Category Archives for Calvinism

Can Human Acts like Prayers and Childrearing Really Affect Someone’s Salvation?

May 10, 2018

By: Ronnie Rogers, Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church Norman, OK

Both Calvinists and Extensivists speak as though things such as prayers, trials, testimonies, child rearing, education, and other influences play a vital part in salvation; these, along with a host of other influences may be categorized as events.[1] It seems as though we all really mean these kind of events play a similar role in God’s salvation plan. However, such is not the case. The only thing similar is that Calvinists and Extensivists use the same words, but the way Calvinists use these words are essentially dissimilar to the way they are normally used and used by Extensivists. And Calvinists themselves tend to obscure the real differences.

These events may be classified as either uncertain or certain. By uncertain I refer to events in which human involvement can actually affect the outcome. This is in contrast to certain events in which God has predetermined that human involvement does not affect the outcome. Extensivism recognizes that Scripture includes both certain and uncertain events, whereas Calvinism recognizes only certain—determined—events. The difference between these two viewpoints is Extensivism actually believes these uncertain events really do play a part in God’s salvation plan.[2] Keep in mind, while it is quite common for Calvinists to speak libertarianly, Calvinism utterly rejects man having libertarian moral freedom. Speaking libertarianly is especially misrepresentative of Calvinism’s determinism.

Calvinism’s belief in unconditional election and compatibilism, wherein everything is micro-determined, necessitates a different meaning than is normally understood when speaking of the correlation between events and a person’s salvation.[3] It requires understanding that while such events may be a part of the process of God’s predetermined elective plan to bring his unconditionally elected into redemption, these events do not, in any way, play a role that includes the idea they could have been different or resulted in a different outcome.[4] That is to say, all direct or suggestive talk by Calvinists of how pivotal events, someone’s prayers, or a person’s involvement in an individual’s life was not determined or played a non-determined role in someone’s salvation is misleading. It misrepresents the true meaning of Calvinism.

In contrast, according to Extensivism God comprehends libertarian freedom in his salvation plan so that these uncertain events do play an undetermined part; they can even play a part that actually affects the outcome. I refer to the relationship of these events as being constitutionally, organically, and substantially related. This is in contrast to Calvinism’s determinism in which nothing actually matters in an effective way but unconditional election and its partner, selective irresistible grace.

Here is the way I define the relationship of uncertain events in God’s salvation plan:

Constitutionally related: Constitutionally related speaks to the nature of God’s salvation plan wherein grace enablements are essentially, sequentially, and operationally incorporated into the structure of God’s plan.[5] Since God’s work of salvation is a grace work, every aspect of the plan exists and functions according to his grace; therefore, such things as prayer, witnessing, listening with understanding of the gospel, other uncertain events, and exercising faith are not reducible to purely human works or virtues; for them to be merely human works, they would need to exist outside of God’s grace work of salvation; that is to say, they would need to be unconstitutionally related to his salvation plan. Since they do not so exist, they are grace components in God’s redemptive plan (Rom 3:28; 4:1–5).

Organically related: Something being organically related speaks to the complex relationship between libertarian freedom and God’s preconversional grace enablements that work according to his salvific plan of grace so that these really do matter in a person’s salvation. They have a systemic arrangement and interaction with other parts of God’s plan. To wit, they play an actual non-determined and non-meritorious role in one’s salvation. The outcome of this organic relationship is that many factors can actually be involved in the salvation of a person, salvation is available to every person, and man is saved by non-determined and non-meritorious faith (John 4:39–42; 11:42, 45; Eph 2:8–9).

For example, we may say the prayers of a grandmother were instrumental in a person’s salvation; by this we mean if the grandmother had not prayed, which she could have chosen to do, the person may not have been saved at that time. The influence of the grandmother’s prayers in the gospel encounter is solely because God included such non-determined components in his salvation plan. These components have an organic relationship to other aspects of God’s salvation plan; they do in fact matter (John 17:20–21; Rom 2:4; Titus 2:1–11; 3:1–8; 1 John 2:2).

An example of such a constitutional and organic relationship may be illustrated by considering a flower. Flower is the name we give to a particular plant that includes certain and various components in its structure; being organic means there is a systemic arrangement and interaction between the various components. Included in these components are things such as roots, stem, bud, petals, sepal, stamen, and pistil. Some of these are substantially related so that if they did not exist, the flower would not exist.

