Is God's Grace Suspended Until We Act?
These excerpts from Studies in Perfectionism by B. B. Warfield make it very clear that George's teachings are thoroughly permeated with the autocracy of the human will. It is simply not true that man "secures" the grace of God by an act of his will ("overcoming faith", in George's parlance).
The Scriptures have a doctrine of free will and they have a doctrine of Christ within us... It happens that the Scriptural doctrine on both matters may be suggested by a single Scriptural phrase, which may stand for us as their symbol: "make the tree good that its fruit may be good also."
Christ dwells within us not for the purpose of sinking our being into His being, nor of substituting Himself for us as the agent in our activities; much less of seizing our wills and operating them for us in contradiction to our own immanent mind; but to operate directly upon us, to make us good, that our works, freely done by us, may under His continual leading, be good also.
Our wills, being the expression of our hearts, continually more and more dying to sin and more and more living to holiness, under the renewing action of the Christ dwelling within us by his Spirit, can never from the beginning of His gracious renewal of them resist Christ fatally, and will progressively resist Him less and less until, our hearts having been made through and through good, our wills will do only righteousness....
It is not true that "God can save no man unless that man does his part toward salvation." Man has no part to do toward salvation: and, if he had, he could not do it -- his very characteristic as a sinner is that he is helpless, that he is "lost." He is very active indeed in the process of his salvation, for this activity is of the substance of his salvation: he works out his own salvation, but only as God works in him the willing and the doing according to His own good pleasure.
It is not true that "God forces salvation on no man." It would be truer to say that no man is saved on whom God does not force salvation -- though the language would not be exact.
It is not true that the "eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" which is the "free gift of God" is merely put at our option and "our wills are free" to accept or reject it. Our wills are free enough, but they are hopelessly biased to its rejection and will certainly reject it so long as it is only an "offer."
But it is not true that God's free gift of eternal life to His people is only an "offer"; it is a "gift" -- and what God gives He does not merely place at our disposal to be accepted or rejected as we may chance to choose, but "gives," makes ours, as He gave life to Lazarus and wholeness to the man with the withered hand.
It was not in the power of Lazarus to reject -- it was not in his power to accept -- the gift of life which Christ gave him; nor is it in the power of dead souls to reject life -- or to "accept" it -- when God "gives" it to them. The God in whom we trust is a God who quickens the dead and commands the things that are not as though they were.
[In "victorious life" teaching] the whole representation of the relations of man and God...is to the effect that God is released for action at man's option. So much stress is laid on the freedom of man that no freedom is left for God at all. The analogy of a material force is most unpleasantly suggested...
God stands always helplessly by until man calls Him into action by opening a channel into which His energies may flow. It sounds dreadfully like turning on the stream or the electricity. This representation is employed not only with reference to the great matters of salvation and sanctification in which God's operations are "secured" (or released) by our faith, but also with reference to every blessing bestowed by Him.
We are not only constantly exhorted to "claim" blessings, but the enjoyment of these blessings is with wearying iteration suspended on our "claiming" them. It is expressly declared that God cannot bless us in any way until we open the way for His action by an act of our own will. Everywhere and always the initiative belongs to man; everywhere and always God's action is suspended upon man's will. We wish to make no concealment of the distress with which this mode of representation afflicts us...
Man does not "secure" the grace of God; the grace of God "secures"
the activities of man -- in every sphere and in every detail, of these
activities. It is nothing less than degrading to God to suppose
Him thus subject to the control of man and unable to move except as man
permits Him to do so, or to produce any effects except as He is turned
into the channel of their working at man's option.