The Idea of the Organic in Scripture (1)
After having written in the News for over twenty years, I am convinced that the most questions I answered have dealt with some aspect of the on-going struggle between Arminianism and the Reformed faith. The fierce warfare between these two systems of doctrine has generated many different questions regarding crucial doctrines of Scripture.
The most fundamental doctrine at issue is, as most know, whether God’s work of salvation is in all respects sovereign and for the elect alone, or whether it is universal and dependent in part on the free will of man.
But, as I said, other doctrines are involved. Sometimes the controversy is over the interpretation of biblical verses. Examples are John 3:16, Ezekiel 33:11, II Peter 3:9 and others.
The question is: Are these texts referring to the elect only or are they referring to all men absolutely (cf. www.cprc.co.uk/calvinism-resources)? For example, does John 3:16 (probably the most used text by Arminians) refer to every man, woman and child in the world? Or does it refer to the elect only—along with God’s entire cosmos—in Christ, “the last Adam” (I Cor. 15:45), who is the head of the new creation (Eph. 1:10)?
Is the Arminian claim true that the gospel is God’s well-meaning offer to absolutely all who hear? Or is the preaching of the gospel the power of God unto salvation to all who believe (Rom. 1:16)? Does God passionately want all men to be saved? Or does He desire the salvation of the elect only (Luke 10:21-22)?
Does God love all men? Or does He love only His elect (Rom. 9:13)? Did Christ die for all men? Or did He die only for the elect (John 10:14-15)? Is God gracious to all men? Or is He gracious only to His elect in Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:2-4)?
Does God save by knocking at the door of the hearts of all men head for head desperately seeking admission (though failing in the majority of cases)? Or does He save by irresistibly entering the heart of the sinner, who naturally resists Him, and sweetly renewing his will (Canons III/IV:11)?
The issue of sovereign grace is even involved in the debate between those who hold to believers’ baptism only and those who maintain that the Scriptures demand that the children of believers also be baptized (Gen. 17:7; Acts 16:15, 33).
As I have pondered these questions, attempted to answer them again and again, and considered and reconsidered the biblical passages involved, I have come to the conclusion that one of the most important issues involved in the controversy is the scriptural teaching that God, in all His dealings with man, deals “organically” with man and His creation.
The difficulty is that very few seem to know what the term “organically” or “organic” means. It is a term seldom heard, almost never defined, and rarely considered in any of the discussions involved in the differences between Arminians and those who profess the Reformed faith.
It is my contention that this issue is absolutely essential to the debate. Arminians are individualistic; the Reformed hold fast to the organic teaching of Scripture. Arminianism says, so to speak, “God only ever deals personally with individuals all by themselves. God takes the position in His dealings with men that ‘It is every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost.’”
The Reformed teach that God never deals with anyone individualistically without any other consideration. Jehovah deals with every individual, and with all men, organically. That is, God deals with every man in his relation to other men and, ultimately, with every man in the whole world. He deals with them in relation to their family (into which they were born and/or which they themselves establish), with those with whom they work, with those with whom they study in school and with those with whom they worship. Jehovah deals with men in connection with the nation in which they live and even, ultimately, in their relation to all men everywhere and throughout the whole of history. He even deals with men in their relation to the creation in which they live and in connection with their care for His creation.
One cannot understand Jehovah’s work of salvation in the history of Israel and Judah, as well as throughout the whole of history, unless one understands this important truth of God’s Word. In a way, it is understandable that Arminians want to ascribe salvation partly to man’s work; they do not see the grand truth that the Bible sets forth, namely, that God is interested in the individual man only as he stands related to the whole human race—and, indeed, as he is a part of His entire world.
I hope to discuss this teaching of Scripture in some detail in future issues of the News. I will take great pains to define what I mean by the “organic” and I will refer to many biblical passages in which this glorious truth is taught, DV. Prof. Hanko