A Problem in Calvinism’s Order of Salvation

October 21, 2014

by J. Matthew Pinson

In Calvinism, Regeneration comes before faith, whereas in Arminianism regeneration comes after faith. In other words, the “timing” of what Scripture describes as the “new birth” is decisive in the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism. In Calvinism, God gives His elect a new birth. This is the result of their effectual calling (sometimes called “irresistible grace”). They cannot and will not resist it, because they see with new eyes. Their new birth creates in them a desire to repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus Christ.

In Reformed Arminianism, the order of salvation is different. God convicts and calls and draws people to himself, yet gives them the freedom to resist his grace. If they do not resist, and they receive God’s gift of salvation with the empty hands of faith, then God regenerates them. They experience a new birth only after receiving Christ through faith.

Leroy Forlines says that there is a problem for the coherence of Calvinism when it places regeneration before faith, because, as the great Calvinist theologian Louis Berkhof states, “Regeneration is the beginning of sanctification” [1]. It is a problem, logically, to place regeneration prior to faith in the ordo salutis (order of salvation) because, if regeneration is the beginning of sanctification, and if justification results from faith, then logically Calvinism is placing sanctification prior to justification.

The Calvinist Lorraine Boettner argues, “A man is not saved because he believes in Christ; he believes in Christ because he is saved” [2]. This really is what the Calvinist view of regeneration preceding faith amounts to. Yet, as Steve Lemke says, this seems to be getting the cart before the horse. Lemke provides another way of looking at this conundrum: “When does the Spirit come into a believer’s life? . . . What do the Scriptures say about the order of believing and receiving the Spirit?” [3].

This is particularly poignant, Lemke argues, in view of Peter’s statement in Acts 2:38: “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (NASB) [4].

Forlines hones in on why this is a logical difficulty for the Calvinist system: “Calvinists have, by and large, adhered to the satisfaction view of atonement and justification. If a person is consistent in developing the implications of the satisfaction view of atonement, it is clear that God cannot perform the act of regeneration (an act of sanctification) in a person before he or she is justified. God can move in with His sanctifying grace only after the guilt problem is satisfied by justification. To think otherwise is to violate the law of non-contradiction. I realize that when we talk about the ordo salutis (order of salvation) we are talking about logical order instead of chronological order. But that logical order is inviolable!” [5].

If Berkhof and Boettner are correct that regeneration is the beginning of salvation and sanctification (and I think they are), then the Calvinist ordo salutis, which places regeneration prior to saving faith, and thus prior to justification and the gift of the Spirit, is highly problematic.

 

[1] F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation (Nashville: Randall House, 2011), 266.

[2] Loraine Boettner. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination (Philadelphia, PA: P&R, 1965), 101.

[3] Steve W. Lemke and David Allen, eds., Whosoever Will (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2011), 137.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Forlines, 86.

*This post was originally posted HERE and comments for the author should be directed Here.

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rhutchin

This was also posted on the author’s website and is offered here for broader discussion.

Calvinists have sought to reconcile that which the Bibles says on the issue of salvation. They concluded that man is Totally Depraved and has no desire for God and has no faith with which to please God. Absent some influence (regeneration) on man, no one would ever express faith in Christ and be saved.

They see this expressed in the following:

“…when we were dead in sins, [God] quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)…we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2)

“…[God] made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: [and] delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” (Colossians 1)

“…the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ…should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;…For God…has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4)

“And I said, Who art you, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus…I have appeared unto you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness [unto the gentiles to] whom now I send you, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26)

We see the difficulty that all of us deal with expressed in Acts 26. People are sanctified by faith, but this faith is possible only after the person’s eyes are opened and they are turned from darkness to light.

So, the Calvinists conclude that God must initiate the work of salvation in depraved man and that God’s actions then make possible the responses of man to Christ (e.g., faith). That work initiated by God in man is called regeneration. The problem is how to enable a depraved person to express faith without first regenerating them.

One solution, offered by the Pelagians, was to deny that man was so depraved as not to be able to express faith in Christ. This solution was rejected by Calvinists and Arminians. The Arminians then said that God imparts faith to all on their birth. This means that God essentially regenerates all at birth enabling all to express faith in Christ with that faith expressed later when the person hears the gospel. The problem here is explaining why any would then reject the gospel.

So, it’s a difficulty that God has left us. It is one thing to reject the Calvinist solution to the problem. It is another to offer a viable alternative.

    Ron F. Hale

    rhutchin,
    It doesn’t have to be that hard to understand, Paul states it plainly in Romans 1:16 “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”

    The Holy Spirit is at work, when the Gospel is preached and shared, the sinner is convicted and drawn, some believe unto salvation, many remain in their stubborn sin and go to a devil’s hell.

      volfan007

      Once again, Ron Hale nails it in very simple, easy to understand terms. And, I always have to scratch my head and wonder why some(Calvinists) have to try to make something so simple become something so hard. It’s like they have a secret code for the Bible that we all have to try to decipher before we can really know salvation. smh

      David

      rhutchin

      Ron Hale writes, “…when the Gospel is preached and shared, the sinner is convicted and drawn, some believe unto salvation, many remain in their stubborn sin and go to a devil’s hell.”

      This depends on the original sate of a person. Is the original state one such that they are in their stubborn sin and bound for the devil’s hell? Or do you mean to say that their rejection of the gospel leads to this conclusion? What do you say is the original state of a person?

      Let’s assume the worse, that the unsaved are in their stubborn sin and on the way to a devil’s hell. Then we introduce the preaching of the gospel. We observe that some are convicted and drawn to the gospel. Some remain unchanged. How are we to account for the two different outcomes? If both have free will, then both should respond similarly as they are equally sinners. So, free will cannot be the reason. The Calvinists concluded that it could only have been something that God did to the one and not the other that accounted for the different responses. If the Calvinists got it wrong, how can we explain opposite responses to the gospel?

