Justin Taylor, senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogger for The Gospel Coalition, recently had a conversation with PROOF authors Daniel Montgomery and Timothy Paul Jones about grace, Calvinism, and the purpose of PROOF.
You open the book by talking about how we live in a delusion from which we need to wake up. What are some of the delusions we have about God and grace?
TIMOTHY: Martin Luther once commented that humanity after the fall is no longer able to imagine any way to be made right with God other than works. Our tendency by nature is to slip into the delusion that our standing before God somehow depends on what we do. Or, with a sincere desire to exalt God’s free grace, we overcorrect and slip into another delusion, that what we do doesn’t matter at all.
In the first instance, we diminish the finished work of Christ by living as if God started our salvation by grace but then we have to finish it. In the second instance, we miss the truth that grace doesn’t simply save us, it also changes us. And so, we constantly need to be awakened to the wonder and the beauty of authentic grace–God’s wonderful acceptance of us not because we have earned it or deserved it but because he gives it to us freely in Christ.
The answer isn’t found in trying to balance legalism and license. It’s rather in recognizing that, everything God gives to us, he gives in Christ and that this placement of us in Christ and Christ in us changes everything. United with Christ, we are both captive and crowned, slaves of Christ yet free, already positioned as righteous in Christ yet empowered by his Spirit to pursue righteousness. This is a beautiful paradox to which we need to be constantly reawakened.
What do you see as the five phases of grace?
DANIEL: The five facets of grace described in PROOF are a biblical and theological re-framing and re-envisioning of TULIP. TULIP is a nifty mnemonic device but hasn’t proven to be the most helpful tool, in our estimation, in magnifying the glorious gospel of God’s grace:
- Planned Grace re-envisions limited atonement and we begin here because the story of grace begins with a perfect plan in eternity past. Before time began, God mapped out the plan of salvation from first to last. It’s a loving plan made by the Father for a particular people. It’s a victorious plan achieved by the Son for a definite people. It’s an effective and guaranteed plan sealed by the power of the Holy Spirit. God planned to adopt a particular people as his own children; Christ offered himself as a sacrifice for these people’s sins and as a substitute who satisfied God’s righteous requirements in their place. When God makes a plan, he can always pay the price and he never lacks the power to make it happen.
- Resurrecting Grace re-envisions total depravity. Everyone is born spiritually dead—we’re the walking dead. And spiritual zombies don’t choose life for the same reason prison escapees don’t show up voluntarily at police stations. Left to ourselves, we will never choose God’s way. God enables people to respond freely to his grace by giving them spiritual life through the power of Christ’s resurrection.
- Outrageous Grace re-envisions unconditional election. God saves us not because we’ve earned it or deserve it, but because He freely chooses us at Christ’s expense. God chooses people to be saved on the basis of his own sovereign will. He doesn’t base his choice to give us grace on anything that we did or might do. God’s outrageous grace leaves us with nothing to prove because, in Christ, everything that needs to be proven has already been provided.
- Overcoming Grace re-envisions irresistible grace. God works in the lives of his chosen people to transform their rebellion into surrender so that they freely repent and recognize Christ as the risen King. God changes his chosen people one by one so that they abandon rebellion, long for holiness, and freely surrender to Jesus. His plan all along was to call a diverse people from every tribe, tongue, and nation, and then empower them as a community of overcomers.
- Forever Grace re-envisions perseverance of the saints. God seals his people with his Holy Spirit so that they are preserved and persevere in faith until the final restoration of God’s kingdom on the earth. As long as we are in Christ, the Father cannot reject his covenant with us without rejecting his beloved Son.
This reframing puts God and his grace at the center. Good theology requires both defense and offense. In our estimation, TULIP is mostly defense, and the mission of grace is far bigger and more beautiful than that.
For the rest of this interview, click here.