God Has Called You: On Effectual Calling (Murray)

Scripture teaches that a person dead in sin will remain dead in sin unless God graciously gives him or her new life in Christ (Eph. 2:5).  In theological terms, we say God effectually calls his elect and regenerates them by the power of his Spirit and word.  God is the author of this gracious, sovereign, effectual call.  John Murray explains it well:

“‘God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:9).  ‘…[God] …called us with a holy calling’ (2 Tim. 1:8-9).  In this respect calling is an act of God’s grace and power just as regeneration, justification, and adoption are.  We do not call ourselves, we do not set ourselves apart by sovereign volition any more than we regenerate, justify, or adopt ourselves.  Calling is an act of God and of God alone.  This fact should make us keenly aware how dependent are upon the sovereign grace of God in the application of redemption.  If calling is the initial step in our becoming actual partakers of salvation, the fact that God is its author forcefully reminds us that the pure sovereignty of God’s work of salvation is not suspended at the point of application any more than at the point of design and objective accomplishment.  We may not like this doctrine.  But, if so, it is because we are averse to the grace of God and wish to arrogate to ourselves the prerogative that belongs to God.  And we know where that disposition had its origin.”

John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, p. 110.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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What Does Open Theism Sound Like? Moses and Open Theism

I knew Terence Fretheim’s name was attached to the Open Theism camp; I see why now in his commentary on Exodus (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1991).  In discussing Yahweh’s dialogue with Moses in Exodus 3-4.17, Fretheim writes this: “God treats the dialogue with Moses with integrity and honors his insights as important ingredients for the shaping of the task.  God has so entered into a relationship with him that God is not the only one who has something important to say.  God will move with Moses, even adapting original divine plans … in view of Moses’ considerations.”

God’s way into the future is not dictated solely by the divine word and will.  God places the divine word and will into the hands of another for him to do with what he will.  That is for God a risky venture, fraught with negative possibilities.  God will now have to work in and through Moses’ frailties as well as strengths.  This will mean something less than what would have been possible had God acted alone; God is not in total control of the ensuing events.”

Fretheim then explains how God lacked “initial success” in trying to persuade Moses to follow his call.  “God’s best efforts do not meet with instant success.” “…But God goes with what is possible…God must often work with options that are less than the best.  God often has to accept what people do with the powers they have been given” (p. 53; emphasis original).

Wow. Ironically, this text (3.22) talks about Israel “stripping” (nzl – Piel) Egypt of her wealth; Fretheim turns the tables and strips God of his omniscience and omnipotence.  Fretheim’s portrayal of God is like Ironman fighting his nemesis, surprised by a few secret weapons and quick shots, but able to adapt in the end to overcome the surprisingly strong enemy – all while taking a few hard hits.  Makes for a fun movie, but a worthless redemption story and a pitiful redeemer.  Or, in another analogy, Fretheim’s portrayal of God is like a cosmic dancing with the stars (see the words “moves with” above): God is the lead dancer, but Moses sometimes pulls a few tricks of his own, to which God adapts and utilizes to win the contest.

Notice: the text does speak about Yahweh’s omniscience and omnipotence (as does the entire Exodus event!): v19 notes that Yahweh knows that Pharaoh will not let Israel go (future) except by a strong hand (future Exodus “wonders of God;” cf. Jesus’ interpretation of this passage as proving the divine power of Yahweh in Mark 12.26, Luke 20.37, and Matt 22.29).  How can Yahweh (I AM WHO I AM) make a promise to deliver his people if he’s not sure how they’ll react or what Pharaoh will do?

Good commentary, but this section puts a red flag on the whole thing; read it and use it, but do so with care.  Also, now you know what Open Theism “sounds like” on the popular level, in case you haven’t heard it so clearly before.

shane lems

sunnyside, wa