Substantially (substantively) and insubstantially related: Substantially and insubstantially related speaks to the relationship between things, people, personal experiences, and other events as part of the process and the process’s final product. Something substantially related indicates if it were not present in the process, the product would be different, or at least would likely be different. In contrast, components that are insubstantially related would not change the product by their absence; given libertarian freedom, some events (uncertain events) may or may not be present because these relationships are not predeterminately fixed. In Extensivism some events are substantially related to salvation, but in Calvinism, events are determined and can only be insubstantially related because they cannot actually change or change the process or the product.

In other words, even though strictly impossible in a compatibly free world,  if some events were not there, the product, such as unconditional election, would still take place in precisely the same way. It is unconditional. If Calvinism accepts that uncertain events exist and are substantially related to one’s salvation, then things like unconditional election are really organically related to them so that election incorporates these grace contributors in the production of the end product; this means the abandonment of compatibilism and transforming unconditional election into conditional election.

In Extensivism, given libertarian freedom, events are substantially related because if they were not a part of the process in the way they are (and that could have been the case), something different would be happening; therefore, the result could be different in various scenarios (Matt 11:20–24).

Calvinists and Extensivists may speak similarly about salvation, but this is because Calvinists are constantly speaking libertarianly about people being saved, praying, witnessing, and events substantially affecting one’s life. I can only ask my Calvinist brothers and sisters to be as resolutely committed to speaking determinatively (so that all understand, including the Calvinist speaking) as they are in pedestaling compatibilism and denouncing libertarian freedom as depending on something other than grace.

Then, we can have meaningful discussions about the merits of Calvinism and Extensivism. And people listening can make a clearer and more informed decision about what label they wear.

[1] I use Extensivist and Extensivism, in its general sense, as a positive term for non-Calvinist.
[2] Uncertain does not mean unknown to God, but only that these events are contingencies; they are not determined, and therefore, did not have to happen.
[3] One may also add the other elements of Calvinism’s decretal theology.
[4] It is true these things can be a part of the process of a person’s salvation in Calvinism, but it is not true they can be an alterable part of the process, or alter the product, which is how they are most often portrayed.
[5] By grace enablements I mean things which God has to do in order to make salvation available to all. See a list of some of these enablements at https://ronniewrogers.com/?s=grace-enablement.

 

Born Dead?

April 30, 2018

By Dr. Leighton Flowers
Apologists for Texas Baptists

The analogy of being “dead” is seen throughout the scriptures, but can it be demonstrated to mean that mankind is born morally unable to willingly respond to God Himself, as the Calvinists presume? Are we born dead like Lazarus, a corpse rotting in the tomb (a link scripture never draws), or are we dead like the Prodigal, a loved one living in rebellion? Scripture supports the latter rather than the former:

“For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24).

Spiritual deadness seems to be equated with “separateness,”  “lostness,” or “in rebellion,” not as “total moral inability to respond.” Likewise, in Romans 6:11, Paul also teaches the believers to count themselves “dead to sin.” A consistent Calvinist would have to interpret this to mean that believers are morally unable to sin when tempted. Of course, that is not the case. Paul is teaching that we are to separate ourselves from sin, in much the same way we were once separated by our sin from God. “Deadness” here connotes the idea of being separated, like the son was from his father, not the incapacitation of the will to respond to God’s appeal to be reconciled from our separation.

Plus, if we examine the story of Lazarus more closely it reveals a truth that flies in the face of the Calvinistic conclusion.

“So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe…’ (John 11:14-15).

The lesson the Lord wishes to teach his followers is not the conclusion that Calvinists draw from this text (i.e. God effectually makes the spiritually dead alive in the same way He raises Lazarus); but instead, the Lord’s expressed desire is so that the witnesses “may believe.” Clearly, an outward sign is said to have the ability to help individuals believe, something that seems completely superfluous given the effectuality of regeneration on the Calvinistic system. The text goes on to say:

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’  She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world’ … Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’’ (John 11:25-27; 40).

Once again, it is the faith of the eye witnesses, not Lazarus, that Jesus seems to be focused upon in this discourse. Furthermore, the responsibility is put onto the individual to believe so as to live, not the other way around. The focus of this text is on the believing response of the witnesses to Christ’s miracle and the believers eventual resurrection from the dead. Remember, Lazarus was a believer, not Totally Depraved, so this miracle more likely represents the believer’s resurrection from the dead than a irresistible soteriological drawing of the lost to faith.