Rick Mang

The great Calvinist theologian Louis Berkhof also said: “Justi?cation precedes and is basic to sancti?cation in the covenant of grace.” (Berkhof’s Systematic Theology, p.596) To understand the seeming contradiction, one needs to put Berkhof’s statements in context.

Rick

Stephen Garrett

You should not lump all Calvinists together on this issue. When you say Calvinism puts regeneration before faith, you state a falsehood, and should rather say – “Some branches in Calvinism” or “Some Calvinists.” Abraham Booth was a Calvinist. Here is what he said:

“But it is impossible for us to conceive of the mind being enlightened, of the conscience being relieved, of the will being regulated, and of the affections being purified by the word of truth, any further than it is believed. It may therefore be concluded, that regeneration is not, in order of time, prior to faith in Christ, and justification by him.” (“Glad Tidings to Perishing Sinners,” page 122)

I am a Calvinist like Booth, and I don’t say that men are born again before faith.

Blessings,

Stephen Garrett

Rick Patrick

Malcolm Yarnell has said, “Calvinism vitiates anthropology.” The notion that God so comes upon the elect that they irresistibly do something that the non-elect cannot and will not do simply destroys any meaningful concept of free will. I have to quibble with the use of the term “compatibilism” in describing the Calvinist notion of free will. How can a mutual action be compatible when one of the two actors totally dominates the activity leaving the other one passive and unable to resist the action?

In his essay, “The Order of Faith and Regeneration,” Dr. David Allen provides a list of actions the Bible says we can take when we are “spiritually dead.” What a truly impressive list of actions for dead men to undertake. Our depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.

“According to the Bible, the unsaved who are spiritually dead have the ability to:
Act in accordance with conscience (Gen. 3:7)
Hear God (Gen. 3:10-13)
Respond to God (Gen. 3:10-13)
Adam and Eve died spiritually when they ate the fruit.
But they were still capable of hearing from/responding to God. (Gen. 3:10-13).
Repent of sins (Luke 15:18-19)
The prodigal son, in a state of deadness (Luke 15:32),
still recognized his sin and returned to the father.
Seek God (John 3)
Fear God (Acts 10:2)
Pray to God (Acts 10:2)
Both Nicodemus and Cornelius were ‘seeking’ God before their regeneration.
But if they are dead in their sins, how can this be?
Know the truth about God (Rom. 1:18-20)
Perceive God’s invisible attributes (Rom. 1:18-20)
Again if they are spiritually dead in the sense of total inability, how can this be?

    volfan007

    Rick,

    Very, very true. Great insight.

    David

    phillip

    Rick,

    “Our depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.”

    Once again you can just see the Calvinist and their Arminian offspring unite and scream “semi-pelagianism!!”

    John 8:7-9 (KJV)…..
    “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you (so we are talking about a spiritual condition here), let him first cast a stone at her.’ And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it (it didn’t fall on deaf ears), being convicted by (what?) their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”

    These depraved Jews heard, understood, were convicted, and walked away. Strange response for depraved slaves to sin.

    The Calvinistic teaching of total depravity/total inability fails miserably in the example above. The Calvinist (at least some) would have to insist these Jews had been regenerated and the classical Arminian would have to insist these Jews had been released from the bondage of sin. Neither is biblical and neither can be substantiated by scripture.

    Only those who embrace the Calvinistic error of TD/TI are left with the problem of addressing it.

    God bless.

      Robert

      Phillip while I understand from your previous posts that you reject the doctrine of “total depravity” (you believe that both Calvinists and “classical Arminians” are in error about this) your latest comments regarding depravity and your example from John8 do not accurately represent what those who hold to total depravity would say about this passage.

      I think misrepresentations ought to be avoided on all sides not wanting to misrepresent Calvinists or anyone else.

      You wrote:’

      “Once again you can just see the Calvinist and their Arminian offspring unite and scream “semi-pelagianism!!””

      The charge of Pelagianism comes up when a person seems to suggest that we can believe without the grace of God. That we can just come to God on our own. Calvinists do not believe this nor do Arminians nor do Traditionalists. We all believe that a person must be drawn in order to come to Christ.

      No drawing = no coming.

      If you studied the earlier debates in the Reformation era (when Calvinism and Arminianism were systematized) on grace you would see that everybody (Calvinists, Arminians, and even Catholic theologians) believed that grace was necessary in order for a nonbeliever to come to faith. The primary disagreement in the past was concerning whether or not grace could be resisted (with Calvinists arguing from irresistible grace that the answer was No, Arminians and Catholics arguing Yes) and how grace came (Calvinists and Arminians through the work of the Spirit, Catholics suggesting it was both the work of the Spirit AND the sacraments). Keep in mind it was the Catholics who argued against Pelagian thinking and Semi-Pelagian thinking based upon their Augustinian theology.

      “These depraved Jews heard, understood, were convicted, and walked away. Strange response for depraved slaves to sin.”

      The misrepresentation here is that those who advocate total depravity do not deny that the nonbeliever has a conscience. Clearly the people in this story were convicted by their conscience and neither Calvinists not Arminians would deny that a nonbeliever can be convicted by their conscience. So to present this situation as an argument against total depravity just does not fly at all.
      The passage does not talk about them being convicted of their sin leading them to faith in Christ, only their being convicted by their conscience.

      I will make the point again: total depravity in its normal meaning does not mean that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing anything (as some Calvinists suggest when they speak of nonbelievers being like a physically dead corpse incapable of anything): it speaks of the EXTENT of the effects of sin (i.e. that sin has affected every aspect of human beings). One should be able to admit and agree that sin has in fact affected every aspect of human beings. Where the disagreement comes in is that Calvinists and Arminians believe that one of the consequences of sin is that it leads to “spiritual inability” (i.e. that the nonbeliever due to the effects of sin is incapable of having a faith response on his own).

