John 3:16 Conference Interview: Dr. David Allen

February 27, 2013

DavidAllen2In the weeks preceding this year’s John 3.16 Conference (see ad to right), SBCToday will post interviews with each person scheduled to speak at the Conference. The following interview is with Dr. David L. Allen, who is Professor of Preaching, George W. Truett Chair of Ministry, Director of the Southwestern Center for Expository Preaching, and Dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Dr. Allen is co-author of Whosoever Will: a Biblical-Theological Critique of Five-Point Calvinism.

1. How has the invitation to speak at the conference impacted you?

I was delighted to be invited to speak by Dr. Vines since I am currently immersed in a writing project on an aspect of Calvinism. Any opportunity afforded me that aids my understanding of these important issues and that drives me to further study of the Word can only be beneficial.

2. How important is this conference in light of the current climate within the SBC?

I consider it to be very important. I constantly receive calls and emails from students, pastors and laypeople about the subject of Calvinism, often within the context of their local church. The issues that will be addressed at this conference will scratch where many of our people currently itch.

When it comes to Calvinism in the SBC, a fair amount of misinformation, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation characterizes the current climate. This makes it difficult for most to cut through the discrepant fog.

SBCToday was gracious to publish a post I wrote last July 4 on a suggested way forward for Southern Baptists in this discussion entitled “The Current SBC Calvinism Debate: Observations, Clarifications, and Suggestions.”  I noted how there is often much confusion about certain aspects of Calvinism; how it is important to approach this discussion with the right attitude; and how vital it is not to misrepresent what people believe. I also noted how one must make a distinction between a particular doctrine or theological position and the entailments of that doctrine/position. It is the difference in logic between saying “A is B” and saying “A implies B.” Sometimes we are unclear in our discussions and false conclusions are drawn because we fail to make this crucial distinction.

In reading over the comments of the previous interviews with conference speakers, I have observed some comments which indicate to me a failure to distinguish between what one believes and what another thinks is entailed by that belief.

We all must strive to speak clearly and with the proper nuance in discussing these issues.

3. How important is your assigned topic — “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?” — to the total content of the Conf.?

My topic addresses a fundamental belief for many, though certainly not all, in the Reformed tradition. This issue is often misunderstood. Most aspects of Reformed soteriology are intricately related. What one believes about this topic impacts how one approaches the other topics which will be discussed at the conference.

4. Regarding your assigned topic, what do you hope your paper will accomplish?

1) Biblical Analysis. The ultimate issue is what does the Bible teach on this subject.

2) Historical Awareness. People might be surprised what was actually believed about this subject among past and present Reformed writers.

3) Fair Representation. It is incumbent on all who engage in this discussion to represent other positions fairly. That does not mean there will be agreement; but we all should strive for fairness.

4) Clarity. Sloppy thinking and speaking on both sides of the aisle sometimes blurs this specific issue.

5. Tell us about your breakout session?

I will cover in summary fashion the historical, exegetical, theological and practical aspects of limited atonement vs. unlimited atonement, pointing out why I believe limited atonement is unbiblical and negatively impacts preaching, evangelism, and missions. I plan to allow significant time for Q&A as well.

6. How important is your assigned topic within the broader SBC conversation regarding Calvinism?

I think it is one of the major areas of disagreement among those Calvinists who affirm regeneration precedes faith and those Calvinists and non-Calvinists who don’t. Many presume that all Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith. This is an erroneous assumption. Calvinism is not a monolithic system.

7. What result(s) do you hope to see from the Conf.?

I would hope that the conference can provide Southern Baptists and others interested in this subject an opportunity to reflect on their beliefs like the Bereans of Acts 17:11 who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.” I would hope that people can come away with a greater understanding of what the differing positions are and what they entail. I would hope that this conference will generate a greater love and appreciation for brothers and sisters who disagree on these issues. Finally, I would hope to see greater unity as we work together to fulfill the Great Commission.

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Norm Miller

Dr. Allen: Thank you for your leadership in this and other matters in the SBC today. I am especially grateful for the balance you bring regarding seminary training in our beloved Convention. I look forward to your presentations at the Conf. — Norm

rhutchin

If Dr. Allen is able to a fresh look at Total Depravity and how it relates to regeneration and do so untainted by preconceived notions, he will have done good.

sbcissues

Dr. Allen,

You state, “Many presume that all Calvinists believe regeneration precedes faith. This is an erroneous assumption. Calvinism is not a monolithic system.”

I am guessing that you are referring to the nuances that exist with the terms precede and are simultaneous with. I personally believe the better wording ought to be regeneration is essential to conversion as opposed to conversion being essential for regeneration. This eliminates the nuances that exist linguistically allowing one to say or imply one thing while meaning another. As I see it, calvinism is firmly positioned on the former and cannot affirm the latter.

I appreciate you and your servant’s heart and all you do to help edify and strengthen the body! May your tribe increase!

    Tony

    It seems the crucial thing, for Calvinists anyway, is that the efficacious quickening work of the Spirit (call that “regeneration” if you will) is causally prior to the faith-response of the renewed person. That, I think, properly distinguishes the Calvinistic view from non-Calvinistic views. The debate need not get stuck in the area of chronological precedence, or even over the term “regeneration” being used for that initial quickening and renewing work of the Spirit.

    I hope Dr. Allen and others check out Anthony A. Hoekema’s chapter on “Regeneration” in Saved By Grace (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989), 93-112. I think he carefully articulates what should be considered the mainstream Reformed perspective. You’ll notice that he speaks of the “causal priority” of regeneration (in the “narrow sense”) before (in the “causal” sense) conversion. What is key here is that the lost person is without the *moral* (not natural) ability to rightly respond to the gospel unless the Holy Spirit quickens that person within, thus enabling that (morally speaking) to embrace Christ savingly. This initial quickening work of the Spirit, in the Calvinist view, is necessarily related to God’s pre-temporal electing plan and effectual purpose to bring some individuals to a justified, sanctified and ultimately a glorified state in Christ.

    The non-Calvinists who reject this view (i.e. the view that popularly goes under the slogan of “regeneration prior to faith”) are ultimately rejecting the mainstream view of predestination that Calvinists maintain, along with the Calvinistic view of the efficacy of God’s will in the special call of the gospel. The non-Calvinists will, if they are actually evangelicals and not Pelagians, bring in a notion of “prevenient grace” that enables everyone (or at least those that hear the gospel) to rightly respond to the gospel. All of this, again, presupposes their view that God loves all *EQUALLLY* and desires the salvation of everyone *EQUALLY*, contra the Calvinists who say that God sets a *SPECIAL* love upon some and *ESPECIALLY* desires their salvation, but *not* to the negation of a universal love and universal saving desire.

    Now that I see that Dr. Allen will be speaking on the “regeneration prior to faith” issue, I will discuss this with him this coming Friday when we have our friendly lunch together at Olive Garden :-) If he is going to shoot his arrows at the Calvinist position on this topic, I will encourage him to actually aim at the target of the mainstream view or broadly Reformed consensus, and not what is typically a Hyper-Calvinist or antinomian view that teaches a *chronological* precedence of regeneration before faith.

    Mary S.

    Is it okay if we start referring to Calvinists who are holding to the beliefs of most of the founders of the SBC as “Calvinist-Traditionalists”?

Rick Patrick

Every time I hear or read Dr. Allen discuss Calvinism, two attributes stand out–clarity and fairness. May we all follow his example in striving to understand before we strive to be understood.

Keith Sheridan

We are blessed as a convention by having men of Dr. Allen’s insight. Your scholarship and Christian love is greatly appreciated. The Calvinism debate seems to be largely driven by caricature and animosity – characteristics that rarely spur us on to cooperation. Seeing men of your intellect and faithfulness addressing the nuances of complicated theological convictions should offer hope to both our Calvinist and non-Calvinist brothers.

sbcissues

What would a “fresh look at Total Depravity” look like?

Bob

    David R. Brumbelow

    It would not be pretty.
    David R. Brumbelow

    Max

    A fresh look might look like the original look as the first century church looked upon the depravity of lost souls. That man is depraved in his sinfulness, but not so totally dead that he is beyond the ability to choose to sin or not, to choose to move forward in rebellion or repentance, or to choose to receive or reject Christ.

      Joshua T

      Max,

      You are certainly right about the first century church. The Eastern Orthodox Church would be happy to see more rejection of Augustine’s view on Original Sin.

      I wish there would be a further development of thought and reflection upon other views within the Protestant tradition. I would only fear that this is simply a revulsion to Calvinism and not an actual movement in theological growth. The wealth of words and insight on this subject should allow for Luther and Wesley to speak and instruct as well.

      All this coming from a Calvinist. God bless.

Tony

I usually don’t like to interact with completely anonymous people, but I’ll take an opportunity to address Tommy’s mere assertions here. First, those speaking at the John 3:16 Conference do not consider the event to be a “debate.” Rather, it is a venue in which non-Calvinists can set forth their case for an alternative perspective within the SBC, and voice their criticisms of both the Calvinistic beliefs and aspects of their practices. Dr. David Allen is certainly open to hearing from all sides before he sets forth his case. As I mentioned above, I (a Calvinist) just had lunch with him and he carefully listened to all that I had to say. Anyone who says that he does not want to hear the other side has not interacted with him, nor looked at the desk in his office which is presently covered with Calvinistic literature from the best scholars on their side in order to prepare for his upcoming presentations. I won’t speak of the others, but Dr. Allen is certainly not engaging in the “misrepresentations” and “straw men” you’re complaining about. I think one could say that you’ve created a misrepresentation by describing the conference as a “debate.” No one says that it is, but they do hope that it furthers debate and discussion in other venues.

Second, it is manifestly absurd to say that those “who hold a different opinion regarding Reformed theology do not have a voice in the SBC.” Does Al Mohler not have a voice within the SBC? Of course he does. Does Mark Dever? Of course he does. Do many of the professors, such as Tom Nettles, have a voice within the SBC. It’s obvious that they do. Even if you tried to modify your statement and say that, “well, these non-Calvinists don’t want these Calvinists to have a voice within the SBC,” then that would also be a misrepresentation of the facts. In fact, in the first conference, Dr. Allen explicitly said that no one is saying to the Calvinists “get out of Dodge!” Moreover, there are Calvinists teaching at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and they didn’t have to come there by stealth.

You, Tommy, complain of misrepresentation, yet have made two misrepresentations in your comment above; namely that 1) the J13C men think their conference is a “debate” and that 2) those who differ with them don’t have a voice in the SBC. These are both straw men.

In your other comments that you allege was deleted, you said that, “The only thing I have seen coming out of the last John 3:16 conference is a misrepresentation of what Calvinism actually is.” Since you said this under Dr. Allen’s interview, I would like to know where you think Dr. Allen misrepresented Calvinism in his chapter in Whosoever Will. I (a Calvinist) worked with him on it, so I would be interested in seeing your *exact* references to something *specific* within his chapter where you think he misrepresented Calvinism. So I ask you directly, where has Dr. Allen misrepresented Calvinism? Give me something specific that can be documented, please.

p.s. If the admins at SBCToday prefer to delete Tommy’s comment above, then feel free to delete my response here as well, as it will be unnecessary to post either :-) Thanks.

    Tony

    Whoops! I see that you already deleted it. Feel free to delete the above, in addition to this :-) Sorry about that.

    Mary

    Tony, I’ve always appreciated your spirit when you’ve posted on these blogs. If Norm will allow it I’d like to ask you an off topic question. How is it possible, or I guess is it consistent for someone to affirm Unconditional Election but deny Irresistable Grace? More and more people seem to be popping up who declare that they believe the U but not the I and it doesn’t seem to me like you can possibley be consistent in your hermaneutics to accept the U but not the I.

      Tony

      Hi Mary,

      Thanks for the compliment. With respect to your question, one must first get past the language barrier that the TULIP acronym creates. The TULIP construct itself is a very problematic way of trying to convey the soteriological position of mainstream Calvinism. Theologians/historians such as Kenneth J. Stewart (see his chapter on “TULIP is the Yardstick of the Truly Reformed” in Ten Myths About Calvinism [Downers Grove, Ill: IVP, 2011], 75-95.) and Richard Muller (click here to read him) have criticized the whole TULIP construct as a way to understand Calvinism. Muller says that it is “an acrostic that has caused much trouble for the Reformed tradition and has contributed greatly to the confusion about Calvin and Calvinism,” and that “there is no historical association between the acrostic TULIP and the Canons of Dort.” He urges that the “Use of the acrostic TULIP has resulted in a narrow, if not erroneous, reading of the Canons of Dort that has led to confused understandings of the Reformed tradition and of Calvin’s theology,” and warns his Reformed listeners by saying “don’t plant TULIP in your Reformed garden.”

      Related to your question, even A. A. Hodge in the 1800’s was critical of the “Irresistable Grace” label of the Dortian teaching, and said:

      “It is to be lamented that the term irresistible grace has ever been used, since it suggests the idea of a mechanical and coercive influence upon an unwilling subject, while, in truth, it is the transcendent act of the infinite Creator, making the creature spontaneously willing.” A. A. Hodge, Outlines of Theology (Carlisle, Penn.: Banner of Truth Trust, 1999), pp. 451-452.

      See also the same things said by Hoekema and Stewart here (click). One can understand contemporary Calvinists also rejecting “Irresistible Grace” if they want to distance themselves from the potential caricatures Hodge mentions above. However, what is important (as Calvinists see things) is that there is a special or “effectual call” that occurs at some point in the case of those who were elected that will not be resisted. The gracious God, through the Spirit and in conjunction with the preached word, so overcomes the innate enmity or hostility by filling their hearts with the love of Christ that they inevitably flee to Christ voluntarily to fetch virtue in Him.

      Phrased this way, I don’t see how anyone that truly believes in the Calvinistic view of election can consistently deny that the Spirit’s special/gracious call of the elect at some point in their history is necessarily efficacious. They would all have to say that all whom the Father has given Jesus (in terms of His electing purpose) will come to Him, and that all will be raised up on the last day (John 6:39). They would all have to say that there is a necessary link between 1) all those predestined, 2) all those receiving the special call, 3) all those justified, and 4) all those glorified (Romans 8:30). And again, there is an unbreakable chain between all those chosen before the foundation of the world and all those who finally stand before God holy and blameless (Eph. 1:4).

      In other words, once one gets past the “U” and “I” letters of the problematic TULIP acrostic and sees the actual or proper Dortian conception of these ideas, it is not possible to consistently maintain one without the other.

        Norm Miller

        Tony:
        Thank you for your tone first of all. Second, if I may be allowed to comment, here is what I observe, and I think many SBs would make this same observation: I am seeing little if any difference between “irresistible” and “effectual.”
        The comments you made and the commentators you cite seem to use much softer language to describe something that, ultimately, has the same outcome and, seemingly, the same *unavoidable* result.
        I think saying that the heart that is called “will not” resist is, after all, a heart that also “cannot” resist. I think this necessarily follows. How can one say a called heart will not resist while also saying the call is not described as “irresistible”?
        I also see Hodge as illustrative of this. To wit: “…the transcendent act of the infinite Creator, making the creature spontaneously willing…”
        If the Creator “makes me willing,” that denies my choice in the matter. And if I have no choice, then, necessarily, the call is back to irresistible. For me, Hodge fails to make the case.
        I’m not trying to be difficult or obstinant. I am simply giving you my take, and what I believe is the understanding of the majority of SBs. — Norm
        NOTE: I will be away from my computer for a significant amount of time today.

          Mary S.

          “Not one verse in the Bible teaches the self-determining will of man.” (says John Piper)

          Tony

          Thanks, Norm.

          The concern of my post was mainly to voice 1) how the TULIP terminology is misleading and therefore is generally unacceptable to Calvinists (which is why, as you know, they modify the terms); and 2) briefly state to Mary why I think the Calvinist view of election necessarily entails the belief in the effectual call, or “irresistible grace,” as it is popularly known. In so far as the “irresistible” term usually conjures up ideas of “a mechanical and coercive influence upon an unwilling subject,” then that is a caricature of our doctrine. Bavinck notes that “The term “irresistible grace” is not really of Reformed origin but was used by Jesuits and Remonstrants to characterize the doctrine of the efficacy of grace as it was advocated by Augustine and those who believed as he did.” (Reformed Dogmatics, vol. 4, pp. 82-83.) As a non-Calvinist, you may think that the Calvinist view of the efficacy of Spirit’s special call in the elect logically entails an undermining or nullifying of the will of man (C’s belief in A entails B), but that is different from saying they themselves believe that (C’s belief is B). In the above interview, Dr. Allen notes “how vital it is not to misrepresent what people believe. I also noted how one must make a distinction between a particular doctrine or theological position and the entailments of that doctrine/position. It is the difference in logic between saying “A is B” and saying “A implies B.” Sometimes we are unclear in our discussions and false conclusions are drawn because we fail to make this crucial distinction.”

