A Reply to Dr. Mohler

June 8, 2012

Adam Harwood, PhD
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies
Truett-McConnell College
Cleveland, Georgia


Dr. Mohler,

I am thankful for you and find myself in agreement with most of your comments in your June 6 article entitled, “Southern Baptists and Salvation: It’s Time to Talk.” The impact of your service to the Lord and leadership in theological and cultural conversations is immeasurable. Your words carry significant weight both inside and outside of our convention. It is precisely because of the influence which God has granted you that I offer a preliminary reply to your comments regarding the newly-released document, “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.” Although I am grateful that you chose to engage in the public discussion of this important issue, I offer for your consideration my observation that certain comments in your post prompt a variety of concerns among fellow brothers and sisters in Christ who have signed, or might sign, the statement in question. May I share with you three specific concerns? Full disclosure: I signed the statement.

The first area of concern regards your comment that some statements appear to affirm semi-Pelagianism. You write,

“Some portions of the statement actually go beyond Arminianism and appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of sin, human nature, and the human will — understandings that virtually all Southern Baptists have denied.”

The charge of semi-Pelagian is a serious indictment. In fairness to you, your statement falls short of a charge. Your position seems to be that some portions “appear” to affirm the view. Even so, words fail me in describing the far-reaching implications if such a charge were actually sustained. If this charge were true, then the implications would be as follows: A heterodox doctrinal statement has been affirmed by sitting seminary presidents, former SBC presidents, and hundreds of other Southern Baptist pastors, professors, and denominational leaders. I don’t mean to claim that churches in our convention should learn to simply count votes to settle doctrinal differences. But surely those votes should be weighed.

Orthodox doctrinal statements rightly emerge as the result of careful study of the biblical text which is informed by a keen awareness of church history as well as the theological and practical implications of all the statement’s claims. But if the charge that you have leveled proves to be true, then the list of signatories on this statement should cause every Southern Baptist to consider this question: When and how did all of these leaders within our beloved convention begin to adopt semi-Pelagianism? Further, is semi-Pelagianism the only heresy by which they have been deceived? If the charge of semi-Pelagianism is eventually sustained, then is it possible to overstate the seriousness of the ramifications for our entire convention? These questions, and several others, arise if this charge is actually sustained.

To be clear, Semi-Pelagianism is a charge that has not been sustained and it is a charge I flatly reject. The label was first applied by a small band of bloggers, some of whom are Southern Baptists but others who are not. In one conversation in the comment section of a blog, I engaged a charge of semi-Pelagianism. The charge was based upon a particular line in Article 2 of the statement. In defending that line, I explained that it was a phrase lifted from Article 3 of the BFM 2000 in order to guard against that very charge. Ironically, the line in question was affirmed twelve years ago by the BFM study committee on which you served. I don’t mean to imply that either you or Article 3 of the BFM 2000 appeared to affirm semi-Pelagianism. I tell that story to illustrate how some people have confused what the statement affirms and denies about our inheritance from Adam. The statement rejects imputed guilt. This particular claim, as you well know, is allowed (but not required) by Article 3 the BFM 2000. What the statement affirms, employing the words of the BFM, is that all people inherit “a nature and an environment inclined toward sin.”

That conversation came to a friendly conclusion when the commenter acknowledged that he was not a Southern Baptist and he had never read the Baptist Faith and Message. I don’t mean to imply that all who have concerns about the statement are unfamiliar with the BFM. All serious concerns should be carefully considered. And I don’t begrudge people expressing their opinion on the internet. But it has complicated matters that some Calvinistic brothers and sisters outside the SBC are already inserting themselves into a discussion which has barely commenced among the family we call Southern Baptists. The charge of semi-Pelagianism made by some Calvinist-leaning, non-Southern Baptist blogs should eventually be addressed, but is not my immediate concern. When you, however, mentioned this possibility in your blog post, I knew that attention must be paid. It is your reply which has prompted mine.

The first concern raised by your article is this: Your assertion, Dr. Mohler, fails to cite any actual evidence, such as a particular theological claim or a direct quotation from the statement in question. I have been an avid reader of your books and articles for years. Typically, your articles are punctuated by direct quotations which drive home the point of your essay. But this article, when asserting semi-Pelagianism, provided no such quotation. This causes me to wonder if it would have been more prudent for you to have gathered such evidence in order to present it at the time you leveled this weighty theological indictment of fellow Southern Baptist leaders.

The second area of concern relates to the first. This concern centers on a qualifying statement which was surely intended to soften the blow of your theological indictment. Instead, it probably had the opposite effect. In referring to the signers you know and love, you write, “I do not believe that those most problematic statements truly reflect the beliefs of many who signed this document.” Here is my concern: Although unintended, such a claim will likely engender the irritation of many of the signatories which you attempted to console. How so? Some readers of your post may draw the implication that you are claiming to know better than the signers the parameters of their own theological commitments. In other words, those signers either failed to read what they signed or they read it but failed to understand the implications of the doctrinal statement to which they attached their both name and their reputation.

Unfortunately, another comment affirming the signers for being “doctrinally careful and theologically discerning” may have worked against your good intentions. In what way? You close the paragraph by extending to the signers the following invitation: “We should be honored by the privilege of a serious theological conversation with one another, and we will all speak more carefully when we are respectfully questioned by those with whom we disagree.” Because you repeated the admonition that the doctrinal discussion within the SBC should proceed “more carefully,” the impression remains that the theological conversation until now has been neither serious nor careful. But I am confident that was not your intended message to the hundreds of Southern Baptist pastors who have already affixed their names to the statement in question.

The third area of concern relates to your comments about “theological tribalism.” I am in agreement with the direction of your comments. They are well stated. As an example, you write, “We must all repent of the sin of building a tribe when we are called to serve the Kingdom of Christ.” You explain that Gospel work must not be hindered by tribalism and that both sides in this discussion have been guilty of the sin of tribalism. I agree completely.

What, then, could be my concern about your tribalism comments? My concern is that you seem to establish your case for unity by appealing to “our confession of faith,” the Baptist Faith and Message. I affirm every word of the BFM 2000. Nevertheless, our convention faces this structural anomaly: Although we have an outstanding document in the BFM 2000, our own seminaries (and many of our churches) affirm additional doctrinal statements. I affirm your declaration, “Every Southern Baptist is free to believe more than the confession affirms, but never less.” But a seminary is not a Southern Baptist.

It is because of these doctrinal statements beyond the BFM, such as the Abstract of Principles, that Southern Baptists are tempted to engage in theological tribalism. I’m not denying the document’s significance for our Southern Baptist history and heritage. But the Abstract of Principles, rightly cherished as a founding document, nevertheless goes beyond the carefully-drawn boundaries of the BFM 2000. Because of the autonomy of the local church under the Lordship of Christ, we don’t tell churches which doctrinal statements to affirm. But a seminary is not a church.

Dr. Mohler, you were able to affirm the BFM 2000. Having served on the study committee, you oversaw its very adoption by our convention. Yet you find yourself unable to sign this new statement. The statement was drafted as an effort to articulate a Southern Baptist doctrine of salvation which is distinctly not Calvinistic. Your inability to sign the statement is understandable because it describes the parameters of a doctrine of salvation which rejects certain theological tenets affirmed by our “more Calvinistic Southern Baptists.” You are at home in that rich, evangelistic theological tradition among Southern Baptists, but others are at home among the other tradition. The descriptor “Traditional Southern Baptist” has not been well received. Although I sympathize with the objections, a better name has not presented itself. I join you in rejecting theological tribalism while affirming both Southern Baptist theological traditions.

The new statement has already resonated with the other tradition in the SBC. While you find yourself unable to sign it, this is not the case for some other members of the BFM 2000 study committee. How so? As you note, “Every Southern Baptist is free to believe more than the confession affirms, but never less.”

