Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Moved to Word Press

I have moved the blog to Word Press. I will be blogging there from now on. They have features which will help prevent dishonest people from posting as sock puppets undetected. They also come highly recommended by some who were one time users of Blogger, so I thought it would be nice for a change. The site has been completely moved except for the side bar links which I need to do manually and might take a while. Any future posts will be made there. I hope to have the next post up regarding Hebrews 10 by the end of this week.

If you link to AP please change the link to the new Word Press address. Here is the link:


Thank you and God Bless.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Happy Easter

I will be away until after Easter but wanted to wish everyone a wonderful Resurrection Sunday.

"For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the Head over all rule and authority; and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead." (Col. 2:9-12 emphasis mine)

In Him alone do we have life now and forever!

God Bless,

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Synod of Dort

Billy has been doing some nice work on the Synod of Dort at his new web-site Arminian Manifesto. Be sure to check it out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Paul's Sock Puppet Show?

Does ~PM stand for Paul Manata or does it stand for Puppet Master? Examine the evidence and decide for yourself at the junkyard.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Calvinist Humility Displayed

Here are some comments taken from the combox of a recent post on apostasy in Hebrews by Ben Witherington. The first comments are from a Calvinist objector, followed by a small portion of Ben’s response.

“Many words don't mean truth, more likely much sin, as Prov 10:19 says, a big reason for the shallowness of web "christianity" (if the present atomized "web christianity" isn't an oxymoron versus God's Heb.10:25 picture of the Church.

Contra Witherington and Wesley, and their countless antiBiblical synergistic egoistic delusional errors, castles on air with not one verse of Scripture to support them, there is of course no possibility of a true Christian apostatizing, as 1 John 2:19 and all of Romans and many other passages make clear, explicated voluminously by so many of the Puritans (such as John Owen and Jonathan Edwards, to name but two, and ably demonstrated at www.monergism.com and www.desiringGod.org for those who desire God more than men, unusual for synergists, as Ben's bizarre and irrational antiBiblical insistence (sadly almost universal today) on God idolatrously glorifying man and not Himself as supremely worthy), whom synergists can't handle honestly but need not worry about today's illiterates ever reading to expose their bluff, stupidity, vacuity, and vanity. As C.S. Lewis said about the assured results of modern criticism, the only reason the results are so "assured" is that the original authors are dead and so can't blow (=refute) the gaffe (=error).

As John Piper has pointed out on the passage in preaching through the book (www.desiringGod.org), contrary to the usual eisegetical delusions of synergists, for whom the ego is God, and God is belittled, contrary to the pillar of Romans 9:15 that tells us God is sovereign and decides all (Prov 16:33), Hebrews 6 refers to two DIFFERENT soils, NOT one soil that changes itself; sadly I myself taught Ben's error many years ago before I matured, and was rightly ejected from the house I shared with Christian brothers for it as I wish would happen to wake up those following Ben's error to make them take the Christian faith versus mere ego seriously.

Ben would have saved himself a lot of wasted time and effort typical for synergists trying to use special knowledge like "rhetorical signals" and what not, going all over the map with extraBiblical legerdemain vainly trying to escape the simple meaning of the Sacred text, and thus failing to notice the small but essential point that overthrows these vast (and as vain as vast, in both senses of the word) synergist speculations with a bogus antiBiblical view of grace that has been so catastrophic in destroying God's Church, especially but not only in the west) by substituting for His true Gospel of grace, Wesley's and Finney's ultimately humanistic chicanery of a pseudo-gospel of works and ego (I (appropriately the middle letter of sin) have the final say, not God, in who is elect, contradicted by Rom 9:15) that today's tragically stupid and worldly Biblically illiterate couch potato devils'/idiots' box & screen imbibers are all too happy to embrace as James 4 adulteress-idolatresses. God save us, for only His grace in sending conviction and revival to His Church that has lost her way (at least in the west), gleefully headed like lemmings for certain destruction but for His amazing grace.”

Witherington’s entire reply was excellent but I only want to cite a small portion:

“It is interesting to me, who has read the works of Calvin, Owens, Edwards, Berkhof, Berkower, both Hodges, Warfield and so on and did attend a Reformed seminary and has respect for that tradition, that I am happy to admit I learned a lot from them, but when I actually turned to doing the detailed exegesis of all the NT, while their theological system was certainly logical and coherent, unfortunately it did not match up with what the actual text of the NT was teaching on ever so many points, not the least of which is what it teaches when it warns genuine Christians about apostasy.”

Here is exactly why I reject Calvinism. There is no doubt that Calvinism as a system is, to some extant, inherently logical. The problem comes when we try to harmonize this “system” with the Scriptures. The fact that its doctrines are at odds with so many of the most basic Scriptural declarations (e.g. God’s love for all the world and desire to save all) is the reason why this Arminian rejects it. I suspect that is the case with most Arminians and Non-Calvinists. It is not some desperate desire to “worship at the alter of free will” or “exalt man above God”. It is simply a desire to build theology on the teachings of Scripture, however bothersome those teachings may be to some (e.g. the possibility of genuine apostasy, etc.), rather than constantly struggling to fit the square peg of Calvinism into the round hole of Scriptural teaching.

Calvinists can reject Arminianism for whatever reasons they like but they should have the decency to stop trying to tell Arminians why they reject Calvinism. Calvinists may not like it, but I suspect that most people reject Calvinism for no other reason than that they find it thoroughly unbiblical. If I could find real support for Calvinism in the pages of Scripture, I would embrace it at once. Don’t you think I would like to be one of those “intellectual elite?” However, as attractive as being a “mature” and “intellectually superior” Calvinist might be, I would rather be a fool in their eyes for the sake of allowing the Lord to define Himself and His intentions through the infallible revelation of His word.

I should point out that the arrogance of the commenter at Mr. Witherington's blog is by no means representative of all Calvinists. Some have similar thoughts but would never express them as this gentleman has done. There are surely numerous Calvinists who exercise genuine humility in thought and practice everyday. However, the attitudes expressed by the above Calvinist commenter sadly seems to reflect the norm rather than the exception among Calvinists today, particularly on the Internet. This is strange behavior for those who claim to have a corner on humility based on the teachings of their theology. It is even stranger that those who claim to alone understand the "doctrines of grace" so often conduct and express themselves with such little grace themselves.

Interesting Church Sign

The sign in the front of my local Presbyterian church read:

"God's love is meant for all."

I admit that I do not keep up with the Presbyterian church. I have heard some rumblings that there is some strife within the denomination, but I couldn't remember if it had much to do with the Calvinist Arminian debate. Is there a move towards Arminianism in the Presbyterian church or is there a "secret" meaning behind "God's love is meant for all" that I am just not clever enough to figure out?

Monday, March 10, 2008

What's on Deck?

Just a quick note to let you know what’s in the works:

We will be continuing with the perseverance series with three posts on Heb. 10. I decided to break it up due to the volume of the material so people’s eyes don’t glaze over half way through it and so there can be some discussion on key points along the way.

After Hebrews 10 will be a post on whether apostasy is always irremediable as depicted in the warnings of Heb. 6 and 10. Then we will briefly examine the passages which proponents of unconditional eternal security most often appeal to for support of their doctrine. Lastly, we will take a look at which theological system gives better grounds for Biblical assurance. I will also be working on my second post having to do with provisional atonement.

After all of that I think we will tackle the issue of free will as it seemed to be a hot topic in recent discussions. We will therefore examine the Calvinist claim that free will in the libertarian sense is not a Biblically derived definition. There may be some other smaller posts on various topics spinkled in as well. My time is extremely limited so I apologize if these posts take some time to get up.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Early Spring Cleaning (Taking Out The Trash)

Does anyone remember following the garbage truck around as kids so that you could watch the trash get crushed? It is weird what entertains kids. I had a friend in Junior High who loved to look through trash. He always wanted to find some “good junk.”

People love to be entertained. Many adults still like watching trash and prove it by continually tuning into things like Jerry Springer and Professional Wrestling. For some it is just entertainment, but the product itself is still little more than garbage. I tend to think that Triablogue is popular because people have a fascination with trash and, shamefully, this is true of many Christians as well. Paul Manata told me that the things he says and does which would “appear” to be slanderous and distasteful were solely for the purpose of “entertainment.” Something similar to “trash talk” in football I suppose.

