Friday, January 18, 2008

Tackling Tough Calvinist Questions

I recently came across a Calvinist polemical work by a Mr. Greg Gibson, entitled "Calvinism, Arminianism, So What?" Who Gets Credit for Your Decision for Christ: The Evangelist, You, or God? In it he presents a decent spiel on Calvinism and why he thinks it's correct, as well as a list of 23 questions to persuade one to accept his position. We're going to tackle those questions here, and see if the Arminian/Synergist view can stand up to them and is congruent with the passages of scripture he cites.


1. Was your will free from Satan's control, yes or no?

Yep.


2. Was your will free from sin's control, yes or no?

Nope.


3. Is God sovereign & in control over humans' wills including yours, no or yes?

Yep. Though what they draw from it isn't quite accurate:

Wow! Could God possibly make it any clearer that He controls our wills? What we're saying is: God is in control (of ALL things, even salvation.) He is sovereign (over ALL things, even salvation.) Most Christians acknowledge He's in control only in a general, vague sense. But, He tells us He's in control of every minute detail of His universe, even your decisions, and the number of hairs on your head.

God is sovereign, so He retains control of everything, but this does not mean that He exercises control over every aspect of the human will. Indeed scripture plainly declares that He does not.

And they built the high places of Baal, which are in the valley of the son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire unto Molech; which I commanded them not, neither came it into my mind, that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin. (Jeremiah 32:35)


In the Fall, Did Adam & His Offspring Lose Their Desire and Ability to Come to Christ?

4. After Adam and Eve sinned, did they move toward God, or hide from Him?


They hid.


5. Did Adam initiate contact with God, or did God initiate contact with Adam?

God did, and still does.


6. As a fallen sinner, were you just spiritually sick, or spiritually dead?

Spiritually dead.


The spiritually dead can't raise themselves. They must be raised by God.

I agree.


7. Could you spiritually see the gospel, or were you spiritually blind?

Blind, unless allowed to see by grace.


8. Could you spiritually hear the gospel, or were you spiritually deaf?

Deaf, unless allowed to hear by grace.


9. When you were spiritually dead, blind, & deaf, did you desire & seek God, yes or no?

Nope, except when influenced by prevenient grace.


10. Are unbelievers not sheep because they don't believe, or do they not believe because they're not sheep?

Because they're not His sheep. Though what we define 'His sheep' as may differ. Calvinists see sheep as being those who are regenerated, Arminians/Synergists see the sheep as those taught by God (John 6:45) and therefore given by God to Christ.


11. When you were spiritually dead, deaf & blind, were you born again by your will, or God's will?

God's will of course. He then states,

How much of a part did you have in willing your own physical conception? None! Your parents conceived you by their own wills. As it is with physical birth, so it is with spiritual birth. You didn't ask to be birthed. The Father birthed you.

Which has nothing to do with the conditions God has placed upon the new birth, since having faith and being born from above are separate events.


Then, the question arises, "If fallen, dead, deaf, blind sinners can't come to Christ, then how do they come to Christ?"

Answer: Prevenient grace.

Does God give the new birth because they believed, or so that they can believe?

Because they believed and are in Christ.

In other words, is faith the cause of the new birth, or is the new birth the cause of faith?

Grace and hearing the word of God is the cause of faith, faith is the cause of being in Christ, being in Christ is the cause of the new birth.

To believe that fallen, dead, deaf, blind sinners repented and believed to be born again is like getting the cart before the horse.

Unless you factor in prevenient grace, in which case scripture makes it clear that regeneration prior to faith is completely backwards. Jesus made it clear that spiritual life doesn't come until people hear Him,

Verily, verily, I say unto you, The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. (John 5:25)

Ben also wrote an excellent post on the subject of regeneration which addresses it in more detail. Continuing,

Logically, they must have first been spiritually born again, before they could repent and believe in Christ.

Unless prevenient grace is factored in.


12. Did God predestine your adoption & inheritance according to your will, or His will?

His will.


13. Did God choose you because you would believe, or so that you would believe?

"God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth" (2 Thes. 2:13)


So we would believe, but note that faith comes by hearing and receiving the word of God (Romans 10:17), which still implies conditionality.


14. Whose choice made the ultimate difference, the apostles' choice, or God's choice?

"You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit" (Jn. 15:16)


'Ultimate difference' is ill-defined here, and is worded to suggest that either man's or God's choice is the only true variable in producing the outcome. God making a choice does not prohibit a man from going against His will. So while it is true that we don't choose ourselves, we do have to comply with the word of God if we are to be saved. In other words, both choices are required for a positive outcome, making 'which one' questions erroneous. Kind of like asking, 'Which is more important for life: your heart or your blood?' I touch on this logical fallacy further when he employs it again below.


15. Whose will made Paul an apostle, his own will, or God's will?

God's will.


16. Did God call you according to your purpose (will,) or His purpose?

"And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom (not "what") He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son" (Rom. 8:28-29)


Here he attempts to exclude any and all human will from the salvation process. The difference lies in the fact that it was no purpose of ours that we are saved, but God's; receiving Christ does however involve the will. If someone makes you the offer of the century (or eternity) and you accept, does that render making such an offer your purpose somehow? Again Calvinists are forced to stretch definitions and logical concepts to ridiculous extremes to make their point. He also cites,

"who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began" (2 Tim. 1:9)

Presumably equating receiving Christ with a 'work' of the law. This of course is fallacious and does nothing for the Calvinist position.


17. Who opened your heart, you or God?

God, through His grace.


18. How many of the lost does God call/draw, all or only some?

Apparently all. Though the proof texts he presents are interesting, none of which indicate that He draws only some,

"Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him." (Mt. 11:27)

"No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him" (Jn. 6:44)

"Moreover whom He predestined, these he also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."(Rom. 8:30)


Completely ignoring,

And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me. (John 12:32)

Which Ben also addresses in this post.


19. How many of those whom God calls/draws respond, some or all?

Some. Let's look at his proof texts here as well.

"And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." (Acts 13:48)

There is no indication that all who were called were appointed, for it is also written,

For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:14)

He continues,

"whom He called, these He also justified" (Rom. 8:30)

This is spoken in the category of those whom He foreknew, and does not necessarily indicate that everyone who was called was justified, but those who were both foreknown and then called. He then quotes from Romans 11,

"concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable." (Rom. 11:28-29)

And this has nothing to do with who responded. The context of this passage makes it clear that this is speaking of the offer of salvation to Israel, to which many as of yet do not respond.


20. Who did your repentance come from, you or God?

Granted by God, embraced by man.


21. Who did your faith come from, you or God?

Same as above.


22. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, the evangelist or God?

"I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase." (1 Cor. 3:6-7)


Though he doesn't define what 'the difference' is, I think we can safely agree that it is God.


23. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, you or God?

Again, "the difference" is poorly defined, as the question is worded to force a dichotomy that either only you were ultimately responsible for deciding to follow Christ or only God was, effectively giving only the choices of 'Calvinism or Pelagianism.' God makes the difference in our decision in the fact that we could make no decision to follow Him apart from His grace; man makes the difference in that once God has bestowed grace upon him, he is free to receive or reject the gospel, which is biblically congruent and doesn't hit the unbiblical 'unlimited free will' or 'effectively no free will' pitfalls of Pelagianism or Calvinism. He offers a few proof texts, which we'll examine:

"that no flesh should glory in his presence. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus...that as is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the Lord.'" (1 Cor. 1:29-31)

How can one 'glory' over accepting what is freely given? Calvinists can't really offer a reasonable explanation here.

"For who makes you differ? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it? (1 Cor. 4:7)

It's God who makes us differ -- from the world. Actually, it backs up our case very well, for if all we did was receive what God offered, then there is no room for boasting.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10)

We agree. Note our emphasis on prevenient grace.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph. 2:8-9)

If you made the difference in your decision for Christ, then you'd have reason to boast, wouldn't you?


Not in the slightest. My decision is worthy of no merit or praise, but was what was expected of me and is expected of all men. Christ's words in Luke 17:10 put following Him in perspective,

So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.

Mr. Gibson closes with,

Many credit God for 99% of salvation, and themselves for the other 1% (their decision.) Will you give Him ALL the glory?

And here's the straw man that constitutes the core of Calvinist indoctrination. I already do give Him all the glory, for my fallen mind could have had not have believed apart from God's grace, and even if it could have, it would still not have saved me apart from God's gracious will in sending Christ die for my sins, therefore there can be no reason for bragging on my part, and all credit necessarily goes to God.

The ridiculousness of trying to stretch the decision to believe in Christ into a cause for 1% glory to man goes well beyond any semblance of credibility. That's like crediting the pardoned criminal with his own release because he agreed and walked out of the prison. There is no room for boasting there, and hence we can firmly say, "To God alone be all glory."

52 comments:

Anonymous said...

You wrote:

-That's like crediting the pardoned criminal with his own release because he agreed and walked out of the prison. There is no room for boasting there, and hence we can firmly say, "To God alone be all glory."-

Say that you and this fellow are on death row together and you both received a pardon by the President, yet only you "accepted" the pardon and walked out of the prison. What would you say of the other guy? In your heart would you not consider him foolish? Would you not wonder why you saw the benefit and he did not?

If you are both in the same state and yet you "accepted" and he did not what was the main difference between the two of you. It would appear that all things being equal the difference was YOU.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Indeed it would. That does not mean I can claim glory or credit for my pardon.

Anonymous said...

True, but you can boast. After all, you saw more inherent value in the pardon than your cell mate did.

Robert said...

Some unknown person wrote:

“There is no room for boasting there, and hence we can firmly say, "To God alone be all glory."-“
So how do you handle Romans 3:27-28: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.”?

