Does Faith Precede Or Result From the New Birth?

November 7, 2014

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

To be a consistent Calvinist, a person must believe that the Bible teaches God limits His redemptive love toward His creation and that limited love is more reflective of God being the sum of perfect love than God extending His salvational love to all of His creation.  Of course, the perennial problem with the Calvinist’s perspective is the explicit claims of Scripture to the contrary. The encounter between Jesus and Nicodemus provides an example of God’s universal salvational love and sets the context for probably the most well-known and beloved verse in the Scripture, which explicitly declares God’s universal redemptive love for all of His creation (John 3:16).[i] I intend to set the context by briefly summarizing vss. 1-13. Then I will note some observations drawn from vss. 14-15. The illustration of vss. 14-15 serves a twofold purpose; first, it provides illumination for properly understanding some of the dialogue between Jesus and Nicodemus in vss. 1-13; second, it serves as Jesus’s chosen introductory and illuminative illustration for vss. 16-21.

In vss. 1-2, Nicodemus acknowledges that Jesus is a teacher and in vs. 3,[ii] Jesus, as the greatest teacher, begins to teach Nicodemus about the necessity of being born again,[iii] which is a spiritual or heavenly birth, vs. 5-7, in contrast to a physical birth.[iv] Nicodemus did not understand Jesus’ teaching about the new birth (vss. 4 & 9). Christ gives two examples to illustrate this great truth. First, Christ uses the wind (vs. 8) to example both the natural and supernatural (known and unknown) components of what He is saying.[v] Even though we know more about the wind today, the ultimate why and how the wind blows is only fully understood by God alone (creator), but man can know something about it by its effects.

The same is true with the heavenly birth, which is a work of God’s creative power with observable effects. Consequently, the message to Nicodemus seems to be a summons to trust Jesus’ words that human birth, even if it included such recognitions as pharisaical standing or Jewish descent, is insufficient to make one right with God. Even recognizing Christ as a teacher from God is inadequate. For any person to experience the kingdom, salvation, God must create a new life. There must be a heavenly birth subsequent to the earthly birth in order to partake of God’s kingdom, i.e. be saved. This requirement confused Nicodemus for obvious reasons, but most importantly because it left him having to face the glaring inadequacy of what he was, all he had done, and with nothing He could do to rectify his lacking. This truth left him with faith and faith alone. Trusting God to do what Nicodemus could not do.

Calvinists[vi] are prone to see this as teaching that regeneration precedes faith.[vii] William Hendrickson says, “It is very clear, therefore, that there is an act of God which precedes any act of man. In its initial stage the process of changing a person into a child of God precedes conversion and faith.”[viii] Actually Jesus’ answer only addresses the question of requirement (vss. 3 & 5 “unless” and vs. 7 “must”). It does not address the sequential relationship of faith and the new birth. As a Jew, Nicodemus believed that human birth or activities were sufficient for rightly relating to God.[ix]

It is that issue to which Jesus speaks. The requirement for experiencing the kingdom, becoming a child of God, requires a new creative act of God; this speaks to the ineffectuality of anything less than that for obtaining salvation rather than whether being born again precedes faith or not. As far as the sequential relationship of faith and the new birth in this exchange, one only sees that when one realizes, what Nicodemus must have realized, that dependence upon anything short of God’s creative work cannot result in salvation; that shocking and humbling revelation left Nicodemus, where it rightly leaves everyone who is exposed to the salvation plan of God and desires forgiveness, to disavow everything else and trust that God will do for man, what man cannot do for himself.

This discussion says nothing to indicate that one must be regenerated in order to exercise faith, but rather it places regeneration as an essential to becoming a citizen of the kingdom, experience salvation. What seems most clear is that revelation from God precedes trust and dependence on God to do what man cannot do for himself, thereby, placing man in a position to believe or disbelieve His revelation. It does not seem immaterial to note that Jesus said nothing about anything even remotely related to unconditional election or selective regeneration, which would have been exceptionally helpful if true.

In vs. 10, Nicodemus is scolded because the reference to wind should have also have caused him to recognize that time spoken of by the prophets, “The Old Testament prophets spoke of the new Age with its working of the Spirit (Isa. 32:15; Ezek. 36:25–27; Joel 2:28–29). The nation’s outstanding teacher ought to understand how God by His sovereign grace can give someone a new heart (1 Sam. 10:6; Jer. 31:33).”[x]

Vs. 13, Jesus makes clear that He and He alone can reveal these truths about the new birth accurately and explain how man can enter the kingdom of God even though man cannot cause himself to be born again.  Israel, including Nicodemus, had become steeped in a works approach to God and the belief that being a Jew was in and of itself eternally superior to other lineages. Essentially, there are only two approaches to God; one is according to the wisdom of man (“the broad road”) and one according to the wisdom of God (“the narrow road”). The former leads to death and the latter simply trusts in God to do the work of salvation that leads to new eternal life, Matthew 7:13-14.

Jesus takes His second example from Israel’s history, vss. 14-15. Nicodemus would have definitely been aware of this historical event. This example speaks to both the requirement (God giving new life) and the sequential relationship of faith (man’s part) for receiving God’s creative offer. To wit, it serves to clarify further the need for faith on man’s part to trust that God will work the miracle of providing new life to the dying in response to simple faith. The significance of this event is seen in that it is the incident that our Lord Jesus used to provide understanding of the preceding verses and most poignantly to rightly understand vss. 16-21, which maintain the same sequential relationship of faith and the reception of new life—salvation.

Jesus said, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life,” (John 3:14–15). The degree to which Jesus used this historical event to illustrate the reality and purpose of His death on the cross is highlighted by the words kath?s[xi] (vs. 14) translated “As” (meaning “just as”) and hout?[xii] (vs. 14) translated “even so” (meaning “in the same way”), and hina[xiii] (vs. 15) translated “so that” (meaning “in order that” i.e. for the purpose of). Many have pointed out such things as the serpent was a type of Christ in that the serpent of brass was like the deadly serpents, but without the poisonous venom, and Christ was like man but without sin, (Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Hebrews 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22–24). We know it pictured the cross of Christ most emphatically because Christ so states. In like manner, we know that the illustration illuminates the purpose of His being lifted up and the process whereby the new life created by God is applied. Vs. 15 tells us the purpose (“so that” introduces the purpose clause) of the lifting up of the serpent and Christ is so that one can believe and receive deliverance (new life) from God. That is to say, Jesus’ use of the historical example lucidly demonstrates the sequence of faith and reception of God’s deliverance. Consequently, I believe Christ’s use of this illustration serves as the crucial interpretive grid for vss. 16-21.

Both those who reject Calvinism and Calvinists alike believe that Christ was lifted up “so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (vs. 15). The crucial difference is that Calvinism believes that only the limited unconditionally elect, exclusively atoned for, and selectively regenerated can do so because otherwise sinful man not only will not but also cannot believe unto salvation; in contrast, those who reject Calvinism believe that God has unconditionally and unlimitedly grace-enabled one and all to be able to look in faith and be saved. Essential to these two understandings is that Calvinism believes a person receives new life (is born again) prior to being able to exercise faith whereas the rest of us believe that a person exercises faith prior to receiving new life, and that reception of the new life (being born again) is actually conditioned upon grace-enabled faith.

Calvinists seem quite inclined to recognize only the similarities between this event and the death of Christ that are consistent with Calvinism as illuminative comparisons.[xiv] However, Jesus seems to emphasize a more extensive connection since He explicitly spoke to the sequence of faith and the reception of new life in vss. 14-15, to which this historical illustration speaks specifically and corroboratively so that the non-prejudiced obvious conclusion is that the grace-revelation of the seriousness of sin and God’s judgment (man’s plight) occasions the opportunity of faith, which precedes the reception of life. Correspondingly, both Jesus’ words and this historical illustration are in harmony with the previously mentioned reality that either faith or disbelief is the only recourse for man once faced with what the seriousness of his sin requires, a creative new birth by God. This understanding is also in perfect harmony with God’s universal declaration of love in vs. 16. Equally important, the historical illustration clarifies who is included in the “whoever” of vss. 15-16. Consequently, Calvinism’s disregard of those obvious aspects of the illustration that further clarify who is included in the “whoever” and that the sequential relationship is one of faith preceding regeneration is unjustifiable and telling indeed.

These verses recall the incident in Numbers 21:4-9. Vss. 1-3 teaches that God gave Israel a great victory over the Canaanite king of Arad. Vss. 4-5 tell us that the Israelites became impatient with Moses, God’s leader and therefore God, and were griping and complaining (Numbers 20:4). God then judged their ungratefulness and rebellion, sending poisonous snakes among them. If a person was bitten by one of the serpents, he died, and many of them did die (vs. 6). God’s judgment prompted them to repent and plead for Moses to intercede for them (vs. 7).

Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived” (Numbers 21:8–9). This illustration seems crucial in determining whether the Calvinists’ or Extensivists’[xv] view is most reflective of what Christ’s death accomplished and what God’s love desires.

The following are some observations drawn from the biblical presentation of this event in order to provide a biblical lens through which to understand the relationship of revelation, opportunity, faith, salvation and the required new birth. This approach seems far superior to Calvinism’s superimposed limited interpretive grid of unconditional election. Keep in mind, Jesus chose to compare His crucifixion to this example.

  • God’s judgment was already upon them.
  • God would have been just to let them all die because of their sin and rebellion.
  • Except for God’s sovereign work of loving grace, they would all perish.
  • God is neither a minimalist in holiness (sin must be punished) nor love (deliverance is offered to all).
  • God’s offer of deliverance to even one sinner is an act of grace.
  • God’s offer of deliverance for all in need is an act of immeasurably more grace.
  • God’s grace alone provided sufficiently for all needy to trust and receive His deliverance.
  • God’s promise was exactly what it appeared to be (real opportunity for all who hear).
  • God’s redeeming love provided the pole, serpent of brass, opportunity to look, and the efficaciousness of the look of faith.
  • There was a mystery of how looking at a serpent of brass upon a pole could result in new life (like the wind illustration in John 3:8).
  • Not just any old serpent on a pole would result in healing but only the one where God was at work.
  • God determined the time that the offer was available.
  • What God required, repentance and the look of faith, each was able to do.
  • God made it personal by requiring that “he” must look to receive life.
  • God pre-determined to make the offer of deliverance unconditional and the reception of deliverance conditioned upon the look of faith.
  • The deliverance was truly accessible to “everyone” and “any man.”
  • God did not exclude anyone under the sentence of death for sin from the offer of healing.
  • This was a good offer and not merely a good faith offer.
  • Only the number who needed deliverance restricted the quantity of the new life offer.
  • Any suggestion that God’s extensive offer was trumped by a predetermination to preclude “everyone” or “any” from “looking” is eisegesis!
  • God gave new life after repentance and faith rather than prior to them.
  • The new life was the consequence of the look of faith rather than the cause.
  • God’s judgment occasioned repentance and His love occasioned the opportunity of faith.
  • The look was prompted by believing the promise of vs. 8
  • They had to choose between two accessible options (look and live or not look and die).
  • There was not a work to do but a promise to be accepted.
  • Helplessness occasioned and preceded the look of faith.
  • The dying people came to Moses and pled for intercession prior to receiving new life.
  • A dying glance was enough to deliver the judged and perishing.
  • There were only two classes of people: those who looked and lived and those who did not and died.
  • The look required faith but did not require full understanding of God’s work in making the perishinhg live.
  • There was only one way to access deliverance.
  • Jewish descent was not enough to save them.
  • Life given at the first birth was not enough to stay death and judgment (proselytes).
  • Looking in trust was man’s part, and giving the miracle of life was God’s part.

 

In light of God’s revelation regarding the nature and actions of man, and that many of those at the time of the incident had not been faithful to trust and obey God’s promises for years, there may well have been some who rejected the offer because of pride, a sense of independence, believing they would somehow survive, or maybe a doctor would find a cure. Additionally, since the group was undoubtedly rather large, it is probable that some could not actually see the pole as clearly as others could, maybe some were blocking the visions of others, some may have had cataracts, but they could all exercise a faith prompted look. Maybe some were even far enough away that they heard of God’s offer second or third hand. Regardless, while all may not have seen everything clearly, and none could fully understand the work of God; all could look by faith and receive healing.[xvi]

Although earlier in his conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus was utterly confused; it seems quite plausible that this historical illustration played a part in Nicodemus’s understanding of how to become a true disciple of God (John 19:39). It appears that this example made the truth of John 3:16-21 compellingly clear to him, and when he saw Christ high and lifted up, his works as leaving him hopelessly damned, he simply trusted God and left the business of the required new life to God His creator and deliverer.
________________________

