A Commentary on
Article Four: The Grace of God
of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”

June 13, 2012



By Dr. Brad Reynolds
Vice President for Academic Services
Truett-McConnell College


Article Four of our Traditionalist Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation says:

We affirm that grace is God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith.

We deny that grace negates the necessity of a free response of faith or that it cannot be resisted. We deny that the response of faith is in any way a meritorious work that earns salvation.

Ezra 9:8; Proverbs 3:34; Zechariah 12:10; Matthew 19:16-30, 23:37; Luke 10:1-12; Acts 15:11; 20:24; Romans 3:24, 27-28; 5:6, 8, 15-21; Galatians 1:6; 2:21; 5; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 3:2-9; Colossians 2:13-17; Hebrews 4:16; 9:28; 1 John 4:19

The Affirmations

I will begin by stating my assumptions regarding the affirmation:  1) Most Southern Baptists affirm the affirmation. 2) Many who affirm the affirmation may not think it went far enough (that is, they would not disagree with it, but would add to it). 3) Many who would deny it do so on the basis of the phrase “any person.”

Since Dr. David Allen has already addressed the third assumption concerning universal atonement it would be redundant for me to do so.  Thus, the affirmation concerning the Grace of God is either agreed upon as a minimal statement or the disagreement has already been addressed.  Yet, it would prove beneficial to view some of the passages referenced.

Acts 15:11

“But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (NASB)

I agree with what John Polhill states, “God’s acceptance of the Gentiles has drawn a basic lesson for the Jews as well.  There is only one way of salvation – “through the grace of our Lord Jesus.”” (Acts, New American Commentary, Broadman, 2001, p 327).  One could never earn one’s way into heaven.  Our greatest works are filthy rags to a Holy God.  Grace, Amazing Grace is what brings our spirit to life.

Romans 3:24

“being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (NASB)

Since this verse seems to be qualified by the “all” in verse 23, James Dunn comments, “The gospel is that God sets to rights man’s relationship with Himself by an act of sheer generosity which depends on no payment man can make, which is without reference to whether an individual in particular is inside the law/covenant or outside, and which applies to all human beings without exception.  It is this humbling recognition – that he has no grounds for appeal either in covenant states or in particular ‘works of the law,’ that he has to depend entirely from start to finish on God’s gracious power, that he can receive acquittal only as a gift – which lies at the heart of faith for Paul. … For at this stage everything, the whole argument, the gospel itself, depends on the most fundamental insight of all: that man’s dependency on God for all good is total, and that the indispensable starting point for any good that man does is his acceptance of God’s embrace and his continual reliance in God’s enabling to accomplish that good.” (Romans 1-8, Word Commentary, Word, 1988, p. 179).

Romans 5:8

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (NASB)

The amazing grace of God is inextricably linked to the amazing love of God. Praise be unto God that while we were yet sinners Christ took our place.  He took the judgment of God on Himself, He took our sins upon Himself.  He paid our price that we would not have to. “God did not wait until we had performed well enough to merit his love (which, of course, no one ever could) before he acted in love on our behalf.  Christ died for us while we were still alienated from him and cared nothing for his attention or affection,” (Robert Mounce, Romans. NAC. Broadman, 1995 p.136-137).  God does not demonstrate his love by not allowing evil in our lives.  He demonstrates his love by paying for the evil within.  The proof of God’s amazing love is His Son.

What we are saying in the affirmation, in addition to the above, is that Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection is GRACE.  That the offering of the gospel is GRACE.  That the power of the Holy Spirit is GRACE.  That the salvation of man is GRACE.  It is all of God!  The conviction of the Holy Spirit is a gracious act of God.  The power of the gospel unto salvation (Romans 1:16) is a gracious act of God.  Grace! Grace! Grace!  God is the author and finisher of salvation.  He provides it!

May we never forget God convicts the sinner.  The sinner is not convicted by performances, or human manipulation, or well-polished words.  May we also never forget the innate POWER in the Word of God, the power in the gospel.  When we simply share the good news of Jesus Christ, that is the Power for salvation (Romans 1:16).  May my Lord forgive me for the times I have hesitated in sharing the gospel for fear it would not have been received.  It is GOD’S POWER!  It can do more than I could ever imagine.  Balthasar Hubmaier put it this way “God by means of His sent Word gives power to all people to become His children” (Balthasar Hubmaier, Freedom of the Will, II in H. Wayne Pipkin and John H Yoder, Balthasar Hubmaier, Herald Press, 1989. p. 450).

The Denials

I will spend a greater amount of time on the denials, since I believe there is disagreement here.  Again, let me be forthright about my assumptions:  1) The first sentence is addressing the concept of “irresistible grace” and stating disagreement with that concept.  I believe most Southern Baptists would also disagree with irresistible grace.  A Calvinist may desire to use different terminology to express this concept, but this was not written by or for Calvinists, and I resist any notion that I must use their terminology to define my beliefs.  To disagree with the statement is not offensive; to tell those of us who affirm it we must rewrite our beliefs using your terminology is very offensive.   2) The second sentence is addressing the concept that faith is equivalent to a biblical understanding of “works.” Thus, we resist the idea that when an individual, by his own free will, believes in Christ he has earned his way into heaven.  The two sentences in the denials are connected and we shall treat them as such.  Perhaps the best way to confirm our denials is to address the clearest Scriptures to which we have appealed.

Romans 3:27-28

“Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law.” (NASB)

The NT term for “faith” simply means “to trust” or “to have confidence” (Bromily, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament).  To trust or not to trust seems to be one’s personal decision.  When I go to sit in my recliner I am deciding to trust it will hold me.  In this passage Paul juxtapositioned faith with works.  In other words, faith is never to be equated with works.  To claim faith is a meritorious work is to go against Scripture.  Calvinists will probably not dispute these verses and the meaning appealed to here.  What may be disputed is the ownership of the faith in question.  Is the faith owned by God and given to man as a gift (in the sense that God’s grace is given to man as a gift) or is it an individual’s faith?  Let’s move to the passage that most clearly demonstrates the disagreement.

Ephesians 2:8-10

“For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (NASB)

In Ephesians 2:8 it has been argued that the antecedent of the “THAT” (touto) in “that not of yourselves” is “grace and faith.”  The problem is the text itself seems to deny such an interpretation.  The Greek term for “that” is in the singular.  This truth indicates that its antecedent is something (singular) and not some things (plural).  Had God intended it to refer to both grace and faith, the plural feminine “tauta” (these) was available for Paul’s use.  Paul could have easily said “these are the gifts of God.”  But He did not use the plural.  And since I affirm it is God’s intention for His Word to be comprehended, I would maintain that the forced application of the singular neuter pronoun “that” to refer to two feminine nouns would be inappropriate.

Thus, “that” is the antecedent to either grace or faith or “salvation.”  If one had to choose between the three, the context would insist upon salvation.  Thus, the proof text for “faith” being a gift from God fails of its own accord.

I would that it was that simple.  But an objection will be raised.  Namely, it wasn’t referring to grace or salvation but to faith.  To this I respond that while the neuter singular form of “that” could allow this interpretation the feminine form would be much more clear since faith is a feminine noun.  That is, had God intended for “that” to refer to faith the feminine singular form of “that” was available for use.  Further, the context itself seems to prevent such an interpretation.  Paul is addressing “salvation” in the context (verses 5-7 and then verses 9-10).  The rest of Paul’s writings make clear he is not worried about a misunderstanding that faith is by works but that salvation is by works.  The Bible teaches that grace is God’s grace given to man (it is never man’s grace).  And salvation is most certainly God’s gift.  But Scripture also seems to teach that faith is man’s.  One’s trust in God seems to be one’s own.

Paul himself affirms it is the Ephesians’ faith (man’s faith) just a few verses earlier (1:13 and 1:15).  In fact there are thirty-nine occurrences in the New Testament where faith is called “your faith” or “their faith” (Matt 9:2, 22, 29, 15:28; Mark 2:5; Mark 5:34; Mark 10:52; Luke 5:20; Luke 7:50; Luke 8:48; Luke 17:19; Luke 18:42; 22:32; Rom 1:8; I Cor. 2:5; 15:14, 17; 2 Cor. 1:24; 2 Cor. 10:15; Eph 1:15; Phil 2:17; Col 1:4; 1 Thes. 1:8; 3:2, 5, 6, 7, 10; 2 The 1:3; Philemon 6; Hebrews 10:23; Heb 12:2; James 1:3; 2:18; I Peter 1:7, 9, 21; 2 Peter 1:5; I John 5:4).

It is unwise to take a concept (faith is only God’s gift to man) and force an interpretation upon a text because of a theological grid, when such a concept is not found in the rest of Scripture.

I conclude this discussion on Ephesians 2 by noting the following comments regarding this very passage.  These comments reflect my understanding that faith is not the gift Paul is referencing in this particular passage:

“[H]e arrives at this general conclusion, that they had obtained salvation by faith alone.  First, he asserts, that the salvation of the Ephesians was entirely the work, the gracious work of God.  But then they had obtained this grace by faith.  On one side, we must look at God; and on the other, at man.  God declares that he owes us nothing; so that salvation is not a reward or recompense, but unmixed grace.  The next question is, in what ways do men receive that salvation which is offered to them by the hand of God? The answer is, by faith; and hence he concludes that nothing connected with it is our own.  If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all condemnation, it follows that salvation does not come from us. … Many persons restrict the word gift to faith alone.  But Paul is only repeating in other words the former sentiment.  His meaning is, not that faith is the gift of God, but that salvation is given to us by God….”  (John Calvin, Commentary on Ephesians 2:8-9)

Many in the Reformed camp have already realized the implication for both free will and irresistible grace if faith is not merely a gift from God.  Whether this implication was the impetus for many errant forced readings into this text is not known.  What is known, is that even if John Calvin realized the implication, he did not allow it to render a forced reading of the text.

Now, having closed the door on faith being a gift from God in this most oft-cited passage, I hope my brethren will not be too upset if we crack it back open.  There are three passages which seem to teach that faith may actually be a gift.

John 6:29

“Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”” (NASB)

Philippians 1:29

“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (NASB)

1 Peter 1:21

“who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.” (NASB)

So, is faith a gift from God or not?  In the New Testament the terms translated in English as “faith” and “believe” are from the same word (pistis).  When this word is translated from its noun form we find “faith” in the English text but when it is translated from its verb form we find “believe.” It is noteworthy that there is no Scripture that attributes “faith” to God.[1] But we have three that speak of one’s believing as being from God.  John 6 says it is God’s work that we believe.  Philippians 1 says God granted us to believe.  I Peter 1 states it is through Him we act in belief in God.