If that is the case, then problems arise for this new statement only if it affirms something less than the BFM 2000. I hope that Southern Baptists will heed your admonition to “carefully” examine whether or not this is the case. If a charge of semi-Pelagianism can be sustained, then the statement should be rejected and the theological acumen of all its signers should remain in doubt. But if the charge of semi-Pelagianism is not sustained, then any claims to the contrary will rightly be dismissed as wrong-headed and divisive. Thank you for suggesting such a conversation.

In Him,

Adam Harwood

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Ron Hale

John Carpenter,
Since you are not a Southern Baptist and lead the Covenant Reformed Baptist Church … Don’t you think your 100’s of false charges and comments over the last two days are way over the top? Are you being paid to be an Attack Dog?

Great piece of writing Dr. Harwood. Thank you for your work.

    Leslie Puryear

    Carpenter does have an agenda beyond the best interests of the SBC because he is not SBC. Thus he has no credibility here.

mary

Do they ever ban anybody here? I know it’s great to allow comments that prove exactly why this statement was needed and that what the preamble states about Calvinists is absolutely true. But is there a point where it’s just too much?

    Mary

    Can I just point out that there were some comments preceding my comment so my comment was not the first comment in the stream. Those comments were deleted. My comment looks a little strange as a first comment, but it wasn’t actually first. It could be removed since I got an answer to my question.

Don Arndt

Dr. Harwood,

It appears to me that Dr. Mohler very carefully wrote. He did not call anyone a Semi-Pelagian. You have a Phd. You have written pages and pages of text. Your understanding of the English language is no doubt vast.

He said the words in question “appear to affirm semi-Pelagian understandings of . . . ”

He did not call anyone a heretic, indeed Dr. Mohler is just pointing out that the article in question is not entirely clear. He doesn’t think the writers are Semi-Pelagian, rather that they are unclear.

With so many people of differing theological persuasions raising questions about this particular article, is it possible for someone who wrote it to realize that it could have been clearer.

This “traditional” statement is not Scripture. Is it possible it needs to be revised to remove ambiguity? Is it possible? Or was so much work and scholarly effort put into it, that it is unassailable?

    Thomas Fortner

    Thanks for your note, Don. I thought that Article II in particular was poorly worded and needed rework before Dr. Mohler said so. No one is accusing anyone of any form of Pelagianism (except maybe Roger Olsen), only of lack of clarity in seeking to be concise. It is critical that we define our understanding of the Gospel clearly because it is the reason we join together into a convention.

    Serving the Savior,

    Thomas Fortner
    Burleson, Texas

darryl brunson

Dr. Mohler has long been a hero of mine, but some of his comments over the last couple of years have disturbed me. Thank you Dr. Harwood, for another call for clarity from Dr. Mohler.

Darryl Hill

Here we go again. We do not find here an article EXPLAINING why the statement isn’t semi-pelagian. Instead, we get an article that states, “Do you know what it means if what you say is true?” and “Look at the credentials of these men who signed this.”

Pardon me my friends, but that is not an answer. Read the statement again. Article 2 does “appear” to read as semi-pelagianism. I do not know the intent of the writers or the signers. Honestly, I do not care what they do, how many degrees they have obtained, or what positions they’ve held. The fear of man is a snare my friends.

Someone posted in the comments thread of one of these articles yesterday the actual canons of Orange, which state very plainly what they were denouncing when they declared semi-pelagianism a heresy, and it is clear. They would denounce article 2 as written according to the standard they outlined in articles 3 through 6. I will post them here to be clear.

These were originally posted by Ben Simpson and no person ever responded to them. Here they are again.

Canon 3 – If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God, he contradicts the prophet Isaiah, or the Apostle who says the same thing, “I have been found by those who did not seek me; I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me” (Rom 10:20, quoting Isa. 65:1).

Canon 4 – If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit, he resists the Holy Spirit himself who says through Solomon, “The will is prepared by the Lord” (Prov. 8:35, LXX), and the salutary word of the Apostle, “For God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13).

Canon 5 – If anyone says that not only the increase of faith but also its beginning and the very desire for faith, by which we believe in Him who justifies the ungodly and comes to the regeneration of holy baptism — if anyone says that this belongs to us by nature and not by a gift of grace, that is, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit amending our will and turning it from unbelief to faith and from godlessness to godliness, it is proof that he is opposed to the teaching of the Apostles, for blessed Paul says, “And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). And again, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). For those who state that the faith by which we believe in God is natural make all who are separated from the Church of Christ by definition in some measure believers.

Canon 6 – If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

Now, with those in mind, read again article 2…

Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man

We affirm that, because of the fall of Adam, every person inherits a nature and environment inclined toward sin and that every person who is capable of moral action will sin. Each person’s sin alone brings the wrath of a holy God, broken fellowship with Him, ever-worsening selfishness and destructiveness, death, and condemnation to an eternity in hell.

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

Genesis 3:15-24; 6:5; Deuteronomy 1:39; Isaiah 6:5, 7:15-16;53:6; Jeremiah 17:5,9, 31:29-30; Ezekiel 18:19-20; Romans 1:18-32; 3:9-18, 5:12, 6:23; 7:9; Matthew 7:21-23; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; 6:9-10;15:22; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Hebrews 9:27-28; Revelation 20:11-15

Now, if anyone here really believes that article 2 doesn’t at the least “appear” to be advocating a semi-pelagian view and can honestly back it up logically, I think everyone here would drop it. But the fact is, whether intentionally or unintentionally (and I prefer UNintentionally) article 2 is semi-pelagian.

My opinion is that in their zeal to separate from “New Calvinism” they let their guard down on article 2.

    Alan Davis

    Brother Darryl,

    We must learn at this point the supporters, writers, and signers of this document will never address the very words written that is giving great concern with SP. Every response has been “well that wasn’t the intention, here is what we meant to say”, or they will respond by acting like we have slapped their grandma, “how dare you theological peons questioning these great men”, or the third response will be just a dismissive flip of the hand. Last I looked God doesn’t hold any man with respect and the clanging of their “priestly robes” to make their theological point only impresses little boys. Who says SBC isn’t a system of religious hierarchicy? Here is flaming proof it is.

Tim Rogers

Darryl,

Against my better judgement, as I have been one to express that we do not need address the tar baby known as “semi-Pelagian”, I cannot help but bite.

“Article 2 does “appear” to read as semi-pelagianism.”

Exactly what do you see that “appears” to read as semi-pelagianism”?

    Darryl Hill

    Well Tim, primarily, this line…

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

    That is the crux of semi-pelagian thinking. Those who advocated this position did not believe that the fall left Adam’s descendants “dead” in sin, as Paul states or even “blind” as Jesus stated, among others, but that he was merely sick in sin. He needed a doctor, as it were. They denied that the fall affected the will of man in regard to salvation. And that is the implication of this article.

    And I note, the Council of Orange, in article 6, made it plain…
    If anyone says that God has mercy upon us when, apart from his grace, we believe, will, desire, strive, labor, pray, watch, study, seek, ask, or knock, but does not confess that it is by the infusion and inspiration of the Holy Spirit within us that we have the faith, the will, or the strength to do all these things as we ought; or if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor. 4:7), and, “But by the grace of God I am what I am” (1 Cor. 15:10).

    There it is. We can’t make the statement that man’s free will is not incapacitated because of the fall. That is the definition of semipelagianism. Even as Paul says, it is not of him who wills or him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. (Rom 9) It is as John said in John 1:12-13- ” But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

    And this is the topic of our day and the demand of all men. We demand salvation be based on our free will, but even the will to make the final choice (which is real) is made possible by the grace of God, just like the Council of Orange stated. Nothing of salvation finds its origin in man, even if man must repent and believe and even if he remains volitional in making that decision to believe. Still, God’s grace has enabled him, a fallen and sinful man, to choose repentance and submission to a Lord.

