Monday, February 25, 2008

Clarifications and Rebuttal: Responding to Paul Manata

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I fully agree then.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I agree completely. Well said Paul.

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

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

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

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

Our view is Christocentric, his is Anthropocentric.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

and this,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Alleged Inconsistency

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

Now we're at the meat of the post.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With rests on a broader assumption:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so Paul declares victory.


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

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

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


Arminian said...

Tremedous post as usual K. You thoroughly refuted Manata's attempt to argue against your post. And there are so many excellent posts at your blog arguing compellingly against Calvinism and for Arminianis. Kudos!

There is much more that could be said to support your post against the weak criticism leveled against it. But I just wanted to point out something basic and simple on the concept of salvation being by faith. It is surprising that Manata objects to the idea of salvation being by faith (well, surprising on the level of biblical evidence, not on the level of trying to uphold a faulty theological system) As Calvinist commentator Peter T. O'Brien writes in his commentary on Ephesians (p. 174 note 85; in his specific comments on Ephesians 2:8), the phrase "through faith" (dia pisteos) is synonymous with the expression "by faith" (ek pisteos). The latter "appears more frequently in Paul, but he uses the two phrases interchangeably (Gal. 2:16; Rom 3:25-26, 30)." Commentator Andrew T. Lincoln (p. 111) says basically the same thing.

omakase said...

wow.. that was really long. but i'm glad someone takes the time to respond to Calvinists like Manata who believe writing in large quantities and hoping the other side won't respond will make the Calvinist choir he's preaching to keep up their confidence.

I'm glad you refuted him with detailed substance, your writing is much appreciated!

Anonymous said...

No one finds it odd that the whole premise of changing the definition of a word or not taking it to mean what 99.9% of people take it to mean is a problem?

kangaroodort said...

No one finds it odd that the whole premise of changing the definition of a word or not taking it to mean what 99.9% of people take it to mean is a problem?

Kinda like how Calvinists redefine words like "free will" (freedom to do what you can't avoid doing), "apostasy" (leaving something you were never really a part of), "sovereignty" (meticulous control over every detail of someone elses life and every decision he or she makes), etc.?

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the problem lies in the fact that 99.9% of people define synergism differently than you are trying to, but there is no such clear consensus on the terms you have brought up.

I will take that to mean that you do see a problem, thank you.

kangaroodort said...

You can take it however you like bro.

omakase said...

Ahh such sparse and avoiding responses from Manata (or whoever Anonymous is), its a healthy sign that he's irritated that someone is taking the time to respond to his bulk-writings and ruining his facade of meaningful argumentation.

Anonymous said...

LOL, I was not aware that I was avoiding anything. I just wanted to point out that your whole premise is based on defining a word differently than 99.9% of others do. Your response of course has other faults, but I do not have a bone to pick so I will leave it.

BTW I am not Manata, I will let him speak for himself.

kangaroodort said...


Since you seem to indicate that you are not looking for an argument, then I would be happy to address your concerns if you like.

I think the first thing that you need to do if you want me to take you seriously rather than just as someone who "has a bone to pick" is give me some indication of how you came to your 99.9% figure that you keep referencing.

Anonymous said...

I came to the 99.9% figure by doing a complete survey of the literature on the word and by referencing scholars on the matter. Again, my point was that your whole premise or argument rests on your interpretation of the word synergist/ic/ism. It is always nice to be upfront with our definitions when discussing these matters, but that does not mean that we must accept said definitions. If one does not accept your definition of the word then your whole argument becomes null and void. This is the only point that I wanted to make,

Robert said...

Ben wrote:

“Kinda like how Calvinists redefine words like "free will" (freedom to do what you can't avoid doing), "apostasy" (leaving something you were never really a part of), "sovereignty" (meticulous control over every detail of someone else’s life and every decision he or she makes), etc.?”

