The Doctrines of Grace are not Anglican
Posted: 01 June 2015
During the last six weeks we have been looking at the Doctrines of Grace, and over this time I have been asked the question, “What do other Protestant churches believe about this topic?” And the fact is that the Protestant churches have been split on this issue for a long time. And therefore, we would never say to somebody, ‘You can’t join Vine Church unless you believe the Doctrines of Grace.’
As we look at history we see that, Martin Luther taught the Doctrines of Grace very strongly. However, his followers backed away from it and so the Lutheran Church has no official position. Anglican, Presbyterian and Reformed Churches have always taught it, and it is reflected in their statements of faith. The Baptists, however, have been split on it for a long time.
Here are some quotes from various authors representing various denominations, but all of whom have taught me lots over the past six weeks on the Doctrines of Grace:
J. I. Packer (Anglican Minister)
‘All the leading Protestant theologians of. . . the Reformation, stood on precisely the same ground. . . On other points they had their differences; but in asserting the helplessness of man in sin and the sovereignty of God in grace, they were entirely at one. . . To the Reformers, the crucial question was not simply, whether God justifies believers without works of the law. It was the broader question, whether sinners are wholly helpless in their sin, and whether God is to be thought of as saving them by free, unconditional, invincible grace, not only justifying them for Christ’s sake when they come to faith, but also raising them from the death of sin by His quickening Spirit in order to bring them to faith. Here was the crucial issue: whether God is the author, not merely of justification, but also of faith; whether in the last analysis, Christianity is a religion of utter reliance on God for salvation and all things necessary to it, or to self-reliance and self-effort.’
James Boice and Philip Ryken (Presbyterian Ministers)
‘Calvinism insists that salvation is by grace from beginning to end. Salvation is a gift, in every sense of the word—God’s gift for undeserving sinners who cannot be redeemed apart from God’s saving grace. The gift is given to those to whom God chooses to give it; and although it is offered to everyone, it is not given to everyone. When God does choose to grant this gift, however, he effectively places it in the hands of his child; and once it is received, it can never be lost, stolen, or damaged. Truly, it is the gift that keeps on giving!’[ii]
Wayne Grudem (Charismatic Theologian)
‘Election is an act of God before creation in which he chooses some people to be saved, not on account of any foreseen merit in them, but only because of his sovereign good pleasure.’[iii]
‘Regeneration [is] . . . the act of God awakening spiritual life within us, bringing us from spiritual death to spiritual life. . . It is in fact the work of God that gives us the spiritual ability to respond to God in faith.’[iv]
‘The perseverance of the saints means that all those who are truly born again will be kept by God’s power and will persevere as Christians until the end of their lives, and that only those who persevere until the end have been truly born again.’[v]
John Piper (Baptist Minister)
‘My experience is that clear knowledge of God from the Bible is the kindling that sustains the fires of affection for God. And probably the most crucial kind of knowledge is the knowledge of what God is like in salvation. That is what the five points of Calvinism are about. Not the power and sovereignty of God in general, but his power and sovereignty in the way he saves people. That is why these points are sometimes called the doctrines of grace. To experience God fully, we need to know not just how he acts in general, but specifically how he saves us—how did he save me?’[vi]
Tim Keller (Presbyterian Minister)
‘The doctrine of election is this – I’ll just tell you what it is – is that all human beings, given a hundred chances, a thousand chances, an infinite number of chances, will always – because their desires are such – will always choose to be their own lords and saviour and they’ll never choose Jesus. I mean that’s what the doctrine of election teaches. And what God does, is he opens the eyes of some so they see the truth, but he doesn’t open the eyes of everybody.’[vii]
C. S. Lewis (Oxford and Cambridge scholar, Anglican churchgoer)
Nobody has expressed more eloquently the personal experience of being saved at God’s initiative than C. S. Lewis (1898-1963).[viii] Lewis was an Oxford and Cambridge scholar, literary critic, children’s fiction writer and Christian apologist. For some time before his conversion Lewis was aware that God was after him. In his autobiographical sketch Surprised by Joy he piles up metaphors to illustrate it. First, God was “the great Angler,” playing his fish, “and I never dreamed that the hook was in my tongue.” Next, he likened God to a cat chasing a mouse. “Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about ‘man’s search for God.’ To me . . . they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat.” Third, he likened God to a pack of hounds. “The fox had been dislodged from the Hegelian Wood and was now running in the open . . . bedraggled and weary, hounds barely a field behind. And nearly everyone now (one way or another) in the pack.” Finally, God was the Divine Chessplayer, gradually maneuvering him into an impossible position. “All over the board my pieces were in the most disadvantageous positions. Soon I could no longer cherish even the illusion that the initiative lay with me. My Adversary began to make His final moves.”
So Lewis titled the chapter in which he describes his conversion to Jesus “Checkmate,” and the actual moment of his surrender to Christ is described in these memorable words: ‘You must picture me alone in that room at Magdalen [College Oxford], night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert even on such terms. The Prodigal Son at least walked home on his own feet. But who can duly adore that Love which will open the high gates to a prodigal who is brought in kicking, struggling, resentful, and darting his eyes in every direction for a chance of escape? . . . The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men, and His compulsion is our liberation.’[ix]
J. I. Packer and O. R. Johnston, ‘Historical and Theological Introduction’, in The Bondage of the Will (Baker Publishing Group, 1990), 58–59.
[ii] James Montgomery Boice and Philip Graham Ryken, The Doctrines of Grace (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2002), 29.
[iii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology (Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2007), 670.
[iv] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 702.
[v] Grudem, Systematic Theology, 788.
[vi] John Piper, Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace (Ross-shire, GB: Christian Focus, 2013), 8.
[vii] Timothy J. Keller, What is the Doctrine of Election?, MP3 (Q&A; New York: Redeemer Presbyterian Church).
[viii] The following description, and citations from Lewis are derived from John R. W. Stott, Why I Am a Christian (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2003), ch. 1.
[ix] Cited in C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (London: HarperCollins, 1998).