      “The Calvinistic teaching of total depravity/total inability fails miserably in the example above.”

      Of course it does as the example above is not talking about people being convicted of their sin so that they can then come to faith in Christ: No, the example above is only talking about people being convicted in their consciences.

      And regarding this conviction of the conscience for one’s sins I know nonbelievers are perfectly capable of this as I work with inmates who have committed all sorts of crimes and some are pricked by their conscience about it (but that has nothing to do with their being convicted by the Spirit). Nonbelievers have consciences, we all do, in fact in scripture it speaks of how even the nonbeliever without the Jewish law is convicted by their consciences.

      Phillip first you present a passage that has nothing to do with the truth or falsity of depravity (rather it has to deal with people being pricked by their conscience) you then conclude:

      “The Calvinist (at least some) would have to insist these Jews had been regenerated and the classical Arminian would have to insist these Jews had been released from the bondage of sin. Neither is biblical and neither can be substantiated by scripture.”

      The Calvinist need not **insist**that these Jews had been regenerated (one need not be regenerated in order to have a conscience and be convicted by one’s conscience).

      And the Arminian would not have to **insist** that these Jews had been released from the bondage of sin. Arminians maintain that people are released form the bondage of sin only when they are converted to Christ (Paul argues this in Romans where he challenges believers not to live like they are slaves to sin but to live like slaves of righteousness because as believers they are freed from slavery to sin and can now be slaves of righteousness).

      Phillip your statements here about Calvinists and Arminians are again misrepresentations, not accurate at all. One can affirm total depravity and simultaneously affirm that nonbelievers have a conscience that can be convicted by their wrong doings. And the John 8 passage is not intended to be an argument against total depravity at all, you are misusing scripture if you try to use it to argue against total depravity from it.

      Robert

        phillip

        Rick wrote…..

        “Our depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.”

        Brother Robert,

        Without adding a single qualifier, do you agree with that statement or not?

          Robert

          Phillip you gave an extremely weak argument against total depravity when you appealed to John 8 a passage not discussing depravity but discussing conscience. You completely ignored my post. If you would have admitted that John 8 has nothing to do with depravity, then I would have responded differently. Instead you change the topic to my response to this statement:

          “Our depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.”

          And then ask:

          “Without adding a single qualifier, do you agree with that statement or not?”

          I will add a qualifier or two or three. :-)

          Total depravity does not mean that the nonbeliever is unable to respond to the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work that leads people to trusting in Jesus for salvation.

          Total depravity does mean that the nonbeliever **left to himself** without the preconversion work of the Spirit **is unable** to come to God, unable to understand spiritual things, etc. etc.

          Total Depravity goes to the reality that APART FROM the preconversion work of the Spirit we cannot come to faith in Christ.

          And as I have said now on multiple occasions a major error made by Calvinists is that they press the reality of total depravity while leaving out the reality of the preconversion work of the Spirit. Both are real, both are presented by the Bible. If you teach only depravity but leave out the reality of the preconversion work of the Spirit then you end up with false claims such as that the nonbeliever must be regenerated first in order to understand spiritual things or have a faith response to the gospel. If you teach only the preconversion work of the Spirit and leave out total depravity then you ignore the scriptures describing the nonbeliever’s condition and you fail to deal adequately with John 6:44.

          If you teach both then you hold the biblical and balanced position that Yes total depravity is present, but so is the preconversion work of the Spirit. And God does not leave us in our spiritually dead and hopeless condition but instead the Spirit comes and enables but does not necessitate a faith response to the gospel. And contrary to the Calvinist and other determinists the preconversion work of the Spirit can be resisted. We need to be balanced in our presentation presenting all that the Bible says about salvation and conversion: which includes teaching depravity, the preconversion work of the Spirit and that the work of the Spirit can be resisted.

          Robert

            phillip

            Robert,

            You said…. “Total depravity does mean that the nonbeliever, left to himself, without the preconversion work of the Spirit is unable to come to God, UNABLE TO UNDERSTAND SPIRITUAL THINGS, etc. etc.”

            Your opinion of John 8 being a weak argument is just that, your opinion. Look, again, at the text…..

            John 8:7-9 (KJV)…..
            “So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, ‘He that is without sin among you (so we are talking about a spiritual condition here), let him first cast a stone at her.’ And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it (it didn’t fall on deaf ears), being convicted by (what?) their own conscience (they both knew and understood that were guilty sinners), went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.”

            These depraved Jews heard, understood, were convicted, and walked away. Understanding they were guilty sinners is a “spiritual thing”.

            Rick wrote…..

            “Our depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.”

            Robert, you danced around my question just like I knew you would. You believe that our depravity does render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.” You believe the depravity must be removed, or at least diminished, before we can respond.

            You said…. “God does not leave us in our spiritually dead and hopeless condition but instead the Spirit comes and enables…….”

            And that is precisely what a Calvinist would say. You only differ with him in the solution (the “classical Arminian” stance).

            You said “No drawing = no coming.”

            Agreed. No hearing = no believing (Romans 10:17). But it has absolutely nothing to do with overcoming our depravity. Like Rick wrote… “Our depravity DOES NOT render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel…..”

            Here’s another portion of scripture that rebukes total depravity…

            Numbers 21:6-9 (NIV)…

            Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you (again, they understood they were guilty sinners and sin is a spiritual thing). Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can (can?!?) look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

            Even though these depraved Israelites were infected with venom (sin) they still had the ability to look (believe). The venom (sin) did not prevent them from seeing (believing).

