Decoding Calvinism | Part One

February 17, 2016

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

Decoding Calvinism: Does Unconditional Election Include a Forced Change, a Freely Chosen Change, or Both?

There are many examples of confusing language regarding man’s free exercise of faith in Calvinism. Lewis Sperry Chafer responds to Arminians’ rejection of the term “sovereign grace” and their charge that such coerces or annuls the human will by saying, “No step can be taken in the accomplishment of His sovereign purpose which will even tend to coerce the human volition. He does awaken the mind of man to spiritual sanity and brings before him the desirability of salvation through Christ. If by His power, God creates new visions of the reality of sin and of the blessedness of Christ as Savior and under this enlightenment men choose to be saved, their wills are not coerced nor are they deprived of the action of any part of their own beings. It is the unreasoned objection of Arminians that the human will is annulled by sovereign election.”[1]

This is quite obviously intended to explicitly confirm that the salvific process according to Calvinism does not require man’s will to be forcibly changed in the outworking of the doctrine of unconditional election through irresistible grace (the efficacious call), monergistic salvation in which man is completely passive, and the free exercise of faith. To further clarify and bolster the refutation against Arminians, he quotes Principal Cunningham who so deeply embeds the idea of compatible freedom in his answer that unless one is thoroughly familiar with the idea, it will most assuredly be unnoticed. I will quote him at length so that you may see the actual context of the particular statements that I address, and then I will comment on his defense against Arminians. In reference to the Arminians’ charge against Calvinists, Principal Cunningham says,

“They usually represent our doctrine as implying that men are forced to believe and to turn to God against their will…. This is a misrepresentation. Calvinists hold no such opinion; and it cannot be shown that their doctrine requires them to hold it. Indeed, the full statement of their doctrine upon the subject excludes or contradicts it. Our Confession of Faith, after giving an account of effectual calling, which plainly implies that the grace of God in conversion is an exercise of omnipotence, and cannot be successfully resisted, adds, ‘Yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.’ That special operation of the Spirit, which cannot be overcome or frustrated, is just the renovation of the will itself, by which a power of willing what is spiritually good—a power which it has not of itself in its natural condition, and which it could not receive from any source but a divine and almighty agency—is communicated to it. In the exercise of this new power, men are able to co-operate with the Spirit of God, guiding and directing them; and they do this, and do it, not by constraint, but willingly,—being led, under the influence of the news concerning Christ, and the way of salvation which He has opened up to and impressed upon them, and the motives which these views suggest, to embrace Christ, and to choose that better part which shall never be taken away from them. In the commencement of the process, they are not actors at all; they are wholly passive,—the subjects of a divine operation. And from the time when they begin to act in the matter, or really to do anything, they act freely and voluntarily, guided by rational motives, derived from the truths which their eyes have been opened to see, and which, humanly speaking, might have sooner led them to turn to God, had not the moral impotency of their wills to anything spiritually good prevented this result. There is certainly nothing in all this to warrant the representation, that, upon Calvinistic principles, men are forced to repent and believe against their wills, or whether they will or not.[2]

Let me delve into this for a moment. Remember that according to compatibilism, one is considered to make a free choice when one chooses according to his own desires even though one cannot choose differently at that moment of decision given the same past or nature; thus, according to compatibilism, every decision is both determined and free. Now, with this understanding in mind, one is equipped to detect the otherwise undetectable compatible view of moral freedom ensconced in his response to the Arminians.

First, he argues that Arminians are wrong for accusing Calvinists of believing that men are “forced to believe and to turn to God against their will.” Provided that this is an accurate citation of some Arminians, Cunningham is technically correct because this is not what Calvinism or compatibilism teach.

Second, Cunningham says, “Our Confession of Faith, after giving an account of effectual calling, which plainly implies that the grace of God in conversion is an exercise of omnipotence, and cannot be successfully resisted,” adds “yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.” In this statement, he almost indiscernibly blends the effectual calling, which is irresistibly forced against man’s fallen nature (man’s fallen nature will never produce a desire to do anything but to freely resist God), and the result of that unwanted, monergistic, irresistible work of God that produces a new nature (emanating new desires) from which man freely chooses to believe in Christ.

