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updated 5:22 AM CEST, Jun 10, 2021

Paul Washer and the mystery of sovereign grace

Paul Washer and the mystery of sovereign grace Jamie Street / Befunky

Both Pauls are right. Then who is not?

I love listening to Paul Washer, he gives so much to me, he is one of the Calvinists I learn a lot from. I sense in his talks a lot of intellectual humility, much more than in those of John MacArthur or R.C. Sproul. In a recent Q&A session, he got the following question (see also the video below):

“I am not a believer. I’ve tried to see the beauty of Christ, but it hasn’t been possible to me to believe the Gospel without any doubt. I don’t have faith, what can I do? How can I push myself to grow in the faith, if I am dead in my sins?”

Paul, although talking explicitly about the "great mystery of sovereign grace" that still stands and that he is Calvinistic, has a surprisingly clear answer I agree with:

“I see people who have assurance that shouldn’t and I see people who have lost all assurance that should have assurance. You are not saved because your repentance and faith are perfect. You’re saved because the work of Christ is perfect and you’re clinging to that. ... Are you really, really, truly desiring to be saved, to know God? … The fact that you are now desiring God and wanting to know God” is evidence that God’s already worked in that person, and “He who began a good work in you, will finish it. ... I am of course Calvinistic, but people mishandle that doctrine greatly, because they misunderstand it.

Never, never the Scriptures say to you: you’re dead in your sins, and therefore there’s nothing you can do.

Scripture tells you: seek the Lord, seek the Lord, while he can be found [Is 55:6]. And if you find that there is a desire in you to seek him genuinely”, he’s already working in you. “Just keep seeking Him. ... All those who do seek Him, will find him, they really will. ... Rest in His promise that those who seek Him, find Him. He will allow Himself to be found by you. ... Listen, that promise is for every person on this planet. Seek Him and you find Him... Every person who wants to be saved on this planet, can be saved."

Do you see a disconnection between Calvinism and this statement? There is no disconnection, because Calvinism in general affirms that there is a disconnection between human comprehension and God's will, or, as Calvin put it in his book Concerning the eternal predestination of God (agreeing with Augustine, whose teachings "were fulfilled"), a "hidden secret", when writing about the original sin, and "those who seek [!] to know more than God has revealed are crazy". Still, according to Calvinism, Romans 5:18, 2 Corinthians 5:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:22-23, Romans 8:32 and so on, teach that only the elect, the chosen of God can be saved, not "all men" as used in the text.

Ok, there is a strong, final argument in the classical theism, Calvinism included: "mystery" is somehow hardwired in the Bible and is a central theme there when it comes to our understanding of the Scriptures. From that angle, the usage of "mystery" and "secrets" are completely justified in the works of Calvin and his fellow theologians.

But... "mystery" is extremely rarely used in the Old Testament and in the four gospels. But it is used a lot in the Pauline epistles This is not a coincidence:

mystery is not a too relevant theme in the Bible until Paul entered the scene.

Paul fought against the Greek mystery cults in the Greek world and (like in Colossians) he wanted to differentiate "God's mystery, which is Christ" (Col 2:2) from the pagan mystery cults, and at the same time making use of their language and wordings, contrasting the good news with the Greek philosophy he fought against (Col 2:8). "Mystery" is used really strongly and meaningfully in the epistles in that sense. For Christians, Christ is a mystery that has been revealed. For the Greek people, mystery is by definition not revealed. That's why it's mystery.

So I agree with both Pauls.

I agree with Paul Washer when he says "all those who really do seek Him genuinely, will find him". And I agree with Paul, the Apostle when he says that Greek philosophy can be "deceptive" and can take us captive.

What I disagree with is that there are hidden secrets or mysteries in God's nature or general purposes, which are not revealed to us. I don't know a verse in the Bible that says that.


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