Now please understand that all of this is just my opinion. I do not mean to offend anyone but I have just personally had enough of interactions with these guys. In my opinion most of what they produce over there is garbage that makes for good entertainment on par with Jerry Springer or Pro Wrestling while void of any real substance. That’s just how I see it and you don’t have to agree. They have their opinions of me as well and have been freely expressing them in multiple posts over the last few weeks.

I personally am not a fan of Jerry Springer and I am not a fan of Pro Wrestling. I find the stuff to be a waste of time and if I do watch a few minutes of either I tend to feel defiled and dirty, kinda like I need a shower. That is how I feel when I read the material at Triablogue. I am no longer going to sully my blog with responses to that kind of garbage.

One of my professors at college once shared an illustration relating to the concept of original sin. He compared it to working on an assembly line. The person on the assembly line has the job of putting certain items in the right spots as the conveyor belt moves by. This person also has “slimy finger” disease and everything he touches gets contaminated. He may make good decisions and put the items in their proper places but can’t help but to contaminate them while doing so. That is somewhat analogous to interacting with Triablogue in my opinion. You can try to be polite and try to have civil dialogue but the whole thing gets contaminated because you just can’t interact with garbage and come out smelling clean.

I feel like Arminian Perspectives has begun to take on the unpleasant odor of Triablogue and so I am taking out the trash. For those of you who still like to follow trash around J.C. will be clearing out a spot at his website for contaminated waste. Any further responses to Triablogue will be dumped there for those of you who just can’t help but entertain yourselves with that type of thing. That is where my final response to Paul on intercessory prayer will eventually be posted as well as an “entertaining” post which chronicles some of the recent comedy that has come out of the mouths of Paul, Steve, and Peter of Triablogue. I will let you know when those posts become available and direct you to the trash can for those who can't resist.

As for Arminian Perspectives the focus will return to posts that have to do with Arminianism and Calvinism. The focus will not be on what opinions the Triabloguers have of those posts. If you are interested in that then just hang out over there or check the “trash” periodically. The blog will continue to be called "Arminian Perspectives." It will not be changed to "Answering Triablogue" despite their desperate need for attention. I will also be respectfully requesting that the gentlemen from Triablogue no longer express their opinions in my comboxes. You are no longer welcomed here. You have proven to me that you are not interested in an honest and respectful exchange of ideas. You are only interested in “winning” at all costs even if that means belittling fellow believers and trying to bury them with numerous posts which no one should have the time to answer (Eph. 5:16). As an unfortunate consequence I will no longer be allowing anonymous comments at AP. I apologize for the inconvenience but I feel it is a necessary move. You will need a google account to leave comments from now on and any comments from Triabloguers who do not respect my ban will be deleted.

I regret this move but I don’t see any other way to remedy this situation and move on from the circus that Triablogue has made of a simple disagreement. I regret that Bernabe Belvadere will also be banned since he has been very gracious to me throughout this fiasco and has expressed hope that interactions between our blogs could improve. I was hopeful as well, but I no longer see that as any kind of real possibility.

I am sorry it had to come to this but it is past time to take out the trash. Thank you for your understanding and thank you to those who have offered me support and encouragement. Thank you to Bernabe Belvadere for his gracious e-mail.

God Bless,

Monday, March 3, 2008

Leaving The Play Ground (For Now)

The gentlemen at Triablogue are apparently hurting for material. For someone as dumb as I apparently am, who is defending an obviously indefensible sorteriological position, they sure seem to give me a lot of attention. Why do they feel like they need to addrsss my arguments if they are not a threat to their position? Do they really believe that someone might be taken in by my foolishness? They have even lifted comments written by commenters in my comboxes and dedicated entire posts to "refuting" those threatening comments. Just what has gotten these gentlemen so freaked out and rattled?

For some reason they have targeted me for the purpose of throwing their theological eggs at. I am fine with them not liking what I am saying concerning Calvinism, but why draw so much attention to me and why see me as such a threat? Paul began his crusade with insults that only grew worse. When I asked him to tone things down and show a little respect if he wanted me to continue dialogue with him, he said, "save the drama for your mama." Paul responded to my initial response just as I predicted but decided to change one thing. And what thing was that?

Here is how I envisioned things going with Paul after my response to his critique of my post:

"Now I am quite sure that Paul will respond in force. I have seen an example of how this will likely develop with his interactions with J.C. As J.C. continued to dismantle his arguments (and numerous “hypotheticals”), Paul’s posts quickly disintegrated into theological temper tantrums, baseless assertions, ridicule and mockery, and bold and childish claims of victory without ever really even addressing the main issues. They became so long that anyone trying to address them and carefully untangle his sophistry would have needed to shamefully neglect his family in order to take the time to give a detailed response. He is masterful at confusing his readers to the point where they just assume he must be right."

Just as predicted Paul followed through with everything I mentioned above except for one thing. He made his response shorter. Now why would Paul do that? If Paul wanted to change something, why not change the disrespectful tone and childish claims of victory? Instead, Paul became more insulting and put pictures up all over his post of things like dead kangaroos. So why was it so important for Paul to shorten his reply?

Here is what he said at the beginning of his post:

"Before I begin, I guess I should point out that Mr. Kangaroo (and some of his Arminian peanut gallery members) commented about my loooooooooong posts. So, I'll make this short than his latest response to me. Three pages shorter, to be exact. Any whining and complaining about comments I didn't interact with are thus rendered moot. You can't have it both ways, that is."

I admit that I gave Paul and easy out and he was glad to take it. He could ignore much of what I wrote and focus on the areas where he still felt he had a foothold. Paul knows that most of his fanboys will not even bother to read my responses, they just wait for him to respond and assume he has "refuted" those stupid Arminians again. Maybe Paul just wanted to appease me; but If Paul was so concerned about the length of his post, then why no concern for the other things I mentioned?

Paul has been egging me on for a response and I had declined until he promised to engage in civil dialogue (to which he responded with the very mature, "save the drama for your mama"). He has since posted again. Now why would Paul be concerned about length in his first response (apparently because I complained that his posts are too long to respond to), and then decide to write a follow-up post? Doesn't that just put back at least most of those "three pages" that he so graciously spared me from the first time around?

The games continue as Steve Hays chimed in with his own post correlating Calvinistic prayer with theoretical issues relating to time travel (which only demonstrates how difficult it is for Calvinists to "make sense" of simple things like intercessory prayer). So now I really have my hands full. I wonder, then, why Paul and Steve feel the need to keep going with their responses. If Paul successfully refuted my response in his Roo Stew post, then why the need for all this follow-up? Why the need for Steve Hays to add his two cents and appeal to theories of time travel? It makes me wonder. Why are they still so insecure about their position? Why the need to keep trying to bolster their arguments? This seems like very strange behavior unless, perhaps, they recognize that despite all of their sophistry and insults they have still not made their case or refuted my initial post or my response to Paul's critique. I am amazed that I have somehow managed to get them so riled up. How many more follow-up posts can we expect to follow? Will some of the other Triablogue team members jump in to the fray? Why does Paul need so much defending?

I am tempted to let my posts stand as it seems to me that if Paul had successfully refuted me the first time there would be no need for these follow-up posts. But I will give Paul the response he wants because he has been much more gracious in his latest post and I appreciate that effort. I might even explore the mysteries of time travel with Steve Hays, but these things are not my priority right now. I will get to them when I get the time and for now I am going to focus on finishing my series on perseverance and provisional atonement. Maybe the Triablogue team will keep piling on the material, in the mean time, in an effort to overwhelm me or continue to try to vindicate their position, but I hope that they will find some better things to do with their time. They have already convinced their fanboys so the only purpose in continuing with it is to try to make it impossible for me to ever respond so that they can claim victory. So I promise a response to what has been written so far but it is not my greatest concern. For now I am leaving the playground so Paul and Steve will have to figure out some new ways to entertain each other.

Friday, February 29, 2008

More From Paul and a Public Appeal

Here is Paul's response to my Clarifications and Rebuttal post. I understand that Paul is not happy that I am challenging his belief system. I understand that Paul feels that I have misrepresented his position in the same way that I feel he has misrepresented mine. I respect his right to reply to my arguments objectively and address what he considers to be flaws, but I just can't figure out why Paul feels the need to treat me personally with such disrespect.