            Brother Robert, you are more than welcomed to hold to the Calvinistic teaching of TD/TI. However, just like the Calvinist, you are going to have to supply biblical examples to support the solution for it. And as of now, you have failed to do so.

            No one is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us prior to coming to faith (or even after). I’m just saying, along with the majority of contributors to this site, that our depravity doesn’t render us unable to respond to God. That’s where you and I disagree.

            Thus, we reject total depravity/total inability.

            God bless.

              Robert

              Phillip you stated:

              “Rick wrote…..
              “Our depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel, and be reborn.”
              Robert, you danced around my question just like I knew you would.”

              I don’t play games; you quoted Rick’s statement on inability and demanded a Yes or No answer. You quoted Rick and one of the things I wrote in my previous post was this:

              “Total depravity does not mean that the nonbeliever is unable to respond to the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work that leads people to trusting in Jesus for salvation. “

              Perhaps you missed this statement but it is a direct replay to Rick’s statement. Rick says that depravity does not render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit. I wrote that “Total depravity does not mean that the nonbeliever is unable to respond to the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work”.

              How is my statement disagreeing or denying Rick’s statement? It isn’t.

              I explicitly stated that depravity does not mean the nonbeliever is unable to respond to the Spirit: now you write:

              “You believe that our depravity does render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit”

              Where did I say that?

              My statement was explicitly that depravity does not make us unable to respond to the Spirit. I also went further and explained that what we cannot do is come to faith without the work of the Spirit, and that is absolutely true.

              I believe you are confusing two different claims, attributing one to me that I do not hold at all.
              Consider these two claims:

              (1)The nonbeliever is unable to come to faith in Christ on his own (i.e. apart from the work of the Spirit)
              (2)The nonbeliever is unable to respond to the work of the Spirit.

              I strongly affirm (1).

              I strongly deny (2)

              Phillip you keep attributing (2) to me when I do not hold to (2).

              I hold to (1).

              Again the Catholics who are certainly not Calvinists argued that a Pelagian was someone who affirmed (1), someone who believed that you **could** come to faith in Christ on your own without the work of the Spirit. Catholics agreed with Reformers that the nonbeliever could not come to faith in Christ on his own, that he needed the work of the Spirit. Calvinists argued this work of the Spirit would only occur in the elect while Catholics argued that the work of the Spirit could be resisted.

              Rick’s statement is referring to (2) and I agree with Rick that ****we can**** respond to the preconversion work of the Spirit (cf. citing my statement from the previous post yet again: ““Total depravity does not mean that the nonbeliever is unable to respond to the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work that leads people to trusting in Jesus for salvation. “).

              I never said that the nonbeliever cannot respond to the work of the Spirit. I said the nonbeliever could not come to faith without the work of the Spirit.

              “You said…. “God does not leave us in our spiritually dead and hopeless condition but instead the Spirit comes and enables…….”
              And that is precisely what a Calvinist would say. You only differ with him in the solution (the “classical Arminian” stance).”

              Actually your statement here is not accurate and misses entirely what the church has been teaching from the beginning. Namely, that nonbelievers **are** in a spiritually dead and hopeless condition (cf. and my statement is a direct reference to what the apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2 about the condition of nonbelievers: “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you formerly walked . . .you were at one time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promises, having no hope and without God in the world”). But we also know from scripture that God does not leave people in this condition as he sends the Spirit to convict the WORLD of sin, and righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8). And it is the Spirit, is it not, who enables us to have faith in Christ by revealing Christ to us and revealing our sinful condition to us. So this statement of mine that “God does not leave us in our spiritually dead and hopeless condition but instead the Spirit comes and enables” is NOT strictly speaking Calvinism it **is** biblical Christianity as it is exactly what scripture says.
              One of my favorite evangelistic methods when preaching is to just take Ephesians 2 and preach on it. It talks about the nonbelievers condition in very stark and clear terms. It talks about the grace of God as what changes people into believers. So you can talk directly to the nonbeliever about both their condition and the way of salvation through Christ to get out of that condition and be saved. This is not Calvinism this is Christianity. And if you were to do some study of the early church and early fathers before Augustine you would find these same two ideas, the spiritually dead and hopeless condition of the nonbeliever and the Spirit being sent who enables faith on the part of the nonbeliever. Phillip you are so intent on “disproving” depravity that you are denying statements that come not out of Calvinism but directly out of the Bible!

              “You said “No drawing = no coming.”
              Agreed. No hearing = no believing (Romans 10:17). But it has absolutely nothing to do with overcoming our depravity.”

              Actually it does our depravity is what makes it impossible to come to Christ on our own. With the Spirit’s help however, anyone can come to Christ . . . .

              “Like Rick wrote… “Our depravity DOES NOT render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel…..””

              And like I wrote: “““Total depravity does not mean that the nonbeliever is unable to respond to the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work that leads people to trusting in Jesus for salvation. “

              “Brother Robert, you are more than welcomed to hold to the Calvinistic teaching of TD/TI.”

              I don’t hold to the Calvinistic teaching on depravity. I do not view the nonbeliever as a physically dead corpse incapable of responding to the Spirit. I do not teach that regeneration precedes faith. I hold to the historic position of the church that the nonbeliever cannot come to faith on their own but requires the preconversion work of the Spirit.

              “No one is saying that the Holy Spirit doesn’t convict us prior to coming to faith (or even after).”

              Actually that is not accurate either as some Calvinists argue precisely that, that no one who is not elect experiences the work of the Spirit in leading them to salvation.

              “I’m just saying, along with the majority of contributors to this site, that our depravity doesn’t render us unable to respond to God. That’s where you and I disagree.”

              Actually we do not disagree (we agree that depravity does not render us incapable of responding to the Spirit, specifically his preconversion work), as stated above I reject number (2) I affirm (1). I think you are confused about what we disagree on.