      Tim Rogers

      Darryl,

      Sorry we were writing and posting at the same time. I further elaborated on my position in a comment below. However, let me respond briefly to your position.

      We do not affirm an Augustinian view of depravity. That is what the Council of Orange did. We certainly agree with Scripture that Adam’s fall imputed sin into the human race. What we deny is that God holds one guilty for Adam’s sin.

      Also, to say that the “incapacitation of the free will” was the crux of Pelagian is a little, shall we say, over the top. We have never said that man has the ability to seek God in and of himself. We have never denied that the fall did not affect man’s free will. We said it did not “incapacitate” it.

      Part of the problem may be the way you define “dead”. How would you say that you define that?

        James

        Tim,
        I hope you do not mind me joining the discussion with you and Darryl. While I do not think it appropriate to call any of the writers or signers of this statement semi-Pelagian, which I hope would not apply to any of them, I do agree that this second article appears to have a semi-Pelagian view, or at best is not worded well.

        You asked how to define “dead.” Let me ask you the same question, because it is important that we understand what this word means, because that really is what makes the difference between sin “affecting” the will of man or sin “incapacitating” the will of man.

        By “dead” I understand a complete lack of life. I picture someone in a casket who is dead. Because they have lost life they are unable to move, to breathe, to live, to make decisions, to do anything. There is a complete incapacitation of all of their physical, mental, and emotional capabilities. I think when Scripture tells us that we are “dead” in our sins, I believe, at least for myself, that it is logical to conclude that our will and desires have been completely incapacitated in regards to doing anything for the purpose for which we were created, which is to have fellowship with God. We have no love for God, we have no relationship with God, and we do not choose to seek God. It is because we are completely dead. Adam and Eve died the moment they sinned and look at what immediately happened. They hid from God. They wanted nothing to do with God if they could help it. And my understanding of Romans 5 tells me that when through the one man’s sin death came to all because all have sinned. This tells me there is more than just a simple inclination of my will that was created when Adam sinned. This tells me that I was conceived in sin. I was a sinner at the moment of conception, which is also a interpretation of Psalm 51:5.

        Let me say this, I respect many of the men who signed this document even though I might not agree totally with their theological position. I do hope though that they might at least work at clarifying the second article, because whether or not one holds to free will or to predestination, it seems apparent from Scripture that Adam’s sin created more than a simple inclination towards sin, but actually brought sin into the whole human race. And as a result, we are accounted as sinners even before we commit our first physical sin.

        This is all my personal interpretation of Scripture as I seek to continue to learn and I thank you for allowing me to join in this great conversation!

    Tim Rogers

    John,

    So you believe Children who die go to hell? If they are guilty of Adams sin then they do not have a chance of making it to heaven.

      Ben Simpson

      Tim,

      I hate to jump in here but thought that I might defend against your innocence or hell dichotomy. I believe the Bible to teach that all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven not because they are innocent (they have Adam’s guilt and pile on their own) but because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to their physical inability to grasp the glory of God or the gospel, leaving them with an excuse before God. God does the same thing for the mentally handicapped even into adulthood. Due to their physical, cognitive inability, God excuses them by grace and their sin was imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to them.

      Those who hold to the innocence of the children before their moment of accountability and those who hold to the guilt of the children from conception both have the same end in that all children who die before the moment of accountability go to heaven. However, we are saying very different things in our means. I have them going in by God’s grace through Jesus’ sinlessness. You have them going in by their own sinlessness. I say they are guilty sinners, but God mercifully doesn’t hold them accountable because they have an excuse. You say they are innocent. You have a percentage of the multitude one day in heaven who will be there because they earned it, or at least didn’t lose it by actually sinning. I have 100% of the multitude saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain!”

      My position has EVERY person who’ll be in heaven there by grace purchased through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Yours doesn’t.

      Perhaps you’ve already considered a position like mine and rejected it, but I thought I’d give you another option other than innocence or hell.

        Tim Rogers

        Ben,

        this is a double post but I posted in a reply to someone else.

        Ben,

        So is that the Arminian position of Prevenient Grace or is that the heretical position of Universalism?

          Ben Simpson

          Two strikes, Tim. Get three and you’re out.

          Ben Simpson

          Two strikes, Tim. Get three and you’re out.

        Brad Reynolds

        Ben,
        I too hate to jump in but I think we have had this dance before. I actually replied back to you in article two (sinfulness of man). In my opinion infants is the Achilles heel of Calvinism. I ask in point number 5 of my response to you (although I had asked it earlier and have it asked it numerous times – yet to receive an answer) how can God graciously allow guilty sinners (infants in your view) into heaven without repentance and faith? I know Universalists say He can, but Calvinists are not Universalists. To date, no Calvinist has answered that here.

        On another note – let me plug Dr. Harwood’s book “The Spiritual Condition of Infants” – I have lost two children in the womb, the 20 week old, we buried. I knew before reading this book I would see them again but the incredible Scriptural attention given to this subject by Dr. Harwood is not paralleled by any other book and paper I have read on this subject and brought even more comfort!!!

          Ben Simpson

          The SBCtoday server must be melting down from all of these comments. It keeps posting replies in random places. I’m going to post my comment again in hopes that it’ll post rightly.

          Dearest Brad,

          Indeed, we have tangoed over this one, or was it the mambo? I thought that I answered you. In fact, I know I attempted to. Whatever the case may be, I assure you I didn’t dodge you. Given the length of the posts in our exchange, forgive me for not hitting hard enough on something that you thought was major amongst all of the other major stuff I addressed with you. Perhaps you should go a few pay-grades above me for this answer, but let me give it my full attention, and I’ll do my absolute best.

          As I’ve said before, I believe the Bible to teach that all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven not because they are innocent (they have Adam’s guilt and pile on their own) but because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to their physical inability to grasp the glory of God or the gospel, leaving them with an excuse before God. Physical inability is implied as a sufficient excuse to escape the wrath of God our sin deserves in John 9:41 and Romans 1:20.

          Every single person is born with not only a physical inability to grasp the glory of God but also a moral inability to turn from sin to God. However, as a person develops physically, their physical inability is removed and only the moral inability remains. This removal is nothing more than coming to a person’s moment of accountability.

          A person who has both physical inability and moral inability is excused by God but one who has only moral inability is not. It’s for this reason that every person BEFORE their moment of accountability will go to heaven apart from repentance and faith if they should die, and it’s for this reason that every person AFTER their moment of accountability who rejects the glory of God and the gospel in Jesus Christ until they die will go to hell.

          Again, children who die before they reach the moment of accountability had their sins imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to them by God’s mercy and grace. They get into heaven because of the grace of God bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This imputation happens apart from repentance and faith because developmentally they are not able to grasp the glory of God and the gospel which leads to repentance and faith. Repentance and faith are out of their realm of PHYSICAL ability. Therefore, God is merciful to them, and as you well know, God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

          Brad, thank you for pointing me to Dr Harwood’s book. I plan to pick up a copy.

            Brad Reynolds

            Ben, agreed about the server – thus, this repost in hopes it gets to your comment

            Also, please forgive me, you are correct you did answer how a person can be in heaven without repentance or faith (i.e. – natural inability), but I followed up with: If God can just graciously forgive an individual of his personal sin(s) without that individual repenting of his sins and placing his faith in Christ then why doesn’t He just graciously forgive us all? This was what I meant went unanswered.

            You have an additional way (other than repentance and faith) to have someone forgiven of his sins. Namely, God’s choice to graciously do so. Which is the same argument by Universalists, only they do not make the dichotomy between body and spirit you seem to be making.

            This false dichotomy between man’s body (natural inability) and his spirit (moral inability) is not found in Scripture. Sure Paul deals with the flesh and the spirit but when he says flesh he is not speaking of “physical” abilities. He is speaking of the sinful tendencies in man.