Calvinists love to play semantic word games to make their deterministic medicine go down easier. They believe our every thought and action is predetermined so in every case we can only do what we were predetermined to do (but they call this “acting freely”, or if they want to be more sophisticated “compatibilist freedom”). We are not acting freely if we have to do every thing that we do, our every action is necessitated, and we can never do otherwise. The calvinist will then add: “but you are not coerced into doing what you do, you do what you want to do.”

Well that helps a lot if God also predetermines my desires as well so that “He chooses our choices” and so we only do exactly what He wants us to do. Sometimes I think calvinists do not themselves understand what exhaustive determinism mean and logically entails. It means that everything with no exceptions is predetermined by God and so whatever happens is exactly what God wants to occur in every detail. So if to take just one example, a Christian has sinful thoughts and desires, he/she is having exactly the sinful thoughts and desires that God wants him/her to have, predetermined for him/her to have.

Calvinists **want to believe** that many are eternally condemned by God and hell bound before they were ever born, before they set foot on this earth or committed any sin, and irrespective of their chosen rebellion against God (and it should be noted that in their view since God cannot foreknow a future freely chosen action by us, He only foreknows the future if he predetermines it and so of course His exhaustive plan of predetermined events includes the sinful actions of the reprobates, actions they will do, actions they have to do, because God wants them to do these sinful actions).
Instead of being honest and forthright and consistent (a notable exception is Vincent Cheung who is consistent with the logical entailments of calvinism) admitting that God makes this choice **actively** and **wants** to damn these poor people. They are not forthright or honest about this as people who heard them tell their unvarnished version would reject the system of calvinism for the gruesome and unbiblical teaching that it is. The calvinist seeking to downplay their true belief by means of semantic word games comes along and says:: “well God **actively** has mercy on the elect [the lucky ones] but he **merely passes over** the reprobates [the unlucky ones]”. Being damned to hell before birth which is a gruesome and unbiblical doctrine invented by the determinists becomes: “merely passed over”.

That does not help much if you look behind the curtain of the wizard to see what they are actually claiming. What is surprising is that they will present their gruesome doctrine of reprobation and try to make it palatable and then when someone sees through the semantic tricks and sees what they are really claiming and is bothered by this false doctrine, the calvinist is shocked and surprised that someone could possibly have a problem with such a belief!

Fact is, if he actively chooses and predetermines the people who are the elect, then he also actively chooses and predetermines the reprobates to be reprobates as well.

A friend of mine calls these semantic games by calvinists “softening language” as it is intended to soften the blow, make the gruesome and erroneous claims easier to swallow for the unwary.

And of course we all already know about the semantic tricks with regard to the word “all” (i.e. for the calvinist all means all unless it goes against the system with regard to some key soteriological passages, then it is switched to mean “all kinds” or “all without distinction”. Eisegetical gymnastics are then engaged in to protect and defend and maintain their deterministic system.


J.C. Thibodaux said...

The argument anonymous employs is similar to one I saw from some oddball on the Tektoonics screwball awards:

In 1 Peter 2:11is says "dear friends, as aliens and strangers in the world..." and thus peter thought he was writing to extra-terrestrials from another planet. How can we trust a book cobbled together by people who thought that they were writing to aliens?

When confronted with how stupid such an argument was, the guy responded,

So the word alien could mean 'a person of another family, race, or nation' So couldn't we go through the bible and make it say whatever we want? The word Jesus could be referring to the film Jesus but you'd be stupid to think so. The point is that 99% of the time the word alien is used to mean extra-terrestrial so when used in the bible it musty be 99% likely to also mean ET....


Anonymous said...

LOL, equating those two things shows how shallow you truly are J.C.

Robert, surely you realize that by posting stuff like that you are preaching to the choir here. Yet you still feel the need to post it, you must need to be congratulated on a daily basis. I am sure that you will get some pats on the back for that and some amen’s from this group. Good job!

J.C. Thibodaux said...