The BIBLE says that saving faith EXCLUDES boasting. So if two people hear the gospel message and one rejects it and one has a saving faith response to it, according to Romans 3:27-28, this person’s saving faith will exclude boasting. As the Bible is true, why do you calvinists keep presenting this same stale and worn out and unconvincing argument when the scripture conflicts with your attempted set up question? You calvinists keep trying to set up non-calvinists with this set up ploy where if the person admits that they made a choice to trust and the other person did not: you then want to argue that he is saving himself and has reason to boast.

You claim to believe the bible then why don’t you believe what Romans 3:27-28 teaches (i.e., that saving faith EXCLUDES BOASTING)?

Robert

PS- I want to discuss the other set up questions presented by Gibson as well. But I could not resist responding to this common calvinist ploy first.

kangaroodort said...

Anonymous,

Please leave a name if you are going to continue to post here.

Please explain why it was that God chose you for salvation from eternity while reprobating the greater part of his creation?

There must have been a reason, unless you feel comfortable with calling his choice arbitrary.

So waht was it about you? Couldn't you boast over those whom God passed over? Don't you think that you could, at least subconsciously, see yourself as better than those reprobates in God's eyes?

Maybe you will say that God chose you according to his inscrutable counsel. But don't you think God's inscrutable counsel is based on His infinite wisdom? Couldn't you then conclude that that God's choice of you over someone else was a wise decision on God's part. If God's choice of you for salvation was according to his wisdom, then that would seem to indicate that to not choose you would mean God wasn't acting wisely, correct?

So in order for God to be truly wise, He would need to choose to save you. Must be awfully hard not to boast in that.

Anonymous said...

I would rather leave the choice to God than to ME.

J. Dale Weaver, M.Div. said...

Ah, but that's not your choice now is it, Anon? :-)

Pizza Man said...

If we are chosen and others are rejected, it can be a cause for boasting. Indeed, it becomes a small step to see our "reprobate" brothers as something less than human.

This results in 5-pointers like Fred Phelps claiming that God hates gays, and also provided grounds for burning people at the stake like Calvin did with Servetus.

It's interesting to note the increased propensity of violence for those who hold to the Reformed view - from Augustine's "just war" theory, to Calvin's murder of Servetus, to Dort's murder of van Oldenbarnevelt, to Cromwell's genocide against the Irish Catholics.

But Jesus instead commanded to love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you (Calvin fell short on that one, didn't he?). Wesley pointed out this tendency Calvinism, saying that "as directly does this doctrine tend to destroy several particular branches of holiness. Such are meekness and love, -- love, I mean, of our enemies"

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Haha! Yeah, some means of boasting there. I'm getting flashbacks of the last satire. "Okay okay, so it technically was God that did the healing, but come on, it was me that looked up at the bronze serpent!" There's some some real bragging rights material for you.

Robert said...

Hi JC,

I liked your questions as they clearly bring out the problems with unconditional election (i.e., while saving faith which involves a choice by human persons, according to Romans 3:27-28 excludes boasting; the belief in unconditional election has and does lead to boasting).

You wrote:

”Please explain why it was that God chose you for salvation from eternity while reprobating the greater part of his creation?”
Great question.

”There must have been a reason, unless you feel comfortable with calling his choice arbitrary.”
Good point if the choice was not arbitrary (which determinists want us to believe) then it had to be for reason(s). That then leads to God having reasons to choose the lucky ones who are the elect and reasons for choosing unlucky ones, the reprobates, to be damned.

”So what was it about you? Couldn't you boast over those whom God passed over? Don't you think that you could, at least subconsciously, see yourself as better than those reprobates in God's eyes?”

This is not entirely hypothetical. I know calvinists who do feel and act superior to others because they believe themselves to be the elect while others are the evil reprobates (of course they forget that the evil reprobates are evil because that is what God wants them to be). A friend of mine is dealing with a calvinist who is causing problems with their evangelistic outreach efforts and the guy is quite arrogant about his election.

”Maybe you will say that God chose you according to his inscrutable counsel. But don't you think God's inscrutable counsel is based on His infinite wisdom? Couldn't you then conclude that that God's choice of you over someone else was a wise decision on God's part. If God's choice of you for salvation was according to his wisdom, then that would seem to indicate that to not choose you would mean God wasn't acting wisely, correct?”

This is a very good point, if unconditional election were true, then God would be making these selections of who gets lucky and gets elected and who is unlucky and gets reprobated, based on the wisdom of God. And the wisdom of God then would lead to the conclusion that God was wise in selecting some and reprobating others. So according to this reasoning God was obviously wise if he chose the unknown person to be saved and would not have been wise had he not selected the unknown person to be saved. So what is it about the unknown person that makes it wise to choose him to be elect? If the unknown person comes back with: the choice was unconditional and had nothing to do with anything that God saw in him to separate him from the rest, then God’s choice is without reason, without wisdom, and sure appears to be completely arbitrary.

In fact, how would God’s choice, not being based upon anything in regards to a given person, be different from **chance**? How would it be any different than flipping a coin to decide what you will do with a particular person? If the choice has nothing to do with the person, and yet there is a differentiation between some persons being chosen and others being damned, then how is this different from a random process, a coin flip, or chance? If reasons are involved, then as JC points out God was wise to choose the unknown person and would be unwise not to choose the unknown person to be elect.

”So in order for God to be truly wise, He would need to choose to save you. Must be awfully hard not to boast in that.”

It is hard for some determinists not to boast in that. I have met very few humble determinists. In fact the ones that are most into promoting and defending their view are the most arrogant and prideful professing Christians that I have ever encountered. It is interesting that people who claim to promote the “doctrines of grace” are not humble people. If you really believed that it was all by God’s grace then you ought to be quite humble about it. And if you believe that it is all determined then you shouldn’t get too upset that most others reject your view because they, like you, are only living out the prewritten script assigned to them. And yet the determinists get very upset that most of us reject their determinism, again forgetting that if we do reject their determinism and yet their determinism is true, then we have to reject their view, it is impossible for us to do otherwise.

And the unknown person responded with:

“I would rather leave the choice to God than to ME.”

A major problem that I have with the calvinistic-monergistic scheme is that whether purposefully or accidentally, they seem to forget that salvation is a personal relationship with God. As a RELATIONSHIP, it will necessarily involve the actions of both parties involved in the relationship. As an analogy, imagine a married couple; say Joe Blow and Suzie Q. Would Joe ever say about the initiation of their relationship: “I would rather leave the choice to Suzie Q than to ME.”? What is wrong with that line of reasoning? The question assumes that only one person really acts. This is absolutely false when discussing a relationship between persons. If a genuine relationship is involved then, both persons will be making choices that contribute to the relationship. Salvation besides being a relationship also involves us being saved from the penalty and consequences of sin and the wrath of God (only God delivers or rescues or saves a person from these things: we cannot deliver or save ourselves).

The determinists will get upset when you liken their view to us becoming conscious robots or puppets: and yet if none of our actions are involved in the process that ends up in salvation and God alone is the sole person doing anything, since God predetermines every event and we do not have free will. Then we are no different from conscious robots and puppets. God in the monergistic scheme pulls all of the strings and while we may be conscious and believe that we have choices, in reality, we never have a choice and only do what we were preprogrammed to do, just like a good little programmed robot or a good little puppet whose every string is pulled by the puppet master.

Robert

Robert said...

Weaver wrote:

“Ah, but that's not your choice now is it, Anon? :-)”

At least Weaver is an honest determinist: admitting that if his exhaustive determinism is true, then there is no such thing as having a choice.

In every instance, we may believe that we have alternative possibilities before us, open to us. But in reality we can only and always do the action which God predetermined for us to do (all other actions are impossible). So we never have a choice, we always and only do exactly what God predetermined for us to do.

Now that’s nice with good actions like praising God and obeying God. But with sin the picture is quite different. Every time we sin as Christians, if exhaustive determinism is true, we are doing exactly what God wants us to do. So God predetermines every action (including every individual sin) and yet he chooses to save a few and intentionally damns the vast majority. In such a scheme you can only hope that you get lucky and are one of the chosen ones.

As a friend puts it: it becomes a divine lottery with big winners and big losers, you just better hope you are on the winning side. If not, you never had a chance and the hand you were dealt was a stacked deck from the beginning and you never had a chance.

Fortunately, this gruesome picture is contradicted by what the bible actually teaches.

Robert

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Uh Robert, I'm pretty sure Weaver's not a determinist. I think he's just throwing logic behind the anonymous guy's beliefs back at him (Good comeback btw Weaver).

kangaroodort said...

Hey Robert,

JC wrote the post, but I wrote the comments you are referring to concerning God's wisdom factoring into His choices. It doesn't really matter, but since you like them so much I thought I should boast in...er..take credit for them:)

God Bless,
Ben

Robert said...

Hi JC,
“Uh Robert, I'm pretty sure Weaver's not a determinist. I think he's just throwing logic behind the anonymous guy's beliefs back at him (Good comeback btw Weaver).”

I think you are right JC, I mistakenly thought that Weaver was a determinist.

Mr. Weaver if you read this I am sorry for mischaracterizing you as a determinist, I mistakenly thought you were a calvinist trying to back up another Calvinist’s comments. I checked your website and you are what I would call a Reformational or classic Arminian, similar to Arminius in the past and Picarelli today. Sorry about that.

My comments about the problems with determinism still stand.

Hi Ben,

You wrote:

”JC wrote the post, but I wrote the comments you are referring to concerning God's wisdom factoring into His choices. It doesn't really matter, but since you like them so much I thought I should boast in...er..take credit for them:)”

I will give you credit for them then, they were good observations. Sorry that I confused you for JC.

I don’t really care who gets the credit as long as the truth is being presented. I have enjoyed and appreciated the comments that you guys have made.

Robert

Robert said...

JC I want to comment on these questions here. One thing that must be kept in mind when reading determinist literature is that they often engage in what I would call “set-up questions” (i.e. a question is asked or stated with certain questionable presuppositions/assumptions already in place: in logic the classic case of this is the fallacy of complex question with a famous example being: “have you stopped beating your wife?”).

