What if someone says they believe that God is sovereign and that He absolutely controls all actions and events and nothing happens outside of His decretive will and they believe that man has no free-will, and then they say that faith is a condition for justification?
That describes a man like Vincent Cheung. In spite of their belief that faith is the instrumental and “non-meritorious condition” for justification, they still stubbornly maintain that justification is bestowed “freely by His grace” (Romans 3:24). They think that justification is “free” because God freely causes (or enables) them to meet the condition of belief. They assume that belief as a condition is automatically non-meritorious since God is said to fulfill the condition in them through the Spirit (contra Romans 11:6). For them, “grace alone” is sufficient to fulfill all the conditions.
In addition to the Calvinistic version of “graciously and sufficiently enabled” salvation conditioned on the sinner, there are other kinds of “graciously, yet not sufficiently enabled” versions of salvation conditioned on the sinner as well. James White writes about one such version:
“In Roman Catholicism, the work of Christ merits grace. This grace is mediated through the sacraments of the Church. The grace of justification, for example, is mediated through the sacrament of baptism, and, when one loses that grace through the commission of a mortal sin, through the sacrament of penance. This grace then places the believer in the “state of grace,” so that he or she can now do “good works” that are meritorious before God and thereby earn the reward of eternal life. The death of Christ then is necessary to provide the key element or foundation of the “system” of salvation. Without it, there would be no grace to flow through the sacraments. In essence, it makes men savable (by inaugurating a system whereby men save themselves), but it does not actually save. One could surely not say that in Roman Catholicism the death of Christ is sufficient to fully and completely save any particular individual…” (James White, The Potter’s Freedom, p. 233).
One reason for the doctrine of purgatory is that the complete list of alleged conditions is left undefined, and so the sinner has no idea if he has fulfilled all the conditions (since he does not know what they are). Please note that the “good works” that the Roman Catholic is conditioning justification on, is done by the “grace” that Christ merited. I had asked conditionalist Calvinist, Knight, the following question:
“At what point does condition-meeting enabled by the Holy Spirit cease to be grace?”
His response to me was this:
“At the point God’s grace is insufficient to fulfill the condition. Duh. Non-Calvinists deny sola gratia, not because of a difference in conditions, but in the difference between how the condition is fulfilled” (Knight).
As long as “grace” is sufficient to fulfill the supposed instrumental “non-meritorious condition” of willing or running (Romans 9:16), it is therefore of grace, and not of works.
To the conditionalist Calvinists, justification is suspended on conditions performed by the sinner. They vainly attempt to evade the charge of teaching justification by works by redefining works. If we use Knight’s definition above, any condition-meeting performance “wrought by grace” in the sinner’s person, would NOT constitute a work. Evidently, it’s only a work if “grace” is insufficient to perform the work.
“Let’s say this person professes to believe that regeneration precedes faith, and faith precedes justification. That this person believes that regeneration is all an unconditional work of God, thus the sinner cannot take any credit for their regeneration, and this person says that faith is a gift from God alone, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and that which Jesus Christ Himself is both the author and finisher of, thus this person would say that the sinner cannot take any credit for their faith nor for their believing because they believe that God absolutely controls all their actions, so when they believe, they say it is because of God alone that they believe and they attribute nothing to themselves when they believe, because they know that would be saying that they contributed in some way or part in their believing, justification, and salvation. Thus to this person they know that both justification and salvation is not conditioned on the sinner, but is solely conditioned on God and His grace through Jesus Christ’s blood atonement and imputed righteousness alone. Yet this person says that faith is a condition for justification.
Now to my question, is this a possibility? Is it possible for someone to think of faith as being a condition for justification in such a scenario without it not making it justification or salvation conditioned on the sinner?
The short answer is, no. Now for the longer answer:
“What then shall we say our father Abraham to have found according to flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has a boast, but not with God. For what does the Scripture say? “And Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness.” Now to one working, the reward is not counted according to grace, but according to debt. But to the one not working, but believing on Him justifying the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Even as also David says of the blessedness of the man to whom God counts righteousness apart from works” (Romans 4:1-6).
