Robert Shank on Rev. 2:20-22 and Monergism

, posted by Ben Henshaw

“Consider the words of Christ to the church at Thyatria [sic.] concerning the prominent woman referred to as ‘Jezebel’ and His servants, who were practicing immorality and pagan customs, doubtless in a religious context after the manner of the cults:

“I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and to seduce my servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols. And I gave her space to repent of her fornication, and she repented not. Behold I will cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. (Rev. 2:20-22)”

“Consider especially the words of our Lord, ‘I gave her space [time, opportunity] to repent…and she repented not.’ If Calvinism’s thesis of monergism is correct, if repentance hinges on the decision of God alone, if man repents only as a consequence of a special immediate act of God, we are left to wonder why Christ gave Jezebel opportunity to repent without giving her repentance. If her failure to repent was the consequence of His own decision, in what sense did He give her opportunity to repent? If He did not choose for her to repent, why did He do something directed toward repentance? If He did something directed toward repentance, why did He not do everything needed? If the repentance of Jezebel and His servants hinged on His own decision rather than theirs, where is any sincerity in His warning of dire consequences to come ‘except ye repent’? No logic, no reason, no sensible meaning can be found in the text if it be denied that there is latitude in the will of God and that man’s agency and responsibility to repent are authentic rather than artificial, imaginary and symbolic, as monergism insists. Monergism collapses in the face of Revelation 2:21. Bloomfield is correct in his observation that ‘the reading supplies, as Wordsworth observes, a strong text for the freedom of the human will, against necessitarian doctrines.’ The text is decisive, admitting no qualifications or assumptions.” (Elect In The Son, pp. 146, 147, emphasis his)

Again, we see that in Calvinism we have to look for the secret decree behind God’s words which makes Him less then sincere in what he says. To quote Walls and Dognell again,

“In other words, the true intentions of God cannot be discerned from his words.” (Why I Am Not A Calvinist, pg. 57, emphasis theirs)

The Calvinist is again forced to interpret the “things revealed” according to the “secret things” which do not belong to them, even if it means rendering senseless the things revealed.

Shank writes, “Monergism collapses in the face of Revelation 2:21…The text is decisive, admitting no qualifications or assumptions.” What do you think? Is Dr. Shank overstating his case or does Calvinism suffer shipwreck on this simple passage?

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