A report live-blogged by Andy Naselli
Williams is professor of systematic theology at Union Theological College in Belfast, Ireland. The title of the six-part series is “The Election of Grace: A Riddle without Resolution?” The sixth lecture in the series was advertised to be “an exposition of Romans 9-11 offering a positive proposal on election, prepared for in lectures 1-5.”
This is also available via live stream.
- Lest he be misunderstood, Williams clarified that he is not against systematic or conceptual thinking. The issue is the limits and nature of the systematic enterprise (the “where” and the “when” rather than the “that”).
Assurance of Salvation
- Discussion of election usually intersects with how certain people can be of their salvation.
- There are different ways of asking the question: Am I sure (1) that I am a Christian, (2) that Christ died for me, (3) that I will be kept to the end?
- If the questions people ask have many forms, then the Puritan answers were equally nuanced.
- Calvin thought that assurance was part of the essence of faith.
- Grounding assurance in one’s fruit is problematic because it may result in a justification-by-works mindset that loses sight of Christ’s centrality.
- We previously assigned people in one of two categories with reference to election: responsibility for rejection and non-congratulation for acceptance. But it’s a bit different with the paradox of assurance.
- Perseverance is a subordinate ground of assurance.
- It is possible to sympathize with Arminius and Wesley while disagreeing with them on single predestination. We need each other.
- Cf. Charles Simeon’s discussion with John Wesley:
[Simeon] Sir, I understand that you are called an Arminian; and I have been sometimes called a Calvinist; and therefore I suppose we are to draw daggers. But before I consent to begin the combat, with your permission I will ask you a few questions. Pray, Sir, do you feel yourself a depraved creature, so depraved that you would never have thought of turning to God, if God had not first put it into your heart?
[Wesley] Yes, I do indeed.
[S] And do you utterly despair of recommending yourself to God by anything you can do; and look for salvation solely through the blood and righteousness of Christ?
[W] Yes, solely through Christ.
[S] But, Sir, supposing you were at first saved by Christ, are you not somehow or other to save yourself afterwards by your own works?[W] No, I must be saved by Christ from first to last.
[S] Allowing, then, that you were first turned by the grace of God, are you not in some way or other to keep yourself by your own power?[W] No.
[S] What then, are you to be upheld every hour and every moment by God, as much as an infant in its mother’s arms?[W] Yes, altogether.
[S] And is all your hope in the grace and mercy of God to preserve you unto His heavenly kingdom?[W] Yes, I have no hope but in Him.
[S] Then, Sir, with your leave I will put up my dagger again; for this is all my Calvinism; this is my election, my justification by faith, my final perseverance: it is in substance all that I hold, and as I hold it; and therefore, if you please, instead of searching out terms and phrases to be a ground of contention between us, we will cordially unite in those things wherein we agree.
- Luther: It is only when you are under the cross and suffering that you will rightly learn about predestination. Suffering for the sake of the gospel creates alignments; it strengthens identity.