special in contrast to his siblings.
Now, if I brought the same toys home for every child and some of my children simply chose not to play with their toys; would it make any sense for the child who did choose to play with the toy to boast about that? Of course not. Any of them could have chosen to play with the toy. There would be no reason for the child who chose to enjoy playing with it to boast as if the others couldn’t have done the same thing. This child would not feel special or favored by his father in a way that might lead to his boasting.
The fact is that in the time of the New Testament the Pharisees were boasting because they felt they uniquely were “the chosen people of God” and all the other nations were not. They felt special.
Now, they should have been grateful and humbled by the fact that God chose their nation, but the fact is, this made them prideful and boastful. Had those Pharisees believed that everyone in the entire world was chosen in the same exact way that Israel had been chosen; then would it have made sense for them to become prideful and boastful in their election? Of course not.
No one who understands salvation rightly in either soteriological system is able to boast, because salvation is totally up to God in both systems. God can have mercy on whoever he wants to have mercy. Just because someone humbles themselves and trusts in Christ doesn’t mean they are any more deserving of salvation.
Please understand this point: The decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work. Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven. Think of it this way. Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home? Of course not. He deserved to be punished, not rewarded. The acceptance of his father was a choice of the father alone and it was ALL OF GRACE. The father did not have to forgive, restore and throw a party for his son on the basis that he chose to come home. That was the father’s doing.
Humiliation and brokenness is not considered “better” or “praiseworthy” and it certainly is not inherently valuable. The only thing that makes this quality “desirable” is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do. God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.
Clearly scripture calls us to humility and there is nothing which suggests we cannot respond in humility when confronted by the powerful clear revelation of God’s convicting life-giving truth through the law and the gospel:
1 Peter 5:5-6: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
Isaiah 66:2: “These are the ones I look on with favor: those who are humble and contrite in spirit, and who tremble at my word.
James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
2 Kings 22:19: “Because your heart was responsive and you humbled yourself before the Lord when you heard what I have spoken against this place and its people—that they would become a curse and be laid waste—and because you tore your robes and wept in my presence, I also have heard you, declares the Lord.”
2 Chronicles 12:7: When the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, this word of the Lord came to Shemaiah: “Since they have humbled themselves, I will not destroy them but will soon give them deliverance. My wrath will not be poured out on Jerusalem through Shishak.
2 Chronicles 12:12: Because Rehoboam humbled himself, the Lord’s anger turned from him, and he was not totally destroyed.
Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
Psalm 25:9: He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way.
Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Proverbs 3:34: He mocks proud mockers but shows favor to the humble and oppressed.
Zephaniah 2:3: Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger.
Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3: Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Luke 1:52: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.
Luke 14:11: For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
James 4:6: But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”
If you will not humble yourselves, God will humble you in judgment.
- The lost man’s inability to seek God does not equal the inability to respond to a God who is actively seeking to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
- The lost man’s inability to save himself does not equal the inability to respond to God’s gracious and powerful appeal for all the lost to repent and believe. (Col. 1:23)
- The lost man’s inability to attain righteousness by pursuing it through works does not equal the inability to attain righteousness by pursuing it through faith. (Rom. 9:30-32)
But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken! (Jer. 9:24)
*Freely* = contra-causal free will, which is the ability of the will to refrain or not refrain from any given moral action.
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