6. THAT IT UNFAVORABLE TO GOOD MORALITY.
THE objection is sometimes made that this system encourages men to be careless and indifferent about their moral conduct and their growth in grace, on the ground that their eternal welfare has already been secured. This objection is primarily directed against the doctrines of Election, and the Perseverance of the Saints.
This objection, however, like the one to the effect that this system discourages all motives to exertion, is completely answered by the great principle which we hold and teach, namely, that the means as well as the ends are foreordained. God’s decree that the earth should be fruitful did not exclude, but included, the sunlight, the showers, the tillage of the husbandman, etc. If God has foreordained a man to have a crop of corn, He has also foreordained him to plow and plant and cultivate and to do all other necessary things to secure the crop. Just as a purpose to build includes the hewing of stone, the squaring of timbers, and the preparation of all other materials which enter into the structure; and as a declaration of war implies arms, ammunition, ships, and all other necessary equipment; so the election of some to the eternal enjoyment of heaven includes their election to holiness here. It is not the individual as such, but the individual as holy and virtuous that is predestinated to eternal life.
In the plainest of language Paul taught that the very purpose of election is, “That we should be holy and without blemish before Him in love,” Eph. 1:4; that we are “foreordained to be conformed to the image of His Son,” Rom. 8:29; and that “God chose you from the beginning unto salvation in sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth,” II Thess. 2:13. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed,” Acts 13:48. The predestinated, called, justified, glorified ones are the same, Rom. 8:29, 30. Therefore the purpose of God according to election must stand, Rom. 9:11.
The belief of Calvinists concerning this subject is well expressed in the Westminster Confession, where we read:
Since all events are more or less intimately connected, and since God works by means, if He did not determine the means as well as the events, the certainty as to the events themselves would be destroyed. In the redemption of man He determined not only the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, but also the faith, repentance and perseverance of all His people.
When this same doctrine was preached by Paul on another occasion and this same objection was brought against It — namely, that he “made the law of none effect through faith,” or in other words, that since we are saved through faith we do not need to keep the moral law — his emphatic reply was, “God forbid; nay, we establish the law,” Rom. 8:31. There is, then, an invariable connection established between eternal salvation as an end, and faith and holiness as a means leading to that end.
The ideal Christian, of course, would commit no sin at all. Though certainly saved, he is saved for good works, and is commanded to “give no occasion of stumbling in anything, that our ministration be not blamed,” II Cor. 6:8. The Scriptures know of no perseverance which is not a perseverance in holiness, and they give no encouragement to any sense of security which is not connected with a present and ever-increasing holiness. Virtue and piety, therefore, are the effect and not the cause of election, for which no cause is to be assigned except God’s sovereign good pleasure. It is true that some become much more advanced in holiness here and continue in that state over a much longer period of time than do others; yet it is vain for any who do not partake in some degree of holiness in this world to hope to enjoy happiness in the next. All those whom God has designed to render perfectly happy in eternity, He has designed to make in part happy in this world; and as holiness is essential to the happiness of an intelligent creature, so there is begun in them in this world that holiness without which no one shall see the Lord.
2. LOVE AND GRATITUDE TO GOD FOR WHAT HE HAS DONE
FOR US IS THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE AND ONLY
Those who make the objection that we are now considering assume that believers — those who through the almighty power of God have been brought from death to life, from sin to holiness; who have partially beheld the love and glory of God as it is revealed in Christ — are still incapable of being influenced by any motives except those which arise from a selfish and exclusive regard to their own safety and happiness. “And,” as Cunningham says, “they do virtually make a confession,
The contrast between the Calvinistic and the Arminian basis for morality is clearly stated in the following section from McFetridge:
Our love to God would at best be only lukewarm if we believed that His love and favor toward us depended only on our good behavior. His love toward us is as an immense sun, which shone without beginning and which will shine without end, while ours toward Him is, at its best, as only a little flame. Hence the assurance that the objects of God’s love shall never be permitted to fall away. Love which is founded on self-interest is commonly recognized as not being moral in the highest sense; yet Calvinism is the only system of faith which presents a purely unselfish motive, namely the consciousness that it is alone the free grace and unmerited love of God, to the exclusion of all human merit, that saves men. When the Christian remembers that he was saved only through the suffering and death of Christ his substitute, love and gratitude overflow his heart; and, like Paul, he feels that the least he can offer Christ In return is his whole life in loving service. Seeing himself saved by grace alone, he learns to love God for His own sake and finds it the joy of his life to serve Him with the whole heart. Obedience becomes not only the obligatory but the preferable good.