          Don’t get me wrong, Norm. I am not saying you’re making that mistake, but I am just cautioning others against using terms that 1) are laden with problematic baggage that Calvinists themselves explicitly reject and 2) that originated from among the opponents of Calvinism, even the Jesuits who were/are the opponents of evangelicalism. Likewise, I admit, Calvinists themselves also need to be careful against doing that to non-Calvinists, which very commonly happens. They should not hastily slap labels on their opponents that have unwelcome baggage, such as calling you all in the SBC by the name “Arminians,” “synergists,” etc.A wise course of action, it seems to me, especially in light of all the current rancor and hostility, is to seek terms that are fair and objective descriptions. My conversations with Dr. Allen are pleasant and friendly in this way because we both are striving to be epistemically self-aware as we describe various points of view, and offer possible defeaters for opposing positions. This kind of pursuit is conducive to an irenic atmosphere, or an appropriate “tone,” as you call it :-)

          As someone who believes in “free will,” or a libertarian concept of freedom you’re understandably going to think that a form of divine determinism (in the Calvinistic “effectual calling”) is not compatible with human free agency. And so you say, “If the Creator “makes me willing,” that denies my choice in the matter. And if I have no choice, then, necessarily, the call is back to irresistible.” First, notice how you’re associating the idea of “irresistible” with “no choice.” Calvinists do not equate these ideas, so hence my above stated cautions. But, if you want to argue a reductio ad absurdum,” such that our view entails the nullification of man’s freedom, then that’s another thing.

          Think of the concurrence involved in the inspiration of scripture, since we Calvinists think this is an example of compatibilism, or the liberty of spontaneity. God determined that men write exactly what he wanted them to, and yet it is also the case that they voluntarily wrote what they wanted to write, such that even their own personalities are evident in the text. The Spirit’s activity in “carrying these men along” brought about an infallible text. It is not simply inerrant (without error), but it is even infallible (it cannot err). There was a point in the lives of the Apostles and Prophets when they were so moved by the Spirit, that they infallible wrote just as God willed. We see, on the one hand, an efficacious operation of the Spirit, and on the other hand a voluntary or willing concurrence of the authors. Just because the Spirit worked within them efficaciously or infallibly, it is not the case that their choice of the authors was nullified. Likewise, we say, it is the case in the effectual calling of the elect unto an everlastingly secure salvation in Christ. There is a kind of calling that infallibly brings about the justification, sanctification and glorification of all those predestined to eternal life, according to Romans 8:29-30.

          On the alternative view of libertarian free will, it seems that the Spirit’s work cannot guarantee an infallible scripture. You may have an inerrant one, but how can it necessarily be infallible if the human authors had the liberty of indifference, or free will? The authors, you maintain, surely wrote without error in the autographa, but how could you say they wrote *infallibly* because of the Spirit? It seems on the one hand you want a necessarily effectual operation of the Spirit when it comes to the authorship of the scriptures, and yet you deny that such a necessarily effectual operation of the Spirit takes place in the calling of some to eternal life. The Calvinists have an effectual operation of the Spirit in *both* cases, and yet admit a happy concurrence of the human agent in both as well. So, you see, it is not a case of a Spiritual activity that bypasses or negates human concurrence, or does violence to their wills. The Calvinistic view of the “effectual calling” of some to eternal life no more cancels human volition than does the effectual operation of the Spirit in moving men to *infallibly* write down God’s truth.

          We might call the Calvinist view of the “effectual call” an “infallible call,” even as the process of inspiration was an infallible carrying along of the authors to write *exactly* as God willed them to.

          It’s a lengthy response, but I hope the above is conducive to further irenic discussion in the future.

          Grace to you,
          Tony

            Norm Miller

            Are you a monergist or synergist? The etymology of irresistible grace notwithstanding, this distinction represents the Rubicon in my soteriology. — Norm

              Norm Miller

              Perhaps you have been busy, Tony, and have not had a chance to answer my question as to your soteriological stance on monergism /synergism. Whereas I am not aware of any Calvinist who is a synergist, I suspect my question regarding your position could be considered rhetorical. Also, I asked the question of you in an attempt to cut-to-the-chase, as it were. My understanding is that a monergist must necessarily embrace the “effectual call,” which I think I ably connected above to “irresistible grace.” To reiterate, if God’s call is “effectual,” then, necessarily, it is irresistible.
              While I can appreciate the point you were attempting to make — that “irresistible grace” is terminology not rooted in the Reformation — one must ask the question regarding the phrase’s origin and the impetus behind the phraseology. I posit that, regardless of the phrase’s origin, the phrase “irresistible grace” is an accurate interpretation of what Calvinists believe regarding the “effectual call” of God. Either way you slice it, one must end up at the Calvinist position that salvation is all of God and none of man, thus effectively nullifying a man’s personal and willful choice to respond to the Holy Spirit of God. — Norm

        Max

        Tony – Like Mary & Norm, I too appreciate the tone you bring to this discussion. I have a related TULIP question for you. What do you make of the following position regarding limited atonement?

        “Reformed pastor and author R.C. Sproul suggests there is confusion about what the doctrine of limited atonement actually teaches. While he considers it possible for a person to believe four points without believing the fifth, he claims that a person who really understands the other four points must believe in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a resistless logic” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amyraldism

          Tony

          Thanks, Max. The article first says:
          “Reformed pastor and author R.C. Sproul suggests there is confusion about what the doctrine of limited atonement actually teaches.”

          From the beginning we can see this person is enslaved to TULIP categories by use of the label “limited atonement.” Again, like the other TULIP terminology, it is confusing, misleading, reductionistic, and lends itself to false dichotomies. What might “limited atonement” mean? It might mean the following:

          1) Equivalentism: Not only is Christ’s effective intentionality in coming to save “limited” or exclusively for the elect alone, but His suffering itself had a literal weight and pressure to it, such that it was a case of so much suffering for so many elect sins. This position explicitly denies that Christ’s death is “sufficient for all.”

          2) Owenism (Owen, Turretin, etc.): Not only is Christ’s effective intentionality in coming to save “limited” or exclusively for the elect along, but He stood as a legal substitute for the elect alone, such that He was imputed with their sin alone. In distinction from the Equivalentist position of limited suffering, we could call this Owenic position “limited imputation.” This position teaches only a hypothetical sufficiency in Christ’s death to save all.

          3) Non-Amyraldian (Musculus, Bullinger, John Davenant, Ussher, etc.) and Amyraldian (Amyraut, Testard, etc.) “Hypothetical Universalism”: While Christ did have an effective “limited” intention to save the elect alone through the death He died, He also had an intention to lay down His life for the sin of all mankind, and so He satisfied for all. Unlike Equivalentism and Owenism, there is an unlimited imputation of sin to Christ, and so they teach an actual sufficiency in Christ’s death to save all. The only limitation is in the effectual intent of Christ and in the effectual application of His death to the elect alone by the Spirit in accord with the purpose of election.

          Not only are there different locations for seeing a sense of “limitation” among the Reformed, but some of them differently use the term “atonement” as well. It might refer to the satisfaction of Christ by itself considered, as we commonly speak of it today. Or it might refer to the at-one-ment that the believer experiences when the Spirit applies the benefits of Christ’s death to him. R. L. Dabney is inclined to use “atonement” in this latter sense, but another Reformed theologian like W. G. T. Shedd uses it in the first sense.

          Keep these distinctions in mind as we consider what some alleged is entailed by election, etc.

          The article continues:
          “While he considers it possible for a person to believe four points without believing the fifth, he claims that a person who really understands the other four points must believe in limited atonement because of what Martin Luther called a resistless logic.”

          Notice this person speaks in terms of “four points” as over against “five points.” Again we see that this person is enslaved to his simplistic TULIP grid. It’s “four” or “five” points of the TULIP, not the points coming from the broad consensus that was carefully outlined and described at the Synod of Dort.

          It’s claimed that the “fifth point” is required given the teaching of the other “four points.” Well, what version of the “fifth point” is he talking about? The Equivalentist view (#1 above)? The Owenic position (#2 above)? Or some version of so called “Hypothetical Universalism” (#3 above)? Obviously Sproul himself will think that *his* position is “logically entailed” by election, and not the Equivalentist view. But why? The Equivalentist will argue that since Christ only satisfied for the sin of the elect, it is absurd to say that His death is sufficient for all men. Sproul will likely want to retain the mere language of Dort, so as to be orthodox, and insist that Christ’s death is sufficient for all men. But if you listen carefully to Sproul, it will be a bare of merely instrinsic value enough in Christ *to have been* a sufficient satisfaction for all, not that it actually was. He, like other Owenists, whether consciously or unconsciously, will only talk about an infinite instrinic value in Christ, not that Christ actually laid down a price for all men. The Equivalentist, like the Hypothetical Universalists, think this is absurd. He may as well come out and deny that Christ’s death was *actually* sufficient for all men. Is a “limited sufficiency” view entailed by election? Some, like Tom Nettles, will say yes. Others, like Tom Ascol, will say no. And so the two parties (the Equivalentists and the Owenists) argue about where the so called “resistless logic” must go.

          On my part, all I can see is that election necessitates that Christ himself, as a member of the Triune God, must have a special saving intention to save the elect when He came to die, but not that His satisfaction for sin itself must be “limited.” I see no reason why one must affirm a limited amount of suffering in Christ (Equivalentism), or a limited imputation of sin to Christ (Owenism) if one affirms election. I don’t see the “resistless logic” at all. And, if the Owenist wants to come along and say otherwise, then I might play the role of an Equivalentist, like Nettles, and argue that this position “resistlessly” follows, and then drive them further into the hyper-Calivinistic rejections of free offers, etc. :-)

          What is funny is that Martin Luther himself did not apparently see the “resistless logic.” He himself taught that Christ redeemed all men in the death he died. As Dr. Curt Daniel wrote, “Luther and all Lutherans believed in universal atonement. There is no real disagreement on this. Also, all of the first-generation Reformed theologians taught universal atonement. This includes Zwingli, Bullinger, and the others. Universal atonement is explicitly taught in many of the earliet Calvinist confessions, such as the Heidelberg Catechism and the Thirty-nine Articles.” (Curt Daniel, The History and Theology of Calvinism [Springfield, IL: Good Books, 2003], 77.). James Swan, a blogger on James White’s Alpha & Omega blog, has also said that Luther taught that Christ died for the sins of all men. Strehle, in his doctoral dissertation, said that “Luther makes his position clear, stating that Christ has borne “all the sins of all men,” “the sins of the whole world, from Adam to the very last person,” “not some, but all the sins of the whole world, great or small, few or many.” His death would even have sufficed to remove the sins of “many, many worlds.” (Stephen Alan Strehle, The Extent of the Atonement Within the Theological Systems of the Sixteenth and Seventheenth Centuries [Th.D. Dissertation, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1980], 71-72.)

          Since I no longer think along simplistic TULIP lines, or filter my theology through that overly simplified and reductionistic grid, I don’t see the so called “resistless logic,” and neither did Luther. Beware of the misleading nonsense in some Wikipedia articles. They are probably not even reading the primary sources from Amyraut, or the doctoral dissertations from theologians who have studied them. They’re just using unreliable secondary or tertiary sources, or just those secondary sources they favor that are very hostile to and not objectively describing the Saumur school in the 17th century.

      Tony

      Because I included two links in my rather lengthy response to your question, Mary, my comment automatically went into “awaiting moderation.” Norm or someone else will have to approve it before it gets through, so stay tuned :-)

      Grace to you,
      Tony

Norm Miller

The one who made the following comments has been placed in moderation.

“Seeing as my last comment was deleted regarding this issue just further proves my point that the John 3:16 conference is nothing more than a one sided debate. Furthermore, it proves that those who hold a different opinion regarding reformed theology do not have a voice in the SBC.”

“The only thing I have seen coming out of the last John 3:16 conference is a misrepresentation of what Calvinism actually is. I hope this years conference will be different and rely on the facts rather than creating a straw man and tearing it apart.”

These are the comments to which Tony (above) refers. — Norm

Mary S.

Dr. Dr. David Allen, thank you for your thoughtful tone and fair approach. It is much appreciated.

I will disagree with Tony here. Not Anthony Hoekema as Tony suggests but rather Loraine Boettner in his book “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” articulates what should be considered the mainstream Reformed perspective.

You should have lunch with someone who represents the mainstream perspective of Calvinism. I do not believe Tony represents that. No offense intended to him at all. This is my opinion.

    Tony

    Mary S. said:
    “I will disagree with Tony here. Not Anthony Hoekema as Tony suggests but rather Loraine Boettner in his book “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” articulates what should be considered the mainstream Reformed perspective.”

    Me now:

    Hi Mary,

    I have a few questions for you in response:

    1) Where are Hoekema and Boettner in disagreement in terms of the core of their views on effectual calling, or so called “irresistible grace”?

    2) Why is Boettner’s view to be considered “mainstream” as over against Hoekema’s teaching when it comes to the effectual call?

    Mary S. said:
    “You should have lunch with someone who represents the mainstream perspective of Calvinism. I do not believe Tony represents that. No offense intended to him at all. This is my opinion.”

    Me now:

    No offense taken, Mary :-) But, I do have a few more questions for you here as well:

    1) How is my view on the effectual call (or what I have briefly said above about it) in enough of a degree of disagreement with Boettner’s views that my views should not be considered within the mainstream?

    2) Where do you think I am incorrect in what I have said above?

    I would also say this, though. I think Dr. Allen is discerning and knowledgeable enough in the area to at least know whether or not I am seeking to be objective in my descriptions of variations within the Reformed/Calvinistic paradigm. Moreover, I trust that he is wise enough to seek out the perspectives of others, both in face-to-face conversations over a meal, as well as in the piles of literature on the subject he is presently pouring over. It’s not as though he is *only* listening to me, or not giving due attention to others. On this blog, I just recommended that he (and others) pay attention to Hoekema’s chapter, as I consider it to be one of the more refined treatments of the doctrine, and added that it articulates a mainstream consensus view.

    Anyway, when you have time, I look forward to your responses to my questions above.

    Grace to you,
    Tony

    p.s. I will also try to respond to the new comments by Norm and Max asap.

      Tony

      Above I asked:

      “2) Where do you think I am incorrect in what I have said above?”

      To clarify, what I mean to ask by the question is this:

      Where do you think I am incorrect in what I have said in previous comments above concerning the effectual call?

        Norm Miller

        Tony: I am perplexed. You had time to offer two responses to Mary, with one of them being lengthy. Was there not also time for you to answer my question as to whether you are a monergist or synergist? — Norm

          Tony

          I was busy all day Sunday at my brother’s house, so I could not respond then. Yesterday, I quickly left the above two comments to Mary just before I left for work. I am “perplexed” that you didn’t interact with the main part of my lengthy response above here (a href=”http://sbctoday.wpengine.com/2013/02/27/9957/#comment-37749″>click). I only briefly mentioned the “synergism” label as an incidental sub-point. From what I sought to present above, I thought it would be evident that I am in the so called “monergist” camp, if properly understood. Here’s what I mean:

          I believe the initial quickening work of the Holy Spirit (what some are labeling “regeneration”) is His distinct work alone, and not something He does in response to us. The labels “monergism” and “synergism” can be misleading. The “monergist” position is not that “salvation” is apart from any conditions, but that the initial quickening operation of the Spirit is apart from our involvement. That is unconditional, and hence “monergistic” (or one-working). What is properly called “salvation,” however, is what takes place in conversion, or all that transpires from the point of justification, and then to sanctification and finally to glorification. Us Calvinists are not saying that “salvation” (or conversion) is without conditions (in the instrumental–not meritorious–sense of conditionality). In order to be justified, we must believe, and believing is properly our action, not the Spirit’s. But, we are saying, the Spirit’s discriminating and gracious choice to quicken some (the elect alone) to spiritual life is not in response to anything we do. It is that, we say, that is monergistic.

