A Commentary on Article 7: The Sovereignty of God of “A Statement of a Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

July 6, 2012

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.

Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17


Article 7 of “A Statement of a Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation” addresses summarily the issue of God’s Sovereignty juxtaposed to human responsibility. Although we do affirm God’s knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation, we do not embrace the assertion that God’s sovereignty and knowledge requires Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ. In short, we do not embrace the understanding of God’s sovereignty as proffered by our Calvinistic brothers.

Before you take this as an attack, please understand that many who embrace this understanding are friends. By no means should this be construed as an attack on them, but rather an attempt to reconsider and clarify the meaning of God’s self-revelation in Scripture. When the proverbial dust settles, the bigger issue is our quest to understand who God is and what He has communicated.

In every attempt to understand Scripture, we must ask “What does it say? What does it mean? And, What do I do about it?” All the while, we must keep in mind both the genre and the context.

In order to avoid the accusation that I am addressing an issue that is not really a concern, or that my understanding of the issue is not really what our Reformed-oriented brothers are saying (or believing), permit me to interact with a text I have read multiple times and actually used as a required text when I taught evangelism, Packer’s Evangelism and the Sovereignty of God.

Packer’s principal argument is that we must believe both in God’s absolute sovereignty and in complete human responsibility. This, he identifies as an “antinomy” (p. 25). He summarizes this by stating that, “Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent” (p. 30). When pressed, he simply argues that this is a mystery (p. 31). Others, however, look at this as an apparent violation of the law of non-contradiction and ask, if man is actually divinely controlled with no honest freedom to choose, respond, surrender, obey, or believe, how in any honest assessment can he be considered a responsible moral agent? Is it not possible that the definition of divine sovereignty is actually inaccurate or better yet, its implications (meaning) is misconstrued? And may it not be more accurate to conclude that just because God can do anything that does not mean that God will by necessity do anything. To argue, as many of my Reform-minded brothers have, that God is in absolute control of all that occurs seems to imply the necessary corollary that God Himself is the author of evil which no one wants to conclude especially since James declares that “God does not tempt anyone.”

For the sake of clarity, permit me to reconstruct Packer’s argument. He begins by stating his conclusion, “If you are a Christian, then you believe that God is sovereign” (p.17). He calls two realities as his evidence. We pray and we acknowledge that it was God who has saved us (p. 18). He then declares, “You know in your heart that God was entirely responsible for it (your salvation). You did not save yourself; he saved you” (p. 18). He argues that the means of salvation was that God gave you the gift of faith and repentance (p. 19). He then states that what makes people turn to God is God drawing them (which we all agree is Grace).

In this opening section, Packer makes an assertion not only that we all agree that God is sovereign but that we all agree on his own assumed definition. The fault in his logic is his contention that God initiates our salvation by grace and then gives us faith to respond. If faith is a gift which I cannot exercise in response to God’s grace because it is in God’s because it is in God’s purview to give or withhold it, how can I be a responsible moral agent? Here, he equates the possibility of man’s exercise of faith in response to God’s initiating grace with the idea that man is saving himself. This can only be true if the premise that man is incapable of responding to God’s initiating grace is conceded as accurate. That is not a concession I believe is warranted in Scripture.

Packer then picks up his argument stating that “all Christians believe in divine sovereignty, but some are not aware that they do, and mistakenly imagine and insist that they reject it” (p. 22). He concludes that any rejection of his definition of divine sovereignty is due to what he summarizes as one form or another of unbelief (p. 23). Those who reject his definition, moreover, he maintains, “simply cannot let the two polarities of divine sovereignty and human responsibility lie side by side” (p. 23). He further concludes that anyone taking this position rejects this Bible doctrine and all the texts that support it (p. 23).

His conclusions are predicated on the assumption that God’s sovereignty is absolute in the sense that anything and everything that happens from a soteriological perspective has been predetermined specifically by God before the foundation of the earth was laid. In short, God has predetermined specifically who will be saved and who will be lost before humanity was ever created. Why? Because God is sovereign and He has predetermined all things. I believe there is a more accurate way to understand God’s sovereignty which does not require Packer’s conclusions.

In his next chapter, Packer states,” Our aim in the present study is to think out the nature of the Christian’s evangelistic task in light of this agreed presupposition that God is sovereign in salvation” (p. 25). He argues, here, that we are dealing with an “antinomy in the Biblical revelation, and in such circumstances our finite, fallen minds are much more than ordinarily apt to go astray” (p. 25). His point is that we have the appearance of a contradiction (p. 26). He then concludes that this is a mystery (p.26), but not a paradox (p. 27). His assessment is that this “antinomy is forced upon us by the facts themselves” and that we must simply learn to accept it and live with it (p. 28). Clarifying what for him is the antimony, Packer states we must deal with “the apparent opposition between divine sovereignty and human responsibility” (p. 29). It is at this point where he declares that “man is a responsible moral agent” and that he is at the same time “divinely controlled” (p. 30). He argues that this is “the revealed antinomy in terms of which we have to do our thinking about evangelism” (p.31). And it is at this point that I raise the questions, is his assessment not violating the law of non-contradiction? And is there not a better way to understand what Scripture is teaching?

Interestingly, Packer at this point runs to Romans 9:20-21, stating that we have no right to question God, or I would point out Packer’s interpretation of what Scripture says about God. “The objector must learn that he, a creature and a sinner has no right whatsoever to find fault with the revealed ways of God.” He continues, “God’s sovereignty is wholly just, for his right to dispose of his creatures is absolute” (p. 31). Here, Packer misses the point that my objection is not to God but to his understanding of God and His ways.

Next, Packer argues that we have no right to question this interpretation just because it might be too hard to understand and thus produces speculation on our part. He then asks, “Can we not trust what he (God) says?” He concludes, “We ought not, in any case, to be surprised when we find mysteries of this sort in God’s Word” (p.31).

At this point, Packer returns to his earlier contention, “only God can give faith” (p. 31). He then speculates that if we do not believe this then we will be led astray drawing the inappropriate conclusion that we somehow are responsible to produce converts which will result in us becoming “pragmatic and calculating” (p. 35). In short, he believes that we will conclude that evangelism is all about technique instead of “letting our knowledge of God’s sovereignty control the way in which we plan, we pray, and work in his service” (pp. 36-37). Again, he reiterates that we must not overly emphasize human responsibility.

Packer then shifts to warn that we must likewise not overly emphasize divine sovereignty (p. 37). He notes that an over-emphasis here can “lessen the urgency, and immediacy, and priority, and   binding constraint of the evangelistic imperative” (p. 41).

In the latter portion of his book, he returns to his earlier argument,  “God  is indubitably sovereign over man, for he controls and orders all human deeds, as he controls all else in the universe. Man’s responsibility for his actions, and God’s sovereignty. in relation to those same actions, are thus, as we saw, equally real and ultimate facts” (p. 112).

Packer finally displays clearly his premise. “It is true that God has from all eternity chosen whom he will save. It is true that Christ came specifically to save those whom the Father has given him. But (and this is important) it is also true that Christ offers himself freely to all men as their Savior, and guarantees to bring to glory everyone who trusts him as such” (p. 112). A few pages later, moreover, Packer actually conceded, “The Bible never says that sinners miss heaven because they are not elect, but because they ‘reject the great salvation, and because they will not repent and believe’ “ (p. 115).

I believe Packer would agree with our affirmation that “We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.” In contrast, however, he would argue that God specifically chose each person for salvation or damnation. Our disagreement comes at this point in the latter statement where we maintain that our belief in God’s knowledge and sovereignty does not require him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.

We believe that God in his sovereignty created humanity with the capacity to choose.  This was displayed in the Fall, which we maintain God allowed but did not cause. Furthermore, we would argue that all people are either in Christ or in Adam. Those in Christ are saved and those in Adam are not.

We believe that God extends grace (this now excludes the Semi-Pelagian accusation) but we believe that it is the responsibility of people to respond to God’s grace with faith. We do not believe that God gives faith. We believe He gives grace, and that people are responsible to respond to grace with faith. We concur with A. T. Robertson in his interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-10 that the antecedent to “it” in the phrase “it is the gift of God,” is not “faith” but “salvation.”

If Jesus died for all (which we believe) and all are under the curse of sin, then we maintain that anyone who responds to God’s grace can be saved. Is it not fair to conclude that the Father gives to the Son all who place their faith in Him? And is this not an accurate understanding of John 6:44? And is it not biblical to conclude that a person is lost because they will not (not cannot) repent and believe? Hebrews 4:2 (NIV) states, “For we also have had the Gospel preached to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because those who heard it did not combine it with faith.” The responsibility for not entering in was the refusal of the people to believe, not God who refused to give faith!

The entire argument of Romans 9 on the Sovereignty of God is summed up in the two answers to the question “what shall we say  then?” First, there is no injustice with God (v.14)! And second, the sovereign God in His sovereignty has determined that salvation and righteousness are attained, not by works, but by faith in the finished work of Christ. God’s sovereignty has determined and provided the means of salvation but it is the responsibility of man to surrender, obey, and believe! This, I believe, is a more accurate way to understand the relationship of divine sovereignty to human responsibility.


Today’s Discussion Topic:
Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God
in “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist
Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation

A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation,” authored by Eric Hankins and others, has drawn strong interest in many social media and news outlets. The statement and the discussion of it have been accessed by 40,000 unique visitors making over 60,000 visits and over 160,000 pageviews in the last month. The discussions in SBC Today have evoked thousands of comments. Over 800 persons from 30 states have signed the document (including some key leaders from every level of Southern Baptist life). You cansign it also by following these directions.

To structure the discussion, we are focusing the comments on the affirmation and denial statement of one article of the statement at a time. Today’s discussion will address the Southern Baptist doctrines of grace in Article 7: The Sovereignty of God. Keep in mind that each of the affirmations and denials in the articles complement each other, just as they do in the Together for the Gospel statement signed and/or affirmed by some Southern Baptist leaders who embrace Reformed views.

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Discussion of Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God in “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

Note: As we discuss each article of the statement, today’s comments should focus on the affirmation and denial in Article 7. Please limit your comments here to Article 7.

