A Hispanic friend who could be described as “progressive” wrote the following, which I’ll put in italics and translate literally.
Three types of believers: With which do you identify?
Three types of believers: (1) those that believe that they are justified only by the merits of Jesus and nothing more that the merits of Jesus, (2) those that believe they are justified in part by Jesus Christ and in part by their own efforts, that is to say, salvation depends partly on Jesus and partly on man and (3) those that believe that salvation depends completely on obedience to all the commandments.
Only the first type of believer can enjoy true peace. The second will always have doubts. The third type will not know if they are saved until the last day. I personally identify with the first type. And you?
My friend uses a logical fallacy called “false trichotomy.” He presents three possibilities, using slightly vague language, in an attempt to have us conclude that the only logical choice is the Calvinist concept that it is not necessary to receive Christ’s salvation.
If he had said something like, “those that believe that salvation comes to us, or is provided only by the merits of Jesus,” we would have no reservation in answering that the first option is correct. His error is trying to have us conclude that since Christ has done everything to provide salvation, therefore we have to do nothing to receive it.
Common Bible Illustrations
The blind man of John 9 – Jesus told the blind man to wash in the Pool of Siloam. He did so and returned seeing (9:7). Let’s try to apply the formula of my friend to the blind man. Was he healed: 1) only on the merits of Christ? (2) partly on the merits of Christ and partly by the blind man’s efforts? or, (3) wholly by his own obedience? The closest answer to being correct is the first in the sense that his healing was provided only by Christ’s power. However, that doesn’t take away from the fact that he had to comply with Christ’s conditions and wash in the Pool of Siloam to receive the blessing.
The children of Israel in Joshua 6 – God told the children of Israel to circle the city of Jericho once for six days and seven times on the seventh. After they did this and the priests blew their trumpets, the walls fell and the Israelites conquered the city (verse 20). Applying my friend’s paradigm did the walls fall: (1) only by God’s power? (2) partly by God’s power and partly by the efforts of the Israelites? Or (3) only by the obedience of the Israelites to God’s commands? Again, the correct choice is the first one if we think only of the provision of the power, but the Israelites still had to comply with God’s conditions to receive it.
These and other Bible examples illustrate the concept of conditional grace. It’s not a complicated idea nor is it difficult to understand. All of our blessings are provided 100% by God. Man has neither the power nor the ability to provide any of them. However, God wants us to accept His conditions. To accept His conditions (for example, by washing in the Pool of Siloam, marching around Jericho, being baptized for the remission of sins, etc.) doesn’t earn blessings, but is required to receive them. We don’t have to understand everything or “get everything right” to have peace and confidence of salvation. God is merciful! However, we must be in Christ (Galatians 3:26, 27) and be growing in Him (2 Pet. 1:8). Let’s not allow sincere but mistaken people to confuse us with logical fallacies.