If someone asks a sincere question we should always take the time to answer it. On the other hand, if the question is a set up we need to break up the question and show the underlying assumptions.

”1. Was your will free from Satan's control, yes or no?

Yep.”

I would be careful here about the word “control”. According to 1 Jn. 5:19 “and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one.” There is also 2 Tim. 2:26 “and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.” While I would argue that we retain free will as nonbelievers, in some sense we are under the influence or “control” of the devil as nonbelievers.

”2. Was your will free from sin's control, yes or no?

Nope.”

In the book of Romans 6 Paul characterizes “sin” as a slave master under which we are the slaves. While we do not want to push this metaphor too far, nevertheless, the bible is teaching that we are corrupted by sin to such an extent that only Jesus can deliver us/and or save us from this evil slave master (Paul makes the point about Jesus alone delivering us in Romans 8).


”3. Is God sovereign & in control over humans' wills including yours, no or yes?”

God’s sovereignty means that He does as He pleases. Included in that sovereignty is the fact that humans are designed according to the divine design plan and this plan includes designing us to be conscious persons capable of freely performing our own actions. So God’s design is that we have the capacity to make choices and do our own actions as individual persons. But this does not mean that God never ever tampers with our wills (my favorite example of this is Nebuchadnezzar who one moment is a king of Babylon and the next moment because God judges his pride, is eating grass like an animal). It is part of God’s sovereign plans for man, as God says this Himself, that every person be saved. So in this area God makes salvation possible by the work of the Holy Spirit in us while at the same time preserving the sovereign design plan in which He desired for us to be creatures that are self-conscious and freely choose our actions.

”4. After Adam and Eve sinned, did they move toward God, or hide from Him?

They hid.”

The natural human tendency when we sin is to hide and to shift the blame to someone else (“the women you gave me . ..”). God overcomes this tendency through the Holy Spirit who reveals God to man even in man’s rebellion and attempts to “hide.”


”5. Did Adam initiate contact with God, or did God initiate contact with Adam?

God did, and still does.”

God always takes the initiative in salvation. We did not ask for the Incarnation nor did we ask for Jesus to die on the cross as a provision for salvation. God always initiates and He is always the one who pursues us first.

”6. As a fallen sinner, were you just spiritually sick, or spiritually dead?”

I believe that many non-calvinists make a major mistake in this issue of the meaning of “spiritual death.” Death throughout scripture means **separation.** What is spiritual death? It is separation from God the source of all life and good. While the apostle Paul speaks about our conversion in Ephesians 2 using the metaphor of “spiritual death” and “spiritual resurrection” we need to be careful not to take this metaphor too far. Determinists like to argue that “spiritual death” means that we no longer have the choice to respond in faith to the gospel. As if sin makes us unable to make choices. Sin separates us from God and corrupts every aspect of our being and if we do not turn from sin to God we will be eternally separated from God because of our sins. However, while sin corrupts every one of us, it does not eliminate the fact we are made in the image of God, nor does it eliminate our capacity to make choices (including choosing to trust in Christ for salvation).

Recall in the prodigal son parable of Luke 15 the Father says of his son who is separated from him but turns back and returns to his father: “for this son of mine was dead, and has come to life again; he was lost, and has been found.” LK. 15:24. The prodigal sin had sinned greatly, and these sins were his choice, he never lost the capacity to make choices (he in fact used this capacity to choose to commit various sins). And yet his father characterized him as DEAD and LOST, when he was separated from his father. When the prodigal son was considered to be DEAD and LOST, did he no longer have the ability to make choices? Did he cease to function in the world? Or was he continuing to function and make choices but doing so in a condition in which he was separated from his father and so from his father’s perspective DEAD and LOST?

Similarly, sin has corrupted us in awful ways, and from the perspective of our heavenly father when we are separated from Him living independently of him doing our own thing and sinning greatly he considers us to be DEAD AND LOST. The metaphor of death then speaks of separation from God, not elimination of the image of God or elimination of the freedom of the will/ability and opportunity to make choices.

”7. Could you spiritually see the gospel, or were you spiritually blind?”

As nonbelievers we are, from God’s perspective dead and lost. We are in an awful condition and cannot save or deliver ourselves from the power and penalty of sin. This is why we need God to save or rescue us from sin and its effects. We cannot see or understand spiritual things apart from the work of the Holy Spirit in us. According to Jn. 16 the Spirit comes to convict the World of sin, righteousness and judgment. So God says he wants all to be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4), that He loves the World so much that He gives the Son, Jesus for the World (Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2), and the Spirit convicts the World (Jn. 16). So the trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit are all involved in “giving sight” to blind sinners, showing them the way of salvation, the provision of salvation, and leading them to ask for forgiveness and turn from sin to God. Apart from the drawing work of the Spirit no one is able to be saved by coming to Christ (Jn. 6:44). And yet some are drawn who reject the work of the Spirit and so reject Christ. The Lord will put a person in a place where they can choose to trust in Christ, but they still retain the freedom to either accept or reject Christ.

”8. Could you spiritually hear the gospel, or were you spiritually deaf?”

Different metaphor but same point: apart from the work of the Spirit we cannot be saved. But the Spirit may work and we may still choose to reject the work of the Spirit (in Jesus’ day an example of this was Jesus doing miracles and the Spirit testifying about Him as Messiah and the Pharisees in spite of seeing and hearing the miracles, some of them repeatedly rejected the work of the Spirit in revealing Jesus; Jesus said if you rejected this work of the Spirit you could not be forgiven your sins).

”9. When you were spiritually dead, blind, & deaf, did you desire & seek God, yes or no?”

The bible presents the picture of nonbelievers as being people who apart from the work of the Spirit are not seeking after God.

”10. Are unbelievers not sheep because they don't believe, or do they not believe because they're not sheep?”

Set up question. The bible says those who respond in faith to the gospel message are His sheep. The final determination of whether you are a sheep or goat occurs at the final judgment described in Matt. 25.

”11. When you were spiritually dead, deaf & blind, were you born again by your will, or God's will?”
Another set up question: if you do not accept that regeneration precedes faith as determinists teach, then they argue that you are claiming to regenerate yourself by your faith (i.e., your faith causes regeneration).

Note the following exchange:

””Does God give the new birth because they believed, or so that they can believe?

Because they believed and are in Christ.

In other words, is faith the cause of the new birth, or is the new birth the cause of faith?

Grace and hearing the word of God is the cause of faith, faith is the cause of being in Christ, being in Christ is the cause of the new birth.”

First of all, regeneration or new birth is a miraculous action by God. So by definition God alone does this and can do this. Second, the two options presented by Gibson: (1) the new birth causes faith, (2) faith causes the new birth; is a false dilemma. The third option is that our faith does not cause the new birth AND the new birth does not cause our faith. Rather, God chooses to regenerate those who trust Him. In other words, we have faith, God regenerates those who have faith. Our faith does not cause the new birth, though God only chooses to regenerate those who trust Him/His people. We have to be careful to distinguish what actions God does and what actions we do. We have faith; God regenerates. While faith may precede regeneration in time (or may occur simultaneously), faith does **not** cause regeneration. There are things that God does to people who trust Him, though their trust is not what causes those events to occur. Example – God will raise all who trust Him; but their trust is not what raises them on the final day it is God’s power alone that will accomplish this event. An easy way to distinguish the acts of man and the acts of God is that many of the acts of God in our salvation are miraculous (if they are miraculous then we cannot do them only God can).

”12. Did God predestine your adoption & inheritance according to your will, or His will?”

Scripture says that we are predestined to be like Christ (Rom. 8:29). The adoption into the family of God, of a person by God is an action that God alone does. And He chooses to adopt those into his family if they trust Him alone for salvation and rely on what Jesus did rather than what they do as the grounds for their justification before God.

”13. Did God choose you because you would believe, or so that you would believe?”

Another set up question. God chooses those who trust Him to be His people (this was true with Abraham and is true of all of his spiritual descendents). Salvation needs to be viewed as a relationship, with actions from both parties contributing to the relationship or lack of relationship. The Spirit works to lead us to Christ: we either choose to respond with faith or we do not. Throughout scripture the pattern is the same: God initiates a relationship with individuals and those who respond in faith He chooses to be His people.

”14. Whose choice made the ultimate difference, the apostles' choice, or God's choice?”

Classic set up attempt by determinists. They assume that salvation is monergistic and so salvation is ultimately determined by one person (either God or man). But salvation is a relationship and relationships by their very nature are synergistic and so involve actions by both parties to the relationship.

When I got married who ultimately determined that my wife and I would be married: was it her or me? Wrongly stated question: it was both of us making the choice of the other person to be their marriage partner. If it were only one person choosing then it would not be a freely chosen relationship. God wants people who freely choose to be in relationship with him.

I like JC’s comments on this point as well:

”'Ultimate difference' is ill-defined here, and is worded to suggest that either man's or God's choice is the only true variable in producing the outcome. God making a choice does not prohibit a man from going against His will. So while it is true that we don't choose ourselves, we do have to comply with the word of God if we are to be saved. In other words, both choices are required for a positive outcome, making 'which one' questions erroneous. Kind of like asking, 'Which is more important for life: your heart or your blood?' I touch on this logical fallacy further when he employs it again below.”

”15. Whose will made Paul an apostle, his own will, or God's will?”

God decided to have Paul be an apostle so he knocked him off his horse and we know the rest of the story. God only chooses some to be apostles and this choice is completely his prerogative.

”16. Did God call you according to your purpose (will,) or His purpose?”

God has multiple purposes. What is his design plan for humans? From various statements in scripture it appears that He created us to be conscious persons made in His image capable of doing our own actions and so capable of being in personal relationship with Him. But as God wanted us to freely choose to be in relationship with Him, that also meant we could freely choose to reject Him as well. The ability to make choices is a two edged sword that cuts in good and evil ways depending upon how it is used.