              Robert

                phillip

                Brother Robert,

                I wrote… “No hearing = no believing (Romans 10:17). But it has absolutely nothing to do with overcoming our depravity.”

                To which you responded….

                “Actually it does….our depravity is what makes it impossible to come to Christ on our own. With the Spirit’s help however, anyone can come to Christ.”

                I want to make sure that I am understanding what you are saying. So the Holy Spirit’s pre-conversion work removes the depravity and allows the sinner to make a free will response to the gospel?

                In other words…

                Is the sinner no longer depraved when he makes a decision for Christ?

                  Robert

                  John 6:44 says that unless a person is drawn they cannot come to Christ with a faith response. Other scripture tells us that faith comes by hearing the word. So the Spirit uses the Word to lead a person to Christ for salvation. If the Spirit does not do this work the person will not come to Christ. Conclusion = we cannot come to Christ on our own apart from the preconversion work of the Spirit.

                  “I want to make sure that I am understanding what you are saying. So the Holy Spirit’s pre-conversion work removes the depravity and allows the sinner to make a free will response to the gospel?”

                  This question misunderstands the concept of depravity. Depravity refers to the effects of sin on human persons. Sin has effected every aspect of our being including our minds, bodies, souls, everything (hence it is “total” meaning it effects all aspects of human persons without exception).

                  One of the effects of depravity is that we become rebellious to God, we want to “do our own thing”, live our own way, be independent of everyone including God. The Spirit enables a faith response to the gospel that we cannot do apart from the Spirit working in us.

                  But this preconversion work of the Spirit does not eliminate all effects of depravity.

                  As believers we still live in a sin infested world, and sin still impacts us including leading to our eventual physical death unless the Lord returns first. We are in a broken world, a world broken by sin and its effects (this is why Paul speaks of even the creation groaning and waiting for the redemption of the world). Bob Dylan wrote a great song called “Everything is Broken” and theologically he is right, everything is broken by sin and its effects. We are never completely free of depravity even as believers.

                  Think of it as sin is like a giant dust cloud that has covered the whole earth and every place that human persons live. So no matter where we are we have all been tainted by this dust cloud. The Spirit works in this broken sin infested world to bring us to Christ, but he does not completely remove the dust cloud, we are all touched by it. So to ask a question that implies that the Spirit completely removes the effects of sin when we become believers does not make sense.

                  “In other words…
                  Is the sinner no longer depraved when he makes a decision for Christ?”

                  Staying with my analogy, when the sinner is enabled to have a faith response by the work of the Spirit and they then make a decision for Christ: are they removed from this world and no longer effected by the dust cloud and the dust that is everywhere??? Does it mean that believers will no longer die physically, get sick, feel pain, etc. etc.

                  No, believers are tainted by sin, effected by sin, we will die physically because of sin just like everybody else. We are tainted by sin like everybody else. We struggle with the sin nature that wants to us to live independent of God just like everybody else.

                  Personally, I am with the creation on this, eagerly awaiting the revelation of the sons of God and the redemption of the whole earth (cf. Romans 8:18-23), the new heaven and new earth where the dust cloud is completely gone and there is no more dust or its effects!!!

                  Robert

                    phillip

                    Robert,

                    You said…. “But this preconversion work of the Spirit does not eliminate all effects of depravity.”

                    So are you saying this preconversion work of the Spirit at least partially eliminates the effects of depravity?

                    In other words, the sinner is no longer totally depraved when he makes a decision for Christ?

                    I just want to make sure I understand where you are coming from.

Sean Paton

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

Sure seems like the BF&M puts regeneration logically before faith and repentance. Any thoughts?

rhutchin

Rick Patrick writes, “The notion that God so comes upon the elect that they irresistibly do something that the non-elect cannot and will not do simply destroys any meaningful concept of free will. I have to quibble with the use of the term “compatibilism” in describing the Calvinist notion of free will.”

I think you can safety ignore compatibilism. I don’t see that it adds anything to the discussion.

Calvinism says that people are Totally Depraved; thus they have a will but it is not free (per Luther’s Bondage of the Will). The wills of depraved people are held captive by their sinful natures and always reject the gospel.

It is when God conveys to His elect a “free” will (without their prior knowledge and in an irresistible action) that they are then able to embrace the gospel freely, and they do do readily. I don’t see that this destroys the concept of free will since it makes free will possible. The Pelagians get upset over this because they want people to have a free will without God’s help and then to be able to decide independent of God’s influence whether to embrace the gospel.

Robert

“You said…. “But this preconversion work of the Spirit does not eliminate all effects of depravity.”
So are you saying this preconversion work of the Spirit at least partially eliminates the effects of depravity?”

It has to, if we only went the trajectory that sin leads us then none of us would ever repent and none of us would ever be saved. The repentance that God demands is to repent of a lifestyle of sin (characterized as being a “slave of sin”). If you want another analogy than the dust analogy for sin and its effects: imagine sin as an active force in the world like gravity that is everywhere present, a force that is trying to destroy everything in its path no matter who they are. As long as you are in that environment where this force is present you will be effected by it. Sin and its effects are pervasive and universal, all of us and every part of us is effected by sin (hence the term TOTAL depravity).

“In other words, the sinner is no longer totally depraved when he makes a decision for Christ?”

Sin effects *****every aspect****** of our being as human beings, every area is effected hence theologians term it “total” depravity as opposed to say “partial depravity.”

Depravity is about the EXTENT of sin (total, effecting everything, everyone, it is all marred by sin, tainted by sin, covered with the dust of sin) and its effects (spiritual death, physical death, rebellion against God, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.).