Notice that the irresistible omnipotent act preceded man’s free choice to believe, which he describes as coming after the lost man is “made willing by His grace.” Although he meticulously avoids the term, this is clearly compatibilism. To wit, at the precise time of this omnipotent work, man is spiritually passive, and God monergistically does a work of grace in changing fallen man’s rebellious sinful nature that can only disbelieve, so that from the completion of this divine irresistible work, man receives a new nature emanating new desires from which man now can freely believe. Importantly, it is only after having been “made willing” that man transitions from being passive and incapable of believing or participating in any way to playing an active part in the process by freely believing. To engage the beliefs of Calvinism properly, this distinction must be recognized.

Third, the following statement says precisely what I have said in my explanation of his words, albeit far more concealedly of compatibilism. He says, “That special operation of the Spirit, which cannot be overcome or frustrated, is just the renovation of the will itself, by which a power of willing what is spiritually good—a power which it has not of itself in its natural condition, and which it could not receive from any source but a divine and almighty agency—is communicated to it.” (italics added) Observe the emphasis upon the irresistibility of this operation of the Spirit, which underscores again that given compatibilism, fallen man cannot choose to believe given his nature and past, and yet he is also incapable of successfully resisting this initial work of God (which is precisely the only thing he is capable of trying to do given his nature or past according to compatibilism).

He refers to this act of God as “the renovation of the will itself” which gives a “power of willing what is spiritually good.” Up until the “renovation” the individual could not act (except in rebellion against God), participate, or believe, but subsequent to the renovation comes a new power to will what is “spiritually good.” That is to say, the renovation (some use regeneration, quickening, etc.,) changes the person’s nature from which emanates new desires. From these new desires, he now not only can will the “spiritually good” (believe in Christ), but he will necessarily and inviolably only will himself to freely believe; to wit, he can no longer choose not to believe given this new past.

Part Two Coming Soon!

 

[1] Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 284.
[2] William Cunningham, Historical Theology, 3rd ed. (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1870), 413-414; as cited in Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993), 284–285.

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Norm

Superlative, Ronnie, as usual.

Among the several places my mind went while reading your treatise, I wondered what motivates unregenerate people to perform “good works”? Surely the HS would not inspire activities that would keep the lost on the road to hell. While works alone indicate no saving faith, then surely a sense of morality is the motivation. But wait, how is it a lost person has a sense of morality unless God gave it? Are not some acting upon that sense – even if in a non-salvific way?

Many will say “Lord,Lord, we did good works,” but will go to hell. So I come back to it: Apart from the charlatans’ evil, why does such a motivation to appease God, even wrong-headedly, seem innate, yet such a person is deemed by some as totally unable to respond to God unless God makes the first move, i.e., grace enablement?

Rhetorical questions, all, Ronnie. Thank you.

    Norm

    Even further down this road – what about idolatry? False gods necessitate a real One. If there were no God, why carve/build fake ones? ‘Twould seem that those totally unable to respond to God would not give a rip about appeasing any god, unless….

    Rhetorical, yet again.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Thank you Norm

    Lydia

    Norm,

    NT Wright talks about this from another perspective. He noticed that even little children have a sense of what is fair or not if you watch them play. Where does that come from? Now what happens to that sense of fairness has everything to do with environment which is where modeling and teaching come in. But that basic sense of what is right toward themselves and others was there early on. How can that happen within the context of total depravity?

    Juxtapose this with Washer teaching that a baby would bloody your arm to get at the shiny watch. He thinks this proves total depravity instead of a lack of reasoning skills. But that same baby will offer you his pacifier with a sweet smile… so not sure what the shiny watch illustration proves.

doug sayers

Thanks Ronnie, very meticulous, as always. I think everyone knows, deep in our souls, that *an irresistibly wrought repentance – is no true repentance.* The Holy Spirit is very good at convincing us of our sin and pointing us to Jesus but He wants us to have a faith that works by love… not by irresistible compulsion. Repentance and faith are not hard sciences. They don’t play by the same rules.

Calvinists must actually recognize this, otherwise they would not work so hard to conjure up an elaborate explanation / smokescreen for their over-correction of justification by works.