”17. Who opened your heart, you or God?”

The Holy Spirit opens people’s hearts so that they can see who Jesus is, what God’s plan of salvation is, that they are sinners who need to repent, etc. etc. But God can open your heart and you can still choose to reject the grace of God. I know a man who tells me of how at a Billy Graham crusade he knew he was supposed to go forward, knew that what Graham was saying was true, knew he was a sinner, knew all sorts of things, but he chose not to go forward. This man is wealthy, educated (Ph.D in physics) has all the world can offer and yet it miserable.

”18. How many of the lost does God call/draw, all or only some?

We do not know the precise number of people that God draws, though we know the Spirit is said to convict the World of righteousness, sin and judgment and Jesus said his lifting up on the cross would be the means by which all men would be drawn (Jn. 12:32). I believe that at some point in their lives he draws all men, though many choose to reject this drawing work of the Spirit.

”19. How many of those whom God calls/draws respond, some or all?”

While all may be drawn, only some will respond with faith. Didn’t Jesus say that many are on the wide road that leads to destruction and few are on the narrow road that leads to life?

”20. Who did your repentance come from, you or God?”

God grants repentance in the sense that the Spirit enables you to repent. But even with his enabling you still have to make the choice. I can give someone the money and plane ticket to go somewhere (thus enabling their trip), but unless they get on the plane, they will not go on that trip.

”21. Who did your faith come from, you or God?”

If you mean who enabled you to have faith: the person who does so is the Holy Spirit. If you mean who made the choice to respond by faith it has to be the human person. God does not have faith for us, or instead of us, though he enables us to have faith. All good gifts come from God, but even these good gifts can be rejected if we choose to do so. In the parable of the talents they all got talents but one man buried his. Did God cause him to bury the talent? No. God chides him about it and in fact says that he could have done otherwise with the talent given to him. We all get different cards to play from the dealer: what is important is how you choose to play the cards which you are dealt.

”22. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, the evangelist or God?”

Set up again. Different factors come into play in different situations. The key person who “makes the difference” of course, is the Holy Spirit who reveals to sinners their sinful state and condition and that the only way to be rescued is through faith in Christ.

”23. Who made the difference in your decision for Christ, you or God?”

Same set up question just stated differently. There is also a hidden assumption of determinists who argue in this way: that a single decision is what makes up salvation. I call this “decisionism” and some mistakenly believe that the Christian life consists of one single decision, if you make this decision you are eternally saved and secure. Some will point back to a “decision” that they made years ago, though they show no signs of maturity or growth and do little or nothing to evidence their “Christian faith.” Salvation is a relationship in which our sins are forgiven and God adopts us into his spiritual family. Salvation includes a relationship in which we are the servants He is the Master and we live lives of joyful and loving obedience to God. In living this life we will do works that honor and please our Heavenly Father. Salvation is more than just a single one time decision and while it begins in this life it lasts for eternity. When the determinist talks about which decision or whose decision “ultimately” saved you, they are whether doing so intentionally or not, falling into the error of “decisionism.” We are called not to only seek one time decisions but to make lifetimes disciples. So I reject the whole reasoning behind decisionism.

I appreciate JC’s closing words in response to the Gibson 99% challenge:

”Mr. Gibson closes with,

Many credit God for 99% of salvation, and themselves for the other 1% (their decision.) Will you give Him ALL the glory?

And here's the straw man that constitutes the core of Calvinist indoctrination. I already do give Him all the glory, for my fallen mind could have had not have believed apart from God's grace, and even if it could have, it would still not have saved me apart from God's gracious will in sending Christ die for my sins, therefore there can be no reason for bragging on my part, and all credit necessarily goes to God.

The ridiculousness of trying to stretch the decision to believe in Christ into a cause for 1% glory to man goes well beyond any semblance of credibility. That's like crediting the pardoned criminal with his own release because he agreed and walked out of the prison. There is no room for boasting there, and hence we can firmly say, "To God alone be all glory."”

Well stated JC.

Robert

Classical Arminianism said...

These are the exact same tactics that were used to draw me in to Calvinism. Not much has changed.

He said, "Wow! Could God possibly make it any clearer that He controls our wills? What we're saying is: God is in control (of ALL things, even salvation.) He is sovereign (over ALL things, even salvation.) Most Christians acknowledge He's in control only in a general, vague sense. But, He tells us He's in control of every minute detail of His universe, even your decisions, and the number of hairs on your head."

So, that pregnant female marine that was found dead and buried in the backyard, with her baby's arms coming out of her stomach- All part of God's wonderful plan for her life? Isn't God good?

And that seven year old girl whom police found in the woods; murdered and sexually abused, found dead with sticks shoved (inside of her- please excuse me), All part of God's wonderful plan for her life? Praise the Lord.

Yes, God is sovereign. But to suggest that everything that happens in the earth is God's desire is unspeakable. There needs to be a distinction made between God' perfect will and His permissive will.

Yes, God STILL let those horrible things happen, and He could have stopped it from happening; but God has left His creatures with a measure of freedom to make their own choices; and God cannot be blamed for what people do.

However, if everything that happened was planned out by God, because everthing that occurred is what He desired to occur, then He would be to blame- and that's unthinkable.

Just some random thoughts off the top of my head. Great post guys. Keep it up!

Billy

Anonymous said...

Seems you guys may want to read Pyromaniacs, they are beginning a study on Total Depravity. Who knows, you all may learn something.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Hope you visit, please, our Reformed site and listen to some of our radio shows --- and comment. Below our “Mission Statement.” Thanks and God bless you all – and God does bless us when we obey Him…John Lofton, Editor, Recovering Republican.



Mission Statement
“For the nation and kingdom that shall not serve thee shall perish; yea, those nations shall be utterly wasted.” — Isaiah 60:12.

As Christians, we are commanded by the Lord Jesus Christ to teach all nations — including ours — to observe all things He has commanded (Matthew 28:18-20). This means bringing into captivity to Christ all areas of life and thought. This means destroying arguments that are against the knowledge of God (II Corinthians 10:5). In obedience to these commands of our Lord, this Web site is established. We covet your prayers for our success in obeying Him.

We are seriously concerned about, deeply grieved by and lament the fact that far too many of today’s so-called “Christian leaders” are a sinful embarrassment and are responsible for the cause of Christ being mocked and ridiculed. By being, first, cheerleaders for the Republican Party, they have dishonored their Lord and sold their Christian birthright for a mess of partisan political pottage. These individuals and organizations are Christian in name only, “Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof.” From such, it is added, we must turn away.

Secular, Christless conservatism — even when it is supposedly “compassionate” — will not defeat secular, Christless liberalism because to God they are two atheistic peas-in-a-pod and, thus, predestined to failure.

More than 100 years ago, speaking of the secular, Christless conservatism of his time, the great Southern Presbyterian theologian, Robert L. Dabney, observed:

“[Its] history has been that it demurs to each aggression of the progressive party, and aims to save its credit by a respectable amount of growling, but always acquiesces at last in the innovation. What was the resisted novelty of yesterday is today one of the accepted principles of conservatism; it is now conservative only in affecting to resist the next innovation, which will tomorrow be forced upon its timidity and will be succeeded by some third revolution, to be denounced and then adopted in its turn. American conservatism is merely the shadow that follows Radicalism as it moves forward to perdition. It remains behind it, but never retards it, and always advances near its leader. This pretended salt hath utterly lost its savor: wherewith shall it be salted? Its impotency is not hard to explain. It is worthless because it is the conservatism of expediency only, and not of sturdy principle. It tends to risk nothing serious for the sake of truth.”

Amen! And what Dabney says has been proven with a vengeance in modern times, under recent Republican Administrations and Congresses who were supported enthusiastically by individuals and organizations who called themselves “Christian” but who, alas, when judged by their fruits, were not.

To those who will accuse of us of desiring and trying to bring about “a Christian America,” we unashamedly plead guilty though the accusation is far too modest and somewhat muddled. To be sure, we desire a Christian America, and a Christian world, a Christian galaxy and a Christian universe. And, over time, by His grace, we hope to demonstrate that all these things already belong to the Lord Jesus Christ because He created them all and they are His property. This is why all knees must bow to the Lord and all tongues confess that He is the Lord — because He is!

Jude 1:3 3

“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.” (KJV)

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Seems you guys may want to read Pyromaniacs, they are beginning a study on Total Depravity. Who knows, you all may learn something.

To quote P.G. Wodehouse, "An unlikely contingency." I've looked over Johnson's blog before, can't say I was terribly impressed. Their stuff lacks real objectivity, evidenced by the fact that they still buy into the old Arminianism = Semipelagianism fallacy. Though I will keep them in mind if I need a good laugh.


BTW, wanted to add a caveat to my answer to question 1: While Satan does not control our wills directly, he does hold much sway over those who are in sin. Because our wills are in bondage to sin, the tempter by necessity does have power to indirectly control the hearts of the unregenerate by the power of sin, though not to the extent that the grace of God cannot draw the unregenerate to Christ. A detail I thought I should clarify.

Anonymous said...

If you guys do not think that you are dead as in dead, then why do you have to be re-born? Seeing as all you guys need is a little grace to get you over the hump.

I have seen more proper exegis come from Pyro, than I have in anything you have ever done, but you beeing so high on your self can not accept that.

I will give it to you though J.C. you always make me laugh.

Dawn said...

JC, Great post. I would be interested in the Calvinist response to your and Robert's well thought out answers to these irrelevant (not sure if that is the proper word to define my point) questions. I have a feeling they would simply resort to changing the meanings of words like "all", "world," "whosoever," etc. OR they would say we don't understand Calvinism. Please.

Robert, you said, "One thing that must be kept in mind when reading determinist literature is that they often engage in what I would call “set-up questions” (i.e. a question is asked or stated with certain questionable presuppositions/assumptions already in place: in logic the classic case of this is the fallacy of complex question with a famous example being: “have you stopped beating your wife?”)."

