Thursday, August 30, 2007

Examining A Rather Strange "Proof Text" For Irresistible Regeneration

I believe that I have sufficiently demonstrated that the Biblical ordo salutis [order of salvation] is not that regeneration precedes faith. I gave both a positive argument here, and negative arguments here, here, and here. Before moving on to examine the other petals of our favorite little flower, I wanted to give some brief attention to what I believe to be a rather odd proof text often urged by the proponents of irresistible grace.

This argument focuses on the grammar of two related passages in 1 John. James White makes use of these passages in The Potter's Freedom. He sets up his argument by first quoting 1 John 1:29,

"Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and whoever loves the Father loves the child born of Him."

He then explains that while one might interpret this text to mean that belief precedes the born again experience, it should properly be understood as "The one believing that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God" [pg. 287-emphasis his]. The reason for this interpretation has to do with the verb tenses of "believing" [present tense participle- emphasising continuous action] and "born" [perfect passive tense- indicating an action that took place in the past with ongoing results in the present]. He then attempts to bolster this argument with the following comments:

"Some Arminian exegetes might object to this interpretation [that the above exegesis leads to the conclusion that "Belief in Jesus Christ" is the "inevitable result of being born again"]. A means of testing the consistency of the exegesis offered of this passage [1 John 5:1] would be to ask how such a person interprets these words from John:

"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him." (1 John 2:29)

James White then attempts to put the strangle hold on anyone who might disagree with his conclusions regarding 1 John 5:1,

"Every consistent Protestant would say, 'the reason one practices righteousness is because they have already been born of Him. We do not practice righteousness so as to be born, but instead the birth gives rise to the practice of righteousness.' And such is quite true. But, this means that in 1 John 5:1 the belief in Jesus Christ is the result of being born of Him. The verbal parallel is exact: in 1 John 2:29 'the one practicing righteousness' is a present participle; in 1 John 5:1 'the one believing' is a present participle. In both passages the exact same form is used...Therefore, sheer consistency leads one to the conclusion that divine birth precedes and is the grounds of both faith in Christ as well as good works." [ibid. 288- emphasis his]

I appreciate Mr. White's attempts to find support for his doctrine in the parallel grammar of these passages, but I must disagree with his conclusions. The grammar in no way forces the conclusion that one must first be born again in order to believe in Jesus Christ. Allow me to offer an alternative interpretation:

Mr. White's argument from parallel grammar between 1 John 5:1 and 1 John 2:29 is, in my opinion, a plain case of misunderstanding the text and misapplying the implications. The Greek says nothing more than that the one presently "believing" has been born of God (5:1), and the one who is presently practicing righteousness is born of God (2:29). Of course someone who is presently believing and practicing righteousness has been born of God. The word gennao [born] is in the perfect indicative tense. All this tells us is that an event that occurred in the past has continuing results now in relation to the time of the speaker. While dealing with the past to some extant, the perfect tense is primarily concerned with present time. Wallace says of the perfect tense of gennao, that it simply means "he is now born of God". The Greek grammar does not help the Calvinists case here. The verses do not say whether one became born of God before or after one believed (5:1). All that we can honestly conclude is that if one is now "believing" we can be certain that same person is [and "has been"] born of God. The same is true of 2:29. One who is presently practicing righteousness plainly demonstrates that he or she is born of God.

One of the main issues being addressed throughout 1 John is how one can determine whether or not one is truly saved ["born of God"]. The Gnostic's [i.e. antichrist's] were teaching that there was no connection between behavior and salvation. They believed that the human spirit was incorruptible and could in no way be affected by the sins of the flesh. John directly opposes such teaching numerous times in his epistle (1:5-10; 2:1, 3-6, 9-11, 15; 3:4-11, 15, 17, 18, 24; 4:7, 16, 20, 21; 5:1, 2). This is the context in which we need to consider 1 John 2:29 and 5:1. John is not trying to give us a lesson on the order of salvation. He is encouraging his readers to reject the false teachings of the "antichrist's" who are teaching that one can sin with spiritual immunity, and helping them to understand the true characteristics of God's children.

While these passages fail as proof texts for irresistible grace, I personally see further evidence in 1 John 2:29 that one must first believe to be born again. The passage reads,

"If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him."