 

Article Seven: The Sovereignty of God

We affirm God’s eternal knowledge of and sovereignty over every person’s salvation or condemnation.

We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.

Genesis 1:1; 6:5-8; 18:16-33; 22; 2 Samuel 24:13-14; 1 Chronicles 29:10-20; 2 Chronicles 7:14; Joel 2:32; Psalm 23; 51:4; 139:1-6; Proverbs 15:3; John 6:44; Romans 11:3; Titus 3:3-7; James 1:13-15; Hebrews 11:6, 12:28; 1 Peter 1:17

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rhutchin

“We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.”

Those who wrote this are terribly confused. It is the Bibliocal concept of total depravity that Calvinists cite as the cause behind a person’s rejection of salvation thus requiring that God intervene to save people who otherwise would not be saved.

Calvinists affirm that “God’s sovereignty and knowledge allow Him to choose to intervene in a person’s life to cause a person’s acceptance of faith in Christ.” There is, obviously, no need for God to cause a person’s rejection of Christ as people do this naturally. The stated denial makes no real sense as no one has even affirmed anything like it. It’s not part of the debate with the Calvinists, so why make this denial?? I don’t understand the purpose of the denial or what the authors are trying to say.

There is room for agreement here. Let people freely choose whether they will accept Christ as the non-Calvinists want. Then, let God choose from among those who reject Christ those whom He also wants to save as the calvinists want. Then, some people can declare that they choose Christ while others will declare that they rejected Christ but that God, in His mercy, choose to save them.

    Godismyjudge

    rhutchin,

    Respectfully, most Calvinists go further than this. Take for example Turretin or John Edwards or the London Baptist confession or the Westminster confession. They deny libertarian free will and assert divine determinism. I recommend this article (written by a Calvinist).

    http://analytictheologye4c5.files.wordpress.com/2011/07/free-will-and-moral-responsibility-intro11.pdf

    God be with you,
    Dan

      Not The Original Les

      Dan,

      “They deny libertarian free will and assert divine determinism.”

      Defined from their own words…RC Sproul, for instance:

      Compatibilism is a form of determinism and it should be noted that this position is no less deterministic than hard determinism. It simply means that God’s predetermination and meticulous providence is “compatible” with voluntary choice. Our choices are not coerced …i.e. we do not choose against what we want or desire, yet we never make choices contrary to God’s sovereign decree. What God determines will always come to pass (Eph 1:11)…

      In light of Scripture, (according to compatibilism), human choices are exercised voluntarily but the desires and circumstances that bring about these choices about occur through divine determinism. For example, God is said to specifically ordain the crucifixion of His Son, and yet evil men voluntarily crucify Him (see Acts 2:23 & 4:27-28). This voluntary of evil act is not free from God’s decree, but it is voluntary, according to these Texts. Or when Joseph’s brothers sold him into slavery in Egypt, Joseph later recounted that what his brothers intended for evil, God intended for good (Gen 50:20). God determines and ordains that these events will take place (that Joseph will be sold into slavery), yet the brothers voluntarily make the evil choice that beings it to pass, which means the sin is imputed to Joseph’s brothers for the wicked act, and God remains blameless. In both of these cases, it could be said that God ordains sin, sinlessly. Nothing occurs apart from His sovereign good pleasure.

      We should be clear that NEITHER compatibilism nor hard determinism affirms that any man has a free will. Those who believe man has a free will are not compatibilists, but should, rather, be called “inconsistent”. Our choices are our choices because they are voluntary, not coerced. We do not make choices contrary to our desires or natures, nor seperately from God’s meticulous providence. Furthermore, compatibilism is directly contrary to libertarian free will.

      Just to be clear.

        Godismyjudge

        Thanks Les, that quote from Sproul was spot on! Depravity and resistible vs. irresistible grace are huge issues, but determinism vs. libertarian freedom is also a difference between Calvinists and Traditionalists.

        God be with you,
        Dan

        holdon

        The question to be asked in these discussions is: “was Herod (or Pilate etc.) able to do something differently”? If not, then God is to blame. If they had a choice, then no.

        So what is it Les? Could Herod (or anyone) do something differently than what he did?

          Not The Original Les

          holdon,

          So what is it Les? Could Herod (or anyone) do something differently than what he did?

          I don’t think so:

          “And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”
          (Matthew 26:21-25 ESV)

          Not The Original Les

          holdon,

          Just for good measure:

          ” “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.”

          (Acts 2:22-23 ESV)

          and…

          ” who through the mouth of our father David, your servant, said by the Holy Spirit,
          “‘Why did the Gentiles rage,
          and the peoples plot in vain?
          The kings of the earth set themselves,
          and the rulers were gathered together,
          against the Lord and against his Anointed’—
          for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.”

          (Acts 4:25-28 ESV)

          holdon

          Right. No trace that Judas, Herod, Pilate just had to do what they did. No trace whatsoever.

          Not The Original Les

          holdon,

          “Right. No trace that Judas, Herod, Pilate just had to do what they did. No trace whatsoever.”

          All I can do is chuckle.

          Not The Original Les

          holdon,

          I could add,

          Even my close friend in whom I trusted,
          who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.
          (Psalm 41:9 ESV)

          I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. (John 13:18-19 ESV)

          While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.
          (John 17:12 ESV)

          “Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke beforehand by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus.
          (Acts 1:16 ESV)

          You gonna splain away these too?

        holdon

        It’s not about “splaining away” Les.

        It’s about finding and learning the truth. In the verses you cited there is absolutely no evidence that these individuals did not have a choice. I think you think that somehow God wanted these individuals to do their sinful act and that He thus somehow “made them do it”, not because of the plain texts of Scripture, but because of some theology you hold. Could you try at least and read these verses without theological spectacles and ask the question: “could these individuals have chosen otherwise?”. Hint: It is no used to cite examples of Judas when he already had chosen. The question is whether Judas had a choice at some point.

      Not The Original Les

      Or from Calvin himself:

      “…we allow that man has choice and that it is self-determined, so that if he does anything evil, it should be imputed to him and to his own voluntary choosing. We do away with coercion and force, because this contradicts the nature of the will and cannot coexist with it. We deny that choice is free, because through man’s innate wickedness it is of necessity driven to what is evil and cannot seek anything but evil. And from this it is possible to deduce what a great difference there is between necessity and coercion. For we do not say that man is dragged unwillingly into sinning, but that because his will is corrupt he is held captive under the yoke of sin and therefore of necessity will in an evil way. For where there is bondage, there is necessity. But it makes a great difference whether the bondage is voluntary or coerced. We locate the necessity to sin precisely in corruption of the will, from which follows that it is self-determined. John Calvin from Bondage and Liberation of the Will, pg. 69-70

      rhutchin

      A person will need to understand Calvinism to understand what I wrote. That’s pretty much the point. The authors of the article do not understand Calvinism (assuming that the article is meant, in some way, to address issues with Calvinism) and your comment suggests that you aren’t entirely comfortable with Calvinism either. If not, then I don’t understand your point.

      I looked at the cited resource. I got to page 8 where the author messes up the Charnock quote (ignoring Charnock’s context) so I stopped wasting my time.

        Godismyjudge

        rhutchin,

        Sorry you didn’t like the article.

        I am a Traditionalist not a Calvinist.

        My point was mainly that Calvinsts often appeal to determinism as well as total depravity. Article 7 of the TS (and this commentary) addresses determinism more directly than depravity.

        God be with you,
        Dan

          rhutchin

          Depravity is the prerequisite for determinism (with regard to salvation). If one ignores depravity, he might as well ignore determinism. The authors of the statement (and traditionalists, in general) do not seem to understand this, thus their inability to explain Calvinism.

          However, there are some who understand depravity and they have, logically, concluded that they must deny it if they are to avoid the conclusions of Calvinism..

Steve Martin

We are all born rejecting God.

God saves some.

(just thought I’d save some ink :D)

We don’t play any role in saving ourselves…unless one wants to make themself a little god.

    Brad Reynolds

    Steve
    I think you will hear a loud chorus of AMENS to your statement. I know of no Baptist that says we save ourselves. However, there are many many many Baptist who say we respond to God’s grace in repentance and faith.

      Randall Cofield

      Hi Brad,

      However, there are many many many Baptist who say we respond to God’s grace in repentance and faith.

      I think you will hear a loud chorus of AMENS to your statement. :-)

      However, there are many, many Baptists who agree with the bible that says: “So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”

      That’s real Sovereignty.

      Can I get a loud chorus of AMENS for the glory of God’s Sovereignty?

      I bet not, but we shall see.

      Peace

        Not The Original Les

        AMEN AND AMEN RANDALL!!

        Brad Reynolds

        Randall
        I shall assume that you speak in jest rather than honestly believing there are not “a chorus of Amens” for Romans 9:15 or for God’s Sovereignty.

        However, we would not limit our theological understanding of God’s mercy strictly to Romans 9. We would also include Deut 7:12 and Matt 5:7 as well as Romans 11:32. Moreover, we would understand Romans 9-11 contextually to be in reference to Israel. Finally, we would not feel obligated to adhere to someone else’s definition of Sovereignty, which we feel is closer to determinism (or in extreme cases fatalism) than it is the Scriptures. I hope that is helpful.

          Randall Cofield

          Brad,

          Well, if Romans 9 isn’t an acceptable definition of God’s Sovereignty, perhaps this one will suffice?

          ….the Most High,….who lives forever,…his dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom endures from generation to generation;
          all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing,
          and he does according to his will among the host of heaven
          and among the inhabitants of the earth;
          and none can stay his hand
          or say to him, “What have you done?”

          If this is still not sufficient, let me know. God has actually done a more than sufficient job defining His own Sovereignty, so I can supply you with quite a few more nuggets from His Word. :-)

          Soli Deo Gloria

          Brad Reynolds

          Randall,
          Once again no one denies God’s Word or Sovereignty nor has anyone denied the implications of Sovereignty found in Romans 9. You may want to reread statements before replying to them. What was denied was our affirmation of your apparent deterministic definition of Sovereignty.
          Having said that I must gently also state my interactions with you may be somewhat limited in the future if you insist on implying things I did not say. The Bible has plenty to say about such interactions also.

          holdon

          And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over the whole earth

        Matt

        Randall,

        AMEN, BROTHER!!!

          volfan007

          oh brother….lol.