            It’s almost as if you have reversed Plato: – spirit is evil (spiritual inability (the non-elect) = hell) but matter is good (physical inability = heaven). Further, if you are correct, and there is such a dichotomy, should not God forgive the physical part of the being but not the spiritual (thereby allowing the body of infants in heaven but not their spirits) – You would probably object and argue this is absurd. Which is true and spotlights the precise problem with the dichotomy.

            My additional concern is it seems you are saying: from the moment of conception until the age of accountability ALL are elect but at the moment of accountability many become non-elect and CANNOT be saved.

            But, you have, far more than any other Calvinist, given a big-league swing at this curve ball. Thank YOU

            PS – Romans 1:20 – no disagreement.

            Concerning John 9:41 I am not convinced that infants is what Jesus has in mind. But even if one applies it in such a way notice He does not say “your sins would be forgiven” but you have “no sin” – thus, if one were to use this passage in reference to what we are discussing it seems one would fall on the side of innocence not guilt for infants.

            Finally, Thank you for picking up Dr. Harwood’s book. It is a GREAT resource on this topic. You can also see his chapel message on this subject: http://www.truett.edu/chapel/fall-2011-chapel/fall-2011-chapel-video-player.html#

              Richard Coords

              Brad,

              You wrote: “My additional concern is it seems you are saying: from the moment of conception until the age of accountability ALL are elect….”

              Logically speaking, yes, that would have to be the implication. (I personally am not a Calvinist, so my understanding of what “the elect” is, is completely different than what a Calvinist would infer it to mean.)

              You wrote: “If God can just graciously forgive an individual of his personal sin(s) without that individual repenting of his sins and placing his faith in Christ then why doesn’t He just graciously forgive us all?”

              In my mind, John 9:41 indicates that the answer is because we knew better. We had light. Sin is imputed where there is the knowledge and understanding of it. Two verses come to mind. Luke 12:47-48 indicates that the imputation of sin and judgment is a measure of the light received. More light, more accountability. Matthew 11:20-24 indicates that the unbelieving Israeli cities would have greater condemnation than the unbelieving foreign cities, based upon the light received. What happens when you factor the light principle into the equation of babies? Logically speaking, I think that it would have to be that there is no imputation of sin to babies, since there is no light, no knowledge, no awareness of sin, whereas speaking of more remote tribes (adults), they actually do have light, since God has placed a conscience within them, and hence, they are without excuse. This is the only way that I can understand it.

    Tim Rogers

    John,

    Also, do I have to agree with an Augustinian view of depravity in order to be accepted as an “Orthodox Christian?”

      Tim Rogers

      John,

      I need to ask if you are a Southern Baptist. Would you answer that for me? Why am I asking? This is a family discussion.

Tim Rogers

Darryl,

IOW, where in Article 2 do we affirm:

If anyone says that the grace of God can be conferred as a result of human prayer, but that it is not grace itself which makes us pray to God

In Article 2 we will never affirm Regeneration prior to salvation which is exactly what Canon 4 affirms:

If anyone maintains that God awaits our will to be cleansed from sin, but does not confess that even our will to be cleansed comes to us through the infusion and working of the Holy Spirit

In article 2 we have no problem clearly stating that we do not affirm the Augustinian view of depravity. Which is exactly what the Council of Orange did. Also, you conveniently left out the conclusion of this council which says;

According to the catholic faith we also believe that after grace has been received through baptism, all baptized persons have the ability and responsibility, if they desire to labor faithfully, to perform with the aid and cooperation of Christ what is of essential importance in regard to the salvation of their soul.

Thus, this council teaches infant baptism is that something you want us to affirm also?

You see, Darryl, to use the council of Orange to charge us with semi-Pelagianism really is not such a firm foundation to base your charges. This council did nothing but lay the foundation for Calvinism which is what we have said all along is not who we are.

    Darryl Hill

    Well Tim, if you do not care what the Council of Orange had to say then why do you care to be labeled semi-pelagian? After all, that council’s determinations of this topic is how that term came to be defined. So, if you disregard their conclusions, why bother being offended by the term “semi-pelagian.” Seems you’d embrace it.

    Darryl Hill

    And by the way, I note you did not deny the charge of semi-pelagianism, you just sought to undermine the council.

    I wonder, Tim, if a church council called the first half century or so after Christ’s death, might have a better grasp on the Apostle’s teachings than a group of believers who have lived and been influenced by one of the most wicked cultures in history?

      Tim Rogers

      Darryl,

      Since you are so insistent on the Council of Orange are you also accepting of infant baptismal regeneration?

        Darryl Hill

        You’re moving the goalposts once again Tim, a logical fallacy. I understand, though, those who defined semipelagian disagree with you. Why not attack them instead of dealing with the charge directly?

        Look Tim, I don’t “think” the men who wrote the article intended to make them semipelagian. I simply believe that in their strong desire to separate themselves from “New Calvinism” (which they poorly defined) and likely in their desire to insert “free will” into the discussion, they made an error. I believe it is unintentional. All they need do is revise it.

        But the truth is, all they’re doing now is having some kind of ego fight. Saving face shouldn’t be more important than making the statement clear.

          Joshua

          “Look Tim, I don’t “think” the men who wrote the article intended to make them semipelagian. I simply believe that in their strong desire to separate themselves from “New Calvinism” (which they poorly defined) and likely in their desire to insert “free will” into the discussion, they made an error. I believe it is unintentional. All they need do is revise it.”

          My thoughts exactly!

Richard Coords

Dr. Hardwood,

Whether something is semi-Pelagian or not, really depends upon one’s perspective. I think that Paige Patterson’s comments on Total Depravity successfully acquits the SBC of the charge, …but not to a Calvinist.

Patterson’s article: http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=33792

In the mind of Calvinists like R.C. Sproul, anything which fails to involve a 1) preemptive, 2) unilateral, 3) irresistible, 4) monergistic impartation of Regeneration is nonetheless, effectively a derivation of Pelagianism. Even so much as depicting God as liberating the depraved sinner (i.e. prevenient grace) so that the depraved sinner may be brought to the point where they may either receive or reject the free gift of God, is nonetheless, by Calvinist definition, still a derivation of Pelagianism. Arminians have been battling against this same charge.

    Darryl Hill

    Unfortunately for Dr Patterson, the Council of Orange agrees with Dr Sproul. Their view of salvation is monergistic, strictly monergistic.

    What’s funny is the misunderstandings surrounding this…
    It doesn’t mean man can be saved apart from repentance and faith.
    It doesn’t mean man doesn’t make a decision to follow Christ.
    It doesn’t mean God drags people, kicking and screaming, to heaven.
    It doesn’t mean God keeps people out who desperately desire repentance and submission to Him.

    The misunderstandings regarding monergism abound.

      Richard Coords

      But it does mean that one must adhere to Irresistible Grace, or else it necessarily falls into the category of “Pelagianism.”

      That’s the key. It must be asked: “Dr. Mohler, how do you define what is, and is not, Semi-Pelagianism? Are you asserting, as with other Calvinists, such as R.C. Sproul, that anything shy of Irresistible Grace, Preemptive New New Birth, Unilateral and Monergistic Regeneration, necessarily relegates one to the general mass of Pelagianism? Yes or No?

        Darryl Hill

        This is why the Baptist Faith and Message should be enough, which states…

        “In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.” (emphasis added)

        There is no need to define these things in their minutia, but here we are, and we are going to disagree. Who stated all this? :-)

          Tim Rogers

          Darryl,

          Same statement with different emphasis:
          “In the beginning man was innocent of sin and was endowed by his Creator with freedom of choice. By his free choice man sinned against God and brought sin into the human race. Through the temptation of Satan man transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original innocence whereby his posterity inherit a nature and an environment inclined toward sin. Therefore, as soon as they are capable of moral action, they become transgressors and are under condemnation. Only the grace of God can bring man into His holy fellowship and enable man to fulfill the creative purpose of God. The sacredness of human personality is evident in that God created man in His own image, and in that Christ died for man; therefore, every person of every race possesses full dignity and is worthy of respect and Christian love.” (emphasis added)

          Darryl Hill

          By the way, I don’t think many people even understand “irresistible grace.” It doesn’t mean that man can’t ever resist the grace of God. We resist God’s grace all the time. It means that His grace will ultimately triumph in the lives of His children, the elect of God. It might better be termed “triumphant grace.”