The "beating your wife" question is exactly how I described to my husband their questions to me when I was first exposed to Calvinism. They ALL ask the same "stale and worn out and unconvincing" [and unbiblical] questions. I want to know what book this came from because they all seem to have read it.

Anyway, thanks for exposing the logical fallacies of Calvinism. I do believe they will help those who are facing these "seemingly" tough questions for the first time.

You guys (Ben, Billy, JC, Robert, etc.) should collaborate and write a book on how to tackle these ridiculous questions and the TULIP because there are some who tend to be very bothered and continually haunted by them. Calvinists are good at dazzling people with their brilliance and baffling them with their bull-excrement.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Thanks for the props Dawn, I'm glad we can be of help. Clever questions that groups of people have spent up centuries cooking up always sound overwhelming at first, but a little scriptural reasoning can dispel most all of them.

To anonymous,

"If you guys do not think that you are dead as in dead, then why do you have to be re-born? Seeing as all you guys need is a little grace to get you over the hump."

Of course we need to be reborn, just not to come to faith in Christ. It's after we come to faith that we are born from above. We are dead in sin, the loose illustration was to simply show the over-extrapolating Calvinists do from the term, to the point that they effectively argue that God's grace somehow just isn't enough to bring a sinner to faith.

"I have seen more proper exegis come from Pyro, than I have in anything you have ever done, but you beeing so high on your self can not accept that.
"


Lol.

Pizza Man said...

I'm curious as to why you guys allow anonymous comments? To provide us with more laughs? :)

Anonymous said...

LOL!!!

J.C. you actually think that you do any exegis at all????


LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

Dawn said...

I should clarify that the last sentence on my previous comment does not pertain to all Calvinists. There are some who hold to Reformed Theology that I respect and consider them as my friends.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

You're probably right anonymous, I've never even heard the word 'exegis' before.

Anonymous said...

You guys better send re-enforcements to the Pyro site because you are getting schooled. LOL

Classical Arminianism said...

Roos,

Thought you would get a kick out of this: http://exagorazo289.wordpress.com/2007/09/11/arminian-grace/.

Anonymous,

What, are you like 14 years old?

Anonymous said...

I'm 13 and you guys are getting your a** handed to you over there at Pyro. Might be best to go in the shallow water again, till you do a little more readin.

J.C. Thibodaux said...

'Schooled?' More like trying to drag us into their preschool. Their stuff's pretty laughable so far.

Anonymous said...

J.C.

Your a glass half full kinda guy, that is admirable that you take a whoopin so well, but to try to say that you are somehow even in the game with some of those guys is delusion.

keep smilin though, who knows one day you may be able to hang with them:)

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Big words anonymous, but only empty words. Their combined efforts can't rebut the fact that spiritual life comes after hearing Christ, regardless of how many hurrahs you give them.

Concerning you, your use of crude and abusive language towards people here clearly demonstrates that you are not matured in Christian love. I suggest that you learn how to follow Christ and walk in love with other Christians before you get into doctrinal debates.

Anonymous said...

I'm not in doctrinal debates, and from what i can see neither are you

J.C. Thibodaux said...

Words of frustration. My young friend, more important than any doctrine about election or faith that we can derive from scripture is Christian love. If you don't have love, you are nothing, and your words are mere noise. John reasons that if one cannot love his brother who he can see, that he surely cannot love the God that he can't see. He who loves not does not know God, for God is love. Learn this lesson first.

Robert said...

Hello folks,

First, thank you Dawn for your encouraging words. It is helpful to have others appreciate what you are saying. For a time I was posting on Calvinist/determinist sites to get an idea about what arguments they are now using and how best to respond to these arguments. Like a boxer who judges the reach and speed of an opponent before knocking him out, I have done likewise with the determinists. I am quite confident that I sufficiently know their arguments (including those they believe to be their “strongest punches”, and as noncalvinists we have nothing to be worried about whatsoever.

Second, regarding the unknown person who has posted here of late: because he cannot come up with strong arguments against the noncalvinist view he appeals to another determinist site, Pyromaniacs, and he resorts to ridicule. Last time I checked the logic textbooks that I have used in classes, ridiculing those you disagree with says nothing about the weakness or merits of their position and speaks only of you, that you have nothing but insults to offer rather than reasoned arguments. Since “Anonymous” offers no reasoned arguments my suggestion is that he or she, simply be ignored.

Third, Pyromaniacs is a good site if you want to know and understand what determinists believe. Currently they are discussing “Total depravity”. It may be useful for some to check out their discussion as it gives you and understanding of one of the determinists favorite arguments. Simply put it goes like this: they seek to establish TD from certain proof texts. Next they attempt to use a **conception** of depravity that they believe will rule out the possibility that a sinner could respond in faith to the gospel message (unless they further argue: that sinner has first been regenerated). In other words, they are arguing from a **conception** of their own devising, against the possibility that a person could respond in faith to the gospel without first having been regenerated.

A couple of things on this attempt. First, early “Arminians” (including Arminius himself) held to a conception of TD conception identical to, or very similar to what the determinists want to believe about TD. This is important because some noncalvinists hold the same view of TD as the determinists do. The way these noncalvinists get around the determinist argument is to grant TD as conceived by determinists and then add the concept of prevenient grace to overcome the effects of TD.

Second, it needs to be noted that, there are no bible verses that say that a person cannot have a faith response in response to the work of the Holy Spirit, unless they are regenerated first. This is important because even if you grant the determinists’ conception of TD or hold that view yourself, it must be seen that TD alone is not sufficient to prove that people cannot have a faith response when the Spirit has been working on them. This is crucial as all agree that a person will not be converted, not become a Christian, unless the Holy Spirit has worked mightily in that person’s life. Put another way, even if we totally grant the determinist his conception of TD, THAT STILL DOES NOT SHOW THAT A PERSON CANNOT HAVE A FAITH RESPONSE WHEN THE SPIRIT WORKS IN THE LIFE OF THAT PERSON. Here is the real difference between determinist and noncalvinist: the determinist because of his prior commitment and belief in unconditional election does not believe nor want to believe that God wants to save all persons (and since he does not want to believe that: he has to construct some argument to show that God does not want all persons to be saved and that God only works in saving the elect).

The determinist believes that if TD is established as they conceive it, then all are “dead” as they conceive it, and so no one can be saved. With the only exceptions being those who are regenerated first, and God chose them to be saved and predetermined that they would be saved, so they alone are capable of having faith and so overcoming the effects of depravity. So for the determinist regeneration is what overcomes TD. The noncalvinist on the other hand, may grant and even believe in TD as conceived by calvinists, and yet believe that since the Holy Spirit works to save all persons (cf. John 16 where his work is to convict the WORLD of sin, righteousness and judgment) it is this work of the Spirit (who is God and is one of the members of the trinity) that overcomes the effects of TD. So the real point of difference is which group is right about the work of the Spirit? Is the work of the Spirit who reveals the way of salvation, who reveals Christ, who reveals a person’s sinfulness and need for Christ as their savior, etc. etc. exclusive to those who eventually become Christians (what the determinists prefer to call the “elect”) OR, does this work by the Spirit involve all human persons even including people who will never come to faith in Christ? That is the issue. Total Depravity in itself is insufficient to establish the determinist’s view.

To make up an illustration: it is as if the distance is 10 feet and this distance between the sinner and God is caused by the sinners sin. The sinner cannot bridge this distance by any of his own efforts and Total depravity says that in his lost condition the sinner is incapable of bridging the distance. But the fact there is this distance, does that fact alone establish that only the elect will be saved? No, because the work of the Spirit is the one who bridges this distance between sinner and God. And if the Spirit's work can be shown to be exclusively towards the elect and no one else, then determinists would have an argument, a case to make. But the bible clearly reveals that the Spirit’s work is not exclusively towards the elect but to the WORLD, a group of persons out of which the elect are drawn.

And if the Spirit’s is working to save all persons who comprise the world, then the determinist view is false and their belief in unconditional election is false, their view in “limited atonement” is false, and even their argument from total depravity is insufficient to establish their beliefs. Arguing for TD works towards arguing for determinism, only if you can simultaneously show that the Spirit **only works to save the elect**. But the bible says He works to save the WORLD, which is a larger set of persons than just the elect.
The bible also says that Jesus is given for the WORLD, not just the elect.

Robert

Classical Arminianism said...

"I'm 13 and you guys are getting your a** handed to you over there at Pyro."

I'm sure Calvin would have been proud!

More than that, I'm just as sure that Jesus isn't!

God bless you, "anonymous."

Billy

Dawn said...

Hey guys, it was so NICE to see you all over at the Pyro site. Thanks for showing up and helping out.

kangaroodort said...

Robert,

Please e-mail me when you get the chance.

Thanx,
Ben

Jnorm888 said...

Hey Robert, alot of their arguments go back to Saint Augustine himself. In reading some of his latter works I saw some of the same reasoning.

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/15121.htm

This link is book 1 of ""On the Predestination of the Saints"" by Augustine. I might be wrong but I think he wrote this about a year or two before he died.

Augustine became a determinist when he miss understood 1st Corinth4:7

NIV
"7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"


As well as Eph 2:8-9

NIV
"8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast."


I wanted to do a blog about this but I don't have the time. I might touch on it a little bit, but I won't be able to do an in depth blog about Augustine until March or April.