          Randall, you act like we dont believe the verse quoted above. Do you really think we’ve never seen that one before? Or, that we deny it?Dude, you’d be funny, if it all wasnt just so pathetic.

          God bless, Brother. Go and eat some Chinese food. Enjoy it. You’ll feel better. I just got home from the Chinese restaurant. It was good.

          David

      selahV

      Dr. Reynolds, Amen! :)

        selahV

        to ALL: Amen to God’s sovereignty. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart, lean not to thine own understanding, but in all thy ways acknowledge HIM and HE will direct your paths.” Pr. 3:5-6
        And if you do not acknowledge Him and trust in your own knowledge and lean on your own understanding, then He’s gonna let you go wallow with the pigs till you come to your senses. selahV

Darryl Hill

In this model, where does faith come from? Is it naturally occurring? Do some have faith and others don’t?

I would also note that the Apostle Paul’s answer to “is there injustice with God? is far different from yours. His answer is “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy” and secondly “who are you, oh man, who answers back to God? And the clarification offered is that the potter has right over the clay. Perhaps one of the most compelling parts of that text is the fact that Paul anticipates the very objection that the above article makes if it is understood properly.

Here is the question you should be asking, in my opinion. If Paul is stating that God is sovereign but that it is left up to man to freely choose then why does he anticipate the human accusation that there is injustice with God? Furthermore, why would he anticipate the argument “why does He still find fault for who resists His will?”

There is no question that we may not like Pacckers answer but it is thoroughly Scriptural.

Darryl W

I just put my first post on yesterday’s discussion but this was the point where I was moved to Calvinism. If you do not believe that God sovereignly and unconditionally chooses then why does one person choose Christ and the other does not? Free will is a mechanism, it is not a reason.

Dr. Bruce McLaughlin

This issue has been addressed by Arminians for hundreds of years. A good reference is H. Orton Wiley’s Christian Theology. The main points of the Wesleyan/Arminian system of grace include: (1) man as totally depraved and not capable of either thinking or doing any good thing (in agreement with Calvinism), (2) the prevenient grace of god revealed as the Holy Spirit works in the heart of every man (Titus 2:11); (3) the Holy Spirit beginning, advancing and perfecting everything that can be called good in man and leading the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience; (4) cooperation by some men allowing the Holy Spirit to quicken, aid and direct free will; (5) resistance by other men who make a first-cause, free will decision to reject the grace of God.

    Randall Cofield

    (3) the Holy Spirit beginning, advancing and perfecting everything that can be called good in man and leading the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience;

    Sounds like a largely impotent not-so-holy spirit to me. A wuss, actually.

    The HOLY SPIRIT who regenerated my dead heart Sovereignly works where He wills and Sovereignly accomplishes the New Birth (Jn. 3:1-9)

    Can I get a chorus of AMENS for the glory of the Sovereignty of the Holy Spirit?

      Randall Cofield

      BTW: Are there NO Neo-Traditionalists on here who have a problem with Dr. Bruce’s Arminian Methodism?

      I’ve not seen one of you object to it, though you throw a hissy-fit if a Calvinist even whispers “Pelagian” or “Arminian.”

      Strange business, that…..

    rhutchin

    If points 1, 2, 3 are correct then points 4, 5 can only reflect different treatment by the Holy Spirit of those who cooperate vs those who do not cooperate. The non-Calvinists (Arminians in this case) have never been able to explain how two people make different decisions about salvation based on something inherent in them (just claiming free will does not do this); Points 1-3 only allow the Holy Spirit to be the source of that difference. Arminians need to add additional points that point us to some ability man has (that free will is able to grab hold of) that is not given to him by the Holy Spirit. They insist that it is all of grace. If all is of grace, then only grace (thus, only the Holy Spirit) can distinguish between two opposite decisions and free will is inconsequential.

    Shane Dodson

    “the Holy Spirit beginning, advancing and perfecting everything that can be called good in man and leading the sinner from one step to another in proportion as He finds response in the heart and disposition to obedience”

    Note that lack of Scripture reference to accompany that partiulcar point.

    Such a statement is actually ANTI-Biblical.

    Psalm 14:3, Psalm 53:1, Mark 10:18, Romans 3:10…all of these texts clearly state that God finds NO GOOD in anybody. There is NOTHING that the Holy Spirit would “find good in man.”

    We are taught exactly the opposite by the Lord Himself. He can find no good in man because there is no good in man.

    Be warned of these false teachings, friends.

Godismyjudge

This article is helpful in that it pin-points the issue. Sovereignty does not mean determinism. I find God’s sovereignty more glorious, because He is still in charge without determining every detail.

God be with you,
Dan

    Robert Bunger

    Dan,
    You say that God is in charge without determining every detail. Would you agree that God determines if you will be alive tomorrow (James 4:13-17)? Do you think this also teaches that whatever we intend to do, it will only occur if the Lord wills? Or does the command, “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills,…’ ” only applies to living and not to “also do(ing) this or that” (NASB)?
    I must say that it is easier for those (such as myself) who disagree with a doctrinal statement to find problems than for someone to write a doctrinal statement that has no difficulties. I hope you can elaborate a little bit on this question of mine, which relates to the application of an actual command of Scripture.
    Thanks,
    Bob Bunger

John

I look forward to the day that all these articles can be placed in a book and discussed and debated in totality with living theologians of our day and placed on the internet for viewing. A suggested series title could be Together for the Traditionalist, Separated Soritology from Calvinist a biblical debate.

“When the proverbial dust settles, the bigger issue is our quest to understand who God is and what He has communicated.”

Amen

Robert

Dan wrote:

“This article is helpful in that it pin-points the issue. Sovereignty does not mean determinism.”

In any meaningful and rational discussion one must carefully define one’s terms. Those who are unfairly attempting to control and dominate a discussion will operate by their definition of some key term and claim that any other definition is both false and unacceptable. This amounts to “winning by definition” but it does not amount to determining what is true.

My observation is that in discussions of God’s sovereignty two distinct definitions appear to be conflicting. One definition is what I would designate the biblical definition. It is biblical because the bible in various verses actually states this to be true. The other definition is to equate God’s sovereignty with God predetermining every event that occurs (i.e. the calvnistic conception of sovereignty, Packer providing a good example of it above).

So what is the biblical definition of sovereignty? It is the claim that God does as He pleases. And when we pray we all acknowledge that God is sovereign in this way. Say we were praying for a person who is dying and we know that modern medicine has done all that it can do. All that could save the person at this point is if God does a miracle to heal them. We know that God can and does do miracles and we know that if God desired to that he could heal this person via a miracle. If we truly believe in God’s sovereignty then our perspective is that whether or not God heals this person it is up to him, He will do as He pleases in this situation. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego displayed this attitude of trust in God’s sovereignty when they said that God could deliver them but even if He chose not to, they would continue to trust and worship only Him (i.e. they knew he could deliver them, he had the power, but it depended upon whether or not he chose to do it, cf. Daniel 2:16-18). I know Protestants and Catholics and Eastern Orthodox who hold to this conception of sovereignty (that God does as He pleases in any and all situations). Because the bible presents this and Christians across different theological traditions hold to it, I submit this is the biblical conception of God’s sovereignty. It should be carefully noted that one can hold to this conception of God’s sovereignty **without believing that God predetermines all events.**

But Calvinists are not satisfied with this definition of sovereignty. In their thinking, God is **not** truly sovereign unless he has predetermined all events. So for the Calvinist God’s sovereignty = God has predetermined all events. It should be noted that most Christians (again including Protestants, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox) reject this conception of sovereignty while holding to the biblical conception of God’s sovereignty. The calvinists will sometimes argue that any other conception/definition of sovereignty besides theirs is neither true nor biblical.

And this is where the disagreement comes in: the calvinists demand that their conception of sovereignty be the only acceptable definition. Other believers convinced of the biblical definition but rejecting Calvinism/that God has predetermined all events, will not accept the Calvinistic definition. So we are at an impasse that I do not see any way of eliminating. I believe that Christians should be united on the biblical definition (i.e. that God does as He pleases in any and all situations). But to ask for all Christians to hold the Calvinistic conception (which includes the idea that God predetermines all events) is not going to happen. In order to have rational and civil discussions we should be aware that people are operating from these two different definitions of God’s sovereignty.

Robert

    earl simmons

    Yep! That pretty well sums it up. These replies sound like the same arguments I have read for years. There is no resolution unless we all agree and then we will probably be all wrong. I am assuming all Calvinists feel thay have been chosen, But why do they keep having kids? It seems a roll of the dice to me who will be chosen. So maybe God chose one of your kids to be chosen to go to Hell.
    Giving man a choice does not infringe on the Sovereignty of God. He certainly tells us He is still in charge.
    What it boils down to is the human desire to have everyone agree with oneself so he may feel better about oneself.
    If it gets out that those Baptist are arguing again watch the church rolls continue to drop.

    selahV

    Robert…yep. that is about where I’ve found myself each and every time I talk about it. God’s sovereignty is sufficient in and of itself. He directs, guides, and draws. We resist, pull away and push on to our own desires, but God in His steadfast love and mercy, keeps drawing and drawing and waits afar off as we squander away a good portion of our lives (inheritance), and some come to their senses and others are saddened by the call to sell all they have and so they walk away from the best of life in the Father’s house. I squandered and wasted a goodly portion of mine. Am so grateful the Lord kept drawing me and patiently protecting me. He is so good. So very very good. selahV

Brad Reynolds

Daryl
From whence does one’s faith that the a plane will fly come?

While there is certainly a difference between saving faith and faith in the aerodynamics of an airplane they both involve an ability that is innate in being human. An ability that God in His infinite wisdom created in His chief creation. That is the ability to believe. We definitely affirm that the ability to believe in God was so twisted in the fall that man needs God’s grace in order to exercise that ability but it is nevertheless an ability innate in man. (PS – just a note here – I do not brag on my ability to see for I did not create my eyes nor did I have input, thus I also do not brag that God created man with the ability to believe in things).