Your entire point of,

"If one does not accept your definition of the word then your whole argument becomes null and void."

is flawed. Using terms in a context that gives them a different meaning that is commonly associated with them does not nullify an argument. For instance, one could argue that the word 'gay' to describe a homosexual is something of a misnomer given the statistics about people who lead such an immoral lifestyle -- even though a large proportion of the population would probably disagree. In a similar grain, the word 'homophobe' has also been ripped from its actual definition and thrown into common use as an inaccurate way to describe anyone who thinks homosexuality is wrong, whether the person they describe actually has any sort of phobia or not.

All that, and you've still not specified exactly how Ben has misused the term, nor how his technical clarifications involving it are incorrect. You've also not cited any specifics from the "complete survey of the literature on the word" to back your claims. Till then, your foggy allegations of error fit in fairly well with the "99% of people think it means ET" canard.

kangaroodort said...


Do you have a name? I am a two finger typer so if your real name is shorter than "anonymous", could you please use it?

You wrote:

I came to the 99.9% figure by doing a complete survey of the literature on the word and by referencing scholars on the matter. Again, my point was that your whole premise or argument rests on your interpretation of the word synergist/ic/ism.

I wonder how many scholars, and what theological literature, you surveyed and what theological persuassions were represented.

The point I was trying to make with regards to your 99.9% figure is that I would tend to think, based on my own investigation, that it would be closer to 99.9% in the other direction [i.e. the majority would use the word as I have done in this post. That is, only a minority (maybe .1%?) would tend to use the word synergism in it's strict sense within evangelical Christianity.

"Synergism" is primarily used within the context of "cooperation" in evangelical cirles. "Cooperation" can be used in a variety of ways. It could mean to literally "work" with someone, or it could mean to cooperate by "meeting a condition", or even with respect to "Non-resistence". Meeting a condition and surrendering, submitting, yielding, etc., are all proper ways to understand and use "cooperation". That is the way that evangelical Christians who call themselves "syngergists" use the word. If you are resisting then you are not cooperating, and if you are cooperating, then you are not resisting, agreed?

The literal meaning of the word is more strict, however, and I only brought it up and addressed it because I knew that some Calvinist would seize upon it and try to make a show of it, which is exactly what has happened. No surprise there.

Now about your 99.9%. It is not surprising to me that Calvinists use "synergism" in a sense that Arminians do not in order to try to slam their theology (just as they generally insist that Arminians are Semi-Pelagians, etc.). However, one cannot properly criticize someone elses position if they do not work with the same definitions that the opposing theology uses.

Calvinist know (or should know) that Arminians don't use "synergism" in the sense of working for salvation. That is not the historical theological use of the word (generally, and esp. within Arminian thought).

If I were to argue with a Calvinist and say that he or she denied free will, that person would quickly retort, and unless we defined our terms, the conversation would go nowhere. The difference being that the Calvinist definition of "free will" is novel and very few people (probably none outside of Calvinist circles) would understand "free wiil" in the sense that some Calvinists do. That is not the case with synergism.

If you can find me a single Arminian scholar who uses "synergism" in the context of "working for salvation", then maybe we will have something to talk about. If all you can produce is Calvinists trying to paint Arminians in a bad light by using words in ways that Arminians do not, or strict definitions of the word that do not reflect normal theological useage, then you have hardly made your case.

Regardless, I defined my terms and provided links which addressed why Arminians don't understand synergism in the strict sense of "two working", and the person who decided to criticize what I wrote did not work with the definition of the word I assigned to it. Therefore, he was not criticizing my position. If you really think the fact that he wants to use the word differently than I do ruins my argument some how, then you are entitled to your opinion.

God Bless,

Paul said...