When the sinner makes the decision to believe he/she still finds themselves in this world where the dust of sin is everywhere. We do not become believers and then are completely immune from the effects of sin, completely separated from sin and its effects and presence. This will only happen in the eternal state where there will be no more sin and its effects/no more dust. We are affected by sin as nonbelievers, we are effected by sin as believers, the only time we will not be effected by sin is in the eternal state. So total depravity (i.e. the extent of sin and its effects messing up every aspect of human beings wherever people are) is a reality for us until the eternal state.

Francis Schaeffer used to speak of “substantial healing” and by this term he meant that as believers we are in the process of being healed from the effects of sin. But this healing is never complete in this life as in this life we are still dealing with the presence of sin and its effects.
Full healing from sin will only occur when our bodies are transformed and we find ourselves in the eternal state.

“I just want to make sure I understand where you are coming from.”

Yea, Right.

Robert

    phillip

    Robert,

    I asked… “So are you saying this pre-conversion work of the Spirit at least partially eliminates the effects of depravity?”

    To which you responded…

    “It has to……”

    So you are saying that depravity prohibits us from coming to faith in Christ. This pre-conversion work of the Spirit must entail the diminishing (at least to some degree) of the depraved nature otherwise the sinner cannot, and will not, come to faith in Christ and continue to rebel against God. So the sinner is “less depraved” after this pre-conversion work of the Holy Spirit then he was prior to this pre-conversion work.

    And it is while the sinner is in this “less depraved” state that he is enabled by the Spirit to respond favorably to the gospel.

    Would this be accurate?

      Robert

      Sometimes when there is a discussion things get confusing because people are operating from different definitions or conceptions of the same words. So let’s define terms here.

      I define total depravity as the reality that sin has affected every aspect of human persons (their minds, bodies, souls, hearts, cultures, philosophies, etc.). Since it has affected every area without exception it is “total”. This is the standard meaning of the term “total depravity.”

      Phillip do you believe that sin has affected every aspect of human persons?

      If you do, then you believe in “total depravity” as it is normally defined and understood.

      It seems to me that perhaps you are defining total depravity differently than it is defined in standard usage among theologians. If you are operating by your own definition that may explain why we are disagreeing and why you don’t seem to understand what I am saying.

      So what is **your** definition of “total depravity?

      I shared mine above, so what is your definition of the term?

      Now where I think the disagreement may come in, is not that we disagree that sin has affected every aspect of human persons (I think we agree on that and would be very surprised if you deny this): rather, the disagreement is in regards to the **consequences of total depravity**. I believe one of the consequences is that people cannot come to the Lord and have a faith response **on their own** (and I would define “on their own” further as apart from the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit).

      Do you believe that people can come to Christ on their own without the work of the Spirit?

      By the way, I came to my conclusions about “total depravity” based upon scripture first, not because I was a Calvinist or an Arminian. Scripture presents that sin has affected our minds (Romans 1 where the nonbeliever exchanges the truth for a lie), our bodies (we will die physically), our hearts (e.g. the heart is deceitful . . .). So there is no part of human persons that is immune from being affected by sin. Scripture also teaches that unless we are drawn (John 6:44) we cannot come to faith in Christ. Scripture presents faith as being developed by the hearing of God’s Word (so if people do not hear preaching/witnessing how is their faith going to develop). Scripture also presents the condition of the nonbeliever as being hopeless (again see Ephesians 2). So you don’t have to be Calvinist or Arminian to believe that the extent of sin is that it has impacted every aspect of human persons (hence “total” depravity) or that a nonbeliever cannot come to Christ without the preconversion work of the Spirit (the Spirit uses the preaching/witnessing of the word to reveal things to the nonbelievers so that they can have a faith response to the gospel).

      All of these things were believed by the early church and before the Reformation period: so they are no inventions of Calvinists or Arminians. Of course I believe that Calvinists go too far with total depravity and its consequences and they have a conception of it which goes beyond the scripture (e.g. that the nonbeliever cannot understand spiritual things unless regenerated first, that the nonbeliever must be regenerated first in order to have a faith response to the gospel, that the nonbeliever is like a physically dead corpse oblivious to everything, etc.). Arminians do not make these same mistakes as the Calvinists do, and yet I held to these scriptural realities before I knew what a Calvinist or Arminian was.

      Robert

        phillip

        Robert,

        I think we are regressing here, but to restate my position…

        I believe man, because of his sin nature, is depraved and cannot earn his right standing before God. We cannot keep the righteous requirements that God demands. Therefore we all fall short of the glory of God.

        However, even in our depraved state, we can respond (favorably) to God the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son Jesus Christ. We can listen. We can learn. And we can believe the gospel once equipped with the word of God. But, this does not mean our depravity has been removed/diminished/suppressed/overcomed. Man can believe the gospel on his own, while completely in a depraved state, but only after the seed has been planted in our hearts.

        My simple analogy is like this. Can a child believe in Santa Claus if he or she has never heard of Santa Claus? Well….of course not. It doesn’t mean they lack the ability to believe. They can do that. They just can’t believe in whom they have never heard of. So it is with the gospel of Christ. Once the sinner hears the word they are then enabled to believe. But this enabling does not remove/diminish/suppress/overcome our depravity.

        So when Rick wrote….

        “Our depravity DOES NOT render us with the inability to respond to God’s Holy Spirit, believe in the gospel…..”

        I can give a simple “amen”. No need to add anything or clarify.

        For the Calvinist and Arminian this issue of Total Depravity/Total Inability must be addressed first. If not the lost sinner can never come to faith. For the Calvinist, the issue of depravity is resolved via regeneration. They are granted a new nature to believe (which I know you reject as well). However, you seem to agree with the Calvinist that the depraved nature must be addressed as well, at least in part. So you seem to be saying the depraved nature is removed/diminished/ suppressed. At least that’s how I translated that when I asked….