I tried to be gracious in my response to his first critique of my post but realize that I could have done better. There were some things that I said which may have offended Paul and I apologize for that publicly. I looked for an e-mail for Paul at his site and in his profile but could not find one. I would have said the following privately if I could have found an e-mail, but since I could not I will communicate it publicly:


I consider you a brother in the Lord and I respect your passion for what you believe to be true. I understand being passionate for one's position but I think we can both do better with regards to the way we interact with each other.

I prefer to be called Ben. I don't mind you goofing off with my kangaroo screen name, but other than that I would appreciate that you address me as Ben. I am pretty sure that I have only ever called you Paul, or Mr. Paul Manata. It doesn't hurt my feelings that you call me names or use my name in a way that I do not, and it doesn't make me feel like crying, but I don't think it is too much to ask for you to address me in a respectful manner.

We are both adults, and this dialogue is getting real childish. I am not interested in childish discussions. I work with youth everyday and try to model respect to them. I want to be a role model of righteousness and a living example of Christ-like behavior for them to follow. I pray that God will help me do that almost everyday on my way to work. There are very few positive role models out there and it is our duty as believers to model and teach respect. I have worked in shelters and group homes with very challenging youth. I have been called every name in the book. Often times I felt that my job was only to take verbal abuse from the youth that I worked with because that was the one thing I could count on everyday. I can handle being ridiculed and personally attacked. I just don't understand why you feel it is acceptable to address a fellow believer in the manner that you have done, and I don't think it unreasonable to ask for a little respect in Christian love and tolerance.

We need to recognize that believers and unbelievers are watching us and reading what we write. We have a responsibility to them and need to understand the profound affect our words can have on those onlookers (1 Tim. 4:12; Titus 2:6-8, 11-14). We can do better than this and we need to do better than this for the sake of Christ and His Kingdom.

I am not a fan of debate for the very reason that it can so easily disintegrate into such childish behavior. I see it as a necessary evil and realize that if I am going to criticize another person's position, there are going to be those who will want to defend themselves which will often lead to debate. I am fine with that as I said above and I do not shy away from debate if it is conducted in a civil and respectful manner. I have never disabled comments at any of my posts because I enjoy discussing theology with those who agree and disagree with me. I have apologized many times when I let my passion get the better of me and have said things that I should not have. I grew up in a very sarcastic environment and used to try to impress my friends as a teenager by ridiculing kids that I felt were easy targets. I was a bully of sorts. I also had a wicked temper which I still struggle with today. God has changed me dramatically since I got saved but I can still slip into that ungodly behavior if I let my guard down. I apologize if I have offended you personally Paul by something I have written. I don't need an apology from you but I hope that you will at least consider what I am saying and maybe make some adjustments in how you communicate with others in future discussions with me or anyone else you may disagree with on any particular subject.

God Bless,

I haven't decided yet if I will respond to Paul's latest post. I am not sure it is worth the effort and time or if it will really accomplish anything. I believe that Paul has again misunderstood much of what I wrote just as he sees that I am misunderstanding him and his position. If I do respond it will be mostly for the purpose of clarification and will probably not be posted until late next week.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

More on Calvinism and Sanctification

I wanted to post the following excellent comments left by "Westwind" in the Quick Question for My Calvinist Friends combox as it relates to my recent post on sanctification in Calvinism.

I never have had a Calvinist of any level of education or experience come forward and offer an explanation why effectual grace cannot be resisted but sanctifiying grace can be resisted. As I've argued in the past ( http://www.ovrlnd.com/theology/arminianthought.html ):

1) Within Calvinist theology, common grace is given to all with the goal of sustaining the good, but never with salvation in mind. Only effectual grace has the goal of justification in view. Hence within Calvinist theology there are differing kinds of grace. Therefore to the Arminian mind, the Calvinist apologist must make a case from the Bible that differing kinds of grace do indeed abound and the Arminian apologist needs to set forth that there is but one kind of grace that operates within differing modes.

2) Within Arminian thought, there is only one kind of grace which is said to go before, or, operate ahead of, (hence the term "prevenient") that enables all good and righteous acts and thoughts, thereby providing to our Lord all the glory of such acts and thoughts—for it is His doing. Ultimately within Arminians thought, prevenient grace has the goal of sanctification but its more immediate goal is justification and these two different goals can be thought of as simply modes of operation by the same kind of grace that always goes before encouraging and enabling. Within the Arminian system of thought, prevenient grace is said to be offered to all. In this sense prevenient grace is irresistible because the offer of grace to all cannot be denied. Nevertheless because prevenient grace has justification and sanctification in view and not all are justified and neither is sanctification ever complete or perfect even for the most holiest of saints, prevenient grace is also said to be resistible in both its justification and sanctification modes of operation. Positively, in acceptance, prevenient grace is said to be passive and negatively, in rejection, the heart is said to be active—a volitional stand against God and the willful suppression of truth (cf. Paul's argument in Romans 1). Consequently, arguments against prevenient grace that hold as a premise that the human will as the basis of salvation, are simply in error—although they are very common. So common that I'll state it again: arguments against freewill are not addressing Arminian theology. The only people who give a hoot about freewill are underinformed lay persons, philosophers, and Calvinist apologists who believe they are addressing Arminian soteriology in a meaningful way when they talk about free will but are, in fact, not.

3) In Calvinist thought, one must be regenerated before being able to exercise faith. This prompts a question: is regeneration by grace and is this grace not "going before"? Remember prevenient simply means "going before."

Furthermore, as stated above, to the Arminian mind there is an inner ambiguity within Calvinist thought that says, in effect, there are different kinds of grace. Some kinds of grace are resistible and some kinds are not. This is clearly illustrated when we consider that the elect may not resist saving grace, but for some reason they can resist sanctifying grace. Herein we have two different kinds of grace within the same individual. As an additional note: in all the Calvinist systematics I have read, I have never heard of a Reformed thinker argue that even common grace is resistible. This is one area I would like to confirm from those who have conducted similar surveys because if true, if the Calvinist scheme of grace is never resistible, howbeit that sanctification is resistible? I'm wide open for folks to share and teach me.

Ultimately, Arminian thinkers hold that Calvinist apologists need to first build an argument of differing kinds of grace from the discipline of biblical theology before assuming differing kinds of grace that operate differently depending upon the situation and they need to do this as an a priori before basing other arguments upon it—especially so when Calvinist apologists seek to prove other points supported by this premise to Arminians who will, in turn, reject these arguments because of the unproven premise.

In contrast to Calvinist thought, in Arminian thought grace is said to always be going before. In point of fact, grace is said to always operate preveniently: it is going before we are justified drawing and empowering our faith. Following justification, grace continues to move preveniently, preparing the way for "righteous responses" to and with our acts of faith, generating elements and fore-tastes of God's perfection within us. When we "improve" upon grace, it moves on ahead, preveniently improving us still further toward the glory which our Lord has for us. In every act of grace, our Lord's action is first, our faith is responsitory.

Therefore, in so far as grace is concerned, Arminian thought has a unifying principle as to how grace always operates.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Monday, February 25, 2008

Clarifications and Rebuttal: Responding to Paul Manata

Below is my response to Mr. Paul Manata’s Captian Kangaroo post. The post appears in its entirety. He quotes me in red and my responses are in blue:

"I want to dig a little deeper and get into what I believe to be an inconsistency within Calvinistic monergism."

Okay, let's get out our shovels and dig.

"I want to dig a little deeper and get into what I believe to be an inconsistency within Calvinistic monergism. Before I do that I want to say that I don’t believe monergism vs. synergism is the proper way to frame the debate. These terms are too ambiguous, and often misunderstood (especially synergism), and I believe that Arminianism has both monergistic and synergistic elements so it is not proper to call Arminianism entirely synergistic. For me the debate is best described as a disagreement over whether or not salvation is conditional or unconditional."

He better disambiguate the term since one can't show a logical ‘inconsistency’ if his terms are ambiguous. We're not getting off to a good start. This isn't atypical with these guys; sorry to say.

Well, if Paul would have followed the two links I provided in the section of the first paragraph he neglected to quote, he would have gotten quite a bit of clarification as to how I understand the difference between synergism and monergism. He would have also discovered that I believe the term “synergism” does not properly convey the Arminian understanding of conditional salvation since synergism literally means “to work together” and Arminians deny salvation by works. I use the term in the sense that God will not (not “cannot”) credit the work of Christ to the sinner unless he or she first meets the condition of faith. He would also have gotten a pretty detailed description of how I understand faith’s operation in the individual (e.g. faith is not a “work” and is synergistic by virtue of the need for God’s enabling prevenient grace). So things could have been disambiguated quite a bit if he had followed the links I provided before deciding to criticize my post.