Why does John begin by saying, "If you know that He is righteous"? Because we can only be righteous by being in Him, and if we are in Him we will inevitably practice righteousness as His life and power flows in and out of us. The question then becomes, "How do we come to be in Christ in the first place?" I believe that we have already conclusively demonstrated that we come to be "in Christ" and that Christ comes to be "in us" through faith in Him, and not before (Eph. 1:13; 3:17).

Mr. White's conclusion that, "sheer consistency leads one to the conclusion that divine birth precedes and is the grounds of both faith in Christ as well as good works" simply does not follow necessarily from the context of the epistle or from the comparison of Greek grammar in the above passages. That Calvinists have to look to passages like this to support their doctrine is further testimony to the fact that the doctrine of irresistable grace is a doctrine derived not from the pages of Scripture, but from a prior commitment to a theological system.

30 comments:

Classical Arminianism said...

Thank you so much for exposing White's argument as a desperate attempt to push his "regeneration precedes faith" creedo. I wondered where my dormmate got that interpretation from, since no one can come to that conclusion from a simple reading of the text, whether Greek or English. My dormmate read "The Potter's Freedom" by White and was then convinced that Calvinism is right -- however, he is not 100% convinced yet, but about 90-95% convinced. He admitted that Cornelius and Lydia poses a problem to Calvinism.

I also thank you for demonstrating that White's interpretation is faulty even on the level of contextualization. The context of 1John has nothing to do with the order of salvation whatsoever. You have done everyone an excellent service.

Billy

kangeroodort said...

Hey Billy,

I am very glad that this post was helpful to you. When I wrote it I wasn't sure how well I was explaining myself. It is good to know it made sense to someone. Maybe it will be helpful to your dormmate as well. It is good to know that he has not yet gone completely over to the darkside.

James White's books are written in a debating format in which he tells you how his arguments are irrefutable before he even begins to make his case. It is easy to see the holes in much of what he writes, but some things are framed so well that they easily lead to confusion. You can tell there is something fishy going on but you can't quite figure out what it is. I read his book through once just to take it all in. The second time I read it I highlighted the "fishy" arguments. I found that by just thinking carefully about what he was saying it was not hard to see the problems in his argumentation.

The problem is that few people have the patients to do this, and Reformed writers tend to write in a very intimidating and dogmatic style. My advice to anyone who has been confused by Reformed works is to just take the time to think very carefully about what you read and always ask yourself, "is this really the only conclusion that can be drawn from this argument?" The most important thing, of course, is to go to the passages and examine them carefully in context.

I have found that when I do those two things the smoke always clears and the illusionist is exposed.

Classical Arminianism said...

You wrote, "My advice to anyone who has been confused by Reformed works is to just take the time to think very carefully about what you read and always ask yourself, 'is this really the only conclusion that can be drawn from this argument?'"

That is an excellent point! Because for the Calvinist, there is truly only one valid interpretation and that is usually theirs.

Did you investigate James White's education? Seriously, it is not very impressive whatsoever!

Classical Arminianism said...

And my "creedo" in my first comment posted should have been "credo." How embarrassing. I must have been too anxious to post my comment :)

jazzycat said...

"At 17 God brought me to my knees"

This is your statement in your profile. It is very much a God-centered, true, and Calvinistic view. If you don't believe Calvinism, you should have said, "At 17, I came to my knees"

mark pierson said...

Sorry sir, White's logic was not refuted in your post. Those practicing righteousness show that they are born of Him; likewise, those believing (belives) show that they are born of Him. You were even-handed in quoting White, which is commendable; but you failed to refute him. His argument stands.

kangeroodort said...

"Sorry sir, White's logic was not refuted in your post. Those practicing righteousness show that they are born of Him; likewise, those believing (belives) show that they are born of Him. You were even-handed in quoting White, which is commendable; but you failed to refute him. His argument stands."

I guess I will just have to disagree. I think I demonstrated that White's argument does not stand. All the passages tell us is that the one believing and the one practicing righteousness has been born of God. The grammar does not speak to when the believing, practicing righteousness, or being born of God began. That is something that Calvinism reads into the text.

kangeroodort said...