“So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me’… Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him” (John 11:41-42; 45).

Jesus expresses a desire for the witnesses to believe based upon what they have seen, something on Calvinism that is a certainty for the Elect ones and absolutely impossible for the Reprobates, regardless of what miracle either of them witness. Notice that Jesus describes the faith of the eye witnesses as being a direct response to what they saw, not a supernatural inward work of regeneration, or an unconditional choice before time began.

No where in this passage, or any other, do we find the concept of spiritual deadness as being in reference to total inability, yet the story of Lazarus is one of the most referenced proof texts cited by Calvinists in defense of this doctrine.

Let’s consider other passages which use the analogy of “deadness.” For instance, take a look at Jesus’ own words to the church in Sardis:

“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Rev. 3:1-6)

Clearly, Jesus fully expects this church to heed his warning and respond in repentance despite the fact that he called them “dead.”  The Calvinist may object saying, “But, Jesus is speaking to the church, not to the lost, so that does not apply to our point of contention.”  I disagree, and here is why:

1.  The point is simply to show how the analogy of being “dead” doesn’t necessarily imply “corpse-like inability.” This use of the word illustrates that point because clearly those in the church are expected to “wake up” and “repent.” The burden is on the Calvinist to produce examples where the analogy explicitly demonstrates the concept of “total inability” to respond to God’s life-giving Word.

2.  The Calvinistic teachings on “Compatibilism” equally applies to the choices of the Saints (the elect) and the Reprobates (the non-elect). According to the Compatibilist, a person will always choose in accordance with his or her greatest desire, which is determined by the God given nature and Divinely controlled circumstances in which that individual makes the choice.[1]Therefore, the choice of a Christian is as much under the “sovereign meticulous providence” of God as are the choices of the Reprobates.  So, according to a consistent Calvinist, the “dead” believers in Sardis were as incapable of response to Christ’s appeals to repent, as were the “dead reprobates” being called by the gospel to repentance for the very first time.  In other words, if Compatibilism is true, then both the “dead” believer in Sardis and the “dead” reprobate is equally incapable of repentance apart from God’s gracious work to effectuate that willing response. Thus, the burden of proof is still on the Calvinist to demonstrate that the analogy of being “dead,” in both instances, equals “corpse-like inability.”

Paul is known to use the analogy of being “dead” along side the concept of being included “in Him,” as we see here:

In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Col. 2:11-13).

Here Paul seems to relate circumcision to being made alive. Deut. 10:16 says, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer,” which strongly seems to indicate it is man’s responsibility to humbly repent, as seen repeated in Jer. 4:4:

Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.’”

This parallels Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1 and 2, which likewise references the saints as having once been dead but being made alive by God. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists affirm that we were all once dead in our sins and have been made alive together with Him.  The point of contention is over whether the dead sinner has any responsibility in his being raised up. Is the concept of “deadness” meant to suggest that mankind has no responsibility (ability to respond) to God’s appeal to “repent and live” (Num. 21:8-9; Ezk. 18:32; 33:11; John 6:40; John 20:31).

The text indicates that we are “made alive together with Him,” and it is mankind’s responsibility to be included “in Him,” through faith:

“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).

When were you “mark in Him?”

“When you believed,” according to the text.

Clearly, one must believe in order to be marked “in Him” and receive the Holy Spirit, not the other way around.  It is “in Him” that we are “made alive” or “raised,” according to the texts quoted above.

No where in the Bible is the concept of being “dead” connoted to mean that mankind has no responsibility to humble themselves and repent in faith so as to be “made alive together with Him.” As Paul teaches in Romans 8:10, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.”

The theme of being “raised up,” “made alive,” “exalted,” or “lifted up” is carried throughout the scriptures, and it is not difficult to see the expectation God has for those who He will graciously raise up:

1 Peter 5:5-6:  “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.

James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”

Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.

Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.

Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.

Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.

Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Not once in scripture does it teach that God is the one responsible for humbling us so that we would be “lifted up,” “raised up,” “exalted” or “make alive together with Him.”

In James 1:14-15, it states, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Likewise, Paul says in Romans 7:9-10, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me.” Yet, Calvinists teach that we are born dead already. So, which is it? Clearly, the analogy of “death” can carry with it different connotations, none of which can be shown by the text to mean “total inability” from birth.