[i] See discussion in various commentaries of whether Jesus continues speaking in vs. 16-21 or John is now speaking.
[ii] Regarding the word “see,” vs. 5 uses the word eiserchomai meaning “enter” or “enter into” for the same idea. “See” “Often the verbs mean ‘to perceive’ in such senses as ‘to experience,’… ‘to realize,’ ‘to know.’ Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich, and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1985), 710. William Hendrickson, a Calvinist, notes the same meaning of see, “There must be a radical change. And unless one is born from above he cannot even see the kingdom of God; i.e., he cannot experience and partake of it; he cannot possess and enjoy it (cf. Luke 2:26; 9:27; John 8:51; Acts 2:27; Rev. 18:7).” William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, vol. 1, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 133.
[iii] “The meaning of an?then, frequently rendered ‘again,’ is an intriguing matter. The Greek word an?then here is multidimensional and can mean ‘again’ or ‘from above’ as well as the less likely ‘rom the beginning.’” Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 172–173.
[iv] One’s position regarding whether water refers to physical birth or is conjoined to spiritual birth is not germane to my article. You may read any commentary to find the various views including arguments for and against baptismal regeneration. What is clear is that a new birth subsequent to human birth is essential.
[v] The word wind and spirit are the same word in the original, pneuma.
[vi] The view that regeneration precedes faith seems to be the dominant view among Baptist Calvinists and is significantly prevalent throughout the Calvinistic spectrum, but not all Calvinists endorse that view.
[vii] Any reliance upon analogizing the spiritual and physical birth is without merit, see my article Calvinism’s New Birth Analogy is Unconvincing posted 10/20/14, sbctoday.com.
[viii] William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, vol. 1, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 133.
[ix] Nicodemus’ confusion regarding the concept of the new birth can also be partly attributed to his unfamiliarity with such expressions. We find this today even among Christians whose particular tradition does not use such terminology as regularly as others, like Baptists, do.
[x] Edwin A. Blum, “John,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck, vol. 2 (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), 281.
[xi] ????? sometimes functions as a comparative particle (1 Thess 4:13; 1 John 3:12), but most often as a subordinating conj. (cf. BDF §453), where the most important function is also comparison. ????? can therefore be translated (just) as and so far, just as. Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–), 226.
[xii] ????? can refer to the foregoing, usually in a correlative construction….When used absolutely ????? means (with reference to the foregoing): thus / in this way, or accordingly / therefore; Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990–), 549. Also, ???? hout? and ????? hout?s; adv. from 3778; in this way, thus:—even so(1), exactly(2), exactly*(1), follows(2), in such a manner(1), in such a way(4), just(2), like this(5), like*(1), same(2), same manner(1), same way(5), so(125), such(2), then(1), thereby(1), this(1), this is the way(2), this is how(1), this effect(1), this manner(4), this respect(1), this way(22), thus(7), way(7), way this(1). Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries: Updated Edition (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998).
[xiii] ???a; ????b: markers of purpose for events and states…‘in order to, for the purpose of, so that.”’ Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996), 784.
[xiv] For example, Hendrickson says, “Now, in John 3:14 the words “As Moses … so must the Son of man” clearly indicate that the event recorded in Numbers 21 is a type of the lifting up of the Son of man. This does not mean, however, that we now have the right to test our ingenuity by attempting to furnish a long list of resemblances between type and Antitype, as is often done. In reality, as we see it, only the following points of comparison are either specifically mentioned or clearly implied in 3:14, 15 (cf. also verse 16):

  1. In both cases (Numbers 21 and John 3) death threatens as a punishment for sin.
  2. In both cases it is God Himself who, in His sovereign grace, provides a remedy.
  3. In both cases this remedy consists of something (or some One) which (who) must be lifted up, in public view.
  4. In both cases those who, with a believing heart, look unto that which (or: look unto the One who) is lifted up, are healed.” William Hendriksen and Simon J. Kistemaker, Exposition of the Gospel According to John, vol. 1, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1953–2001), 138.

[xv] The debate seems to be whether the salvific work of God is exclusive or extensive. An Extensivist believes that man was created in the image of God with otherwise choice and that God’s salvation plan is comprehensive, involving an all-inclusive unconditional offer of salvation and eternal security of the believer; reception of which is conditioned upon grace-enabled faith rather than a narrow plan involving a limited actual offer of salvation restricted to the unconditionally elected, or any plan that, in any way, conditions salvation upon merely a humanly generated faith from fallen man.
[xvi] Like the vulgarization of the cross today (merely a piece of jewelry or an iconic symbol of darkness), some turned this act of God’s grace into paganism (2 Kings 18:4).

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

peter lumpkins

Dr. Rogers,

Without question, your expositional essay on John 3:1-21 serves not only as a stellar example of the kind of exegetical theology from which all pastor-teachers can and should learn, but also the kind of biblical teaching that will check and balance the wholesale movement toward reformed theology we see in most every sector of the Southern Baptist Convention. We’ve far too many preachers moving away from the text in their biblical preaching. We’ve far too many allowing the theological lens of systematic theology (i.e. Calvin-ISM) to predetermine what the text of Scripture ought to mean apart from what the Scripture actually says. Thank you for a piece of exegetical work we can find useful.

With that, I am…
Peter

phillip

Brother Rogers,

Excellent post.

You wrote…..

“…those who reject Calvinism believe that God has unconditionally and unlimitedly grace-enabled one and all to be able to look in faith and be saved.”

Can you please elaborate on what you mean by “grace-enabled”? Exactly “how” were they enabled?

God bless.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Phillip
    Thank you for your kind words. You said, “Can you please elaborate on what you mean by “grace-enabled”? Exactly “how” were they enabled?”

    I use that phrase to highlight and emphasize the nature of biblical saving faith in contrast to how it is often portrayed (apart from unconditional election and selective regeneration) by Calvinist as a work or human virtue. Additionally, it emphasizes that biblical depravity makes salvation impossible apart from God working both in providing the sacrifice for our salvation and in overcoming man’s depravity in order to give a person a true chance to either believe in Christ or to reject Him, and whatever he did in fact choose, he could have chosen otherwise.

    I would include such workings as: conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7-11), working of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:1-6), the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16), the drawing of the father and Son (John 6:44; John 12:32), Christ prayer (John 20:21), the testimony of God’s people (Titus 2:1-11), and Judgment warnings (John 3:18-19; Revelation 20: 11-15) . Other grace enablements may include providential workings in other people, situations, and timing or circumstances that are a part of grace to provide the most optimal opportunity (in time and space) for an individual to choose to follow Christ—I am sure there are more, but this is the idea.

      phillip

      Brother Rogers,

      I appreciate the response.

      I found the quote below on a Calvinistic website. Would you agree with this assessment?

      “Since Scripture is very clear that all of man is affected by sin and so much so that ‘no one seeks after God’, then how can anyone possibly become a Christian? The answer is that God must overcome man’s depravity in such a way that man is able to recognize his spiritual state and his hopeless condition apart from the grace of God. Man’s spiritually blind eyes must be open and the bondage of sin that renders him hopelessly enslaved must be broken so that he can respond in faith to the gospel message and the atoning work of Christ on the cross.”

      God bless.

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Phillip
        You said, “Since Scripture is very clear that all of man is affected by sin and so much so that ‘no one seeks after God’, then how can anyone possibly become a Christian? The answer is that God must overcome man’s depravity in such a way that man is able to recognize his spiritual state and his hopeless condition apart from the grace God.”

        I agree with the words, but I would disagree with what they describe as “in such a way” e.g. unconditional election, selective regeneration, decrees, selective internal efficacious call and the like. Consequently, I emphasize the grace enablements mentioned earlier which are clearly seen throughout the Scripture. They are sufficient to overcome the power of sin so that man is able to hear, seek and believe. (Acts 17:11-12)

        You said, “Man’s spiritually blind eyes must be open and the bondage of sin that renders him hopelessly enslaved must be broken so that he can respond in faith to the gospel message and the atoning work of Christ on the cross.”

        The operative word is “broken”, by which Calvinist mean receiving a new nature based upon being one of the unconditionally elect and consequently, regenerated in order to believe. Again I would refer you to what I have said. Additionally, at the base of the discussion is the Calvinist idea is that God is only capable of bringing man to a point where he can believe by selective regeneration, which is a philosophical assumption (predicated up Calvinism’s very narrow definitions of Sovereignty, death etc.,) rather than a reflection of the clearest teaching of Scripture. I believe God is powerful enough to do it either way and He, according to Scripture, seems to have chosen to grace enable all, at some point and in various ways, to be able to choose to believe or not believe.

          phillip

          Brother Rogers,

          I greatly appreciate your time and consideration.

          So to clarify, if I understand you correctly, you are saying the sinner is not depraved, or at least less depraved, before he makes a decision for or against Christ? God must bring every sinner to a point when he or she are no longer “slaves to sin” so they can make a “free will” response to the gospel?

            Ronnie W Rogers

            Hello Phillip
            I will try to clarify my position without restating what I have said—please reread.

            You said, “So to clarify, if I understand you correctly, you are saying the sinner is not depraved, or at least less depraved, before he makes a decision for or against Christ? God must bring every sinner to a point when he or she are no longer “slaves to sin” so they can make a “free will” response to the gospel?”

            NO! Man is a totally (extensively) depraved sinner and therefore utterly and unequivocally incapable of coming to God in any shape or fashion on his own. As long as man is in an unsaved state, he is a slave to sin etc. I have never denied nor minimized the biblical plight of man. I accept depravity as taught in the Scripture; however, I make no pretense about trying to satisfy a Calvinist definition of such which results in such unbiblical concepts as regeneration prior to faith so that man will believe because he cannot do anything else and that all preaching of the gospel is nothing more than a good faith offer (which actually means not a good offer to the non-elect for sure and the elect as well since they cannot respond without unconditional election—another unbiblical concept in my opinion and selective regeneration).

            That may be (if I am wrong please forgive me) why you might deduce that I believe a “sinner is not depraved…” that is to say, seeking to square my understanding with Calvinism’s definitions. I reject each point of the TULIP (as defined by Calvinism), and Calvinism’s reliance upon compatibilism, selective regeneration etc. I refer to myself as an Extensivist. If someone seeks to fit my words into a grid of compatibilism (where otherwise choice is non-existent), or Calvinism’s definitions which I do not believe to be reflective of Scripture, then my words will confuse.

            While Calvinism truly seeks to extol God’s sovereignty and power, according to Calvinism, their definitions exclude the sovereign all powerful God from being able to bring a sinner to the place of decision without regenerating Him—which results in a predetermined free choosing not choice. I believe the Bible teaches that God’s sovereign power can enable a sinner to be positioned to make a choice prior to salvation, and His love, mercy and compassion motivates Him to graciously do so without being classified as anything other than a help-bound sinner.

            I am convinced that the Scripture gives every indicator, and appearance of calling men to believe so that they actually can and this according to God’s goodness—He would not mislead. Hence, prior to salvation, God’s preconversion grace enablements bring man into the courtroom of God (see meaning of conviction of the Holy Spirit in John 16:8-11, and all enablements previously mentioned) so that He is grace enabled to have what the Scripture ever so clearly and quotidianly presents, and that is an opportunity to be able to choose to believe or not believe and whatever he did in fact choose he could have chosen otherwise. It is all Grace of a sovereign loving God.

            I was a Calvinist for over 30 years (the first twenty unabashedly so, and the following twelve seeking to evaluate Calvinism in light of Scripture, without my Calvinist spectacles on, i.e. Calvinism’s validity as the best approach to Scripture). Calvinism is ultimately about limiting. Calvinism limits the definition of sovereignty, human freedom (both in the garden and by grace after the fall i.e. compatibilism), God’s salvific love and grace, atonement for sin, available opportunity for salvation, efficacious calling etc. I believe the true biblical reflection is one of extensiveness rather than exclusiveness, and this without minimizing the biblical portrait of depravity.

              phillip

              Brother Ronnie,

              Again, I appreciate your feedback.

              Perhaps it would be best for you to do an article/post on Depravity. Define it as a Calvinist would and define it as you see it in scripture. Point out both the Calvinist remedy of TD and the Arminian remedy for TD.

              In my studies, both Calvinists and (Classical) Arminians hold to the Augustinian notion of TD and all its nuances. The only difference being in the solution. For the Calvinist, regeneration precedes faith. For the (Classical) Arminian, being set free from the bondage of sin precedes faith. Both believe the depraved nature must be addressed first if a sinner is going to come to faith in Christ.

              When I quoted the Reformed with… “The answer is that God must overcome man’s depravity in such a way that man is able to recognize his spiritual state and his hopeless condition apart from the grace God.”

              You responded with…. “I agree with the words, but I would disagree with what they describe as ‘in such a way’.”

              That left me with the impression (and forgive me if I was wrong) that you agreed with the Calvinist in that man’s depravity must be overcomed, or done away with, before he could come to a position of faith. It appeared you just differed with them with “in such a way”, referring to “how” the depravity is overcomed. If man’s depravity must be overcomed then that implies that depravity is no longer an issue (hence he is no longer a slave to sin) when a person makes a decision either for or against Christ.

              I’ve always maintained that while depraved man cannot earn, or merit, salvation, he can, in a depraved state, still be reasoned with (Acts 17:2; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:19). That he can be convinced (Acts 18:28). That he can be persuaded (Acts 18:4; Acts 28:24). And that he can even desire the word of God (Acts 13:7).

              Yes, we are enabled, by God’s grace, to come to a position of faith, but that enabling is thru divine instruction (John 6:45) and the teaching of the word (Acts 13:12; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:28; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:15).

              I reject every petal of the TULIP as well.

              God bless.

                Robert

                Ronnie I had not seen Phillip’s latest post but it provides good examples of what I was talking about and why interaction with him on the issue of total depravity may not be wise.

                He writes:

                “In my studies, both Calvinists and (Classical) Arminians hold to the Augustinian notion of TD and all its nuances.”

                I never got him to define what he means by “Arminian” so what does he mean by “classical Arminian”?
                He does not define the term, just assumes he is using it correctly.

                Notice he says that “classical Arminians” hold to the Augustinian notion “and all its nuances.”

                Well that is false, Arminians do not believe that a person has to be regenerated first before they can believe as do the Calvinists following Augustine. So right there his statement is absolutely false. It appears that Phillip wants to lump in Armianians with Calvinists as if they all hold the same view of depravity. This is just not true which lacks Phillip’s “studies” on the issue of depravity have been lacking.

                Note he also says:

                “The only difference being in the solution.”

                Again this is not accurate or true, there are differences in the conceptions of depravity held by Arminians and Calvinists.

                To argue they hold the identical conception of depravity is just inaccurate and could be misleading for those who have not studied this issue.

                Phillip also wrote:

                “That left me with the impression (and forgive me if I was wrong) that you agreed with the Calvinist in that man’s depravity must be overcomed, or done away with, before he could come to a position of faith. It appeared you just differed with them with “in such a way”, referring to “how” the depravity is overcomed. If man’s depravity must be overcomed then that implies that depravity is no longer an issue (hence he is no longer a slave to sin) when a person makes a decision either for or against Christ.”

                Phillip has this thing about depravity “being overcome”.

                But what does that mean if he does not even define depravity?

                If you want to talk intelligently about something being overcome don’t you first have to define what that something that is being overcome is??

                And as I pointed out to Phillip, this notion of overcoming depravity is vague and could even be meaningless. If depravity refers to the extent of sin, that it has impacted every aspect of human persons including their minds, wills, bodies. Then even when a nonbeliever converts to Christianity, depravity is not completely eliminated or “overcome”. The believer still suffers from the effects of sin and will do so as long as they live in this sin infested world. It is not like people suffer from depravity before their conversion and then upon their conversion depravity is completely eliminated for the rest of their lives. This is not accurate at all and the Bible never promises that all of the effects of sin will be eliminated upon conversion. If an alcoholic with a bad liver from years of alcoholism is converted that does not mean that their liver is instantly and completely healed from years of abuse via alcohol. Likewise one of the effects of depravity is physical death: and believers like nonbelievers still die physically.