Jazzycat,

I was wondering when a Calvinist was going to bring that up.

I do not believe such a statement is inconsistent with Arminianism. While it is true that God was the one who brought me to my knees, it does not follow that I could not have still resisted Him. I mereley stopped fighting Him. That is not the same as saying that I brought myself to my knees. Nice try though.

Anonymous said...

No Calvinist says that you can not resist the Holy Spirit. You can, but if God has chosen you than he will make it effectual. just read Augustine where he wrote of his conversion.

You also wrote "Mr. White's conclusion... simply does not follow necessarily from the context of the epistle or from the comparison of Greek grammar in the above passages."

How do you think you refuted his point when you admit "does not follow NECESSARILY"? all you may of done in your mind is try to point that maybe there is another explanation.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
kangeroodort said...

anonymous,

you wrote,

"No Calvinist says that you can not resist the Holy Spirit. You can, but if God has chosen you than he will make it effectual. just read Augustine where he wrote of his conversion."

I understand that Calvinists say that we resist the Holy Spirit. Did you read my post concerning that issue and Isaiah 5? My question is if the Holy Spirit has no intentions of bringing the reprobate to salvation and is making no effort to do so, then what "work" of the Holy Spirit is the reprobate resisting?

As far as Augaustine, I don't need to read him, I can just draw on my own personal experience with resisting God prior to conversion. I fail to see, however, how that helps answer the question I posed above concerning the reprobate as the Calvinist defines him.

You wrote,

"How do you think you refuted his point when you admit "does not follow NECESSARILY"? all you may of done in your mind is try to point that maybe there is another explanation."

Whites argument was that irresistable regeneration necessarily follows when those passages are compared. I did not need to prove the passage meant something elses in order to refute his dogmatic assertion. All I had to do was demonstrate that his conclusion does not necessarily follow from his argument from parallel grammar, and that it cannot truly be a "proof" text because it does not "prove" anything. That, I believe I have done.

kangeroodort said...

anonymous,

I will not allow you to clutter my comments section with long lists of proof texts. Anybody can do that. I could produce just as long a list. Lists of proof texts do not prove anything by themselves. It is necessary to exegetically engage each passage. That is impossible to do when someone quotes some 50 or so passages. If you want to discuss a certain passage I am open to that, but I will not get into a contest of trying to overwhelm each other with "proof texts". Please respect my blog and refrain from posting any more lists like that. If you do, they will likewise be deleted.

Thank You,
Ben

Anonymous said...

With that idea of proof, i doubt that you can prove anything.

Keep taking credit for God's work, but the sinner knows that all credit belongs to God!

Anonymous said...

Ben,
Arminians believe that God is not powerful enough to save them on His own, you believe that God need us,how sad.

"At 17 God brought me to my knees"

He sure did and it had nothing to to with you. If He did not bring to your knees at 17, you would still be as lost as lost can be.

Jazzycat caught you in your words. I pray some day you realize that Salvation is of Lord. We have noting to do with it. I find such pride in the Armininan's mind.

I I I I I I .....not HIM HIM HIM HIM.

Anonymous said...

You wrote: " I mereley stopped fighting Him."

How did you do that? You must of done something to stop fighting. Where did you get this strength from? Perhaps you could put it in a bottle and sell it to all the ones who are not saved.

kangeroodort said...

anonymous,

I hope that you are beginning to see the fruitlessness of this conversation.

You said,

"With that idea of proof, i doubt that you can prove anything."

Again, my purpose was to demonstrate that James White had not proved his case, not to prove the contrary. I believe I proved that faith precedes regeneration in other posts which you have apparently not looked at. After demonstrating that the Bible teaches that faith precedes regeneration, I then turned my attention to Calvinist "proof texts" for irresistible regeneration in order to examine whether or not these "proof texts" actually proved anything. That was the goal of this post as well. I don't know how else I can explain it so that you will understand.

You wrote,

"Keep taking credit for God's work, but the sinner knows that all credit belongs to God!"

I would like to know on what basis you believe I am taking credit for God's work. I am trusting in "His work" for salvation. That is what faith is. It is relying on the work of Christ and trusting in the sin cleansing power of His blood. I recommend again that you read my posts on "The Nature of Saving Faith", and "Is Arminian Theology Synergistic?". You may not agree with what I wrote, but you can't rightfully say I am not trusting in Christ or that I am trusting in my own works for salvation.