          The “synergist” label, I think, can be misleading, as it might suggest that you evangelical non-Calvinists believe that faith is a work. That’s why I said above that I would not be inclined to hastily slap that label on you. Since synergy is a working-with, or two or more agents working together, it may seem that by the use of that label that the evangelical non-Calvinist is no different from the Roman Catholic in believing that faith (in addition to other things) is a meritorious cause for justificaiton. It seems to me that what you all actually believe is a kind of conditional regeneration, such that the Spirit chooses to enliven some people based on their free-will faith-response to the gospel call. Some Calvinists are inclined to say that this view makes faith a “work.” I am not convinced by that argument. I do, however, think that your view makes room for boasting, since it makes man himself (not the Spirit) the *ULTIMATE* decisive cause for salvation. That’s how I would argue that point, rather than argue that you all either 1) believe faith is a work (a straw man argument), or that 2) your view results in faith becoming a work (an attempted reductio ad absurdum).

          I thought that perhaps you might dislike the label “synergist” because of its potential to confuse and mislead. But, if you’re content with the label for your position, then I guess I will happily slap that label on your view :-) If you with to call me a “monergist,” then make sure you’re doing so accurately, since the Calvinist is saying that the Spirit’s initial work is apart from any cooperation on our part.

          That 1) initial and always effective operation of the Spirit (what some Calvinist systematicians call “regeneration”) is the opening of our hearts (like Lydia’s) with the result that 2) we respond in repentance and faith (converstion) to the teaching of the Apostles, and are thereby imputed with the righteousness of Christ (justification). It is point #1 that is “monergistic,” not point #2. If you say that us Calvinists believe man is not involved in point #2, or what is properly called “salvation” or “conversion,” then you are misrepresenting us. Nota bene: use the “monergism” label carefully, if you wish to stick with such language. I would caution my fellow Calvinists to also use the “synergist” label carefully, so as not to imply that their evangelical free-will brethren are not said to believe that faith is “work,” i.e. a meritorious cause for salvation (straw man). At most, if they choose to argue that way, they should attempt to argue that they believe your views *logicall entail* (reductio ad absurdum) that faith becomes a work.

            Norm Miller

            Tony: I understand how busy life can be, believe me. Thx for your remarks.
            Though I am not trying to be confrontational or difficult, I would like to ask if you believe all people are savable. — Norm

            Tony

            Thanks, Norm. Yes, I believe all men are saveable for a few reasons, but the two main reasons are the following.

            1) They are saveable since God is willing that they be saved. He in fact gave Christ to be a universal satisfaction for sin, thus removing for humanity (unlike the fallen angels) the legal barriers that necessitated their condemnation. I am the sort of Calvinist (the moderate sort) that believes Christ satisfied for the sin of all humanity, therefore they all have a remedy and are saveable.

            2) All men are saveable since they not only have a God-ordained remedy in Christ, by they also possess the faculties (minds and wills) that are required to rightly respond to the gospel. This is what Jonathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller called “natural ability” (as distinct from “moral ability”). Without this “natural ability,” they could not be saveable.

              Norm Miller

              Again, not to be difficult, but I must say your answers above surprise me. You are not giving the answers that one would typically hear from a Calvinist. For, I have heard from Calvinists that all are not savable b/c not all are elect. Your answers, if I understand them correctly, are encouraging to me. Are there C’s who are your contemporaries who would disagree with you, still? Thx. — Norm

        Mary S.

        Tony,

        The fact that it is difficult for some to tell whether you are a monergist or synergist should show you don’t represent mainstream Calvinism. Calvinists are monergists.

        The fact that you argue against regeneration preceding faith shows you do not represent mainstream Calvinism. Calvinists believe regeneration comes before faith.

        PS: I have nothing against Hoekema. But my question to you is, do you believe Boettner in his book represents mainstream Calvinism?

        Be blessed.

          Tony

          You chose not to answer a single question of mine, Mary. Why is that? I am happy to answer yours as clearly as I am able, but you made several unsubstantiated assertions that you’re not backing up.

          You say you have “nothing against Hoekema,” but you said his views were *not* mainstream. You’re not showing us how he differs with Boettner. Neither have you shown where I am in error, but you continue to *merely assert* that I am not mainstream. Support your claims by solid argumentation and documentation. Mere assertions are not the same as arguments.

          A non-Calvinist asking me about my position on monergism or synergism does not imply that I am not being clear, or certainly that I am not mainstream, as you have *merely asserted* yet again. It just means he wants full clarification about where I am located conceptually. If you don’t have “anything against Hoekema,” then neither should you have a problem with my views. I am essentially arguing the same thing he did in “Saved By Grace.”

          You say that I “argue against regeneration preceding faith.” No, that is a misrepresentation of the facts. I unpacked my thoughts about why the terminology is problematic, but then argued that the Holy Spirits quickening activity is causally prior to the human agent’s believing response. That is *exactly* what Hoekema argues.

          You say “Calvinists believe regeneration comes before faith.” The words “come before” are potentially misleading, which is why Hoekema prefers to talk of “causal priority.” I am not interested in using simplistic 20th century slogans just because they are popular today, particularly when they are a cause for much confusion. If you’re happy to use the slogan “regeneration comes before faith,” then don’t complain when your opponents read you as saying that regeneration is temporally prior to faith, or see you as saying something like the Primitive Baptists doctrine. I think wisdom requires that we distance ourselves from misleading notions.

          You ask if I think Boettner’s book represents mainstream Calvinism. Yes, of course I do, but he is unfortunately steeped in TULIP categories and jargon as well, which is why Dr. Ken Stewart finds some ground to criticize Boettner’s school of thought in the book “Ten Myths About Calvinism.” Boettner in fact is the first popularizer of the TULIP formula. Stewart writes:

          “Late Twentieth- and early twenty-first-century advocates of five-point Calvinism–whether of the sovereign-grace or apologetic school–have been wedded to the TULIP formula since at least 1932 in a fashion uncharacteristic of Calvinists of any earlier era. Even those who have felt that the acronym could be improved have done their fine-tuning of it wearing kid gloves as it were; they wre that anxious to avoid the appearance of tampering with what they took to be a time-honored and venerable formula. As the acronym is apparently no older than the early twentieth century, we must ask ourselves what the pervasive use of this acronym says about those who have utilized and still utilize it. At the very least this use suggests that the users of the acronym have not understood the Calvinist past very well. There has been too great a willingness to reiterate, as though venerable, something with a relatively short and checkered history. Could i also mean that they have willingly consented to take a very loose rendering of the theology of Dordt in place of the actual burdens of Dordt?” Kenneth J. Stewart, Ten Myths About Calvinism (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2011), 86-87.

          Since I don’t think Boettner presents as refined a case as Hoekema, I recommend the latter author, with some small qualifications.

          It is you that have posited a dichotomy between Boettner and Hoekema, calling one mainstream and the other not. I think they both are, but that Hoekema is more refined in his discussion. If you’re going to continue to ask me questions, then it would be considerate of you to answer some of mine, Mary. Please start with answering these if you can:

          1) Where are Hoekema and Boettner in disagreement in terms of the core of their views on effectual calling, or so called “irresistible grace”?

          2) Why is Boettner’s view to be considered “mainstream” as over against Hoekema’s teaching when it comes to the effectual call?

          3) How is my view on the effectual call (or what I have briefly said above about it) in enough of a degree of disagreement with Boettner’s views that my views should not be considered within the mainstream?

          4) Where do you think I am incorrect in what I have said in previous comments above concerning the effectual call?

          You have made unsupported assertions that me and Hoekema are not in the mainstream on the effectual call, and that Hoekema is significantly different from Boettner on the subject of the effectual call. Please support your mere assertions by answering the above.

            Norm Miller

            Tony:
            You have demonstrated you are neither a mainstream or consistent Calvinist by saying that all are savable.
            Some have decried that, former Calvinist Ronnie Rogers was never a true Calvinist since he held to only four points. Wonder what mainstream Cs would say of your views?
            — Norm

            Mary S.

            Norm,

            Mainstream Calvinists will certainly argue that Tony is NOT mainstream. That is clear enough to you, to me, but not to Tony, I think. I actually love a lot of Tony’s thoughts. But he does not represent mainstream Calvinism. That is obvious.

            Tony

            You’re just making more *mere* assertions, Mary. To merely assert that Tony is not saying what mainstream Calvinists are saying on so called “Irresistible Grace” is not the same thing as showing how that is the case. …

Tony

Norm said:
“My understanding is that a monergist must necessarily embrace the “effectual call,” which I think I ably connected above to “irresistible grace.” To reiterate, if God’s call is “effectual,” then, necessarily, it is irresistible.”

Me now:

That is all correct, I think, so long as the terminology is understood. I sought to explain above how I think the “monergism” and “synergism” labels can be misleading, and from the beginning I sought to show how Reformed theologians themselves caution against the “irrestible grace” terms. Let me add a bit more here. The label “irresistible grace” terms from the very novel, or 20th century TULIP construct, are misleading for the following reasons:

1) “Irresistible” inappropriately suggests that violence is done to the will of man. This is what A. A. Hodge pointed out. The idea is *not* one of a “a mechanical and coercive influence upon an unwilling subject.” Rather, it is the idea of “the transcendent act of the infinite Creator, making the creature spontaneously willing.” His renewing or quickening act, whereby the heart is opened like Lydia’s in Acts 16:14, results in the elect being “spontaneously willing” to trust Christ.

2) “Irresistible grace” suggests that grace is never resisted. We don’t believe that. As Herman Bavinck noted, “The Reformed in fact had some objections to the term because it was absolutely not their intent to deny that grace is often and indeed always resisted by the unregenerate person and therefore could be resisted.”

3) “Irresistible grace” is potentially misleading because it suggest that there is this abstract thing or substance, a sort of “grace,” that always brings about some effect. We do not think of “grace” as an abstract substance, as Roman Catholic theologians seem to think about grace. Rather, Calvinists are referring to a gracious or favorable disposition of *God himself*, whereby He, according to His eternal plan, stoops to quicken an elect person at some point in their lives with the result that they voluntarily come to Him. “Irresistible grace” not only suggests a kind of abstract thing, but it also suggests that there are two separate “kinds” of graces, the one effectual of itself and the other not. That is also a serious distortion, as two Reformed theologians (Louis Berkhof and James Daane) have noted in the Reformed Journal and elsewhere in the past.

Hopefully now you and others can see why the TULIP jargon is problematic. It really should be abandoned, as Richard Muller, Ken Steward, and other Reformed historians and theologians are cautioning. It’s produced confusion, yet not only the opponents of Calvinists continue to use it, but contemporary Calvinists themselves persist in doing so. Consequently, we’re immersed in an evangelical climate of soteriological confusion and a failure to think critically or precisely.

Norm said:
“While I can appreciate the point you were attempting to make — that “irresistible grace” is terminology not rooted in the Reformation — one must ask the question regarding the phrase’s origin and the impetus behind the phraseology. I posit that, regardless of the phrase’s origin, the phrase “irresistible grace” is an accurate interpretation of what Calvinists believe regarding the “effectual call” of God.”

Me now:

If Calvinists themselves are saying the language does not properly describe their view, then why are you insisting upon describing their view that way? We’re content with “effectual calling,” and yet you prefer to describe us with the labels that carry all the aforementioned bad baggage. Strive to use language that both parties can agree with, and then set forth your attempts at a reductio ad absurdum (i.e. the effectual call of the Calvinists does violence to the will of man, etc.)

You dislike it when some people come over here and call you all Arminians. Why are they doing that? Well, they obviously think your position, with whatever nuances, amounts to the same thing as Arminianism. The non-Calvinists here complain about that all the time, and some Calvinists don’t relent. They continue to use their choice term for you and your postion that carries all the unwelcome baggage. You and others are hoping for what you think is more objective and fair terminology. I am pressing you and others to do the same thing with respect to the soteriological position of Calvinists. In short, stop it with the TULIP nonsense! :-) It’s junk, even if Calvinists themselves continue to use it in their lack of wisdom. It does not faithfully capture the disputed ideas set forth at the Synod of Dort.

Norm said:
“Either way you slice it, one must end up at the Calvinist position that salvation is all of God and none of man, thus effectively nullifying a man’s personal and willful choice to respond to the Holy Spirit of God.”

Me now:

Notice how you’re using the word “salvation,” as if we’re saying that it (“salvation”) is all of God and none of man. That is *in fact* a straw man. As I said above, “salvation” properly and biblically refers to conversion and all that transpires afterward (sanctification and glorification as well). Calvinists themselves teach that faith is man’s act, and so man is involved in his conversion, in an *instrumental* sense. It’s not as though he is a merely passive agent in his “salvation.” That is actually rank antinomianism! We don’t believe that “salvation is all of God and none of man” like that. We, by the assitance of God, incline our ear to hear the truth. We repent. We believe. These are our acts, but they are only our acts, we maintain, as a result of the quickening power of the Spirit. What we say is “all of God and none of man” is the Holy Spirit’s initial quickening to eternal life. That is resurrection power from above, and it is only something He can do, and He does it apart from any of our cooperation. That distinct action is what is properly called “monergistic,” not the broader term “salvation.” Much equivocation and misrepresentation has occured in these debates by means of the “salvation” term, unfortunately. We should all be a lot more careful in how we are using that term in representing others.

Man is passive *with respect to that initial quickening act of the Spirit*, just as when we are born or given physical life, but we are not passive in “salvation” (i.e. conversion, sanctification and glorification). By means of the Spirits quickening power (“regeneration”), we are made “spontaneously willing” (as Hodge says), so that we willingly embrace Christ, which is what it means to be “saved.”

    Norm Miller

    If God “makes me spontaneously willing,” how is that not violence to my will? This means two things: I cannot refuse God, nor can I choose God. Is that not violence to one’s will on both ends of the spectrum?
    Pharoah repeatedly hardened his own heart (free will/choice, intimating he could have chosen not to harden his heart), and then God said, ‘Ok, Pal, if that’s the way you want it. Your heart is hardened.’
    That ‘salvation is all of God and none of man’ may be a straw man in your view. I got that phraseology from numerous Calvinists with whom I have spoken, some were significant grads from DTS; some, students and employees at SBTS. — Norm

      Tony

      Norm said:
      “If God “makes me spontaneously willing,” how is that not violence to my will? This means two things: I cannot refuse God, nor can I choose God. Is that not violence to one’s will on both ends of the spectrum?”

      Me now:
      If you recall, Norm, I referenced the Spirit’s effectual moving of men to write scripture as an analogy for the effectual calling of the Spirit in the case of the elect. There is no more “violence” done to the will of man in either case. Using this analogy, I could parallel your statements and say to you, “If God effectually made the authors of scripture ‘spontaneously willing’ to write, how is it that violence was not done to their wills? This means two things: they could not refuse God, nor could they choose to obey. If they effectually wrote exactly what the Spirit wanted in a way that produced an infallible result, is that not violence to their will on both ends of the spectrum?

      See the point? In the effectual call, the Calvinist is saying that the Spirit so operates within the heart and minds of the elect that no violence is done to their wills, and yet there follows the *infallible* result of their salvation. They cannot fail at the point of this effectual operation to freely come to Christ, just as the writers of scripture could not fail to infallibly produce the infallible words of Scripture. You want an effectual moving of the Spirit upon the writers of scripture so that we not only have an inerrant and infallible autographa, but you abandon the Spirit’s efficacy when it comes to His will in calling all those who will eventually be in heaven. Your system grounds the efficacy in the free will of man, not in the Spirit. But, if the writers of scripture had “free will” in the sense that you conceive of it, how is it that they necessarily produced an infallible scripture, or writings that *cannot* be in error?

      Historically the Calvinists have been the guardians of a high view of scriptures because of their compatibalism. “Free will” advocates have been known to abandon the infallibility of the scriptures as a result of their view of man’s libertarian freedom. If the writers of scripture could resist the Spirit’s inspiring work, then what can possibly guarantee an infallible result? It can’t be God in the Spirit, for He is not invincibe or necessarily efficacious when He purposes something to come about.

      Norm said:
      “Pharoah repeatedly hardened his own heart (free will/choice, intimating he could have chosen not to harden his heart), and then God said, ‘Ok, Pal, if that’s the way you want it. Your heart is hardened.’”