But this is what he said about his error: (this is found in chapter 7)


""It was not thus that that pious and humble teacher thought—I speak of the most blessed Cyprian—when he said "that we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own." And in order to show this, he appealed to the apostle as a witness, where he said, "For what have you that you have not received? And if you have received it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?" 1 Corinthians 4:7 And it was chiefly by this testimony that I myself also was convinced when I was in a similar error, thinking that faith whereby we believe in God is not God's gift, but that it is in us from ourselves, and that by it we obtain the gifts of God, whereby we may live temperately and righteously and piously in this world. For I did not think that faith was preceded by God's grace, so that by its means would be given to us what we might profitably ask, except that we could not believe if the proclamation of the truth did not precede; but that we should consent when the gospel was preached to us I thought was our own doing, and came to us from ourselves. And this my error is sufficiently indicated in some small works of mine written before my episcopate. Among these is that which you have mentioned in your letters wherein is an exposition of certain propositions from the Epistle to the Romans. Eventually, when I was retracting all my small works, and was committing that retractation to writing,""

Augustine


If you read the rest of Chapter 7 you will notice that Augustine saw "faith" not only as a gift but also as a merit. And this is the problem. Faith can't be a merit, but he thought it was due to his false understanding of Eph 2:8-9.

He thought ""and this not from yourselves,"" was talking about the word faith.

He made this mistake because he was reading the latin instead of the greek.

And over time his views became more and more deterministic.



Take care!!!



JNORM888

Robert said...

Hello Jnorm,

You wrote:

“Hey Robert, alot of their arguments go back to Saint Augustine himself. In reading some of his latter works I saw some of the same reasoning.”

Right, the determinists will go to any source that could possibly in their minds suggest the truth of their cherished determinism. In Augustine they find some of their points. I find it fascinating that previous to Augustine you find Christians agreeing both that God **is** sovereign and that we have free will as ordinarily understood and it does not seem to be a problem for the early Christians. Augustine comes along with his teaching on original sin and his attempts to argue that salvation is totally by grace (which is true) and he ends up espousing exhaustive determinism (which is false).

You claim:

”Augustine became a determinist when he miss understood 1st Corinth4:7

NIV
"7For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?"

As well as Eph 2:8-9

NIV
"8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast."”
That is an interesting claim; I wish you would take some time to substantiate it.

”I wanted to do a blog about this but I don't have the time. I might touch on it a little bit, but I won't be able to do an in depth blog about Augustine until March or April.”

So we have to wait till March?:-) Take some time **now** and show this point, I would love to see it.

You also wrote:

”But this is what he said about his error: (this is found in chapter 7)
[the quote from Augustine, deleted to shorten this post]”

So you believe Augustine was writing a retraction of his earlier views here JNorm?

”If you read the rest of Chapter 7 you will notice that Augustine saw "faith" not only as a gift but also as a merit. And this is the problem. Faith can't be a merit, but he thought it was due to his false understanding of Eph 2:8-9.”
That is a deadly mistake: equating faith with merit or works. The bible distinguishes faith from works, but apparently Augustine and even some modern calvinists keep arguing that if we have faith and that faith is “from ourselves” and is involved in the salvation process, then faith **is** a work and so **merits** salvation from God.

”He thought ""and this not from yourselves,"" was talking about the word faith.”

He made this mistake because he was reading the latin instead of the greek.”

JNorm can you demonstrate this? Can you show that Augustine’s mistake was reading what the Latin said on these texts rather than the Greek? I know Greek but unfortunately not Latin, so I do cannot substantiate this claim.

”And over time his views became more and more deterministic.”

Sad, we need to be careful to distinguish **determinism** from God’s sovereignty, they are not the same. We need to distinguish between being saved by the grace of God and our responding in faith to the grace of God and our every action being predetermined so that we are only able to respond in faith if we have been predetermined to do so.

God **is** sovereign as both scripture and personal experience attest, but he has not predetermined whatsoever comes to pass as the determinists claim. Christians throughout church history have held to both God’s sovereignty AND man’s free will simultaneously coexisting: it is only when determinism came in through Augustine and the reformers and others that things got muddled.

Robert

Blake W. said...

Robert,

I have seen you post on other blogs and have wondered about how you define your views. It seems that you have stated many places that you are not Arminian, you are clearly not Calvinistic. Where do you fall on the theological spectrum? If I am not reading into your latest post to JNORM I get the impression that you are not for original sin either? You believe that a person can not fall from grace, etc. it seems that you are a rare hodge podge of views and beliefs. It would be good to know some of these things to better understand where you are coming from on some of these issues.

Robert said...

Blake wrote:

“I have seen you post on other blogs and have wondered about how you define your views. It seems that you have stated many places that you are not Arminian, you are clearly not Calvinistic. Where do you fall on the theological spectrum?”

Ask me some specific questions and I will answer them if it helps to clarify things.

“ If I am not reading into your latest post to JNORM I get the impression that you are not for original sin either?”

What do you mean “not for original sin either”?

Who is **for** it? Who is glad that Adam and Eve fell? Or that Romans 5 describes the effects of their sin on us. I believe that what Romans 5 states is true. I do not deny “original sin” as presented in Romans 5.

“ it seems that you are a rare hodge podge of views and beliefs. It would be good to know some of these things to better understand where you are coming from on some of these issues.””

Again, ask me some specific questions and I will be glad to answer. Please keep it brief however, as the point of this thread is not my own personal views but dealing with questions asked by a calvinist.

Robert

Blake W said...

Do you believe a Christian can lose their salvation?

Do you believe we are all born with original sin?

Do you believe in Total Depravity as defined by the Remonstrants?

Does man need God to come to salvation? To what extent does he need God?

Did Christ die for all?

Does a Christian have to bear fruit?

Do you believe in libertarian free will?

Are you Arminian as defined by the Articles of Remonstrants?

Jnorm888 said...

Robert said:
""So we have to wait till March?:-) Take some time **now** and show this point, I would love to see it.""


I was gonna wait till March because I needed to buy a ""dictionary of early christian biography""

I bought it twice before and gave it away to friends. I just ordered it again, so I'll try to do a blog on him in a few weeks.

I needed that work because that was my source for his "revelation" of Eph 2:8-9

I wasn't able to track it myself so I am depending on a secondary source.

I was able to track his "revelation" of 1st Corinth 4:7

That can be found in his work called """On the Predestination of the Saints""""

He admits it himself. One day he was reading cyprian and noticed that cyprian quoted Paul in 1st Corinth 4:7.

It was at this time that Augustine had a revelation that Faith didn't come from us.

In the quote I gave before He Confesses that at one time he indeed believed that faith came from us.

This is what he says in chapter 8

"And this the martyr Cyprian was also desirous of setting forth when he compressed the whole of it in that title: 'That we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own.'" This is why I previously said that it was chiefly by this apostolic testimony that I myself had been convinced, when I thought otherwise concerning this matter; and this God revealed to me as I sought to solve this question when I was writing, as I said, to the Bishop Simplicianus."

This is why I said on a Calvinistic blog that Augustine had a false "revelation" of scripture. HE took something he read from Cyprian(who did believe in free will) and mis understood what Paul was saying. And he just ran with it.



IF you look at his early works and compare them to his latter works you will see him slowly becoming more and more deterministic.

He went from Faith comes from us

to

Faith is a gift of God that we can accept or reject ((which is what Most people will agree with))

to

Irresistible grace (a few years before he died)

And it is in his latter works that one will find alot of the cliche's used by Calvinists. John Calvin was an avid reader of Augustine so I shouldn't be surprized to find the same arguments among modern Calvinists.


In the book "Augustine: Earlier Writings" published by Westminister John Knox Press and edited by J.H.S. Burleigh

He(Burleigh) notes in the introduction of Augustine's work De Libero Arbitrio(On Free Will) on page 106

""Augustine began to write it during his short sojourn in Rome on his way home to Africa, but he completed the second and third books after his ordination as prespyter, possibly as late as 396."

He also notes on page 107

"In controverting the Manichees with Largely Platonist weopons Augustine had exposed his flank to the Pelagians. Pelagius himself was happy to be abe to quote from the De Libero Arbitrio in support of his own views. Augustine's defence is not altogether convincing, viz., that Pelagianism had not yet emerged when he wrote, and that the purpose of the work gave no occasion to speak of grace. It is true enough that at the very beginning of book 1 he tells us that he received divine aide to enable him to escape from Manichaean error, and that through-out free will is assumed to be a gift of God. Pelagius made a point of that too. But the passages quoted in the Retractions as showing that the De Libero Arbitrio is virtually anti-pelagian all come from what must certainly be regarded as the later parts of the work."


Basicaly Augustine's 3rd book in "De Libero Arbitro"(On Free Will) was anit-pelagian.

The 3rd book was written later in his life.



Robert said
"So you believe Augustine was writing a retraction of his earlier views here JNorm?"

Yupp, what he said in chapter 7 of the quote I gave had to do with what he said in his commentary to the book of Romans. He retracted what he said in that commentary....especially Romans chapter 9. His later understanding of Romans chapter 9 is what Calvinism is built on.


Robert said:
""JNorm can you demonstrate this? Can you show that Augustine’s mistake was reading what the Latin said on these texts rather than the Greek? I know Greek but unfortunately not Latin, so I do cannot substantiate this claim.""


I herd it said a couple of times as well as read it from secondary and tertiary sources.

I will have to track down some of them. But no I do not know Latin. I have a Catholic friend(PhatCatholic) who may know Latin but he also believes faith to be a merit so I doubt he'll help me in this regard.


I will have to quote it from someone else. That is the best I can do at this point in time.


Robert said:
"God **is** sovereign as both scripture and personal experience attest, but he has not predetermined whatsoever comes to pass as the determinists claim. Christians throughout church history have held to both God’s sovereignty AND man’s free will simultaneously coexisting: it is only when determinism came in through Augustine and the reformers and others that things got muddled."



True


Jnorm888

I still need to read or at least skim through a few more of his later works.

"On Rebuke and Grace"

"Enchiridion"

and

"Addressed to Vincentius Victor"

I also have to re-skim "On the Predestination of the Saints"

After I do that I should be able to show the difference between his earlier works from his later works.

Anonymous said...