Furthermore, I think what is being said is that we are not quite as resolute about what Romans 9-11 is teaching as the Calvinists. But we have good reason. While Romans 9 does speak of God having mercy on whom He will have mercy, Deut 7:12 speaks of His mercy being on those who listen and keep His judgements and in Matt 5 Jesus Himself gave a human response pre-condition to receiving mercy (showing mercy). Perhaps our response would be similar to Paul as he concluded Romans 9-11 “For God has shut up ALL in disobedience so that He may show mercy to ALL. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor?” (NASB – Caps mine).

I guess I am saying, that for me, Romans 9-11, dealing with Israel and her election, is not so easily understood (by me at least) as your comment implies. When coupled with the corpus of Scripture I would rather understand Romans 9-11 by stating I do not know the mind of the Lord. This is why we do not like Packers argument and why we would maintain it does not take into account all of Scripture

    Darryl W

    Brad,

    Thanks for the reply. To use your analogy it is not faith in a plane flying that we are ask to believe in, but faith in sitting on a large boulder and believing that it will fly us to our desired destination. (1 Cor 1:23) The Cross should be folly to me but it is not, why? Scripture tells us why people do not believe, it is foolishness. One does not think something is foolish unless they are informed disbelievers.

    What is different between the one who believes and the one who does not? It is either intrinsic or extrinsic. If faith comes from God then man is incapable of choosing Christ on his own. If it is from man then it is meritorious.

    -Darryl

      Brad Reynolds

      Darryl
      Good words. However, I would respectfully disagree. I think the analogy of the boulder is great but breaks down since the gospel actually makes more sense than worshiping man-made idols (Isa 44). Further, saying something is meritorious does not make it so. If God created man with an ability to belief than it is still the work of God. Moreover, when we go to Scripture itself we find NOWHERE where Faith (noun form) is “given to man” by God (please see my article on this – no need to cut and paste it here). Thanks for the interaction.

        Darryl W

        Brad,

        I’m new here but I was actually reading your blog about Article 4 while you were responding. You present a good defense of your position. I do disagree with your interpretation of Eph. 2:8-9 and lean towards the common use of the neuter pronoun as encapsulating the entire process as a gift of God. (I am no Greek scholar- 12 hrs graduate Greek.)

        I’ll concede that the boulder analogy is subject to breakdown. It was meant to simply show the foolishness of the proposition. I’m not sure how showing degrees of foolishness supports your argument.

        Reading the responses to your Article 4 post I see that someone asked the same question I did. What makes one person have faith and the other not? You did not answer the question. And, in fact, I do not believe that you can and still maintain your view of the source of faith.

        Further, saying something is meritorious does not make it so.

        I agree. And of course, the opposite is true. The quote avoids the point. Why do some have saving faith and others see the Cross as foolishness?

        Thanks for the dialog!

          Brad Reynolds

          Darryl
          Your view on Eph 2:8-9 still does not make “faith” from God. It makes the “grace faith salvation” from God. But even in this view grace and faith are adjectives describing the type of salvation which is a gift from God. It is a grace faith type of salvation. This does not make faith a gift. And given the rest of the corpus of Scripture one would be hard-pressed (in my opinion twisting of Scripture) to insist faith (noun) is a gift from God.

          I apologize if you did not find my answer to your question in the comment threads. I have answered but have no clue (nor the time to find it) as to where. But will summarize again. I would rephrase it like this: “Why do some express saving faith and others do not?”

          In one sense the same question can be asked as to why do some children raised in the same home with the same values end up so differently morally? (disregard salvation for a moment) How could two twins raised identically end up so morally different? One a thief, rapist and murderer and the other a generous gracious giving individual. I have to either say God made them both do as they did or they chose. I choose the latter. In regards to salvation it becomes a little more sticky and I admit that but based on what I see in Scripture I have to admit that man either chooses to or not to exercise his faith. God’s grace is the vehicle giving him the choice, but it is still man’s choice to belief.

          Don Johnson

          Darryl W,

          Maybe you can help us out with your question.

          Suppose two boys are in a boat. The boat capsizes and sinks. The two boys are floating in the water. A ship comes by and throws two life jackets to them and offers to bring them aboard.

          One boy gladly accepts the help and safely boards the ship. The other boy says no, I’m OK, the water is warm, I’m young, I’m a good swimmer, I can make it to shore. Unfortunately, he lost his sense of direction and drowned.

          Why did the one boy accept the help? What made him different than the other boy? Did he have cause to boast?

          Not The Original Les

          Brad,

          Thanks for engaging. One follow up for clarity. You ended, “God’s grace is the vehicle giving him the choice, but it is still man’s choice to belief.”

          I am really trying to understand how you understand scripture for this (i.e. I know you are coming from a scriptural viewpoint).

          So God’s grace is the vehicle for giving man the choice to believe. Would you describe that further as the Holy Spirit wooing, moving upon, “calling” the sinner? i.e. the Spirit is doing something in the sinner or upon the sinner thereby holding out to him Jesus? And then the sinner decides if he will respond to the “work,” however you see that, of the Spirit?

          What I am struggling to understand is how you see the Spirit’s involvement in the process.

          Thanks.

          Les

          Darryl W

          Brad,

          Thanks for the taking the time to respond. One is not hard pressed to take in the corpus of Scripture and still maintain that saving faith is a gift of God. IMO. (Insert long list of respected scholars)

          I was unable to answer the question of why one person has saving faith and the other does not. It is the point that pushed a SWBTS graduate to Calvinism.

          To use your analogy of twins, how would we describe the one who is moral? We would describe them as good. They possessed a desire to do good deeds while their twin did not. To bypass our languages limitations; one twin is gooder than the other. This is where I struggled and I think the Traditionalist struggles as well. Paul tells us that one of the twins cannot please God (Romans 8:7).

          If one holds to the view of soteriology that faith is a product of man; then they are forced to conclude that only people with an intrinsic desire to please God will come to saving faith. Everyone gets the same chance but only those who are gooder obtain eternal life.

          I truly struggled with this for a long time and love to hear responses from Bible believing men as yourself; however, I have concluded that just as in Acts 13:48, those who come to Christ do so because they were Divinely appointed.

          -Darryl

          Darryl W

          Don,

          Thanks for your post; however, I cannot relate your analogy to salvation because being rescued from the sea into the boat is not a foolish proposition.

          But to answer your question. One of the boys was prideful and the other not. Being prideful is displeasing to God. So, it was not faith that saved but moral behavior. Being good in order to obtain salvation is meritorious. That is the issue that cannot be avoided.

          -Darryl

          Not The Original Les

          Don,

          “Suppose two boys are in a boat. The boat capsizes and sinks. The two boys are floating in the water. A ship comes by and throws two life jackets to them and offers to bring them aboard.

          One boy gladly accepts the help and safely boards the ship. The other boy says no, I’m OK, the water is warm, I’m young, I’m a good swimmer, I can make it to shore. Unfortunately, he lost his sense of direction and drowned.

          Why did the one boy accept the help? What made him different than the other boy? Did he have cause to boast?”

          If we are talking about the monergists viewpoint vs. the synergists viewpoint, the way you framed it won’t work for a monergist.

          Her is how it goes:

          “Suppose two boys are in a boat. The boat capsizes and sinks. The two boys are dead. They have sunk to the bottom (assuming bodies sink in H2O. If not, they are dead floating on the water). A ship comes by and throws two life jackets to them and offers to bring them aboard. That is the preacher.

          Neither boy accepts the help because neither can hear the call to offer to be rescued.

          Another ship comes along and the captain (the preacher) makes the same offer. Take hold of the life jacket. One boys suddenly opens his formerly dead eyes because his formerly dead ears now hear because Someone brought his formerly spiritually lifeless body back to life. He joyfully grabs the life jacket and is saved.

          The other boy remains dead.

          Why did the one boy accept the help? What made him different than the other boy? Did he have cause to boast?

          Neither had reason to boast as neither deserved to be rescued.

          Of course, there is the issue of why they were capsized in the first place. Reformed theology says they caused their own distress and death because they were both bad.

          Blessngs,

          Les

          Godismyjudge

          Darryl,

          Three quick thoughts on one believing and another not. First, if one believes and another doesn’t both would end up in hell, if it were not for God mercifully choosing to save the believer. Faith would do us no good without God’s mercy.

          Second, both Calvinists and Traditionalists hold justification is by faith. We believe (God does not believe for us). Further, both Calvinists and Traditionalists hold man is responsible for what we do. So both would have a boasting problem if it were not for my first point.

          Traditionalists hold to libertarian freedom. So a person’s choices are up to him and he is ultimately responsible for them. His actions are not predetermined. So if the question is really asking what determines an undetermined action, then that’s begging the question against libertarianism.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Brad Reynolds

          Les,
          Thanks friend for the interaction.
          I must honestly admit I do not know the EXACT way the Spirit works in the hearts of individuals (John 3:8; Titus 3:5). I do believe that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Jew and Gentile alike – Romans 1:16). And would thus affirm Hubmaier’s statement that “God by means of His sent Word gives power to all people to become His children.” I think there is something innately powerful in the very Word of God that we in our pop-influenced mindsets are apt to overlook. It is why pastors can truly believe that lives WILL be changed everytime we share God’s Word. I think the gospel specifically is even more miraculously powerful and the very giving of God’s Word is GRACE. Hebrews 10:15 affirms that the Holy Spirit testifies to us via the Word of God.

          But I fear going beyond Scripture and thus hedge my statement somewhat by saying as per the Holy Spirit’s work I do not know exactly how He uses/works in tandem with God’s grace. Some will run to John 14:17 but we must also affirm He “convicts the WORLD of sin, righteousness and judgement” and all in the world respond one way or another to His work of conviction, which may shed light on John 14:17. I hope that answers your question and I apologize up front for not being more clear but I truly do fear going beyond Scripture in defining His work in sinners.