      Me now:

      It begs the question, I think, to say that just because Pharoah hardened his heart, he therefore had “free will.” Calvinist acknowledge that Pharoah had “free agency,” so that he had liberty to act within the boundaries of his “nature,” or desires. Certainly he was not compelled to disobedience by anything outside of himself. This hardly argues that his will was indifferent, or put in a state of moral neutrality, such that he had the moral power to either obey or disobey. He had a “natural ability,” or choice-making faculties, or a mind and will, but they were not neutral. Those faculties were under the dominion of the sinful principles within, so that he is properly described as a “slave to sin” (John 8:34) and one “under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Such a condition is one of enslavement, not of liberty, though he was not under external compulsion to disobey against his will. And, if you want to avoid the heresy of Pelagianism, you’ll have to argue for a kind of “prevenient grace” that enabled Pharoah to escape the bondage entailed by the depravity he received from Adam’s fall. I don’t see any notion of “prevenient” or “enabling grace” set forth in the text, yet that is required for someone who wants to say Pharoah had the liberty of indifference (i.e. “free will).

      Norm said:
      “That ‘salvation is all of God and none of man’ may be a straw man in your view. I got that phraseology from numerous Calvinists with whom I have spoken, some were significant grads from DTS; some, students and employees at SBTS.”

      Me now:

      I don’t doubt that you have heard that misleading slogan. I have heard it many times as well. If pressed, I think they would say they meant that the Triune God (the Father in sending, the Son in dying, and the Spirit in effectually applying) is the efficacious cause for why they believed, and why they will continue to believe. They’re trying to exclude all personal merit, and ground the infallibility of their final salvation in the will of God, and the sole meritorious cause to be in Christ’s work alone. If they did not refine their slogan, it would seem to be rank antinomianism, such that human responsibility or cooperation in “salvation” (i.e. conversion and sanctification) is not necessary. I have no doubt that DTS and SBTS are producing young graduates who spout slogans (particularly TULIP slogans), rather than articulate careful and precisely worded sound doctrine. “Salvation is all of God and none of man” in terms of the efficacy of salvation and the sole meritorious grounds of our justification, but it is not true in terms of vital secondary causes for justification and all that follows. We have our responsibilities, and human responsibility is *just as* important as divine sovereignty. It’s very unfortunate that seminaries are producing students who are not *equally* zealous about both.

        Norm Miller

        I am not convinced of any of your points, Tony. You are simply rehashing stuff I’ve heard before. You are unique, however, in the belief that all can be saved. Never have I heard ANY Calvinist say that.
        That, of course, causes me to question all else, for countless C’s have told me that one must hold all 5 points, or one is not a Calvinist at all.
        Wish you guys would get your act together. It’s hard to respond effectively when Cs offer so many interps and opinions.
        Despite your irenic efforts to answer my objections — to no avail, I believe — it is apparent to me that I cannot accept your interps of Scripture or what other Cs may have meant when they said thus-and-so.
        Further, I don’t have the time to read your extensive responses.
        One of the rules of bloggery is to write short so you will be read.
        — Norm

Robert

Hello Norm,

You make a common error regarding the nature of calvinism when you write:

“If God “makes me spontaneously willing,” how is that not violence to my will? This means two things: I cannot refuse God, nor can I choose God. Is that not violence to one’s will on both ends of the spectrum?”

I have used this analogy before to present the nature of “free will” under calvinism. But I think it will show you that under calvinism the human person has a will, nothing is done to violate that will, and yet the person in no way has freedom as most of ordinarily understand it to be.

Imagine a neurosurgeon named Frazier who has the ability to place a device in another person which then allows Frazier to control the person’s thoughts, desires, bodily movement, everything. And to do so directly, completely and continuously. And yet all of this is outside the awareness of the second person. So Frazier implants his device into “Joe” and they play a game of chess. From Joe’s perspective he is making all of the moves in the game freely, doing exactly what he wants in each case, and he is not being coerced against his will as far as he can tell (nor is any “violence being done to his will”). And yet the reality is that his every move is being controlled and determined by Frazier. At a certain point in the “game” (actually I would say the **sham**! :-) ) Frazier has Joe do a really bad move that leads to him losing his Queen and then quickly being checkmated.

Who is responsible for Joe’s bad chess move?

I mean he made the move by his own will, he was not coerced into making the move, as far as he could tell he was acting freely and it was his hand that moved the chess piece when the bad move occurred. Joe made the very move that he wanted to make. The move was his choice. Now somoene like me that believes in the ordinary sense of free will (technically called libertarian free will) would have a problem in blaming Joe for his bad move. I would say that Joe was not acting freely and I would blame Frazier for the bad move.

Note that under this scenario that Joe makes choices, he just ***never ever has a choice***. He goes through the process of making a choice. He just never HAVE A CHOICE. He would have a choice if he could make the bad move that Frazier controls him to make or choose not to make that move and make another move instead. But as Frazier controls his mind and thoughts and decisions and actions, Joe has no choice but to make the move that Frazier wants Joe to make. This is an important thing to note about calvinism. Under calvinism we MAKE CHOICES all the time, and all of these choices are choices that God preplanned for us to make and controlled us to make sure we made them just as planned.

The problem is that if all is ordained and we are controlled in this way, we never HAVE A CHOICE. And having a choice is what most people ordinarily think of when they speak of having free will.

Now if Frazier’s activity or the dynamics of the device in Joe were unknown to Joe he would not know that he was under this kind of control. Joe might be perfectly convinced that he has free will, that he has choices (as it seems to him that he chooses to do whatever he wants to do: what he is unaware of however, is that Frazier not only controls what choices he makes, Frazier also controls what thoughts Joe has, what beliefs Joe has, what desires Joe has).

Now I have problems with this kind of control of other people, as I do not believe it is the right thing to do to other people. And I don’t believe that God controls us in this way. But calvinists do. For them, if they are consistent with their belief that God ordains/predetermines/preplans all events. Then God in fact exercises this kind of control over all people. If He controls our wills in this way. Then he may first control us to have unbelieving thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, for a time. Then at the time he ordained, he takes control of the will and changes it to a will that seeks after God, loves God, etc. This would all be very easy to do for God: if He controlled people in the same way that Frazier controls Joe. Calvinists believe he does control us in this way while noncalvinists reject this kind of control.

And Norm if you understand their view of control, then you can understand how ***in their view***, in the way they think about control of human persons, no violence is done to the human will when God controls it to go in another direction.

Robert

Robert

“Just wondering if Cs “freely choose” to believe as they do. — Norm”

That DEPENDS upon whose definition of free will that you are operating on.

For most of us, who live in the real world and so have and make our own choices every day: we view acting freely or freely choosing to mean that you had a choice and then you made a choice. This choice was up to you. It was not coerced nor were you being controlled by another person who made you do what you did so that it was impossible for you to do otherwise. I call this the ordinary view of free will as this is the view that most people openly espouse and live by.

But there is also this odd group of people out there who want to believe in determinism. In fact, they want to believe not only that everything is predetermined, but that God has predetermined everything and also controls everything and everyone in such a way (cf. Frazier’s manner of controlling Joe above) as to ensure that this total plan of preplanned events takes place exactly as preplanned.

These folks also want to claim to believe that they believe in “free will”.

But they have a non-hidden agenda, the agenda is this: they want to define free will so that it fits what they want to believe about God predestinating everything.

They also have a problem: most people’s understanding of free will, the ordinary view, includes not only that we MAKE CHOICES but that we also sometimes HAVE CHOICES. But in a completely predetermined world you could only MAKE CHOICES you just would never ever HAVE A CHOICE.

So these necessatarians (i.e. they believe that everything necessarily happens according to God’s predecided plan), these determinists HAVE TO CAREFULLY DEFINE “free will” not so that it fits what most people understand by the term: but so that it fits their desire that everything is preplanned by God.

How do they conjure up this trick?

They define free will as doing what you want to do, as not being coerced (forced against your will), as doing things voluntarily. And they are very, very, very careful to define things in such as way that people still have a will, stilll make choices, still do what they want to do, choose “freely” when they are not forced against their will to do what they choose to do. I shared the analogy about Joe’s bad chess move because it demonstrates in a clear way that if someone is being controlled by another person they really are not acting freely (unless of course you define free will in such a way as that it exists even when you never ever have a choice). In philosophy this position initially invented by David Hume and held by other famous atheists such as Thomas Hobbes is called “compatibilism” (i.e. a person’s actions are fully determined and simultaneously they are acting “freely” as per the compatibilist’s understanding and definition of free will).

So Norm you ask whether these determinists believe that they freely choose to believe as they do?

Yes ACCORDING TO THEIR DEFINITION of free will.

NO according to the ordinary sense of free will, the view held by the majority.

Robert

    Lydia

    “But they have a non-hidden agenda, the agenda is this: they want to define free will so that it fits what they want to believe about God predestinating everything”

    Bingo.

    Just a few weeks ago, had a very irenic convo with a young NC pastor about this and he told me emphatically: I cannot help what I believe!

    If we carefully unpack that and the implications, it is scary stuff.

    It has been explained to me in the past by some NC that Free Will is about our free will to sin. Because it is our natural state.

    Mary S.

    I’m curious, what makes you believe a spiritually blind, spiritually deaf, spiritually dead person, whose every thought of their heart is only evil continually, and are God’s enemies, would possibly have the “free will” to repond positively to God.

Robert

Hello Lydia,

You wrote:

“Bingo.
Just a few weeks ago, had a very irenic convo with a young NC pastor about this and he told me emphatically: I cannot help what I believe!
If we carefully unpack that and the implications, it is scary stuff.”

Yeh, let’s unpack what the implications of consistent calvinism means.

It means that we never ever have a choice. It means that while we may believe that we have choices, in fact, we never do. It means that every choice that we make is something that God preplanned and ensures by controlling our minds, wills,thoughts, beliefs, desires, bodies, everything. It means that every evil and every sin is exactly what God wanted to occur, planned to occur, and controls us to make sure that it all goes according to plan. It means there are no exceptions to any of this.

Now determinists try to “change the topic” by focusing on the unbelievers and their sins. This is supposed to take our attention off the fact that God is ordaining all the sin and evil that occurs. So they will argue that nonbelievers are sinning by choice, because it is what they want to do. At first, to the unitiated this may seem plausible at a surface level of analysis. But who planned for these nonbelievers to have a sin nature that necessitated that they sin? Who preplanned their every unbelieving, evil, unrighteous thought? Who preplanned their every evil desire?

And this all is bad enough with regard to unbelievers.
But what about believers?

We think that God wants us to be holy and to do the right thing, but if all is predestined by God, then that includes the sins of believers. That includes every time that a believer gives into temptation, that includes every temptation the believers faces, that includes every evil or sinful desire the believer has in their minds. If all is ordained that includes every act of disobedience and sin of every believer. So on the one hand God tells us in the Word that such and such is good or evil. On the other hand, every time a believer commits sin or does evil, it was all according to God’s plan. If the leadership or pastor treats people badly or teaches false things, that was ordained by God. If spouses or children are abused by their spouses, that was ordained by God. The examples could be multiplied endlessly.

And as you correctly observe Lydia “is is scary stuff.”

“It has been explained to me in the past by some NC that Free Will is about our free will to sin. Because it is our natural state.”

And that is again an evasion meant to take our focus off the problem: that in their view God becomes the “author of sin”, He becomes the one who masterminds and ensures that every evil and sin occur exactly as it does.

Speaking of our “natural state”. Our “natural state” prior to the fall was to be in loving and intimate personal relationship with God and each other. It was a state in which there was love between man and God and man and woman. It was a condition in which sin was not the “natural state” of humans. Sin is an intruder into the world God created and said was good in all respects. Death is an intruder into this world as well. The wonder of the gospel message is that God plans to take back the creation, to eliminate the presence and consequences of sin, to restore loving and personal relationship between mankind and Himself. We are in the “in-between” state of history. Between the fall of Adam and the coming New Earth and New Creation in which righteousness dwells and there is no sin.

God is not ordaining every evil and sin that occurs: instead he is working His plan that is centered in Christ to overcome evil and its effects on a worldwide and universal scale. The Christian response is not to say that God ordains all evil, it is to overcome evil with good. The Christian response is not to believe that God ordains all evil and sin but that He works to overcome it and that we are to be involved in this as well. In the New Creation we will get back to where Adam and Eve were prefall, when there was no sin. And the great thing about all of this is that God is the one who is achieving this victory over sin and its effects, and He is doing it through Christ. And not only is He doing it, He invites all to be part of His kingdom, to be part of that eternal state that **is** coming.

God is not a “grace restrictor” who sprinkles his grace only upon a few lucky souls. No, He gives His grace to the world. That is why Christ’s atonement is provided for the whole world not just a few lucky preselected ones.

Robert

Tony

In three different comments above, Norm said this to me:

“For, I have heard from Calvinists that all are not savable b/c not all are elect.”

“You [Tony] have demonstrated you are neither a mainstream or consistent Calvinist by saying that all are savable.”

“You [Tony] are unique, however, in the belief that all can be saved. Never have I heard ANY Calvinist say that.”

It’s unfortunate that you are only hearing me say that, Norm, and not the Calvinists engaging you and others today. When I refer to “mainstream” Calvinism, I am talking about the broad soteriological consensus formulated in the Reformers, the Calvinistic Puritans, the Dortian consensus, the teaching of most Westminster divines, and other influential Reformed/Calvinistic teachers up til now. I am *not* referring to young graduates of SBTS, DTS, or elsewhere. These young guys are mostly steeped in the modern TULIP literature, and they have not been carefully studying the important theologians from within their own tradition.

I am not “unique” or alone in affirming that all men are saveable. Many Calvinists have explicitly said it, and here are just a few examples I have blogged in the recent past:

John Davenant (1572-1641), an influential English theologian and delegate to the Synod of Dort, said:

“Again, that is not to be judged absolutely impossible for a man to do, which if himself by a voluntary act of his own hindered not, might by him be done. And thus we say the non-elect have a power or possibility to believe or repent at the preaching of the Gospel: which power might be reduced into act, if the voluntary forwardness and resistiveness of their own hearts were not the only hindering cause.” See John Davenant, Animadversions (London: Printed for John Partridge, 1641), 256-257.

William Barlee, who was a High Calvinist Puritan and Reformed critic of Thomas Pierce, references both John Davenant and William Twisse (the first prolocutor at the Westminster Assembly) as saying “that it is possible, by virtue of Christ’s merits, for all men to be saved, in case of true Faith and Repentance; but in that case they shall certainly be saved, by virtue of Christ’s death.” See William Barlee, A Necessary Vindication of the Doctrine of Predestination, Formerly Asserted (London: Printed for George Swawbridge, at the Bible on Ludgate-Hill, 1658), 87.

Nathaniel Homes (1599-1678), another Calvinistic Puritan in the Davenantian trajectory said:

“And therefore I think we may safely conclude from all these premises, That the Lamb of God offering up himself (cloathed with human nature) a sacrifice for the sins of the world, intended by giving satisfaction sufficiently to God’s Justice, to make the nature of man (which he assumed) saveable, a fit subject for mercy, and to prepare a sovereign medicine for the sins of the whole world, which should be denied to none that mind to take the benefit thereof; howsoever he intended not, by applying this all-sufficient sacrifice, or satisfaction to every one in particular, to make it effectual unto the salvation of all, or to procure thereby, at the hands of the Father, actual pardon for the sins of the whole world. He applies this only effectually to them who making claim to the satisfaction, by promise, suing for the spirit and faith upon other promises, in prayer waiting for a gracious return until they have it. So that in one respect Christ may be said to die for all; and in another respect, not to die for all.”

And again, Homes says:

“Upon all it follows, That though the fallen Angels have no encouragement at all to hearken to the Gospel, there being nothing at all for them: yet all men to whom the Gospel shall come, have much encouragement to hearken to it, in this, That Christ took upon him the common nature of mankind, made it saveable, brought it nearer to salvation then the nature of lapsed Angels.” See Nathanael Homes, “Christ’s offering himself to all Sinners, and Answering all their Objection,” in The Works of Dr. Nathanael Homes (London: Printed for the Author, 1651), 15-16.

Nathaniel Vincent (1638-1697), an influential Puritan, said:

“He [Christ] was made in the likeness of Men, therefore mankind is the dearer to him. There is a difference put between apostate Angels and fallen Men; I speak even of those, that through their own wickedness and folly miss of salvation. The reprobate Angels never had a remedy provided, nor a Day of Grace afforded; Christ assumed not their nature, but as soon as ever they had sinned, they fell, like lightning, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, from Heaven to Hell. But Man was not thus dealt with; even those whom the Apostle calls Vessels of Wrath fitted to destruction, are yet endured with much long-suffering, Rom. 9. 22. Their salvation is in it self really possible, I say, in it self, though all things consider’d there is an impossibility of any other event, than the destruction of sinners continuing in their rebellions; and this real possibility of salvation will make them cast the whole blame of their perdition on themselves, that the day of salvation was trifled away, and the salvation of that day was neglected.” See Nathaniel Vincent, The Day of Grace in Which the Chief of Sinners May be Turn’d and Healed (Boston: Re-printed for Alford Butler, and sold at his Shop, the lower End of King-Street, near the Crown Coffee-House, 1728), 52.