Rick Patrick

“…they are wholly passive, the subjects of a divine operation.” Cunningham here removes any possibility for genuine human responsibility. One who is “wholly passive” cannot be held responsible for a free decision.

Jim P

Jesus’ Words, “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him;…” John 6:44

At the very least Jesus, Himself, claims that there is activity of God happening in the background that is removed from man’s involvement. In this activity He makes what seems to be a pretty authoritative claim with explaining “No one can come…”

Pastor Rogers, A point to be considered in your article.

    Andy

    Jim,

    I believe the non-Calvinist position is simply that God “draws” all, yet not irresistibly. It is certainly the position of Classical Arminianism: They call in prevenient grace. Ie, Because of inherited sin nature/depravity, no one seeks God, no one comes to God on their own. They would agree with Calvinists on this. BUT, God has chosen to seek and draw all men to himself, though not irresistibly…in effect moving a man from inability to come to ability, but not causing the man’s will to come.

    Of course, SOME non-calvinists take it a bit further and say that Man’s ABILITY to respond was not ruined by the fall, such that it is simply by hearing the Gospel that me are “drawn.” …that nothing within the man changes from inability to ability.

    norm

    Jim: I think all Traditionalists concur on the “drawing” aspect of the Holy Spirit that must be a precursor to anyone’s salvation. The question is whether it is resistible. I further would aver that Traditionalists would not see human responsibility and God’s sovereignty as mutually exclusive. Clearly, both are active in the process.

      Eric

      Stephen addressing the High Priest before being put to death. Acts 7:51 51 “You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did.”

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Jim

    Thanks for the comment, but I have regularly addressed that particular issue in this forum; for example, see SBC Today article for February 2015, “Rejecting Calvinism Does not Require a Weakened View of Depravity”, for October 2015, “Faith is the Condition of Salvation and Grace is the Work of Salvation”. I have addressed it on my blog, ronniewrogers.com in articles like “Anyone and Everyone Can Be Saved by Grace.

    I recently completed a series of messages preached at my church entitled, “The Dynamic of the Gospel Encounter” (John 12: 27-42, emphasis upon vs. 27-36) in which I examine the word “draw” grammatically, New Testament usage and in context.

    The Truth is that SBC Today is overly gracious to me in permitting somewhat lengthy articles as it is. I can only ask that readers focus upon what I do address in the particular article under consideration rather than what I do not address in said article—which will always be more than I address.

    Succinctly, I believe that God’s plan is a coextensive creation/redemption plan in which he provisioned sufficiently through creative grace so that Adam and Eve were able to make a libertarian choice of whether to trust Him or eat of the fruit.

    Subsequent to the fall, and because I believe the fall to have so profoundly corrupted man including his ability to make a spiritually restorative choice emanating from merely created grace (such limitation does not include the elimination of libertarian freedom and the exercise thereof in many areas). Consequently, in order to make restoration possible, God had to provide fallen man with redemptive because creative grace, while sufficient for unfallen man, is insufficient for fallen—the fall corrupted everything; therefore, God’s plan included redemptive grace, what I often refer to as grace-enablements, so that fallen man, while still in his sin, can receive the gospel or turn and walk away with full understanding of the gospel.

    Here is a paragraph in which I summarize grace-enablements

    The means of this grace enablement include but are not limited to: Gods’ salvific love for all (John 3:16), God’s manifestation of His power so that all may know He is the Sovereign (Isaiah 45:21—22) and Creator (Romans 1:18—20), which assures that everyone has opportunity to know about Him. Christ paying for all sins (John 1:29), conviction of the Holy Spirit (John 16:7—11), working of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:1—6), enlightening of the Son (John 1:9), God’s teaching (John 6:45), God opening hearts (Acts 16:14), and the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16), without such redemptive grace, no one seeks or comes to God (Romans 3:11). Further, I believe that man, because of these gracious provisions and workings of God, can choose to seek and find God (Jeremiah 29:13; Acts 17:11—12). Moreover, no one can come to God without God drawing (John 6:44), and that God is drawing all men, individuals (John 12:32). The same Greek word for draw, helku?, is used in both verses.” About 115 passages condition salvation on believing alone, and about 35 simply on faith.” Other grace enablements may include providential workings in and through other people, situations, and timing or circumstances that are a part of grace to provide an opportunity for every individual to choose to follow Christ.
    Again, thanks, and I hope this helps.

