Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Praise and Blame

I've been Reformed long enough to know the emphasis [consistent] Calvinists place on God's ultimate causation of all things, man's responsibility, and Soli Deo Gloria. This emphasis is not mistaken. Each of these doctrines convey truths that follow from Scripture.

However, I think that we (myself included) can sometimes get carried away by Soli Deo Gloria. Of course, everything we do ought to be to God's glory, just as everything God does is for the same reason. But in our haste to prostrate ourselves before God, we can forget that we are good and faithful servants if God gives us a talent and we turn it into 10. Doing such is a good work worthy of praise.

Of course, God causes our good works by His grace, so we ought not be prideful in our good works, but rather realize that we are as we are by grace. If, however, we are to be blamed for disobeying God - even though He ultimately caused our actions - it only makes sense that we should be commended for obeying God - even though He ultimately caused our actions.

I have encountered some who pose an argument against Reformed Theology that highlights what I am attempting to explain. The argument runs thusly: if God is the ultimate cause of all things and if man's good works, caused by grace, imply that God alone ought to be approved, as if man is the "mere" vehicle through which God purposes the good work to occur, one's sinful works should similarly be traced back to God alone.

The way in which one refutes such an argument is twofold: firstly, by asserting that God's praiseworthiness is measured on the same grounds as is ours, viz. by whether or not God's actions are to the purpose of the maximal manifestation His glory; secondly (and this is really only a logical extension of the first), by admitting men are to be commended for good works just as God is to be praised for His righteousness.

To conclude, then, we thank God for His mercy and grace. Without it, we could not do things which are worthy of praise. His unconditioned choices are what have made us who we are - He has done this for His glory, and we glorify Him for it. But we should not confuse thankfulness and glorification with praiseworthiness or commendableness.

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