Would it be fair to say that synergism and monergism are not truly equal in the two systems? Let me see if I can make that a bit clearer. To the Calvinist when he hears the word monergism he thinks of regeneration, when a true Arminian hears the word synergism he thinks of faith. It seems that the Arminian should have no problem with re-birth being monergistic and the Calvinist should have no problem with faith being synergistic. The problem is when these two things occur and where does one get/come to faith. The debate, as I see it, is more when does the monergistic event take place and does it precede the synergistic event. The Calvinist will say that the monergistic event takes place first and the Arminian will say that the synergistic event takes place first. If we take what you wrote on your post “Is Arminian Theology Synergistic” you would say that the human response cannot be ruled out of faith, if I understand that then it would appear that man plays the pivotal role in his/her salvation

Jnorm888 said...


You are totaly ignoring "Prevenient grace".

Prevenient grace = monergy

It is only after Prevenient grace that one can talk about Synergy in Arminianism.


Prevenient grace = monergy

And this monergy turns into synergy when the person believes.


Paul said...


I was not ignoring "prevenient grace" I was just trying to flesh out the use of "synergism" and "monergism" that is all. I understand that your side has "prevenient grace" I call it "common grace":)

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben!

Came it at roughly 3 pages shorter than yours too. So, no complaining about how long it is. Enjoy.


Bernabe Belvedere said...

Kangaroo said:
Kinda like how Calvinists redefine words like..."apostasy" (leaving something you were never really a part of)

I'm curious as to how you would interpret 1 John 2:19. Would you deny that these "defectors" are, in fact, apostates? You appear to be insinuating that it's not possible to leave something you're not really a part of in the first place. But notice John's nuanced conception of apostasy as defecting from outward participation rather than defecting from inward identity.

"They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us."

1) The apostates "went out" from the true believers. The phrase "they would have remained with us" indicates that they were with the true believers in one way or another.

2) And yet they "didn't really belong to" the group of true believers. Their apostasy demonstrates they never belonged to that group to begin with.

Please address John's concept of apostasy displayed above in light of your charge.

Anonymous said...

Kangaroo said:
Kinda like how Calvinists redefine words like..."apostasy" (leaving something you were never really a part of).."


Hi Ben!

I should add that this isn't my conception. Indeed, why would I think that they *left* something they were not part of? If you're going to say that we don;t think they were 'part of' it, then why imply that we think they were part of it (since that's the only way you can *leave* a place is if you are there!).

Ben's posts are like a 50's B-rated horror movie: Attack of the 50 Foot Straw Man!

And, I should add that I am a paedobaptist and so I have a detailed and refined view of apostacy.


kangaroodort said...


Thanks for letting me know that you responded. I appreciate that. I will check it out when I get the chance and also address the 1 John 2:19 passage that you a BB seem to think makes your case regarding the meaning of "apostasy".

God Bless,

Not ArminianorCalvinist said...

I dunno Ben, looks to be a landslide victory for Manata...though I hate to admit that. I think "Out of your league" is the term that applies here.

Tom M. said...

I have to respectfully agree that in this case Manata won just because you failed to prove your point. It is the same as when J.C. was debating them. They successfully refuted his assertion which in a debate format is key. It seems that both of you in these individual instances were stating things that you could not substantially back-up or in other words you bit off more than you can chew.

kangaroodort said...

not arminianorcalvinist,

That is a ver intersting choice for a name. If you are not a sock puppet then I appreciate your very objective opinion :)

Tom M.

Thanks for the input.

God Bless,

Anonymous said...

Not ArminianorCalvinist & Tom W.,

I find your comments really surprising. I read through the exchange and truly believe that Ben completely won the debate. From exegesis to logic Ben consistently established his own position and refuted Manata.

"Jason A."

Tom M. said...

Jason A.

That is why it is just my opinion. What I think happened here is that Ben's initial premise was too big and Manata showed that there is no inconsistency where Ben claimed there was one.

No worries though, it’s not like the end of the world or anything like that. In debates you win some and you loose some. I am sure that you are not the only one that believes that Ben won, but I would wager that most would say on this point he failed.