Having said that, there are numerous passages where one’s “believing” (verb) is not attributed to God but seems to be one’s own (Matt 21:32; 27:42; Mark 9:24, 42; John 3:12; Acts 15:11; Acts 27:25; Romans 3:3; 22; 10:9, 14; 1 Cor. 10:27; 1 Thes. 4:14; 1 Tim 1:16; 1 Tim 4:10; esp. John 1:12; 1 Cor. 1:21; 2 Tim 2:13).  Of special note is the following:

1 Corinthians 1:21

“For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.” (NASB)

In addition to all of these, we have two passages where people ask God to increase their faith (Luke 17:5; 9:24).  Thus, even after God saves us we should ask Him to intercede to increase our faith.

So what are we to do with all of this biblical doctrine concerning faith and/or believing?  It is noteworthy that when God’s Word speaks of one’s faith (as a noun), it is never attributed to God.  But in three of the verses where God speaks of man believing (verb) in God we are told: 1) God grants them to believe, 2) it is through God they believe, and 3) it is His Work.

So faith is man’s, but believing is God’s?  Not so quick, because the rest of the verb passages indicate that believing is also man’s.  Here is where I tread lightly.  I believe God created man in such a way that part of being human is the ability to trust.  I do not believe that ability was entirely lost in the Fall.  But I do believe that ability was so twisted by the Fall that we are now unable to trust in GOD without the grace of God.  God gives this grace to man and thus through Him and His work we are granted to believe as we choose to believe through our trust (faith) in Him.  I would add, based on the preceding, that God’s grace is given to all mankind and may be resisted.

In these passages we see an interplay between God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility, neither of which can be denied.   It would not be prudent to affirm a theological system (whether that be Arminianism or Calvinism) that may speculate beyond Scripture.

Matthew 23:37

“Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” (NASB)

Whatever one says about this text, one cannot negate that the very Christ that saved our souls wept over Jerusalem and desired to gather them, but they would not.  This text gives us good reason to resist the concept of irresistible grace.  God desired to bring man to him, but man resisted.  Note the words of Craig Blomberg: “Here Jesus wishes he could gather all the recalcitrant ‘children’ of Israel, to love, protect, and nurture them like a mother hen does her baby chickens.  Similar imagery recurs frequently in Jewish literature (e.g., Deut 32:4; Ps 36:7; Ruth 2:12; Isa 31:5).  But God never imposes His love by overriding human will” (Matthew, NAC, Broadman, 1992, p. 350).

Acts 7:51

“You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” (NASB).

This is perhaps the clearest text in all of Scripture that God’s grace is resistible.  Nowhere in the Bible do we find that the Holy Spirit is irresistible.  And we have argued that His convicting power is GRACE.  On the other hand, here we have a text stating we can resist the Holy Spirit.  We can resist the conviction unto salvation.  This text is hard to ignore and yet seems to be ignored.  I find it hard to comprehend how one who believes in irresistible grace gets past this text without smoke and mirrors.

Were someone to say to me, “You know your faith is a grace gift from God?” I hope I would respond “Let’s not limit God’s grace to simply His power given that man may believe, it is also the giving of His Only Son, the giving of the Holy Spirit, the giving of the gospel to all the world that anyone may be saved—‘Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!’”  May we never limit the power or the scope of the Grace of God.

Confessional Voices from the Southern Baptist Tradition

Having now dealt with the biblical texts I further declare that denying irresistible grace and affirming man’s free will is not contrary to the traditional Southern Baptist understanding of soteriology.  We turn for clarity to three men who knew the theological affirmations of the Baptist Faith and Message perhaps as well as anyone, since each one served as the chairperson for his respective BFM committee. Here, we appeal to Edgar Young Mullins, Herschel Hobbs, and Adrian Rogers.

“”In his free act of accepting Christ and his salvation, man is self-determined” (E.Y. Mullins, The Christian Religion in its Doctrinal Expression, Judson Press, 1917, p. 334).

“However, the Bible also teaches the free will of man as a person made in God’s image. To violate man’s free will would make him less than a person, only a puppet dangled on the string of fate. The Bible never teaches that. Man is free to choose, but is responsible to God for his choices. Otherwise God Himself is responsible for man’s sin, which is unthinkable! The free will of man is seen in Ephesians 1:13: ‘After that ye believed’ or ‘believing.’ Exercising faith is an act of the human will. To say that only those chosen by God can believe is to ignore the plain teachings of the New Testament. If this be true, then Jesus’ commissions to evangelize the world and the many pleas for lost people to believe in Him for salvation are meaningless” (Herschell Hobbs, “God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Free Will”, Oklahoma Baptist Messenger, June 1, 1995.)

“There are some who talk about ‘irresistible grace,’ the idea that you cannot say no to God. But the Bible tells of many people who resisted God’s love.  People have the dubious privilege of saying no to God without damaging His eternal attributes one bit” (Adrian Rogers, The Passion of Christ and the Purpose of Life, Crossway, 2005, p. 76).

Conclusion

As we leave these subjects (irresistible grace, man’s free will, and faith), it is important to note the implication involved in Calvinism if God invites individuals to salvation knowing He has decreed they are incapable of such.  This would imply God, at best, is insincere: an objectionable characteristic.  But one may ask, “Where has God invited universally?”  To which I respond Isaiah 55 and Matthew 11.

In conclusion, I write on this subject with sincere reverence.  I fear the reality that I could be errant here.  Nevertheless, I boldly state I believe God gave His Word to reveal truths, and thus it is my opinion that when the corpus of Scripture is considered there is strong evidence to confirm both the affirmations and denials of article four.

The arena of the Sovereignty of God and the free will of man is an arena in which one should not enter with self-confidence.  However, I bristle at the implication that I have somehow minimized or negated the Sovereignty of God by affirming God’s Word appears to teach man has free will (and by that I mean free).  It is not a denial of God’s Sovereignty to say man has free will if God in His Sovereignty gave that to man.  Further, I would argue I have exalted God by affirming His ways are not so easily understood.  I find myself reflecting on what God said after He issued a universal invitation: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:9).

I admit I do not grasp all the intricacies involved in God’s Sovereignty and man’s free will.  Even now I am wondering if I chose to write this or God ordained that I would (Prov 20:24).  At the end of the day I affirm both because Scripture appears to prohibit me from denying either in order to grasp their relation or affirm a theological system.

When theological systems seem to speculate beyond Scripture I cringe.  Perhaps this is why so many are saying, “I am not an Arminian, and I am not a Calvinist; if you have to call me something, call me a Baptist.”  This does not mean that Arminians cannot be Baptists or that Calvinists cannot be Baptists. With no desire to be offensive, and yet trying to be transparent, what we are feeling even if we don’t express it (for fear of offending some) is that Baptists have always held tightly to the Bible and when we feel that any theological system starts to speculate beyond the Holy Writ we say: “Keep your system; just give me the Bible, because I’m Baptist.”


[1] Rev 2:13 speaks of Jesus’ faith but this is not in reference to an individual or even a group of believers saving trust; if it were referencing such it would further imply man could deny God’s saving faith.

Guidelines for Discussion of Article 4

Today’s discussion will address the Southern Baptist doctrines of grace in Article 4: The Grace of God. Keep in mind that each of the affirmations and denials in the articles complement each other, not unlike the Together for the Gospel statement signed and/or affirmed by some Southern Baptist leaders who embrace Reformed views.

Please confine your comments to the article being discussed that day, not general comments about the statement. If you want to comment on other things, follow the links to other discussion threads:

Thank you for your comments on these theological issues!

The Editors of SBC Today


Click this link to see the full statement of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
Right click to download
A Statement of Traditional Southern Baptist Soteriology SBC Today.pdf
Click this link to see the list of signers of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
We welcome the signatures of all Southern Baptists who would affirm this statement. 

If you would like to add your name in affirmation of the statement, please email sbctoday@gmail.com, with the following:

Your Name, Ministry Position, Organization/Church, City, State

For example:
John Doe, Pastor (or Associate Pastor, Youth Minister, Deacon, member, etc.),
First Baptist Church, Anytown, TX
or
Joe Doe, Professor (or DOM, Evangelist, etc.), Seminary/College/Association,
Anytown, NC

We will be glad to add your name to this list of those affirming the statement!


Discussion of Article Four: The Grace 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 4. Please limit your comments here to Article 4.

 

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Cb scott

“What we are saying in the affirmation, in addition to the above, is that Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection is GRACE. That the offering of the gospel is GRACE. That the power of the Holy Spirit is GRACE. That the salvation of man is GRACE. It is all of God! The conviction of the Holy Spirit is a gracious act of God. The power of the gospel unto salvation (Romans 1:16) is a gracious act of God. Grace! Grace! Grace! God is the author and finisher of salvation. He provides it!”

A-Men and A-Men! What true, blood bought, born-again, child of God could deny this statement? And certainly, no mentally competent Southern Baptist with a high view of the Scripture and any orthodox theological training and understanding could deny the statement above! A-Men? Of course A-Men!

Brad, Thank you. I knew it would take an Ed. guy to make this plain so theology majors could understand it. :-)

Seriously Brad, you have spoken well to the affirmations of our faith. If this is the position of all who have signed the Trad-Doc, how could anyone accuse them of being Semi-Pelagians or any other type of soteriological heretics?

In addition, let me thank you for your humility in the presentation of the denials. You manifested a gracious spirit in the presentation of your position. Could there be room for reasonable dialogue and debate? In my opinion,Yes. Nonetheless, you left plenty of room for such from reasonable people.

Again Brad, let me say thank you for a well written article and the gracious spirit in which it was written. If you could only see the SEC light and leave the weakness of being a LONGHORN fan behind….

    Brad Reynolds

    CB
    Thanks I think:)
    I loved your comment “And certainly, no mentally competent Southern Baptist with a high view of the Scripture and any orthodox theological training and understanding” – makes me think of old times. Concerning the Longhorns and this discussion can we agree I am predestined?

      Cb scott

      Brad,

      I will give you an honest answer to your question about being predestined to be a LONGHORN fan.

      It is my long studied belief that even though you of a most heinous state of inherent, Texas depravity there is the possibility of resistance, giving you a way of gracious escape to at least be a GA BULLDOG fan which will give you lasting perseverance as a member of the elect and elite SEC.

        jcj

        Brad & CB,

        I don’t disagree with Brad, but the concept of Irresistible Grace isn’t that one can not resist the offer of Salvation, but rather it is about the Effectual Call to Salvation. When you sit under those connected to The Masters Sem, you’re taught the truth of Sovereign Grace, not the twisted insecure Southern & Missionary Baptist Versions.

          Cb scott

          Thank you so much, jcj, for your concern for our education.

          Although, that was not really a new revelation to me and I seriously doubt it was to Brad. You see jcj, guys like Brad and cb have been seeking truth long before seminary/seminaries and long afterward.