Richard Vines (1600?-1656), a Westminster divine and Puritan, said:

“Sixthly, There is a general encouragement: you may call it Comfort, that arises to us from Gods sending Christ. For where there is no hope, there is no motion; where there is no encouragement to believe, there a man hath little heart: From Gods sending Christ to save you, there is encouragement; but the present Comfort, the special Consolation of a mans salvation, arises from the second particular of the two, that God hath drawn man to Christ Jesus; there is, I say, an encouragement that God hath sent Christ; that is, there is a salvability; men are made saveable from the curse and condemnation of the Law, under which they are involved:…” See Richard Vines, God’s Drawing and Man’s Coming to Christ (London: Printed for Abel Roper, at the Sun against St. Dunstans Church in Fleet-street, 1662), 190–191.

Edmund Calamy (1600-1666), another Westminster divine, said:

“I am far from universal redemption in the Arminian sense; but that that I hold is in the sense of our divines in the Synod of Dort, that Christ did pay a price for all, absolute intention for the elect, conditional intention for the reprobate in case they do believe, that all men should be salvabiles, non obstante lapsu Adami . . . that Jesus Christ did not only die sufficiently for all, but God did intend, in giving of Christ, and Christ in giving Himself, did intend to put all men in a state of salvation in case they do believe.” See Minutes of the Sessions of the Westminster Assembly of Divines, eds. Alexander F. Mitchell & John P. Struthers (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1874), 152.

Henry Scudder (ca. 1585-1652), another Westminster divine, said:

“It must be granted, that Christ gave himself a ransom for all. This ransom may be called general, and for all, in some sense: but how? namely, in respect of the common nature of man, which he took, and of the common cause of mankind, which he undertook; and in itself it was of sufficient price to redeem all men; and because applicable to all, without exception, by the preaching and ministry of the gospel. And it was so intended by Christ, that the plaster should be as large as the sore, and that there should be no defect in the remedy, that is, in the price, or sacrifice of himself offered upon the cross, by which man should be saved, but that all men, and each particular man, might in that respect become salvable by Christ.” See Henry Scudder, The Christian’s Daily Walk in Security and Peace (Glasgow: William Collins, 1826), 279.

Experience Mayhew (1673-1758), a moderate Calvinist in early America, also appealed to William Twisse (the Westminster divine) and strongly taught that all men are saveable in “Grace Defended” (Boston: Printed by B. Green, and Company, for D. Henchman, in Cornhill, 1744), 40-47.

And finally, Charles Hodge, the 19th century Reformed Princeton theologian, clearly said:

“2. It is here [in John 3:16], as well as elsewhere taught, that it was the design of God to render the salvation of all men possible, by the gift of his Son. There was nothing in the nature, or the value, or the design of his work to render it available for any one class of men only. Whosoever believeth, etc. This is not inconsistent with other representations that it entered into God’s design to render the salvation of his people certain by the death of his Son.” See Charles Hodge, Princeton Sermons (London: Thomas Nelson and Sons, 1879), 17.

Even in Hodge’s Systematic theology he affirms that his Augustinian trajectory affirms that the work of Christ was to render the salvation of all men possible, but not *merely* possible:

“The advocates of such [anti-Augustinian] schemes say, that the design of the work of Christ was to render the salvation of all men possible. All they can mean by this is, that if any man (elect or non-elect) believes, he shall, on the ground of what Christ has done, be certainly saved. But Augustinians say the same thing. Their doctrine provides for this universal offer of salvation, as well as any other scheme. It teaches that God in effecting the salvation of his own people, did whatever was necessary for the salvation of all men, and therefore to all the offer may be, and in fact is made in the gospel.” See Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993), 2:556.

Stick with the primary sources of imporant Calvinistic theologians, Norm, not young men coming out of seminarys today who are only familiar with contemporary TULIP books. I think it is safe to say that Charles Hodge is “mainstream” :-)

Grace to you,
Tony

    Norm Miller

    Tony: You mistakenly assume that my DTS and SBTS sources are YRRs. Not so. These references go back to the mid-80s, and the late-90s. And no matter how you couch it, Tony, one cannot call himself a Calvinist and say all are savable, for Calvin did not believe that, and in fact wrote to the opposite position in his Institutes. — Norm

      Tony

      Norm,

      I took the time to carefully document John Davenant (1572-1641), William Twisse (1578-1648), Nathaniel Homes (1599-1678), Nathaniel Vincent (1638-1697), Richard Vines (1600?-1656), Edmund Calamy (1600-1666), Henry Scudder (ca. 1585-1652), and Charles Hodge.(1797-1878) saying that all men are saveable. That’s one very prominent English delegate to the Synod of Dort, four Westminster divines, two other influential Puritans, and a prominent Princeton theologian teaching it. Incidentally, Nathaniel Vincent was a Presbyterian and the younger brother of Thomas Vincent (a chosen catechist to John Owen), just to show you his credentials.

      Are you telling me that you’re going to take a few graduates from DTS and SBTS as representing mainstream historic Calvinism as over against these heavyweights?! Seriously?! How many more Calvinistic stalwarts must I stack up to make my case? William Twisse was not only the first Prolocutor of the Westminster Assembly, but a supralapsarian as well, yet he even said that all men are saveable by virtue of Christ’s work, according to William Barlee’s (a very high Calvinist himself) report. The guys I have quoted represent a broad diversity or spectrum of belief within Calvinistic orthodoxy.

      It is, at the very least, irresponsible for you at this point, in light of the evidence that I have set before you, to say historic or mainstream Calvinism (i.e. not hyper-Calvinism) does not teach the saveability of all men. Stop saying that. And, if you’re going to assert that Calvin himself did not believe that all men were saveable and “wrote to the opposite position in his Institutes,” then I would ask for documentation. Where did he write that? Show it. Prove it. Don’t *merely* assert it. Responsibly demonstrate your case. Granted, Calvin taught against universalism, or that all men would be saved (as we all agree), but that is not the same as denying that all men are saveable. If you’re going to assert the contrary, then give references, please.

      Again, it’s one thing to say A is saying B, and quite another thing to say A’s position entails B. It’s fair game to attempt to argue that Calvinist belief entails that all men are not saveable (A’s views entail B). But it is *not* fair to say that historic/mainstream Calvinists themselves do not say they believe all men are saveable (A says B). The former is an attempted reductio ad absurdum, but the latter is a straw man. Do not do the latter (engage in misrepresentations) when attempting to do the former (setting forth a reductio ad absurdum argument).

      I repeat: show me/us where Calvin wrote in opposition to (or denied) the view that all men are saveable in his Institutes.

        Lydia

        “I repeat: show me/us where Calvin wrote in opposition to (or denied) the view that all men are saveable in his Institutes”

        This sort of demand always reminds me of how Spurgeon quotes are used. You cannot find the implied declaration OR one can find a quote in the mass of writings/sermons that show he was this or that.

        Same with a lot of the declarations about the Koran. How many times has someone challenged me to show where the Koran teaches something that is never declared emphatically but is obviously an implied tenent of their teaching in an illustration, etc.

        In fact, the sort of demand for proof of Calvin writing something that very specific is a problem because Calvin reframes that all men are savable if God so chooses. Those who define, win. That is all Calvinism is. A redefining.

        I am not sure why folks are so impressed with the Institutes as a way to understand God better. Understand Calvin, yes. God? No.

        Yes, I slogged through them. Perhaps it is because I am not in the academy.

        I assume by reading of Calvin’s behavior he did not really believe all humans were savable since he, in the Name of God, put to death “believers” who disagreed with his interpretations.Does anyone else think he will answer for this besides me?

        So arguing about what he wrote seems moot to me. When words are in doubt. Look to actions.

        Norm Miller

        Tony:
        First of all, you don’t have the right to tell me to “stop saying” anything.
        Second: I cannot be expected to query every self-professed Calvinist on the planet. I believe those I cited from the two seminaries represent an accurate demographical slice of Calvinistic doctrine. It would be unthinkable to dismiss them as poor representatives of mainstream Calvinism. In this vein, where are you brother Calvinists who would support your fallacious tenet that mainstream Calvinism holds that all are savable?
        Third: In all of your research of those who wrote about Calvinism, there is one significant person missing: Calvin! So, let me help you, and also prove my point that, though you claim you are a Calvinist, I say you are not, and here is the reason from Calvin’s own hand:
        ““By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)”
        How can those who have been damned to hell, or sentenced to eternal damnation be savable?
        Your argument is not with me, brother, it is with Calvin himself
        Point made. Case closed — Norm

          Tony

          Norm said:
          “First of all, you don’t have the right to tell me to “stop saying” anything.”

          Me now:

          On the basis of the quotes I have provided for you, I believe I ought to tell you to stop saying that mainstream Calvinists say the non-elect are not saveable. If you continue to do so, it will become a *deliberate* misrepresentation of the facts.

          Norm said:
          Second: I cannot be expected to query every self-professed Calvinist on the planet.

          Me now:

          No one is asking you to “query every self-professed Calvinist on the planet. That’s a straw man. Rather, I am asking you to pay attention to the mainstream Calvinists I quoted, who explicitly affirm that all men, including the non-elect, are saveable. Due to more research, I could add quotes from John Preston (another Puritan) and William Burkitt (a Calvinist in the Church of England). William Cunningham (a high Calvinist) also indirectly affirms in volume 2 of his Historical Theololgy where he discusses the Arminian theory and legal obstacles. If I continue to collect all of the evidence from mainstream Calvinists, you’re going to eventually feel like my Hyper-Calvinist opponents when they get crushed by weight of quotes I put on them :-)

          Norm said:
          “I believe those I cited from the two seminaries represent an accurate demographical slice of Calvinistic doctrine. It would be unthinkable to dismiss them as poor representatives of mainstream Calvinism.”

          Me now:

          So you think it is wise to rely on *two* contemporary graduates from seminaries that are *not even Reformed* to assess what is mainstream Calvinism, rather than look to a prominent Dortian Calvinist, several Westminster divines, and several Puritan representatives? I don’t think that is wise, and I think it is unthinkable to dismiss the men I cited.

          Norm said:
          “In this vein, where are you brother Calvinists who would support your fallacious tenet that mainstream Calvinism holds that all are savable?”

          Me now:

          I don’t know what you’re asking for here. All I can do is cite major historic Calvinistic sources for you to show you that they believed all men are saveable. If Charles Hodge does not constitute mainstream Calvinism in your view, then I really can’t help you understand historic Calvinism.

          Norm said:

          “Third: In all of your research of those who wrote about Calvinism, there is one significant person missing: Calvin! So, let me help you, and also prove my point that, though you claim you are a Calvinist, I say you are not, and here is the reason from Calvin’s own hand:

          “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)”

          How can those who have been damned to hell, or sentenced to eternal damnation be savable?
          Your argument is not with me, brother, it is with Calvin himself
          Point made. Case closed — Norm”

          Me now:

          You haven’t demonstrated your case, Norm. All you have shown is that Calvin believed that some (the non-elect) are”preordained to eternal damnation,” or “predestined to death.” Into these words you are reading your own presupposition that one who says this cannot consistently say these non-elect people are saveable. Your reasoning pattern is the fallacy of affirming the consequent (If P, then Q. Q, therefore P). Here’s what I mean:

          1) If Calvin denies that the non-elect are saveable (If P), then Calvin believed in the preordination of the non-elect to destruction (Then Q).
          2) Calvin believed in the preordination of the non-elect to destruction (Q),
          3) Therefore Calvin denied that the non-elect are saveable (Therefore P).

          In the text you cite, you see Calvin saying Q (the preordination and predestination of the non-elect to eternal damnation). Then, since you presuppose that idea is inconsistent with believing the non-elect are saveable (P), you argue that Calvin doesn’t say P (the non-elect are saveable). This is why you ask, “How can those who have been [preordained] to hell or eternal damnation (Q) be savable (P)?” It’s called the “Affirming the Consequent” fallacy, and is therefore invalid. Further, if was true that those who believe in a kind of double predestination don’t say the non-elect are saveable, then Twisse wouldn’t say it. William Twisse wrote extensively on his supralapsarian and double predestinarian views in his book “the Riches of God?s Love unto the Vessels of Mercy, consistent with his absolute Hatred or Reprobation of the Vessels of Wrath,” and yet, as William Barlee (another very high Calvinist) reports, Twisse believed “that it is possible, by virtue of Christ’s merits, for all men to be saved.” He acts as a counterfactual to your assumption that those who believe in kind of double predestination do not say the non-elect are saveable.

          And lastly, Calvin himself, contrary to your assumptions, plainly

          “That, then, is how our Lord Jesus bore the sins and iniquities of many. But in fact, this word “many” is often as good as equivalent to “all“. And indeed, our Lord Jesus was offered to all the world. For it is not speaking of three or four when it says: ‘For God so loved the world, that he spared not His only Son.” But yet we must notice that the Evangelist adds in this passage: “That whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but obtain eternal life.” Our Lord Jesus suffered for all, and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for >>we can obtain salvation through him<>could<< share by faith?" John Calvin, Sermons on Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death and Passion of Christ, 52:12, p., 140-1.

          Observe:

          1) By saying "we" CAN obtain salvation through him [Christ], he is including the "all" in that "we," even persistent "unbelievers."
          2) He says of these "unbelievers" that they "COULD" share by faith in the blessing of salvation, but that they don't makes them "doubly culpable."

          You may think that Calvin is inconsistent with himself, but you cannot and ought not to say, in light of the evidence, that he didn't think the non-elect who perish were saveable when they were offered salvation.

          Point made. Case closed. Check mate on Calvin, Norm :-)

            Tony

            For some reason the formatting on that Calvin quote got messed up. Here it is again:

            “That, then, is how our Lord Jesus bore the sins and iniquities of many. But in fact, this word “many” is often as good as equivalent to “all“. And indeed, our Lord Jesus was offered to all the world. For it is not speaking of three or four when it says: ‘For God so loved the world, that he spared not His only Son.” But yet we must notice that the Evangelist adds in this passage: “That whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but obtain eternal life.” Our Lord Jesus suffered for all, and there is neither great nor small who is not inexcusable today, for **we can obtain salvation through him**. Unbelievers who turn away from Him and who deprive themselves of him by their malice are today doubly culpable. For how will they excuse their ingratitude in not receiving the blessing in which **they could** share by faith?” John Calvin, Sermons on Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death and Passion of Christ, 52:12, p., 140-1.

            Norm Miller

            This is far worse than I thought, Tony. Even Calvin wasn’t a mainstream Calvinist!
            Further, he was a schizophrenic theologian. Thx for pointing that out to us all.
            Did I say schizophrenic? Yes. My citation compared to yours proves it, your convoluted interpretations of Calvin notwithstanding. First, Calvin says some are damned to hell, but then they are savable?
            Calvin, what have you been drinking?
            Calvin must not have been as staunch about God’s sovereignty and his decisions made “before the foundation of the world” as some Calvinists are.
            And, per your accusation of me erecting a straw man: You know, Tony, that is getting to be a pretty well-worn strategy by even the real Calvinists. I can’t count the times that impotent bomb has been dropped when Calvinists are unable to controvert the point being made. You tried to diss my original point regarding DTS and SBTS grads by making the false assumption they were just a few and were young; and then when I correct you by providing the dates of when the assertions by them were made, you accuse me of erecting a straw man? How clever of you — erecting a straw man to accuse me of the same. Brilliant debate tactic, but it actually turns around to bite you. I’m sorry you can’t see the simplicity of what I was saying in that you were incorrect in your assumptions about those I was citing. That is hardly a straw man.
            Unless and until you can trot out some of your living peers — not dead commentary writers — who will confirm and support what you have been saying, I will go on believing what I have heard from every follower (except you) of that schizophrenic theologian, and that is the non-elect are damned to hell by the eternal decree of God, and such a decree is irrevocable. — Norm
            Addendum: Since posting the above comment, I went back to read your rebuttal more carefully. Again, I discovered another false assumption you have made by thinking I was citing only one DTS grad and one SBTS grad. Originally, I also noted SBTS employees. When I noted graduates and employees of two seminaries, that would entail dozens of people. Also, to say DTS and SBTS are not reformed in their theology is to take the ostrich approach of investigation.
            BTW: What is your understanding of “mainstream”? To me, it connotes contemporary. Perhaps you mean traditional Calvinist. Perhaps this is the source of our disagreement. Let me move away from the mainstream term to bring clarity to you and say, again, that I never have heard (that would be in my lifetime) any Calvinist aver what you do about the eternally damned to be savable. Never. Nothing you can say will retract what I have heard.
            You are surely welcome to say they are wrong and not “mainstream,” but this is what I have heard all of my theological life from self-proclaimed Calvinists.
            If you are saying that what I have heard not only from the graduates of two seminaries and also the staffers of one is not “mainstream,” and if by “mainstream” you mean traditional and not “contemporary,” then I take your point (if I understand it as I think you intend).
            Please — do us all a favor — get your peers to come on over here and support you. For every one you can produce, I suspect I can probably produce 10 others who will agree with me that what you are saying is revelatory.
            Also, have I asked you if you are a Southern Baptist? And where did you do your seminary work?
            Just curious.