BTW, I did not see much exegesis from either side on this so it is odd to me that you would think that Ben proved his point exegetically.

Jnorm888 said...

I don't see how anyone could say Paul won. He seemed way too angry to me. Paul did alot of blaming and finger pointing. Ben was calm and he made his points......but hey, to each his own.


J.C. Thibodaux said...

I didn't really notice any actual refutation of my assertions by Manata. As was indicated in the original challenge, there is still lacking a decent Calvinist explanation as to why the apostle Paul can warn us against being cut off as a means to perseverance, but it is sinful for us to believe or teach the same thing. Add to that things like his attempts at proving universals by examples, and about all you have left from him is some goofy names he called me.

Jnorm888 said...

I think I know what Tom is saying.

I think he is soley talking about "Prayer" and "consistency".

Paul did prove his point by saying that God ordains the means(prayer) as well as the end(saving a lost soul).

I think a different set of arguments have to be used in order to combat that view.

Paul could easily say that he prays for the lost because his prayers are part of the process for them to get saved.

So in this regard I could see why Tom would say that.

But Paul is so mean and his posts are so long .....that he makes it too easy not to read his whole post.

But a different set of arguments will have to be used against that view.


Anonymous said...

Tom W. said: "That is why it is just my opinion. What I think happened here is that Ben's initial premise was too big and Manata showed that there is no inconsistency where Ben claimed there was one."

My response: I think Manata failed in his attempt to refute Ben, and that Ben had showed his claim originally and then effectively refuted Manata's response.

Tom W. said: "No worries though, it’s not like the end of the world or anything like that. In debates you win some and you loose some. I am sure that you are not the only one that believes that Ben won, but I would wager that most would say on this point he failed."

My response: Interesting. I think that most people approaching it with some objectivity would think Ben proved his point. In fact, Ben's criticism is a vey=ry common argument against Calvinism. It seems to be a very common natural thought when people hear Calvinist theology. It is probably one among many reasons that most Christians have not been and are not Calvinists. The system is just logically incoherent when considered against Scripture (because it has to hold various scriptural principles in which they agree with Arminianism, but then its own theology is not consistent with these).

Tom W. said: "BTW, I did not see much exegesis from either side on this so it is odd to me that you would think that Ben proved his point exegetically."

My response: Well there were some exegetical points considered, such as whether salvation is by faith or not, and whether salvation is conditional on faith or not. Ben addressed this exegetically, and I think proved his point definitively.

"Jason A."

Anonymous said...


But Ben addressed the argument that God ordains the means, and I think he did so effectively. His basic point seems to be that this argument is a mere charade in the case of intercessory prayer if all has been predetermined since intercessory prayer has influencing God as its focus. So to iilustrate: if someone decides that he will irresitibly cause someone to accept his offer to accept a free check from him (suppose he administers a drug that makes him willing to do whatever he is told), but that he will only do this upon irresitibly causing someone else to ask him to irresistibly cause the other person to accept his offer, that person asking him cannot properly be called a means used to bring that person to accept the check. It does not genuinely influence the check giver except that he wants to cause the intercessor to ask him to do something he was already set on doing. It does not actually affect the check giver who is determining everything everyone is doing in the situation. And it does not affect the check receiver. It would be different if the check giver irresitibly caused another to go and ask the person to receive the check and then irresistibly caused ther person to receive the check. In that case, the check offerer would really be a means used to give the person the check. But the situation that relates to intercessory prayer is more like someone who decides he is going to brush his teeth, but he will only brush his teeth after he first says "bonzo". Saying "bonzo" is not a means to brushing his teeth. It is simply something he has determined he wants to be a prerequisite, though it is arbitrarily chosen as a prerequisite. It is not necessary for it to be so.

So I think that Ben has showed that in the case of intercessory prayer in a monergistic system, prayer cannot be properly considered a means to the accomplishment of what is prayed for, since God has already decided to certainly cause such and such to happen and to certainly cause someone to ask him to make it happen.