          When Brad and I graduated from seminary, we did not go out the door and say, “Thank you gentlemen. We now know what we need to know.” When Brad and I went out the doors of seminary, we said; “Thank you gentlemen. You have encouraged us. We shall go forth and learn.”

          volfan007

          jcj,

          I was gonna say something, but I’m trying to be more gracious and kind in my comments. No, I’ll say it anyway. To say what you just did to CB and Dr. Reynolds….well, I’m hoping that you’re a 25 yr old, fresh out of seminary. I’m hoping that this is just youthful ignorance and arrogance.

          David

volfan007

I agree with CB…this is a tremendous blog post. Great stuff, Dr. Reynolds.

David

    Lydia

    “When Brad and I went out the doors of seminary, we said; “Thank you gentlemen. You have encouraged us. We shall go forth and learn.”

    Amen

Michael Vaughan

Yeah, I’m going to echo CB here. THIS is the way and the spirit in which this conversation needs to be happening. As a Calvinist, I appreciate the way that you’ve approached this, even if I don’t agree. This rises above the extremism that’s happening on both sides.

    M. R. Williams

    I wish they had asked him to write them all. :-)

M. R. Williams

Dr. Reynolds:

First, I would be considered much more a Calvinist than a traditionalist. That being said, THANK YOU, SIR, FOR AN EXEGETICAL ANSWER!!! You have my respect! I wish some of the other writers had been as thorough as you were.

I’m sure they’ll be discussion here as with the other articles – but no one can say you didn’t appeal to the Scriptures!

God bless you!

David R. Brumbelow

Dr. Reynolds,
I join the others in thanking you for a very well written, reasoned, biblical article.
Keep on writing.
David R. Brumbelow

    Brad Reynolds

    David, and David, Michael and M.R. – thank you

Jay Beerley

I would also like to echo the fact that I appreciate seeing some exegesis on this site, even some that I may disagree with (your Ephesians 2 work).

However, you failed to deal with Romans 8:29-30 and the effectual call. I think that would be a pretty significant text to study in this discussion.

Also, I believe the comment “Keep your system; just give me the Bible, because I’m Baptist.” is greatly unhelpful. Either 2 millennia of Church history and biblical interpretation matter or they don’t. I assume you reject SYSTEMatic theology? That seems unhelpful as well. Just because a man’s name got assigned to some doctrines does not discount the beliefs. Voddie Baucham crushes that notion here

    M. R. Williams

    Jay:

    I started to tell you that when we get to Article 8, where the statement expresses there is no such thing as an “effectual call,” then we should expect some sort of exposition of Romans 8:29-30. I mean, what statement could address the issue of the call of God to the lost and not refer the reader to Romans 8:29-30?

    But then I looked at Article 8, and Romans 8:29-30 is not cited there! Now, I must be fair – Romans 8:28-29 is cited in Article 6 (Election) and Article 9 (The Security of the Believer). Perhaps there we will get an exegesis of those verses then?

    Article 2 (The Sinfulness of Man) did not cite Romans 5:18-19 when our status in Adam and in Christ was discussed. Article 5 (Regeneration) does not cite John 1:12-13. I am genuinely interested in hearing how these texts are understood from the traditionalist’s point of view.

    Perhaps someone can point me in the direction to written works where these verses have been addressed by Southern Baptist traditionalists in the same manner that Dr. Reynolds has addressed the verses for Article 4?

    God bless.

Jay Beerley

One more thing:

Since there’s nowhere else to comment on this notion, if assigning a name to a theological system is so bad, why is the website calling people to connect their names to a statement of belief? Where is there boasting about how many number of names there are and who exactly is signing it?

“Hello, Kettle? This is Pot. You’re black.”

    Brad Reynolds

    Jay
    I was dealing with the Scriptures we appealed to in article four (not numerous other ones like Romans 8, etc). Also, if I in anyway implied systematic theology was unhelpful I apologize (I am a STRONG proponent of systematic theology) – I probably could have expressed it better but my point in the context was that when we speak authoritative on a subject let’s be careful not to go beyond Scripture – if someone in his or her system goes beyond Scripture so be it – I’ll remain content with Scripture (and I don’t mean that to sound arrogant but I do mean it to sound honest).

    Again – my point was some of us who signed this don’t mind names but the name we desire is not Arminius nor Calvin but Baptist and we don’t mean that to be offensive thus we have caveated by “Traditional” – Finally, I think your disagreement w Eph 2 is as much of a disagreement with John Calvin as with me.

Timothy Vires

I want to make a comment and then repeat a question I asked in a reply to the original article on the “Traditional Statement”.

First, it saddens me to see this dividing line errupting as it evidently is now. Frankly, I don’t see how we made it this long. I hold to the beliefs that you would label “Calvinism”, so I would concede that this is a fair label, although not the one that I believe defines my faith. Over the last 2 years I have come out of an arminian, liberal form of Christianity to what I believe is a faith that is only revealed once the blinders of man-centered theology are removed. When I saw the clear picture painted by God in the text and truly let it speak for itself it was as if I had come from a drunken stupor. I remember asking myself “how can I have read the new testament all those times and not have seen what was actually there?” I soon realized that my bible teachers had used clever detours and twisted scripture into crazy pretzel shapes to avoid soberly addressing the text. I know that people who place all their eggs into the free-will basket are well-meaning. They try to protect God from looking like a “big meany”. But I say with Paul: “Who are you, o man, to answer back to God?” Romans 9:20. Be careful not to judge the creator of the universe.

My Question:
Ephesians 2:9 ends with that much-spoken phrase “that no one may boast”. Regardless of how you interpret the previous verse, you must deal with this. Now, ask yourself what compelled you to accept Christ rather than someone else who grew up in the same environment. A brother or sister, for example. You grew up, went to the same church, had the same bible teaching, same home life, yet you chose to follow Christ and he/she turned from Him. Now, I’m not saying that he/she will not be held accountable (that’s a whole other issue), but why did YOU respond to the call and not him/her? What is it about you? Are you smarter, more humble, more obedient? What is the reason? I tell you that any answer that you give to this question would be a boast. And I dare say that you must answer it. This is the essence, after all, of this whole argument, is it not? Who does what it salvation?
I must admit that I have no theological training myself, and to most, I guess that disqualifies my opinion immediately. But please do some introspection. Did you come about your soteriological position by discernment of scripture, or did you hold that position before you started studying? We cannot rely on Grandpa, Uncle Ed, Preacher Jim, or Professor Brilliant to make our minds up for us. Books and teachers are wonderful. Someone else did the work for us. We can read an overview of a theological subject in 2 hours that it would have taken us a lifetime to work out on our own. That being said, put them all to the test. Pulpit thumping and stern obstinance may make it hard to take a position against your preacher, but in love, we must question all teaching.
I’ve gone on long enough. I pray that we all come to a true understanding on this issue, whatever that may be, and that we can all kneel together and glorify God despite any differences in opinion. After all, as we bicker among one another, we take ourselves out of the battle against unbelief. Give this subject it’s due, but be careful to keep it in proportion. God bless you all.

    jcj

    Well stated Timothy V. And, you’re right on target. Some of the best theologians have never had theological training.

W B McCarty

The crucial question at issue is this: Does the corrupted will of man retain the capacity to reach out to God and accept the offer of the Gospel? It seems to me that the statement and various comments by men who signed the statement affirm that, though the will has been corrupted, such capacity continues to exist. Am I mistaken?

    Brad Reynolds

    I would never speak for others but from my discussions with others we agree the ability exists by God’s grace. Without God’s grace such ability does not exists.

      Mike Davis

      Without God’s grace such ability does not exists.

      I think Articles Two and Four could have been clearer on this point, but I’m glad you affirm it. Ditto this:

      May we never forget God convicts the sinner. The sinner is not convicted by performances, or human manipulation, or well-polished words.

      I appreciate the detailed exegesis in your post and the one a couple of days ago by Dr Allen. While I don’t agree with all your conclusions, it is one thing to debate Irresistible Grace (Calvinists don’t expect Traditionalists to agree with us on that) and another to debate whether humans inherit a sin nature that cannot respond to the gospel apart from the Sprit’s work on the sinner’s heart (and will). It seems the Statement could have been written in such a way to make the latter point more clear.

      Jay Beerley

      I’m genuinely interested about how that is different than a Methodist/Arminian understanding of previent grace? Why not just name it as such? (I’m not being snarky, I genuinely want to know why that language is being avoided)

      W B McCarty

      Mike said what is on my heart and said it, I think, with proper grace and courtesy. Though I am a Calvinist (one who dislikes the term probably as much as my fellow baptists dislike the term “Arminian,” despite its theological aptness) I don’t expect non-Calvinists to abandon their convictions. But I am sincerely worried that they may, inadvertently or deliberately, lean too far the other way. If, as I believe to be the case, the proposed statement so emphasizes free will that readers don’t readily perceive the necessity of prevenient grace (I mean that term in the technical sense rather than the Wesleyan Methodist sense) new generations of baptists will inevitably come to neglect that vital point of doctrine, with disastrous result. I hope that, at some point, the statement can be revised to avoid misinterpreting the intentions of the men who framed it.

    W B McCarty

    Certainly, whatever freedom of will exists exists only by the gracious permission of God. But it’s not the source of the freedom that’s at issue here but the extent of the freedom. Please let me ask the question another way, When man’s nature became corrupted, exactly how corrupted did it become? More particularly, did it retain the ability to respond to God and, most particularly, to the Gospel? As I understand the statement, the statement affirms that to be the case. But, because this is a very important point of theology, I want to be sure that my understanding is correct.

Brad Reynolds

Timothy
Praise God for your study of the Word – may we all study even more. To your question. I may be taking it wrong but it seems that you are asking how I can say faith is man’s? To which I respond on the authority of God’s Word. Faith (noun) is no where in all of Scripture attributed to God, always to man (the Ephesians’ faith, the Thessalonians’ faith, your faith, their faith, etc). That does not deny that God’s grace gives man the “power to believe” in association with his believing in order to faith (trust). But the trust is man’s.

Do I take pride in saying that – no not at all!!! Honestly, if I wanted others to think I was Godly then it sounds much more Godly to say “faith” (noun) is God’s. But the problem with that is what Scripture says!

Your question as to, why me? Is because by the grace of God I trusted my Savior. The question you pose can also be asked concerning why someone in the same home with the same parents, etc becomes a drug-addict and his sibling a giver to the poor. My analogy inevitably breaks down because of the drastic difference in the two situations (because of the grace of God) – but my point is I believe you are more properly asking how can two individuals both be exposed to God’s saving grace and one accept and one reject it? My only answer which will not suffice any in the Reformed tradition is by faith.