                “I’ve always maintained that while depraved man cannot earn, or merit, salvation,”

                Nobody, including Calvinists, Arminians, “classical Arminians”, Traditionalists, etc. etc. who is orthodox believer that “man can earn or merit salvation”.

                “he can, in a depraved state, still be reasoned with (Acts 17:2; Acts 17:17; Acts 18:19).”

                And people like myself who hold to total depravity believe that he can “still be reasoned with”.

                “That he can be convinced (Acts 18:28).”

                And people like myself who hold to total depravity believe that he can be convinced of things especially if he is experiencing the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit.

                “That he can be persuaded (Acts 18:4; Acts 28:24).”

                And people like myself who hold to total depravity believe that he can be persuaded (I have been involved in apologetics for many years, with some very well-known apologists who believe both in the reality of depravity as well as the reality that we can persuade nonbelievers about things).

                “And that he can even desire the word of God (Acts 13:7).”

                And people like myself who hold to total depravity believe that “he can even desire the word of God” if he is experiencing the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit who illuminates scripture for him, provides people who preach and witness with scripture to him, etc. etc.

                “Yes, we are enabled, by God’s grace, to come to a position of faith”

                And that enabling implies that ****on our own***** we cannot come to a position of faith.

                Again without the preconversion work of the Spirit people are not going to believe on their own.

                “but that enabling is thru divine instruction (John 6:45) and the teaching of the word (Acts 13:12; Acts 17:2; Acts 18:28; Romans 10:17; 2 Timothy 3:15)”

                The preconversion work of the Spirit does involve “divine instruction” as he is God and he is instructing the nonbeliever about all kinds of things including their sinful condition, the way of salvation through Christ alone, etc. etc. The Spirit’s usual method of operation is to work through the preaching and teaching and witnessing involving the word. Again one can believe **all** of this while maintaining the reality of total depravity (while not holding conceptions like those of Calvinists) and the reality that we need grace enablement or we cannot come to faith in Christ on our own.

                “I reject every petal of the TULIP as well.”

                Note this must mean that Phillip rejects total depravity and yet he refuses to define what total depravity means.

                He also refuses to acknowledge that there are conceptions of total depravity that are not Calvinistic, which an Arminian could hold to as could a Traditionalist. It depends on how you define the terms, which again indicates how important it is to define your terms.

                Robert

              Robert

              Hello Ronnie,

              I have interacted with Phillip before on the issue of total depravity. He rejects it but in our discussions refused to define it, refused to give his definition of it. He kept trying to claim that total depravity is **exclusively** a Calvinistic notion. This is neither true nor accurate. I am not a Calvinist but I believe in total depravity because of the biblical descriptions of nonbelievers (not understanding spiritual things, not capable of coming to faith on their own, must be drawn to come to faith, etc. etc.). I see total depravity as meaning primarily that sin and its effects have touched upon everything: our minds, our wills, our bodies (so it primarily refers to the extent of sin). I, like you, believe that we need to be grace enabled in order to have faith. I see this enabling as being the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit who enables but does not necessitate a faith response. Without this preconversion work of the Spirit/grace enabling, no one would come to faith in Christ. So Ronnie be aware that in dealing with Phillip you are dealing with someone who is obsessed with arguing against total depravity and yet also appears to not understand that a non-Calvinist can hold to depravity as well.
              As you said, we can hold to depravity while not holding to such false Calvinistic notions as depravity means that the nonbeliever must be regenerated first in order to be capable of faith. Ronnie in my prior interaction with Phillip he refused to define terms which led to some confusion and talking past each other. If we do not use the same terms with the same meanings then rational discussion is impossible. For what its worth Ronnie, I believe you and I hold the same view of depravity and grace enablement.

              Robert

Robert

Hello Ronnie,

Thank you for providing a very good article here. I agree with all that you have said here. I just want to emphasize a couple of points.

First, you wrote:

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a standard; and it shall come about, that everyone who is bitten, when he looks at it, he will live.” And Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on the standard; and it came about, that if a serpent bit any man, when he looked to the bronze serpent, he lived” (Numbers 21:8–9).”

As long as I have been aware of this passage the bite of these poisonous serpents has been viewed by Christian interpreters as a type of sin. To put it bluntly: sin kills. So all who were bitten and did not respond with faith would have died. There was nothing they could do to save themselves, no available medicine, no science, no good works, no living a good life, no being religious, no keeping the OT law, etc. etc. etc. that could deliver a person who had been bitten by a poisonous snake: they were going to die.

Only God could save them if they were bitten from certain death.

This is why scripture is so strong on the point that ****only God saves*****, we cannot save ourselves from the results/consequences of sin. So the story really emphasizes their complete helplessness when it came to their dealing with the effects of sin.

A second point that the story brings out that needs to be emphasized is that while faith is crucial for deliverance/salvation, the power is not in the faith exercised by people but the power is in God’s actions alone.

Looking at the bronze serpent on the pole IN ITSELF had no power to save someone who had been bitten by a poisonous snake. The power was in God’s delivering the person who looked up from the snake bite. Now it is true that God designed it so that only those who were bitten who had faith would be delivered: the power for the deliverance was not actually accomplished by the act of faith (i.e. the looking up at the snake on the pole). Looking at anything including the bronze snake on the pole does not heal a person who has been bitten by a poisonous snake. Only God’s direct power could heal the person. This teaches us some important things about the nature of faith.

Faith is necessary for a person to be saved (just as looking up at the snake on the pole was necessary for them to be delivered). And yet the power is not in the faith itself, the power is in God alone. Many cults and unfortunately some overly zealous Calvinists will argue as if faith is a religious work no different than other religious works (so in this misguided reasoning a person who has faith is “saving themselves” by their action of faith). But the power as this story so well demonstrates is not in the faith itself but in God alone. Looking up at the pole **in itself** had no power to heal them from their poisonous snake bites. You could look up at the snake on the pole all day long and THAT in itself would make no difference to you, THAT in itself would not deliver you. What did deliver you, what did save you, was God’s actions on behalf of those who looked at the snake on the pole.

Likewise when we are saved today through faith in Christ (i.e. looking up at him on the cross and trusting that will save us), it was not our faith in itself that saved us, it is what God does to those who have faith. Faith is thus necessary for salvation and yet “salvation is of the Lord.”

Robert

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Robert
    Thank you for your kind words. As always, your points are well said and precisely on target.

Doug Sayers

Thanks Ronnie. Your case is well made. The Calvinistic order is ‘Live and Turn” whereas the biblical order is “Turn and Live” (Ez 18).

In the historical Reformed position God would be forcing people to be born again who don’t want to be born again.

I have a standing offer of a nice gift card for the first person who can produce a biblical text (or group of texts),which teaches explicitly, (or even by good and necessary inference), that we must be born again before we can count the cost, repent, and believe the Gospel. You have just taken their best shot at the gift card away!

Like you, I am done with the 5 inferences.

I especially appreciate the civil tone you demonstrate in your writings.

Thanks again.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Doug
    Thank you, and I would suggest, based upon your requirements, that you use the gift card yourself! :)

Ron F. Hale

Thanks Bro. Ronnie for tackling one of my favorite passages of Scripture to preach and teach; and you shared so many great truths and observations!
Blessings!

Tom

First, let me say I’m very supportive of a textual approach to theology and appreciate your interaction with John 3 and Numbers 21. Second, because of this textual approach, certain days I feel more Reformed and certain days I feel more “Traditional” in regards to election and free will. I believe this tension is healthy. For me it keeps God as my sole Savior with me not earning one once of my salvation and it pushes me to keep sharing the Gospel because the call goes out to “whosoever.” Third, I believe faith precedes regeneration but is also a gift of the Holy Spirit so I don’t get hung up on which comes first. If people want to quibble over whether this faith is enabled after a free will acceptance of Jesus or enables an acceptance of Jesus doesn’t bother me. Love brothers who argue both ways. With those qualifications, what would you say to someone who would argue that the people in Numbers 21 have already been shown sovereign favoritism by God when He called them out of Egypt? Numbers 21 can be a picture of God offering healing and forgiveness to sinners in which He entered into a covenant which reflects in a shadow what is offered in Jesus, but I’m not sure it can be used to support God’s universal love and offer of salvation to the world. I believe John 3:16 does that all by itself. In fact, I believe it’s an outworking of John 1:16-17 “For of His fulness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” In my opinion, John presents Jesus, the Word, as the final and complete revelation of the heart of God towards a rebellious world. In the Old Testament, God revealed in part what would one day be revealed wholly through Jesus. By forcing words like “unconditional”, “conditional” and other theological terms back into Numbers 21, it clouds how spectacular and revolutionary Jesus is. In my opinion, I just don’t think the Apostle John had all those tight-knitted points you’ve stated in mind when he referred to the serpent in the wilderness.

Thanks for the post.
Tom

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Tom
    Thank you for your comments.
    You said, “what would you say to someone who would argue that the people in Numbers 21 have already been shown sovereign favoritism by God when He called them out of Egypt? Numbers 21 can be a picture of God offering healing and forgiveness to sinners in which He entered into a covenant which reflects in a shadow what is offered in Jesus”

    I would first state that I believe all favoritism (grace) is sovereignly bestowed. I just believe God sovereignly bestows sufficient grace for all to be saved—as evidenced in this passage. Additionally, not all sovereignly granted grace is salvific, which is true of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, and being in the covenant did not equate to personal eternal salvation. Each one in the covenant still had to exercise faith and that alone saved. (Habakkuk 2:4) Consequently, it does not seem to me that particular understanding of the incident reflects the nature of the historical incident (merely saved people being forgiven) as employed by Jesus. Jesus used it to refer to people (“whoever”) receiving “eternal life” vs. 15. Neither the incident nor Jesus’s words reveal what you are suggesting, which are actually contrary to such a suggestion. He used it speaking of those who are not saved (including Nicodemus) and how they could be saved—“believes in Him will have eternal life”. Jesus (not I) said “just as….” Vs. 14.
    Secondly, Jesus chose this from all of the Old Testament as His example of God’s universal and loving offer of salvation to all; consequently, that is my understanding of it. The simple words and employment of this historical incident of Christ speak for themselves.

    Third, as I understand your suggestion, you have incorporated a number of thoughts into the passage that are obviously not there, and seem to be contrary to what Jesus is saying because He spoke of the incident precisely and unambiguously to mirror the cross and how one obtains salvation and is born again. I am not reading the cross back into the historical example, but rather seeing Christ’s use of it to picture the cross. Since Jesus used it that way that is the way it is used by me; therefore, it seems to me, that things you have mentioned are not justified in the historical incident, and they are clearly incongruent with Jesus’s words regarding its significance and illuminative properties of God’s universal love.

    Fourth, I am satisfied with a simple reading of Scripture, without the importation of prior theological commitments or things clearly not referenced in either passages and that even undermine what seems to me to be the clear meaning of Christ’s words.
    You said, “But I’m not sure it can be used to support God’s universal love and offer of salvation to the world. I believe John 3:16 does that all by itself.” First, vs. 15 speaks of God’s universal love “whoever”. Secondly, my brother, I find it difficult not to see it as that very thing since Jesus used it precisely for His introduction and example for God’s declaration of His universal love in vs. 16. Note that He said, “just as” “even so” “so that” “whoever”. I am incapable of suggesting a way that He could have more closely and inextricably tied this event to John 3:16.

    You said, “I just don’t think the Apostle John had all those tight-knitted points”.
    Honestly, I cannot definitively comment on everything John had in mind. I am only commenting on what Jesus said, John said, and what is said and obviously implied in the words of the historical narrative. Noting of the similarities simply plays off Jesus’s lead. I would have never brought up the serpent passage to talk about John 3:1-16, but since Jesus did, I believe it unwise to opt for other non-stated ideas or prior commitments, which result in ignoring, marginalizing, detracting from or undermining what Jesus’s words regarding the incident clearly reveal.

Jim Poulos

Hello Pastor Rogers,

I’d like to submit a point made by a Greek scholar who is a colleague of some of the people referenced in your article. It is Dr. Daniel Wallace, whose Greek Textbook is used is quite a number of seminars. He is interpreting Romans 8:16. His point is the witness of the Spirit to believers they are ‘children of God.’ The gist is the distinctions between two prepositions, either ‘with’ or ‘to.’ His choice is ‘to.’ The the Spirit witness ‘to’ the believer, that is, He convinces them they are children of God in contrast with the prepositions ‘with,’ that the Spirit in cooperation of the Spirit the believer recognizes the truth. If Dr. Wallace is correct, which his arguments are strong, then the believer is overcome by the Spirit to be convinced of the truth of the witness. It seems if a believer needs that work, wouldn’t it be reasonable that unbelievers would need a work to convince them of the truth of Christ?

Pastor Rogers, these are simply some thoughts to add to your discussion. As was voiced by other com-mentors here your tone is appreceated.

Jim P

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Jim
    Thank you for your interaction, but please forgive my brevity. Maybe I will write on this particular verse in the future thereby devoting more time to your good question.

    You said, “His point is the witness of the Spirit to believers they are ‘children of God….that is, He convinces them they are children of God in contrast with the prepositions ‘with,’ that the Spirit in cooperation of the Spirit the believer recognizes the truth…. If… correct…then the believer is overcome by the Spirit to be convinced of the truth of the witness. It seems if a believer needs that work, wouldn’t it be reasonable that unbelievers would need a work to convince them of the truth of Christ?”

    First, the passage you refer to is speaking of believers. Consequently, the work of the Holy Spirit seems to me to be one of confirmation of salvation (true regeneration) rather than the offer of salvation. Secondly, I know you are aware that the case allows for with, by to, for, in or at; the translators seem inclined, whether it is a formal, dynamic or in-between translation, to choose “with”—NASV, KJV, NKJV, NIV, ESV. Third, I do believe that the Holy Spirit must work in the lost to bring them to a clear enough understanding of who Christ is in order to grant them the opportunity to accept or reject. I refer to these as grace enablements—some are listed in a response to another questioner on this blog. I do believe they need a work, but in rejecting compatibilism, I also reject the idea that their knowledge of something at a point of choosing, determinately results in a certain choice. E.g., I do not believe that Adam made a free choosing according to compatibilism, but rather a free choice in which he could have done otherwise.