          Godismyjudge

          Les,

          As I mentioned to Darryl, on of the problems with that analogy is that on Calvinism, the boy who was brought back to life did grab hold (and the other didn’t). Further, just because the other boy was dead is no excuse. He was offered the life jacket and he is morally responsible for not accepting it and the boy who came to life is morally responsible for accepting it.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Darryl W

          Brad and Dan,

          Where I was headed is the fact that the Traditional view of soteriology leads to a black box. Which is what I think Brad is saying. You get to a point and say,”I don’t know how someone chooses.” I think that is fair because Scripture does not describe a schema where someone enters the Garden of Eden mode and now can repeat the Adamic exercise of free-will.

          We do have a schema described in Scripture, Ezek 36. God gives us a new heart and we now desire to follow him.

          Perhaps this drills down to the individual’s view of doxastic voluntarism, true? What I hear you guys saying is that we choose to believe. But what I think Scripture says (I Cor 1:25) is that we cannot choose to believe what is foolishness. That would be delusion/irrationalism-not faith. Only when God changes our heart is the enigma removed and we can see the Cross as wisdom.

          Very enjoyable conversation. Thanks for your input.

          -Darryl

          Darryl W

          Sorry, reference should be 1 Cor. 1:23 above.

          Not The Original Les

          Dan

          “As I mentioned to Darryl, on of the problems with that analogy is that on Calvinism, the boy who was brought back to life did grab hold (and the other didn’t).”

          Agree. And that is what Calvinism teaches. After regeneration, the newly spiritually alive sinner reaches out in repentance and faith willingly with his changed and freed will.

          “Further, just because the other boy was dead is no excuse. He was offered the life jacket and he is morally responsible for not accepting it and the boy who came to life is morally responsible for accepting it.”

          Agree.

          Not The Original Les

          Brad, thanks for your reply and your honesty. I agree with what Darryl just said at 3:07.

          Thanks for the interaction.

          God bless.

          Les

          Godismyjudge

          Darryl,

          Appealing to God changing the heart only walks the problem back one step. Why does God regenerate one person and not another? (we can say for His glory, but then why was God glorified in electing this one and not that one). In the end, we must see personal choices as self-determining.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Darryl W

          Dan,

          Why does not knowing how something glorifies God render it false? All of us often appeal to the fact that we do not understand all of God’s ways.

          How does having the majority of people spending eternity in hell glorify God instead of the minority? Or just Satan and one person? I don’t know.

          Ezekeil 36 is totally void of self-determination and full of Divine action but I know you consider it as Truth.

          -Darryl

          Not The Original Les

          Dan,

          “Why does God regenerate one person and not another? (we can say for His glory, but then why was God glorified in electing this one and not that one). In the end, we must see personal choices as self-determining.”

          Respectfully I must disagree. We can say from scripture (we all know where they are) that God accomplishes what He desires. We can also say that He does what pleases Himself.

          In the end, why one undeserving over another undeserving sinner? We ultimately cannot say except for His glory.

          What I cannot see in scripture is man determining for himself, or as you might say, libertarian free will. Man’s moral nature is wholly corrupt. He needs God to be saved, which in the trad view leaves you guys at a dead end because you agree he needs God to be saved, but you cannot leave it to man alone (his choice), or what is the nature of God’s role? You and Brad both ended up in that cul-de-sac.

          Blessings,

          Les

          Godismyjudge

          Les & Darryl,

          Probably I was less than clear – or it seems my point was somehow lost in translation. Please allow me to try again.

          We choose. Darryl objected to the idea that all we were saying is “we choose” without further detailed explanations. OK, how do you solve this problem? God chooses what we will do. OK, that gives a more satisfying explanation for what we do. But it only relocates the problem back a step. How does God choose what He does? In the end, all you are saying is God chooses, without giving further detailed explanations.

          Some philosophers argue LFW is illogical; amounting to an infinite regression of causes. But if LFW is illogical, then God cannot have LFW. But the bible teaches God has LFW. So we know such arguments are false.

          God be with you,
          Dan

          Brad Reynolds

          Darryl and Les
          Obviously my view would more easily allow me to say we are free to believe as we wish and by our choosing we both choose to believe differently here. That’s perfectly fine. You choose to believe that man’s ability to choose leads to a black box and you feel more comfortable with man choosing because he has a new heart. So be it. I think such determinism renders Gods universal invitations as deceptive at best. I also find such an understanding creates major obstacles to overcome when reading John 3:16 or 1 Tim. 2:4 or 1 John 2:2 to name a few.

          Hopefully, that helps you understand why I can’t go there. But thanks for the conversation.

          Brad Reynolds

          Darryl
          One further note. You state “One is not hard pressed to take in the corpus of Scripture and still maintain that saving faith is a gift of God. IMO. (Insert long list of respected scholars)”

          I would be more apt to state you have a case if you inserted a long list of Scripture passages where faith (noun) is a gift from God rather than a list of respected scholars who think it is.

          Thanks again

        Darryl W

        Brad,

        Thankfully, we are arguing secondary issues in soteriology and not the main issues.

        I did not make the ‘list of scholars’ statement as a brush off but to simply state that the body of scholarship on each side is immense. It is my point to challenge the presupposition that God holds a high view of man’s will. To address the issue if ‘faith in Christ’ was a gift in itself then the claim that we are do not make a choice would be true. Faith comes by hearing… which will eventually lead us back to how does one person believe and the other not. Paul says in 1 Thess 1 that he knew they were elect because the Word came with power.

        My view of ‘how’ someone is saved is not based on comfort but on Scripture (Ezekeil 36). I know that you are comfortable in not knowing the particular steps in salvation as I guess you are unconcerned with how a universal Gospel is implemented to those who never hear the name of Jesus.

        Self-determinism and non-meritorious salvation are mutually exclusive.

        -Darryl

          Brad Reynolds

          Darryl
          You made Hubmaier’s point almost as well as he did “God by means of His sent Word gives power to all people to become His children” or like Paul “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation” or again your quote “Faith comes by hearing AND HEARING BY THE WORD OF Christ” which has gone out to the whole world (Romans 10:18). This conforms to Isa 40 and Romans 1 and in my opinion answers your question concerning those never hearing much better than a concept of God’s creating them for damnation (which some Calvinists affirm).

          This does not imply that God holds a high view of man’s will. That would be inferred by some.

          Concerning your last sentence. If God made man with the ability to trust (faith) and then gives man grace and power to exercise that very ability in a saving way and then says this is not meritorious then your mutual exclusivity is wrong.

          Again thanks for the conversation this is beneficial.

JoeJ

I learned of this debate from Dr. Mohler’s blog, which I have followed for several years. After reading all the major postings and quite a few of the responses, I’ve learned something about the diversity of belief within the SBC. One belief that seems to be held in common is Sola Scriptura. Some have stated it specifically; others mention the authority of scripture or when the scriptures speak. I’m not going to try to define this doctrine, but I do have questions about its application.

I’ve worked many years in statistical analysis, where a major concern is bias creeping into the data. Maybe that experience colors my approach to the current subject. If we want to draw our beliefs from scripture alone, then let us examine how we arrive at our beliefs. In the unbiased situation, someone hands us a Bible, we ask what it was, and they say they can’t tell us. When we aske if it’s worth reading, they say that was for us to decide. If we begin to read and draw conclusions, they are careful not to influence us. That would be Sola Scriptura, drawing our beliefs from the Bible without outside influence. But how often does that happen? I’d suspect never.

What really happens? We teach children while they are young. What do we teach them? What we believe. We take them to church and let them hear preaching. We teach them songs and jingles that encapsulate beliefs. Are all these things strictly the Word of God? No, they’re the Word plus the personal beliefs of the presenter. Echoing Dr. Allen’s insightful statement, they are scripture plus interpretation; and few of us distinguish the two. By the time they can read, these young folks’ religious outlooks are pretty much formed. And at an early age before they’ve developed much critical thinking. If they’re like most of us, they’ll spend the rest of their lives proof-texting to bolster beliefs picked up from early authority figures. It’s very comforting. To have those beliefs challenged is very unsettling, for it also challenges the authority figures and our very identity.

So what do we have? The Bible plus parents. The Bible plus Sunday school teachers. The Bible plus pastors, preachers, evangelists, and theologians. The Bible plus popular historical figures. The Bible plus the Baptist Message. Do I dare say it? The Bible plus our own personal tradition.

So let us have some intellectual honesty. Let us practice unbiased Sola Scriptura, or let us rename it to reflect the actual practice.

    Lydia

    “What really happens? We teach children while they are young. What do we teach them? What we believe. We take them to church and let them hear preaching. We teach them songs and jingles that encapsulate beliefs. Are all these things strictly the Word of God? No, they’re the Word plus the personal beliefs of the presenter. ”

    JoeJ, Such a great comment!

    The SBC I grew up in was filled with casserole bakers who drilled into our heads how Paul commended the Bereans and we should check and test everything we are taught. That we can have the Holy Spirit guiding us and helping us understand when we read scripture. And, that we must have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That we are a priesthood of believer. The pastors I grew up around loved sitting around our table debating finer points of doctrine with the others in the priesthood as an equal. We actually knew them personally and well. There was very little of this “great man of God” elite stuff.

    I am very grateful for that kind of beginning foundation and I am hoping it was not rare in the SBC back then. We were in many different churches because of a family ministry and this pretty much sums up my experiences. I realize those days are over and things changed drastically to more indoctrination to follow a personality or a seeker cheap grace focus to build big churches.

Robert

I thought this was supposed to be a discussion about the nature of sovereignty.

I notice that some calvinists have brought their favorite argument for calvinism (i.e. the “what makes you to differ” argument). The argument goes like this: the determinist asks, if two people both hear the gospel message and one believes and one does not, what makes the difference? The scenario is a set up, similar to the complex question fallacy committed when someone asks: “Have you stopped beating your wife?“(the question is a set up because it already assumes that you had been doing so, so if you answer Yes, that means that you did so in the past, if you answer No, that means that you are continuing to do so, either way you look bad). The “what makes you to differ” argument is similar. It assumes that **if we do anything** in the salvation process then what we do can be viewed as meritorious or something we could boast about. So that is supposed to lead people to declare that their salvation **must not have involved anything they do**. The whole argument is a set up to establish calvinism/determinism.