        “So are you saying this pre-conversion work of the Spirit at least partially eliminates the effects of depravity?”

        To which you responded….

        “It has to……..”

        I then stated…..

        “So the sinner is ‘less depraved’ after this pre-conversion work of the Holy Spirit then he was prior to this pre-conversion work. And it is while the sinner is in this ‘less depraved’ state that he is enabled by the Spirit to respond favorably to the gospel.”

        Again, would this be accurate?

          Robert

          Phillip you said that people are “depraved” in your frirst lines in your post:
          so what is ***your*** definition of “total depraviity”????

          Robert

            phillip

            Brother Robert,

            I reject Total Depravity/Total Inability. That should be clear from my definition above. Man is depraved, but he can believe once equipped with the word of God. However, to be clear, man’s depravity does not prevent him from believing or responding to God.

            Again, please elaborate on this “less deprave state”.

              Robert

              I said earlier that in a debate the terms need to be defined or unnecessary confusion will result. Especially if two different people are operating on two different definitions for the same word. With this in mind I have asked you now multiple times for YOUR definition of “total depravity”. You use the term depravity, but how do you define the term “total depravity”. If you refuse to present your definition this indicates dishonesty and playing games on your part. Now I don’t play games and I don’t think you want to either. So what is your definition of “total depravity”? This is not an unreasonable request at all. You say you deny total depravity and reject it, so what do you mean by this term????

              Robert

phillip

Brother Robert,

I don’t have my own definition for total depravity. How can I have “my” definition to total depravity if I don’t hold the term? I only know what I read.

However, here is a sample of Total Depravity defined on-line…..

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

If total depravity entails “unable to choose to follow God” and unable to “accept the gift of salvation” then I reject it. The bible is full of examples of depraved men who chose to follow God and accepted the gift of salvation.

You said…. “Now I don’t play games…..”

Good. So I want to add two questions to the discussion so we both know where we stand.

Are you an Arminian?

Are you a member of the Society for Evangelical Arminians?

And my original question still stands….

Please elaborate on this “less depraved state”.

    Robert

    I am a bit surprised by your latest response:

    “I don’t have my own definition for total depravity. How can I have “my” definition to total depravity if I don’t hold the term? I only know what I read.”

    How can you intelligently and rationally reject something if you don’t even know what it is??????????????

    If you know what it is then you can define it. But NOW according to your latest words you don’t even have a definition of that which you reject.
    I used to work with the late Walter Martin in counter cult ministry and it was critical to get the cultists to define what they meant by terms because they used the same terms as believers do but with very different meanings. You cannot even disagree about something if there is not common agreement about what the term of disagreement means!

    Regarding you “only knowing what you read”, different people have different definitions of things. Has it even occurred to you that different people may be defining things differently?

    If you are going to reject something you have to know and understand what you reject. If you can’t even define it, then you are not intelligently or rationally rejecting something. You may even reject something out of ignorance or misunderstanding that you actually accept! For example Catholics define grace one way and others define it differently. If you say you reject the Catholic conception/definition of grace you at least need to be able to define it.

    “However, here is a sample of Total Depravity defined on-line…..
    “Total depravity (also called radical corruption, or pervasive depravity), is a theological doctrine derived from the Augustinian concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God, refrain from evil, or accept the gift of salvation as it is offered.”
    If total depravity entails “unable to choose to follow God” and unable to “accept the gift of salvation” then I reject it.”

    This demonstrates how not defining terms leads to misunderstanding and problems.

    From this definition we would need to know what they mean by “radical corruption, or pervasive depravity” (usually this refers to the extent of depravity that it has effected all aspects of human persons, I agree with this) what they mean by “original sin” (does that mean that due to the fall in the garden we all have a sin nature as a consequence, I would agree, does it mean that due to the fall in the garden we all inherit the guilt for Adam’s sin, then I disagree) and what does “apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God” mean (if it means “efficacious grace” that is probably the Calvinist concept of irresistible grace a concept that I reject, if it means “prevenient grace of God” and that means that the grace of God shown in the preconversion work of the Spirit in nonbelievers then I agree this grace is necessary but I also believe it can be resisted) and even in this phrase how is grace itself being defined?

    You then state your response to this statement is “If total depravity entails “unable to choose to follow God” and unable to “accept the gift of salvation” then I reject it.”

    And I would say that the nonbeliever apart from the preconversion work of the Spirit is unable to have a faith response to the gospel because it is this preconversion work of the Spirit that enables a faith response.

    And we have been through this already, is the nonbeliever unable to have faith on their own (apart from the work of the Spirit) then I would say Yes. If you mean are they unable to have faith when the Spirit has revealed things to them and worked in them then I would say No, with the Spirit’s work comes ability to believe.

    “Are you an Arminian?”

    I am not going to answer this question unless you define what you mean by an “Arminian.”

    I know some who define “Arminians” as anyone who is not Calvinist. By that definition, then I guess I am an Arminian as are you.

    Others define “Arminians” as those who deny eternal security, claiming that Arminians believe that you can lose your salvation. I don’t deny eternal security I do not believe that a genuine believer can lose their salvation. So by that definition I am not an Arminian.

    Again it all depends upon how you define the term. I believe that I fit what many people refer to as “Arminians”, but again it depends upon whose definition you are working according to.

    If you want to define Arminians by their acceptance or rejection of the petals of TULIP. I believe in total depravity but disagree with Calvinistic conceptions of it. I reject unconditional election (the Bible properly interpreted does not present unconditional election either to salvation or damnation). I reject limited atonement (as scripture says Jesus died for the whole world). I reject Irresistible grace (the grace of God can and is resisted). Regarding Perseverance of the saints (I may not agree with the way Calvinists describe the term but if you mean the concept that a genuine believer cannot lose their salvation then I agree with the Calvinists on this).