    Fourth, since it is contextually referring to the confirmation of salvation, I can accept—for the context—either to or with. I believe that we know we are saved by the objective criteria of Scripture, but I also believe in the subjective aspect of Christianity and walking with God; that is to say, I often tell people regarding this witness of the Holy Spirit, as well as the reality of regeneration, that while I cannot prove to another I am a believer, I cannot deny it either. Lastly, I do not believe the translation of “to” entails “overcome”.

Tom

Thanks for your interaction. I do not believe the Numbers passage refers to saved people being forgiven. Sorry if what I wrote led you to think that. I do not think it speaks to eternal life like Jesus does in John 3:15ff. It seems you’re putting an awful lot on the phrase “just as.” The phrase does not have to mean equal to or exactly the same. Jesus’ death far exceeds the temporary healing of looking at the bronze serpent in the wilderness in depth, degree, and effectiveness. In John, Jesus often explain things from the simple to the greater. Take Jesus’ statement of being born again. Jesus uses an earthly example to teach Nicodemus a greater spiritual truth about entering God’s kingdom. I agree Jesus uses the example of the serpent to picture His death on the cross, just not in an one to one comparison. I’m not sure what you mean by me reading into the passage what is “obviously” not there. It appears to me, your article seeks to refute a “Calvinistic” interpretation of the passage regarding the order of salvation, something John never declares is his purpose of including the Nicodemus story. Just because someone else puts a grid onto a passage to force their theological presuppositions should not lead me to do so in response. John was not writing with 5 points of Calvinism or Traditionalism or anything else ism, nor did he struggle with the faith prior to regeneration or after debate. John’s purpose for writing is clearly revealed in his purpose statement and his prologue. He wrote so that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God and that by believing they might have life in His name. He wrote to show how Jesus, the revealed Word of God, was far superior than any prior statement or understanding of God, even the Old Testament shadows and pictures. If a reader misses the fact that the Word far exceeds in revealing God than what Moses revealed in the Law (1:17-18), then so many of the miracles and teachings lose some of their persuasive power in accomplishing John’s argument. To me a simple reading of the passage must agree with the argument the author of the book advances. If John sets up a comparison between the Old Testament and Jesus in the beginning in order to show how Jesus exceeds and surpasses the Law, then when I encounter an illustration or miracle that points to an Old Testament situation I’m forced by the author to look, not merely for similarities; but also for differences that show how Jesus and what His death accomplishes proves the author’s point. In my opinion, Jesus does this very thing in His reference to the serpent. I understand “just as” to say “in a similar but far greater way” must the Son of Man be lifted up because everyone who believes in the Son will have eternal life (which is even greater than the life given by the serpent in the wilderness). Jesus takes the known temporary situation to teach a higher spiritual reality about Himself and His death.
Again, I appreciate your article and thanks for your response.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Tom
    You said, “Thanks for your interaction. I do not believe the Numbers passage refers to saved people being forgiven. Sorry if what I wrote led you to think that.”
    I am sorry for misunderstanding your point. Please forgive me.

    You said, “I do not think it speaks to eternal life like Jesus does in John 3:15ff. It seems you are putting an awful lot on the phrase “just as.” The phrase does not have to mean equal to or exactly the same. Jesus’ death far exceeds the temporary healing of looking at the bronze serpent in the wilderness in depth, degree, and effectiveness.”

    Of course it is grander in every way, but He is the one that employed it to teach Nicodemus about salvation and being born again—how one receives life. As an expositor, I just simply try to follow the flow of the text. Although I apparently think “just as” is more significant than you, surely you do not think I rely solely on that since I wrote a 3,700 word expository article seeking to highlight much more than that. I think I am placing proper emphasis, which is seen in that it is quite consistent with the flow of the text. .

    You said, “I’m not sure what you mean by me reading into the passage what is “obviously” not there. It appears to me, your article seeks to refute a “Calvinistic” interpretation of the passage regarding the order of salvation, something John never declares is his purpose of including the Nicodemus story.”

    I am referring to things you mentioned that you indicated (at least as I understood you) directed your understanding that are not drawn from the text itself, which (the text) is what I tried to build upon. Additionally, I did not merely seek to refute Calvinism, but rather to follow the flow of the text, which process seems to do that adequately. The biblical authors were not thinking of a host of errors that are answered by their words (Jehovah witnesses, Islam, and yes disagreements within the Christian community), but that does not mean we do not address misuses in our exposition.

    You said, “John was not writing with 5 points of Calvinism or Traditionalism or anything else ism, nor did he struggle with the faith prior to regeneration or after debate.” I actually do believe he did struggle with the relationship of being a child of God and regeneration, and that is what the dialogue seems to be about. Jesus employed two illustrations to illuminate that point. My remarks regarding such (Calvinism) are simply to expose that Calvinist comments that say the passage teaches regeneration precedes faith are not supported textually —see my quotes—and the passage teaches the opposite. It is appropriate to seek to explain the text and demonstrate teachings that are not consistent with or in the text.
    You said “John’s purpose… so that people may believe that Jesus is the Christ,” I agree. I never indicated that the serpent was equal to the work of Christ, but rather simply took what Jesus said was illustrative. I am perplexed at why you do not accept what seems to me to be quite clear from a simple reading of the serpent incident, and this in light of Jesus’s specific use of it. It does not make it more than what Christ did, but rather clarifies what Christ did (and particularly the sequential relationship of faith and receiving life), which is the point of why Christ employed it; I did speak consistent with that point. While the serpent incident illustration is not exhaustive of what Christ did on the cross (a point I did not make because I do not believe it to be true), it is consistent with 3:1-15, as revealed in my article, and the same is true in the following verses (16-21). Consequently, I would be very interested in seeing your exposition of this passage, how you think the serpent illustration fits in, what similarities you would allow/disallow and why, and why you might not see such similarities as I do.

    You said, “I’m forced by the author to look, not merely for similarities; but also for differences that show how Jesus and what His death accomplishes proves the author’s point.” I never limited it to being only as grand as the illustration, but I also do not see it as being inconsistent. Commonly an illustration is not as grand as the illustrated, but if not similar then it is not an illustration. That Christ accomplishment is grandeur is not disputed by any. I just note the illuminative similarities that seem obvious to me.

      Tom

      I appreciate your detailed interaction, especially on a Saturday evening. Unfortunately, my exposition will have to wait until Monday. Blessings on the coming Lord’s Day.

        Tom

        Thanks for the offer to reply. Busy Sunday and Monday. Exposition of John 3

        In John 3, John launches into the first detailed teaching episode in the Gospel that advances the claims he has made about Jesus in the prologue. While a complete examination of the prologue would be too lengthy for the intent of this exposition, I would like to refer to some of the themes articulated in the first 18 verses of chapter 1 that shape the Nicodemus narrative.
        In the prologue, John declares some bold statements about the logos that redefines the term as it relates to the Son of God. While scholars debate whether John’s original inspiration for employing logos came from Greek, Jewish, or both cultural backgrounds, a glossary reading of the prologue shows his intent to put his own stamp on the term. The logos is distinct from God but is fully divine and eternal (vv.1-2), has an active role in creation (v.3), and being light Himself, brings light into the darkness (vv.4-5). The logos came into the world without recognition by the world and rejected by His own; yet because the logos is God, He bears the right to bring people into God’s family if they believe in Him enabling them to be born of God (vv.10-13).
        Verse 14 declares the logos took on human flesh, revealing the fullness of God the Father to His disciples. This revelation surpasses the work of John the Baptist (v.15) and the work of Moses (v.17). Truly, when one studies and experiences the logos, one studies and experiences the living God (v.18).
        Many of the themes presented in the prologue find their initial treatment in the body of the gospel in John 3:1-21, providing greater understanding of the dramatic entrance of the logos into the world. In the order they appear in chapter 3, one notices the themes: born of God (vv.1-8); bearing witness (revelation) of what “we have seen and know” (vv.10-13); belief and unbelief (vv.15-18); and the Light coming into the darkness (vv.19-21).
        John sets up the Nicodemus encounter within Jesus’ first journey to Jerusalem after the launch of His public ministry. Jesus’ dramatic overturning of the money changers’ tables, challenge to rebuild the temple, and miracles led crowds of people to display faith in Jesus (2:23); but Jesus refused to “entrust” Himself to them because their belief was insufficient. Nicodemus enters the scene to begin unpacking true saving faith in Jesus as the Son of God. In fact, John continues to develop the concept of faith throughout the gospel, exposing positive aspects to be emulated in disciples (Samaritan woman, Beloved Disciple, blind man) and negative elements to be corrected in either the disciples’ understanding or interested people encountered through His teaching and healing ministry (feeding of the 5,000, Thomas and Andrew’s misunderstandings, Mary and Martha, Peter’s failure and restoration).
        While I might choose some different wording in your exposition of vv.1-13, I applaud your exposition. I think you’re correct in observing that Jesus’ emphasis does not deal with the sequence or order of salvation. In my opinion, Nicodemus’ misunderstanding of Jesus’ initial comments is one literary device John uses to present greater explanation of key truths concerning Jesus and salvation. He does this with the Samaritan woman (4:11) and Martha at Lazarus’ resurrection (11:24) to name just two other examples.
        Verses 14-15 conclude Jesus’ discussion with Nicodemus. Jesus points to the bronze serpent in the wilderness to point to His coming death on the cross. Jesus being “lifted up” refers to His glorification. Even as the bronze serpent was exalted in the desert and led to life to those who looked upon it, so Jesus must be exalted. In John 17, we learn in fullness that Jesus’ glorification is the cross by which He obtains salvation for everyone who believes in Him as the Son of God. John’s audience is not told whether Nicodemus understands the reference refers to Jesus’ coming death, but the audience knows because John alludes to Jesus’ crucifixion in John the Baptist’s testimony in 1:29 and explicitly states it in clarifying Jesus’ statement about the destruction of the Temple in 2:21-22. For Nicodemus, the reader is left to wonder about his response to Jesus’ offer to believe in Him. Nicodemus’ faith in Jesus remains unresolved until he asks for Jesus’ body alongside Joseph of Arimathea (19:38-39) displaying his public profession.
        The switch from “Son of Man” to “Son of God” denotes a change from Jesus speaking to John speaking in vv.16ff. Notice the return to the Christological language of the prologue. John gives his audience clear summary statements concerning the need for them to fully embrace Jesus as revealed in his gospel in order to obtain eternal life. Nicodemus, at this stage, might be undecided, but John’s audience should not be. Jesus is much more than a great teacher and healer (v.2). Jesus expresses the depth of God’s love for a rebellious world. By sending His one and only Son, God, at the same time, gives the world the greatest promise and greatest warning. Believe in Jesus as the Son of God who died on the cross for your sins or continue in unbelief and face eternal judgment from God. While Jesus’ purpose for coming was salvation (v.17), the offer of salvation turns to the evidence for condemnation in everyone who does not believe in Jesus as the Son of God (vv.18-21).
        John 3:1-21 accomplishes multiple things in John’s gospel and touches upon many of the themes mentioned in the prologue. The need for a second spiritual birth by the Holy Spirit calls John’s audience, including readers today, to acknowledge their inability to obtain eternal life on their own (see 1:13). The great news for the people of the world is God loves us in spite of our sinfulness. The only hope for anyone and everyone is to believe in Jesus as the Son of God whose death on the cross obtains forgiveness and eternal life.
        John’s focus of the passage is not to give a sequence in a faith/regeneration discussion in either vv.1-13 or 14-21. John does not specifically address the order of salvation question in this passage. He has no reason to discuss it. It doesn’t fit with his objective in writing the gospel. Apparently, John’s okay with holding two seemingly opposing truths: (1) God’s sovereign freedom to save whomever He chooses and (2) God’s universal love for the world that calls everyone to believe in Jesus (which implies a true freedom to believe without restriction). For me, if John does not feel the need to resolve the complexities of holding to these, why should I? Does it make me an inconsistent Calvinist or Traditionalist? At the end of the day, who cares what label you wear? Lift Jesus up that He may draw all men to Himself. If God can reveal Himself through a weak vessel like myself, I’m sure His Spirit can do a spiritual “auto correct” on those to whom I witness if I fall on the wrong side of the sequence of salvation discussion.

Andrew Barker

Dr. Rogers: Peter Lumpkins has directed me to your footnote (ii) where you mention that the word in v5 eiserchomai is used to convey the idea of experiencing something. I recently did a study on the word ‘see’ in v3 idein. Many people use v3 to support the idea that people can’t understand the kingdom of God unless they are born again. My search found that the word for ‘see’ carries the meaning of see as in ‘experience’ something.

The thought occurred to me today that this was similar wording to the passage where Simeon was promised that he would not ‘see’ death until he had seen the Lord’s salvation. So I looked up the word used in the online interlinear and it turns out to be the same one, idein. Since Simeon obviously hadn’t seen death literally, this would confirm the use of ‘see’ in the sense of experiencing it.

So I am quite positive in reading John 3:3 as except a man be born again he cannot see (experience) the kingdom of God. Those who would try to use this verse to bolster the argument that regeneration precedes faith will have to look elsewhere for their support.

phillip

Ronnie (and anyone else who doesn’t go by the label “Calvinist” or “Arminian”),

Robert, while being my brother in Christ, is in reality a Closet Arminian. I have asked him in the past (and so have others) if he considered himself to be an Arminian and even asked him if he was a member of the Society for Evangelical Arminians. Now while being an Arminian might vary in range and beliefs, being a member of the Society for Evangelical Arminians is quite clear. Yet, Robert (who claims he doesn’t play games) refused to answer. So the label “Closet Arminian”.

I also did define the terms that Robert insinuates I didn’t.

I defined depravity as man, due to his fallen corrupt nature, is not able to earn, or merit, salvation.

As far as Total Depravity I let those who formulated it define it…

“Total depravity (also called radical corruption, or pervasive depravity), is a theological doctrine derived from the Augustinian concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.”

Now I know there is more to TD and all of its nuances, but I thought that laid a good foundation. I do affirm depravity, because the Bible teaches it (and, sadly, I’ve even seen examples of it on this very website). I just reject TD as defined by Calvinism. In other words I see a BIG difference between Depravity and TD. And I certainly reject both the Calvinist (regeneration precedes faith) and Classical Arminian (released from the bondage of sin precedes faith) solution for it.