              Norm Miller

              A few more thoughts
              YOU: “… it will become a *deliberate* misrepresentation of the facts.”

              I am not misrepresenting what I have heard. You accuse me falsely in this vein.

              YOU: “No one is asking you to “query every self-professed Calvinist on the planet.”

              Explained above. You simply missed my point and falsely accused me of erecting a straw man.

              YOU: “So you think it is wise to rely on *two* contemporary graduates from seminaries that are *not even Reformed* to assess what is mainstream Calvinism …”

              Another false assumption by you, and a misunderstanding of what is taught at DTS and SBTS.

              YOU citing me accurately:
              “In this vein, where are you brother Calvinists who would support your fallacious tenet that mainstream Calvinism holds that all are savable?”

              YOU in response: “I don’t know what you’re asking for here.”

              Explained above. Have some living people support your opinion by commenting on this blog.

              YOU, citing me accurately again: “How can those who have been damned to hell, or sentenced to eternal damnation be savable?”

              My question followed my citation of Calvin’s Institutes
              “By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been created for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been predestined to life or death.” (John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, 3:21:5)”

              And YOU again, in response:
              “Into these words you are reading your own presupposition that one who says this cannot consistently say these non-elect people are saveable. Your reasoning pattern is the fallacy of affirming the consequent…”

              I am not reading into Calvin anything. I am reading his very words. And they are clear. Not all are created equal, and some are preordained to eternal damnation (which you read as “death” who is reading into Calvin, now?)
              I need not presuppose anything. I am employing the hermeneutical technique of reading words and taking them at face value. My reasoning pattern is hardly a fallacy. I am taking Calvin at his word(s). Is there any other way to read and understand this? Is this not where all the Calvinists I have ever heard from get their tenet that the non-elect cannot be saved? To interpret this passage from Calvin any other way than what it communicates on its face is to do what you accused me of doing — “reading into” what Calvin wrote.
              So, again, you falsely accuse me.

              I said: “Your argument is not with me, brother, it is with Calvin himself.”

              I may have to retract that, if I may. For, now, after having read the sermon excerpt (not from the Institutes) that you supplied that shows Calvin contradicting himself, I must say that your argument is not with calvin, but that Calvin’s argument is with himself — thus his theological schizophrenia. — Norm

            Tony

            First, sorry if I have misrepresented you, Norm. Just know that it has not been deliberate. As we both noted before, I suppose we have both been using the word “mainstream” differently. I am reading you, now at least, as meaning something like contemporary popular Calvinism, or that which seems to be the main beliefs of Calvinists in the United States today. I am referring to that broad consensus of soteriological beliefs held by the vast majority of Calvinistic teachers from the beginning of the Reformation, and up to the present day. This is why I have been citing prominent theologians who are the best representatives of what should be considered “mainstream.” I am, therefore, excluding hyper-Calvinists, for example. This is also why I don’t thin it is necessary to summon other contemporary Calvinists to come over here and say the same thing I am on the saveability of the non-elect. I think it is sufficient to cite the men they should be accepting as their teachers, i.e. Dortian theologians, Westminster divines, Puritans, and relatively modern Calvinists from prominent Calvinistic institutions like old Princeton.

            I readily grant that there are a lot of confused, poorly trained and unstudied Calvinsits existing today in the United States. They are so steeped in simplistic TULIP categories and modern TULIP books that they do not accurately understand the history and theology of Calvinism, and yet they are too eager to teach others. They are *part* of the reason why there is a lot of confusion these days. I think I recall seeing some of them on this blog saying that the non-elect are not saveable. In so far as they are saying that, they are ignorant of their own tradition, or what is has been taught by “mainstream” Calvinistic theologians through the centuries. If non-Calvinists want to understand mainstream historic Calvinism, I would encourage them to read and listen to the broadly accepted theologians from that community.

            Second, I want to point out a possible area of confusion in the way you’re stating the question. You asked, “How can those who have been damned to hell, or sentenced to eternal damnation be savable?” Noticed that you’re asking about “those who have been damned to hell.” No orthodox Calvinist thinks “those damned to hell,” i.e. those already dead and in hell, have a second chance, or a possibility there to be saved. What we’re talking about are the living non-elect, or those who are not yet dead and have been passed over by God from eternity. Therefore, if you are talking to contemporary Calvinists, then ask the question this way: “Are the non-elect existing today actually saveable? Or, were the non-elect when they were alive in the past, in any sense saveable?” If they say no, then they have departed from mainstream historic Calvinism on that point.

            Third, I am glad you can now see that Calvin himself believed that all living unbelievers (including the non-elect who persist in unbelief) are saveable. I know and understand why you think Calvin was inconsistent or “schizophrenic.” The quote you provided by Calvin proves nothing more than that Calvin believed the non-elect were preordained and predestined to destruction. He does not say in that quote that he doesn’t believe they are saveable. You have the premise that “if Calvin believed in a form of double predestination, then he does not say the non-elect are saveable.” To be more accurate, I think your reasoning pattern is going like this:

            1) If Calvin believed in double predestination, then he did not believe the non-elect in this world are saveable (Norm’s premise).
            2) Calvin believed the reprobate or non-elect were predestined to destruction (See the quote you provided from the Institutes).
            3) Therefore, Calvin did not believe the non-elect in this world are saveable.

            Actually, the *FORM* of this argument is valid, as it is the form of a modus ponens (If A, then B. A, therefore B). But, the problem is the first premise. That is false. Yes, Calvin did believe in a form of double predestination, but he ALSO believed the non-elect are saveable. Simply proving that Calvin or any other theologian believed in a form of double predestination does NOT prove that they didn’t think the non-elect are saveable, which is why I offered Twisse to you as another couterfactual. Twisse, as everyone grants, also believed in a form of double predestination, and yet he, like Calvin, believed the non-elect are saveable. Obviously you don’t think they are being self-consistent, but that doesn’t matter when it comes to the above argument. They do SAY they believe in BOTH election AND the salvability of the non-elect at the same time. Just because one can show from the Institutes that Calvin believed that the non-elect were preordained and predestined to destruction, it does not follow that he did not believe the non-elect are saveable. Whether he was being self-consistent or not is another matter. Calvin and “mainstream” (in the sense I am using that term) do maintain that the non-elect are saveable, however “schizophrenic” you think they are.

            Fourth, obviously you and other non-Calvinists don’t think a Calvinistic view of election can be consistently held along with the belief that the non-elect are saveable, hence the charge of theological “schizophrenia.” See my response to Robert below to see why I think they both can be held, in the sense that the salvation of the non-elect is a possibility in the natural or legal sense, but not a moral sense. Note how the Puritan Nathaniel Vincent navigates between these categories when he asserts that salvation of the reprobate is a “real possibility”:

            “1. One shall be drawn from the Son’s Incarnation, and taking our nature on him. Hence it comes to pass, that unto Man such kindness is expressed. The Apostle says, Verily, he took not on him the nature of Angels, but he took on him the seed of Abraham, Heb. 2. 16. He was made in the likeness of Men, therefore mankind is the dearer to him. There is a difference put between apostate Angels and fallen Men; I speak even of those, that through their own wickedness and folly miss of salvation. The reprobate Angels never had a remedy provided, nor a Day of Grace afforded; Christ assumed not their nature, but as soon as ever they had sinned, they fell, like lightning, suddenly, in the twinkling of an eye, from Heaven to Hell. But Man was not thus dealt with; even those whom the Apostle calls Vessels of Wrath fitted to destruction, are yet endured with much long-suffering, Rom. 9. 22. Their salvation is in it self really possible, I say, in it self, though all things consider’d there is an impossibility of any other event, than the destruction of sinners continuing in their rebellions; and this real possibility of salvation will make them cast the whole blame of their perdition on themselves, that the day of salvation was trifled away, and the salvation of that day was neglected.

            This matter may be made more obvious and plain by a similitude. The Apostle Paul, Acts 26. admonisheth the Centurion, who was to conduct him to Rome, that the voyage they were about to make, would be with much damage and hurt, not only of the lading and ship, but also of their lives. Who can deny, that the tarrying in the Haven where they were, and where they might have been in safeguard, was in it self really possible? and they could not reasonably lay the blame of their shipwrack [sic] on God’s decree and determination, but upon their own rashness. In like manner sinners are admonished, that if they go on in wickedness ’twill be to their hurt and eternal damage, not only of their lives, but also of their souls. Who can deny, that the abstaining from such and such sins is really possible? therefore God’s decree is not to be blamed (which brings no coaction upon the will of Man) but Mans own perversness if he is wrack’d, and miscarries to eternity.” See Nathaniel Vincent, The Day of Grace in Which the Chief of Sinners May be Turn’d and Healed (Boston: Re-printed for Alford Butler, and sold at his Shop, the lower End of King-Street, near the Crown Coffee-House, 1728), 52–54.

            Vincent argues that the salvation of reprobates is a “real possiblity,” in one sense, but an “impossibility” in another. It is a real possibility because the Son assumed their nature and offers pardon to them (legally and naturally possible), but it is not possible given their persistence in a perverse nature (moral impossibility). John Davenant has the same distinctions going on when he said:

            “Again, that is not to be judged absolutely [or entirely in every sense] impossible for a man to do, which if himself by a voluntary act of his own hindered not, might by him be done. And thus we say the non-elect have a power or possibility [naturally speaking] to believe or repent at the preaching of the Gospel: which power might be reduced into act, if the voluntary forwardness and resistiveness of their own hearts were not the only hindering cause.” See John Davenant, Animadversions (London: Printed for John Partridge, 1641), 256-257. Bracketed inserts mine to clarify.

            In other words, like Vincent, it is possible in one sense for the non-elect to believe and be saved, naturally speaking (i.e. they have minds and wills), but it is not possible, morally speaking, since that “resistiveness of their own hearts” continues to be a “hindering cause” in the case of the non-elect. The distinctions I am making are not novel. They are made in the Dortian Calvinists and Puritans, even though few, if any, contemporary Calvinists you are talking to today are aware of these things.

            Anyway, this has been yet another lengthy post, but I hope it helps to produce a mutual understanding. If you reply, I will read it, but this will probably be my last comment under this post since it is too time consuming to continue with thorough replies. Again, I apologize if I have not properly understood your terms or represented you. Perhaps we should have earlier on discussed what we meant by “mainstream,” as that would have lessened any frustration in this dialogue. If you encounter any contemporary Calvinists saying the non-elect are not saveable without qualification, you can know they do not represent mainstream Calvinistic teaching as represented by Calvin himself and the other Calvinists I have listed. One may think that we are all inconsistent or “schizophrenic,” but one ought not to say that the Calvinistic tradition does not SAY the non-elect are saveable (stra man). What non-Calvinists should rather attempt to argue is, although Calvinists themselves SAY they believe the non-elect are saveable, they are inconsistent with themselves (reductio ad absurdum). Much of our discussion has been directly related to these words by Dr. Allen in the main post above:

            “I also noted how one must make a distinction between a particular doctrine or theological position and the entailments of that doctrine/position. It is the difference in logic between saying “A is B” and saying “A implies B.” Sometimes we are unclear in our discussions and false conclusions are drawn because we fail to make this crucial distinction.”

            You may think that the conjoined Calvinistic beliefs in 1) election/prederition and 2) the saveability of the non-elect are in contradiction, but you shouldn’t say they themselves do not believe in #2, or the saveability of the non-elect. That mistake is just the same as saying Calvinists do not believe in human responsibility since they believe in a kind of divine determinism. They actually believe BOTH, even if you think they are confused or inconsistent with themselves. Nota Bene: Arguing A is B (or saying person A says B) is not the same as arguing A implies B (or saying person A’s belief entails B). Heed Allen’s observation, as the mistake is VERY common in these soteriological discussions on BOTH SIDES of the theological fence.

            Grace to you,
            Tony

              Norm Miller

              Tony: Can you possibly, at all, write shorter? I simply have not the time to read your tomes, including your latest. Sorry. — Norm

            Tony

            My latest lengthy comment above is important, Norm, so please take the time to read it *when you do have the time*, as I think it will be helpful toward a mutual understanding. As I said in my comment, “this has been yet another lengthy post, but I hope it helps to produce a mutual understanding. If you reply, I will read it, but this will probably be my last comment under this post since it is too time consuming to continue with thorough replies.”

            Thanks,
            Tony

              Norm Miller

              Tony: No matter how you try to explain it, I can see no reconciliation between my citation of Calvin from the Institues where he clearly notes some are created for heavne, and others, hell — and then your sermon citation where C’s verbiage clearly contradicts the Institutes citation. This is why I say Calvin is not a Calvinist. And I’m not the only one to say that. Others who have studied Calvin at length — theologian friends of mine — have come away with the same observation. Further still, I have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue this matter with you. I mean no offense to you in this, Tony. It is a matter of what is the best use of my time. — Norm

            Tony

            Norm said:
            “Tony: No matter how you try to explain it, I can see no reconciliation between my citation of Calvin from the Institues where he clearly notes some are created for heaven, and others, hell — and then your sermon citation where C’s verbiage clearly contradicts the Institutes citation.

            Me now:
            There are two kinds of contradictions: explicit and implicit. It is not a “clear contradiction,” in the sense of being “explicit,” in Calvin, but only one that you *might* argue is an “implicit” contradiction. You could argue that it is an EXPLICIT or CLEAR contradiction if in your citation of the Institutes he said some men (the non-elect) are not saveable. But he doesn’t say that. He just asserts that they are “preordained” or “predestined” to eternal destruction. Since you think that such an idea is logically incompatible with saying the non-elect are saveable, you view that as a contradiction. If, however, you were to keep your claims modest, you could only say it is an IMPLICIT one, not an EXPLICIT or CLEAR one.

            My point is this: your quote did not at all prove your initial claim, i.e. that Calvin taught against the salvability of the non-elect. He did not. The most you could TRY to argue is that his teaching in the Institutes is incompatible with the idea of the salvability of the non-elect.

            Norm said:
            “This is why I say Calvin is not a Calvinist. And I’m not the only one to say that. Others who have studied Calvin at length — theologian frineds of mine — have come away with the same observation.”

            Me now:

            You need to be more self-aware of the objectionable language you’re using, Norm. What you MEAN to say is that Calvin is not saying what YOU HEAR contemporary or popular Calvinism saying today. But, instead of putting it that way, you’re saying “Calvin is not a Calvinist.” That statement on face value is absurd. Calvin’s teaching is within the boundaries of orthodox, historic, Reformed and confessional teaching as it has come down through the centuries. In that sense, “Calvin was a Calvinist,” and therefore “mainstream.” But, granted, what Calvin taught, in some respects, is NOT what SOME Calvinists TODAY are teaching.

            Norm said:
            “Further still, I have neither the time nor the inclination to pursue this matter with you. I mean no offense to you in this, Tony. It is a matter of what is the best use of my time.”

            Me now:
            That’s alright, Norm. I understand. My main concern is not so much to convince you to embrace Calvinistic theology yourself, or to persuade you of its internal consistency, but rather to get you to properly describe the traditional or historic teaching, even if you want to continue to reject it as unbiblical. If anyone says that 1) “mainstream” (in the sense that I am using that term) Calvinism has not taught the saveability of the non-elect, then they are NOT accurately representing the tradition. My documentation has proved the point, I think. But, to say that 2) Calvinists are not consistent with themselves on the matter is a different claim. Argue in the latter fashion (#2), not the former (#1).

