Recently in a conversation of the ‘doctrines of grace’ with a coworker, the topic of effectual calling, or irresistible grace came up. I was surprised when my friend said he was a Calvinist, but did not agree with the 5 points. (Yes, I know that Calvinism is more than the “5 points”…) So of course I think, oh, Specific Atonement, right? He must be offended by Larry. Surprisingly no! He claimed God’s calling is not effectual, and he provided Matthew 11:20-24 as a prooftext. So to Matthew 11 I went.

The Lord is speaking in this passage, denouncing cities that he has performed miracles in. (I know, I know, “What of the wider context Mark?” Just let me have my foil, we’ll look at the context next time…)

Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.” (ESV)[Emphasis mine]

I will summarize his argument and evaluate his point for myself.

1.) If the works done in Chorazin and Bethsaida were performed in Tyre and Sidon, then they (people of T&S) would have believed.
2.) This belief is based on the seeing of the works and hearing Jesus’ teaching.
3.) The grace of Christ is the showing of the signs and proclaiming of his teaching.
4.) Since one (city of people) believes (or would have believed according to Jesus) and one (city of people) does not, in spite of the same evidence or grace…therefore believing is a heart decision of the person and is apart from some “effectual or irresistible grace.”
5.) Therefore it is biblical to stand with the remonstrants on the ‘I’ of TULIP.

I am very glad that this friend brought up this discussion topic and this text. It took me a little while to sort through what he was saying and see his argument (which I have attempted to distill above.) Once I wrote out what he was saying, it just clicked.

I was startled when over at The Head of the Moor I found a conversation that went into the “Middle Knowledge” view of God, hence the link to “Molinism.” I was further surpirsed when I found the example of Matthew 11 in Wikipedia as a proof-text for Molinism!

At first I thought I was looking at an example of Synergism, and indeed I was, but since then I’ve been blessed by these resources (and others) to see this is Molinism at the heart driving this interpretation that results in the synergism of the above argument.

So what is wrong with this view of God’s knowledge and our will?

Well, I hope to write about that next time, starting from Matthew 11 and discussing what some smarter/wiser folks have said about it…