It seems Robert has two goals here at SBC Today. To denounce Calvinism. And convert others to Arminianism. So everyone should be aware of that going forward. While folks here at SBC Today have repeatedly stated that they were neither Calvinist nor Arminian (reference articles by both brothers Adam Harwood and Malcolm Yarnell, and others), Robert continues to insist folks here only “claim” not to be Arminians. Say something negative about Calvinism and Robert is quick to jump aboard (and, at times, rightfully so). Yet say anything remotely negative about Arminianism and be prepared for a very Calvinistic response.

Despite Robert’s language I am not “obsessed with arguing” anything. Actually there is much within the framework of TD that I agree with. But as stated earlier, I believe depraved man can believe the gospel once equipped with the word of God. Simply put our depravity doesn’t prevent us from responding to God.

Again, I honestly appreciate the dialogue and look forward to hearing/reading more regarding this subject.

God bless, brother(s).

    Robert

    Phillip writes:

    “Ronnie (and anyone else who doesn’t go by the label “Calvinist” or “Arminian”),”

    Apparently Phillip not only is **obsessesed** with arguing against total depravity, apparently he wants to distance himself from both Calvinists and Arminians.

    Personally I really don’t care about labels, what is important is what a person believes. I say this because I have seen those who demand to pigeonhole people try to do this with me. Since I hold to total depravity, I had one guy here once label me as a “one point Calvinist”. This was one of the most ridiculous and absurd attempts to label that I have ever seen. I don’t hold Calvinistic beliefs in fact I am very strongly against Calvinism and yet since I hold to total depravity the “T” in TULIP this misinformed individual wanted to label me as a “one point Calvinist”. Now sometimes people will distinguish between “five” and “four” point Calvinists (because one holds to limited atonement, the five pointer, and one holds to universal atonement, the four pointer) and this can be helpful. But to label someone a “one-point Calvinist” just because they hold to total depravity is really dumb. And yet many just have to label you. On the other side, since I hold the belief that you cannot lose your salvation I have had others say that it is impossible for me to be Arminian. Well this is false as an Arminian can hold to eternal security. And since I hold to both total depravity and eternal security, does that then make me a “two point Calvinist”?

    I am at the point where I just want to know what a person’s beliefs are rather than label them so they can be pigeonholed. I will also ask people to define their terms because that makes for a more rational discussion.

    Now Phillip wants to pigeonhole me as an “Arminian.” In our prior discussion he refused to define what an “Arminian” is. Until he defines what he means by “Arminian” why not consider myself a “Traditionalist”. From what I have read on this blog I hold to the beliefs that those who view themselves as “Traditionalists” hold (e.g. a Traditionalist as a Baptist, and I am a Baptist, does not believe that we can lose our salvation, so we hold to eternal security).

    Check out Phillip’s attempt at labeling me and so pigeonholing me:

    “Robert, while being my brother in Christ, is in reality a Closet Arminian.”

    This is comical, I have been labeled as a “one point Calvinist” (and at this point based on posts from the past I believe that it was Phillip who did this when he posted as “wingfootedone”) by Phillip and now I am supposedly a “closet Arminian”.

    Phillip had asked me in the past if I was “Arminian” and my response (since I really don’t like being labeled and pigeonholed, especially by those who don’t know what they are talking about and do the labeling as a form of attack) was to ask Phillip how he defines Arminian? He refused to answer that question. My question was perfectly legitimate, if he wants to put a label on me, let’s first see what he means by this label.

    Now he writes:

    “Yet, Robert (who claims he doesn’t play games) refused to answer. So the label “Closet Arminian”.”

    So I am now a “closet Arminian” according to Phillip.

    “I also did define the terms that Robert insinuates I didn’t.”

    Sorry this is an outright lie, he never defined “Arminian” when asked and he never gave his own definition of what he means by “total depravity” when asked.

    Now comes some more questionable claims by Phillip:

    “It seems Robert has two goals here at SBC Today. To denounce Calvinism. And convert others to Arminianism.”

    Wow, not only am I a “closet Arminian” according to Phillip my goal here is to “convert others to Arminianism.” This claim is both comical and ridiculous.

    And exactly how am I trying to convert people here to Arminianism?

    Again from what I have read here and from private discussions with the previous moderator here, Norm, I ought to be labelled a “Traditionalist” as I agree with what Traditionalists believe here. I have been a Baptist as long as I have been a Christian so I have always believed that a genuine believer cannot lose their salvation. I am strongly against infant baptism (most Arminians that I know hold to infant baptism as did the Reformers). I reject Calvinism in all of its forms. I do hold to total depravity, but that alone does not make a person an “Arminian”. While I agree with Arminius on some things (e.g. he rejected unconditional election as do I) I also disagree with Arminius on other things (he had a more Calvinistic conception of depravity than I do, he practiced infant baptism, he held to covenant theology).

    Actually one of my purposes for being here is to encourage Traditionalists in their battle against Calvinism and for traditional Baptist beliefs.

    I am perfectly happy to see “Traditionalists” remain “Traditionalists.”

    As I am informed about both Arminian beliefs and Traditionalist beliefs, I see a lot of overlap between these two positions (i.e. Traditionalists hold to what are often called Arminian beliefs and vice versa: e.g. a traditional Arminian belief is the rejection of unconditional election). I think that so-called Traditionalists and Arminians ought to work together against Calvinism. Calvinism is the problem not the beliefs of Traditionalists or Arminians. But of course some will then claim that all Arminians believe that you can lose your salvation and Baptists do not, therefore Baptists are not Arminians. But rather than rushing to put labels on others and so pigeonholing them, I suggest the focus be on specific beliefs. Traditionalists and Arminians can agree that unconditional election is false, irresistible grace is false, limited atonement is false. If you reject these beliefs you are rejecting Calvinism regardless of what you call yourself.

    “While folks here at SBC Today have repeatedly stated that they were neither Calvinist nor Arminian (reference articles by both brothers Adam Harwood and Malcolm Yarnell, and others), Robert continues to insist folks here only “claim” not to be Arminians.”

    This is another false claim by Phillip, when have I said that “folks here only ‘claim’ not to be Arminians”?

    Give me one example Phillip.

    Don’t bother trying because you will not be able to do so.

    My position is not that folks here are “closet Arminians”, my position is that Calvinism is the problem and is what ought to be opposed by both those who view themselves as Arminian and those who view themselves as Traditionalists. I really don’t care what you call yourself, what I want to know is what you actually believe. And from what I have seen there is a lot of overlap between those who see themselves as Traditionalists and Arminians.

    “Say something negative about Calvinism and Robert is quick to jump aboard (and, at times, rightfully so). Yet say anything remotely negative about Arminianism and be prepared for a very Calvinistic response.”

    Another false claim by Phillip. I agree that I have problems with Calvinism. But what negative things about Arminians has been said here? The only things I have seen is the claim that Arminians all reject eternal security (this is not true, while most reject eternal security some hold to it) and the claim that Traditionalists are not Arminians. But again I see a lot of overlap between the two.

    “Again, I honestly appreciate the dialogue and look forward to hearing/reading more regarding this subject.”

    And I would appreciate it if Phillip stops making false claims and trying to label people with ridiculous labels like “one point Calvinist” and “closet Arminian”. Phillip invents terms but when confronted refuses to define his terms. This makes for neither honest nor rational discussion.

    Oh, and now all of you “Traditionalists” ought to seriously consider converting to Arminianism.

    Robert

phillip

Ronnie (and those who reject the label of Calvinist and Arminian),

The ramblings above by Robert are just that…. ramblings. Anyone who has been reading along already knows the truth, so I will leave it at that. Robert is just upset now because he has been exposed. But notice he, once again, danced around the question of being a card carrying member of the Society For Evangelical Arminians.

However, earlier, Robert questioned my studies and considered them lacking. Therefore I will provide the following…..

One Calvinist writes regarding “Classical Arminianism: Imputed Sin and Total Inability” ….

“Calvinists and classical Arminians do not disagree on the nature of Adam’s fall or its effects on Adam’s posterity. We agree that Adam’s sin is imputed to those in him and that they inherit a condemned status as well as a polluted nature from him by virtue of his headship. The will of fallen humanity is so incapacitated by the fall that no salvation is possible apart from God’s special saving grace. We find happy agreement in all these areas, both sides rejecting all forms of Pelagianism and affirming Augustinianism instead. We disagree on the nature of God’s special saving grace, but that’s another topic for another day.”

Classical and prominent Arminian Roger Olson writes…..

“A classical Arminian would never deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will. Classical Arminianism (as I have demonstrated in Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities) strongly affirms the bondage of the will to sin before and apart from prevenient grace’s liberating work.”

Liberating defined…

“…release (someone) from a state or situation that limits freedom of thought or behavior.”

Now compare that with the definition of TD/TI I found on-line….

“Total depravity (also called radical corruption, or pervasive depravity), is a theological doctrine derived from the Augustinian concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.”

Notice the language. Almost word for word. When a Calvinist says “efficacious or prevenient grace” he means “regeneration precedes faith”. When the Classical Arminian says “efficacious or prevenient grace” he means “released from the bondage of sin”. Both Calvinists and Classical Arminians embrace the condition (TD/TI) they just differ in the solution.

And just today another post of the Traditional Statement under Article 2: The Sinfulness of Man states…

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned. While no sinner is remotely capable of achieving salvation through his own effort, we deny that any sinner is saved apart from a free response to the Holy Spirit’s drawing through the Gospel.”

O my! Here we go again!!!

Robert writes regarding what I said…….

“Notice he says that ‘classical Arminians’ hold to the Augustinian notion ‘and all its nuances’…..Well that is false, Arminians do not believe that a person has to be regenerated first before they can believe as do the Calvinists following Augustine. So right there his statement is absolutely false. It appears that Phillip wants to lump in Arminians with Calvinists as if they all hold the same view of depravity. This is just not true which lacks Phillip’s ‘studies’ on the issue of depravity have been lacking.”

Sadly for Robert “regeneration precedes faith” doesn’t fall under the description of TD, but rather under Irresistible Grace. Irresistible Grace is the Calvinistic solution for TD.

Ronnie (and other brothers and sisters in Christ), I apologize for the length of this post. I just wanted to provide ample proof that Calvinists and Classical Arminians share the same bed when it comes to TD/TI.

God bless.

Robert

I am writing two posts in response to Phillip, this first one showing that one can hold to Total depravity (TD) without holding to Calvinistic conceptions of it.

Notice Phillip’s apparent animosity (or hatred?) towards Calvinists and Arminians with his opening line:

“Ronnie (and those who reject the label of Calvinist and Arminian),”

Apparently what is essential to Phillip is that people not be either Calvinists or Arminians at all costs!

Now I can understand rejecting Calvinism, but why such a strong response against Arminianism as well?

I think the answer is simple; Phillip just cannot stand the doctrine of total depravity. He hates TD and so anyone who holds to TD has to be wrong. He just thinks this is the worst possible thing to believe. So anyone who holds to total depravity is just way off base in Phillip’s eyes.

This is really a foolish mistake to be making because one can be a Calvinist and hold to TD and one can be an Arminian and hold to TD, one can even be a Traditionalist and hold to TD. This is so because in fact different people have different conceptions of TD. Put another way just because someone says they believe in TD, that is not enough, you have to determine what they mean by TD.

The reality is that there are differing conceptions of TD. I hold to TD but my conception is not like that of Calvinists nor is it like that of Jacob Arminius (yet Phillip being misinformed in this area thinks that any conception of TD is automatically “Augustinian” and also automatically wrong). My conception of TD is like that of Ronnie’s. Ronnie holds to TD, but his conception of it is not the same as a Calvinist.

We should remember what got Phillip going in **this very thread** in the first place, Ronnie spoke of how a person must be grace enabled in order to have faith. Phillip saw this and thought that perhaps Ronnie held to TD so Phillip started questioning Ronnie about TD. Ronnie provided an excellent article attacking the false Calvinist idea of regeneration preceding faith. But THAT was not good enough for Phillip, he was angered by the possibility that Ronnie might actually hold to TD! Since TD is Phillip’s hobby horse he felt he had to make sure that Ronnie did not hold to TD.

Let’s look at a statement that Ronnie made on TD earlier in the thread:

“Man is a totally (extensively) depraved sinner and therefore utterly and unequivocally incapable of coming to God in any shape or fashion on his own. As long as man is in an unsaved state, he is a slave to sin etc. I have never denied nor minimized the biblical plight of man. I accept depravity as taught in the Scripture; however, I make no pretense about trying to satisfy a Calvinist definition of such which results in such unbiblical concepts as regeneration prior to faith so that man will believe because he cannot do anything else and that all preaching of the gospel is nothing more than a good faith offer (which actually means not a good offer to the non-elect for sure and the elect as well since they cannot respond without unconditional election—another unbiblical concept in my opinion and selective regeneration).”

And let’s break this down further.

““Man is a totally (extensively) depraved sinner and therefore utterly and unequivocally incapable of coming to God in any shape or fashion on his own.”

This a good statement of the biblical conception of TD (i.e. that sin has affected very aspect of mankind and so the result is that we cannot come to God on our own without a grace enablement).

“As long as man is in an unsaved state, he is a slave to sin etc. I have never denied nor minimized the biblical plight of man.”

Here Ronnie is making reference to the fact that the Bible provides certain descriptions of the nonbeliever (slave to sin, etc.) and that Ronnie believes them (“I have never denied nor minimized the biblical plight of man”). The biblical plight of man by the way is due to the effects of TD. So Ronnie clearly believes in TD: he just does not hold to the Calvinistic conception of it as he makes clear in the very next line:

“I accept depravity as taught in the Scripture; however, I make no pretense about trying to satisfy a Calvinist definition of such which results in such unbiblical concepts as regeneration prior to faith so that man will believe because he cannot do anything else and that all preaching of the gospel is nothing more than a good faith offer (which actually means not a good offer to the non-elect for sure and the elect as well since they cannot respond without unconditional election—another unbiblical concept in my opinion and selective regeneration).”