    Timothy Vires

    Thank you Dr. Reynolds for your response. I think I understand what you are saying, but it still does not answer my question, as you pointed out. What causes the faith response? The arminian position, as I understand it, is that God offers the same common grace and the same calling to each and every person, without exception. So what is in the man who responds to this call that does not exist in the person who rejects Christ? You say faith, but I say faith is the effect of something else. What caused you to respond in faith? Faith does not produce itself. Romans 3:11 says “no one seeks for God.” There must be something that brings about faith in a person. Whatever that something may be, it is not present with those who do not respond in faith.
    I know you have read it, and I do not know how you can deny it: “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Romans 9:21. You know, I attended churches for years as a child and up until the point that I understood God’s sovereignty in it’s proper context, I never once heard an expository message about Romans 9. John Piper was the first person I ever heard preach from it. Since then I have sought out such messages just to hear the opposing viewpoint. Those guys did so many backflips with the text I don’t think they even knew where they started by the time they finished. I assume most free-will preachers would rather fold that page in the bible right down the middle and keep it out of site. I have read the book of Romans over 100 times, and though I find something new each time, I only fall deeper and deeper away from arminianism each time. By now, I have come to think that it may even be an act of God to conceal such plain and obvious words, I hope not, but it almost has to be. I truly believe that no man could read the new testament without having preconceived notions and come away with a viewpoint that finds man ultimately in charge of his own salvation. Are we held accountable for denying Him? Yes. Do we make a choice to repent and obey? Yes. Are those things exclusive of God’s ultimate will? No.
    In Isaiah, God says ” “As I have planned, so shall it be, and as I have purposed, so shall it stand,”. My God is no failure. I know your point of view is that He decided in His sovereignty to hand over power to man (or some version of that), but if God had truly cast out the offer of salvation, like a seed-sewer, and sat back to wait for man to act, then we would all be damned in Hell, and rightly so. You see, the part most arminians totally miss is this: God does not have to dictate that some people go to hell, we choose that ourselves. Even if we disregard original sin, we are deserving of eternal damnation. The miracle, as I am sure you have heard said, is that He would save any. I am sorry to be so broad in my comments, I know the article is very specific, but my church cut me off from preaching when I parted ways with thier doctrine, so this is a sounding board for years of frustration for me. I say this with a smile, but it is true. I would love to have an opportunity to dialogue with such Godly men as yourself on a regular basis and I have often wondered why we, as Southern Baptists, cannot sit around a table together and sincerely try to find the truth together. I imagine it would probably not stay civil long, given the emotion I’ve seen on these forums. You and I both know that one of us is wrong, and I think it would be honoring to God if we sought to know His will together, so that we can put this issue behind us and get back to our purpose, which as I am sure you will agree, is missions and evangelism. I’d love to discuss further with anyone interested. My email address is atvires@windstream.net. If anyone wishes to seek truth with me in a civilized fashion I would be glad to accomodate. Thanks again and God bless.

      Brad Reynolds

      Timothy
      Were Romans 9-11 the entire Revelation God gave us I feel I would be very close to where you are. But it is not. In fact with the exception of “lady” and “sister” in 2 John elect is never used of an individual outside of Jesus and since I think 2 John is speaking of the church (although some will disagree) it is never used of an individual. NEVER. While that is not evidence for really anything, it is certainly interesting. What we do know is the elect either refers to a group, or Jesus when used in both the Old and New Testaments. I think this gives strong credence to those who see Romans 9-11 as dealing with Israel (not to mention the actual words used in Romans 9-11).

      The text is clear God will have mercy on who He will (Romans 9:15). This is just as clear as when God said in giving the law He would have mercy on them that love him and keep His commandments (Deut 5:10 and 7:9 – thus a human qualification to obtaining God’s mercy). Ah, but this was the law given to show no man could fulfill it and thus no man loves him nor keeps His commands. True. But would one then be right in assuming the mercy of God has nothing to do with human actions? When Jesus came HE Himself said those who show mercy will obtain mercy (Matthe2 5) and James (the brother of Jesus) says God will not have mercy on those who show no mercy (James 2:13). Thus, there may be more going on in the entire corpus of Scripture than what we find in Romans 9.

      Even the narrative of Pharaoh and the ten plagues has God hardening Pharaoh’s heart 4 times. Pharaoh hardening it three times and the three other times it just says it was hardened.

      From my perspective it appears God is dealing with the people of Israel in Romans 9-11 – He chose the Israelites- but then gave them a stupor to bring in the Gentiles but the Israelites would come back.

      He then SPEAKS of FAITH. They were broken off not because he chose to have mercy on whom He will but because of their unbelief but the Gentiles stand in their belief (faith). And if Israel DOES NOT CONTINUE in their unbelief they will be grafted back in.

      I don’t think I have convinced anyone of the Reformed mindset. But what I hope to have shown is one does not necessarily have to be Reformed to look honestly at Romans 9-11. I wish I could say I had Romans 9-11 figured out with the rest of Scripture but I am not willing to sacrifice I Tim 2 and I John 2 and John 3:16 at the alter of comprehension. Yes God’s word is understandable but even when Paul finished his sharing about Israel and God’s choice and also man’s faith choice he arrived at “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?” – For now I am content to remain here – holding to both resistible grace and saved only by grace.

        jcj

        Timothy you’re right, and Brad, well, mercy is NOT Salvation. Timothy, I think Brad needs some John Piper, Arthur Pink, John MacArthur, Al Mohler, and Charles Spurgeon materials.

          Timothy Vires

          Thanks jcj. I have read and agree with all those men. John Piper is one of the most balanced, compassionate, and godly men of our generation. But, he is only a man, as you know. He is so much easier to follow than most other preachers because he does not give an opinion, usually, without adequate scriptural support. That being said, I must say to Dr. Reynolds that I am moving further away from dispensationalism daily. I am not sure where I have fallen yet, but I try not to partitian the bible. I know well that Paul is speaking of God’s interactions with Israel in those chapters you chose to point out. I disagree, in that I do not believe this makes the text exclusive to Israel, and therefore will not abandon it as a model of how God deals with us all. I will not enter into other arguments at this point, though I believe that the true Israel are those who believe upon Jesus. “For all the promises of God find their Yes in him.” 2 Corinthians 1:20.
          The point here really is not the use of the term “elect”, as you have purported, but the consistency of statements about God’s choice throughout scripture, whether the term be “choice, choosing, elect, etc.” Leaving textural proofs for a moment, when have you ever chosen anything after it was chosen for you. If God chose us as a reaction to something we have done, then it is no longer choice or election. Choice implies options, just like our choosing to accept the truths of God. You say that calvinists remove choice from us as individuals, I say you remove choice from God. And by the way, I don’t know about other people with reformed views, but I believe man does have a choice. I believe it was Edwards who said, “we choose that which is more appealing to us at the time”. I see salvation as an open door that we walk by each and every day of our lives. The Lord has said that anyone who steps through will have eternal life. Yet no one enters, because they like what’s on this side better. God the Father, through the Holy Spirit, chose to change the hearts of some, for His own glory, so that they would see what was on the other side of the door as more valuable than what they have now. I furthermore believe that once God reveals Himself to us in this way that no one will resist. It’s like reavealing to a starving man a bountiful feast. The man does not have to consider within himself whether he will partake of it, there is something inside driving him toward the table. He will go in and he will eat. In the same way, once we see the majesty and glory of God we need not search within ourselves for the “faith” we need to go through the door, it is already there. If you can truly see what’s on the other side you already have what you need to go in. I know this is not a perfect analogy, but I think it gets the point accross.
          Again, we could argue these points all day, but I believe it would benefit us all to send representative from each side of the debate to meet civilly to discuss the issues. If this is done in a prayerful and honest way, I think God would bless our efforts. I will be in prayer for such mutual understanding, and I hope that you will join me. It is very difficult to do this on such a forum as this. You made about 10 points in your last response that I would like to address, but we’d be here for a long time. I think verbal back and forth is needed here or else we’ll all be writing books. Thanks again for the interaction. It causes us all to take a closer look at our positions and at the bible. God bless.

          Timothy Vires

          Just one more thing. I’m not anchored to Romans. I have not taken the opportunity to go into Paul’s other letters or into John or Peter’s writings, but I will bring one text up for your comments:
          “but you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” John 10:26. It says that believing is the result of being a sheep, not the cause of it. John was a calvinist, too, you know?

          Brad Reynolds

          jcj
          Sorry for any misunderstanding. Not sure where I implied that mercy was salvation. I reread and can’t find that but if somehow you inferred that I apologize for not being more clear. Perhaps I implied that in the context of Romans 9 Mercy was part of God’s electing and thus part of the salvation process.

          Also, I do not desire to sound rude at all. I am not trying to be, but your comment about these great authors gives me an opportunity to emphasize my point again. I have read materials from ALL of those authors and they write well and are great men but I do not read them as oft nor put as much authority in them as I do Paul and John and Peter, etc

          Brad Reynolds

          Timothy
          I hope you keep studying. My faith is not in my study nor yours but in the Holy Spirit who will guide God’s children in the truth. I don’t think we will reach an agreement. For me, I will remain content to not have figured it out until Scripture convinces me

Stephen

This probably does not affect any of your main points, but I was intrigued when you claimed that Scripture states that God has faith. Did you consider any of the arguments that passages such as Romans 3:22, Galatians 2:16 and 3:22 can be interpreted as subjective genitives, where we are justified by the “faith of Jesus Christ” (Christ’s faith)?

    Brad Reynolds

    Stephen
    I am not a Greek scholar by anyone’s imagination. I only have 12 hours of graduate level Greek. But I do not believe the genitive is a subjective genitive. I have not seen it translated that way yet.

M. R. Williams

Dr. Reynolds:

You wrote, “Acts 7:51 – “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.” (NASB).

This is perhaps the clearest text in all of Scripture that God’s grace is resistible. Nowhere in the Bible do we find that the Holy Spirit is irresistible. And we have argued that His convicting power is GRACE. On the other hand, here we have a text stating we can resist the Holy Spirit. We can resist the conviction unto salvation. This text is hard to ignore and yet seems to be ignored.”

Let’s not ignore it. Where at any point in the context of Acts 7 do you see that these men were resisting conviction unto salvation?

    volfan007

    The verse says that THEY are always RESISTING the Holy Spirit, as did their fathers. They resisted. Their fathers resisted. Sounds very clear to me.

    David

      M. R. Williams

      David:

      I don’t deny that. Dr. Reynolds said they were resisting conviction unto salvation. Where is THAT in the text?

      Thanks.

        Brad Reynolds

        M. R.
        I made an assumption from another text that the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin (John 16:8)t. Thus, they would be resisting His conviction.