          There are many misunderstandings surrounding so many of these terms, but people usually become so angry about it and become satisfied with their caricatures of these doctrines, so they continue swinging away at straw men without discovering the meaning of these terms. Remember, TULIP wasn’t even an invention of John Calvin. The Remonstrants stated these things in these terms in distinguishing the items within Calvin’s teachings with which they could not agree.

          Richard Coords

          Darryl,

          That statement affirms the *necessity* of Prevenient Grace. The issue alleged by R.C. Sproul is that such grace is “still Pelagianism” if that grace merely facilitates regeneration and salvation, rather an being the effectual, decisive, monergistic and unilateral decisive difference, without which, there is no explanation for why the liberated sinner would ever choose Christ. Of course, that raises another argument, but that’s where the battle line is drawn, concerning Semi-Pelagianism: Irresistible Grace or bust.

          Richard Coords

          Darryl:

          You wrote: “By the way, I don’t think many people even understand ‘irresistible grace.’”

          It’s this kind of comment that really smacks of elitism and arrogance, as if Calvinists have a monopoly on wisdom.

      Tim Rogers

      Darryl,

      So you are saying that Dr. Patterson is a semi-Pelagiast?

      Richard Coords

      Should anyone wish to cross reference R.C. Sproul’s explanation, see “What is Reformed Theology?”, pp.187-188. Sproul: “What the unregenerate person desperately needs in order to come to faith is regeneration.” (p.188). In Sproul’s mind, anything short of this, and anything which attempts to differentiate one from another, is nonetheless a “distinction without a difference.”

    Stan McCullars

    Where does R.C. Sproul say that? What is the exact quote?

      Richard Coords

      Stan, here are the quotes, and my comments:

      Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, writes: “Semi-Pelagianism salutes the necessity of grace, but under close scrutiny one wonders if the difference between Pelagianism and semi-Pelagianism is a distinction without a difference.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.187)

      The basis for this charge is because *although* God takes the initiative of seeking, convicting, knocking and opening hearts to receive Him, “this step is not decisive, and can be thwarted by the sinner. If the sinner refuses to cooperate with or assent to this proffered grace, then grace is to no avail.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.187, emphasis mine)

      “Not decisive” (i.e. without irresistible grace). So in other words, according to Calvinism, any theology whereby God sovereignly gives a person a genuine opportunity to respond to grace, is still Pelagian, by definition, as long as the offered grace does not conclusively determine action, but leaves the decision to the sinner to decide for himself:

      Sproul continues: “The problem is this: If grace is necessary but not effectual, what makes it work? …Why does one sinner respond to the offer of grace positively and the other negatively?” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.187)

      If not effectual, and if not accompanied by Irresistible Grace, then to R.C. Sproul, you cannot account for why a fallen person would ever choose Christ.

      Sproul writes: “Does grace assist the sinner in cooperating with grace, or does the sinner cooperate by the power of the flesh alone? If the latter, it is unvarnished Pelagianism. If the former, it is still Pelagianism in that grace merely facilitates regeneration and salvation.” (What is Reformed Theology?, pp.187-188)

      *** “Still Pelagianism”…get that? Stan, that should answer your question. ***

      In other words, according to Sproul, any decision left to man, either to accept or reject, is still fundamentally Pelagian, whether grace facilitates the decision, or is absent altogether. That is a fairly hard-line standard.

      Sproul states: “This is what makes grace so gracious: God unilaterally and monergistically does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.188)

      Irresistible Grace or bust. That’s where the line is drawn.

        Stan McCullars

        I appreciate your response. That was helpful.

        selahV-hariette

        Richard!!!! long time no see on the threads! So good to have you join in the conversation…I’ve missed you. I’m gonna have to chew on your answers again, as per usual. Blessings to you, brother. selahV

          Richard Coords

          Hello hello,

          Yes, it’s been a while. God bless you. I’m so glad to see the SBC leaders openly discussing these matters. The blogosphere is a buzz. It’s a good thing! Theology is worthwhile–that’s what it tells me. I’m very proud of the SBC leadership. This is also an opportunity for the C-element of the SBC to share their biblically based objections in a godly manner. I hope that the C’s are up to the challenge, by responding in a truly godly manner (and without calling us heretical “Pelagians”). Let those who proclaim “maturity” as their *basis* for converting to Calvinism, demonstrate such maturity when put to the test.

          Bogard

          Mr Coords,

          “It’s this kind of comment that really smacks of elitism and arrogance, as if Calvinists have a monopoly on wisdom.”

          I believe you got your toes stepped on unintentionally and then decided to not to be “responding in a truly godly manner”.

          Just my humble opinion.

          I am a member of the SBC. I am looking for which theological umbrella I would be considered under and yet I find that in this conversation the writers of this document wanted to make a targeted charge and then not respond to the rebuttal.

Leslie Puryear

We have answered the s-p charge on several blogs. Whether or not anyone agrees with it or not, we are moving on. There is no satisfying a Calvinist except to agree with Calvinism. That is not going to happen.

    Steve T.

    These are the phrases that drive me insane. I am a Calvinist. I do not apologize for that fact. I am attempting to see how and where the charges of s-p may or may not be true. I believe in healthy debate. But I am exhausted in hearing that my theological beliefs lump me into a group that sticks its fingers in its ears and runs from the room whenever someone disagrees. Some will, yes. But that is true from people of all different theological viewpoints. Your own comment says that you are not going to change (“That is not going to happen.”) So please do not try to kill discussion because people continue to disagree.

      Tim Rogers

      Steve T.

      Les is not trying to stop debate. It is that we have covered all of this before. We have argued this point ad nauseum. Should be begin arguing over the alcohol issue next? I am not suggesting that we do, it is that we have defended and defended and defended semi-Pelagianism since this article came out. Of course no one seems to be debated about Dr. Mohler’s position to bring unity Call everyone that affirms and signed the BF&M “Calvinist”.

        Don Arndt

        Is there a difference in the usage of the words “Calvinist” or “Calvanistic?” One is a noun and one is an adjective.

        Let’s try a different word. I am not a Libertarian. But, if we talked about political views, you would no doubt think I have libertarian leanings. I can have some things in common with a Libertarian without becoming one.

        Believe it or not, you could have some things in common with a Calvinvist.

          Randall Cofield

          Indeed….

    Jack Maddox

    Les – totally off topic and not trying to go anywhere with it but satisfy my own curiosity – but didn’t you a few years ago identify yourself as a calvinist? I may be mistaken.

volfan007

I would kind of like that question answered too….would you Calvinists consider any denial of irresistible grace to be semi Pelagain? Would yall consider anyone, who doesnt believe in regeneration before faith to be semi Pelagian?

Because, after reading 100’s of comments from Calvinists this past week or so, I’m beginning to think that.

David

    mike white

    As a Calvinistic type believer, i do not understand how Arminians, for it seems that except for eternal security the Statement is Arminianist in its soteriology, how Armininians, or those like them, keep from boasting on themselves. It is one thing to SAY you are not boasting on yourself, but it is another thing to ACTUALLY not boast.
    My position is that if God did for others what He did for me, they would all desire Him as I do. My boast is only in God. i have no part in the saving of me that decides the saving of me.
    But it seems to me that the Statement declares that each one of them who signed it, did have a part in the saving of them. And that without their part, God would have failed in the saving of them, no matter how heard He tried. And in fact, that God does indeed fail in the saving of many. That the difference in the saving of them [those who signed as opposed in the failure of God to save those who He doesn’t save is them and their whatever you want to call it, their part.
    So please someone explain how these signers are not boasting in themselves when their statement says that unless they do their part, God will have failed, as He must be failing at saving those who wind up in Hell.

volfan007

I’m not sure why this comment was thrown into the thread way up where it landed, but it was supposed to be here, at the end??? Here it is again….