So there it is, Ronnie holds to a **biblical conception of TD**, he holds to TD, JUST NOT THE CALVINISTIC CONCEPTION OF TD. It is the Calvinistic conception of it that leads to such false ideas as regeneration preceding faith, etc. And that is the crucial point, Ronnie is a Traditionalist and yet he holds to TD but not the same conception of TD as a Calvinist. I agree with Ronnie on TD because I believe that we share the same view of it.

I have read Ronnie’s book against Calvinism and seen his other posts here at SBC today, he and I agree on TD. We both believe that a person cannot come to faith in Christ without being grace enabled. We believe in the biblical conception of TD though not the Calvinistic conception of TD. And THAT is what Phillip for whatever reasons just cannot fathom: that a person could hold to TD while not holding to the Calvinistic conception of TD. So Phillip rants and rages against TD and any evidence that a person might hold to it. Unfortunately, this is what a Pelagian would do, not someone informed about theology and knowing the doctrine of TD is biblical.

Robert

Robert

In his prior post Phillip accused me of being a “closet Arminian” (cf. “Yet, Robert (who claims he doesn’t play games) refused to answer. So the label “Closet Arminian””) and claimed that my purpose for being here is to convert people to Arminianism (cf. ““It seems Robert has two goals here at SBC Today. To denounce Calvinism. And convert others to Arminianism.”).

I refuted those claims in my previous post.

Yet Phillip continues to want to pigeonhole me as an “Arminian.”

And I continue to ask what does Phillip mean by “Arminian”?

If he wants to label me as one: he should at least be able to define the term: right?

But he refuses to do so.

Why is that?

Now Phillip sounds a bit paranoid and claims:

“The ramblings above by Robert are just that…. ramblings. Anyone who has been reading along already knows the truth, so I will leave it at that. Robert is just upset now because he has been exposed.”

Exposed as what?

A “closet Arminian”?

As Phillip claims.

A “one point Calvinist”?

As Phillip claims.

Trying to convert all Traditionalists into Arminians?

As Phillip claims.

Phillip slings these charges around but provides absolutely no evidence for his ridiculous claims.

Since no one else is agreeing with these claims or even making these claims against me (except for Phillip) I conclude these are Phillip’s false and unsubstantiated claims.

“But notice he, once again, danced around the question of being a card carrying member of the Society For Evangelical Arminians.”

He wants to claim that I am an Arminian, I get that, Ok, so how does he define an Arminian?

“However, earlier, Robert questioned my studies and considered them lacking. “

I do question Phillip’s “studies” as his posts manifests ignorance regarding theology. He repeatedly does not know what he is talking about and fails to define the terms he is using. For example Ronnie holds to TD as do I, so does that make us both “Arminians”? Or is it possible that Ronnie and I hold to TD but we do not hold to the conception of TD held by Calvinists?

Is it possible for that matter that different people hold to different conceptions of TD?

Is it possible that some conceptions of TD are biblical and some are not?

From my reading of those who call themselves “Traditionalists” here, they hold to TD they just do not hold to the conception of TD held by Calvinists, again Ronnie provides a perfect example of this. Ronnie knows the Bible and knows theology and he does not deny what could be called a biblical conception of TD, he just rejects the Calvinistic conception of TD. I agree with Ronnie, there is a biblical conception of TD and the Calvinistic conception of TD is not biblical.

This is one of the things I most enjoy and respect about those who call themselves Traditionalists here: they deny Calvinism but they do not deny what the Bible teaches. They affirm what the Bible teaches while simultaneously rejecting Calvinism. Which shows one can be biblical and without being a Calvinist. So they will say that they disagree with the Calvinistic conception of depravity but not what the Bible says about depravity. They will say they disagree with the Calvinists views on grace but they believe a person must be grace enabled to have a faith response to the gospel. They believe a person is spiritually dead which means separated from God but they do not believe as Calvinists do that spiritual death means the nonbeliever is like a physically dead corpse incapable of doing anything. The more that I see and read what Traditionalists say here the more I am persuaded their views are my views and that their views are biblical. So why do I need to persuade them to convert to anything else?

Of course I admit I am biased, as a Baptist I find the teachings of “Traditionalists” to be what the Bible teaches and what Baptists have always believed. If you really must label me, label me as a “Bible believing Baptist”. That means I affirm believer baptism as against infant baptism and covenant theology. That means I affirm that a genuine believer cannot lose their salvation as against those who claim that a genuine believer can be lost. That means I affirm what the Bible says about depravity, election, grace, the atonement of Christ: while denying what Calvinists say about these things.

Robert

phillip

All,

Let me see. So far Robert has accused me of being ignorant (of theology no less), a Pelagian, a non-Christian Cultist, a Hater and who knows what else. All of these out of sheer rage. Talk about depravity.

I really don’t understand why Robert won’t share his membership status with us. There’s no shame in being an Arminian, or even being a member of the SEA. Arminians and Calvinists alike are still our brothers and sisters in Christ. While I am disappointed with Robert’s tone, language, and demeanor (and I have come across the same in discussions with other classical Arminians and Calvinists) he is still my brother in Christ. And I am happy to call him my brother.

Bless his heart, he has painted himself into such a corner, he has almost made it impossible to step forward.

I went to the Society of Evangelical Arminians homepage and found the following…

“If you agree with our statement of faith and our recognition of Calvinists as fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, and you are committed to engaging this issue with love and respect for all…”

Then I thought “maybe Robert isn’t a member after all?”

Nah….He’s a member. Maybe someday Robert will “come out”.

Again, I think it best to move on. The language only continues to become less and less edifying.

God bless you all.

    Robert

    Phillip’s parting shot is sad but quite predictable .

    “Let me see. So far Robert has accused me of being ignorant (of theology no less), a Pelagian, a non-Christian Cultist, a Hater and who knows what else. All of these out of sheer rage. Talk about depravity.”

    First of all there is no “sheer rage” on my part. Phillip is the one who has been acting paranoid with his attempts at labeling me and claim that my purpose for being here is to convert others to Arminianism.

    Second, note Phillip is now attacking me as “depraved” in the negative sense as morally corrupt (“Talk about depravity”).

    Third, his ignorance is not regarding all theological issues, he is manifesting ignorance concerning Total depravity his hobby horse however. Someone who actually knew what they were talking about regarding TD would know that there are differing conceptions of TD and not all of them are false or unbiblical. The Calvinistic conception, the non-Calvinistic conceptions, the conception of TD held within Catholicism, etc.

    “I really don’t understand why Robert won’t share his membership status with us.”

    It is very simple, I have asked Phillip repeatedly what his definition of an Arminian is. The reason is simple, there are many mischaracterizations of Arminians, Calvinists. Traditionalists, etc. on the internet. I don’t want to be unfairly labelled as something I am not. I have had many people (******including Phillip himself******* who has labelled me a “one-point Calvinist” and “closet Arminian”) attribute false labels to me. I, like anyone else, does not appreciate being falsely labeled and falsely charge. To avoid this I want to know his definition of Arminian first. Then I can say whether or not I fit his definition.

    “While I am disappointed with Robert’s tone, language, and demeanor (and I have come across the same in discussions with other classical Arminians and Calvinists) he is still my brother in Christ. And I am happy to call him my brother.”

    Sorry, I cannot accept this as being sincere or true.

    Someone who is happy to call another Christian “my brother” is not going to **simultaneously** be claiming that the other person is speaking out of sheer rage and is morally depraved.

    He is also not going to continue slinging out the false labels and charges. And his claim that the other person is causing him to be “disappointed with Robert’s tone, language,” is also empty and meaningless.

    “Bless his heart, he has painted himself into such a corner, he has almost made it impossible to step forward.”

    Painted into what corner? Again I am very transparent about what I believe and I have no reason or need to hide my beliefs. I have been completely up front about what I believe. I am a Baptist who rejects infant baptism, rejects covenant theology, rejects Calvinism, affirms that we cannot lose our salvation, affirms other Baptist beliefs as well (including local church autonomy), rejects unconditional election, rejects limited atonement affirms unlimited atonement, rejects irresistible grace affirms that God’s grace can be resisted, rejects determinism of all forms including compatibilism and believes in free will as ordinarily understood. I have reminded people many times that if you have the truth there is no need to hide, no need to misrepresent others, no need to play games. And as Baptists that is precisely where we are: our set of beliefs are biblically based and they are true. So as Baptists we really do not need to play games and misrepresent others.

    “Maybe someday Robert will “come out”.”

    There is the “closet Arminian” charge **yet again**, from the same guy who earlier wrote:

    “While I am disappointed with Robert’s tone, language, and demeanor”

    Phillip also wrote:

    “Again, I think it best to move on. The language only continues to become less and less edifying.”

    This is a bit hypocritical for Phillip to say, he speaks of how the “language only continues to become less and less edifying”.

    And who is saying that I am morally depraved in this same post?

    And who is saying that I am writing out of “sheer rage” in this same post?

    Who continues to label me as a “closet Arminian” who needs to come out?

    Phillip needs to educate himself more on the issue of Total depravity so that he stops making the mistake of claiming that all conceptions of TD are Calvinistic and false. He also needs to stop trying to pin labels on people. He needs to restrict himself to discussing the beliefs that people actually hold rather than trying to attribute false things to them.

    As for myself, I will continue to post here and continue to encourage Traditionalists as they battle the theological errors of Calvinism. Traditionalists know all about being falsely labelled as well. Calvinists unfortunately often resort to false labels to discredit and attack those who are not Calvinists. The common ones are that we are Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians. That we “are talking back to God” when we question calvinism. That we are prideful for questioning Calvinism. That we are unbiblical for rejecting Calvinism. I hope Traditionalists continue to be successful in providing SBC Baptists with a biblical alternative to the false theology of Calvinism.

    Robert

rhutchin

Pastor Rogers writes, “To be a consistent Calvinist, a person must believe that the Bible teaches God limits His redemptive love toward His creation and that limited love is more reflective of God being the sum of perfect love than God extending His salvational love to all of His creation. Of course, the perennial problem with the Calvinist’s perspective is the explicit claims of Scripture to the contrary.”

I am getting into this discussion late, but I read it earlier and just got confused about the opening. If I may translate the first sentence, it just means that Calvinism opposes the Universalist view that God will save all people. In addition, God knew those whom He would save when He created the universe and He knew those that would not be saved because they would not believe and God would not intervene to change their circumstances – they are the reprobate by their own actions and be being passed over by God. It would have taken an act of God to save the reprobate, so what would that act be? The Calvinists call that act regeneration and from it would proceed the expression of faith unto salvation.

The question concerns those who are not reprobate. Did it also take an act of God to bring them to salvation. The Calvinist says, Yes, and identifies that act as regeneration.

Is it true that, “Of course, the perennial problem with the Calvinist’s perspective is the explicit claims of Scripture to the contrary.” I was not convinced of this by the rest of the article.

Byroniac

Hello. I’m not a Christian (ex-Baptist ex-Calvinist). However, it seems to me that non-Calvinists with traditional understandings of omniscience face another problem: God loving those people He has already foreknown would never accept him or come into his salvation, that they are essentially predestined (at least in a passive sense) to eternal conscious torment in Hell, yet he created them anyway. How do you respond to this? In my opinion, and I am simply asking this out of curiosity, it seems that Calvinists have the more logical answer to this scenario.

    Andrew Barker

    Hello Byroniac. An interesting post, not so much for what it says but what it doesn’t say and what you have inferred from your past encounter with Calvinism.

    The presence of evil in the world and how it came to be there is a question for all Christians. But I cannot see your reasoning for asserting that this is more of a problem for the non-Calvinist. Is it not correct that Calvinists say that God is sovereign he determines all things? Does this not leave them with the problem of explaining how God doesn’t determine evil? If God chooses the elect for and of his own good pleasure, does that not give the Calvinist some questions to answer as to just why God does this? After all, there is nothing which compels God to create a non-elect class of people is there?

    As far as predestination goes, it is the Calvinist’s who hold that people are predestined before the foundation of the world to either heaven of hell. Those Calvinists who find this a bit strong fall back on the view that everybody was originally marked as deserving of eternal damnation but in God’s grace he saved an ‘elect’ number! It’s fine if your one of the ‘chosen’ but otherwise?! But neither doctrine is held by the majority of non-Calvinists.

    It seems to me that you’ve got your facts mixed up a bit and that if anything, it is the Calvinists who have more questions to answer in this respect. Of course, I may just be reading you incorrectly. Perhaps if you want to respond you could explain what it is about the Calvinist system which you find more logical? I for one can’t see it.

      rhutchin

      Andrew Barker writes, “As far as predestination goes, it is the Calvinist’s who hold that people are predestined before the foundation of the world to either heaven of hell.”

      All things must be predestined by God or else God is not omniscient.

        Robert

        Rhutchin is trying to overwhelm us with his unfounded and completely unsubstanciated assertions. Here is one he has said over and over and over again:

        “All things must be predestined by God or else God is not omniscient.”

        Who says so?

        Rhutchin.

        Who says this is true?

        Well rhutchin says so.

        And my response to this assertion is SO WHAT.

        God can be and is omniscient without predestinating everything.

        Calvinists say that God cannot be omniscient unless he predestines all things. But the Bible never says this. Logic never establishes this. It is just a bald assertion with no evidence and no support.

        Traditionalists, Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, and all other non-Calvinist Christians reject rhutchin’s claim. rhutchin’s claim is the minority position within church history, and always has been, so why should we change now? The church has been rejecting this assertion for hundreds of years and will continue to do so no matter how many times rhutchin huffs and puffs and tries to blow our house down with his/this empty assertion.

        Robert

          rhutchin

          Robert writes, “God can be and is omniscient without predestinating everything.”

          As a technical note, people have used predestine the same as ordain. It is certain that God has ordained all that occurs. This is because God’s knowledge of future events is infallible and was so before the foundation of the world. When God created the universe, He made the future certain. Nothing could then deviate from that which God knew was to be.

          Perhaps Robert can explain how the future is not certain (without denying omniscience as the Open Theists have been forced to do). If not, he has no argument.

    Andy

    Byroniac,

    I believe the non-Calvinist answer would simply be that God, while knowing some of the people he creates would not choose salvation in Christ, created them anyway because by doing so, he actually gives them the choice, rather than a hypothetical choice of which he knows the outcome. In the non-calvinist framework, free-will is required for love, and so free-will of an individual is elevated above even their ultimate good.