    Debbie Kaufman

    In Paul’s conversion for example, where did he resist? People may be able to resist for awhile, but when God’s grace enters in, there can be no resistance. The familiar passage of Lydia is another example along with the resurrection of Lazarus.

      M. R. Williams

      Debbie:

      Two excellent examples.

      Tim B

      Can you explain this one away?

      For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men… Titus 2:10

        M. R. Williams

        Hi Tim:

        If your asking me, no sir – I can’t explain Titus 2:11 away. I don’t wish to.

        God bless.

        Randall Cofield

        Tim,

        Joh 1:5 And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

        Peace

      Brad Reynolds

      Debbie
      Great biblical examples.
      Agreed, people can resist for a while and then stop resisting. This does not necessitate all will stop resisting.

        jcj

        2 Timothy 2:11 speaks of the general call, not the effectual call, which only comes after embracing the Gospel, which is NOT Salvation. The blood is sufficient for all who believe, but is only applicable to those who say yes to the effectual call. Yes, man does have only one responsibility in Salvation; his one time offer (effectual call) of Salvation.

        Debbie Kaufman

        Dr. Reynolds then what do you with passages such as Romans 9: 16 as one of many I could give.

          Brad Reynolds

          Debbie
          See my interaction with Timothy above if you don’t mind. Thanks

      Tim Rogers

      Debbie,

      In Paul’s conversion for example, where did he resist?

      If “it is hard for you to kick against the goads” is not resistance then I do not know what it.

        Randall Cofield

        Tim,

        That God irresistibly overcame that resistance does seem to arise from the text, doesn’t it?

        Peace, brother.

volfan007

In Genesis 6, the Bible said that God’s Spirit would not always strive with man. He did strive with them for 120 years…until the ark got built. But, the Spirit worked on the hearts of those sinful people in Noah’s day for all of those years….apparently, they resisted, too….just like the people in Acts 7 did.

David

    M. R. Williams

    Yes David. They did resist. That would be implied by the text.

      volfan007

      Sinners resisted the Spirit. The Spirit was working on their hearts. They would not surrender.

      Irresistible grace? Nope.

      David

Lydia

“21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
Mark 10

Jesus looked at him and LOVED him but did not give him irresistable grace?

    Debbie Kaufman

    Lydia: The passage of the rich man shows that not all are saved. There is a inward call which when given cannot be resisted and is the act of the Grace of God and there is the outward call, as this one to the rich man. The outward call is to everyone aka all men. Read Christ’s response to the rich young ruler(Mark 10:29&30.)

      Debbie Kaufman

      Lydia: No, Christ did not give him irresistable Grace. At least at that time. We do not know what happened in this young man’s future, the Bible does not say. Don’t you find it odd that God himself, the Son of God was standing in front of this young man yet he did not see this? He instead chose his riches? My reaction is really? But yes, really.

        Debbie Kaufman

        Let me ask something for a thinking process? When the rich ruler asked “What shall I do to be saved?” What was he really asking? He walked away remember? Did he really want salvation or was he asking something like “What must I do to be happy or have peace of mind?” Was he really asking for salvation? Christ is God so he would know the intent of this man’s heart wouldn’t he?

        In Luke 10:5, a lawyer asked Christ the same question pertaining to what he must do to be saved, but his motivation was to argue with Christ.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Sorry that is supposed to read Luke 10:25.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Also see Matthew 22:14.

        Lydia

        Thanks for your input, Debbie

Randall Cofield

Dr. Reynolds,

I concur with others on this thread that yours may be the best offering thus far on the T.S.

One quick question.

You said: “I would never speak for others but from my discussions with others we agree the ability (to accept the free offer of the gospel) exists by God’s grace. Without God’s grace such ability does not exists.”

Assuming that men have the ability to “accept” the gospel, does Scripture in any way teach that God graces all men, without exception, with *equal* ability to do so?

Grace and Peace

Matt

Here is a truely profound statement:

” I do not believe that ability was entirely lost in the Fall. But I do believe that ability was so twisted by the Fall that we are now unable to trust in GOD without the grace of God.”

Really? So, the “ability” wasn’t entirely lost, but “we are now unable to trust God”? Are we able to trust God and place our faith in Him or not? Either we are unable to do this without the aid of God, this is total depravity; or we are able to place trust in God without any aid from God to get past the results of the fall. Didn’t all the non-calvinists who signed this statement deny in article 2 “that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will”. You make it clear that you believe the grace needed to freely choose is given to all, but you are also affirming that God’s grace is needed to be able to choose either way. So, once again, is our will incapacitated (unable to place trust in God without His grace overcoming the effects of the fall), or not?

    Brad Reynolds

    Matt
    I apologize for any misunderstanding – let me try and restate. The ability to trust is innate in man. It is part of being human (we are still human). I trust my chair will hold me when I sit in it. The choice to trust is also part of being human. BUT, the ability to TRUST in GOD was lost in the fall so that man is now unable to TRUST in GOD (still able to trust (I am now trusting in my chair) – that is part of being human – but unable to trust in GOD) without God’s grace.

      Matt

      Brad,

      Thank you for your response. I see now that your statement about the ability to trust not being totaly lost in the fall was refering to placing trust in things other than God. I understood this statement correctly earlier in your article when saying that we trust the ability of a chair to hold us, but did not recognize your return to this line of thinking when later talking about the effects of the fall because it is only the ability to trust and follow God that is in question in this debate.

      I still see a huge contradiction between your statement, “we are now unable to trust in GOD without the grace of God.” and the statement of denial in article 2, “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will”. Ofcourse the meaning of this denial in article 2 is that the author and presumably the signers of this statement are saying that our fallen natures are capable of choosing to trust in God. So, once again, are we capable (able) or are we incapacitated (uncapable, unable)?

      thank you and God bless

wingedfooted1

Dr. Mohler has said…..

“It is certainly correct in denying that any person is regenerated ‘apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel’.”

Dr. Mohler is correct. This comes from 1 Peter 1:23; 25….

“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever…… And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

The account of Lydia from Acts 16:13-14….

“On the Sabbath we went outside the city gate to the river, where we expected to find a place of prayer. We sat down and began to speak to the women who had gathered there. One of those listening was a woman named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”

Of course Paul’s message was the gospel of Jesus Christ. According to calvinism (though incorrectly), this opening of Lydia’s heart was the act of regeneration. If it was, then prior to hearing Paul’s message, Lydia would have to be unregenerate. Because Dr. Mohler (and the apostle Peter) correctly state that it is impossible to be born again, or regenerated, without hearing the gospel. However, notice verse 14 says Lydia was “a worshiper of God”. Paul even states she was found in “a place of prayer”.

Odd place to find a totally depraved, unregenerate, God hater. Even more odd that an unregenerate God hater would be “a worshiper of God”.

Grace

    Matt

    Wingedfooted1,

    I don’t want to put any words in Dr. Mohler’s mouth, but I believe he and I would both deny, “that any person is regenerated ‘apart from hearing and responding to the Gospel’” for different reasons than the signers of this statement. You say, “If it was, then prior to hearing Paul’s message, Lydia would have to be unregenerate. Because Dr. Mohler (and the apostle Peter) correctly state that it is impossible to be born again, or regenerated, without hearing the gospel.” I believe you have misunderstood Dr. Mohler. You seem to think that he somehow is affirming that someone cannot be regenerated until they hear the gospel. This is not so. No one is going to be regenerated and go on through life without hearing the gospel and then responding to it. God doesn’t provide the inward regeneration and then fail to also provide the call of the gospel. To affirm that regeneration will not take place without the hearing of the gospel also taking place is not denying that regeneration can preceed the hearing of the gospel and will surely preceed any possitive response to the gospel. The verses in 1pet. do not go against this, and does the story of Lydia somehow exclude the possibility that the Spirit of the Lord that opened her heart to the gospel was not already dwelling in her when she heard it. I would think this would be the case with many Jews who became Christians in the New Testament. They were regenerated and followed God before Christ’s atonement, and as a result, immediately accepted the gospel upon hearing it.

    God bless

    John

    wingedfooted1
    “Even more odd that an unregenerate God hater would be “a worshiper of God”.”

    Remember the story of the God hater named Saul. Many many stories of God haters in the Bible that worship God. Some even do miracles in Gods name, yet He never knew them.

    Grace and Peace to All.

      wingedfooted1

      John,

      According to Calvinism regeneration is the divine of God when He turns God haters into God lovers. It seems from scripture that Lydia was already in a loving relationship with the One True God prior to having her heart opened thru regeneration (which, according to calvinism, is an impossibility).

      Grace.

        volfan007

        I believe that Lydia was an OT Saint, who put her faith in Jesus when hearing about Him. She was a God worshipper already….in a place of prayer. In the Book of Acts, we’re seeing a change from the OT to the NT… from looking for a Messiah to looking at a Messiah. I think this is what happened to Lydia.

        Thus, she is not an example for the Calvinist position, at all; nor is she an example of the Arminian; nor is she an example for the Semi Pelagian….

        David

          Cb scott

          Vol,

          Well stated.

    Randall Cofield

    Wingfooted1,

    You said: “Odd place to find a totally depraved, unregenerate, God hater.” (Concerning Lydia)

    ….. :-) …..

    Not so much. The Temple was full of such “God-worshipers” during Jesus’ day. They were called Pharisees and Sadducees…you know…the totally depraved, unregenerate God-haters who by the determinate counsel of God crucified Jesus…

    Peace

Matt

It is my understanding that, in Eph.2:8, the participle “saved” is masculine, and so your argument about the pronoun “that” being neutral and the noun “faith” being feminine would surely eleminate your exegesis. Why would a neutral pronoun be refering to a masculine participle instead of the feminine noun preceeding it more directly? It would be good use of the singular neutral pronoun to refer to a series that directly preceeds it, if that series contains both masculine and feminine forms of words. This would mean that “that” refers to saved, grace, and faith.

Also, just a quick mention, since you seem to argue that the use of the phrase “your faith” and others like it excludes faith being from God; does the New Testament phrase “your salvation” exclude salvation being from God?

    Brad Reynolds

    Matt
    Unlike faith – salvation is clearly mentioned as being from God throughout Scripture. Eph 1 is clear about that. Moreover, the very participle in Eph 2:8 (are you saved) is passive meaning we receive the action from God. Implying clearly salvation is from God.
    And again I am not a Greek scholar but unlike Greek nouns, Greek verbs do not have gender, but the gender is usually determined by context (very similar to English in this respect – English verbs do not have gender) thus the neuter that could certainly modify salvation but it would be odd for it modify a feminine noun when the feminine pronoun was available for use.