I would kind of like that question answered too….would you Calvinists consider any denial of irresistible grace to be semi Pelagain? Would yall consider anyone, who doesnt believe in regeneration before faith to be semi Pelagian?

Because, after reading 100?s of comments from Calvinists this past week or so, I’m beginning to think that.

David

    Richard Coords

    volfan007,

    I think that the reason why your comments were displaced is because the person that you were responding to, may have had their comments removed.

      volfan007

      Richard,

      I wasnt responding to anyone. I was trying to make it be the bottom, or last comment….

      ????

      David

        Richard Coords

        David,

        I’m not sure what happened, then. I know I had a couple of comments that got displaced when John Carpenter’s comments were deleted. I remember you from Peter’s blog. I remember you, Peter, SelahV, Grossy, and even Byroniac. Lately, I’ve spent a lot of time in the SEA discussion group. I love it. These Christian internet groups are such an incredible blessing.

Randall Cofield

Simple question: Can a spiritually dead person do anything (anything at all) that is pleasing to God?

    Richard Coords

    Randall,

    That’s a good question, but not the whole picture, since all sides agree that the spiritually dead person is not merely abandoned and left to his own devices, but rather, that there is a liberating, divine intervention, in which God takes the initiative in a “divine encounter.” Paul described his experience as “kicking” and “goading.” (See Acts 26:14) The question that R.C. Sproul raised is whether such intervening, prevenient grace, (A) merely liberates the dead, fallen and depraved sinner so that by faith and trust in Christ, they may, or may not, in passive non-resistance, receive God’s saving work in regenerating them, or (B) whether such intervening, prevenient grace acts decisively to effectually, irresistibly, unconsciously, unilaterally and monergistically regenerate the dead, fallen and depraved sinner, whereupon such regeneration, the recipient is empowered, for the first time, to be able to believe and trust in Christ in any way whatsoever. The Calvinist paradigm involves a preemptive New Birth, in which a person must be made Born Again, as the prerequisite for any kind of motion towards God, faith or otherwise. Sproul went so far as to suggest that such a contrast represented the threshhold for rising above Pelagianism. The complication is that the New Birth does indeed instill a desire to do God’s will, and Scripture testifies to this, as the New Birth changes a person (i.e. new creature). But, as non-Calvinists contend, that doesn’t necessarily eliminate the fact that prior to such regeneration, a person is forced into a divine encounter, whereupon said liberation, the sinner is placed into a Heaven or Hell ultimatum, in which their eternal destiny is at stake, and there may be numerous such instances, and every time a person says “no” to Christ, their heart becomes a little bit harder, in thinking that they are standing up to God. The light that they are given is also the measure of their condemnation, should they enter into eternity having rejected Christ to the end.

    Mary

    You might want to read the Paige Patterson’s BP article. He answers your question.

      Randall Cofield

      Yes he did. According to Patterson a spiritually dead person can:

      1) Hear the gospel (spiritually)
      2) Repent of sin (another spiritual act)
      3) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (yet another spiritual act)

      And all of these God-pleasing works he can do while dead in trespasses in sins, void of spiritual life, and yet unregenerate (not having yet received the New Birth…according to Dr. Patterson.

      According to the Apostle Paul, not so much: Ro. 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Tim Rogers

Ben,

So is that the Arminian position of Prevenient Grace or is that the heretical position of Universalism?

Walter

Roger Olson, the leading BAPTIST theologian asserted that the statement was semi-pelagian.

Also, an appeal to the people is not an effective argument. So just because BAPTISTS (including yourself) endorse a position does not make it orthodox. By the same line of reasoning that you use we can claim that divorce is morally acceptable since most Americans are divorced. That is, how can so many Americans be wrong about divorce, i.e. how can so many BAPTISTS be wrong about semi-pelagianism.

Randall Cofield

According to Dr. Patterson a spiritually dead person can:

1) Hear the gospel (spiritually)
2) Repent of sin (another spiritual act)
3) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (yet another spiritual act)

And all of these God-pleasing works he can do while dead in trespasses in sins, void of spiritual life, and yet unregenerate (not having yet received the New Birth)…according to Dr. Patterson.

According to the Apostle Paul, not so much: Ro. 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Randall Cofield

http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=33792

According to Dr. Patterson a spiritually dead person can:

1) Hear the gospel (spiritually)
2) Repent of sin (another spiritual act)
3) Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (yet another spiritual act)

And all of these God-pleasing works he can do while dead in trespasses and sins, void of spiritual life, and yet unregenerate (not having yet received the New Birth)…according to Dr. Patterson.

According to the Apostle Paul, not so much: Ro. 8:7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

    Richard Coords

    Randall,

    If God doesn’t intervene, then you are right. But if God does intervene, the question becomes thus: Is God powerful enough, is God sovereign enough, is God omnipotent enough to bring such a dead sinner to the point of liberation from such depravity so that they can make a yes or no decision to receive His hand of mercy? If you say, “no,” man is too far gone, even for almighty God Himself, to rescue Him, *apart from using an Irresistible Grace,* then in my mind, it seems to shrink God down to size, and it also doesn’t seem consistent with Scripture, when, for instance, Paul stated that even in his unregenerate state, the Holy Spirit was kicking and goading upon his heart. (Acts 26:14) So I think that there is a missing element to your thesis.

      Randall Cofield

      Brother Coords,

      Thanks for your response.

      It appears to me that the passage you offer actually proves my point. In his unregenerate state, Paul only kicks against (resists) the convicting goads of the Holy Spirit. He only responds in faith after God has appeared to him in such compelling light that he fell to the ground.

      Jn. 3:3 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

      What am I missing here?

        Randall Cofield

        Sorry for the odd look of the above post. The HTML tags aren’t very reliable here.

        The only word that should be in BOLD is the word ONLY.

          Richard Coords

          Randall,

          If I understood your point correctly, your understanding is that the Holy Spirit had been operating upon the unregenerate heart of Saul of Tarsus [the Spirit’s goading] with a resistible “Common Grace” [a form of “prevenient grace” nonetheless] and then when Jesus personally visited him on the Road to Damascus, Jesus imparted an “Irresistible Grace” [i.e. preveniently making him into a reborn Christian on the spot, devoid and irrespective of any confession of sins or profession of Christ as his risen Lord and Savior, filled with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the “temple” of his being, as per 1Cor 3:16, placed immediately under the headship of Christ as “in Christ,” being fully reconciled and redeemed]. The problem with that is the same thing that plagues literally every so-called Calvinist proof-text…it’s all presumed. All of that must be read into the text. On the other hand, the simplicity of the Arminian reading is that God was simply convicting unsaved and unregenerate Saul of what he was doing wrong, and then met him on the road to Damascus, and then was afterward “saved” and entered into the kingdom of God at the moment when he executed his own words, stated at Romans 10:9-10. That was three days later.

          As for John 3:3, again, if you read it without eisegesis, the statement simply means what it says. Unless you are Born Again, you cannot “see” the kingdom of God. This is reiterated at v.5 which states, you will not “enter” the kingdom of God (v.5). Whether Jesus intended actual Heaven itself upon death, or rather the state of being saved (i.e. “eternal life”), Jesus went on to explain how one enter’s into such eternal life, and that was by believing in Him. There is literally no discussion whatsoever that a person must first be regenerated into order to possess the ability to believe in Christ. That is purely eisegesis. That is completely 100% read into the text. The dialogue simply mentions nothing of the kind. If you are a Calvinist, then you have to wonder where the missing dialogue went. The beauty of Arminianism is that you can shed the baggage of Calvinistic presuppositions, and simply take the text for what it literally states (i.e. you don’t have to “add” to the Word of God.). That’s how I see it. I know that I know that you will not a agree, but you wanted an explanation and there you have it. God bless.