    Scott Shaver

    Here’s a question for you Jim P.

    Can you describe the trinity effect and/or dynamic by which Jesus “draws”.

    Would love to read your response.

Debbie Kaufman

Good works in the unregenerate is the point in Calvinism as well. And the point you made of good works and people still going to hell. Before regeneration, the motive to do good works is anything but to honor God. After regeneration it’s the motive and reason that changes. Thus the difference.

    Scott Shaver

    Debbie:

    Pagans (head hunters in the Amazon etc) have religion and dance around stumps along with other acts of devotion to pacify their “gods”.

    Their devotion is pure but misguided from a “Christian” perspective.

    Why do you insist with this idea of extra-biblical re-generational purity (for lack of a better term) in describing how God operates.

    Certainly don’t find it in scriptures.

Lydia

I can’t seem to get past this all encompassing definition of “regenerate”. Just think of Rahab. Was she regenerated before she lied to hide and therefore save Gods people? Or was she regenerated after? Or, did she simply believe in the power of this Yahweh she had heard of and agreed to hide his people therefore Gods people saved her and her family. If she was generated before, then her “motives” were pure to honor Yahweh. If not, her motive was not pure. Sheesh!

Maybe we should ask if Calvin was “regenerate” as he had Servetus imprisoned when he came to hear Calvin preach that resulted in his burning at the stake? Was Calvins “good work” honoring God with pure motives?

    norm

    Great points, all, Lydia. I fully expected to hear the tripe-filled answer that Calvin was a man of his times — as if that excuses murder. Those who would appeal to that feckless point should be willing to excuse their own daughter who would choose to have an abortion since it is legal and since she is “just a young woman of her times.”
    Calvinist defenders don’t want to acknowledge that Calvin was a murderer, and that not only of Servetus. He also tried to establish a theocracy in Geneva, and that included severe public punishments – even death – for certain sins. And then it was Calvin’s followers who murdered our Anabaptist forebears for their biblical convictions regarding baptism by immersion.
    It is beyond me that there are so many “intelligent” people in the SBC, yes, leaders, who still defend Calvin despite his murderous and tortuous ways, and who cannot see through his soteriological fallacies as do Ronnie Rogers, Doug Sayers and Leighton Flowers — just to name a few former Calvinists.

    JD Barker

    http://adam4d.com/anti-calvinist/

      Robert

      J.D.,
      Thanks for sharing your little comic. As I said to Debbie, if Servetus were the ONLY evil thing that Calvin did, that would be one thing. But Servetus is just the tip of the iceberg. Calvin not only had Servetus murdered and it was not justified. He also had people banished, imprisoned, he was really nasty with those who disagreed with him. It is true that some may emphasize Servetus, but it was much more evil than that. If someone did what Calvin did, there was no way any local church candidating committee would ever choose him to be their pastor. And yet Calvinists ignorant of all the things Calvin did OR intentionally trying to hide it and minimize it, try to tell us with a straight face that he was a good person who was just a man of his times.

      Lydia

      JD, it’s about time someone brings him up and often. It was against the law at one time to do so. .It was interesting reading about the obscure plaque in Geneva marking his existence… hidden behind bushes. . (They did not bury ashes of heretics). Quite a juxtaposition from the giant Calvin carved on a stone wall where Piper filmed his retirement video proclaiming Calvin’s greatness. Expensive announcement but quite dramatic.

      I just don’t get it.

Debbie Kaufman

Calvin was a person of his time, just like you are fighting and desecrating things such as Calvinism. There is no difference really between what you are doing here and what Calvin did with Servetus. So I don’t know why you are so intent on this, btw I believe Calvin was wrong, but Servetus was pretty rotten in the heretic department. But you destroy with words and not so accurate ones either. So no difference. Regeneration is being born again by the Holy Spirit and does not require exact words of asking Christ into you heart or even walking down an aisle. It’s the grace of God…..and it does change a person more toward perfection than not, although we still sin.

    Scott Shaver

    Debbie:

    When did you first develop a taste for this “regenerational” kool-aid you’ve been drinking?