While you are busy proving that Augustine had different views in his earlier life than he did in his latter life you can then do the same for Arminius, seeing as his views changed 180 from his earlier days:)

Jnorm888 said...

I don't know Latin. Maybe I should take back the statement I said before until I am able to find my source.


I don't know if Augustine read Eph2:8-9 in Old Latin or from the Vulgate.

But this is what he said in chapter 12 of "On the Predestination of the Saints (Book I)"



""But perhaps it may be said: "The apostle distinguishes faith from works; he says, indeed, that grace is not of works, but he does not say that it is not of faith." This, indeed, is true. But Jesus says that faith itself also is the work of God, and commands us to work it. For the Jews said to Him, "What shall we do that we may work the work of God? Jesus answered, and said unto them, This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." John 6:28 The apostle, therefore, distinguishes faith from works, just as Judah is distinguished from Israel in the two kingdoms of the Hebrews, although Judah is Israel itself. And he says that a man is justified by faith and not by works, because faith itself is first given, from which may be obtained other things which are specially characterized as works, in which a man may live righteously. For he himself also says, "By grace you are saved through faith; and this not of yourselves; but it is the gift of God," Ephesians 2:8 —that is to say, "And in saying 'through faith,' even faith itself is not of yourselves, but is God's gift." "Not of works," he says, "lest any man should be lifted up.""


I think Jesus was using the word "believe" in a different sense than Paul. But Augustine was pretty slick with the pen.



What is interesting is that John Calvin disagreed with Augustine (as well as with many Calvinists today) in regards to Eph 2:8-9

http://www.biblestudyguide.org/comment/calvin/comm_vol41/htm/iv.iii.iii.htm

HE said:


"But it is still more absurd to overlook the apostle's inference, lest any man should boast. Some room must always remain for man's boasting, so long as, independently of grace, merits are of any avail. Paul's doctrine is overthrown, unless the whole praise is rendered to God alone and to his mercy. And here we must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God."



It seems as if John Calvin knew that the "gift of God" was talking about the word "salvation". And not the word "faith".


My view of Eph 2:8-9 is the same found in the book "Why I am not a Calvinist". Which supports the same conclusion that "kai touto" is mainly talking about the word "salvation".

I thought thay did a pretty good job in regards to those verses.




JNORM888

Robert said...

Blake,

Here are my answers to your questions:

1. “Do you believe a Christian can lose their salvation?”

No.

2. ”Do you believe we are all born with original sin?”

According to Romans 5 we are all guilty due to Adam’s sin (“just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”)

3. ”Do you believe in Total Depravity as defined by the Remonstrants?”

Arminius wrote: "In this [fallen] state, the free will of man towards the true good is not only wounded, infirm, bent, and weakened; but it is also imprisoned, destroyed, and lost. And its powers are not only debilitated and useless unless they be assisted by grace, but it has no powers whatever except such as are excited by Divine grace.”

I believe this is a good statement of our condition apart from God and apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. I also believe that is when the Spirit comes and works on a particular individual, that because of **this** work, the person is then in a position to accept or reject Christ. But he/she never gets to this position unless the Spirit has worked powerfully in their life.

4. ”Does man need God to come to salvation? To what extent does he need God?”

Yes, as we cannot save ourselves, we cannot earn, work for, or merit salvation.

As Jesus says, unless you are drawn you cannot come to Him in faith. We do not draw ourselves, I believe this drawing is only done by the Holy Spirit who reveals the way of salvation as well as our need for salvation as well as our sinfulness, etc. etc. If those things do not happen we cannot be saved. Apart from the work of the Holy Spirit we are in a “lost” condition (as well described by Arminius above) in which our sins separate us from a perfectly righteous and holy God. Jesus came to die on the cross so that this separation could be eliminated for individuals who place their trust in the finished work of Jesus (not anything they have done). The Spirit works powerfully through the Word (specifically the gospel message) and He leads us to Christ.

5. ”Did Christ die for all?”

John 3:16 says that the Father gave the Son/Jesus to the World. 1 Jn. 2:2 says that Jesus died for the whole world. In my opinion, the bible cannot be any more clear, the answer to your question is yes with regard to Jesus being provided for the world. The application of the atonement however, is limited only to those who trust in Christ for salvation (i.e., universalism is false, only those who trust the Lord have the atonement applied to them).

6. ”Does a Christian have to bear fruit?”

The bible teaches a living faith results in works (James: I will show you my faith by my works; faith without works is dead . . .). The bible teaches that Jesus’ disciples love God, love each other, and are obedient to Him. If these things are true of a person they **will** bear some fruit (As someone once said: faith is pregnant with good works (meaning if the natural course of events takes place a real faith will result in real works).
Our fruit does not save us, but if we are saved we will bear fruit.
Do we HAVE TO bear fruit **first** in order to be saved? No, that would be salvation by works. We are not saved by works but if we are saved persons we will do works/bear some fruit. Will we bear fruit if we live the normal Christian life? Yes. If a Christian is not bearing fruit something is very wrong in their life (though it does not necessarily mean they are not saved at that time).

7. ”Do you believe in libertarian free will?”

Yes.

8. “Are you Arminian as defined by the Articles of Remonstrants?”

Well here is a presentation of them and my comments:

The Five Articles of the Remonstrants, 1610
Article 1.
[Conditional Election - corresponds to the second of TULIP’s five points, Unconditional Election]
That God, by an eternal and unchangeable purpose in Jesus Christ his Son before the foundation of the world, has determined that out of the fallen, sinful race of men, to save in Christ, for Christ’s sake, and through Christ, those who through the grace of the Holy Spirit shall believe on this his son Jesus, and shall persevere in this faith and obedience of faith, through this grace, even to the end; and, on the other hand, to leave the incorrigible and unbelieving in sin and under wrath and to condemn them as alienated from Christ, according to the word of the Gospel in John 3:36: “He that believes on the Son has everlasting life: and he that does not believe the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abides on him,” and according to other passages of Scripture also.

I believe election is as Peter puts it in 1 Pet.1:2 “according to the foreknowledge of God.” The basis of this foreknowledge must be something true of the person who is elected. I believe that something that is foreknown is that they have a faith response to the gospel message.

Article 2.
[Unlimited Atonement - corresponds to the third of TULIP’s five points, Limited Atonement]
That, accordingly, Jesus Christ the Savior of the world, died for all men and for every man, so that he has obtained for them all, by his death on the cross, redemption and the forgiveness of sins; yet that no one actually enjoys this forgiveness of sins except the believer, according to the word of the Gospel of John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” And in the First Epistle of John 2:2: “And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

Again, I do not believe it can be stated any more clearly than it is stated by John 3:16 and 1 John 2:2. God also says in 1 Tim. 2:3-4 that he desires the salvation of all. If God desires the salvation of all, though some will freely reject the salvation offer, then God is also going to provide a provision of salvation (i.e., the atonement of Christ on the cross) that is sufficient to save all who call upon His name in faith.

Article 3.
[Deprivation - corresponds to the first of TULIP’s five points, Total Depravity]
That man does not posses saving grace of himself, nor of the energy of his free will, inasmuch as in his state of apostasy and sin he can of and by himself neither think, will, nor do any thing that is truly good (such as saving Faith eminently is); but that it is necessary that he be born again of God in Christ, through his Holy Spirit, and renewed in understanding, inclination, and will, and all his faculties, in order that he may rightly understand, think, will, and effect what is truly good, according to the Word of Christ, John 15:5, “Without me you can do nothing.”

Apart from the work of the Spirit we cannot be saved. The Spirit’s work enables us to be placed in a position where we can choose to accept or reject Christ. But it is impossible for us to get to this position unless the Spirit has been working powerfully in us.

Article 4.
[Resistible Grace - corresponds to the fourth of TULIP’s five points, Irresistible Grace]
That this grace of God is the beginning, continuance, and accomplishment of all good, even to the extent that the regenerate man himself, without prevenient or assisting, awakening, following and cooperative grace, can neither think, will, nor do good, nor withstand any temptations to evil; so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God in Christ. But with respect to the mode of the operation of this grace, it is not irresistible, since it is written concerning many, that they have resisted the Holy Spirit (Acts 7, and elsewhere in many places).

I believe that people can and do resist the Holy Spirit. I have seen people before they were converted display clear and repeated resistance to the work of the Spirit. Jesus said the Pharisees were resisting the work of the Spirit when they attributed the miracles that he was doing to the power of the devil rather than the power of the Spirit. We also sometimes resist the Spirit as believers (Paul speaks of grieving the Spirit by Christians, this is definitely resisting the Spirit). So we can see evidences of resistance to the grace of God when we evangelize and people reject the good news and also in ourselves when as believers we continue to sin.

Article 5.
[Assurance and Security - corresponds to the fifth of TULIP’s five points, Perseverance of the Saints]
That those who are incorporated into Christ by true faith, and have thereby become partakers of his life-giving Spirit, as a result have full power to strive against Satan, sin, the world, and their own flesh, and to win the victory; it being well understood that it is ever through the assisting grace of the Holy Spirit; and that Jesus Christ assists them through his Spirit in all temptations, extends to them his hand, and if only they are ready for the conflict, desire his help, and are not inactive, keeps them from falling, so that they, by no deceit or power of Satan, can be misled nor plucked out of Christ’s hands, according to the Word of Christ, John 10:28: “Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” But whether they are capable, through negligence, of forsaking again the first beginning of their life in Christ, of again returning to this present evil world, of turning away from the holy doctrine which was delivered them, of losing a good conscience, of neglecting grace, that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with the full confidence of our mind.
These Articles, thus set forth and taught, the Remonstrants deem agreeable to the Word of God, tending to edification, and, as regards this argument, sufficient for salvation, so that it is not necessary or edifying to rise higher or to descend deeper.
The Articles of the Remonstrants are adapted from Phillip Schaff, The Creeds of Christendom, Volume 3, Baker Books, Grand Rapids, 1996, pp 545ff.]]