But Scripture portrays God as actually influneced by prayer. This only seems to be possible in a synergistic system. So I don't think that Paul proved even that point about God ordaining the means.

"Jason A."

Tom M. said...

Jason A

No idea why you are all worked up about this and why you seem to keep coming to me, but like I said that is my opinion. BTW, it seems that JNORM sees my point as well. I doubt that he would side with Manata if it were not obvious that he refuted the claim.

As for the exegetical comment, most Calvinist will agree that salvation is by faith, but they will also tell you that faith is a gift. What Ben did with his Ephesians "exegesis" does nothing to show the Calvinist wrong. In fact, if you look at standard Calvinist work on these verses they will tell you that the gift is salvation, but that it is "all" of salvation and that the "all" includes faith. In fact if you look at one of Ben’s old post, I forget which one, but in the replies section he and someone address this and Ben agrees with it. Now that is not an issue with me on this because Ben was not arguing for that, nor was he doing an exegetical analysis of Ephesians (at least I hope he wasn't).

Anyways, like I said some will say Ben won and others will say Paul won. I will just leave it at that.

BTW, my last initial is M not W. No worries though man.

Anonymous said...

Tom M.,

Thanks for pointing out that I had your last initial wrong.

I am not particularly singling you out. It's just that you replied to me, and I am replying to you.

JNORM might see your point. But I have pointed out to him why I think your point is not correct, or at least why even the point he thinks Manata might have proved actually went unproved. I look forward to seeing what he thinks about what I said.

As for the exegesis point, it seems strange that you jump to what most Calvinists will say when one of your big point has been that the issue is the specific arguments of Paul and Ben. Paul claimed that salvation is not by faith. Ben proved that wrong. As far as this debate goes, that leaves Ben's point proven and Paul's disproven on a an issue of dispute. That most Calvinists would agree with Ben on the matter only shows how thoroughly Ben refuted Paul on that point.

But in any case, I think we both agree that Calvinism is unbiblical and Arminianism biblical in general, no matter who we think won this particular debate, correct?

Thanks for the discussion.

Tom M said...

Jason A,

Thank you for the discussion. Of course I think that you are wrong and that the claim of inconsistency is refuted:)

When it comes to the exegetical that was a side issue that was not relevant to the initial claim that is why it is irrelevant to who won. The reason I brought it up was because you said that Ben proved his point exegetically, again the charge was about prayer and monergism being inconsistent, not salvation or faith.

While I am on it though, if you agree with the point that the gift is “all of salvation” including faith, I think that in itself refutes Arminianism. Sometimes it is hard to see the forest for the trees when we agree on things.

As for your last point, no I do not think that Calvinism is unbiblical. In fact I hold more in common with Calvinism then I do Arminianism. I do appreciate Arminianism and have read some of its great theologians, in fact I have read more of the works of Arminius than I have of Calvin.

Anyways, I have to go it is getting very late. Good luck to you and all of you here in all your endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Tom M.,

Ah, thank you for your comments. I had the impression that you had indicated that you were an Arminian or were in basic overall agreement with Ben and Josh against Calvinism, but thought they had lost their debates with Manata on technical grounds. I thisnk I especially had that impression from comments you made back when Josh and Paul were debating. I remember thikning it strange back then that you thought Paul won the debate against Josh, when I thought Josh came out on top. But that puts things into perspective a bit that you are closer to Calvinism than Arminianism. I don't think that one cannot correctly judge a debate just because he is committed to one position or another. I have seen many Arminians argue poorly against Calvinists and lose specific debates against them even though I was basically on their side. There are good and poor arguments for Arminianism, and there are good and poor arguments for Calvinism. But in the debates between Josh, Ben, and Paul, I have found Josh and Ben to have made their case and to have successfully refuted Paul. And I think most people coming at it somewhat objectively would agree. And as I said before, I think that is probably reflected in that most Christisans have not and do not agree with Calvinism (though numbers is certainly not the determiner of truth).