The conditionalist Calvinist does not believe he’s working, even though it’s in response to his “infallibly and efficaciously” enabled performance of the necessary condition of faith, that God imputes the righteousness of Christ. The Calvinist clearly DID WORK, and God in turn, rewarded this work with imputed righteousness — this is debt, NOT grace. They attempt to evade this charge by asserting that “faith” can never be a work if it’s “graciously enabled.” But they are just playing word games and twisting Scripture to their own destruction.
They may deny that they make faith a work all they want, but the fact remains that in their scheme, God is NOT imputing (or counting) righteousness apart from the sinner’s works and efforts, but imputing righteousness upon their performance of a “graciously enabled” work.
“For the promise was not through Law to Abraham, or to his seed, for him to be the heir of the world, but through a righteousness of faith. For if those of Law are heirs, faith has been made of no effect, and the promise has been annulled” (Romans 4:13-14).
The conditionalist Calvinist who says that faith is a condition for justification — it matters not what he affirms about God’s sovereignty, since the god whom he says is sovereign is simply an idol that causes men to meet conditions for their justification — would strongly deny that saying faith is a condition, means that they are saying that those of the Law, are heirs. They would deny that a person is able to perfectly fulfill God’s preceptive and penal law since Christ alone fulfilled that. BUT then they ADD another condition on top of Christ’s:
By their adding of an “instrumental condition” for the sinner to meet on top of Christ’s “meritorious condition,” they are saying that those of the law are heirs, faith has been made of no effect, and the promise has been annulled.
They wouldn’t SAY that those of the law are heirs, but since their doctrine DENIES that Christ’s perfect fulfillment of the penal and preceptive demands of the law, ensures and demands the FREE justification of all whom He represented, they are obligated to do the whole law (cf. Galatians 5:3-4). Faith has been made of no effect to them because they deny that Christ met all the conditions for their justification, thus ensuring that His righteousness be freely imputed with the freely imparted gift of faith. The promise has been annulled since they do NOT believe that the promise of justification and salvation is conditioned on the work of Christ alone, but on the “graciously” enabled work of the sinner.
Many use the Philippian jailer’s question “what must I do to be saved?” and the apostles’ response to it, as alleged proof that faith is a condition for justification. But since when does a person become an heir based upon a condition that they are enabled to perform?
Another person asked Jesus what must they do to inherit eternal life. Jesus told them to keep the commandments. This is in keeping with Galatians 3:24, which shows that one of the functions of the law is to lead one to Christ that they might be justified by faith. Faith does not add additional “instrumental non-meritorious” conditions to the law; instead faith believes that Christ’s fulfillment of the law is the sole condition for justification.
“I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness is through Law, then Christ died without cause” (Galatians 2:21).
Of course, the conditionalist Calvinist will not SAY that Christ died without cause (nor will the Roman Catholic or Pelagian explicitly say that). But for the Calvinist, righteousness does NOT come through (is not freely imputed through) the work of Christ alone. For the righteousness of Christ cannot be imputed unless the sinner first performs the “requisite faith.” In the heretical Calvinist scheme, the justification of the elect sinner cannot happen unless the condition of faith be performed.
Jesus Christ died in order to effect the free justification of all whom He represented. To assert (like the conditionalist Calvinists do) that Christ’s death effects the “free and gracious” bestowal of conditions, is to assert that the sinner is being “graciously” enabled to put God in his debt (cf. Romans 4:4, 11:6).
How is Christ doing the saving and justifying in this Calvinistic scheme? All I see in the Calvinistic view, is a demonic doctrine that teaches that the sacrifice of Jesus Christ does not of itself save and freely justify, but that it freely enables people to perform conditions on which their salvation and justification are said to be contingent upon.