There are some major problems with this argument that need to be noted.

First, the bible says that saving faith by its very nature excludes boasting. That means that if a person has saving faith they will not boast in their faith, or take pride that they trusted the Lord while someone else did not (this takes the rug out from this argument because it seeks to make anything we do meritorious and something to brag about, but we have faith, God does not have it for us and saving faith does not result in boasting).

Second, when it comes to saving faith, we know that we are only enabled to have faith if the Holy Spirit has worked in us. Before a person chooses to trust in Christ, the Spirit will have revealed things to them (including their sinful condition that they are a sinner, conviction about sin, who Jesus is, what Jesus did for them, etc. etc.) It is this work of the Spirit which enables but does not necessitate a faith response from people. If we actually do any evangelism we know that people’s conversion experiences vary (some hear the message once and choose to believe, others hear it multiple times and resist it and after some time respond by choosing to believe, some ever hear it for a lifetime and never choose to believe, anyone with actual experience in evangelism will have seen this).

Third, the reality is that people believe and disbelieve for different reasons. One believes because they are into rational arguments and are persuaded by good apologetics arguments. One believes after a personal crisis. One disbelieves because they do not want anyone telling them what to do. One disbelieves because their whole life they were taught that the trinity is false and Jesus could not be God. There is no single reason why all people believe and no single reason why all people disbelieve. And the bible does not tells us why one individual believes and one does not.

We do know that the Spirit must work in us for us to be saved (the necessity of the preconversion work of the Spirit). We do know that we are saved by trusting in what Jesus did rather than in what we do (i.e. saved by faith). And yet determinists will repeatedly keep developing these scenarios revolving around the “what makes one person believe and another not believe”/”who makes you to differ” question.

The fact is as paradoxical as it may sound, we do have to do things in the process of salvation (including having faith, repenting from sin) and yet God alone saves us. This is true because it is God’s efforts that save us not our faith and not our repenting of sin, etc. though we will do these things in the process. The reality is that there are things we will do in this process (including choosing to trust the Lord to save us) and yet only what the Lord does is what actually saves us.

What is particular sad is that determinists so zealous to argue for their determinism will sometimes actually end up attacking justification by faith! They do so in the same exact way that non-Christian cultists do so. If you present salvation by faith enough times to cultists you will run into the following response: they will argue that salvation is by works, if you deny this, they will then argue that the faith a person has is **also a work** since **that person is the person doing it**. The problem here is that the bible distinguishes between faith and works, declaring that faith is not a religious work nor is it meritorious. But cultists will argue if the faith involved you at all (it was your choice to trust), then it **must have been a work**, thus arguing against justification by faith. Some determinists do the same when they argue and claim that **if we do anything** (including have a faith response to the gospel) then **what we do is a work** and is meritorious and is something we may boast about. Unfortunately I am seeing this same argument reappearing in this thread.

Robert

    Randall Cofield

    Hi Robert,

    You said:

    I notice that some calvinists have brought their favorite argument for calvinism (i.e. the “what makes you to differ” argument). The argument goes like this: the determinist asks, if two people both hear the gospel message and one believes and one does not, what makes the difference? The scenario is a set up,…

    Paul said:

    1Co 4:7 ¶ For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

    :-)

    Soli Deo Gloria

    Darryl Hill

    I have also noticeod here that the original has been lost in the deobate here. I suppose it’s natural since they’re all interrelated. Still I do find it troubling that no person has offered a satisfactory answer to the Romans 9 passage that was mentioned in the original article. I’ve heard it dismissed as only dealing with the election of nations but I still do not find that a compelling argument, especially given the objections which Paul anticipates, which are the very arguments being made by Arminian theologiauns as well as the traditionalists in this debate.

    Consider Paul’s argument..
    1. Though all Abraham’s physical descendants are not saved, God has not failed in keeping His promise. Why?
    2. The children of the promise are not physical children but spiritual children.
    3. Isaac was chosen not Ishmael. Jacob was chosen not Esau. This was an unconditional sovereign choice of God.
    4. God’s choice was not unjust. Why? Because He will have mercy and compassion upon whom He chooses.
    5. God’s choice does not depend the will of man or the exertion of man but entirely upon God’s mercy. He has mercy on whomever He wills and He hardens whom He wills.
    6. Anticipated objection: why does God find fault in man since no one can resist His will? Answer: who is man to question God?
    7. Example: will the molded reply to the potter “why have you made me this way?” Does not the potter have a right to make vessels of honor or dishonor from the same lump?
    8. Another possible answer: perhaps God only bears with the objects of wrath for the sake of the objects of mercy, from among both Jews and Gentiles.

    I do believe, aside from the plain language used in that text, that some of the most compelling parts of that text are the anticipated arguments. If Paul were teaching merely that God is sovereign but man’s decision is the final securer, why would he anticipate a charge of injustice against God? And why would he anticipate the objection regarding God holding men responsible for sin if it is merely their own will in play? It is very plain what Paul is teaching here. He is saying that God alone chooses upon whom He will have mercy and that man’s will or effort is irrelevant given the fact that all are under wrath.

    I used to glaze over this text by the way. I saw it as a pure enigma because it didn’t fit into my paradigm. So I can understand why many would avoid it or dismiss it.

Randall Cofield

GOD’S DEFINITION OF HIS SOVEREIGNTY–PART 1

Isa. 46:8 “Remember this, and show yourselves men; Recall to mind, O you transgressors.
9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’

Soli Deo Gloria

volfan007

The Bible is full of people making decisions. Some people choose God’s way, and they are blessed. Others choose to go their own way, and they are condemned for it. Why do some people choose to be saved, and others dont? Because, some people choose to be saved, and others dont. Those people, who respond to the calling, convicting, enlightening work of the Holy Spirit of God, are saved. And, those people, who choose to not be saved, are lost and heading for Hell.

Why did I choose to be saved, and someone else didnt? Because I responded to the working of the Spirit in my life. Why is the lost man not saved? Because he chose to not repent and believe….to reject the working of the Spirit in his life. I will go to Heaven, because of the grace of God. He will go to Hell, because of his rebellion and unbelief.

Soli Deo Gloria,

David

    volfan007

    God has sovereignly chosen to save all those, who will believe.

    God’s glory is even more magnified, and His wisdom so much more exalted; by giving man free will…..while at the same time, still bringing His plans and purposes to pass. Wow, what a God!!!

    Sola Gratia,

    David

      Randall Cofield

      Ac 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.

      Jn. 12:37 ¶ But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,
      38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”
      39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
      40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”
      41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.

        volfan007

        Randall,

        Okaaay….

        Sola Fide,

        David

      Brad Reynolds

      David,
      Good word. It is my personal belief (albeit this is as subjective as any other person’s personal belief) that many Calvinists limit God’s Sovereignty to fit nicely into a system man can understand. i.e. – we do things because God determined we should (this can be dangerous on any number of levels, not the least of which is making God the author of evil). While this resolves the apparent conflict between man’s FREE decisions and God’s Sovereignty, it does so by removing FREEDOM and it does so at a cost which seems too high Biblically (the cost of making God the author of evil).

      Our view, on the other hand, admits to an apparent conflict, but solves the apparent conflict by stating God in His wisdom included mans FREE choices (and by that we mean truly free) in His Sovereignty.

      This of course, causes no small problems in resolving God’s eternal PLAN (which cannot be thwarted by man) with man’s free choice. However, this actually glorifies the Sovereignty of God by making it above the understanding of man (sounds similar to Isa 55:8-9). Moreover, we FIRMLY preserve the orthodox belief that God is not tempted by evil not tempts man to evil, that is to say we FIRMLY preserve that God is not the author of Evil. Finally, we are able to affirm that it is God’s desire THAT ALL MEN be saved as Scripture teaches.

      It is interesting to further note that of the ten plagues we are told that God hardens Pharaoh’s heart in four of the plagues while Pharaoh hardens his own heart in three of the plagues and in the final three we are not told who hardens it but simply that is was hardened. Once again, revealing that man’s FREE CHOICE and GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY are both at work and thus God’s Sovereignty includes true FREEDOM.

      When speaking of the Sovereignty of God anyone can pick and choose passages where God speaks of His dominion or power and claim that is God’s definition of His Sovereignty but unless God says “this is my definition of Sovereignty…” I would be most hesitant in putting words in God’s mouth. I think God’s Sovereignty rightly understood would certainly never be in conflict with those passages and moreover would certainly be in concert with those passages but it might go beyond those passages (which is exactly my point).

    Randall Cofield

    1Co 4:7 ¶ For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

      volfan007

      Randall,

      Okaaay…

      Sola Scriptura,

      David

Alex

David:

The issue is not whether God gave man free will. Please try to understand this. It is that the free will freely chooses sin.

You seem to understand free will as a kind of neutral state, like a voter choosing between two candidates. This is not the Biblical doctrine of sin and I am shocked that you seem to want to believe the Bible and this strange untruth at the same time.

    volfan007

    Alex,

    It’s not a strange belief. It’s just the truth. I do not hold to the deterministic view, which it sounds like you hold to. I believe that God really does desire to save all men, even kings and those in authority, of which many of them will never be saved. I believe that God really desires to save all people, even the false teachers, whom deny the Lord, who bought them. I believe that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that they turn, and be saved. And, I see that Jesus would’ve gathered the people of Jerusalem to Himself, like a mother hen gathers her chicks, but THEY would not….not that Jesus would not….but THEY would not. I see the rich young ruler walking away, sorrowful….even though Jesus LOVED Him. I see the Lord offering salvation to Cain, although he walked away. I see the Lord even reaching out to Judas, after the kiss….but, Judas walked away. You see, I believe that people really do have a choice….not just in some deterministic theory.

    And, Alex, yes, I understand all about men being free to choose, in the Calvinistic mindset, and that he’ll always choose sin….unless, God regenerates him, and makes him “choose” salvation. I just dont agree with this philosophy.