    We have to be just as cautious with labels as we are with definitions because again different people define labels differently as well. That is again why it is critical to define the terms you are using (whether it is a label or a theological term). I think a lot of completely unnecessary confusion and frustration is caused when people do not define their terms.

    Robert

      phillip

      Robert,

      What I simply mean is that I don’t have “my own” interpretation of total depravity. I never even heard of the term until I came across and studied Calvinism (TULIP). And from what I have studied, both Calvinists and Arminians hold to the Augustinian teaching of Total Depravity/Total Inability. Jacob Arminius was just as Calvinistic as Calvin was when it came to TD/TI. The only difference being in the solution.

      Remember, it was both Calvinists and Arminians who cried out “Semi-Pelagianism!” against Traditionalists who signed and confirmed the Baptist Statement of Faith back in 2012.

      Again, I don’t have my own definition of TD/TI. But I do understand it from the Calvinistic teaching of it. I just reject it.

      I asked you “Are you an Arminian?”

      To which you responded….

      “I am not going to answer this question unless you define what you mean by an ‘Arminian’.”

      Okay. I’ll keep this real simple.

      Are you a member of the Society for Evangelical Arminians?

      That said, my rejection of TD/TI is irrelevant to the discussion. However, I asked you if “this pre-conversion work of the Holy Spirit at least partially eliminates the effects of depravity” and you said…

      “It has to….”

      Again, please elaborate on this “less depraved state”.

      Please.

      God bless.

        Robert

        “Remember, it was both Calvinists and Arminians who cried out “Semi-Pelagianism!” against Traditionalists who signed and confirmed the Baptist Statement of Faith back in 2012.”

        This statement is not accurate Phillip. Actually it was not “Arminians” plural it was one prominent “Arminian”, Roger Olson, on his blog. When he made this claim I responded on Roger Olson’s blog when he made this claim defending SBC Traditionalists against the charge of semi-Pelagianism with:

        [[Hello Roger,
        I had not yet responded because I wanted to wait for a clear response from one of the signers of the document first. I predicted for sure that the calvinist/determinist/fatalists would be up in arms about the statement and attempt to use it to discredit the signers as Semi-Pelagain/Pelagian (as that is one of their stock and intentional misrepresentations of others, an irresponsible and false charge they seem to revel in, also a common rhetorical ploy by determinists against any who would oppose their false theology, a perfect example of this mentality being R. C. Sproul). My prediction has been well confirmed if one peruses the internet.
        Here is a very good and clear statement (that I wanted everyone to see) by one of the signers responding to the criticism of Albert Mohler a well known theological determinist. You will note in this response that Hankins makes it very clear they are not Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians of any form:
        [[A Response to Dr. Al Mohler
        Regarding “A Statement of the Traditional Baptist
        Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation”
        By Dr. Eric Hankins, Pastor of the
        First Baptist Church in Oxford, Mississippi [[ followed by Hankins’ words which I will not cite here]]

        Roger Olson replied:

        “rogereolson Robert • 2 years ago
        Semi-Pelagianism may be very far from the writers’ and signers’ intentions, but the statement is clearly semi-Pelagian in wording and needs amendment.”

        Note he admitted that semi-Pelagianism may not have been intended and he thought that the statement needed to be reworded and changed.

        Hankins made it absolutely clear that Traditionalists are not semi-Pelagians which is why I cited him so all on Olson’s blog could see the words for themselves. I was actively defending SBC Traditionalists against the charge (and ironically you are saying I am “Arminian” and that “Arminians” plural were attacking SBC Traditionalists as semi-Pelagian!!!).

        So while one “Arminian” may have suggested this (i.e. Roger Olson) Olson does not represent other “Arminians” on this.
        And regarding “Arminians” you wrote:

        [[“I asked you “Are you an Arminian?”
        To which you responded….
        “I am not going to answer this question unless you define what you mean by an ‘Arminian’.”
        Okay. I’ll keep this real simple.”]]

        I will keep it even more simple, I will not discuss terms with you unless we are operating by the same definition and understanding of a term being discussed:

        So what is your definition of “Arminian”?

        Provide your definition of “Arminian” and then I will see if I fit that definition.

        Robert

          phillip

          Robert,

          Apparently it is best we just move on. Your tone, attitude, and language has become less and less edifying.

          I have asked you multiple times now, one more than the other, two simple questions which, for reasons only known you to, you refuse to answer.

          Are you a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians?

          Now how simple is that? You either are, or are not. And any definitions would be pointless.

          And more important, please elaborate in more detail on this “less depraved state”.

          These questions will continue to be there when you are ready to respond. Again, no hard feelings.

          God bless, brother.

            Robert

            I have been absolutely crystal clear about the need for defining terms so that we are talking about the same things when we discuss a particular term. Thus your statement that “I have asked you multiple times now, one more than the other, two simple questions which, for reasons only known you to, you refuse to answer.” Is both inaccurate and disingenuous. I have asked multiple times for you to clarify what you mean by “total depravity” and “Arminian”: and yet you keep avoiding these simple questions. I ask these questions not to play games or to hide something but to make for a clear discussion. And yet you refuse to answer these questions and keep asking your own questions instead. No use going further if we cannot agree to or use the same terms with the same meanings. This indicates that you are really not into a rational discussion, you just want to argue your points. If you were, you would have defined the terms so that we can make sure we are not talking past each other by using the same terms differently. I said it before and say it again, if different people are using the same terms but with different meanings then rational discussion will not occur. Instead there will be confusion as people talk with the same words but with different meanings. In my past experience it was non-Christian cultists who engaged in this and often refused to define terms, they knew exactly what they were doing. It is sad that a person who professes to be a Christian cannot simply define their terms to enhance a discussion.

            Robert

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