              Norm Miller

              As previously noted, Tony, I haven’t the time to read your tomes. I will observe, however, your opinions about your view of Calvinism seem to be singular among today’s “uninformed” Calvinists. Nary a one has chimed in to support your singular view. — Norm

Robert

Hello Tony,

I appreciate your stance on the atonement (at least you believe that it was more universal than many modern Calvinists would like to believe) and you always provide good citations supporting your views.

Unfortunately your position of simultaneoulsy maintaining that God unconditionally elects whom will be saved (and so logically also chooses who will be damned) and “universal atonement” is inherently unstable and contradictory. It is true that some Calvinists such as yourself have granted the overwhelming exegetical evidence in favor of universal atonement and also admitted that the Owenesque type arguments for definite atonement are both logically faulty and unpersuasive. However as long as you hold to unconditional election, the exhaustive predestination of all events by God (i.e. exhaustive determinism, the denial of libertarian free will and the affirmation of compatibilism) and irresistable grace, you have not gone far enough.

Regarding your discussion of “saveability” you show the instability of your position. On the one hand you affirm unconditional election. This means that say God chooses to save 10 people out of the total of 100 in a particular world history. This means that those 10 will be saved and it is impossible in this particular world history that they not be saved (and conversely it is impossible that the other 90 who are not chosen for salvation to be saved in this particular world history). If God had chosen a different set of persons to be saved (instead of the 10 chosen under our present world history, he chose say 30 others) then in that particular world history those 30 will be saved and it is impossible that they not be saved (and again conversely the other 70 that were not chosen for salvation it is impossible for them to be saved).

According to calvinistic premises an individual cannot be saved unless they are (1) chosen by God in eternity for salvation, (2) given irresistable/effectual grace (I don’t care what you call it, but the concept is that God gives a kind of grace that always results in the salvation of a particular individual). Only those who are chosen for salvation (i.e. #1) will experience, can experience effectual grace. Therefore only those who are chosen for salvation are saveable in such a world.

So to speak of others who are not chosen for salvation, and hence not given effectual grace, as being “saveable” is both misleading and inconsistent with calvinist premises regarding unconditional election and effectual grace. The reality is that if one affirms unconditional election and effectual grace, then one must acknowledge that in a particular world history (say our own world history) only those preselected to be saved **are saveable**.

A Calvinist who is honest and forthright will admit that only those chosen for salvation in a particular world history are saveable. So in our world history, only those whom God preselected for salvation are saveable in this world history. If this were another world history, then perhaps in THAT world other individuals would be saveable. But ultimately we are not talking about another possible world, another possible world history; rather, we are speaking of this world history in which we find ourselves. And again in THIS WORLD HISTORY, according to calvinistic premises in regards to unconditional election and effectual grace, ONLY those preselected for salvation are saveable.

So the right answer to Norm’s original question from a consisten calvinist perspective is that only those whom God preselected for salvation are saveable according to Calvinistic premises. ***If*** the Calvinist is consistent with his/her own premises.

Robert

    Tony

    Thanks for the compliments, Robert. Sorry for the delay in responding to this post, but I had other things I wanted to respond to first, and I knew this would be very lengthy in order to be thorough. Nevertheless, I think it is important for you and others (particularly my fellow Calvinists) to see how one might respond to your particular objections above regarding the internal inconsistency of my own system.

    No Need for Other Possible Worlds:

    Even though I see some uses for modal logic, or in discussing what is “possible” in other logically conceivable worlds, I don’t see any need to go there in response. I see that you have carefully guarded against any attempt for the argument to go in that direction, but I am content to talk about what is “possible” or “impossible” in this particular world, given election, the Spirit’s infallible call of only the elect, etc.

    The Assertions:

    In an abundance of words, you have just *asserted* that it is inconsistent for a Calvinist, given their own premises, to say that the non-elect are saveable, given their view of election and related doctrines. While asserting this, you have used the words “possible,” “impossible,” and “can.” As you may know, equivocations can happen by employing these terms in an argument.

    Kinds of Barriers:

    It is important, therefore, to distinguish between various kinds of barriers or obstacles that would make it “impossible” for some humans to be saved in this world. There are what we may call (and what theologians have historically called) “natural barriers,” “legal barriers” and “moral barriers.”

    1) First, there are “natural” or “physical barriers” that make things “impossible.” Tony’s body “cannot” fly. Why? He lacks wings, or the natural equipment to do so. Tony’s body “cannot” live under water since he lacks gills, etc. We could consider minds and wills as “natural barriers” of a sort. We all know that it is foolish to command an animal to speak, in the sense of making rational predications, since they lack the reason to understand. Neither do we command “things” to obey God that do not possess minds and will, for such things lack the natural, physical or constitutional abilities in order to obey.

    2) Second, there are what theologians call “legal barriers.” We should all agree that apart from the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. Christ’s coming in our likeness and satisfying on our behalf, therefore, are a necessity if there is to be any forgiveness of sin. The fallen angels “cannot” be forgiven. Why? Among other reasons, they do not have a legal satisfaction, or a redeemer who took their nature. These points are apparent in the book of Hebrews, so they should be without dispute. Fallen angels “cannot” be saved since “legal barriers” remain that necessitate their condemnation. God has not dealt with fallen humanity as He did with the fallen angels. He has made a way for our pardon to take place by virtue of Christ satisfying the righteous legal demands of God. Because of his appeasing of the Father, He has opened an opportunity of salvation for our fallen race, and therefore bids us all to come and to receive the forgiveness of sins through the indiscriminate Gospel call.

    3) Third, there are what theologians call “moral barriers.” If we purpose to persist in our stubborness, we “cannot” be saved, even if we possess the faculties with which to respond and have the legal barriers removed. We may be stubborn like a mule and kick against any attempt of others to steer us aright. We can all agree that if these “moral barriers” remain within us, we, in a sense, “cannot” be saved.

    Election and the Barriers:

    With these distinctions in mind, let us return to the concepts of “election” and “preterition” as Calvinists conceive of these ideas. When we speak of “election,” we have in mind God’s own wise purpose in choosing some men to eternal life and His effectual determination through the Spirit and on behalf of the Son’s work to enable them to overcome their own *moral* inability, or the enslaving power of sin that would otherwise destroy them. Then, in passing over others, or deliberately choosing *not* to appoint others to the same end, He purposes to leave them in a state of *moral* inability and to condemn them on the basis of their sin. Election and non-election, therefore, involve the issue of moral barriers, either to overcome them or to willingly permit them to remain.

    Election and non-election do NOT concern “natural barriers.” God has given men minds and wills. The fall has impaired and radically corrupted these faculties, but it has not removed them. The image of God remains in all men, though marred by the fall. Calvinists will all agree that every man has these faculties, but not all agree that this should be labeled a kind of “natural ability.” They quibble among themselves, but the essential concept remains. All men still have these facutlies and therefore have a kind of “natural ability” to rightly respond to God.

    With respect to “legal barriers,” Calvinists differ, depending on their view of Christ’s substitioin. In my view, election and non-election do NOT concern the removal of “legal barriers” only on behalf of SOME men, i.e. the elect. Christ, by substituting for all men in the death He died, removed all the legal barriers that necessitate the condemnation of any and all men. This grounds the offer of pardon to all men, since they have a remedy in Christ that is truly applicable to them. The popular view today is basically the Owenic trajectory, which maintains that Christ only substituted on behalf of the elect. There are two sorts within this position. Some of them say Christ removed all the legal barriers on behalf of all men (such as A. A. Hodge and William Cunningham), while others (such as Tom Nettles) deny that Christ removed all the legal obstacles. If one is going to hold the view that Christ only substituted for the elect, then I think Nettles is being consistent. The other strict Calvinists, I think, are confused when they say A) Christ removed all legal obstacles and yet B) only substituted for the elect. So, *some* Calvinists do think election and non-election touches upon the issue of “legal obstacles” or “barriers.” With respect to “legal barriers,” you could distinguish between three kinds of Calvinists: 1) the moderate sort that say all legal obstacles are removed; 2) the more strict sort that say all legal obstacles have been removed; and 3) the more strict sort that say the legal obstacles have only been removed in the case of the elect. In other words, there are moderate Calvinsits, as I am, and two kinds of “high Calvinists” on this topic.

    With respect to “moral barriers,” all Calvinists, with the Synod of Dort, want to say that the perishing of the lost is “wholly of themselves.” The overwhelming majority say that It is because of their sinfulness and persistence in a state of rebellion that the reprobates are finally damned, and not due to any lack of “sufficiency” in Christ or in a lack of a “serious” offer and call on God’s behalf to those that hear it. Because of the aforementioned dispute over the extent of Christ’s substition and the topic of legal obstacles, Calvinists debate among themselves about who is being consistent here. These internal squabbles surfaced during the Synod of Dort and at the Westminster Assembly, and so it has persisted through the centuries to this day. Some ask, “how can we say the reprobate perish ‘wholly of themselves’ if it is the case that Christ has not removed the ‘legal barriers’ that stood in the way of their salvation? In addition to their own internal ‘moral barriers’, isn’t it also the case that they perish because ‘legal barriers’ also remain? How could the reprobate be said to receive a ‘serious,’ ‘sincere,’ a ‘good-will,’ or ‘well-meant’ offer if legal barriers stand in the way and the well of salvation is fenced by a strictly limited substitution?” The more strict Calvinists (i.e. what I call the high Calvinists) say they agree that Christ’s death is “sufficient for all,” but they don’t mean the same thing as the classic Lombardian Formula meant. The “sufficiency” idea has been revised to mean a “bare sufficiency,” or that Christ’s death was of “infinite instrinsic value,” and thus could say “thousands of worlds,” etc. The moderate sort reply by saying, “that’s a mere hypothetical sufficiency, and not actually a ransom price for all. Of what value is it to annouce terms of release to treasonous prisoners by saying the King is instrinsically wealthy enough TO HAVE PAID the fine of all, but only actually paid it for some? That’s taunting them, not bringing them hope for pardon. Some prisoners remain without hope if their fine is not paid, which is necessary to be paid for their release on any terms. What is needed is an ‘ordained’ or ‘actually sufficient’ price for all in order to bring them a sincere offer of release from prison.”

    Back to the Problem:

    Now, when you say that one cannot consistently say that the non-elect are saveable, or able to be saved given election, I grant that election would render it impossible for any non-elect person to be saved IF WE HAD NATURAL BARRIERS IN VIEW. If the non-elect lacked the faculties by which to respond to the gospel, then there would be an inconsistency. If non-election somehow negated the imago dei in them, or cancelled out their faculties, then clearly it would be inconsistent to say they are saveable, or that they “could possibly” be saved.

    If you were to bring up election and non-election in relation to “legal barriers,” then I would also be willing to grant that any person that does not have the legal barriers removed that stand in the way of the possibility of their salvation, then they are in the same condition as the fallen angels. They “cannot” be saved in this world any more than the fallen angels “can” be saved. If a person does not have a substitutionary satisfaction made on their behalf, then legal barriers remain that necessitate their condemnation. In other words, if the non-elect do not have a satisfaction made in their behalf by the moral-legal donation of Christ made upon the cross, then it is absurd to say that they “can” be saved. It is at this point where I am in the classic-moderate trajectory of Calvinism, and disagree with my “more strict” Calvinistic brethren. They will have to answer for themselves against your arguments. Personally, given their strict views of Christ’s death, I don’t see how they can consistently maintain that the non-elect are saveable, and therefore sincerely offerable. Offerability implies salvability, and salvability presupposes an applicable remedy in Christ’s death. We can only offer salvation to those who are actually saveable because Christ has made satisfaction for them.

    My Problem as Well?

    But you will say, “but Tony, you have the same problem!” No, I don’t. In my system, I only have “moral barriers” remaining in the non-elect that necessitate their condemnation. Non-election does not create the sinfulness, pollution and persistent rebellion that remains in the non-elect. That arises within themselves. God’s non-election of them is just his willing permission to leave them in that state they brought upon themselves. God doesn’t set up either natural or legal barries that get in the way of the non-elect being saved, which would thus render it “impossible” for them to be saved. On the contrary, He created them with all the necessary faculties to obey, and gave Christ to open a well of salvation for all, so that no “legal barrier” on His side remains. In that sense, God shows himself to be reconciled to them, and now calls them to set aside their hostility and animosity and be reconciled to Him.

    When you, Robert, speak of the “impossiblity” of the salvation of the non-elect, or that they “cannot” be saved, or that they are “not able” to be saved, beware of equivocations occuring under these terms. There are various senses in which something can be said to be “impossible.” Either it is a natural impossibility (Tony’s body cannot fly), a legal impossibility (fallen angels cannot be saved), or a moral impossibility (those continuing in rebellion cannot be saved). If you want to say that I have “the same” problem as other Calvinists and am guilty of “inconsistency,” then you will have to show how my system differs from your own. You also grant that those who persist in rebellion cannot be saved, which is to say they have a “moral impossibilty” of being saved, even though it is “possible” naturally and legally. When I say the non-elect are “able to be saved,” or that it is not an “impossibility,” I am speaking naturally and legally, but not morally. If any man perishes, on my view, it is truly “wholly of himself,” and not for any want of insufficiecy in Christ or in a lack of faculties with which to rightly respond.

    I have answered you at length so that not only you, but others could see and learn from my response. You may have the last word. This is FAR too time consuming to write these virtual research papers on this blog. I will read and contemplate your response for mutual understanding, but asking me further questions here and now will be in vain. I will not respond. Nevertheless, I sincerely wish you well.

    Grace to you,
    Tony

Robert

Sometimes you see a post that if it this were a softball game you see as a big fat mistake coming over the plate just waiting to be smashed out of the park. Mary S. provides such an opportunity with these words:

“I’m curious, what makes you believe a spiritually blind, spiritually deaf, spiritually dead person, whose every thought of their heart is only evil continually, and are God’s enemies, would possibly have the “free will” to repond positively to God.”

First let’s talk about the issue which is often referred to as “depravity” or “total depravity”. The Bible teaches that the effects of sin have left no stone unturned, so every aspect of our being is effected by sin (hence the word “total”). So sin has effected our minds, our thoughts, our bodies, our external world, everything has been tainted by sin. Individually this sin has also separated us from God (i.e. the term for this is “spiritual death” which does not mean that we are corpses incapable of doing anythng, rather, it means that our sin separates us from God, we become spiritually alive when we enter into a saving relationship with God).

But “total depravity” does not mean that we are as evil as we can possibly be, nor does it mean that the nonbeliever’s “every thought of their heart is only evil continually”. Frankly, we could be much worse than we are. And if you observe nonbelievers, while they live lives independent of God, they nevertheless do good things at times (we can see lots and lots of examples of this unless we are dishonest about what we are seeing). They are good and compassionate to their own, their own families, their own spouses (e.g. recall what Jesus said about nonbelievers that even they will give good gifts to their own children). They show compassion and kindness to strangers (e.g my wife works with developmentally disabled persons, she can tell you lots of stories of nonbelievers who showed tremendous compassion and kindness to human persons who do not share the same capacities that the rest of us enjoy). They even partially obey God’s commandments (e.g. those who are in faithful marriage relationships where each person has avoided adultery). So this claim that they only and always are thinking evil and doing evil does not fit the daily reality that we observe. It is significant that even determinists have admitted this with their concept of “common grace” (they will use this term to explain the obvious good actions and thinking of nonbelievers).

Depravity is also sometimes referred to as “inability” (which is probably a better term and avoids some confusions). And here we get closer to what the Bible actually teaches. The nonbeliever is not a physical corpse incapable of doing anything as some misguided determinists claim (i.e. they will claim that the nonbeliever being spiritually dead means they are incapable of doing anything that they are like a corpse). The specific inability that the Bible has in mind is alluded to in John 6:44 (i..e it is the ability to trust in Christ apart from God giving an individual that capacity). The nonbeliever can do lots of things, they can do good things and they can do evil things.
What they cannot do, what they are completely incapable of doing is to have faith in the Lord APART FROM THE WORK OF THE HOLY SPIRIT.