    David

      Don Johnson

      David,

      Amen!

      Darryl Hill

      Yes David, they would not. They would not because it is in their nature to spurn the goodness of God and to spurn their own conscience and to spurn His revelation of Himself all throughout nature. And they will never choose to repent of sin nor submit to God if He does not first awaken them to the reality of their existence, which He does by the power of His Spirit through the preaching of His Gospel.

        Don Johnson

        Darryl,

        You might define what you mean by “awake.” Some might get the wrong idea.

        volfan007

        Darryl,

        Yes, I believe what you said. Man will not choose God, unless God comes to man first. Yes. I believe that. Man will never choose to go to God, due to his sin nature. But, I believe that God does come to man first. ANd, that He truly offers salvation to all people, according to the light which they have shed on them. And, man must choose…..

        David

          Darryl Hill

          David, that is exactly the position I held up until 2005. But that final step is significant. That Romans 9 passage being discussed here was significant for me, as were several other passages, including Ephesians 1&2 and several texts from the Gospel of John. That and studying Church history, including guys like Martin Luther, Charles Spurgeon, and Jonathan Edwards, guys who I knew about but had just assumed they must believe what I did. And then studying Augustine and Aquinas, some of the greatest early church theologians, began to cause me to question as well. If the earliest Christians believed these things, who is more likely to be right? Them or a guy like myself, who grew up immersed in American culture? The answer seemed clear. Believing strongly that the reformation was God’s will and realizing what the reformers taught, I started searching the Scriptures once again and realized that there were several passages that I had either skimmed over or ignored because they made no sense to me. It was a combination of multiple factors. I believe they were all examples of God’s sovereignty in opening my eyes to some truths. The result has been that I trust God more now than ever and it has also helped me to better handle things that don’t go my way in life or even tragedies. But hey man, I’m glad to hear you articulate that you believe God chooses man first and comes to Him first. That is significant to me. I definitely think I could work together with you bro.

Don Johnson

All men have the ability to believe the Gospel. The power to believe is in the Gospel itself. While it is true man that man is sometimes prevented from believing, it is never because he “dead” and has “inability” to be believe.

    Randall Cofield

    Jn. 12:37 ¶ But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him,
    38 that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: “Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?”
    39 Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:
    40 “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.”
    41 These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.

      Don Johnson

      Randall,

      Thank you for making my point. John 12:36-40 was actually the first passage I was going to use.

      According to the text are the people unable to believe because they are dead and incapable of believing. No, the people were not able to believe because of an outside influence. In this case it was God. Why He did it, is a separate matter.

      These verses reveal several things. First of all it shows a man does not need to be regenerated to believe. In fact he needed to be blinded so he couldn’t believe. If man is so dead that he can’t believe without first being regenerated, why did God need to blind them? Didn’t God know about “total inability”? I thought God just “passed over” those that don’t believe?

      Please explain why God blinded the people, who supposedly according Calvinism couldn’t believe unless first regenerated and given faith to believe? What do Calvinists know that God doesn’t?

        Randall Cofield

        2Pe 2:9 the Lord knows how to….keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,

          Don Johnson

          Randall,

          Good to see you’ve come to understand some of the problems of Calvinistic theology.

          Randall Cofield

          Don,

          Yea! I am repenting in sackcloth and ashes…

          :-)

          Sola Gratia

    Darryl Hill

    The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he IS NOT ABLE TO UNDERSTAND THEM for they are spiritually discerned.

      Don Johnson

      Darryl,

      Yes, the natural man cannot understand the deep things of God. In context Paul is speaking of those who have received the Spirit (vs. 12) and those who haven’t (vs. 14). Does Calvinistic theology teach a man receives the Holy Spirit before being saved?

        Darryl Hill

        Don what did Jesus teach us regarding “the things of the Spirit of God?” He will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment. Are you suggesting that Paul here is implying that lost men can understand “elementary things” of the Spirit but not the deep things? Surely not. What is elementary in regard to the Spirit for someone who is deaf, blind, and yeah, even spiritually dead?

          Don Johnson

          Darryl,

          As far as deaf, blind and spiritually dead, please feel free to respond to the above on John 12:36-40.

          You didn’t answer my question. Do Calvinists believe one receives the Spirit before they believe?

          selahV

          I don’t understand how my washing machine works but I know it is in my laundry room and all I have to do is put some soap in there, some dirty towels, and push a button. then towels are washed. Of course, I don’t know if they are clean till I get them out of the machine. However I believe they will be clean. We do not need to understand, we need to trust and have faith that what we have heard is true. My momma told me, I heard it and I trusted it to be so.

          When we trust and have faith, then God takes care of the rest and understanding comes and the greatest journey of our lives begins by His grace. selahV

          Darryl Hill

          Don of course Calvinists do not believe that a person receives the Holy Spirit prior to believing. We simply believe that the Spirit must be at work within that man in order for the message of the cross to sound as anything but foolishness. Indeed the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing but to us who are being saved it is the righteousness of God.

          Don Johnson

          Darryl,

          I believe all non-Calvinists believe the same thing. I certainly believe the Holy Spirit works in a person’s life. Which is His ministry as you pointed out (John 16:8-11).

          I trust when you mention “at work”, you do not mean regenerate.

Max

selahV writes “I don’t understand how my washing machine works …”

He that has ears to hear, let them hear what this sister is saying!

There is much in Scripture about the sovereignty of God. There is much in Scripture about free will and personal responsibility. It all works together in a way that is beyond human comprehension. To put the mind of God into a neat theological box is to stand in arrogance before our Creator.

Most of this current debate is nothing more than allegiance to teachings and traditions of men … and Jesus warned us not to do that! The blogosphere is full of “I think”, “In my opinion”, “They said”, “He wrote” etc. I could advance my humble, but accurate, opinion that non-Calvinist SBC traditionalists are telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth … but I hold out little hope of converting Calvinists to my way of understanding the Bible on these matters. Most of our arguments are framed by intellect, not Holy Spirit revelation. Indeed, I don’t discern much Spirit at all in this debate.

Mike Davis

His conclusions are predicated on the assumption that God’s sovereignty is absolute in the sense that anything and everything that happens from a soteriological perspective has been predetermined specifically by God before the foundation of the earth was laid.

But doesn’t anyone who believes God is omniscient (which includes His absolute knowledge of everything that will happen) accept that in some sense God predetermines events since He knows what the result will be even as He creates beings and yet has chosen to create them exactly as they are? So isn’t the Traditionalist and the Arminian at the very least a soft soft determinist?

And what about eternal security? doesn’t that imply determinism?

Layman

A few questions to those on both sides of the debate: Do you personally ever pray for someone’s salvation? If so, what is the nature of your prayer? Do you ask God to do something, and if so, what is it you ask him to do?

    volfan007

    Layman,

    I pray for people’s salvation all the time. I ask God to work on thier hearts. I ask God to open thier hearts. I ask God to open doors so that I can witness to them. I pray that God will do things in their lives that will make them think of thier need for God.

    So, yes, I do. In fact, we’ll have VBS coming up really soon. My prayer is that a lot of those children will come to know the Savior that week.

    Solus Christus,

    David

    Max

    Layman – Here’s how I pray for the salvation of lost souls (family, friends, co-workers, and others I have come into contact with in my 50+ year journey with Christ):

    (1) I pray that he (the lost soul) will come under the preaching/teaching of the Truth, the whole Truth, and nothing but the Truth. It is by Truth that men are made free and alive.

    (2) I pray that he encounters an anointed servant of God (preacher or layman) on mission with God in the first half of the Great Commission to “Go into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” … who will look him in the eye and say “God loves YOU. Jesus died for YOU.” I pray that the message of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection (for him!) be delivered in plain language which could not be misunderstood.

    (3) I pray that in his confrontation with Truth, he clearly hears it and that he willfully consents to the Truth which has penetrated his mind by freely choosing to believe it and turning to Christ in faith.

    (4) I pray that he willingly accepts the invitation extended to him … to accept Jesus and be saved by His grace … to choose life, not death … to be regenerated in spirit and purpose as he yields to the Savior.

    (5) I pray that in that process he will acknowledge his sin, repent, and experience Christ’s forgiveness. I pray that, if the opportunity arises, I can assist with that “sinner’s prayer” and rejoice that a new soul has been born again and ushered into the Kingdom!

    (6) I pray for disciples to come into his life to fulfill the second half of the Great Commission … to teach him to know and observe all things and to love and encourage him in his walk of faith as he comes to recognize Christ as Lord of his life.

    (7) As he comes to mind, I never stop praying for him.

      Layman

      Thanks to you both for responding. I’m not well-versed in these matters and am unsure where I come down on them (thus, my question). However, as I’ve read the comments that was one thought that came to mind. It seems that in order for a person to truly be free to choose, then God cannot intervene in his heart/mind directly to influence that decision. If He does, it seems the person isn’t truly free. So the parts of your answers that would seem to be problematic are those prayers for the sinner to “consent to the truth,” “accept the invitation,” etc. I assume you’re praying that God would intervene in the person’s life to cause them to consent to the truth or that He would open their heart or that He would cause them to accept the invitation. Some of those prayers don’t seem consistent with a belief in a truly free will. I’m sure my question is not new. I’d appreciate your explanations and any others’ explanations (including those from the other position) that would help me as I work through these issues in my mind. Thanks!

        Not The Original Les

        Layman,

        Great analysis of the issue and I think you’ve nailed it.

        Max

        Layman,

        In my response to you, I stressed the importance that a lost person must come under the preaching/teaching of the Gospel … and in that encounter with Truth, he will make a decision to accept it or reject it. How my prayer and the sovereignty of God come together to create that encounter is a mystery to me, but a privilege I have as His child to pray expecting Him to hear my intercession for a lost soul. As I said in a comment upstream in this blog: There is much in Scripture about the sovereignty of God. There is much in Scripture about free will and personal responsibility. It all works together in a way that is beyond human comprehension.

