I’ve been meaning to revisit this quote by Warfield since I wrote the original Calvinism and Supernaturalism post.
“Calvinism would not be badly defined, indeed, as the tendency which is determined to do justice to the immediately supernatural, as in the first, so also in the second creation.”-B. B. Warfield, Calvin and Calvinism (1932; New York: Oxford University Press, Reprinted 2003; Grand Rapids: Baker Books), 359.
I think there is more to be said about Warfield’s view of the definition of Calvinism. Obviously I left a lot unsaid about more of the supernatural works of God, specifically the miracles in Scripture, and less specifically, miraculous occurrences in modern times. But you could probably figure where I would go with that.
To set the context of what I am about to say, let me offer another couple of quotes by Warfield from the same section of his book, Calvin and Calvinism;
“What lies at the heart of [the Calvinist’s] soteriology is the absolute exclusion of the creaturely element in the initiation of the saving process, that so the pure grace of God may be magnified. Only so could he express his sense of man’s complete dependence as sinner on the free mercy of a saving God; or extrude the evil leaven of Synergism by which, as he clearly sees, God is robbed of His glory and man is encouraged to think that he owes to some power, some act of choice, some initiative of his own, his participation in that salvation which is in reality grace.”
“…Jesus Christ has come not to advise, or urge, or induce, or aid [sinful man] to save himself, but to save him.”
Just so we are clear, God saves me by His choice to extend His mercy and grace to me and not by my own volition. Jesus did not come to make salvation a possibility, but a fact. In other words, God’s work in salvation is not conditional, it is absolute.
Now this Gospel we proclaim is usually told in conditional terms…if you believe and if you repent you will be saved. And that’s the way it should be. And yet from the perspective of God it is always told in absolute terms. He will save his people from their sins. Nothing relative about that. It is a stated fact. And so on we go…He elected, He predestined, He sent his Son, Christ died, Christ suffered God’s wrath, Christ bore our sin, Christ gave us his righteousness, Christ rose from the dead, Christ ascended to the right hand of His Father, They sent the Spirit, the Spirit sent a preacher, the Spirit called us, the Spirit gives us faith.
The point that Warfield is making is that salvation is not a natural process. My salvation does not boil down to my natural ability to believe or disbelieve, to accept or reject, to will myself into heaven or hell. God is the cause and source of the salvation of everyone who has ever believed.
So while salvation may appear to us to be a random act of man’s will, one here, another there, in reality we see that these are God’s elect, His chosen few, those that He has foreknown from all eternity and has determined to set His love upon in order to show them the riches of His mercy and grace.
Were it not for this supernatural election, predestination, and move upon my will, my natural tendencies would carry me off into hell. I would never choice Christ. And neither would you. But thanks be to God, who makes us new creatures, we are not left to nature but to his supernatural work of salvation.