Answering Tim Stratton’s Ten Step Refutation of Irresistible Grace

Introduction

Dr. Tim Stratton is very fond of a lengthy logical proof which attempts to both disprove Irresistible Grace, as well as prove Molinism. He calls this ten step refutation the “Omni Argument” due to the fact that He argues the traditional “omni” attributes of God (omnipotence, omniscience, and omnibenevolence) work against the Calvinist system.

Here I will interact with the argument (The quotations are his directly, but the argument titles I provided myself.)

The Argument

If Irresistible Grace is true then for any person “X,” if God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause “X” to go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell, then “X” will go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell.

Premise 1

If God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient then for any person “X” God desires to, has the power to, and knows how to cause “X” to go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell, [then “X” will go to heaven and not suffer eternally in hell.]

Premise 2

There is at least one person who will not go to heaven and will suffer eternally in hell.

Premise 3

Therefore, one cannot affirm both I) that Irresistible Grace is true and II) that God is omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient; A.K.A. a maximally great being.

Conclusion

Analysis

As far as I can tell, the logic is sound, and so the problem lies in the truth or falsehood of at least one of the premises. For the Reformed, we take issue with premise 2. Stratton believes that God’s omnibenevolence requires Him to save all those whom He is able to save. This, we the Reformed, deny. It certainly seems to be an assumption on Stratton’s end, and we are not provided with a biblical justification of the assertion.

For starters, it would be necessary to define omnibenevolence. What does that mean, precisely? The translation of the word would be something like “all-loving”, or “perfect in goodness.” But how does one get from God is all-loving to God’s love compels Him to save all those He can? Could there not be good reason, theoretically, for God to not save someone He loves? This appears to be a non-sequitur.

Additionally, does “all-loving” entail that God loves all people equally, in the same way, without distinction? Certainly the latter cannot be true.  

“As it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”

Romans 9:13

Such a verse demonstrates that whatever “hated” means, there is a difference in God’s disposition toward Jacob when compared to His disposition toward Esau. His love for those two men is in someway different and unequal.

Thus, the first objection is to Dr. Stratton is that he assumes something in Premise 2 that we deny; namely, that God’s omnibenevolence obliges Him to save everyone He has any love for at all. We maintain that is an unproven assumption, a non-sequitur, and is not consistent with the Biblical portrayal.

Speaking of Romans 9, we the Reformed maintain we have good, exegetical warrant for affirming that God’s universal love for all people does not obligate Him to save all people. The very passage which follows verse 13 quoted above continues,

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills. 19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” (Emphasis mine).

Romans 9:14-25

Notice two important aspects from this text:

  1. The text indicates God does not show mercy to all, and that He is free to choose whom He shows mercy to (15,18), which implies that not all receive it, though He does love all. Stratton on the other hand would have us believe that God’s omnibenevolence requires Him to show the same mercy to all. Paul believes God has a right over the lump of clay to make vessels for dishonorable use; Stratton believes God is obligated to only make vessels for honorable use.
  2. The text also gives good reason why God might not irresistibly call someone to salvation; namely, to make His power and wrath known. Stratton assumes there is no good reason for a loving God not save someone, but Paul believes there is a reason in God which would not compel Him to save some.

Paul does damage to Stratton’s assumptions that God must save all those whom He loves, and that God loves all the same. Stratton believes omnibenevolence demands God what Scripture does not demand of God. If Romans 9 does damage to Stratton’s definition of omnibenevolence, than I suggest he change his definition of omnibenevolence.

The Argument Continued with Analysis

God is a maximally great being.

Premise 4

Therefore, Irresistible Grace is false.

Conclusion 2

Since Premise 2 has been rejected, the conclusions no longer follow. Romans 9 has demonstrated that the maximally great God is the One Who elects some and not others.

Stratton continues,

Therefore, exhaustive divine determinism is false. God does not determine all things.

Conclusion 3

God is completely sovereign and does predestine all things.

Premise 5

Therefore, predestination and determinism are not to be conflated.

Conclusion 4

 The best explanation of the data is the soteriological view of Molinism.

Conclusion 5

Because the conclusion that Irresistible Grace is false has been refuted, none of these following premises and conclusions stand. Divine determinism has not been disproven; thus, we have no good reason to believe that an infallible God could predestine something without guaranteeing its result.

The Counter-Argument

This means a counter-argument can now be raised, utilizing Premise 5 as our starting point.

God is completely sovereign and predestines all things.

Premise 1

God is omnipotent and omniscient.

Premise 2

Therefore, what God predestines must come to pass.

Conclusion 1

Therefore, God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass.

Conclusion 2

Therefore, divine determinism is true.

Conclusion 3

2 thoughts on “Answering Tim Stratton’s Ten Step Refutation of Irresistible Grace

  1. Romans 9-11 is primarily related to Paul’s teaching about Israel and His purposes related to them. I don’t believe it’s accurate to use those chapters to extend some of the verses therein to general application to the *eternal* disposition of people. That’s really not the context.

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    1. “Romans 9-11 is primarily related to Paul’s teaching about Israel and His purposes related to them.”

      This is not at all contrary to the text being salvific in nature. I would remind you even vehement anti-calvinists like Leighton Flowers will even disagree with you here.

      Yes, Romans 9-11 is about Israel’s purposes. But that’s very vague. What if Romans 9-11 was about Israel’s *salvific* purposes? Then would your comment make sense? I think not.

      And as it turns out, that is exactly what is part of the discussion in Romans 9-11. Remember, Romans 9 begins with Paul lamenting the salvific status of Israel, and then goes on to explain how and why their damnation is does not invalidate the Bible. So that Romans 9-11 is about God’s purpose for Israel is not at all contrary to these texts being soteriological. The burden of proof is on you to specify what that “purpose” for Israel is and how salvation plays no role in it.

      I would argue, if you read Romans 8 and Romans 10, that they are about salvation is abundantly clear. Why you would suggest Romans 9 and 11 have nothing to do with salvation, while the surrounding chapters do is not obvious to me.

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