God Wins Chapter 4 – Calvinism ≠ Biblical, Galli’s view ≠ Bell’s words

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I am hesitant to post such a title, especially about Calvinism, especially since I do think that Calvinism contains biblical doctrines, although I cannot attest to it as a completely biblical doctrine (and thus the idea of ever Reforming, I would gather). However, Galli takes the approach that Calvinism and ‘biblical’ can be interchanged, although admittedly, he never uses Calvinism nor such words as predestination or election while allowing the concepts contained there in to shine forth. To note as well, his Calvinism is not the absolute variety, but is one which demands a response. Further, the concept of irresistible Grace is present in Mark, and without Scripture, proceeds that it is at once the only biblical doctrine and thus because Bell is clearly Arminian, or Open Theist, then he is preaching a false gospel. While this may play well in some quarters, many who assume themselves to be ‘biblical’ would see Galli as unbiblical for many of his statements in this chapter! For many, such as C.S. Lewis, whom Galli quotes several times, we place ourselves in Hell. This is the idea that Grace is resistible, that while God has given us the free gift of grace, He has equally given us the freedom to refuse it. In short, what Galli is arguing against is not new or even unbiblical as he supposes, but the biblical doctrine of Free Will as argued by many Christians. I would assume that had Galli actually studied theology, and not parsed theologians and he seemingly has done, he would have recognized Bell’s ‘new’, ‘American’, ‘Enlightenment’ theology as some of the core beliefs of Wesleyans, other Arminians, and Open Theists.

This chapter is short, and that is saying something for an already short book, but it is focused on Bell’s words that “Yes, we get what we want.” For Bell, this means that we get to choose whether or not to accept Salvation or refuse it. Here, again, I turn (like Galli often does, seemingly missing the ultimate hope of the generations-past author had) to C.S. Lewis who wrote in the Great Divorce,

“Finally, it is objected that the ultimate loss of a single soul means the defeat of omnipotence. And so it does. In creating beings with free will, omnipotence from the outset submits to the possibility of such defeat. What you call defeat, I call miracle: for to make things which are not Itself, and thus to become, in a sense, capable of being resisted by its own handiwork, is the most astonishing and unimaginable of all the feats we attribute to the Deity. I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell are locked on the inside.”

Bell is no C.S. Lewis, but how is this quote different in the intent and philosophy which Bell has written in that we receive the hell which we create for ourselves in refusing salvation. Barth noted that it was the possible impossibility. Barth, another theologian which Galli quotes and has an admitted admiration for. Yet, Galli has decided to take on Bell, armed with what? Two theologians who would support Bell before Galli. But, I digress. Here, Galli clearly gets Bell wrong and tends to see Bell as a semi-Pelegian, holding court without Augustine, or perhaps fails to understand Bell’s theology as Galli launches into a sophomoric explanation of what we understand as Calvinism and then holds Bell up to that. In this measuring, Galli misquotes (Bell doesn’t say that the Gospel is that God gives us what we want) and overstates Bell’s position (Bell doesn’t say we judge ourselves and nor does he remove God from that position).

There is not much in the fourth chapter, unless he removes the diatribes against Bell and fully explores the tension between the Sovereignty of God and Human Free Will. For me, in reading Willimon, I am coming to believe that Grace is irresistible.

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