You can tell when certain folks have just completely run out of meaningful commentary and argumentation, or, never possessed any to begin with.
When people argue that someone who accepts the biblical teaching of God’s sovereign decree, election, the perfection of the atonement, etc., should, as a result, not engage in apologetics, not seek justice for the pre-born, not prophetically warn the culture of its impending judgment, they demonstrate themselves to be either utterly deceived in their thinking, utterly ignorant of the facts, or completely disinterested in honesty (and it is normally a mixture of all three). The basic idea is that if God has determined the beginning and the end, all to His glory and the good of His people, then He has clearly skipped over the means, and everything will just roll on to its conclusion. So it is useless to be passionate for the pre-born, useless to call men and women to repentance, useless to teach your children the goodness of God’s creation, etc., because we are all robots anyway, right?
Those who refuse to accept the full spectrum of God’s revelation on these matters likewise refuse to see how God’s decree includes His intention to conform His people to Christ’s image. Hence, when we have a new heart, we long for God’s will, God’s goodness. We become passionate about godliness, and hence are used by Him in His purpose of expanding and building Christ’s kingdom. We become His instruments, and are changed in the process.
Many labor under the delusion that for us to truly love justice, or love the pre-born, we must be autonomous creatures, living in a world without a decretal foundation, headed toward an uncertain future. But the reality is that there is only room for one autonomous will in the universe, and God already has it! So we, His creatures, make decisions and interact with His providence as creatures, not as autonomous beings who, by our actions, thwart God’s purposes and cause Him to have to modify His intentions. As Scripture states, God frustrates the purposes of men, but His purposes are always established (read Psalm 33:10-11 for an example). This means we affirm creaturely free will. We act upon our desires, and God’s decree weaves those actions into the tapestry of His glory. If you realize you are too small to comprehend how that works, congratulations, you have reached the starting point of serious theological study.
It would be nice if some of those who so confidently spout off on line would invest some of that time in reading something like Edwards’ massive work on the will, or at least one of his sermons in which he masterfully handles this important subject. Or go back farther to Calvin, or even back to works by Augustine. Or, just struggle with key texts in Scripture that lay the foundations upon which we must stand. No one is hiding this material, it is all there for the reading. But today’s cultural context favors shallow, emotive interaction, not serious study and inquiry.
So some individual on Twitter (@J17apologetics) responded, as did @Soteriology101, to a comment I made recently about the phrase “It is Christ or chaos.” The phrase is, I think, a very useful one in our day as we seek to be salt and light in a truly darkened culture that seems about ready to experience incredible judgment. The shallow, infantile argument is that if God’s decree exists, then we can’t worry about such things as judgment, or being salt and light, or acting prophetically, because…ROBOTS. But this isn’t serious argumentation. No one with any integrity makes such an argument. If God’s decree is that all things will result in the end in the praise of His glorious grace, then the means by which that end is arrived at are important and valuable. We grow in grace and the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ when we obey His commands and have our wills conformed to His in seeking to be salt and light, speak prophetically, and warn of judgment.
So I used the term “choice” and, those who have a flattened, rigid, man-centered view of the world, can only hear that term as “autonomy” and hence “no decree.” The reality is, we desire to be used of God in both the salvation of His elect people, and in the demonstration of His righteous judgment upon sinful rebellion. Hence, we speak the truth, and God uses that truth as He sees fit. We do not know the identity of the elect, nor do we need to pretend we do. Instead, we cry out warning of impending judgment in sincere desire that people turn and experience life. We are simply instruments seeking to obediently follow our Lord. We are, graciously, changed in that process as well, both by seeing God change hearts and minds and bring life in the midst of death, but likewise in seeing the result of rejection of God’s light and the further dive into the darkness of rebellion.
Evidently, to those who refuse the fulness of divine revelation on this topic, that is just not possible, despite how many examples we have of this in Scripture. I am reminded of Paul’s almost off-handed comment that he “endures all things for the sake of the elect” (2 Tim. 2:10). “All things” included his beatings and imprisonments, and yet he “endures” because he has the bigger picture in mind, the very picture our critics refuse to even contemplate.
@J17apologetics wrote, “James White forgets that he’s not supposed to affirm free will. You’re getting old, James. Time to retire.” Well, I am indeed getting old, ’tis true. But I can still recognize people who haven’t a clue what they are denying or attacking and who utilize straw-man argumentation. Age does not prohibit you from demonstrating such decrepit presentations when you see them, hopefully to the benefit of others.