    Lydia

    “Calvin was a person of his time, ”

    Which can only translate: the Holy Spirit was AWOL. Surely you don’t believe that.

    We are not talking of someone who did evil, was convicted of truth, saved with great remorse but the hope of renewal.

    No, we are talking about someone who proclaimed to not only know our Lord but developed a system for what to believe about him. And that system approved of severe punishment for dissenters. A total lie about our Lord.

    You don’t see a difference in exchanging opinions with words and burning a person at the stake?

      Debbie Kaufman

      Lydia: No, no more than I can explain some of the things you and others say that seems totally void of the Holy Spirit.

        Lydia

        So, you don’t see a difference in the exchange of opinion with words you disagree with and burning a person at the stake? This has to be the sin leveling/moral relativism stance. If one lived in Geneva in 16th century and had state church power then burning someone at the stake is understandable. Interestingly enough dissenting opinion in public was outlawed for the average person in Geneva, too.

        This belief in Calvin as systemic representative of Jesus Christ has seared your heart and ability to even think with any semblance of reason.

          Debbie Kaufman

          And I think your hatred for many things, Calvinism being only one, has seared your heart and ability to think with any semblance of reason. Blasting things that we as Christians should be for, certainly not against.

            Debbie Kaufman

            If you all think words and certain ideals don’t kill then you would be very, very wrong.

              Lydia

              I*f you all think words and certain ideals don’t kill then you would be very, very wrong.”

              You are in the right place. Calvinism has a history of censoring and squashing the discussion of ideas.

              Robert

              Debbie your words here: “If you all think words and certain ideals don’t kill then you would be very, very wrong.” ARE SOME OF THE MOST IRONIC WORDS THAT I HAVE EVER READ!!!

              Why? Because you are speaking to modern Baptists, and many of us are aware of church history much more than you seem to be. And we are AWARE of how the Anabaptists were persecuted, literally tortured and killed for their belief in believer baptism. And it was the Reformers and their “words and certain ideals” that led to the Anabaptists being treated in such an evil way. One of the things that was done to the Anabaptists is that they would drown them, revive them, drown them again, and revive them again and keep doing so until they died. Yes we are quite aware that “words and certain ideals” kill. That is another reason we oppose Calvinism. If you look at history and see the evil persecutions carried out by Calvinists against Anabaptists, Arminians, and anyone else who challenged, questioned or opposed Calvinism, IT IS CALVINISM THAT KILLS PEOPLE BASED UPON CERTAIN IDEALS!!! You are so blinded by your allegiance to this false system of theology that you completely neglect what Calvinists have done historically to those who disagreed with them. Fact is, many of us, had we lived during those times and espoused our Baptist ideas and non-Calvinism we would have been tortured, banished, imprisoned and killed as well. You have no credibility whatsoever if you forget the real history connected to Calvinism and the Reformers.

            Lydia

            I know the playbook: Disagreement is ” hatred”. Negative truths about Calvin are “hatred”.

            Scott Shaver

            “…..Blasting things wthat we as Christians should be for, certainly not against”

            Think I’ll let Christ define being Christian rather than opt for the collective view, Debbie.

    Robert

    Debbie,

    You keep defending the indefensible:

    “Calvin was a person of his time, just like you are fighting and desecrating things such as Calvinism.”

    This argument that since Calvin was a “man of his time” therefore his treatment of Servetus and others is acceptable is a **total sham**. You are defending murder. We are not under the OT law so we have no right to execute heretics.

    And the thing you conveniently ignore and keep putting under the rug is that Calvin’s evil actions **go beyond Servetus**. Yes he had Servetus killed. He also persecuted others by having them banished, put in prison and was merciless in his attack of all who disagreed with him.

    Calvin was a moral monster, and his actions done in any time period are evil and indefensible.

    “There is no difference really between what you are doing here and what Calvin did with Servetus.”

    Big difference, here we are expressing our opinions openly without the threat that we will be banished or imprisoned or even killed (things which Calvin did to those who disagree with him). No one here is recommending that Calvinists be banished, imprisoned or killed for their erroneous beliefs. And yet Calvin DID do those things to those he disagreed with.