It has been nice to have a civil discussion about these things. I don't know how much you have looked at Triablogue, but they seem to be quite rude and nasty in their interactions. Is that the kind of fruit Calvinism produces? I don't think it has to. But in these debates, it does give that much more appeal to Ben and Josh's arguments that they are far more civil and respectful (even if they have not been perfect; Paul seems qucik to try and point out small offenses they have made when he acts outrageously, like calling people stupid and accusing them of lying; it's sad; hopefully the World is not watching; whether it is or not, God is. May he have mercy on us all and help us all to be filled with his love and grace).

God bless you.

Jnorm888 said...

Jason A,

You said:

"But Ben addressed the argument that God ordains the means, and I think he did so effectively. His basic point seems to be that this argument is a mere charade in the case of intercessory prayer if all has been predetermined since intercessory prayer has influencing God as its focus."

True, so on the surface it would seem as if Paul made his point but if one looks beneath the surface one will see that "intercessory prayer" in a calvinistic scheme doesn't influence God at all. So Ben's argument still stands.

You said:

"So to iilustrate: if someone decides that he will irresitibly cause someone to accept his offer to accept a free check from him (suppose he administers a drug that makes him willing to do whatever he is told), but that he will only do this upon irresitibly causing someone else to ask him to irresistibly cause the other person to accept his offer, that person asking him cannot properly be called a means used to bring that person to accept the check. It does not genuinely influence the check giver except that he wants to cause the intercessor to ask him to do something he was already set on doing. It does not actually affect the check giver who is determining everything everyone is doing in the situation."


Most of Paul's examples ignored this fact.

You also said:

""It would be different if the check giver irresitibly caused another to go and ask the person to receive the check and then irresistibly caused ther person to receive the check. In that case, the check offerer would really be a means used to give the person the check. But the situation that relates to intercessory prayer is more like someone who decides he is going to brush his teeth, but he will only brush his teeth after he first says "bonzo". Saying "bonzo" is not a means to brushing his teeth. It is simply something he has determined he wants to be a prerequisite, though it is arbitrarily chosen as a prerequisite. It is not necessary for it to be so.""


You said:

""So I think that Ben has showed that in the case of intercessory prayer in a monergistic system, prayer cannot be properly considered a means to the accomplishment of what is prayed for, since God has already decided to certainly cause such and such to happen and to certainly cause someone to ask him to make it happen.""

I agree, but if it can't properly be called a means then what can it be called?

You said:

"But Scripture portrays God as actually influneced by prayer. This only seems to be possible in a synergistic system. So I don't think that Paul proved even that point about God ordaining the means."

This is the tricky part for some Calvinists believe that the process of Sanctification is synergistic.

If so is "prayer" in the "category" of Sanctification?

How can it be synergistic if it's been unconditionaly preordained before the World began?

How can some of them only see monergism as only dealing with Justification and not sanctification.

But I agree with what you said.


Ken said...

I'd like Jason A to actually show how Manata lost. By my lights, the inconsistency was removed. Manata gave a detailed argument to that effect. Jason A's remarks would need to offer detailed interaction in order to show how, precisely, Manata didn't utterly remove the inconsistency as far as the east is from the west. :-)

Anonymous said...

JNORM said: "I agree, but if it can't properly be called a means then what can it be called?"