Second, by ‘salvation being conditional’ does he only mean ‘If you believe, then you will be saved.’ As he says, that's just a quote from the Bible. So he just means we read statements that have the logical form of a conditional? Well, no Calvinist denies this. So is he saying there is no debate? His best way of describing the debate is to parse it out in terms the Calvinist doesn't debate.

I wrote the post with an audience in mind that would have some basic understanding of the general meaning of such terms as “conditional” and “unconditional” with regards to this soteriological controversy. I am a little surprised that Paul finds things so confusing. I thought he had been defending Calvinism and “dismantling” Arminianism for quite some time now. So for Paul’s sake, allow me to disambiguate a little.

By conditional I mean that God requires man to meet a condition before He will save. That condition is faith. Faith is the receiving of the free gift of God’s salvation. God refuses to save those who reject Him. He chooses only to save those who receive Him by faith. “Faith” can be defined narrowly as a complete trusting in the work of Christ for salvation (Rom. 3:25). It is submitting to the righteousness of God rather than attempting to (fruitlessly) establish ones own righteousness before God (i.e. by “works”, cf. Rom. 10:3, 4; 9:31-33). Paul actually seems to agree with my definition of faith below. He would only assert that regeneration must precede faith and in fact produces faith. This is founded on the Calvinist view that election is unconditional. It is not dependent on how the sinner responds to God’s grace. Faith is just a part of the salvation package that God brings about irresistibly on the passive sinner. God causes faith in the same way that He causes regeneration. Faith is a guaranteed result of irresistible regeneration and not a condition that must be met prior to it (to say, as Calvinists often do, that the one who is irresistibly regenerated then “freely” believes is misleading). The sinner is just being passively and unconditionally “worked on” by God in salvation and this “work” infallibly produces faith.

Third, we'd have to bring in qualifiers. Sometimes 'salvation' is spoken of in terms of just regeneration, or just justification, or just sanctification (progressive or definitive), or just glorification, or the whole package. Or, another qualification: in what sense do we speak of ‘conditions?’ Are we speaking of conditions in any sense whatsoever? Well then why think the Reformed theologian believes any of the items in the ordo are not wrought with conditions attached? Election is a condition for regeneration. Jesus’ resurrection is a condition for ours. Etc.

All of salvation is conditioned on faith. We are justified, regenerated, and sanctified by faith. Glorification takes place after death but only for those who die in the faith. So, there is a sense in which even glorification can be said to be by faith, though not in the same way as the other necessary components of salvation pre-glorification.

Perhaps he just means ‘conditional’ on exercising faith?’ Well then, on this scheme, regeneration isn't 'conditional,' for example. On the other hand, ‘if you have faith, then God will justify you,’ comes in the form of a conditional. That is, in the form of an if-then statement. But it is not conditional in the sense of, say, Adam's conditions for remaining in the garden. The faith we have is in something outside of us. In someone who did all the work required. Thus the faith we express trusts and rests in the alien work of Christ. But we must express faith. Faith is the instrument of justification. This faith is also a gift, it is not wrought by our own power apart from God's Spirit in our lives. So, in this sense faith is instrumentally conditional.

I am not sure I would disagree with too much that Paul has to say here except for the apparent implication that regeneration is irresistible and not conditioned on faith in the second sentence.

Fourth, Calvinism has 'monergistic and synergistic' elements too it as well. For example, monergism with respects to regeneration and justification. But take progressive sanctification. Many protestants have called this synergistic in the sense that it is really we who battle our sin. I am an active participant in the fight. I actively partake of the means of grace. I don't 'let go and let God,' as it were. And of course none of this can be accomplished without the work of the Spirit in our lives.

I agree that sanctification is conditional and in that sense “synergistic”. We must yield to the Spirit’s working in us to produce holiness. This does, however, create problems for Calvinism (see my post, Examining Inconsistencies in Calvinistic Monergism Part 2: Sanctification).

Fifth, it is not necessary for final, complete salvation that one be progressively sanctified. God can regenerate a soul, justify that person, and strike them dead that minute. Thus a monergistic work is the only thing necessary for salvation (e.g., the thief on the cross might not have been progressively sanctified. If so, we can think of others who might die 1 second after justification, say).

I suppose we could think of such things, but for the believer who is not immediately “struck dead” sanctification is certainly a necessary component of the salvation process, and anyone who ceases to remain in this process will fall short of final salvation (Heb. 10:29, 36-39; Rom. 6:16, 21-22; 8:12-14; Gal. 5:17-25; 6:7-9; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 4:20-24; 5:3-16, etc.). We could just as well say that infants are not necessarily justified by faith but are unconditionally saved by God’s grace, while adults must meet the condition of faith to receive the gift of God’s salvation. Such speculations and hypotheticals are hardly relevant to the discussion at hand and can really serve only as deflections by which the main issues are obscured.

Thus with his sloppy categorizing, nothing interesting follows from the above.

Or perhaps Paul’s sloppy reading skills and inability to comprehend fairly simple theological definitions with which most who are familiar with the debate do not seem to have difficulty.

Given the vague and ambiguous way he's using terms, a Calvinist might agree with everything he's said. Once wonders why all the hubbub. Since there is hubbub, we should cast a suspicious eye on the way he has framed the discussion so far. Many a disaster has started because of being unclear. I recall a the child's joke we had when the space shuttle Challenger exploded. It went like this: 'No, I meant I wanted a Bud light.' (For those that remember the old Bud light commercials.)

Lovely illustration. I hope that Paul will at least consider the possibility (remote as it may be) that the confusion lies squarely and only in his own mind and has little if anything to do with my inability to properly communicate.

"When I say that Arminianism is both synergistic and monergistic I mean that the Arminian sees salvation as a work of God alone. God alone forgives. God alone regenerates. God alone sanctifies. We are not capable of removing our own sin or making atonement for ourselves. We are not capable of creating new life within us. We are not capable of making ourselves holy. All these are monergistic acts of God. When the Arminian says that one needs to believe in Christ to be saved we are just echoing the testimony of Scripture that says that faith is the condition that God requires be met before He will save."

When Scripture speaks of if you believe then you will be saved, it is speaking about justification. But this faith isn’t a 'working' it is a 'receiving.' No 'working together,' then. No 'synergism.'

And again we can see just how beneficial it would have been if Paul had decided to follow those links I provided before criticizing my post. As I said above, I don’t believe the strict literal meaning of “synergism” is rightly applied to Arminianism. I believe with Paul (and St. Paul) that justification is “received” and not worked for. So why the hubbub? His arbitrary assertion that justification is only in view when the Bible speaks of being saved by faith is plainly fallacious as will be demonstrated below.

And, we are not saved by faith. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone.

I agree. However, I don’t think Paul is wise to get hung up on the difference between “through faith” and “by faith”. They mean essentially the same thing and there are plenty of Scriptures that indicate that all of salvation is “by” or “through” faith, and not just justification proper. For instance, we become God’s children (adoption) through faith (Gal. 3:26). Peter tells us that we are receiving “salvation” as the outcome of our faith (1 Peter 1:8, 9). Christ dwells in our hearts “by faith” (Eph. 3:17, cf. 2 Cor. 13:5). We receive the Holy Spirit by faith (Gal. 3:2; 3:14). We are sanctified by faith (Acts 26:18), and it doesn’t take much reading from John’s gospel before we realize that eternal life is received by faith as well (e.g. John 19:31). That seems to pretty much cover all the bases as far as I am concerned.

Even worse for Paul is that the passage he seems to quote above indicates that the whole of salvation, including regeneration, is conditioned on faith:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together [regeneration] with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him [regeneration] and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus (in whom alone are all spiritual blessings which would include regeneration, Eph. 1:3)…for by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it [i.e. salvation] is the gift of God; not as the result of works, that no one should boast.” (Eph. 2:4-9 Emphasis mine)

The salvation of verse 8 is the same that was described in verses 4-7 and therefore includes being raised up with Christ [i.e. given spiritual life: regenerated], and all of these gracious blessings are said to be conditioned on faith (verse 8). All spiritual blessings are found only “in Christ” and Eph. 1:13 (cf. Eph. 3:11, 12) makes it quite clear that we come to be “in Christ” by faith. Paul expresses this same truth in Colossians 2:12 where he says that we have been “raised up with Him [regeneration] through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.” The context of verses 6-11 emphasize the same “in Him” dynamic that is so prevalent in Ephesians, and verse 13 builds on the regeneration language of verse 12. God’s saving grace is accessed by faith union with Christ (Rom. 5:2, cf. Eph. 2:18; 3:12).

