What is the Calvinistic interpretation of salvation in Luke 8:12?
I have a new question and I have not found an answer so I ask you for help.
The question is from an Arminian perspective and I have difficulty defending my Calvinistic interpretation of salvation in LUKE 8:12:
If un-regenerated men are utterly, totally, and completely unable to respond to the gospel presented in any fashion until first being born-again, then why would Satan steal the word from their heart to prevent them from believing and being saved (like Jesus said) if they are totally unable to do so?
Why does Satan steal the word?? Jesus' answer - "so that they may not believe and be saved." After all, why steal the Word from a dead man? He is dead, he has no ability to respond to the gospel whatsoever!! It seems He is teaching that man has that ability and it is EXACTLY why Satan steals to the word - to prevent him from believing and being saved!
This seems also to refute Irresistible Grace because Jesus is teaching that by Satan stealing the word out of a person's heart he can prevent them from being saved. If Satan can prevent someone from being saved God's grace is not irresistible!
If Satan did not steal the word would any more people be saved than otherwise? After all, Jesus said it was to prevent men from believing and being saved. So if he did not steal the word, would any more men believe and be saved? If not, then what did he prevent? If not, then again I ask, Why does he steal the word?
THANK YOU FOR YOUR HELP
Thank you for reaching out with such a thought-provoking question. It is crucial for us to engage with Scripture and grapple with the implications of our theological convictions. In your question, you raise a significant issue regarding the Calvinistic interpretation of salvation in Luke 8:12 and the interplay between the roles of Satan, the unregenerate person, and God's grace in the process of salvation.
You rightly point out that the passage suggests Satan steals the word from people's hearts to prevent them from believing and being saved. This seems to imply that there is a potential for belief and salvation, which may appear, on the surface, to challenge the Calvinist doctrines of Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace. However, it is essential to remember that Calvinism does not teach that God saves people in a vacuum or apart from the means of grace, which is the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Calvinist understanding of the parable of the sower, as found in Luke 8:12, is that the seed represents the Word of God, and the various types of soil symbolize the different responses of human hearts to the Gospel. In the case of the seed falling on the path, Satan snatches away the word, preventing any belief or salvation from occurring.
While it is true that Calvinism teaches the total moral inability of the unregenerate person, who is hostile to Christ and unable to believe the Gospel, it does not negate the importance of the Gospel message itself. The presence of the Gospel is a necessary condition for the Holy Spirit to work in the heart of the unregenerate person. This is in line with Romans 10:17, which states that "faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." The Holy Spirit must germinate the seed of the Word of God in the heart of the person, enabling them to believe and be saved.
In this context, Satan's actions to steal the Word make sense. By removing the seed of the Word, he aims to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit and thwart the growth of faith that could result from the presence of the Gospel. Thus, Satan's actions do not contradict the Calvinist understanding of salvation; rather, they underscore the importance of the Gospel message as a necessary condition for the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the unregenerate person.
If I were to use an illustration, their argument seems to go along the following lines: imagine a farmer who sows his seed in the hope of a harvest, but an enemy comes along and steals the seed. Why does the crop not grow anyway? It rained so there still should have been a crop. Obviously because the rain requires the seed for it to actually grow. It does not produce a crop without it.
To bring this to the illustration into the bible inquiry that was brought up, it is like saying, if the seed of the word is snatched away, why doesn't the crop grow anyway. In the Calvinist interpretation (the critic reasons) the Holy Spirit can bring someone to faith anyway apart from the word. But this is not what Calvinists believe. God does not save people in a vacuum or apart from the word of God but through the preaching of the gospel. If the word is missing then we believe a person is inhibited from coming to faith. The Holy Spirit must germinate that gospel seed if there is to be life. Just because the passage in question does directly not talk about about the Holy Spirit does not mean that He is not necessary. This leads me to believe that the person asking the question is probably not an actual classic Arminian since people with that theological conviction also affirm the necessity of the Holy Spirit in salvation. It sounds more like a Semi-Pelagian or perhaps an Provisionalist.
The fact that Satan can attempt to hinder the work of the Gospel does not refute the doctrine of Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace teaches that when the Holy Spirit effectively calls someone to salvation through the gospel, the person will inevitably come to faith in Christ. The power of God's grace is irresistible, but the means of grace, the proclamation of the Gospel, can be hindered by Satan's efforts.
As an aside, this type of unaided reasoning is reminiscent of non-Reformed individuals who assert that God's commands in Scripture indicate that people must therefore possess the moral ability to obey them. However, as Romans 3:19-20 illustrates, it does not follow that a command inherently demonstrates ability (through the law we become conscious of sin), nor does it alleviate our responsibility any more than someone who cannot repay their debt is absolved of responsibility. In the case of Luke 8:12, the same principle applies. The mere fact that a seed is snatched away does not imply that a person can come to faith apart from the Word. There is a crucial element missing from their analysis: the Word and the Spirit work together. This underscores the importance of embracing the whole counsel of Scripture, rather than developing an entire doctrine based on an isolated text and drawing conclusions from unaided reasoning powers.
Lastly this highlights the importance of prayer. The spiritual battle surrounding the proclamation of the Gospel, as evidenced by Satan's efforts to snatch away the Word, underscores the importance of prayer in evangelism. Believers are called to pray for the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who hear the Gospel, asking God to overcome any hindrances and bring about faith and repentance.
In conclusion, the Calvinistic interpretation of salvation in Luke 8:12 acknowledges the significance of the Gospel message as a necessary condition for the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the unregenerate person. Satan's actions to steal the Word serve to emphasize the importance of the Gospel and do not contradict the doctrines of Total Depravity and Irresistible Grace. Instead, they highlight the ongoing spiritual battle that surrounds the proclamation of the Gospel and the necessity of God's sovereign grace in bringing about the salvation of His elect.
I hope this answer provides you with a better understanding of the Calvinistic perspective on this passage and how it relates to the broader Reformed theological tradition. May you continue to search the Scriptures diligently and grow in your understanding of God's sovereign grace and love.