    Of course calvinists have a different problem. Even the softest possible infralapsarianism, God created people knowing all would sin and become depraved, and then for many, NOT elect them to salvation, not to change their rebellious hearts so they will accept him, and not even to restore them to their pre-fall state so they could make the same free, non-sinful-nature-influenced decision that Adam and Eve made. In Calvinism, God simply elects to save some, while deciding not to save others.

    A comparison to parenting helps to illuminate that no system is without problems:

    If Calvinism is true, then I can say that I love my child more than God does, because if my child is not elect, then while I, who do not have all power, would do anything to change my rebellious child’s heart…God, who does have all power to change hearts, has elected NOT to do so in my child’s specific case.

    If Traditionalism is true, then I too can say I love my child more than God does; because if I see my child rebelling against God, I as a parent, if I had the power, would gladly overcome my child’s will and change their heart, so that their own stubbornness would not lead to their eternal ruin. I value my child’s eternal good over his freedom of will. However, in traditionalism, God would not do that, because he values a person’s freedom of choice OVER their eternal salvation.

    Such questions can, and have led some to abandon the faith. However, the cross prevents me from doing so. The historical evidence that there really was a man named Jesus who rose from the dead 2000 years ago is very overwhelming, and if God cares enough about me and my fellow man to send his own son to become a man, and die for mankind, then I believe I can trust him to work these questions out when I cannot. I don’t know all the answers to the way God’s mind works, but when I survey the wondrous cross; I can trust his heart.

    I pray that you will again someday too.

    -Andy

      Robert

      Hello Andy,

      You brought up a comparison involving parenting to show that “no system is without problems”:

      [[“If Calvinism is true, then I can say that I love my child more than God does, because if my child is not elect, then while I, who do not have all power, would do anything to change my rebellious child’s heart…God, who does have all power to change hearts, has elected NOT to do so in my child’s specific case.
      If Traditionalism is true, then I too can say I love my child more than God does; because if I see my child rebelling against God, I as a parent, if I had the power, would gladly overcome my child’s will and change their heart, so that their own stubbornness would not lead to their eternal ruin. I value my child’s eternal good over his freedom of will. However, in traditionalism, God would not do that, because he values a person’s freedom of choice OVER their eternal salvation.”]]

      I have a couple of problems with your analogy here that if valid mean this is not a good comparison between Calvinism and non-Calvinism. I know that you meant well by these scenarios but they have problems that you may not have considered.

      There is a tacit assumption here that is false, and this assumption drives both scenarios. The assumption is this: God could force a person to believe for their own good.

      In the Calvinistic scenario you present here: God could force the child to become a believer for their own good (i.e. an eternal destiny as a saved person), but he does not do so because this particular child is not one of the elect.

      In the non-Calvinistic scenario God could force the child to become a believer for their own good (again an eternal destiny as a saved person) but he does not do so because you claim that he values “freedom of choice OVER their eternal salvation.”

      You also claim that the human parent in both instances loves the child more than God because the human parent would force the child to believe for their own good while God will not do so because either they are not elect (Calvinist scenario) or he values freedom of choice OVER their eternal salvation (non-Calvinist scenario).

      Your whole analogy here is based on this assumption that God could force the child to believe but in calvinism he does not do so if they are not elect and in non-Calvinism he does not do so because he values freedom of choice more than their salvation.
      I believe this assumption is false and here is my explanation for why.

      If we ask if God has the power to force someone to believe (even against their will) we would answer Yes. If the issue is power alone, he certainly has the power to do it. Nowhere in the Bible however does it say that God values freedom of choice over a person being saved. It does say multiple times however in the Bible that God saves people through faith (this is especially clear in the book of Romans). This means that God’s plan of salvation involves people being saved through faith. The Bible is equally clear that a person is not saved through their doing works. So God sticks to this plan of salvation and will not deviate from it or make exceptions to it. And this is not because he lacks the power to do things differently.

      I had one guy ask me once (after I had explained that God’s plan of salvation is through faith and not works): “why can’t God make an exception and allow this person over here to be saved by doing good works, doesn’t God have the power to do that?” I explained it is not an issue of power but of His own plan. I explained that “He cannot deny Himself”/he cannot (and will not) contradict His own plan of salvation. God says whether you are Jew or Gentile, you are not saved through works but by faith. This was the big stumbling block for Jews in the first century. Instead of believing you were saved through faith in Christ they were trying to be saved through their keeping of the Jewish law. And the NT writers multiple ways and repeatedly argued that it is only through faith not works (including keeping the Jewish law) that a person is saved.

      Well if that is true then God’s plan is only and always through faith. And that faith is a freely made choice (which partly explains why Jesus could get angry at people’s unbelief, they were making the wrong choice and not trusting when they should have been choosing to trust). Then if God’s plan of salvation involves a freely made choice to trust Him alone for salvation and if He will not contradict His own plan of salvation: then God will not use his power to force a person to believe.

      He will not do it not because he lacks the power but because to do so would contradict His own plan of salvation.

      That being true the analogy above breaks down as God will not force people to believe according to non-Calvinists. Now Calvinists may believe (and some actually do believe) that God forces people to believe: but that is not the non-Christian belief. In non-Calvinism salvation is through faith and this faith is freely chosen not something forced upon people against their wills. God desires for people who freely choose to trust Him alone to save them.

      There is one other major problem with the scenarios above: in both scenarios it is suggested that the human parent loves the child more than God does (because while God would not force the child to believe because they are not elect or He values freedom of choice over them being saved: the parent on the other hand would force them to believe for their own good). This is also false and inaccurate because as scripture states it: there is no greater love, no greater gift than the giving of the Son/Jesus for the sins of the whole world by the Father (cf. Romans 8:31-39, John 3:16, etc.). There is no gift that a human person can give to a child that is greater than the giving of Jesus by the Father. There is no greater demonstration of love for human persons then the giving of Jesus by the Father. Based on these two problems then (i.e. that the assumption that God could force a person to believe is false and the parent loving the child more than God loves people is also false) these scenarios are not good representations of the non-Calvinistic position. If you are going to present the non-Calvinist position remember that it involves God demonstrating the greatest love for human beings in His sending of Jesus AND God’s plan of salvation involving a freely chosen faith. God designed this plan of salvation and He is not going to contradict His own plan and we need to keep this is mind when contrasting calvinism and non-Calvinism.

      Robert

    Robert

    “Byroniac” claims that Traditionalists have a problem:

    “However, it seems to me that non-Calvinists with traditional understandings of omniscience face another problem: God loving those people He has already foreknown would never accept him or come into his salvation, that they are essentially predestined (at least in a passive sense) to eternal conscious torment in Hell, yet he created them anyway. How do you respond to this?”

    In the prison system there is a common joke going around and it goes like this: “Upon his arrest a prisoner [let’s call him “Joe”] responds: “Don’t arrest me for this crime, you are making a big mistake, arrest my parents, if they had not created me then this crime never would have happened!” Most of us laugh at Joe’s reply because we immediately recognize that he has a misunderstanding regarding causation. Joe does not accept that he is responsible for his crime because the crime was his choice, he actualized the choice not his parents. Now it is true that if not for the fact that his parents had not created him through their intimacy, the crime would not have been possible. But Joe is confused about the distinction between what makes some event possible and what makes something actual. The parent’s actions made his crime possible, it is true had they never been intimate then it would not have been possible for Joe to choose to commit the crime: but it was Joe’s choice which made the crime actual. Joe if he was acting freely (and Traditionalists believe in genuine free will as ordinarily understood) could have and should have chosen to do otherwise, to not commit the crime.

    Byroniac talks about God supposedly predestining folks to hell “passively” via his foreknowledge (i.e. God foreknew that they would end up in hell yet “he created” them anyway). This “reasoning “is remarkably similar to Joe’s reasoning as to why his parents not he, ought to be blamed for his criminal act.

    God’s foreknowledge concerns future events that God knows will in fact take place. But his knowing that the event will take place does not cause it to take place, does not bring about Joe’s choice. This is a common misunderstanding among both Calvinists and atheists as both of these groups have argued in this way against the Traditional view of foreknowledge. This misunderstanding completely leaves out the reality that at least sometimes people make genuinely free choices when they could have (and in the case of crimes and other wrongdoing) should have done otherwise.

    Let’s say that Joe’s crime was to car jack a car and then drive to a bank and attempt a holdup and during the holdup Joe attacked the teller with a hammer. Most of us blame Joe for the crime not other persons or events, as well we should.

    We can ask some questions to make this more clear.

    Say that Joe was recently paroled from prison and as he had no place to stay was living with his parents. While there the mailman brought some mail including a Home Depot advertisement about a sale on hammers. Joe walked to a nearby gas station and did a carjacking (without a weapon pretending to have a weapon in his jacket). Tom the victim not knowing Joe had a weapon gave in and allowed the carjacking without struggle (Q = Should Tom be to blame for Joe’s later crime of attacking the teller with the hammer, because had Tom not given in, Joe would not have had the car he used to drive to the bank were the crime was perpetrated?). And Q= what about the mailman, had he not dropped off the ad about the sale on hammers then Joe would not have gone there to buy the hammer which was later used to do the crime? Then there is Home Depot: Q= if they had not sold the hammer to Joe he would not have had it to use to attack the teller, is Home Depot to blame for the crime? Then Q= what about the hammer manufacturer, they created the hammer, are they to blame for the crime? Q= What about the person at the factory who created the hammer, are they to blame for the crime? The car Joe carjacked was a Honda, Q = was Honda the man who invented the Honda responsible because he created the Honda which took Joe to the bank? And prior to the bank being at its location say it was a bookstore previously and the manager was so inept that the store closed and the bank later bought the building: Q = is the inept manage to blame for the crime because had he not been so inept then the bank would not have been there for Joe to commit his crime? And how about the construction firm that created the building where the bank is located, Q = if they had not created the building then Joe could not have done his crime at the building, are they to blame for the crime? Q = And what about the people who designed and built the roads that Joe drove on to get to the bank, are they to blame for his crime? And then what about Joe’s grandparents Q = if they had not created Joe’s parents then Joe would not have been around to commit the crime are they to blame? And Q = how about their parents and their parents and their parents? Q =Do we blame Adam and Eve because had they not procreated there would have been no Joe to commit the crime? Or how about God Q = he created the first persons is he therefore to blame for Joe’s crime?

    These questions (and they can be multiplied much more and in all sorts of directions and it actually becomes quite comical) show that some events may make some consequent event possible while not making the possibility actual.

    Note that Byroniac added that phrase “yet he created them anyway”. God does not create hell bound persons according to Traditionalists, it results from them making the wrong choices for a lifetime (including them repeatedly choosing to reject God’s grace towards them in the form of sermons they hear, and witnessing by believers that they reject, etc.). One of the problems with byroniacs question is that (as stated) it does not include the reality of free will and how this works out when it comes to the actualizing of different possibilities. Byroniacs question instead assumes exhaustive determinism to be true (God creates people for hell so they never had a choice about it), a premise Traditionalists reject.

    Traditionalists understand that in the case of Joe we should not blame his parents, his grandparents, Adam and Eve, Tom the victim of the carjacking, Home Depot, the inept bookstore manager, the construction firm, etc. etc. for his crime, though his crime could not have been possible without these other events. We understand this distinction between events making consequent events possible versus choices that make one possibility actual rather than other possibilities. Put another way despite the events that happened prior to the crime, what if Joe instead of choosing to commit the crime, instead considered that he did not want to go back to prison and so he chose instead never to walk into the bank and so the crime never would have occurred (despite all the other events that occurred before he made his choice).

    It is Calvinism which affirms all events are predestined by God/ exhaustive determinism, so it is Calvinism not Traditionalists that have problems with this because everything is predestined and controlled by God to occur as it does and there is no free will. So in consistent Calvinism God **is** to blame for everything because he decrees whatsoever comes to pass with no exceptions. In Calvinism he **does** **create** people for hell (this is their false doctrine of reprobation a doctrine that Traditionalists reject) and ensures they end up there by predestinating their every choice and action.

    Byroniac’s question is just as confused as Joe’s explanation that his parents are to blame for the crime because if not for the fact they created him the crime would not have occurred. Apparently Byroniac has not thought through the difference between one event making another event possible, and a specific choice making one possibility actual when other possibilities could have been actualized but were not chosen. Byroniac and other atheists and Calvinists need to go back to the drawing board to come up with some other argument against Traditionalists, this one is as laughable as blaming Joe’s parents for the crime rather than him!

    Robert

      Robert

      The second mistake present in byroniac’s question is the false assumption that Gods’ foreknowledge is causative. God’s foreknowledge does not cause our choices or cause our actions. Traditionalists believe that God knows every event in the future that will in fact take place (i.e. God has exhaustive foreknowledge of the future). That is not at issue, in fact that has been the position of Christians across the board including Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants. Unfortunately, atheists, Calvinists and open theists do not believe that God can foreknow all future events if genuine free will is involved. So one of their common attacks is to argue that if God foreknows all future events, then that is supposedly tantamount to God creating people for hell. God foreknows they will go to hell, his foreknowledge cannot be wrong, so it is impossible for these hell bound persons to have done otherwise than what God foreknew they would do, so God as byroniac suggests “passively” predestined them to hell.

      There are some major, major problems with this argument of atheists, Calvinists and open theists. Two that I talked about in my prior post (i.e. this argument neglects the reality of free will, and this argument fails to distinguish between an event making a future event possible and a possibility being made actual by a person’s choice).

      Let’s return to the example of Joe’s crime to illustrate these problems. It bears repeating that Traditionalists believe that at least sometimes people have genuine free will. So in line with Traditionalist beliefs on free will Joe had a choice regarding his committing the crime of attacking the bank teller with a hammer. While freely choosing may involve multiple alternative possibilities let’s limit ourselves to only two for explanatory purposes (so assume that there are only two choices available to Joe). Scenario A = he could choose to attack the teller with the hammer. Scenario B = he could choose not to attack the teller with the hammer.

      Now the traditional understanding of free will and foreknowledge is that whichever choice Joe in fact makes God would foreknow that he would make that particular choice. If Scenario A will occur in the future, then God knows that in the future Joe will in fact choose to attack the teller with the hammer. If Scenario B will occur in the future, then God knows that in the future Joe will not choose to attack the teller with the hammer. If either scenario occurs, in either case God’s foreknowledge would be correct. This is true because by definition, we define God’s foreknowledge as knowing what will in fact occur. So if in fact Scenario A will occur, then that is what God foreknows will occur (and likewise if in fact Scenario B will occur, then that is what God foreknows will occur).