And, of the above, God does not of it unless our Arminian first has faith. All of it, then, is conditioned on his faith. Thus it is incorrect to say that he only thinks justification is conditioned on his faith.

It would indeed be incorrect (see above). I never claimed that justification alone was conditioned on faith since the Biblical testimony is clearly against such an assertion.

"God has sovereignly determined to make salvation conditioned on faith. He could have made salvation unconditional but He chose instead to make it conditional. That salvation is conditioned on faith does not mean faith is a work or a contribution to salvation. It is just the meeting of a condition and the nature of that condition disqualifies it from being something one can boast in before God."

Yes, the promises come in the form of a conditional, but Reformed theology teaches that Christ has met any and all conditions man must meet in order to have everlasting life--either by his work, or by securing for us what we need.

I don’t necessarily disagree with this either unless he is implying that Christ meets the condition of faith for us.

So, in regards the former, Christ lived a perfect life in our place, he met that condition for us. In regards the latter, he did not have saving faith for us.

I fully agree then.

But, he purchased, or acquired them for us. The Holy Spirit then applies this all to us.

This seems like a lot of assertion and is very confusing. I am not familiar with any passages of Scripture which say that Jesus purchased or acquired our personal faith. I don’t, however, have the entirety of Scripture memorized, so maybe I missed something. I am certainly not familiar with any passages which state that the Holy Spirit applies faith to us. Again, Eph. 1:13 tells us that we receive the spiritual blessings that reside in Christ (Eph. 1:3) because in response to our faith the Holy Spirit “seals” us in Christ. I agree that there is a sense in which faith is a gift of God, but only with regards to divine enablement (that synergistic element). I agree with Robert Picirilli, who after examining the texts which Calvinists assert teach that faith is an irresistible “gift” of God, concludes:

“But if the terminology is to be used [that of faith being a “gift”], one must clarify exactly what it means, as follows:

1. The capacity to believe is from God.
2. The possibility of believing is from God.
3. The content of belief- the gospel truth- is from God.
4. The persuasion of truth which one believes is from God.
5. The enabling of the individual to believe is from God.

But the believing itself can finally be done by no one other than the person who is called on to believe the gospel, and that will to believe savingly is the free decision of the individual. If calling faith “the gift of God” is meant to depreciate that, then I must deny the terminology. Since it is not Biblical terminology in the first place [based on his analysis of the relevant passages], perhaps it is best to discard it.” (Grace Faith, Free Will, pg. 167)

Thus Reformed theology can agree with the conditions of salvation, it's just that we see Christ fulfilling or acquiring them all for us.

So Christ fulfills your conditions for you, which essentially means that with regards to you salvation is unconditional which is what I have been “ambiguously” saying all along.

If it may be called a condition, it is not something we must do, it is something that has been done for us.

And “to” us I suppose. Didn’t he say earlier that Christ does not “believe for us”? Now he seems to say that the condition (of faith) is “done for us”, and a moment ago he asserted that Christ fulfills all conditions (which would seem to include faith) for us. How is that different than saying that Christ believes for us? And Paul accuses me of being confusing and ambiguous.

Our faith is not the ground of our salvation, but is but an instrument for receiving all of Christ.

I agree completely, and that is why all grounds of boasting are cut off since faith is the receiving of a free gift and total reliance on another. The “grounds” of salvation are the work of Christ and the gracious gift of God resulting from that work. Faith is the condition for receiving that salvation which is grounded solely in Christ’s atoning work. I never claimed otherwise; so maybe we should again ask, with Paul, what all the hubbub is about?

Thus we are not saved by faith, at all. Since we are not, then this Arminian has failed to show any synergism in his only admission of synergism.

We are saved by (or “through”) faith as a “condition” and we are saved by Christ’s work and the gracious gift that results from it as “grounds.”

In fact, the Bible nowhere says that we are saved by faith.

That is an amazing assertion. See the passages I cited above. It should also be noted that justification is correlated with “salvation” in James 2:14-26 and Romans 5:9, and 10, to name a few. Since justification is part of salvation and the beginning of salvation (with regard to logical order: see my post Does Regeneration Precede Faith?), it is quite proper and Biblical to say that we are “saved by faith” even according to his narrow definitions.

So, yes, in history, in this historical administration by which we travel the road of the covenant of grace unto completion, we must exercise faith. Thus I would rather call faith the sole instrument in justification, rather than the 'condition' of justification.

Paul can “rather” call things whatever he likes, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is Biblically acceptable to call faith the condition for justification and salvation.

But, I can grant that in the Bible we see a hypothetical statement, technically called a 'conditional.'

Paul just can’t seem to get through a post defending Calvinism without some sort of appeal to “hypotheticals.”

At any rate, we are not even justified by 'faith' qua 'faith' but, rather, faith in Christ. It's not that we have 'faith' it's who are faith is in.

I agree completely. Well said Paul.

The problem with all of this is that the Arminian views faith as a prerequisite to all the rest. He performs a positive action, in turn God gives him the rest. This is much different that the Reformed conception of God's monergistic work being the prerequisite for faith. And even so, this faith is not a positive work on our end, but a passive reception.

I agree that faith is a passive reception with regards to a surrendering and submitting to the work of God (Rom. 9:30-10:3), or the receiving of a free gift (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8). I disagree with “passive” being defined in a sense of inability to resist. I also agree that a monergistic work precedes faith. Arminians, oddly enough, call this preceding work prevenient grace.

A naked and weak hand receiving all the benefits of Christ. It's not a head-on meeting of an condition, but rather a passive receiving of something.

I agree again. That is a very nice way to put it, not unlike the way I put it below in my post, and not unlike I put it in the posts I linked to which Paul neglected to read or reference. When Arminians say that we must “meet” the condition of faith we only mean that it is by faith (i.e. a complete trusting in Christ) that we receive the free gift of salvation in Him.

Our view is Christocentric, his is Anthropocentric.

I can’t imagine how this assertion follows from anything Paul has just said, except perhaps from his grossly inaccurate understanding of Arminian theology. Strangely enough Arminius’ two main gripes with regards to Calvinist soteriology were that it inevitably made God the author of sin and that it was not sufficiently “Christocentric.” Arminians believe that all salvation blessings are “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3) and only those who come to be in Christ through faith in Him can experience those blessings (Eph. 1:13; 2:1-9; 3:11, 12). You can’t get much more Christocentric than that. Calvinists, on the other hand, maintain that regeneration (the beginning of spiritual life) somehow takes place outside of and logically prior to faith union with the only source of life- Jesus Christ (John. 1:4; 5:25; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; 1 John. 1:2; Heb. 5:9; Col. 3:3, 4). By doing this they also assert that one can somehow receive new life logically prior to being forgiven and made righteous on the merits of Christ blood (justification)! They also view election as something outside of Christ contrary to Arminians who affirm that election is “in Christ” (Eph. 1:4). Calvinists seem to see Eph. 1:4, for example, as an election of certain eternally pre-selected sinners to be “in Christ”, but the text cannot be made to conform to such an interpretation:

“Just as He chose us [believers] in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be blameless before Him.”

God determined from all eternity to elect and love believers in His Son Jesus Christ. Christ is the center and bases of election from all eternity. Arminius put it well when he described election as:

“The decree of God, of which, by Himself, from eternity, He decreed to justify in (or through) Christ, believers, and to accept them unto eternal life, to the praise of His grace….The love with which God loves men absolutely to salvation…has no existence except in Christ….Christ Jesus is here to be considered not only as the foundation on which is based the execution of the decree, but also as the foundation on which the decree itself is based….Since God can love no sinner unto salvation, unless he be reconciled to Himself in Christ, hence it is, that there would be no place for predestination, except in Christ….Christ according to the Apostle is not only the means by which the salvation, already prepared by election, but, so to speak, the meritorious cause, in respect to which the election was made, and on whose account that grace was prepared….God can ‘previously and affectionately regard as His own’ no sinner unless He has foreknown him in Christ, and looked upon him as a believer in Christ”

He rejected the Calvinistic understanding of election because it was “not that decree by which Christ is appointed by God to be Savior, the Head, and Foundation of those who will be made heirs of salvation” (Various selections from The Writings of James Arminius, Nichols and Bagnall, quoted in Grace, Faith, Free Will, Picirilli, pp. 48-50, 78).