      Matt

      Brad,

      I agree with you that salvation is clearly mentioned as being from God. My point was that saying that belief (coming from the same greek word as faith) being mentioned as being man’s proved no more than mentioning that salvation is also mentioned in scripture as being man’s. I believe that faith in particular as well as the whole of salvation is God’s gift to men.

      Your reply prompted me to check up on my claim that the participle “saved” in the Greek is masculine. After checking different sources I found that, yes, it is still masculine.

      God bless

        Brad Reynolds

        Matt
        I think we may be talking past each other. My point was not that “salvation” is never referred to as our salvation it is (Phil 2:12). My point was that it is also referred to as God’s given to us to possess (Acts 28:28). Faith (noun), on the other hand is NEVER referred to as God’s in all the N.T. – see the article above.

        Also, you made me go get my Greek grammar. Verbs do not have gender. But participles (as verbal adjectives) do and thus since this was a participle it does have gender and the gender is masculine. I contacted a Greek guru – his response was it cannot be modifying Faith (as I point out with John Calvin), nor faith and grace. But it may be modifying salvation – which is what I was trying to express. But the choice of endings could be pointing to the fact it is not just any salvation. It is a salvation which is by grace and through faith. In otherwords, while it modifies just salvation it forces the salvation to be understood as a salvation not by works but one by grace and faith

wingedfooted1

Matt,

You said… “No one is going to be regenerated and go on through life without hearing the gospel and then responding to it.”

If the apostle Peter writes (1 Peter 1:23;25) that we are born again by the word of God, hence the gospel, then how can someone be regenerated/born again prior to hearing the gospel?

Are you suggesting that someone is born again without even hearing the gospel?

Consider Titus 3:5…

“he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

If those who have experienced the new birth are saved (as Titus 3:5 states; not in the act of being saved, but that salvation is complete, hence “saved”), and if we experience this new birth prior to hearing the gospel, are you not saying, as some calvinists have already stated, that salvation precedes faith?

Also, the vast majority of calvinistic sermons and articles do say this opening of Lydia’s heart is the act of regeneration.

“Luke describes Lydia’s initial experience of faith in this way: ‘The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message’. You see, faith itself is the fruit of regeneration, not the cause of it. You must be alive before you can believe.” – J. Ligon Duncan III

“The preaching of the gospel, which can only work upon man’s conscious mind, has no persuasive power over a corpse. But once God opens the heart through regeneration, the regenerated person can and will believe the gospel.” – Brian Schwertley

“In Acts it reads that when Paul was preaching ‘…the Lord opened her [Lydia’s] heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.’ Plainly, here the Spirit works a change in the heart of the person prior to their faith. Regeneration is a change of our heart of stone to a heart of flesh – the Spirit working grace and faith in their heart of the unregenerate prior to anything else.” – John Hendryx

Again, if this opening of Lydia’s heart is the divine act of regeneration, as the calvinists above confirm, then Lydia was in a state of being unregenerate when she was found in the place of prayer and was referred to as “a worshiper of God”.

An impossibility if calvinism is true.

God bless you as well.

    Randall Cofield

    Wingfooted1,

    I think you might be missing the point of the nature of the hearing. It is not the hearing of the gospel with natural ears that is the issue here. I “heard” the gospel literally hundreds of times before the night I “heard” the gospel savingly. Think of how often Jesus said “He that hath an ear, let him hear.” If He were speaking of natural ears, that would be a nonsensical statement.

    However, if He were speaking of hearing with spiritual ears, the “opening of Lydia’s heart” becomes quite relevant. Everyone under the sound of Paul’s voice that day “heard” the gospel he preached with natural ears–yet not all of them were converted. Lydia “heard” the gospel with the spiritual ears of the spiritual new birth–precisely because God “opened her heart,” which heart is none other then the new heart of the new birth/regeneration.

    You said: “…if we experience this new birth prior to hearing the gospel, are you not saying, as some calvinists have already stated, that salvation precedes faith?”

    Not at all. The term “salvation” encompasses regeneration (new birth), repentance, faith, justification, and even, ultimately, sanctification and glorification. All of these things as a whole are our salvation. We necessarily are “regenerated” prior to faith, otherwise we are still hearing the gospel with natural “ears” only, and cannot respond in repentance and faith.

    He that hath an ear, let him hear.

    Soli Deo Gloria

      wingedfooted1

      Randall,

      You said… “The term “salvation” encompasses regeneration (new birth), repentance, faith, justification, and even, ultimately, sanctification and glorification.”

      And there in lies your problem.

      Again, Titus 3:5 reads…
      “he SAVED us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He SAVED us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.”

      “Saved” above means the salvation process is complete. A done deal. The sinner is “saved” the moment he or she becomes a born again child of God. Titus 3:5 is not saying that God initiated the process of salvation, but rather that He saved us by the new birth. What Titus 3:5 is saying is that God saved us, the believer, (how?) thru the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit.

      God bless

        Randall Cofield

        Wingfooted1,

        You said: ““Saved” above means the salvation process is complete. A done deal.”

        The Greek verb translated “saved” is actually in the aorist tense, meaning that the concept of the verb is considered without regard for past, present, or future time.

        It seems you may be forcing a past tense into the passage where it does not exist.

        And….what about the “ears” thing? :-)

        Peace, brother

        Tim B

        Apparently some have redefined the word regeneration. There is clearly an opening of spiritual ears (which is not what the Bible calls regeneration) that comes through the preaching of the word that leads to faith at which instant there is a simultaneous act of salvation which includes cleansing (washing of regeneration), new birth etc.

        Hearing precedes believing, believing precedes calling (upon the name of the Lord), calling (the act of calling upon the name of the lord is the application of faith) precedes salvation. (Romans 10:10, 10:13, 14) Romans 10:17 tells us exactly how a man comes to to the point of faith. “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God” Spiritual ears are opened by the preaching of the Word leading to a response of faith.

          Randall Cofield

          Tim,

          So…you are contending that spiritually dead individuals–void of spiritual life (isn’t that what dead means?)–have “spiritual ears” to hear the gospel?

          Peace

    Matt

    Wingedfooted1,

    I do not believe that anyone you have quoted above was affirming that salvation preceeded the hearing of the gospel. The story of Lydia could be viewed two different ways. By saying she “worshiped God” it could be meant that she was simply someone who practiced the Jewish religion. By Jewish law, a minimum of 10 men were required to start a synagogue. Since there was an obvious lack of men in this group of “worshipers” they made thier prayers at the riverside. If we go by this understanding then Lydia may have very well been unregenerate, as many Jews were, untill she heard the gospel. I tend to go with what I see as the most litteral, though not the only possible, interpretation; which is to say that Lydia’s worship was true and sinscere and that she already had a desire to follow and please God as a result of the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit. Jews who were saved prior to Christ did not know all the specifics of the gospel, but were regenerated by the Holy Spirit giving them the desire to trust and please God just the same. If this was the condition of Lydia when Paul and Silas found her then she was already regenerate, and the Spirit of God already in her opened her heart to the new message that they taught. In either case, it is undeniable that her possitive response to hearing the gospel was the result of God opening her heart.

    As Randall has pointed out, salvation encompasses the entire process from regeneration to glorification. I would also like to remind you that salvation is the work of God and from enternity all stages of this process are sure. I agree that if God regenerates a persons heart, yet they have not yet heard the gospel and responded in faith, we do not say that person is saved. It is sure that they will be saved, but we would not call them saved already. We do say that a person is saved who has been justified, although they are still in the process of being sanctified and have not yet been glorified. A person who is justified has been regenerated, heard the gospel, and responded in faith.

    Verses like Titus 3:5 are clearly speaking about people who have been justified when saying “He saved us” and instead of mentioning God’s work of accomplishing salvation that happened outside of thierselves, like Christ’s atonement and the preaching of the gospel, they mention God’s work inside them individually, “the washing of regeneration”.

    God bless

Jay Beerley

Thanks for your replies, Dr. Reynolds.

Let me say a couple of things. First, I’m ok with being in disagreement with Calvin on something. I’m sure there’s plenty of things (infant baptism, anyone?).

Second, I was reminded yesterday about the scope of the disagreement. I think that’s why I’m so upset by this statement and the call to have people officially “pick sides.” That’s what it comes across as, whether that was the intention or not. But I do want to say that I firmly believe we are two orthodox people (sides) contending for the gospel. I was reminded that there are indeed wolves who would distort the gospel of Jesus Christ. The prosperity preachers and the like who are on the prowl, who cave to the itchy-eared men. So, let’s just take a moment to raise a hearty amen to our SBC brethren no matter where on the spectrum of the doctrines of salvation they fall, as long as they are by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone brothers and sisters, as I’m sure everyone here seems to be.

Let us press on!

    Brad Reynolds

    Jay
    Good words. As for me, I did not see this as being qualitatively different than Dr. Mohler getting with three of his reformed friends and drafting affirmations and denials for T4G. I never took that as divisive and thus I would argue that was not the intention of this either. But our apparent disagreement on the intent of this statement does not take away from your encouragement for us all.

      volfan007

      Jay,

      I would add to what Dr. Reynolds has said, and say that this Traditional Statement is not causing the division….it’s just revealing it. It’s showing what’s already there.

      David

        Cb scott

        Vol,

        I am sure you remember the debates of a couple years back when some were attacking the concept of maintaining an established Baptist identity, specifically relating to ecclesiology.

        It is my opinion that even then the division was becoming evident.

        BTW, and just for old times sake, Baptist ecclesiology is closer to biblical ecclesiology than any other system known in the human experience of the past or present. :-)

          volfan007

          CB,

          Amen. As always, you hit the ole naileth squarely on the ole headeth.

          David :)

James

Dr. Reynolds,
I echo the comments commending your commentary for defending Article Four with exegesis. I have one question.

Maybe I’m misreading it, but the affirmation seems to state that the Gospel is freely offered to all people. How does your view reconcile this statement with the fact that some people never hear the Gospel freely offered in the power of the Holy Spirit?

Thanks.

Brad Reynolds

James
I think I would answer that in the context of Romans 1. The very context Paul says it is the gospel WHICH is the Power unto salvation. But to the bigger picture – that is why we must go!

    James

    Dr. Reynolds,
    Thanks for the quick response. So if I understand you correctly, your view holds the following.
    – A person must hear the gospel in order to have faith in Jesus.
    – The Gospel is NOT freely offered to every person.
    – It is available (in a theoretical sense) to any person but only offered to those who hear it.
    – God’s grace does not make salvation possible for all people.

    So in light of the fact that some people live, die, and face judgment without knowing of “God’s generous decision to provide salvation for any person by taking all of the initiative in providing atonement, in freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit, and in uniting the believer to Christ through the Holy Spirit by faith,” I have a follow-up question.

    By creating people who will never hear the gospel, isn’t God exercising sovereignty over who will be saved?

