Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Why evangelize?

“Arminians like John Wesley have sometimes charged that Calvinism undercuts the motivation to evangelize. I think this charge is half true. It seems to me that evangelism is motivated both by Christ's command to evangelize, and out desire that others be saved.”

http://dangerousidea.blogspot.com/2009/12/two-motivations-for-evangelism.html

Actually, it’s dubious whether Arminianism can consistently insist that explicit faith in the Gospel is a prerequisite for salvation. After all, if God wants to save everyone, if Christ died for everyone, and if the Holy Spirit gives everyone sufficient grace to be saved, then why would anyone be damned due to the historical accident of having been born in the Congo before the arrival of European missionaries?

So, before we ever get around to Calvinism, we must turn the same objection back on Arminianism. The objection has different grounds when directed at Arminianism, but Arminianism has to deal with the same on its own terms. So does Arminianism logically undercut the motivation to evangelize?

Or, to put a sharper point on the question, does Reppert think that God automatically damns every man and woman who never heard the Gospel?

“I see the point of evangelism based on obeying a commandment, predestination or no predestination. What I don't see is why our evangelizing makes any difference with respect to the outcome. If I preach the gospel, then God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose that I would do so. If I fail to preach, then God, before the foundation of the world, sovereignly chose that I would not preach.”

i) What a bizarre statement! In the very way he frames the statement, he is specifically presenting two different outcomes. If I preach the gospel, then that, of itself, is a different outcome than if I fail to preach the gospel. If one or the other…represents two different outcomes, yes?

Even more to the point, if I preach the gospel, then that will have one set of outcomes whereas, if I fail to preach the gospel, then that will have a different set of outcomes.

So it clearly makes a difference with respect to the outcome. And Reppert’s own formulation differentiates between two alternate outcomes.

ii) Perhaps what Reppert is trying to get at, in his fuzz-brained formulation, is that what I do or fail to do makes no difference to what God intends. If that’s what he means, then that, too, is terribly confused:

a) He’d have to treat God’s prior choice as though it were an “outcome”–such that whether I do one thing or another has no affect on the outcome (i.e. “God’s sovereign choice”). But there’s no sense in which Calvinism treats the decree as an outcome. Rather, the timeless decree is a necessary condition of resultant outcome. Outcomes are events. The decree is not, itself, an outcome.

b) Moreover, in Calvinism, if the end-result were different, then that would be because the decree was different.

c) Perhaps what Reppert is angling at is that unless human agents have the retrocausal power to change God’s mind or choice, then there’s no incentive to do what we do. If that’s his point, then his contention is so counterintuitive that I’d like to see the supporting argument before I even respond.

Does he really mean that it robs us of motivation unless we can retrocausally affect or alter God’s choice?

If so, then not only does that strike me as a very eccentric notion of what motivates human behavior, but it will also sink under the metaphysical weight of retrocausation.

If not, that I don’t know what he’s even talking about.

“So I think the motivation based on outcome is dissipated once you accept the idea that you can't change who is and who is not elect.”

i) How in the world does that conclusion follow? How would the incentive to evangelize depend on being able to change who is or is not elect?

Isn’t there a tradeoff? Sure, evangelism will be futile when directed at the reprobate. But the compensatory benefit is that evangelism will be invariably successful when directed at the reprobate.

ii) Moreover, the evangelist or missionary doesn’t have to sort them out. In God’s “preestablished harmony” (i.e. predestination and providence), there are always just enough preachers and missionaries to go around. No one whom God intended to save will miss out for lack of the Gospel.

“Thank God I'm not a Calvinist, so I can accept the outcome-based motivation as well as the command-based motivation.”

To the contrary, Reformed evangelism is outcome-based in a way that Arminian evangelism Thank God I'm not a Calvinist, so I can accept the outcome-based motivation as well as the command-based motivation. If libertarianism is true, then there’s no guarantee that anyone who’s evangelized will receive the Gospel.

In Calvinism, by contrast, God has already decreed the harvest before the seed hits the ground. There’s a guaranteed yield. “Presold,” if you will.

Of course, only God knows who will respond. But in consistent libertarianism (e.g. open theism), both God and the evangelist are equally in the dark regarding the outcome.

13 comments:

  1. Steve,

    Is there ever a sense that if I've been remiss in personal evangelism, someone's blood is on my hands?

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  2. UNSOPHISTICATED SAID:

    "Is there ever a sense that if I've been remiss in personal evangelism, someone's blood is on my hands?"

    That's a definite possibility. However, the duty to personally evangelize must be counterbalanced against our many other social obligations.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Steve,

    What does it mean to have someone's blood on my hands?

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  4. unsophisticated said...

    "What does it mean to have someone's blood on my hands?"

    Why don't you redirect that question to the questioner who posed that question in the first place. I assume you know what you meant by your own question.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Steve,

    I am assuming that to have someone's blood on my hands means that I am somehow responsible for that person's eternal destiny, but I'm not sure that is what the expression "blood on my hands" means.

    Furthermore, I’m not sure I understand in what way I should be held responsible for someone’s eternal destiny.

    I was hoping you could provide your understanding of the expression so that I could see if it was in line with my understanding.

    I believe it is an expression based in part on Acts 18:6.

    Thanks.

    ReplyDelete
  6. One can share the blame without bearing sole responsibility.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Unsophisticated,

    Ezekiel 33:1-9
    ---
    The word of the LORD came to me: "Son of man, speak to your people and say to them, If I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from among them, and make him their watchman, and if he sees the sword coming upon the land and blows the trumpet and warns the people, then if anyone who hears the sound of the trumpet does not take warning, and the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be upon his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But if he had taken warning, he would have saved his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, so that the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any one of them, that person is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.

    "So you, son of man, I have made a watchman for the house of Israel. Whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, O wicked one, you shall surely die, and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from his way, that wicked person shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, that person shall die in his iniquity, but you will have delivered your soul."
    ---

    Is that what you're referring to?

    ReplyDelete
  8. Peter,

    I suppose that passage may be analogous to personal evangelism, but I don’t know for sure. I understand, however, that it is often used in that way.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Steve,

    Thanks for the reply. I understand that one can share blame without bearing sole responsibility.

    The expression “blood on my hands/head” sounds as though if I fail in my responsibility of evangelism that I will be somehow be judged as a murderer. We know that murderers are not viewed favorably (e.g., 1 Jn 3:15).

    I was hoping you could shed some light on how you would expect a believer’s being judged as one with “blood on his/her hands/head” will cash out. Is it a sin that would be covered by justification? Would it result in a loss of rewards?

    Thanks again.

    ReplyDelete
  10. "Blood on one's hands" was your choice of metaphors, not mine. If your metaphor has problematic consequences, that's not my problem, is it? One can always get carried away with figures of speech. But plugging an idiomatic metaphor into 1 Jn 3:15 takes for granted that John was operating within that framework.

    ReplyDelete
  11. Okay. Let’s stick with the expression “blood on [one’s] head” (rather than hands) since that is apparently how it is used in Scripture (Ez 33, Acts 18, et al). And perhaps it has no connection to the guilt of murder. I don’t know; that’s why I was asking you what it means.

    I’m still hoping you could shed some light on how you would expect a believer’s being judged as one with “blood on his/her head” for being remiss in personal evangelism will cash out. I thought (based on your answer to my first question) that you thought that having blood on one’s head for being remiss in personal evangelism was a possibility. Is it a sin that would be covered by justification? Would it result in a loss of rewards?

    Thanks again for your time.

    ReplyDelete
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