          Randall Cofield

          Brother Coords,

          You said: “The problem with that is the same thing that plagues literally every so-called Calvinist proof-text…it’s (that this is all done “devoid and irrespective of any confession of sins or profession of Christ…”) all presumed.”

          Not at all. Everything you point to, including confession and profession, happen after God’s blinding revelation of Himself to Paul…at least that is Paul’s testimony according to the text.

          My original statement still stands un-addressed. How can a spiritually dead person do the spiritual and God-pleasing work of hearing the gospel, repenting of sin, and having faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ?

          Richard Coords

          Randall,

          Here is summary of my thoughts on John 3:3, as it relates to John 3:5 and John 3:16, when the passage is taken from its entirety:

          One cannot “see” (v.3) or “enter” (v.5) the kingdom of God apart from being a reborn Christian. A person who is born only once, has no spiritual life, because he was born spiritually dead, through Adam. A person who is re-born, has spiritual life. Spiritual life is “eternal life,” and Jesus stated that the way to eternal life is by believing in Him. (v.16) So if you want to “see” and “enter” the kingdom of God and experience His “eternal life,” you must believe in Him. Preemptive Regeneration has to be read *in* to the text, in my opinion, in order to get Preemptive Regeneration *out* of the text. To me, that makes Calvinism an unattrative proposition, in light of Rev. 22:18-19.

          Richard Coords

          Randall,

          The format tree is slightly off, but I trust that you will see this is addresses your recent post this morning. Honestly, I didn’t follow where you were going with the second paragraph, so I apologize for not commenting on it. The third paragraph mentions what you felt was left “un-addressed.” I believe that it was, but just in a different post, since you posted your question about deadness twice. The remedy for spiritual deadness is “divine intervention.” The very fact that God intervenes with his kicking and goading, upon the unregenerate heart, as with Saul of Tarsus, is in itself a Game-Changer. The depraved person can’t simply say, “Sorry God, I’m depraved and dead. Nothing I can do. You didn’t give me an irresistible grace.” Believe it or not, Scripture shows that people actually said that to God. Turn to Jeremiah 1:1-13, and note v.12 in particular, where the Jews threw Total Depravity in God’s face: “It’s hopeless! We are going to follow our own plans, and each of us will act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.” Really?, God says: “Who ever heard the like of this?” They threw Total Depravity in God’s face, even when He intervened to help them? When God intervenes, God liberates, and I trust that that addresses the deadness question.

          Richard Coords

          Randall,

          My verse reference was incomplete. It’s Jeremiah 18:1-13.

          Randall Cofield

          Brother Coords,

          Let my try backing up a bit here. Two questions:

          1) Is repentance of sin a spiritual act?
          2) Is repentance of sin a work that pleases God?

Ben Simpson

Dearest Brad,

Indeed, we have tangoed over this one, or was it the mambo? I thought that I answered you. In fact, I know I attempted to. Whatever the case may be, I assure you I didn’t dodge you. Given the length of the posts in our exchange, forgive me for not hitting hard enough on something that you thought was major amongst all of the other major stuff I addressed with you. Perhaps you should go a few pay-grades above me for this answer, but let me give it my full attention, and I’ll do my absolute best.

As I’ve said before, I believe the Bible to teach that all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven not because they are innocent (they have Adam’s guilt and pile on their own) but because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to their physical inability to grasp the glory of God or the gospel, leaving them with an excuse before God. Physical inability is implied as a sufficient excuse to escape the wrath of God our sin deserves in John 9:41 and Romans 1:20.

Every single person is born with not only a physical inability to grasp the glory of God but also a moral inability to turn from sin to God. However, as a person develops physically, their physical inability is removed and only the moral inability remains. This removal is nothing more than coming to a person’s moment of accountability.

A person who has both physical inability and moral inability is excused by God but one who has only moral inability is not. It’s for this reason that every person BEFORE their moment of accountability will go to heaven apart from repentance and faith if they should die, and it’s for this reason that every person AFTER their moment of accountability who rejects the glory of God and the gospel in Jesus Christ until they die will go to hell.

Again, children who die before they reach the moment of accountability had their sins imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to them by God’s mercy and grace. They get into heaven because of the grace of God bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This imputation happens apart from repentance and faith because developmentally they are not able to grasp the glory of God and the gospel which leads to repentance and faith. Repentance and faith are out of their realm of PHYSICAL ability. Therefore, God is merciful to them, and as you well know, God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

Brad, thank you for pointing me to Dr Harwood’s book. I plan to pick up a copy.

Ben Simpson

The SBCtoday server must be melting down from all of these comments. It keeps posting replies in random places. I’m going to post my comment again in hopes that it’ll post rightly.

Dearest Brad,

Indeed, we have tangoed over this one, or was it the mambo? I thought that I answered you. In fact, I know I attempted to. Whatever the case may be, I assure you I didn’t dodge you. Given the length of the posts in our exchange, forgive me for not hitting hard enough on something that you thought was major amongst all of the other major stuff I addressed with you. Perhaps you should go a few pay-grades above me for this answer, but let me give it my full attention, and I’ll do my absolute best.

As I’ve said before, I believe the Bible to teach that all children who die before their moment of accountability will go to Heaven not because they are innocent (they have Adam’s guilt and pile on their own) but because God does not hold them accountable for their sin due to their physical inability to grasp the glory of God or the gospel, leaving them with an excuse before God. Physical inability is implied as a sufficient excuse to escape the wrath of God our sin deserves in John 9:41 and Romans 1:20.

Every single person is born with not only a physical inability to grasp the glory of God but also a moral inability to turn from sin to God. However, as a person develops physically, their physical inability is removed and only the moral inability remains. This removal is nothing more than coming to a person’s moment of accountability.

A person who has both physical inability and moral inability is excused by God but one who has only moral inability is not. It’s for this reason that every person BEFORE their moment of accountability will go to heaven apart from repentance and faith if they should die, and it’s for this reason that every person AFTER their moment of accountability who rejects the glory of God and the gospel in Jesus Christ until they die will go to hell.

Again, children who die before they reach the moment of accountability had their sins imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ righteousness is imputed to them by God’s mercy and grace. They get into heaven because of the grace of God bought through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. This imputation happens apart from repentance and faith because developmentally they are not able to grasp the glory of God and the gospel which leads to repentance and faith. Repentance and faith are out of their realm of PHYSICAL ability. Therefore, God is merciful to them, and as you well know, God will have mercy on whom He will have mercy.

Brad, thank you for pointing me to Dr Harwood’s book. I plan to pick up a copy.

Brad Reynolds

Ben, please forgive me, you are correct you did answer how a person can be in heaven without repentance or faith (i.e. – natural inability), but I followed up with: If God can just graciously forgive an individual of his personal sin(s) without that individual repenting of his sins and placing his faith in Christ then why doesn’t He just graciously forgive us all? This was what I meant went unanswered.

You have an additional way (other than repentance and faith) to have someone forgiven of his sins. Namely, God’s choice to graciously do so. Which is the same argument by Universalists, only they do not make the dichotomy between body and spirit you seem to be making.

This false dichotomy between man’s body (natural inability) and his spirit (moral inability) is not found in Scripture. Sure Paul deals with the flesh and the spirit but when he says flesh he is not speaking of “physical” abilities. He is speaking of the sinful tendencies in man.