So Arminius’ view could be summed up as: “Christ (not election per se) is the foundation of the church; salvation is by Christ (not by election, except as election is an expression of God’s love in Christ); the gospel is about Christ (not about God’s decree of election). When God saw man as lost, He said: ‘I will make my Son a mediator and love men in Him.’” (Picirilli, pg. 51)

Calvinists, on the other hand, believe that God unconditionally elected certain sinners to be put in Christ (only as the means for effecting the unconditional decree), and so Christ is not the foundation, beginning, or bases of election in Calvinism which makes their theology far less Christocentric than Arminian theology.

"By faith we recognize our inability to save ourselves and cast ourselves on God’s mercy. Faith is surrender to God. It is giving up on ourselves. It is abandoning our own works and clinging to the work of God. If there is one element that is synergistic in salvation it is faith. God enables the depraved sinner to respond in faith, but the sinner must do the responding. God does not believe for us and God does not cause faith in us irresistibly. That is the only synergistic aspect of Arminianism. The rest is monergism. The synergism of faith is the only area where one could say that the sinner in a sense “saves himself”, but that is only in the context of re-positioning oneself in God’s favor through faith and repentance (Acts 2:40)."

None of this could be done if it were not for God's prior, and monergistic work of regeneration.

This is nothing more than baseless assertion at this point. Paul knows that as an Arminian I reject the priority of regeneration.

A dead men doesn't "recognize our inability to save ourselves and cast ourselves on God’s mercy."

Arminians agree; hence, the doctrine of prevenient grace. I am sure that Paul finds this doctrine un-Biblical but he should at least acknowledge its existence within Arminian theology, especially seeing that he has made it his purpose to criticize that theology.

But, yes, the Reformed would agree that men actually do the believing.

In the same way that a man hooked to a respirator does the “breathing” I suppose. Notice again how Paul essentially contradicts his previous statement that, “If it may be called a condition, it is not something we must do, it is something that has been done for us.”

We don't think God believes for us. And we agree that the normal operations are that if a man never places his faith in Christ, he will not be justified (I say normal operations to make room for the infants and the mentally disabled. There is some debate whether they exhibit faith or not. But mere exceptions don't refute). The main difference, again, is in the priority between faith and regeneration and the nature or character of faith. Is it a 'meeting' or a 'receiving?'

Actually, the nature and character of faith is alone sufficient for understanding its function as the receiving of a free gift which cuts off all grounds for boasting (Rom. 3:27; 4:1-5). The priority between faith and regeneration as Paul sees it is irrelevant. If faith is by nature the receiving of a gift and is itself God enabled, then there is no room to boast and no rightful charge that the sinner took the “first step” etc. We “receive” God’s free gift through faith. Again, saying that we must “meet” the condition of faith only means that faith is the means by which the gift of salvation is received. Not that complicated is it?

This Arminian's conception is of a man who, without regeneration and thus a dead sinner, throws up his hands, declares that he can't do it on his own, and so lets God do his work.

Without regeneration: Yes. Without prevenient grace: No. It seems to me that “…lets God do His work” is a pretty good way to describe receiving a free gift, surrendering to God’s grace, etc.; Biblical definitions of faith that we both seem to agree upon.

But he must allow God into his life in the first place.

Not entirely accurate. God enables our response through the power of the gospel and the Spirit’s work without our consent (Rom. 1:16; Heb. 4:12; John 16:8-11). He does not, however, force us to receive His gift after He has enabled us to do so.

God waits for mans permission to work. And, as I pointed out above, since faith doesn't save, it's impossible for our Arminian to think he has shown any soteriological synergism!

I am afraid that Paul has so far repeatedly demonstrated a fundamental lack of understanding the basics of Arminian theology. Since he refuses to define Arminian soteriology the way that an Arminian would define it, he will not be able to properly criticize it. He has also made startling claims regarding the idea that the Bible nowhere says that we are saved by faith and has continually misunderstood the Arminian conception of synergism. Not a good start, as he would say.

"Yet, Calvinists still insist that faith is a work of merit if it is not irresistibly caused."

No, if it is something we must do in order to be saved. That is, if we are justified by having faith. In that sense it would be a work. And since you concede, you admit of a works based salvation.

Not when faith and works are understood according to their Biblical definitions, rather than the spurious definitions assigned to them by “Reformed” theologians.

You 'meet' God halfway there. Justification couldn't be accomplished if it wasn't for your initiation. Your movement forward. Your 'meeting.'

I really can’t understand where Paul is getting this stuff from. He might be criticizing someone’s position, but he is certainly not criticizing mine.

"Some Calvinists will go so far as to say that Arminians believe that man has the capability to save themselves."

No, you have the capacity, as you admit, to 'meet' the lifeguard part way there.

You are only speaking for yourself here Paul. You may not agree with those Calvinists who have said such things to me, but it doesn’t change the fact that they said them. And again, Arminians do not believe that we have the natural capacity to meet the life guard part way there; at least this Arminian doesn’t and neither did James Arminius himself.

The Reformed view is that you are dead. Dead men don't 'meet' people anywhere. God must administer CPR. Without CPR you could not breath that first "thank you." If a man can even breathe a little, he needs no CPR.

And here Paul wrongly draws a strict parallel between physical death and spiritual death in a way that the Bible never does. Arminians gladly affirm total depravity with regards to natural inability but also believe that God is powerful enough to graciously overcome that depravity. If Paul wants to better understand the Arminian understanding of dead in sin and the ordo salutis as well as why Arminians find the Calvinist claim for the priority of regeneration Biblically indefensible, I can refer him to several posts I have written on the subject.

Our view isn't that an Arminian can't be consistent, it's that an Arminian can't be consistent if he wants to be faithful to all the teaching of the Bible.

Funny, that’s what Arminians think of Calvinists as well.

Given your assumptions, you may not have any problems. The only time a problem arises is when you try to say that your view is fully consistent with all the biblical witness.

Mere assertions don’t amount to much, especially when you are trying to demonstrate the falsity of someone’s claims.

"I have often heard Calvinists point to intercessory prayer as a problem for Arminianism. The argument says that in Arminianism prayer would be pointless since God will not irresistibly save the sinner. If our prayers cannot guarantee conversion, then they are pointless. As long as free will exists intercessory prayer cannot really be effective."

No, we just point out that if a man freely chooses to remain in his sins, then if God desires that he does not, God can't secure a salvation. On your view, man must meet God, and God cannot make sure man will do this.

Again, I object to the “meet God” terminology as it does not reflect my position as noted above. God could, however, “make sure” that man would believe. He “could” also save every single person irresistibly without creating any real difficulty within a Calvinistic framework as well. But it is not an issue of what God can or cannot do for either of us, but an issue of what He will and will not do according to His own sovereign choice. Paul again criticizes a position that I do not hold.

That is, the Calvinist can pray that if it is God's will, save so and so. And, God can answer this. The Arminian, on the other hand, cannot with confidence say that if God so wills, so and so will be saved.

Actually, the Arminian doesn’t need such “if it’s God’s will” qualifiers when praying for the lost since the Arminian believes that the Scriptural testimony plainly indicates that God wills to save all (1 Tim. 2:1-8). I think the burden of proof lies with Paul to provide a single Biblical example of praying for the lost with an “if it’s God’s will” formula.

That is, if it is God's will he can actually answer our prayer. On the Arminian scheme, if is God's will then this isn't enough to secure a positive answer.

No, it cannot infallibly secure a positive answer but it doesn’t mean that such prayers do not have a profound influence in the process. Like I said in my post, which Paul again neglected to quote:

“Arminians also believe that God has the sovereign right to harden hearts. However, we believe that this hardening is always in response to willful rejection of God’s grace. Often times, this hardening is temporal and not necessarily irrevocable (Rom. 11:7-32). Intercessory prayer, then, can impact God’s decision with regards to whether He will continue to show mercy and give further opportunity for repentance, or entirely give the sinner over to his or her depravity and unbelief (Rom. 1:24-32). It may be that through intercessory prayer, the work of God can become so strong in the sinner’s life that a negative response would become almost impossible. The almost preserves the integrity of the response and genuine nature of the subsequent relationship that results [and continues] from it.”

So and so must take the first step; he must 'meet' God.