The motive which actuates the saints on earth Is the same in principle, though not so intense, as that which actuates the saints in glory, whose constant delight is to perform the noblest actions and service, namely, that of praising God, and punctually performing His will without interruptions or defeats. “As they have always a ravishing sense of His goodness to them, so they exercise their perfectly pure minds in ascriptions of praise and glory to him for delivering them from deserved ruin, and placing them in the blissful mansions where they find themselves possessed of ease, delight, complacency, and glory wholly unmerited.”4
Pure love and gratitude to God, and not selfish fear, is the very fuel of acceptable obedience, and these are the elements from which alone anything like high and pure morality will ever proceed. Jesus had no fear that a sense of eternal security would lead to licentiousness in His disciples, for He said to them, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The elect, therefore, have the utmost reason to love and glorify God which any beings can have, and it is a sheer calumny to represent the doctrine of Predestination as tending to licentiousness and as unfavorable to good morality.
Calvinism answers the charge that it is unfavorable to good morality, not merely by opposing reason against reason, but by putting facts of world-wide reputation over against these fictitious claims. It simply asks, What rival fruits can other systems oppose if we point to the achievements of the Protestant leaders of the Reformation period, and to the high moral earnestness of the Puritans? Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and their immediate helpers were all thoroughgoing “Calvinists,” and the greatest spiritual revival of all time was brought about under their influence. Those in England who held this system of faith were so very strict regarding purity of doctrine, purity of worship, and purity of daily life, that by their very enemies, who thus were their best witnesses, they were called “Puritans.” The Puritans in England, the Covenanters in Scotland, and the Huguenots in France, were men of the same religious faith and of like moral qualities. That the system of Calvin should have developed precisely the same kind of men in each of these different countries is a proof of its power in the formation of character.
Concerning the Puritans in this country McFetridge says:
It is further to be remembered as a diadem upon the brow of Calvinistic morality, that in all the history of the Puritans there is said to have been not one case of divorce. What a crying need there is for some such influence today! Lawlessness in general was scarcely, if ever, more unknown than among the Puritans. If, then, Calvinism was actually unfavorable to morality, as charged, it would indeed be a strange coincidence that where there has been the most of Calvinism there has been the least of crime. “This is the problem,” says Froude,
“There is no system,” says Henry Ward Beecher,
Instead of being a system which leads to immorality and despair, it has worked out exactly the opposite way in everyday life. No other system has so fired people with ideals of religious and civil freedom, nor led to such high ideals of morality and endeavor in all phases of human life. Wherever the Reformed Faith has gone it has made the country to blossom like the rose, even though it was a poor country like Holland, or Scotland, or New England. This has been admitted by Macaulay and many others, and is a very comforting thought.
Dr. Boettner was born on a farm in northwest Missouri. He was a graduate of Princeton Theological Seminary (Th.B., 1928; Th.M., 1929), where he studied Systematic Theology under the late Dr. C. W. Hodge. Previously he had graduated from Tarkio College, Missouri, and had taken a short course in Agriculture at the University of Missouri. In 1933 he received the honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity, and in 1957 the degree of Doctor of Literature. He taught Bible for eight years in Pikeville College, Kentucky. A resident of Washington, D.C., eleven years and of Los Angeles three years. His home was in Rock Port, Missouri. His other books include: Roman Catholicism, Studies in Theology, Immortality, and The Millennium.