You wrote,

"Arminians believe that God is not powerful enough to save them on His own, you believe that God need us,how sad."

I don't know any Arminians that would agree with this statement. I certainly believe that I am powerless to save myself, that is why I am trusting in Christ to save me. Again, that is what faith is, a complete trust and reliance on the merits of Christ's blood. As far as God "needing" us, I have no idea where you got that idea.

You wrote,

"Jazzycat caught you in your words. I pray some day you realize that Salvation is of Lord. We have noting to do with it. I find such pride in the Armininan's mind."

Please think very carefully about the way you are talking to me and then ask yourself which one of us sounds more prideful?

You wrote,

"How did you do that? You must of done something to stop fighting."

Yeah, I gave up.

"Where did you get this strength from?"

While one might question how much strength is required to "give up", I also believe that I could not have surrendered to God unless He enabled and empowered me. To say that God enables our response is quite different than saying He irresitibly caused my response.

Since God is a relational God and a God of truth, He can only be satisfied with genuine relationship. Do you really believe that the God of truth would be satisfied with a relationship in which He caused us to love Him? The Arminian does not see "responding" or "surrendering" as a "work" or "contribution" to salvation. Such a concept doesn't even make sense of normal language.

You really had better take some time to understand Arminian theology before you criticize it. From your comments it would seem that your only exposure to what Arminians believe is what you have read in Reformed works. If you want to understand what Arminians believe you may want to check out some of the books I recommend in the right column of my blog.

"Perhaps you could put it in a bottle and sell it to all the ones who are not saved."

Comments like this are what make me think that fruitful conversation has reached an end.

jazzycat said...

Ben,
Check the following post out for a proof of irresistible grace........
Irresistible grace

Anonymous said...

Works of Arminius, Vol. II

"God wills some things per se, or per accidens. Of themselves, He wills those things which are simply and relatively good: Thus He wills salvation to that man who is obedient."

Before one can be saved he needs to be obedient? This is straight from your guy, I must work for my salvation. It no longer is by the grace of God so no man can boast.

I hope that this is fruitful enough for you.

kangeroodort said...

Jazzycat,

I must say that I am hesitant to embrace any doctrinal argument that begins by comparing humans to animals.

Did you read my post, "Does Regeneration Precede Faith" yet? You may also want ot read "Does Jesus Teach That Regeneration Precedes Faith in John 3:3, 6" and my posts on John 6 since you mentioned these verses in the post you referred me to.

God Bless,
Ben

kangeroodort said...

anonymous,

How about a page number and section title so I can examine this statement in its proper context.

Obedience is often used interchangeably with faith in Scripture, and given the nature of saving faith (did you read that post yet?), you have not added anything to the discussion.

kangeroodort said...

Nevermind anonymous, I see that you just cut and pasted part of Billy's post at "Classical Arminianism", so again it would seem that you have not read any non-Calvinist works on Arminian theology.

I think Billy sufficiently answered you at his blog.

Anonymous said...

In my Works of Arminius Vol 2 it is on page 21 under Disputation XIX on the Various Distinctions of the Will of God starting at VIII.

As you do not need to read Augustine I do not need to read your take. I have the words of Arminius himself in front of me.

Anonymous said...

He did not answer the question as I replied to him.

You have not answered how we are able to OBEY? Is that not a work before salvation? Is that not what you guys are saying?

Please, my foot in mouth. Insult if you will, but you can not get away from the fact that you guys preach a works salvation. It would be more honorable to admit it rather than to try and tap dance around it.

As for cutting and pasting. Hopefully I have shown you that I have the work of Arminius in front of me and not getting it from some Reformed work.

kangeroodort said...

anonymous,

Haven't you got anything better to do? I did not insult you. I made no comment about you eating your foot.

I said that it would "seem" that you have not read any Non-Calvinist works. If I was wrong about that then I apologize, but you can see why I would think otherwise. Since you have his works in front of you, please quote some context for me to examine. This will also help me better find this quote since I have his writings on CD Rom, and they are probably not divided up the same way.