Paul never seems to tire of beating up this straw man. What he continually describes is Semi-Pelagianism and not Arminianism. I know that many Calvinists like to think that Arminianism and Semi-Pelagianism are the same things, but they are simply wrong and should be embarrassed by such ridiculous and unfounded assertions. At least Calvinists Robert A. Peterson and Michael D. Williams had enough theological and historical integrity to admit that Arminianism is neither Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian:

“Does the antipathy between Calvinism and Arminianism suggest that Pelagius, the arch-opposite of Augustine, is the proper ancestor of Arminianism? Calvinists have often sought to paint Arminianism in Pelagian colors. Associating your opponent with a position that the historic faith has repeatedly judged heretical can only help one’s cause. However, the allegation that Arminianism is Pelagian is unfortunate and indeed unwarranted. From Jacob Arminius and the ‘Remonstrance Articles’ on, the Arminian tradition has affirmed the corruption of the will by sin and the necessity of grace for redemption. Arminianism is not Pelagianism….The Semi-Pelagians thought of salvation as beginning with human beings. We must first seek God; and his grace is a response to that seeking. The Arminians of the seventeenth century, however, held that the human will has been so corrupted by sin that a person cannot seek grace without the enablement of grace. They therefore affirmed the necessity and priority of grace in redemption. Grace must go before a person’s response to the gospel. This suggests that Arminianism is closer to Semi-Augustinianism than it is to Semi-Pelagianism or Pelagianism." (Why I Am Not An Arminian, pg. 39)

The sole disagreement between late Augustinianism (Calvinism) and Arminianism is whether or not that necessary prevenient grace irresistibly leads to regeneration. It is not over the necessity of that prevenient grace.

So, we don't say that it is 'pointless' for the Arminian to pray, but we note that many times he prays as if he were a Calvinist.

Kind of like how Calvinists often preach like Arminians? Actually, I have never heard of an Arminian praying “if it’s your will God, save so and so”, which is apparently how Calvinist should pray according to Paul. The example of Falwell’s prayers (which Paul cites below) are not really in harmony with Calvinism as Paul suggests because one might very well be praying against God’s will by asking Him to irresistibly save someone whom He has irrevocably ordained for destruction.

I personally have a suspiscion that Calvinists often pray like Arminians. For instance, how would Joe Calvinist pray if we made "so and so" a little more personal? What if Joe C was praying for the salvation of his daughter? Would he really pray something like: "Dear God, if it is your will to save my daughter according to your eternal and irrevocable decree, then I thank you that you will infallibly do so; but if it is instead your will to damn her forever in accordance with your just decree of irrevocable reprobation, according to your good pleasure, then I give you all the praise and glory for her just condemnation." I can't help but to wonder if Calvinists start praying an awful lot like Arminians when things get personal. Praying “God save my daughter”, for example, is far more in harmony with Arminianism (since God truly desires to save all) than Calvinism when all is said and done; so no, Arminians don’t pray like Calvinists. Nice try though Paul.

The Calvinist can pray knowing that God will answer his prayer, if he has so decreed that so and so believe.

Does God need your prayers? What if you don’t pray? Will God still save His elect?

The Arminian cannot. We also at times see inconsistencies in your prayers. For example, Falwell said,

"He will not force you against your will to come to the cross."

and this,

"Do not let one person say ‘no’ to your precious will. Save the lost."

During the same prayer. What could it possibly mean, on an Arminian scheme, for God not to 'let' someone say 'no' who freely chooses to say 'no?' Take a person S. If S says no, that's it. God cannot make sure that S enters the kingdom. A Calvinist, on the other hand, can pray that God not let S say "no." If God has chosen to save S, he will not let S say 'no.' And so at the very least you must admit that you only have fellow Arminians to blame for these confusions. In other words, the saying: 'Clean up your own backyard,' is applicable here.

So it is my duty to make sure guys like Falwell don’t say dumb things? I would think Paul might need to do plenty of backyard cleaning himself in that case.

"It does not follow that if intercessory prayer cannot guarantee a result, then it is pointless. Arminians believe that God works persuasively on the human heart through the gospel to bring about a faith response. Prayer can have a profound effect on that process. The Arminian can pray for more opportunities to witness. He or she can pray that God will use circumstances to bring the sinner to a point of desperation. We can pray that God will continue to reveal Himself to the individual. We can pray that God will remove obstacles and barriers to unbelief. All of these things will increase the chance of conversion."

The Arminian prays for barriers to be removed so that it is easier for the lost to 'make that first move.'

If God is removing barriers then how is it the lost that is “making the first move”?

But the road can be clear of everything down to the last pebble, and if the lost decide to stay where they are at, all the prayer in the world will change nothing.

Yes. Grace can be ultimately resisted and very often is (Acts 7:51, which has nothing to do with Calvinistic “common grace”). Prayers, however, can make it harder for the lost to make that decision to “stay where they are at”, even to the point of making such a decision nearly impossible as I stated above in the section of my post that Paul ignored.

On the Calvinist scheme, if God chooses to save the lost person, he will climb over all the barriers, and then administer life-giving serum to the dead sinner. This effects a new life and results in the completion, for what good work God begins in the man he will see it to the end. The Calvinist knows that no matter what barriers stand in the way, if God has so chosen, he will save the sinner.

Which only proves Cavinistic intercession pointless because God can even overcome the “barrier” of a complete lack of intercessory prayer for those who are lost. No lack of praying can prevent Him from saving those He unconditionally and irrevocably elected for salvation from before the foundation of the world. Therefore, intercessory prayer in Calvinism is a pointless waste of time. Paul just demonstrated that quite nicely.

The Alleged Inconsistency

"The underlying assumptions of Calvinist theology make a mess of intercessory prayer. Calvinism teaches that one is saved or lost on the sole basis of an eternal and irrevocable decree. Nothing can effectively change that decree. It is fixed. It is permanent. The decision was made for us before we were born. The decision was made before the universe was created. With this in mind the problems of intercession within Calvinist thought become quickly apparent."

Now we're at the meat of the post.

"The Arminian contends that intercessory prayer within a Calvinistic framework is pointless. Our prayers cannot have any effect on the eternal destiny of any individual. That destiny was fixed from eternity. No lack of prayer can prevent God from saving the elect and no amount of prayer can help the reprobate. Worse yet, the believer might waste countless hours praying for a reprobate who has no chance at heaven without realizing it."

Sure they can, as means. So, if God has decreed that S will be saved by means of X, then if X doesn't obtain, S wouldn't be saved. It is a package deal. Thus it is false to say what you say.

But prayer really has no affect on God in Calvinism. He is going to save the elect no matter what. He is not moved by our prayers because He has already unconditionally decreed from eternity to save “S” without reference to any prayers, so what “X” does amounts to nothing more than a show of sorts which doesn’t really accomplish anything.

Perhaps Paul is saying that God decreed from eternity that the prayers of “X” would irresistibly move God to save in time. That would seem to indicate that the believer can force God to do things, which strikes me as quite contrary to Paul’s position. If the prayers of “X” don’t really force any kind of response from God, then they really have nothing to do with the means or His decree as Paul seems to be describing. Again, they don’t accomplish anything. “S” will be saved regardless and the prayers of “X” have no real bearing on the process. The best we can say is that they have an imaginary bearing on the process (i.e. they only appear to have something to do with it).

That is not to say that God could not have decreed that “X” pray for “S” but those prayers would not really be “means” at all; just the inevitable result of God’s sovereign decree. The prayers of “X” can have no real influence on God since God made the infallible decision to save “S” without any consideration for the prayers that “X” would eventually make. If He had, which I don’t even think is logically possible, then God’s choice of election was actually based on the eventual prayers of “X” which I can’t imagine any Calvinist being comfortable affirming. They could only truly be “means” if they had some real influence on God prior to His decree to save “S”, which is plainly impossible. Only in Arminianism can intercessory prayer be a genuine means to an end. Despite Paul’s best efforts he still cannot make any sense of intercessory prayer in a Calvinistic framework.

But you address this response below. So let's move on.

"The Calvinist objects on the basis that God decrees the “means” as well as the “ends” and intercessory prayer may well be the means that God uses to bring His elect to repentance. Let us then call on the Calvinist to define “means”. Do “means” have reference to the process by which God accomplishes something? If it does then the Calvinist must still admit that believers contribute to the salvation of the elect by way of intercessory prayer. Their prayer is part of the means and therefore a contribution. If that is the case, then salvation is not monergistic as Calvinism defines it. The only way that I can see to avoid such a conclusion is to deny that intercessory prayer is truly a means to an end (albeit God ordained). The moment that is admitted, we are right back to the problem of intercessory prayer serving no real purpose within Calvinist theology."