    There is no comparison at all between Ronnie rationally and biblically showing problems with Calvinist theology, and what Calvin did to people.

    “So I don’t know why you are so intent on this, btw I believe Calvin was wrong, but Servetus was pretty rotten in the heretic department.”

    Was he so “rotten” as to merit being murdered?

    I can point out all sorts of folks today who advocate “rotten” beliefs should they be killed for these beliefs?

    “But you destroy with words and not so accurate ones either. So no difference.”

    Ronnie has not been inaccurate at all, you make the claim but GIVE NO EXAMPLES WHATSOEVER. That is just a useless and unsubstantiated and baseless claim.

    “Regeneration is being born again by the Holy Spirit and does not require exact words of asking Christ into you heart or even walking down an aisle. It’s the grace of God…..and it does change a person more toward perfection than not, although we still sin.”

    No one here says anything about our words causing regeneration.

    Regeneration is an act by God alone, this is held by both Calvinists and traditionalists.

    I find it interesting that you mention “asking Christ into your heart” and “walking down the aisle”: does that mean you are against these things? I know people who were saved doing both of those things, are you going to question their salvation and claim they were not saved and are not saved persons now? Only a person who knows their heart completely could make such a claim, so only God knows that. But you presumptuously imply that people are not saved when they ask Jesus into their heart or walk the aisle. As Traditionalists do not believe we cause regeneration by our actions, your shot at walking the aisle is just your Calvinistic frustration coming out.

      THEOparadox

      Robert,

      Unfortunately, your comments about asking the Lord into one’s heart and “walking the aisle” are a non sequitur. People have been converted while frying fish, chopping wood, watching TV, and even drinking beer. It doesn’t mean we should sanction or censure these activities, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should teach them as the way to be saved. The question is not, “what were people doing at the moment of conversion?” The question is, “what does Scripture teach us about conversion” and “what response should we call them to?” That would be a much more productive conversation, and one that is logically warranted. The Biblical answer: repentance and faith, (followed, hopefully, by baptism). And the question behind the question: from whence do these arise? If from God, it is monergism. If from God and the sinner acting together cooperatively … well, then I would have to be a Traditionalist or an Arminian.

        Robert

        Debbie appeared to be slamming walking down the aisle and asking Jesus into your heart (two things that commonly occur when Baptists evangelize). She made the point that regeneration does not require these things:

        “Regeneration is being born again by the Holy Spirit and does not require exact words of asking Christ into you heart or even walking down an aisle. It’s the grace of God…..and it does change a person more toward perfection than not, although we still sin.”

        I responded that:

        [[“No one here says anything about our words causing regeneration.
        Regeneration is an act by God alone, this is held by both Calvinists and traditionalists.”]]

        Note that I made it absolutely clear that we do not believe that walking down the aisle or using the words “Jesus come into my heart” CAUSE REGENERATION (this is true because only God causes regeneration).

        I also said just as clearly that “Regeneration is an act by God alone, this is held by both Calvinists and traditionalists.”

        I then questioned why Debbie was attacking walking the aisle and asking Jesus into one’s heart:

        “I find it interesting that you mention “asking Christ into your heart” and “walking down the aisle”: does that mean you are against these things? I know people who were saved doing both of those things, are you going to question their salvation and claim they were not saved and are not saved persons now? Only a person who knows their heart completely could make such a claim, so only God knows that. But you presumptuously imply that people are not saved when they ask Jesus into their heart or walk the aisle. As Traditionalists do not believe we cause regeneration by our actions, your shot at walking the aisle is just your Calvinistic frustration coming out.”

        Now you come along and claim:

        “Unfortunately, your comments about asking the Lord into one’s heart and “walking the aisle” are a non sequitur. People have been converted while frying fish, chopping wood, watching TV, and even drinking beer.

        Did I ever say that people are ONLY saved in the contexts of when they walk the aisle or ask Jesus into their hearts?

        No.

        My point was **not** that these are the EXCLUSIVE contexts in which a person is saved.

        You continued:

        “It doesn’t mean we should sanction or censure these activities, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should teach them as the way to be saved. The question is not, “what were people doing at the moment of conversion?” The question is, “what does Scripture teach us about conversion” and “what response should we call them to?””