        Article 8 of the “Traditional Statement” speaks to the free will of man in this way: ” We affirm that God, as an expression of His sovereignty, endows each person with actual free will (the ability to choose between two options), which must be exercised in accepting or rejecting God’s gracious call to salvation by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel.”

        “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? … How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news! But not all accepted the good news … Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ” (Rom 10:13-17). So I pray that those I pray for will be exposed to the Word about Christ, hear it, accept the good news, believe, and be saved.

Randall Cofield

To All,

I’ve seen a good deal of objection to determinism on these threads in relation to the will and purpose of God. Does the following passage indicate that God’s will is determinate?

Ac 2:23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:

Soli Deo Gloria

    holdon

    This passage simply means that God offered up Christ as He had intended, determined and foreknown.
    But it was the wicked hands that took Him and killed Him. There is nothing to intimate that these wicked hands did not have a choice in the matter and that therefore God is to blame.

    The business of blaming God dates from right after the first sin of Adam. Some Calvinists go so far as to say that God set up Adam for failure: the forbidden tree, the serpent, the woman, etc..

    Randall Cofield

    holdon,

    The Grk. horizo (determinate) means: to define; to mark out the boundaries or limits (of any place or thing); to determine, appoint; that which has been determined, acc. to appointment, decree; to ordain, determine, appoint.

    Did God only intend that Christ would be “delivered up” and just leave the means of that deliverance open to the determination of second causes?

      holdon

      “Did God only intend that Christ would be “delivered up” and just leave the means of that deliverance open to the determination of second causes?”

      God delivered Christ up, according to His foreknowledge. Period. First cause and end. What this means is that He introduced Jesus into this world, knowing they would kill Him. Not: that so-and-so’s heart was directed by God to kill Jesus.

      People killed Jesus. Period. First cause and end. They had a choice.

      Randall Cofield

      holdon,

      I’m not quite following you, brother. You said “God delivered Christ up, according to His foreknowledge. Period. First cause and end.”

      Then you said: “People killed Jesus. Period. First cause and end.”

      Are you saying God was the first and end (second) cause of Christ’s being killed, or that those who killed him were the first and end (second) cause?

        holdon

        “Are you saying God was the first and end (second) cause of Christ’s being killed, or that those who killed him were the first and end (second) cause?”

        No. What I am saying is that these are separate causes.

          Randall Cofield

          holdon,

          Christ would not have died had they not chosen to kill him?

          holdon

          “Christ would not have died had they not chosen to kill him?”

          Right.

          Not The Original Les

          holdon said,

          ““Christ would not have died had they not chosen to kill him?”

          Right.”

          And we would be in heapum big trouble.

          And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

          (1 Corinthians 15:14-19 ESV)

          holdon

          I agree. But I am not sure what you’re trying to argue Les. The question here was about “determinism”. Whether God made those people kill Jesus (or any other sin and evil) or whether they had a choice not to. So a completely different issue.

          Not The Original Les

          holdon,

          “The question here was about “determinism”.”

          Sorry bout that. I’m into compatibilism, like we see in Habakuk, and the passage in question.

          Randall Cofield

          holdon,

          “Christ would not have died had they not chosen to kill him?”

          Right.
          ****************

          Therefore God’s determinate counsel to redeem mankind by Christ’s sacrifice could have been thwarted?

          holdon

          “How then should the scriptures be fulfilled that thus it must be?” Mt 26:54

          Randall Cofield

          holdon,

          Indeed! It must be so.

          So we agree that Christ’s being delivered up was a result of first-cause determinism on the part of God?

mike white

“We deny that God’s sovereignty and knowledge require Him to cause a person’s acceptance or rejection of faith in Christ.”

Nothing requires God to do anything.
God doesn’t need to do anything to cause a person to reject Jesus.
God does cause people to be born again, although He is not required to do so by His sovereignty and knowledge.
But he does know whom He will cause to be born again, and always has.
Yet he made this world knowing that those that reject Him will go to everlasting punishment.
And yet He made the world anyhow.
I guess He didn’t love them very much.
He made the world knowing their fate and knowing there was nothing He was going to do to stop their destiny [whether he could or not is another question altogether]?
Ephesians 1:
In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

But for those he saved and knew he was going to save, He worked everything out for them. Seems he loves them. He saved them.

This article 7 is an incomplete says-nothing statement.

    holdon

    “Yet he made this world knowing that those that reject Him will go to everlasting punishment.
    And yet He made the world anyhow.
    I guess He didn’t love them very much.
    He made the world knowing their fate and knowing there was nothing He was going to do to stop their destiny”

    So, you blame God for not saving all, although He could have?

Randall Cofield

A Suggestion To Resolve the Current Theological Impasse

After six weeks of wrangling, one thing seems apparent: “Talking” about Calvinism and Neo-Traditionalism is not going to resolve our differences. Neither will “blogging” or “commenting.” This should come as no surprise, for these issues have been debated by better theologians than ourselves for the better part of 2000 years.

As Calvinists and Neo-Traditionalists, we find ourselves bound together by the commonality of the Baptist faith and the more specific denominational distinction “Southern Baptists.” Calvinists are no more or less Southern Baptists than are Neo-Traditionalists, and Neo-Traditionalists are no more or less Southern Baptists than are Calvinists. And we are stuck with each other, like it or not.

I, as a non-hyper Calvinist, do not consider my Neo-Traditionalist brothers and sisters to be heretics. I trust that my Neo-Traditionalist brothers and sisters do not consider me a heretic. If this be the case, I would offer the following as a solution for our current impasse.

Calvinists should resolve to avoid telling Neo-Traditionalists how they should preach and proffer the Gospel, and vice versa.

Neo-Traditionalists should resolve to avoid telling Calvinists that we cannot live, preach, and teach our beliefs with liberty in the SBC, and vice versa.

Calvinists should resolve to avoid telling Neo-Traditionalists how to do mission work and plant churches, and vice versa.

Neo-Traditionalists should resolve to avoid telling Calvinists that their leaders are unworthy of leading entities within the SBC, and vice versa.

Both Calvinists and Neo-Traditionalists should resolve to love one another with a pure heart fervently.

There is a point which is being completely overlooked in this debate: Both sides have errors in their respective theologies. As Calvinists, we do not know what our errors are, else we would correct them. Conversely, Neo-Traditionalists do not know what their errors are, else they would correct them.

If we give ourselves to above five resolutions and to advancing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with abandon, errors on both sides of the divide will be exposed and corrected over time.

Soli Deo Gloria

PS: The fact that there are 5 resolutions in my proposal is of NO significance whatsoever. And to my Neo-Traditionalist brothers and sisters: No, the devil did not make me do it. :-)

Robert

The “who makes you to differ” argument is a common set up by determinists/calvinists intended to “prove” their view. I pointed out some problems with this argument and Randall Cofield responded by quoting my words (the following):

“I notice that some calvinists have brought their favorite argument for calvinism (i.e. the “what makes you to differ” argument). The argument goes like this: the determinist asks, if two people both hear the gospel message and one believes and one does not, what makes the difference? The scenario is a set up,… “

and then supposedly contrasting my words with the apostle Paul
Cofield wrote:

“Paul said:
1Co 4:7 ¶ For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
:-)”

I don’t find proof texting of this sort humorous at all.

Actually it is an **abuse of scripture**, something commony practiced by non-Christian cultists and unfortunately sometimes by professing Christians as well.

May I suggest this is a classic example of **proof texting** (i.e. one starts with an idea or concept that one wants to believe in, one then finds any bible verse, regardless of whether the context in which it is found is ignored, and if the verse can be made to support one’s preconceived view, one then presents it as “proof” that one’s view is true). Randall aparently is a determinist/calvinist who seems to think the “who makes you to differ” argument has validity. So starting with this concept/idea (i.e. that the “what makes you to differ” argument proves determinism/calvinism) he seeks **any** possible bible verse (regardless of its actual context and intended meaning) to prove his determinism.

The verse he settles on is 1 Cor. 4:7.

If we examine the immediate context of 1 Cor. 4:7 we find that the apostle Paul was not **discussing evangelistic situations** and **considering whey people have different responses to the gospel** at all. In fact he was not even talking to or about nonbelievers in this passage.

He was writing to Christians at the Corinthian church who were having problems in the exercise of their spiritual gifts. Some were becoming prideful about themselves and their spiritual giftedness (cf. v. 8 “You are already filled, you have already become rich, you have become kings without us, and I would indeed that you had become kings so that we3 might reign with you”). Paul also speaks of their arrogance in v. 6 “Now these things, brethren [note that is not talking about why two differenct people have different responses to the gospel], I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in the behalf of one against the other.” Paul even speaks of this arrogance about giftedness at the beginning of v. 7 “For who regards you as superior?” It should be noted that Randall completely ignores the context and actual intent of this passage in 1 Cor. 4. The passage is not talking about ****believing and nonbelieving differing responses to the gospel**** (nonbelievers are not even in sight in the passage).

Instead Paul is rebuking the Corinthians (especially some there who thought they were some sort of “super apostles” because of their spiritual giftedness, Paul also addresses this problem in 2 Corinthians as well) in regard to their arrogance in connection with spiritual gifts. Paul’s rebuke includes the point that it is God who gives different spiritual gifts and whatever spiritual gifts a person has come from him and are decided by him (which eliminates boasting when you realize that God is the basis for differences in gifting). Paul discussed this topic of giftedness and public worship problems caused by it more in depth in 1 cor. 12-14. But he makes mention of the arrogance and these “super apostles” in 1 Cor. 4 and also in 2 Corinthians. It must be noted that Cofield ignores all of this, the **actual context** and **intention of Paul’s words**, attempting to proof text from 1 Cor. 4:7. Other things could be shared from 1 Cor. 4 to further show the proof texting which is going on, but hopefully the immediately surrounding verses should suffice.

What usually and quickly gives away such proof texting is when one goes to the actual verse cited and examines the immediate context in which it is found. You discover that the biblical writer was talking about something else, something very different from what the proof texter is attempting to **use** the verse for.

Robert

    Randall Cofield

    If the gifts of the Spirit are graces from the hand of God, one could only dismiss Paul’s “who makes you to differ” argument if one assumes salvation is not all of grace…

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