It is the Spirit who enables an individual to have a faith response to the gospel. Without this preconversion work of the Spirit, no one can trust in Christ. With this preconversion work of the Spirit even the most sinful and hardest heart can choose to trust in Christ. I know this firsthand because I do prison ministry with people who have done real evil. People who are extremely sinful and hardened. And yet the Spirit when the gospel is shared can break through even the hardest hearts, I have seen it countless times, so I know that it in fact happens. When I do a message to a group in an institution or speak to an individual, my trust is not in my persuasive words or intelligence or saying just the right words: No, my trust is in the powerful and supernatural work of the Spirit. HE can open the hardest heart. HE can enable anyone to have a faith response to the gospel. It is HIS work that overcomes the effects of sin and enables but does not necessitate a faith response.

Mary S. asks:

“I’m curious, what makes you believe a spiritually blind, spiritually deaf, spiritually dead person, whose every thought of their heart is only evil continually, and are God’s enemies, would possibly have the “free will” to repond positively to God.”

She starts her question by trying to set up the impossibility of anyone having a faith response to the gospel on their own. And she is absolutely correct: ON OUR OWN we are incapable of a faith response. As spiritually dead persons, living lives of independence from God, and so acting as enemies of God, not living lives pleasing to God, we cannot ON OUR OWN have any kind of faith response to God and the gospel. But that is just it, if Mary S.’s question is predicated upon what we alone can do on our own, it is impossible for us to have faith on our own, without God’s intervention.

But what Mary S. leaves out, what determinists seem to forget over and over and over again, is this. It is true that ON OUR OWN apart from the work of the Spirit we are incapable of faith. But that is just it: God does not leave us on our own. He sends the Holy Spirit who according to explicit and clear scripture intervenes and works so that **the World** is convicted of sin, rigtheousness and judgment. My confidence is not in me or what other believers can do when it comes to enabling faith. No, my confidence is in the Holy Spirit. As God, he is perfectly capable of enabling a faith response in anyone.

Mary S. asks how can the nonbeliever possibly “have the “free will” to repond positively to God”
That is the softball that is just waiting to be hit out of the park because the simple and Biblical answer is that it is the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit that enables a nonbeliever to have the free will to respond positively to God.

I have observed this work of the Spirit with others I have also heard fellow believers describe it and have also experienced it personally. Do you remember before you were saved when you wanted to have nothing to do with the gospel of Christianity? Do you remember how through various circumstances the Spirit began to reveal things to you personally. He revealed your own sinful condition, that you were a sinner, that you were separated from God, that you needed to repent of your sin. He revealed Christ to you. Showed you that he was not just a prophet, but that He was God in the flesh. Showed you that through his finished work on the cross and resurrection you could be saved. He showed you what Bible verses meant. He convicted you of sin, etc. etc. He revealed all of these things to you and it was only after He did this work in you that you were capable of having a faith response. Look at your own conversion experience and you will see this preconversion work of the Spirit. Talk to others who have been saved and you will hear these same things.

Those who do a lot of evangelism know exactly what I am talking about, and they have witnessed this as well. It is sad that determinists actually ask these kinds of questions. It suggests they have very little experience in evangelism themselves. Because anyone who does in fact evangelize and has in fact seen others come to the Lord and become believers. Has seen this preconversion work of the Spirit over and over again.

Robert

    Mary S.

    Robert,
    I am encouraged by your answer, that it takes the “preconversion work of the Spirit” to enable a nonbeliever to come to Christ. Amen. I agree! As long as we can agree on this, I don’t see the point in arguing further. Wesley called it “preevinent grace”; Calvinists call it “regeneration”; I’m not certain what Traditionalist call it. But whatever you want to call it, as long as God does the first work: that He is the inniator\enabler of our salvation, I think we should be able to put our differences aside and unite on that important point of agreement.

    Some would argue that Traditionalists, instead of hitting the ball out of the park, have struck out because the Traditional statement would seem to indicate that it doesn’t take a first work of grace for someone to make a faith response to Christ: I quote:

    “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will…”

    That statement would seem to deny what you taught above Robert. I wholeheartedly agree with you that a preconverstion work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to enable any nonbeliever to make a faith response to Christ. But I utterly deny that statement above from the traditional statement, which would seem to indicate that nonbelievers have it within themselves to make a faith response to Christ. It is disappointing that no one has had the will, as of yet, to edit the Traditional statement.

    Thanks for your time, Robert. I agree with you.

      Mary

      The Traditional Statement does not need editing. You Mary S are trying to impose your definitions and understanding on what is being explained to you. The Spirit Woos us but doesn’t have to perform a miricle to make us believe. We accept or reject the Spirits wooing.

      You Calvinists just don’t get the fact that you don’t get to set the terms of the debate by demanding we accept your definitions. Calvinists keep insisting we make the Traditionalist Statement fit their Calvinism. It’s insulting and unity will not occur until the demands that we just accept we’re all really just Calvinists and don’t know it, stop.

        Mary S.

        Mary, then you shouldn’t be surprised when people continue to question the consistency of your theology, since for instance, Robert and others say one thing, and your “Traditional” statement says another. It is inconsistent, and I guess that is where we will leave it; you are okay with that or deny the inconsistencies. Many others, including myself, recognize the clear inconsistency. There we are; there we must stay.

          Mary S.

          PS: Mary, I have never called myself a Calvinist. I don’t appreciate the label. You don’t like being called an Arminian; I don’t like you calling me a Calvinist. If you insist on using that term, please refer to me as a “Calvinist-Traditionalist”, in the tradition of the Founders of the Southern Baptist Church.

            Mary

            OK we get it. You want to declare yourself as the True ancestor of the TRUE FOUNDERS of the SBC and also you declare yourself the TRUE TRADITIONALIST. Of course it’s not true that the only Founders in the SBC were all Calvinists but hey declaring it so sounds great to those who don’t know the history of the SBC.

          Mary

          Uh no Mary like a typical Calvinist you think that by declaring something so, it simply makes it so. YOU do not get to define all definitions and then DEMAND everyone agree with your definitions. Your definitions may be inconsistent with the Traditionalist Statement but you’re definitions are not biblical definitions. The Traditionalist Statement is NOT inconsistent with what Robert is saying. Just because you refuse to accept that you do not get to define the debate doesn’t make you right. It’s a typical Calvinists tactic to simply declare themselves the superior and winner of all debates. Go right ahead and make your declarations but you show that Calvinists do not want to get along, nor do they want unity, they simply want to lord it over those they consider inferior. And books are written showing the inconsistency in Calvinism to which Calvinist usually reply – it’s a mystery.

            Mary S.

            Mary, the Arminian. Like I told you, I have never in my life wore the title, Calvinist. I already asked you once not to call me that, but like a typical Arminian, you refuse to honor my request.

Robert

Lydia as usual makes some good observations regarding the nature of calvinism.
I wish to draw attention in particular to these words:

“In fact, the sort of demand for proof of Calvin writing something that very specific is a problem because Calvin reframes that all men are savable if God so chooses. Those who define, win. That is all Calvinism is. A redefining.”

Lydia is correct; Calvinism is all about reframing and redefining terms.
Everythng is reframed and refined to fit the grand illusion/distortion/assumption/presumption/controlling belief that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. Everything must be made to fit that mold for the calvinist.

Noncalvinists see this and conclude that if it is true that God preordains whatsoever comes to pass, then:

(A) All men are not saveable (in fact God only desires to save the lucky ones, the preselected elect)

(B) God is the author of sin (if He ordains everything that occurs that necessarily includes all sin and evil as well), and

(C) It is falsely claimed that “Men act freely” men
never act freely (because all events including their every thought and choice is ordained by God and so they never act freely in thought or choice or action).

We take their major controlling premise and we understand the logical implications of it.

But calvinists do not do the same thing. Instead they reframe and redefine so that instead of (A) (B) and (C) they present:

(A1) that all men are saveable,

(B1) that God is not the author of sin, instead men are responsible for the sins they commit that are ordained by God and they are controlled by God ensuring they commit these very sins, and

(C1) men act freely (if free will is defined in a compatibilistic fashion so that people act voluntarily, do what they want, they just never ever have a choice).

That is why when interacting with calvinists/determinists you will always encouter reframes and redefinitions of terms. It is similar to when interacting with nonchristian cults who use the same terms that we use but with very different meanings.

Robert

Robert

Mary S the calvinist wrote:

“I am encouraged by your answer, that it takes the “preconversion work of the Spirit” to enable a nonbeliever to come to Christ. Amen. I agree! As long as we can agree on this, I don’t see the point in arguing further. Wesley called it “preevinent grace”; Calvinists call it “regeneration”; I’m not certain what Traditionalist call it. But whatever you want to call it, as long as God does the first work: that He is the inniator\enabler of our salvation, I think we should be able to put our differences aside and unite on that important point of agreement”

It is nice to see that we agree that the preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary for somoene to be enabled to have a faith response to the gospel.
Unfortunately, that agreement does not help with the much more crucial difference regarding who experiences this preconversion work of the Spirit. Calvinists who affirm unconditional election and irresistable grace if they are consistent would also affirm that **only* those preselected for salvation experience this work of the Spirit. Noncalvinists believe that since the atonement is for the whole world and since scripture explicitly says that the Spirit convicts THE WORLD of sin, righteousness and judgment, that even folks who never end up becoming Christians will experience this preconversion work of the Spirit. That is a major, major difference that cannot just be swept under the rug.

Mary S then continued making a claim that I have seen made repeatedly here and yet when this erroneous claim is corrected, calvinists like Mary S just keep repeating the error ignoring correction. Mary S writes:

“Some would argue that Traditionalists, instead of hitting the ball out of the park, have struck out because the Traditional statement would seem to indicate that it doesn’t take a first work of grace for someone to make a faith response to Christ: I quote:

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will…”
That statement would seem to deny what you taught above Robert. I wholeheartedly agree with you that a preconverstion work of the Holy Spirit is necessary in order to enable any nonbeliever to make a faith response to Christ. But I utterly deny that statement above from the traditional statement, which would seem to indicate that nonbelievers have it within themselves to make a faith response to Christ. It is disappointing that no one has had the will, as of yet, to edit the Traditional statement.”

There is no contradiction at all between affirming BOTH (1) the necessity of the preconversion work of the Spirit AND (2) the statement that “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will…”
I will try to explain how this is so yet again. And hopefully when I am done calvinists like Mary S will stop claiming this is inconsistent or even contradictory.

The statement regarding the free will of man explicitly says that we do not believe that Adam’s sin incapacited any person’s free will. The fall did not erase the image of God in man which includes our capacity to have and make our own choices. Some mistakenly act as if the fall means that mankind completely lost our capacity for having and making our own choices (i.e. the ordinary sense of free will). It is not true that after the fall that Adam and Eve no longer had the capacity for free will. They still had the ability to have and make their own choices. This capacity was not eliminated by the fall nor was it incapacitated. And look around you today, if you are honest, you have to admit that nonbelievers still manifest lots of evidence that they have and make their own choices. They choose to get out of bed in the morning and not stay in bed. They choose what they will have for breakfast. They choose what radio station they will listen to once they get in their car. They have and make their own choices constantly throughout the day. You can only deny this if you deny reality. So the evidence that manking (both believer and unbeliever) retain our capacity for free will is overwhelming and all around us.

The mistake that Mary S and many, many others make is to fail to distinguish between a person’s capacity to have and make their own choices (what we ordinarily call free will, as most of these choices seem to be up to the person, decided by the person, chosen by that person) and a person’s range of choices. The illustration I love to use to make this distinction clear is comparing me and Donald Trump when it comes to our free will. We both have free will. As far as I can tell he is an unbeliever and I am a believer and we both have free will. Watch us both throughout the day and you will see both of us having and making our own choices. But our range of choices is different. When it comes to purchasing million dollar properties **weekly**, Trump has this choice within his range of choices while I do not. But we do not conclude logically (or at least we should not) that since I cannot make this choice that Trump has free will and I do not. We do not infer from the fact that a particular choice is outside of a person’s range of choices that this means that person does not have free will. They may have free will with regard to lots of other choices but not just one particular choice. This is the mistake that I see calvinists make over and over and over again: they conclude (or at least would like to believe) that if a person cannot make a particular choice, that means that person does not have free will. But that neglects the reality that a person may have free will and yet simultaneously a particular choice is not available to them, they cannot make that particular choice.
Now the Bible teaches and our experience confirms that in order for a person to trust in Christ for salvation they must first experience the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit (what I talked about in my previous post, so will not repeat myself here, I will take it as a given that it is true that no one can choose to trust in Christ for salvation unless enabled by the Holy Spirit). Put another way, on their own, the nonbeliever cannot choose to trust in Christ for salvation. On their own, APART FROM THE PRECONVERSION WORK OF THE SPIRIT, the nonbeliever does not have it within their range of choices to choose to trust in Christ for salvation. Now we know this is true, but we do not infer that because the nonbeliever cannot make that choices apart from the work of the Spirit, that the nonbeliever does not have free will or that the nonbeliever’s free will was eliminated or incapacited by Adam’s sin.

If you can understand the distinction between a person’s capacity for free will and their range of choices, you can understand how I and others can simultaneously affirm both the statement about free will not being incapacitated by Adam’s sin AND the necessity of the preconversion work of the Spirit. The fall did not eliminate our free will, it did however make the choice of trusting Christ for salvation a choice that is outside of our range of choices (unless the Spirit works in an individual and enables them to have that choice).

A couple other examples of the distinction of having free will and a person’s range of choices should also make this clear. Start with God as the best example of a person who has free will. God has the capacity to have and make his own choices. He has choices and then makes choices and his choices are not necessitated but freely chosen by Him. In fact, He cannot be sovereign (sovereign means that He does as He pleases in any and all situations) unless he has free will. If His choices are necessitated, then He does not do as He pleases, instead some necessitating factor forces him to make his choices. So it seems clear that God has free will as ordinarily understood. And yet we are told in scripture that God is holy and hates sin and does not commit sin. So we know that God cannot do evil, he does not sin. God has free will then, but doing evil or committing sin is not within his range of choices.

Or take an example closer to home. As believers we now have free will and we also still have the capacity to sin. Yet in the eternal state we will have free will but be incapable of sin. This means that in the eternal state we will still have and make our own choices, but sin will not be within our range of choices. So a person can have free will and yet simultaneoulsy certain choices are not available to him, not within his range of choices.

If you understand what I have spoken about here then there should be no difficulty at all in seeing how somoene could affirm the traditionalists statement that denies Adam’s sin eliminates or incapacitates our capacity for free will AND simultaneously affirm that the preconversion work is necessary for someone to have faith in Christ.

Robert

    Mary S.

    Robert the Arminian writes: “Mary S the calvinist wrote:…”

    That is as far as I read. You write too much, Robert. I doubt many people have time to read all you write.

      Norm Miller

      Robert, Mary and Mary S.:
      Dial back the name-calling, please. — Norm

        Mary

        Norm, do you find it intersting the number of people who arrogantly make declarations implying that we’re all just really Arminian or actually even just Calvinists but we’re too dumb to know any better and all they really need us to do is remove the heresy from the Traditionalist Statement – do you find it interesting Norm that those people get so easily offended at using what is of course just a historical classification? It seems the reasoning is that it’s ok to declaratively imply that one is an idiot and a heretic, but please don’t dare accurately label them with a term that has not historically been used in a perjorative way?

        And Norm for the record if it’s easier since I have a somewhat common name to refer to me as Arminian Mary even though I am not Arminian that’s ok with me, because Arminians are good people seeking to understand the Bible just as Calvinists and Traditionalists are.

        Fascinating to see which side in these debates just absolutely refuses to try to understand what others are saying, but instead insists on making pronouncements and declarations about that which they show they have not one clue what they’re talking about.

          Mary S.

          I haven’t a clue what you’re going on about, Mary.

            Mary

            Calvinist Mary you may refer to me as Arminian Mary so others won’t be confused. And no Calvinist Mary you haven’t a clue. That’s been established.

    Mary

    Robert, I appreciate the time and thought that you put into your comments. There are people who visit this site who wish to learn and understand what Traditionalists are saying. Then there are others who have God tied up nicely in their little boxes. We can wander into the weeds and discuss Augstianian paradgims and such, but if it’s not found within ones little box, then it must not be worth studying. These people have become unteachable. Such people have learned all there is to learn about God and they see no need to learn more. They want to remain in their box and wander about insisting that everyone must follow the rules of their boxes because they are not capable of thinking outside the box. They don’t know what to do when people refuse to climb into their box with them so they lash out and attack and then pretend astonishment that they’re being called out on their attacks.

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