My response: I don't think it matters what one calls it. If it is not a means, then Paul's argument unravels. And I think it is pretty certain it cannot be properly called a means. I don't know if there is a one word label one could call such things. But one could describe it by saying that it is something that the agent wants to do (or have done) before he accomplishes the end, but is not necessary for the accomplishment of that end. To illustrate again, If someone purposes to stop and get a cup of coffee on his way to work because he wants one, going to get a cup of coffee is not a means to him getting to work. It is just something he wants to do before he goes to work or on his way to work. The car however is a means of him getting to work. In the case of intercessory prayer, which is basically a person asking God to do something, if God determines the end (saving soemone or healing someone), and then determines that someone is going to ask him to do this thing, their request is not a means helping accomplish the end. God irresitibly caused it all in that circumstance, and the request did not influence him whatsoever. It's just something he wants to make happen before he accomplishes the end, but not something he has to make happen to accomplish the end or is in any way integrally involved in him accomplishing the end (it's about as much so as stopping to get a cup of coffee is for the end of gooing to work; granted, some people find coffee necessary to get their day going!, but even that exalted status of coffee in our culture doesn't really raise it to the level of a means for people getting to work!).

JNORM said: This is the tricky part for some Calvinists believe that the process of Sanctification is synergistic.

If so is "prayer" in the "category" of Sanctification?

How can it be synergistic if it's been unconditionaly preordained before the World began?

How can some of them only see monergism as only dealing with Justification and not sanctification."

My Response: I think you have asked some good questions prompted by inconsistencies in Calvinistic/monergistic logic. But they're not really for me to answer. They are a problem for the Calvinists. I can imagine various responses by various Calvinists.

BTW, I think I saw you still granting the "prayer as a means to the end" point in Paul's argument at his blog. Was that a mistake? You have agreed with me that in a monergistic understanding such as Paul is arguing for, prayer is not really a means to the end of accomplishment of the action.


Anonymous said...

Ken said: I'd like Jason A to actually show how Manata lost. By my lights, the inconsistency was removed. Manata gave a detailed argument to that effect. Jason A's remarks would need to offer detailed interaction in order to show how, precisely, Manata didn't utterly remove the inconsistency as far as the east is from the west. :-)

My response: I don't know why I would have to offer detailed interaction. Ben has already been doing that quite effectively, and I was just addressing a specific point or two in the debate that arose in discussion of the exchange between Paul and Ben. One in particular is a fundamental point of Paul's presentation that, if false, would unravel is overall case. And that is his claim that prayer is a means to the end of accomplishing what is asked for. I believe I have shown that this claim is false in a monergistic system such as Paul is representing. Now I am not saying that if his claim were true, then his case would be established necessarily. But it is true that if his claim is false, then his case falls apart. And it is false. As I pinted out to JNORM, prayer cannot properly be called a means to the end of accomplishment of what the prayer asks for in a monergistic system, in which God purposes to irresistibly cause the end, and then therefore purposes to irresistibly cause someone to ask him to accomplish the end.

Rather than remove the inconsistnecy as far as the east is from the west, Paul has helped show that it is tightly bound up within Calvinism, an inconsistency that Ben has helpfully exposed in his posts.

Jnorm888 said...

Jason A,

At first I did, but after seeing what you told me about what Ben said and after rereading Ben's first two posts and going back and rereading Paul's post again I changed my mind.

I later saw his "point" as a "technicality".

On the surface it would seem as if Paul proved his point but if he holds to the idea that God unconditionaly pre-ordains both the end as well as the means then beneath the surface Ben's point still stands.

Thus Paul's point was "superficial"

He didn't like it when I called all the personal benefits an "illusion"

So yeah, I later only saw his point as a technicality.

Ben saw the Calvinistic view as being pointless

And I think in Paul's mind all he needed to do was to show "a reason"(any reason) for the calvinistic view.

It didn't matter if his "reasons" didn't have anything to do with what Ben was getting at. To him in order to "win" the argument all he had to do was "show a reason".

So it was only on that bases that I saw him as "proving" his point.

But only as a "technicality".

I may be wrong but I don't think Paul cared about the "meat" of Ben's argument. He didn't care about what Ben was trying to show.

So yes, Paul proved his point but it was surface level only. It was "superficial"

I don't know if that makes sense, but that's how I see it.