I agree with most of what is said here. My disagreement is that a person may forsake Christ and be lost due to some sort of sin they are committing and not repenting of. I believe that if you are one of his and you engage in serous sin and are unrepentant, God will discipline you, and this discipline may include taking you out of this life (cf. the Corinthians who “slept” because of their sins in connection with Communion, cf. the sin unto death spoken of in some places, cf. the warnings in Hebrews which I take to be not that the person’s judgment is hell but that that person is judged by being taken out of this life).

Alright, your turn Blake, how do you answer the questions that you presented to me?

Robert

Robert said...

Hello Jnorm,

”I was gonna wait till March because I needed to buy a ""dictionary of early christian biography""

I bought it twice before and gave it away to friends. I just ordered it again, so I'll try to do a blog on him in a few weeks.”
So the same thing that happens to me happens to you as well: lend good books to friends only to see them disappear! :-)

”I was able to track his "revelation" of 1st Corinth 4:7

That can be found in his work called """On the Predestination of the Saints""""

He admits it himself. One day he was reading cyprian and noticed that cyprian quoted Paul in 1st Corinth 4:7.

It was at this time that Augustine had a revelation that Faith didn't come from us.”
Wow, that is sad, his teaching then that faith does not come from us comes from a revelation that he claimed that he received? By his own admission then, his teaching was not derived from scripture, but a revelation. Hardly a solid basis for such a crucial teaching in determinist thought.

"And this the martyr Cyprian was also desirous of setting forth when he compressed the whole of it in that title: 'That we must boast in nothing, since nothing is our own.'" This is why I previously said that it was chiefly by this apostolic testimony that I myself had been convinced, when I thought otherwise concerning this matter; and this God revealed to me as I sought to solve this question when I was writing, as I said, to the Bishop Simplicianus."
I do not believe his “revelation” was from the God of the bible. It came from the other side if indeed he received a revelation. The devil would love for people to believe that the faith response to the gospel is **not** their responsibility.

”This is why I said on a Calvinistic blog that Augustine had a false "revelation" of scripture. HE took something he read from Cyprian(who did believe in free will) and mis understood what Paul was saying. And he just ran with it.”

Yeh, he ran with it and the reformers adopted it as their own, and today some determinists are still running with this error.

”IF you look at his early works and compare them to his latter works you will see him slowly becoming more and more deterministic.”

Sad and unfortunate because of his influence on other determinists who followed him.

”He went from Faith comes from us
to
Faith is a gift of God that we can accept or reject ((which is what Most people will agree with))
to
Irresistible grace (a few years before he died)”

Not a good development over time.

”And it is in his latter works that one will find a lot of the cliche's used by Calvinists. John Calvin was an avid reader of Augustine so I shouldn't be surprised to find the same arguments among modern Calvinists.”

If as you say he became more and more deterministic, then it should be no surprise that later determinists quote the “later” Augustine. From my reading of Augustine in the earlier Augustine, you can clearly see him advocating libertarian free will. Sad that he gave up the truth and fell prey to determinism.

"In controverting the Manichees with Largely Platonist weopons Augustine had exposed his flank to the Pelagians. Pelagius himself was happy to be able to quote from the De Libero Arbitrio in support of his own views. . . ."

The fact that Pelagius could quote from the earlier Augustine again shows that Augustine originally held libertarian free will, before he received his “revelation.”

”What is interesting is that John Calvin disagreed with Augustine (as well as with many Calvinists today) in regards to Eph 2:8-9

HE said:

" . . . . And here we must advert to a very common error in the interpretation of this passage. Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone. But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment. His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God."

It seems as if John Calvin knew that the "gift of God" was talking about the word "salvation". And not the word "faith".”

This is a point where I believe Calvin got it right in contrast to some of his followers who teach that faith itself is the gift given (and they further believe that God only gives this gift to the preselected elect).

Robert

Dawn said...

Hmmm. Phil Johnson is on hiatus until February 4. Makes me wonder if we're ever going to get any more installments on his "Total Depravity" series.

It won't be the first time he's promised something and didn't come through.

I've never heard a good defense as to why men are held responsible for something they are INCAPABLE of doing, according to Reformed Theology. The only thing I can remember hearing is Deuteronomy 29:29.

Have any of you ever been given a better explanation?

Robert said...

Hello Dawn,

“I've never heard a good defense as to why men are held responsible for something they are INCAPABLE of doing, according to Reformed Theology. The only thing I can remember hearing is Deuteronomy 29:29.

Have any of you ever been given a better explanation?”

A couple of points to make on this.

First, whenever one person holds another responsible that involves a choice. Does God have a **right** to make this choice and to hold us responsible for something we are incapable of doing? Yes. And one thing that he holds us responsible for is the keeping of his commandments, something none of us can do perfectly. Therefore, all of us are guilty before Him and in need of forgiveness of our sins. The reformers spoke of this with the law/gospel language meaning that the law showed us to be guilty before God of sin in breaking his commandments and the gospel was the solution by which sinners who had broken God’s law could be forgiven and enter into relationship with a holy God. Does God hold us responsible for breaking his laws though none of us is capable of perfect obedience? Yes. Does he have this right? Yes. Nothing wrong with any of this.

Second, the problem comes when the determinist attempts to use this point to argue for the truth of unconditional election. This is one of the common ways that they go about arguing for unconditional election. They need to show that it is impossible for sinners to have a faith response to the gospel apart from being regenerated first. They argue for this by means of appealing to their conception of total depravity. Sometimes when arguing for total depravity, someone will bring up the objection that people ought to only be held responsible for things that they can do, that it is not fair or just to hold people responsible for something they cannot do. At this point the determinist will then argue from the breaking of the law and our obligation to keep the law that in fact in this case God does hold us responsible though we cannot keep the law perfectly. Once this is granted they will then conclude from their notion of depravity that since no one can have a faith response due to total depravity, only those regenerated can do so, and God only chooses to regenerated those whom he has preselected for salvation (i.e., their view of unconditional election).

Third, the approach to take with the determinist is not to argue that there is **never** a case where God holds us responsible for doing something that we cannot do (that case being our responsibility and yet inability to keep the commandments of God). Rather, grant that on that point they are right. Then make the point that with regard to having a faith response to the gospel we are held responsible for our unbelief or rejection of the gospel because in **that case** we **do have the ability** both to freely choose to accept or reject the gospel (and so are held responsible for how we choose to respond to the gospel message). We have this ability, not on our own and without the grace of God, but because the Holy Spirit powerfully works in the lives of all men to bring them to Christ. So though all are “slaves to sin” (cf. Romans 6) and suffer from the effects of sin (i.e., total depravity), because of the work of the Holy Spirit in unbelievers when leading them or drawing them to Christ, those who have directly experienced the Spirit’s word, all have the capacity to both accept or reject the gospel (and in this case if they then freely choose to reject the work of the Spirit, reject the gospel, then they will be held responsible for their unbelief because in fact they could have done otherwise, they could have accepted the gospel message and responded by faith; note the determinist tries to use his conception of depravity to argue that it is impossible for unbelievers to have a faith response, that they must first be regenerated before they can have faith).

My confidence when I evangelize is not based on human nature (which apart from the grace of God is sinful and corrupt) but based on the awesome power of the Holy Spirit in leading sinners to Christ.

If you want to argue with the determinist then, don’t argue that there is never ever a case where God holds us responsible when we cannot do something; instead argue that the key issue is whether or not after having had the Holy Spirit work in their life a person is capable of then both freely choosing to trust in Jesus or freely choose to reject Jesus. You have to carefully pick your battles. Grant when the other side is right about something, but also strongly argue against them on the points where they are dead wrong (such as the determinist belief that a person has to be regenerated first before they can have a faith response to the gospel).

The determinists seem to make two key mistakes in the area of depravity. First, even if you establish their conception of depravity, this does not mean people cannot have a faith response ***after the Spirit has worked upon them***. The determinists seem to forget that the work of the Sprit is powerful and is intended for the world (see especially John 16 where his work is to convict the WORLD of sin, righteousness and judgment) because God desires for all to be saved (cf. Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2, and 1 Tim. 2:3-4). So establishing depravity is insufficient to show that sinners cannot have a faith response to the gospel (even having experienced the work of the Spirit) which is the real area of serious disagreement and error.

Second, what the determinist needs to show (and cannot show) from scripture to show his position to be true, is that the work of the Spirit in leading people to Christ is **limited only to the preselected** elect. The whole world is sinful and suffering from the effects of sin/total depravity, and yet the way the Lord overcomes this is by sending the Spirit who also works upon the whole world attempting to lead them to Christ.

There is a parallel here with the determinist’s attempt to argue for the determinist view of “limited atonement”. With “limited atonement” the determinist is in trouble because the bible teaches not that Jesus only died for the elect, but that Jesus died for the WORLD. With the determinists view on what we could call the “limited work by the Spirit in leading people to Christ” the determinist is in trouble again because the bible teaches not that the Spirit only works in the elect to lead them to Christ, but that the Spirit works on the WORLD to lead them to Christ. In both cases, the determinist is arguing for limitation when the bible clearly and explicitly teaches universality.

Since the teaching of the universal grace of God (work of the Spirit in leading the world to Christ) and provision of God (God loving the world so much that He gave Jesus to die for that world) is so clear, the vast majority of Christians throughout church history across all denominational lines, whether they be Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, or Protestant, have taught and emphasized these universal elements and simultaneously rejected determinism/calvinism.

Robert

Dawn said...

Robert,

Thanks for your explanation. I'll need to ponder this.

The Seeking Disciple said...

I don't know of one Arminian who claims to give credit for their salvation to themselves or their free will. Calvinist overestimate the issue of free will within Arminian theology. At the heart of Arminianism is not free will but the love of God for all humanity to be saved through His Son.

Good post. Your site is quickly becoming one of the hot sites for seeing what Arminians believe.