God would not command us to do what we cannot do.
Or ‘God would not command us to do what we cannot do.’ God gave the Law to Moses, The Ten Commandments, to reveal what man cannot do, not what he can do.
A. This premise is unscriptural. God gave the Law for two reasons: To expose sin and to increase it so man would have no excuse for declaring his own righteousness. Why? Because in the context, he does NO righteousness. As Martin Luther said to Erasmus, when you are finished with all your commands and exhortations from the Old Testament, I’ll write Ro.3:20 over the top of it all. Why use commands and exhortations from the O.T. to show free will when they were given to prove man’s sinfulness? They exist to show what we cannot do rather than what we can do. Yes, God gave commands to man which man cannot do. Therefore commandments and exhortations do not prove free will. Nowhere in scripture is there any hint that God gives commands to men to prove they are able to perform them.
B. This premise is irrational. There may be many reasons for commanding someone to do something, other than the assumption that the can do it. The purpose, as above, may be to show the person his inability to perform the command. Thus, NOTHING can be deduced about abilities from a mere command.
A. I would argue that the purpose of the law was and is to draw men closer to God through showing them clearly the level and standard of holiness required to enjoy His company. I would argue that Romans gives a descriptive statement of the way things are. It does not, however, provide a prescriptive statement of the way things must be. So I think the notion that the law was given and is inherently impossible to uphold is based on specious reasoning at the outset. Outside of a precomittment to a philosophical system wherein men are mere worms, what logical reason is there for us to believe that there is no possible way for men to uphold the law written in the OT? Just because men do not, in fact, uphold that law is in no way a comment about the possibility or legitimacy of such a command given to beings who posses limited agency.
B. If the intention of the command is not to cause the commanded to act on and accomplish that which is commanded, then we must call into question the nature of the commander because in that case we would have a clear division in their wills. The technical language here is the perlocution and illocution which deals with the commander’s desired effects vs. the content of the message. “Break a leg” is a common colloquy that illustrates this paradigm. However, as I and others have argued elsewhere. Drawing a difference between what God says and what he intends has the end result of deconstruction the text and devoiding it of meaning, So a Calvinist who wishes to go down that route is not functionally different than a deconstructionalist like Derrida who claims the text has no inherent meaning. In the end, the text has a hidden meaning that is epestemically unaccessible by us.
So yes, God would not command us to do what is impossible for us to do. As for being Holy as He is Holy. God has provided a way for us to become Holy through our acceptance of the Holy Spirit.
I find the argument that God didn’t mean what He said to be highly troubling. If we cannot know that God means what He says when giving rather straightforward commands like the law , it logically and necessarily follows that we cannot know what He means elsewhere.
So for the sake of protecting a man-made theological system which posits a pot hole in the road, I fear that many of my brothers of the reformed persuasion are too easily willing to drive their epestemic cart over a cliff.