    Thanks again.

      Randall Cofield

      James,

      I tried to frame that exact question earlier, but never received a response. That truly is a pertinent question.

      Soli Deo Gloria

      volfan007

      James,

      Those people still have the light of creation and conscience. They have that much light, and the Bible says that the Spirit is convicting the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

      Also, of course, God is sovereign. And, thankfully, He’s sovereignly working to bring salvation to all men. And, he’s told us to go the ends of the Earth…to all the people groups of the world.

      I really dont think you’ve had a “gotcha” moment here, where you’ve “trapped” Dr. Reynolds….if that’s what you were doing.

      David

        James

        David,
        Thanks for joining the conversation. I’m not trying to “trap” anyone. I’m trying to understand how this soteriological system treats this aspect of revelation about which both sides seem to agree (i. e. the eternal destiny of those who never hear). The Reformed understanding explains it as a function of divine sovereignty; hence, my previous question is framed in those terms.

        So while Romans 1 tells us why they are lost and I understand that, my question is different.

        Without the ability to respond “freely” to the offer of salvation (because the offer was never explicitly given), how does the Traditional system explain it? Even more, how do they reconcile it with their understanding that God wills all people to be saved in the same way (from places like 1 Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9)? If this is true, why hasn’t he gotten the offer to everyone?

        And again, I’m genuinely trying to understand it.

        Thanks.

          volfan007

          God desires to do things. That does not mean they all get done. God has sovereignly chosen to use people…as fallible and weak as we are. So, God has sent us weak, human beings to do His work. Thus, all that God desires to be done, does not get done….not due to any fault of God, but due to our weakness.

          Also, I think you have to keep in mind what I said above….all people….ALL people have the light of creation and conscience, which tells them that there is a God, and that they will answer to this God in judgment. The Holy Spirit uses this light on thier hearts. Of course, the light of the Gospel shines much, much brighter….and will bring more conviction…but, at least, those people, who’ve never heard the Gospel, do have light.

          David

      Brad Reynolds

      James and Randal
      I apologize for not getting back sooner – it’s been a busy day. Truett is hoping to have a nursing degree next year. This fits with our goal to license nurses as we prepare them for missions. We are applying for approval from our accrediting agencies, so it’s a little busy. Nevertheless, I will now try to address your concern. It appears to me the primary question is how can the gospel be freely offered to every person if it is not heard by every person. My answer was Romans 1.

      Now to what do I mean by Romans 1?

      The gospel – primarily the Penal substitutionary Atonement of Christ and His resurrection – is intricately connected to the Trinity. Romans 1 says they deny the Godhead. In otherwords, God created nature in such a way that somehow, someway, even nature itself reveals the Trinity. A rejection of the Trinity is a rejection of what has to be understood to grasp the gospel (one has to understand Jesus is fully God, but is not the Father, to understand His penal substitution).

      Oh, but that is not a rejection of the Gospel itself because they have not heard it. So very true. But once again I tread lightly. I struggle a lot with the Reformed order of decrees because we do not find this order in Scripture. Since much of the Reformed logic is built on this order I find much of the logic wanting Biblically. I fear going beyond Scripture because it skews our understanding of passages. Thus, as Dr. Allen pointed out one must do hermeneutic gymnastics to get past I John 2, I Tim 2, and John 3:16 by defining world as the elect.

      Personally, I see God’s Omniscience (perhaps overemphasized by the Arminians to the detriment of God’s Sovereignty) working in perfect harmony with God’s Sovereignty. And I see God’s Sovereignty (perhaps overemphasized by the Calvinists to the detriment of God’s Omniscience) working in perfect harmony with His Omniscience. Thus, God’s Omniscience (which entails His foreknowledge which entails His knowledge of human action) is complemented by His total control, therefore human action (while free) cannot in anyway foil His eternal Plan and His eternal plan does not determine human action. I do not see these qualities of God at odds with each other. I do not think a human acting freely could have stopped the crucifixion, but I also do not think the crucifixion could have kept a person from acting freely. I cannot always (nor even usually) reconcile God’s total control and man’s free acts (and I mean truly freely as in Dr. Allen’s article) but I am content to say I have not known the mind of God nor have I become His counselor (Romans 11).

      In relation to man and the gospel freely offered to all, if God in His foreknowledge knows the person will reject and has already rejected before hearing then the person may not ever hear. I wish I had a deep doctrinal theological answer that would knock your socks off but I don’t (my PhD is in k-12 education with an emphasis on the creation/evolution debate in public schools).

      All I can say is if God in His foreknowledge saw the heart of a man open to receiving the gospel, I am certain God would have predestined him to become a child.

      And if God had predestined him to become a child, I am certain God would have seen him open to the gospel.

      Thus, for that individual God would make a way to hear. I am content in God’s ways being higher than our ways.

      Honestly, I envy, somewhat, those who have God’s Sovereignty and Man’s free will figured out. I confess I do not. And I fear going where I would be tempted to deny or misinterpret Scripture. Sorry, I could not be of more help.

        Randall Cofield

        Dr. Reynolds,

        Thanks for your response after a hectic day.

        You said: “In relation to man and the gospel freely offered to all, if God in His foreknowledge knows the person will reject and has already rejected before hearing then the person may not ever hear.”

        Just a couple of questions here by way of clarification:

        First, are you saying that God has necessarily given every man absolute freedom of will to accept or reject the gospel, but it is not equally necessary that God actually offer this gospel to every man?

        And secondly, am I correct to understand that you view God’s foreknowledge as reactive (sees and reacts accordingly) and not determinate?

        Grace and Peace

          Brad Reynolds

          Randal,
          The foundation of the gospel – there is a God, He is Triune, we are sinners, we need him, we need life – is offered to all man (Romans 1). But some have rejected this and even make idols to worship (Romans 1).

          Some of these might not hear the full gospel once it is spoken, and thus they may not actually have an opportunity to hear (I do not deny that some die without hearing, which is all the more reason to go).

          But, I feel certain God will someone to anyone who may be accepting that there is a God and he is not made of wood or with human hands so that person may hear (Acts 16).

          Question 2 seems to conflate God’s knowledge with His action (control). God’s action is determined but it is determined in concert of His knowledge of man’s actions. Thus, while maintaining that God’s knowledge and Sovereignty are not the same attribute (they are different attributes) we have not diminished one for the other.

        Randall Cofield

        Dr. Reynolds,

        You said: “Some of these might not hear the full gospel once it is spoken, and thus they may not actually have an opportunity to hear (I do not deny that some die without hearing, which is all the more reason to go).”

        I guess the point that I’m wanting to make is that scripture is quite plain the general revelation is inadequate to bring anyone to a saving knowledge of God in Christ Jesus.

        1Co 1:21 “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.”

        I think we both agree that no individual is saved apart from hearing the gospel preached (through print or orally). Hence, if even one (and there have been untold millions) person is not freely “offered” the gospel through the foolishness of preaching, then the gospel is not truly “offered” to all. Which, it would seem, places the Traditionalists in the same predicament for which they are reproving the Calvinists, would it not?

        To put it another way, if the gospel is not *preached* to all without exception, then God does not truly “provide salvation for any person” by “freely offering the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit,” as the T.S. postulates.

        This, in turn, negates the further declaration of the T.S. that God “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.”

        If “each person” does not actually hear the gospel preached, then they are never truly given the option of “choos(ing) between two options.” They are never truly given the opportunity to “exercise” their “free will” in “accepting God’s gracious call to salvation…through the Gospel.”

        My point is this: If the T.S. predicates the final “decision” in salvation on the free-will choice of man, and many (most?) never are truly given that choice…then the T.S. needs to be re-worded pretty dramatically on several points, does it not?

        And maybe…just maybe…shouldn’t some of the fingers pointing at Calvinism be turned around and pointed right back at the Traditionalists?

        For the moment, to address the above issue, I’d like to set the issue of God’s foreknowledge aside and return to it when appropriate. Could we consider the validity or invalidity of what I stated above before going there?

        Grace and Peace, brother.

        James

        Dr. Reynolds,
        Thanks also for your response and for continuing to expound on your view. I appreciate your humility and transparency. Both are very helpful for the conversation.

        I would really love to engage in a more extended discussion regarding the finer points of your perspective, but this venue is not really conducive to that type of interaction. Instead, I’ll thank you for your clarifying comments and offer two observations.

        First, all soteriological views must appeal to Romans 11 to admit that human minds do not completely understand the relationship between God’s Sovereignty and man’s responsibility. Any person (Calvinist or otherwise), who gives the impression that these matters are easily or fully explained is either naive or arrogant. In other words, I appreciate and agree with your appeal to Romans 11:33-36.

        Second, and as Randall has noted, your definition of foreknowledge is very important and I would add very controversial. Certainly God’s foreknowledge is a foundational and essential aspect of our salvation and Southern Baptists hold differing views. I think the SBC tent is big enough to include men and women with both views so long as we maintain two important Southern Baptist distinctives: local church autonomy and cooperation in missions.

        Thanks again!

W B McCarty

Dr. Reynolds: BUT, the ability to TRUST in GOD was lost in the fall so that man is now unable to TRUST in GOD . . . without God’s grace.

Please, at some soon time, revise the proposed statement to be crystal clear on this point, even to the extent of redundancy. As a Calvinist, this has been my only significant concern with the statement. But it’s a huge concern. I trust that we agree that it’s vitally important to avoid even the mere impression of Semi-Pelagianism. As a courtesy I will express my point hypothetically: If a Semi-Pelagian could affirm the statement then the statement would inevitably lead to Semi-Pelagianism among those who regard it, because Pelagianism and its first cousin Semi-Pelagianism are the default settings, so to speak, of mankind.

Speak in terms of willful misinterpretation by malicious Calvinists or otherwise give whatever reason you like, but please strengthen the statement in this respect. Blessings,

volfan007

“Number two: how can God face the question of free moral agency. How can God save me and not violate my personality? For I am free. If God coerces me, I’m not free. If God forces me, and makes me, I’m not free. How can God save me, and at the same time leave me morally free, and not violate, destroy my own personality, my freedom of heart and choice?

This is the way God did it: God left it to me to make the choice in a free moral act. The Lord lays before me the whole story of the self-revelation of His heart. He loved me and gave His Son to die for me. His Spirit woos and makes appeal, and the gospel message tugs at the strings of my heart. And God, having opened wide the door, leaves the choice to me.

I can say “No” to God. I can. Even though I’m made of the dust of the ground, I can say “No” to God. I can double my fist, and shake it in the face of God. I can curse God. I can trample under my feet the blood of the covenant that sanctified Jesus. I can reject His every overture of love and mercy. I remain free.”