It’s almost as if you have reversed Plato: – spirit is evil (spiritual inability (the non-elect) = hell) but matter is good (physical inability = heaven). Further, if you are correct, and there is such a dichotomy, should not God forgive the physical part of the being but not the spiritual (thereby allowing the body of infants in heaven but not their spirits) – You would probably object and argue this is absurd. Which is true and spotlights the precise problem with the dichotomy.

My additional concern is it seems you are saying: from the moment of conception until the age of accountability ALL are elect but at the moment of accountability many become non-elect and CANNOT be saved.

But, you have, far more than any other Calvinist, given a big-league swing at this curve ball. Thank YOU

PS – Romans 1:20 – no disagreement.

Concerning John 9:41 I am not convinced that infants is what Jesus has in mind. But even if one applies it in such a way notice He does not say “your sins would be forgiven” but you have “no sin” – thus, if one were to use this passage in reference to what we are discussing it seems one would fall on the side of innocence not guilt for infants.

Finally, Thank you for picking up Dr. Harwood’s book. It is a GREAT resource on this topic. You can also see his chapel message on this subject: http://www.truett.edu/chapel/fall-2011-chapel/fall-2011-chapel-video-player.html#

Randall Cofield

Brother Coords,

You said: “The problem with that is the same thing that plagues literally every so-called Calvinist proof-text…it’s (that this is all done “devoid and irrespective of any confession of sins or profession of Christ…”) all presumed.”

Not at all. Everything you point to, including confession and profession, happen after God’s blinding revelation of Himself to Paul…at least that is Paul’s testimony according to the text.

My original statement still stands un-addressed. How can a spiritually dead person do the spiritual and God-pleasing work of hearing the gospel, repenting of sin, and having faith in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Mike Davis

Disagreeing with the Calvinist positition on Irresistible Grace or monergism is not semi-____(That Word Which Must Not Be Used but refers to the doctrine espoused by an Irish monk whose name rhymes with “outrageous”). Yes, I know R C Sproul might say otherwise but since we SBC Calvinists belong to a denomination where most do not hold to Irresistible Grace, even though we do, the Word Which Must Not Be Used issue is not in reference to monergism or whether disagreement with monergism constitutes heresy. The issue is concerning how the document crafters define sin nature and whether those who put forth the document agree that the Spirit must initiate work on the heart of the sinner before the sinner has the ability, including the volitional ability, to respond to the Gospel. Thus far, the answers remain ambiguous and this is why questions are being asked. When we say that we believe most document signers believe in Total Depravity and that the Spirit must initiate work on the sinner for the sinner to respond in faith, this does not mean we think they did not understand the document. It means we think the document was written in such a way that they could infer these things. We are asking for those who crafted the document to be specific and clear about what they believe on these issues.

Brennen

Hard to believe this was posted as a reply to dr mohler. Just not a strong reply.
Ben Simpsons comments are good.

Rodney Kent

If I understand this correctly, many are saying that the fall of Adam affected his freewill actions toward God, that it incapacitated Adam’s freewill.

That statement is not correct. God has never removed the freewill of man since he ceded this authority to him regarding his trust (faith) in God’s promises. When God ceded to Adam the ability to remain in innocence and union with God by honoring God’s promise regarding the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil”, this ceded freewill sovereignty of Adam was never revoked by God.

In fact, God said, “Adam has now become as one of us to know the difference between Good and Evil. This means that Adam and his descendents have the innate ability to continue to know the difference between Good and Evil and to choose to place their trust (faith) in the master of Good or follow their own unrighteous way.

When Adam removed his trust (faith) from God’s promise, he would surely die in that same day, and he did. God had originally breathed his righteous breath into Adam after he formed him from the dust of the ground. When Adam freely removed his trust (faith) from God and placed his trust in himself to be his own god, God removed the righteousness from Adam and Adam died the spiritual death that same instant.

However, by eating of the “Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil” mankind inherited the faculties to discern between Good and Evil, “Should I accept God as my master (Choosing Good), or should I choose my own way and be my own god (Evil).

The Adamic sin (curse) meant that each individual was now condemned to be apart from God unless an atonement was made to placate the Adamic sin. Jesus was the atonement for the Adamic sin (paid in full by a holy and righteous innocent lamb). At that time man was no longer condemned for Adam’s sin, but he became responsible for his own relationship between he and God.

God had already prepared a plan of salvation in the beginning to satisfy this situation. Mankind (Adam) removed his trust (faith) in God and fell. Now each man must be saved in the opposite manner as Adam’s loss of faith. The event for each man must be reversed from the original event. Individuals must place their faith (trust) in God and his son to access this free gift of salvation.

Mankind lost union with God because of the removal of his faith in God, now each man has the freewill ability to change that status by accepting or rejecting the free gift of salvation through trust (faith) in God’s promise. God’s son has paid the penalty of the Adamic sin, but it is now up to each man to exercise his freewill faith in accepting or rejecting the free salvation provided by God and his son.

Where in the Bible does it state that man’s freewill was removed because of Adam’s fall. The only thing that happened was the removal of God’s spirit from mankind. Mankind was then given additional innate abilities to use his freewill to choose to accept Good or Evil, Good being God and Evil being man’s rejection of God in lieu of his own way.

God breathed his breath into Adam and gave Adam union with himself. On the day Adam removed his trust (faith) from God, God removed his spirit (union) from mankind. When man now uses his sovereign freewill (ceded to him by God) to accept the Good (choose to accept righteousness and salvation from God), the Holy Ghost will breathe into that individual the righteous spirit spirit of God and his son, and the individual will be born again, become the spiritual child of God.

Condemnation and the curse came by mankind’s removal of his trust (faith) in God, and must be reversed by his acceptance of God’s promise of salvation if he places his trust (faith) in God and his son.

The Holy Ghost of Christ will perform the act of applying salvation to the individual, but the individual must either choose to accept this free gift or reject this free gift.

Rodney Kent

Rodney Kent

There is nothing in the Bible that states that children or babies go automatically to heaven or hell.

The proponents of automatic heaven use two instances in the Bible, and both are taken out of context. The scripture is describing something completely different than babies or small children and their destination at death. I have already covered this in the original document that started all these debates.

However, I will state the following again. For those who believe that babies automatically go to heaven at death, then all abortionists are the greatest evangelists the world has ever seen. There are roughly 50 million babies aborted across the world every year. The abortionists must be filling up heaven at a fantastic rate.

God’s Word does not state the outcome of the death of a baby. If God chooses not to tell us his plan for them, that is all we need. God is a righteous God and will certainly handle all of these cases in his wisdom, not our beliefs. Personally, I believe babies neither go to heaven or hell, that God has a third option that has been hidden from us.

If you use the one instance in the Bible that states, “A man is to die once and after that the judgment”, it may refer to those who have reached a point in life where the word “man” refers to anyone who has reached the maturity level required for them to have made a decision.

I think it best to say the issue is in God’s hands and we do not know the answer.

Rodney Kent

scott p

I have greatly enjoyed the theological discourse which has resulted from the “Statement of Traditional Understanding of God’s plan of salvation” as well as from all of the articles and comments on this site (and other sites). Though I feel a bit unqualified to contribute much to the discussion…i am definitely learning from it. To all of you who produced the statement, and to all of you who have expressed disagreement with the statement…Thank You!

Lasaro Flores

Why should any posts be banned if they are bonafide questions and comments that express the beliefs of the one posting? Of course, if profanity is used or racists statements, etc. are used, then I can see why they should be banned. But just because YOU or anyone else doesn’t like what was posted, you have no right to banned anyone that is “in the faith”(?) because of their views. But I noticed that my post asking for proof of the doctrine of Free Will from the Scriptures with my own comments about it was deleted? Where is the Christian love that is so much referred to those with whom we disagree with? Oh, for a heart like George Whitfield’s, even in serious doctrinal disagreement, he treated him as a brother in the faith. Amen.

    Lasaro Flores

    I left out “with John Wesley” with reference to George Whitfield in my previous post.

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