Friday, March 11, 2011

Lordship Salvation, Free Grace, and Pascal’s Wager

Have you ever thought of preaching the message of God’s grace in terms of the probabilities and consequences that you’re right?

Most of us are at least passingly familiar with Pascal’s Wager, a logical premise by which it was sought to say that the only reasonable course was to worship God because it had no negative consequences and only possible positive consequences.  While there are certainly deficiencies in the argument, it nevertheless has some merits.

I was having a discussion with a student earlier this semester where this idea came floating into my mind.  My student had a friend who said, in effect, that if Reformed theology (i.e. Lordship salvation) leads people to be scared or lack assurance, then hey at least they are saved.  This got me thinking about the relative merits and dangers of preaching Free Grace versus preaching Lordship salvation.  This is not to debate the relative merits of the positions, but merely to look at the relative risks and dangers of each.

This is what I came up with:

Slide1

Along the top is the two possibilities under consideration, namely whether LS or FG is true.  Along the side are two actions, namely whether we preach LS or FG. (note that this is why it resembles Pascal’s Wager)  In this scheme, if LS is true and we preach LS then God is glorified and the elect will come to faith and persevere.  If FG is true and we preach FG then God is glorified and many come to faith alone in Christ alone.  Both of those are good results.

It’s in the negative boxes that an interesting truth presents itself.  If LS is true and yet those who are FG still preach FG, that doesn’t take God by surprise.  God is not glorified by that, but within the Reformed system irresistible grace WILL draw the elect to faith.  They WILL believe in Christ as Lord and Savior and they WILL persevere.  While some will have false assurance on earth, the only ones who have false assurance were reprobate anyway!  They only have false assurance for a short time and will end up in hell, just as God foreordained.  Therefore in an absolute, eternal sense nothing is lost.

However, if FG is true and LS is preached there is great danger.  If FG is true, decisions matter, and LS is a works-based salvation based on my perseverance and fruit, then not only is God not glorified but many are led to hell who might not be.  If FG is true but LS is preached, just as bad is that many true saints are robbed of their assurance on earth and, because of that lack, do not stay faithful to Christ like they could have with proper motives.  They are robbed of their faithfulness at the Bema seat of Christ.  Therefore, in this paradigm there is real, eternal risk.

So in light of this, there is little risk to the FG preacher if they are wrong, but great risk to the LS preacher if they are wrong.

Now, I will admit that I have not noodled through every nuance and permutation of this.  However, the idea has been rattling around in the mush of my brain for a bit so I wanted to get it out there and get your thoughts.

What do you think of the analogy?  Is the logic sound?  Is it reasonable?  Has someone done this already and I missed it?