-Dr. W. A. Criswell

volfan007

“Now, the other fact plainly revealed to us on the sacred page is no less dynamically pertinent and true. This also is a fact in life and in the Holy Scriptures: God made us free. We are human agents, able to choose for ourselves. God did that, too. We are absolutely free, we are morally responsible. We can choose for ourselves, and we do. In the beginning, the apostle Paul says in I Timothy, 2, Paul says that Adam was not deceived. Eve was deceived; the subtle serpent led her astray, but not Adam. Adam chose to eat the forbidden fruit; he chose to die with his wife rather than live without her. He had the power of choice in the beginning, Adam was not deceived. He made the decision that has followed through all generations since and comes down to us. Choice is a fact of human experience and human life”
-Dr. W. A. Criswell

volfan007

“I want to make my appeal. Why doesn’t God take the unrepentant sinner, the unchanged, unsaved sinner, why doesn’t God take him and make him repent and make him change and make him believe? Why doesn’t God do that? Why doesn’t God say to him, “See this Tree of Life? You’re going to eat of it whether you like it or not.”… Well, we can ask Him for an ultimate answer when we see Him. All I know is from the beginning, He made us free, absolutely free, morally free and I can decide one way or the other, for or against. I am absolutely uncoerced, I am free.

God did that with our first parents. The whole garden is before you…. Just obey this one appeal… Don’t eat of the forbidden tree. If you do, you die… The unrepentant, unforgiven sinner, God lets us choose. We’re free; positively, absolutely wholly and completely free.

And I make the choice. All God does, ever, is to appeal to my soul, that’s all. He never goes beyond it. He never coerces. He never forces. He just makes appeal. And what He does now, is what He does forever. What He has done, what He continues to do, He makes appeal. That’s all.”
-Dr. W. A. Criswell

    Randall Cofield

    “…Just obey this one appeal… ”

    I thought that was a “command.”

    Come to think of it, the Gospel is a command. Repent.

    The term appeal is only necessary if our soteriology begins and ends with the sovereignty…oops…I mean the free will…of man. :-)

    Grace and Peace.

      volfan007

      So, Randall, are you calling Dr. Criswell a Semi Pelagian? Are you calling him an Arminian? Or, what? lol

      David

        Randall Cofield

        David,

        I re-read my post to be absolutely sure…and…no, I managed to make my statements without any name-calling. Imagine that! ;-)

        Peace

    Dale Pugh

    Was Criswell a 4-pointer then? He did claim to be a Calvinist, did he not?

      volfan007

      Dr. Criswell did claim to be a Calvinist. But, he was nothing like the New Calvinists of today. Also, as you can see from these quotes, he’s not even on the same page as the Founders crowd. So, his Calvinism was something less….maybe he was a 4 pointer, or something even less. I dont know. But also, just read his Handbook for Pastors….read the chapter on giving invitations….and you’d see that many of these New Calvinists would be calling him a Semi Pelagian, and worse. It mystifies me that the Founders would be holding up Dr. Criswell as a champion of Calvinism….just read the quotes above, and his chapter on giving invitations.

      I’d say that Spurgeon is not a poster boy for the New Calvinism of today, either. I’ve read a lot of Spurgeon, and he was a Calvinist…no doubt. But, I’d go hear Spurgeon and Criswell preach any day, and shout amen. In fact, I have heard Criswell preach several times, and I did shout amen…

      David

        Randall Cofield

        David,

        Brother, I can’t speak for all the others who are suddenly being labeled the “New Calvinists,” but for myself, it is EXACTLY Sprugeon’s brand of full-orbed Calvinism that I am in agreement with. Not because who Spurgeon was, nor because of who Calvin was, but because this is exactly what I see in scripture.

        I just find myself being utterly caricatured by most who are on the “Traditionalist” side of this dust-up. :)

        Grace and Peace

    Brad Reynolds

    David,
    Love the quotes

    W B McCarty

    David, I’m sorry that I don’t have the energy to engage this issue more fully. Perhaps someone else can pick up where I leave off. I have no idea how W.A. Criswell styled his theological commitment, if indeed he ever did so. But the quotes you offer are not inconsistent with a commitment to Calvinism.

    The Calvinist is free, indeed most likely ***required**** (see below), to affirm man’s freedom so long as he upholds two points: (1) Absent the grace of God, no man chooses God. (2) Given God’s irresistible grace, no man does other than choose God. Granted, these conditions are commonly spoken of as a “bondage of the will,” to quote Luther. Point is, it’s not God who places man in bondage. Man places himself in bondage to sin as a free act of his will. In all this, God is actually upholding man’s ability to choose.

    The Westminster Confession (to which, of course, I do not subscribe) puts it thusly: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; ***nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established***.” In other words, that grandad of confessions explicitly insists that the will of men is not hindered by God but rather established by God. It’s just that, given freedom in the absence of grace, morally corrupt men inevitably choose badly. This claim should not be provocative because a similar affirmation occurs in the BF&M, which states, “As a result, as soon as they [that is, all men] are able to make right decisions and actions, they become sinners.”

    I hope that you understand my remarks in the spirit in which they’re offered. I’m not trying to be argumentative or persuade you to become a Calvinist. Most specifically, I conceded at the outset that I have no knowledge of W.A. Criswell’s theological commitment and so I don’t challenge your claim but only the evidence you adduce. I am merely trying to demonstrate that our views are more compatible than commonly supposed, which I would take as an absolute good from both our perspectives. As I wrote, if this ongoing discussion should result in greater mutual understanding, even if not greater agreement, I would still think that the interests of God in the matter will have been well served.

    Blessings,

volfan007

“I cannot imagine a more ready instrument in the hands of Satan for the ruin of souls than a minister who tells sinners that it is not their duty to repent of their sins or to believe in Christ, and who has the arrogance to call himself a gospel minister, while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatsoever but simply because he chooses to do so.” – New Park Street Pulpit – Vol 6, 28-29
-C. H. Spurgeon

    Randall Cofield

    Couldn’t agree more.

    W B McCarty

    David, all Calvinists (excepting the almost hypothetically rare species of hyper-Calvinist) would agree with Spurgeon’s statement that you quoted. All affirm the duty of the sinner to repent and believe. And God’s hatred of the reprobate is not arbitrary. They are at enmity with God on account of their sin, for which they bear full responsibility–as were we all until God graciously saved some of us. It is His grace, not His justice, that seems to us arbitrary.

    Also, please be sure that Spurgeon did not intend contradicting or neglecting the doctrines of reprobation and election. In the same sermon from which you cite, Spurgeon is recorded to have said:

    “Upon all these matters we are agreed, and I therefore turn to points upon which there is more dispute, and consequently more need of honest avowal, because more temptation to concealment. To proceed then:—I question whether we have preached the whole counsel of God, unless predestination with all its solemnity and sureness be continually declared—unless election be boldly and nakedly taught as being one of the truths revealed of God. It is the minister’s duty, beginning from this fountain head, to trace all the other streams; dwelling on effectual calling, maintaining justification by faith, insisting upon the certain perseverance of the believer, and delighting to proclaim that gracious covenant in which all these things are contained, and which is sure to all the chosen, blood-bought seed. ”

    I’m grateful that this discussion affords opportunity to clear up some of the misconceptions concerning our respective theological commitments.

    Blessings in Him,

      volfan007

      Money quote:

      “while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatsoever but simply because he chooses to do so.”

      David

        W B McCarty

        David: “while he teaches that God hates some men infinitely and unchangeably for no reason whatsoever but simply because he chooses to do so.”

        Yes, thanks. I saw that part of the quote and I deny that God hates anyone “for no reason whatsoever but simply because he chooses to do so.” Obviously Spurgeon, who affirms predestination, denies that point as well. We together affirm that God is justly wrathful on account of the reprobate’s sin, for which the reprobate alone is fully responsible.

        You should ask a refund from the fellow who told you that was a money shot. :)

        I’m sure you’ve read it from others. But I’ll repeat it just the same. If I actually were asked to believe even 10% of what Calvinists are thought or alleged to believe, I’d gladly sign on as a Pelagian.

        Thanks for the opportunity to comment on that point of doctrine. I once had a seminary professor, not himself a Calvinist, who opined that, on a practical level, there’s not much difference between Calvinists and Non-Calvinists of the biblical sort. I think there’s more truth in his claim than commonly allowed.

        Blessings,

      Cb scott

      “(excepting the almost hypothetically rare species of hyper-Calvinist)”

      Obviously, you have not lived in some places in this country. There are many hyper-Calvinists living in this country.

        W B McCarty

        cb, it may be that we disagree on the definition of the term “hyper-Calvinist.” But I make no pretense of omniscience or even of having traveled widely. You certainly know your environs better than I do. So rather than be argumentative, I’ll apologize for my presumption and state my sympathy with your burden. No hyper-Calvinist is welcome in my circles. To my knowledge, none has so much as sought access. The only agreeable thing about hyper-Calvinists is that, like Shakers, they don’t propagate successfully. If a man won’t preach the Gospel with passion to anyone and everyone I have little patience with him, no matter his theological commitment.

        Blessings,

          Cb scott

          “The only agreeable thing about hyper-Calvinists is that, like Shakers, they don’t propagate successfully.”

          W B McCarty, That is a true statement. The numbers are thinning out. Yet, there are still many in certain areas of the nation.

Timothy Vires

Dr. Reynolds,
Regarding this comment:

Timothy
I hope you keep studying. My faith is not in my study nor yours but in the Holy Spirit who will guide God’s children in the truth. I don’t think we will reach an agreement. For me, I will remain content to not have figured it out until Scripture convinces me.

I very much respect your attitude about this issue. I wish that all men had the same perspective. I think we should all hold to our understanding with sincerety until the Word convinces us otherwise. My words and ideas are nothing if they are not in line with scripture.
This is, unfortunately, a very divisive issue. It is an important one. I feel it shapes our evangelism and dictates how we handle those who inquire about the hope that is in us. I think it is important to get it right. I personally feel that preaching free-will salvation, as it is taught by those I have heard, robs God of a measure of glory. We all know what happened to Herod when he failed to give God glory. This saddens me. It is easy to be prideful in your position on this issue and to think you have all the answers. I try not to be that way, but I must admit, it creeps in from time to time. Pray for my humility. Pray that I can love others sincerely even when they disagree with me.

Tim

    Brad Reynolds

    Tim
    If God ever brings me to mind, please pray for me also. God bless you brother.
    BR

Randall Cofield

My Fellow Posters,

It does seem the conversation is lagging here. Perhaps three simple questions could serve as a conclusion.

1) Did anyone here *cause* God to save them?

2) Is anyone here the *cause* of any part or portion of their salvation, including repentance and faith?

3) If the first two questions are answered in the negative, why are we having this conversation?

Grace and Peace to all.

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