      Now the question missed by people like byroniac and also Calvinists and open theists is this one: in either scenario, what actually causes Joe’s choice, is it Joe or is it God’s foreknowledge? It is not God’s foreknowledge it is Joe. If Joe chooses to attack the teller then it was Joe who actualized that possibility: If Joe chooses not to attack the teller then it was Joe who actualized that possibility. In either case, God’s foreknowledge does not cause a thing.

      Put it another way, assume that God does not even exist, and assume Joe has those same two scenarios (attack the teller with the hammer or not attack the teller with the hammer). If God does not exist and Joe chooses to attack the teller, then clearly it was Joe who chose to actualize that possibility: and likewise if God does not exist and Joe chooses not to attack the teller, then it was clearly Joe who chose to actualize that possibility. In either case, it was Joe who actualized the possibility which became the actual event.

      Now atheists and Calvinists and open theists like to bring up God’s foreknowledge AS IF it is a force in the universe that causes events to occur or not occur. But God’s foreknowledge is not a force, instead it is the correspondence of God’s beliefs about the future with the events in the future that will take place. It is always correct because His knowledge always corresponds perfectly with what will in fact occur. But here is the key, and this is critical, God’s knowledge does not cause the future event to occur or not occur.

      Consider God’s knowledge of the present. God knows I am typing this post, but his knowledge per se does not cause this event of me typing this post to occur. If I instead chose not to type this post, if God knows what is happening now in the present, his knowledge per se does not cause me not to type this post either. In either case, it is my choice that actualizes one possibility and not another. We don’t freak out about this when it comes to the present (we believe that God knows what is happening) and the past (we believe that God knows what in fact occurred in the past exhaustively), but some people try to freak us out and disturb us by appealing to God’s knowledge of the future (i.e. foreknowledge). As if his knowledge causes these future events to occur or not occur, but his knowledge alone does not cause anything to occur or not occur. God’s knowledge of past events did not cause those events to occur. His knowledge of present events does not cause those events to occur. And his knowledge of future events does not cause those events to occur.

      And to believe that it does again, completely leaves out the reality of genuine freely made choices. If God foreknows that Joe will commit that crime in the future, it is not God’s knowledge that causes or brings about that crime, it is Joe’s choice to do so that makes the crime occur. If Joe instead chooses not to commit the crime then the crime will not occur and God foreknows that Joe will not commit that crime in the future.

      God’s foreknowledge would not have caused Joe to commit the crime or to refrain from committing the crime. Instead it was Joe’s choice that determined which possibility was actualized. And this choice was not necessitated by any of the prior events.

      If you understand these things you can then see why byroniac’s question is so off base. The question assumes that Gods’ foreknowledge is causative, so if something happens in the future God caused that, if something else happens then God caused that. What the question leaves out is the possibility that the future will include events that occur as a result of freely made choices. These freely made choices are not caused to occur by God’s foreknowledge (because his foreknowledge is not a causative force) rather they are caused to occur by freely made choices.

      And this is especially true of someone who ends up in hell. God’s knowledge of their life (the past, present and future) is not what caused them to end up in hell. What led to their eternal destiny was their repeatedly choosing to reject God and his grace over and over for their entire lifetime. God did not take over their wills and minds and make sure they kept choosing to reject him and his grace towards them. Instead it would be like Joe keeps rejecting God every time God sends grace his way. Say Joe is convicted of his crime and goes to prison. Say there is a Bible study at the prison where Christians share with Joe. They encourage him to repent of his sin and turn to Jesus: He says No. This goes on for months and years. Joe keeps getting witnessed to and yet he keeps saying No. God did not cause him to say No, it was God who was sending believers to share with Joe! If Joe keeps saying No over his entire lifetimes it would be ridiculous to describe this as God creating Joe for hell via his foreknowledge. Yes God foreknew that Joe would keep saying No, but God’s foreknowledge did not cause Joe to say No. God did not create Joe for hell and predestine his every action and thought (as in Calvinism) to ensure he ends up in hell. Who alone is responsible for Joe’s No’s for his entire lifetime? Joe is. That is what Traditionalists believe and their view has no problem with either God’s foreknowledge or people having and making their own freely made choices. It is atheists and Calvinists and open theists who try to argue against free will and the Traditionalists with their pitifully weak arguments.

      Robert

      rhutchin

      Robert writes, “God’s foreknowledge concerns future events that God knows will in fact take place. But his knowing that the event will take place does not cause it to take place, does not bring about Joe’s choice. ”

      I don’t think Robert understands the issue here. The issue withGod’s knowledge of the future has nothing to do with causation; it has everything to do with certainty. Because of God’s knowledge of the future (whether omniscient or foreknowledge), the elect and reprobate are known to God when He creates the universe. Thus, God’s purpose for sending Christ to die on the cross can only be to save His elect; it can have nothing to do with the reprobate. As John Owen asked many times, What purpose would God have in sending Christ to die for those that He had no intent to save?

      If Robert wants to challenge Calvinist doctrine on this, he needs to address “certainty.” He wastes his time and the reader’s in writing about causation.

rhutchin

Andrew Barker writes, ” Is it not correct that Calvinists say that God is sovereign he determines all things?”

Sovereignty means that God exercises complete control over all things. God determines all things because He is omniscient with regard to the future and by creating the universe, God locks in everything that He knows about the universe. All things must be determined or else God is not omniscient (the conclusion the Open Theists arrived at causing them to reject the notion that God is omniscient with regard to the future).

    Robert

    Rhutchin says:

    “Sovereignty means that God exercises complete control over all things.”

    That is not the biblical definition of sovereignty at all. In the Bible the sovereignty of God means he has the right to do as He pleases in any situation. That is why when Christians who believe in His sovereignty will pray about a situation knowing that God could say heal the person but also may choose not to heal the person, it is His choice, it is up to him as He is sovereign.

    It does not mean that he controls all things so that people become robots, sock puppets with God’s arm in them causing them to do whatever they do.

    In fact, God’s sovereignty also does not mean that everything goes exactly the way he wants it to go. In the OT he wanted Israel to be obedient and be a witness to the other nations of God and yet over and over as a whole they failed and he was frustrated by them and angered by them (unless you don’t really believe what he says in the OT, unless you claim it was just “figures of speech” or other such nonsense).

    “God determines all things because He is omniscient with regard to the future and by creating the universe,”

    Just the same old empty Calvinistic assertion that rhutchin keeps making and making and making and making.

    It is as if rhutchin really believes that if he keeps making the same claims over and over again they will magically become true if you just say them enough times. Sorry, things don’t work that way.

    “God locks in everything that He knows about the universe. All things must be determined or else God is not omniscient”

    Didn’t we just see this empty and false assertion in rhutchin’s other post?

    When will he stop repeating his Calvinistic mantras over and over again. To be rejected again and again and again and . . .

    “ (the conclusion the Open Theists arrived at causing them to reject the notion that God is omniscient with regard to the future).”

    Traditionalists are not open theists nor are most other non-Calvinists. Actually what the open theists believe is irrelevant to this thread, it has nothing to do with what is being discussed here.

    Yet again rhutchin tries to take the discussion down some unnecessary rabbit trail.

    Robert

      rhutchin

      I do not think that Robert understands the concept of sovereignty.

      He objects to my explanation of sovereignty – “Sovereignty means that God exercises complete control over all things.”

      He then says, “In the Bible the sovereignty of God means he has the right to do as He pleases in any situation…It does not mean that he controls all things so that people become robots, sock puppets with God’s arm in them causing them to do whatever they do. In fact, God’s sovereignty also does not mean that everything goes exactly the way he wants it to go.”

      What does sovereignty entail? As sovereign, God has the final say in everything that happens. Before Satan can enter the garden to tempt Adam/Eve, God decides that Satan should do so. Satan expresses his will only by permission of God. As sovereign, God rules over all and nothing happens that is not directly caused by God, (e.g., the destruction of Sodom, the conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb) or by God’s decision to allow Satan or people to do as they will (e.g., Satan entering the garden, entering Judas to precipitate the events leading to the crucifixion, tempting Peter to divorce himself from the gentiles and be confronted by Paul). Behind every event, down to the vibration of an atom in some far off universe, is God’s decision to cause directly or permit others to act according to their will. God’s decisions are God’s will.

      God cannot be sovereign and not completely control all that happens. Robert was correct when he said, “the sovereignty of God means he has the right to do as He pleases in any situation.” Not only does God have this right, God exercises that right, and God must do so simply because He is sovereign. God cannot be passive in anything. Perhaps Robert can explain how it could be otherwise – in particular, how “God’s sovereignty also does not mean that everything goes exactly the way he wants it to go,” could actually be true. Sovereignty actually does mean that everything goes as God has decided it should.

      Andrew Barker

      Robert: I think if you read the comment by John Gregory in Does God Hate Sinners you will save yourself much valuable time and effort. I quite like the cut and thrust of discussion but when it comes to hard entrenched views such as some Calvinists hold? Well let’s just say, I have more productive things to do with my time.

        Robert

        Hello Andrew,

        “Robert: I think if you read the comment by John Gregory in Does God Hate Sinners you will save yourself much valuable time and effort.”

        Thanks for the heads up, I went and found John Gregory’s comment:

        “Mr. Rhutchin! I recognize you
        From away back. I have been
        Following this site for a long
        Time & I do not remember you
        Ever agreeing with anything!
        From what I remember, you
        Are a hard core Calvinists,
        Which makes it very diffucult
        For me to agree with you at all.
        Your primary purpose is argument.
        Arguing with you is a waste of
        Time. But, God bless anyway.”

        I think that this is correct. Rhutchin really just likes to argue for his cherished calvinism. I have seen him make ridiculous comment after ridiculous comment, and I have also seen his points refuted over and over again. You will not convince him about anything and he is always right in his own mind! :-) Which incidentally fits very well with the description of a certain character in the book of Proverbs. I pick my spots when interacting with him and will not interact with him very often. My purpose in engaging him at times is for the sake of “onlookers”. A couple of my mentors used to say that one of the reasons that you sometimes engage a fool is not for the fool’s sake, but for the sake of “onlookers” (i.e. folks who really have genuine questions, who really want to dialogue about things, who are really open to truth and what evidence and good arguments leads to). It is the same when it comes to witnessing: you may engage a skeptic or fool or belligerent person not for their sake primarily but for the sake of “onlookers”. So if I see a point that I believe is valuable for others/”onlookers” to get, I will engage even someone that has clearly shown himself/herself to be a fool. I appreciate your posts Andrew as they are always thoughtful and well-constructed and useful.

        Robert

          Andrew Barker

          Robert: Thank you for your comments, although I don’t want to turn the site into a mutual congratulations society :-) I enjoy the opportunity to share ideas and see how other people are thinking, especially when it comes to presenting Bible truths in a coherent manner. I come from a background which held predestination and free will as a mystery! I don’t nowadays agree with the way it was presented but the idea that some people might ‘never’ be elect was never countenanced at all!! It was very much whosoever will may come! The idea that people were effectively ‘prepped’ before they could believe was unknown in our circles!

          As an outsider (I’m not SBC) I appreciate the input of views from different traditions so I wouldn’t like to be seen to deter anybody else from contributing. But I see little point in going over the same issues time and time again if people don’t respond in a constructive way.

Troy Mueller

Pastor Ronnie,

A few things for your consideration: Would love to hear what you think about them!

Firstly, in one of your above responses you used the term “grace enabled”. I think that this is a great term to describe what the bible teaches. I agree with you — due to our connection to our first parents Adam and Eve, we are born with a fallen sinful nature and therefore, and left to ourselves, we are unwilling and unable to come to Christ on our own (John 6:44 and 1 Corinthians 2:14 etc) Because of this, God has to draw us to faith (Again John 6:44 and John 12:32 and Titus 2:11). He does this through enlightenment (John 1:9) and conviction (John 16:9) and grace enablement (Acts 18:27) using creation, conscience and more importantly, His word and Spirit. Traditionalists who want to avoid the charge of semi-pelagianism need to better explain how a lost person is able to respond to Christ. If we say that we are able, in and of ourselves, to believe that in my estimation is semi-pelagianism — if we are saying that God has to help us — that is grace enablement and the glory goes to God instead of us — we are merely responding and not initiating. I think though that instead of total depravity maybe we should use one of two other terms — “total inability” or ‘total dependence”. And to refute the T.U.L.I.P. acronym we could use the acronym F.A.C.T.S.
F — freed by grace to believe (grace enablement which could be interpreted in a number of ways)
A –atonement for all
C — conditional election (election conditioned on foreseen faith in Christ)
T — total inability or total dependence (which ever best describes our take on this)
S — security in Christ.

I came across this acronym on the S.E.A. site and it seems to be a great simple way to express what I believe are traditionalist Baptist beliefs.

Secondly, I think that perhaps the designation “traditionalist” is not the best way to describe ourselves. I was a 5 point calvinist for 15 years and was involved with the Founders Ministries for some of that time and based on my research most of the first Southern Baptists were calvinists and even some of the other stream that flowed into the calvinistic stream were calvinists. If this is true, than the calvinists are, at least as much if not more so, traditionally southern baptist than we are. I liked majoritarian better because it suggests that over time most southern baptists have not chosen calvinism to describe their understanding of soteriology. Perahps some thinking and praying could go into using a better term for ourselves!

Thirdly, I’m not sure that saying we are neither calvinists or arminians is helpful to most other theologians. When we say we are biblicists are we implying that others are not? And if we say that we are just baptists what does that mean historically? Historically most systematic theologies have bounced off either calvinism or arminianism. If most of us can buy into the F.A.C.T.S. acronym that says something historically. It actually expresses classical arminianism views — just like Roger Olsen has been trying to suggest. I would be comfortable saying that according to the F.A.C.T.S acronym I am a 4 point arminian. This is because I would have to quality the S — security in Christ as being eternal security not conditional security like many contemporary arminians. Traditionalists are way more arminian than they are calvinist (usually only one 1 pointers).

Let me know what you think about all of this.

Troy

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available