Finally, if spiritual deadness is taken in a woodenly literal way by the Calvinist when it comes to mankind’s moral inability to respond willingly, then why can the “corpse-like dead man” respond unwillingly? A corpse could not “grab the life preserver when it is offered,” as the Calvinist likes to point out, but a corpse also could not actively swim away from it either, as is the rebellious response of many to the gospel. In fact, there are all different kinds of responses to the life preserver.  Some swim around it for a while and seem genuinely interested. Others mock it angrily. In fact, no two “dead” people respond in the exact same way to the life preserver, which obviously would not be true if they literally responded like a corpse.

Once again, the Calvinistic presumption is just that, a presumption they read into the text that is simply never substantiated by any explicit biblical teaching.

For more on this subject, CLICK HERE.

J.D. Greear: In His Own Words

April 18, 2018

By Will Hall, Editor
Louisiana Baptist Message

ALEXANDRIA (LBM) — J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, North Carolina, is a candidate for president of the Southern Baptist Convention for a second time.

During his lunch visit to the First Baptist Church in Bossier City Feb. 27, the Baptist Message offered to interview him live but he declined, saying he does not typically give live interviews to newspapers.

The Baptist Message subsequently learned he had granted an in-person interview the day before with the TEXAN, the newspaper of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.

Greear offered to allow the Baptist Message to submit questions for his consideration and reply via email. The offer was declined because the Baptist Message typically asks questions for this type of article live in order to evince an authentic response, to allow for a follow up inquiry as appropriate, and to avoid receiving an answer by committee.

However, to give voice to Greear’s position on issues important to Louisiana Baptists, the Baptist Message has researched his blogs and video interviews and such public sources to share his own words with our readers.

MUSLIMS, CHRISTIANS WORSHIP THE SAME GOD

Excerpt from a September 30, 2010 interview on the website of The Gospel Coalition, a network of Calvinist churches:

Question: It’s helpful to lay these misconceptions on the table and to talk honestly about our differences. You make the case that Muslims do worship the same God as Christians, although with obvious errors in understanding. Can you elaborate on how you came to this conclusion and how you would maintain major distinctions between Muslim and Christian understandings of God?

J.D. Greear: This is a tough question that has a considerable amount of complexity to it. But at the end of the day, I think the question of whether or not you use the Arabic name for God – Allah – is more of a practical question than a theological one.

Excerpt from Greear’s book, “Breaking the Islam Code”:

Muslims claim to worship the God of Adam, Abraham and Moses. Most missionaries find it therefore helpful to use the Arabic term for God, “Allah” (meaning literally, “the Diety”), to refer to God, and to explain the God Muslims believe in, the God of the Prophets, was the God also present in bodily form in Jesus Christ and the One worshipped by Christians for the past two millennia.

You might ask, “But isn’t the Islamic God so different from the Christian God that they cannot properly be called by the same name? Aren’t we worshiping two different gods?” Believing wrong things about God and worshipping incorrectly doesn’t mean one is worshipping a different God, just that they were worshipping the one true God incorrectly.

WHITE PRIVILEGE

Excerpt from a January 1, 2018, Greear blog, “Bearing the Burdens of the Broken”:

It’s simply easier to avoid thinking about things that don’t affect us. But if we’re gospel people, we will be aware of the pain others are going through. We will be aware of the privileges we experience that others don’t have. And we will use any position of privilege or strength that we enjoy to serve others. We are called to share the burdens that our brothers and sisters of color live with as if they were our own.

Excerpt from a March 19, 2018, Greear blog, “Racial Reconciliation and Cultural Diversity in the SBC”:

For those of us in the majority culture, this process has begun with a posture of listening, not talking. The definition of a blind spot, after all, is a weakness that we don’t know that we have. Historically, the most insidious blind spots result from positions of privilege and power. If we are serious about discovering these blind spots, it means committing ourselves to uncomfortable conversations where we seek more to understand that we do to be understood.

SINCE WHEN DID WE BECOME SOUTHERN BAPTIST?

Appearing before his congregation February 4, 2018, Greear offered these comments:

Well, let me address something really quickly before we actually do get started because I know that a few of you may have noticed that my name was again placed in nomination for president of the Southern Baptist Convention earlier this week.