I would think the concept fairly simple to understand. If you want your friend to give you a bite of his tasty burger, you must communicate somehow. The end is the ingesting the burger, the communication of that desire was a means.

This example is not analogous since there is no third party as in intercessory prayer. I really don’t see how this example relates to the issue at all. We would have to say that if you want your friend to give you a bite of his tasty burger you would need to tell a second friend to communicate that desire to the first friend, or something similar. Even then it does not really relate to the topic at hand as intercessory prayer isn’t about getting something for yourself but asking God to do something for someone else. It also assumes that the friend is truly being influenced by that communication. If the friend with the tasty burger is suppose to represent God, then we have already demonstrated why this doesn’t help Paul make intercessory prayer in Calvinism meaningful above. If Paul wants to disambiguate this a little maybe I can address it further.

Or, take when God parted the red sea. He used a strong east wind as a means to accomplish the end of allowing the Israelites to pass through the sea on dry ground.

This further misses the point and serves only to cloud the issue. Did something influence God to use the wind? God used the wind to accomplish something but did the wind move Him to accomplish something? The point is that in Arminianism God is truly influenced by intercessory prayer and positively responds to it. Prayer is a genuine means to an end and has an actual bearing on the process. In Calvinism, God is not truly influenced because He has irrevocably decreed to save before He even created anybody to pray. These illustrations don’t even touch on the issue I was addressing in my post.

Now the inconsistency is drawn out.(1) If a believer's B prayer is a means to the end, a sinner's S salvation, then B is 'involved' in the salvation of S and thus the salvation of S isn't monergistic.(1) rests on an assumption:

(1*) No one can be involved in salvation in any sense of the word 'involved,' no matter how broad, or else said salvation is not monergistic.

Since monergism means “to work alone” then I fail to see how this is “assumption.” Intercessory prayer is synergistic in the sense of genuine (un-coerced) influence and response. God motivates and encourages the believer to pray for the lost (1 Tim. 2:1-8). When the believer yields to that motivation in active obedience God responds to those prayers. God allows us to participate in the process, but God alone works to save (since He alone can save).

With rests on a broader assumption:

(1**) If anything is involved, no matter how broadly construed, in any operation, then that operation was done by two things and not one.

We are not talking about “things” but “persons” and we are discussing whether one person (the believer) really has any influence on another person (God) and visa versa. The subtle shift here to “things” is the only way that Paul can wriggle out of this dilemma and employ the irrelevant illustrations of the violinist and the wind below.

i) Having drawn out this assumptions, it will be child's play to show the errors in the argument. I'll list them off:

“Child’s play” to show the errors in the argument that I do not hold, which has been the general practice of Paul throughout his entire post.

It should be stated first that Reformed theologians don't deny that other people are involved in a very broad sense of the word.

ii) Take the parting of the red sea. Since God used wind, it is no longer technically correct to say that God parted the red sea. Rather, God + wind parted the red sea. Or, take a violinist. Since the violin was 'involved' in a masterpiece performance, one cannot tell the violinist that she played beautifully. According to (1**), the masterpiece was done by two and not one.

Again, these illustrations are irrelevant to the subject matter of the post that Paul is trying to criticize.

iii) Notice that we are 'involved' (in a broad sense) in all of our salvation. Indeed, there must be a person to be saved. Without my involvement (broadly involved by the act of my existing) in glorification, there would be no glorification since no one would be there to be glorified.

So we are involved in the act of our own existence? Are we self existent or are we dependent on God for our existence? Paul is really starting to struggle here (though he may be speaking in the "broad sense" of eating, breathing, and refraining from commiting suicide I suppose).

Similarly, if there is no party standing before the court then there is no one for God to declare righteous and thus justify. So, I am involved (in a broad sense) in my justification.

And when we get too “broad” things tend to stop making a whole lot of “sense.”

Our Arminian friend must grant all of this, and so when he mentioned those parts of 'salvation' that were monergistic, he must retract according to his implicit assumption in (1*) and (1**). So, then, we 'contribute' to our justification by just being there.

Kind of like the patient contributes to the work of the surgeon by lying unconscious on the operating table I suppose. Does Paul really believe that he is bolstering his argument with such strained assertions?

If we didn't 'contribute' in this way, there would be no justification since there would be no one to justify.

Brilliant. I guess I should consider my post successfully refuted.

iv) Our prayers are not the ground of salvation, Christ's alien work is. His life and death is. So, it isn't even technically correct to attribute our prayers a soteriological synergism.

The correlation I meant to draw was clearly spelled out in my post, which again Paul has neglected to mention:

“God's heart is moved to action through our prayers for others. We would be foolish to say that believers save sinners by praying for them. Our prayers don't earn or merit salvation for others but only move God's heart to act. In a similar way our faith does not earn or merit our personal salvation, but our faith response does move God's heart to respond in accordance with His promise to save believers (John 3:16-18, 36).”

v) So, I haven't needed to deny the means answer, and I've shown that the argument against it is absurd and even turns against the very admissions of monergism the Arminian allows. Given his very broad conception of 'involved' or 'contribute' it would be hard to demarcate my instances of 'involvement' as relevantly different than his.

Well allow me to try to demarcate a bit. My “broad conception” of involvement has to do with the genuine influence that one person has on another. God influences and enables sinners to respond to [i.e. receive] His offer of salvation (John 6:44, 45; 12:32; 16:7-11; Titus 2:11-14). God is influenced to save those who positively respond to His gracious offer of salvation according to His love and promises (John 3:16-18, 36; 6:40; 7:37, 38; Rev. 22:17; Matt. 11:28-30). Believers are influenced by God to pray for the lost. God is influenced by the prayers of believers to act to save the lost. God works in us by way of the influence and response model that is appropriate to interpersonal relationships. Paul’s “broad conception” of “involved”, on the other hand, is more analogous to the “involvement” of a corpse with the embalmer. Rather than influence and response, it is always cause and effect in Paul’s scheme.

Since my means answer is still in tact, then he cannot show any inconsistency, and so his entire argument, as stands, crumbles.

And so Paul declares victory.


I will leave it to the reader to decide if Paul has really made his case. From what I can see Paul has recklessly proceeded to criticize my post without a proper understanding of my arguments and has argued heroically against a position that I do not hold. He has misunderstood synergism within Arminian theology. He has ignored the important Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace. He has failed to comprehend that his “means” argument just will not hold up to careful scrutiny. He has tried to confuse his readers with irrelevant illustrations and has frequently said things which lend strong support to the position he is trying to argue against. From where I’m sitting his entire rebuttal was just about as pointless as intercessory prayer within Calvinism. But then again, that is just my opinion and no doubt Paul will strongly disagree.

Now I am quite sure that Paul will respond in force. I have seen an example of how this will likely develop with his interactions with J.C. As J.C. continued to dismantle his arguments (and numerous “hypotheticals”), Paul’s posts quickly disintegrated into theological temper tantrums, baseless assertions, ridicule and mockery, and bold and childish claims of victory without ever really even addressing the main issues. They became so long that anyone trying to address them and carefully untangle his sophistry would have needed to shamefully neglect his family in order to take the time to give a detailed response. He is masterful at confusing his readers to the point where they just assume he must be right.

I left a comment in the combox of his post which criticized my arguments asking him why he did not bother to let me know that he made the post. I thought it was just a common courtesy to inform someone that you have just attacked and critiqued something they have written in order to give them a fair chance to defend themselves. Paul told me that to expect such a thing from him clearly indicated that I had an inflated ego which needed to be stroked and that this ego was the obvious result of my man centered theology. I can’t help but to wonder what kind of ego Paul must have that he would think that his leaving me a comment at AP to inform me of his critical interaction with my post would have stroked my ego? It is conversations like that which make it quite clear to me that further dialogue will not be fruitful and will likely not benefit anyone (with the exception of our egos of course), and I just don’t have the time to devote to it. Paul has the right to disagree with me and think my arguments stupid so I will leave him to it (though I do reserve the right to change my mind for the purpose of clarification if he should continue to blatantly and shamelessly misrepresent Arminianism :). He is more than welcomed to have the final word and make whatever baseless declarations of victory he likes. The End.