Obedience and faith are synonymous and if you had read my post on the nature of faith, then you would see that it is not "tap dancing" to say that faith is antithetical to works.

Can you explain how the God of truth takes pleaure in a relationship that is not genuine?

I have tried to answer all of your questions, while you have ignored most of mine. When you decide to answer some of the questions I have posed, then we can continue this discussion.

I am at work and need to get some work done. If you post anymore comments they will not receive a response until Monday at the latest.

God Bless,
Ben

Anonymous said...

Ben,
What part of this do you not believe?...with scripture to back you up. I will provide all the scripture you need to back myself up....

1) The Father decreed Election and reprobation before the creation of the world.
2) The OT saints were saved by faith (Romans 4:9b) in Christ's future salvific work.

3) Christ incarnate: Jesus lived a perfect life of obedience in our stead, and performed the perfect sacrificial propitiation for all our sins past, present, and future (Hebrews 10:10).
4) The NT saints are saved by faith in Christ's past salvific work
(John 14:6, Galatians 2:16, Romans 10:9).
5) We are first regenerate ["born again", literally: "born from above"] whereby we can "see" [we become spiritually aware] the Kingdom of God
(John 3:3, 1 Corinthians 2:14).
6) Then we receive Christ and are converted by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit, becoming adopted sons of God,
and having our sins washed away !
(receiving gifted saving faith & repentance from God and becoming justified before God - by God's grace)
(We believe on Christ, not in order to be born again, but because we are already born again. Without this new birth from above we would never have come to detest sin and desire Christ.)
7) Then we go through the sanctification process until our physical death and are then glorified.

kangeroodort said...

anonymous,

If you want to discuss the specific subject matter of one of my posts, then I will be happy to engage you. I do not have the time nor the desire, however, to get into a lengthy [and most likely pointless] debate over all five points of Calvinism.

I will eventually be addressing all of the issues you raised on future posts [I have already addressed some of them, especially #5 in more than one post]. You are welcome to make comments as I write them. I would only ask that you narrow your focus to the subject matter of the post.

Thank you,
Ben

Magnus said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Magnus said...

Ben,

Saw your site and am reading your posts. Perhaps you could help me in seeing if I am on the right path when looking at this.


"He is encouraging his readers to reject the false teachings of the "antichrist's" who are teaching that one can sin with spiritual immunity, and helping them to understand the true characteristics of God's children."

Sounds like he is rejecting Hyper-Calvinism. Under the Arminian theology one would not be able to say that he can sin with spiritual immunity. Therefore it should never even be a problem. It is only a problem by taking the Hyper-Calvinist view that it could be possible to sin with spiritual immunity.

Would this be a fair characterization or am i off base?

magnus

kangeroodort said...

Magnus,

Thanks for stopping by. You asked,

"Sounds like he is rejecting Hyper-Calvinism. Under the Arminian theology one would not be able to say that he can sin with spiritual immunity. Therefore it should never even be a problem. It is only a problem by taking the Hyper-Calvinist view that it could be possible to sin with spiritual immunity."

I think you are on to something there. It is not something I like to bring up, but Calvinism has much in common with early gnostic teaching. If you look at the writings of the early Greek fathers [before Augustine] you will find them often writing against the heresies of the "Gnostics". What were these heresies? Among other things, they included fatalism [determinism], a denial of free will, unconditional predestination, and eternal security. Sound familiar?

Augustine was a convert from a Gnostic sect. When he first embraced Christianity he also embraced libertarian free will and other non-gnostic orthodox Christian teachings. He later became embroiled in the Pelagian controversy [which involved much more than the issue of free will]. During his debates with Pelagians, Augustine seemed to fall back into some of his Manichaean (gnostic) argumentation in order to combat the arguments of the Pelagians. This almost certainly had an effect on the later development of his theology. It was this later development of theology that Calvin systemized into what we now call Calvinism.

Calvin added one point that neither Augustine nor any Christian witer before him ever taught: inevitable perseverance [eternal security]. Many Calvinists are blissfully unaware that this doctrine was unheard of for the first 1500+ years of Christian history [except among the gnostics].

So in a nut shell, No, you are not way off base.

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