A few months ago, several Christian leaders from around the country approached me asking me if I would be willing to do that, and after a lot of consultation with our elder team and our pastoral team and with the consent of my supervisor named Veronica, we believe that we ought to at least make the step, take the step of making ourselves available to that if that’s what God desired. The election is not until June, and it’s usually a 2-year term, but let me address three questions that just popped into some of your minds.

Question #1 is “What exactly does the Southern Baptist Convention President do?”  And, the short answer to that is probably not nearly as much as you might think.  It is a volunteer position, and basically your role is to represent the Southern Baptist Convention in terms of establishing priorities and pioneering new mission ventures, and then hopefully setting a helpful tone for engaging the culture.

Question #2 people ask is, “Is this going to take you away from the Summit Church?” And, the answer to that is a very definitive not at all. Like I said to you, it is a volunteer position, so I would continue to do everything that I’m doing here. You say, “Well does that mean you’re going to be traveling a lot?” Not really. In fact, what our elder team did is we just laid out the number of days that I was gone the last year and just said that’s the standard. I won’t be gone any more than that, and so, it will not take me away from here at all.

The third question some of you just asked is “Since when did we become Southern Baptist?” And, I get that. That’s not something we really wear on our sleeve here.

There are obviously parts of the Southern Baptist Convention that we’re not excited about, and we don’t feel like really represent who we are as a church, but I will tell you that on the whole we are very grateful to be a part of a network of churches that cooperate for the purpose of mission.

To give you just one easy example to get  your mind around: There are 158 members of the Summit Church that are serving overseas as missionaries with the International Mission Board, which is the international missions arm of the Southern Baptist Convention.  For us to pay for our members, just our members, just to pay for them overseas would cost us in excess of $6 million a year.

It doesn’t cost us really anything.

And when we give to the SBC, but it doesn’t … they are able to go freely because of the cooperative efforts of 46,000 churches across the United States. So, we are very grateful to be a part of it, and we understand that if we are going to be a part of it, it means that we oughta take some of the responsibility in helping to shape it and to point it in the directions we feel like God would have it to go.

RUSS MOORE VERSUS ROBERT JEFFRESS

Greear’s comments during a November 14, 2017, video by The Gospel Coalition, “J.D. Greear on the SBC, Trump, and More”:

So I’ve been very attracted to either to remain within the SBC because, in large part, the staying power of the institution when it comes to international missions.

Their theological training — I’m pretty excited about the leadership of most of ‘em right now.

Kevin Ezell at North American Mission Board is fantastic.  He is very humble and approachable.

Of course, David Platt, at the IMB.

Russell Moore is a great representative at the ERLC.

Our seminaries, you know, several of them are led by people that are just—and willing to do things differently in how they do it.

And we’ve just felt like it’s worth being a part of the conversation with them to keep it going in the right direction.

I added up, I don’t have a statistic relevant today, but last year added up the amount of money that the IMB pays for our people — just Summit people on the mission field — and that number was like $4.6 million.

That’s a lot bigger than our mission budget.

And so, you know, that’s the power of an institution.

And so, for some of the guys out here, the men and women, it’s going to be a natural partnership, and it’s gonna, you’re gonna hafta, you know, get your hands dirty a little bit.

But, there’s more good that’ll come out of it, and for some it’s not gonna make sense as the right network.

Question:  So the disadvantages, then like the difficulty of being associated with the Baptists when something comes out in the news or some Baptist pastor says something crazy on CNN or Fox News.

Greear: Right or has one of the Fox News things in his pulpit on Sunday.

Question: A Roman Catholic in his pulpit on a Sunday morning on the same week that he called Roman Catholicism a pagan blood cult.

Greear: No irony there.

Question: No irony there. What does that, what does that draw out in you and what do you do about it?

Greear: Part of it is just the dilemma of being in any large group of people.

I think very quickly after I had grown a little disillusioned with the SBC I found that every other network I started to get in there’s like, well, they got crazy uncles too in here…

And I think I’m the crazy uncle to some of these people so, you know, just sort of the nature of it that it’s that and God has always worked in, you know, these imperfect things. And, there comes a point at which hypocrisy is so bad that you can’t go on, but … .

At some point you got to make a decision that you’re gonna be with fallen people, and fallen people bring these issues, and you gotta get in there and fight.

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