        To be blunt, scripture does not teach us much about conversion (in fact Jesus likened the work of the Spirit to the wind that you don’t know where it came from or where it is going/cf. John 3 his conversation with Nicodemus). The Bible does explicitly tell us that we are saved when we receive him by faith (Col. 2:6). So Baptists have for a long time believed that we can encourage people to receive him by faith/respond to Him by faith (hence the practices of walking the aisle to make a public profession of when they are accepting him by faith and asking Jesus into your heart).

        Are these the ONLY possible contexts in which people are saved? No, and we do not make that claim.

        If you are going to ask a person to make a response (which happens when you evangelized and call for a response), there is going to be some sort of context in which this occurs. We have found that walking the aisle is a good context when a public service is involved. And asking Jesus into your heart while praying is a good context when the decision occurs in the privacy of a person’s mind/thinking.

        Les

        I agree with how Jonathan Leeman answered a question about altar calls over at TGC. He said in part,

        “So why wouldn’t I give an altar call? In short, I believe that this particular man-made practice, this 19th-century innovation, has produced more bad than good for Christian churches in the West. The altar call relies on the powers of emotion, rhetorical persuasion, and social pressure to induce people to make a hasty and premature decision. And producing professions is not the same thing as making disciples. Surely a number of factors are responsible for the many nominal Christians that typify Christianity in the West, but I believe that the altar call is one of them.” http://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/you-asked-should-churches-perform-altar-calls

        There is more there worth reading.

        So in summary, I don’t think having people come forward is inherently sinful. I just think it’s fraught with too much opportunity for misuse. Churches I have been in for 25 years do not ask people to come forward during an “invitation” time and we have seen many people come to faith over those years.

          Lydia

          Leeman also believes in human mediators who hold the keys.

            Andy

            4. Either it was Peter alone in Matt 16:19 who held the keys the kingdom…
            5. Or it was the original 12 disciples…
            6. Or it applies to the church at large…

            Which would you say is correct? What does “holds the keys” mean biblically? and do you deny that any of the above are human?

              Lydia

              “4. Either it was Peter alone in Matt 16:19 who held the keys the kingdom…
              5. Or it was the original 12 disciples…
              6. Or it applies to the church at large…

              Which would you say is correct? What does “holds the keys” mean biblically? and do you deny that any of the above are human?”

              Andy, I don’t really have the time or inclination to get into this one because it involves so much that we probably disagree with anyway. I most likely don’t even view the meaning of “kingdom” the same as you. I also read at a birds eye view as far as historical context and what took place/ what was said before and after that particular passage. I also am careful not too read too much into metaphors and make them something they are not. (We have a problem with the human mediator interpretation from the standpoint of passages like Matthew 23:8-12) the Catholics make the keys passage into the Pope Passage. We must be careful as many skate very close to that interpretation using other titles.

              One aspect of this metaphor is that the key opens. Later we read Jesus accusing the Religious leaders of “closing” the door to the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces (Matt 23:13)

              So on and on we could go….around and round. It is about truth. Jesus is God in the flesh. Peter got it right even if he did not realize at the time what all that entailed! It is not about human power over others. It is not about you or me having the power to declare someone saved or not based on a title.

              Lydia

              Andy,

              It is a frustrating question because it involves so much more than that particular passage. I tend to read at a birds eye view and take into consideration what was going on before and after a particular passage within its historical context. I doubt very seriously you and I would even agree on the comprehensive meaning of “kingdom”.

              We have to be careful because this is also the “pope passage” for the Catholics. we also have a tendency to skate very close to that interpretation using other titles . I always want to be very careful not to take a metaphor too far.

              I do believe in this passage that the keys refer to “opening” the kingdom. This came by Peter speaking truth: Jesus is the Son of God. Later in chp 23, Jesus speaks of the religious leaders “closing” the door of the kingdom in people’s faces. We must also be careful of the human mediator interpretation in light of Matt 23 8-12 and the audience listening.

              The worst thing we can do is turn a lovely truth into an excuse to declare human power over others.

                Lydia

                Hey, the blog played a trick on me. It said my first comment on this to Andy did not go through. Sorry for the duplication!

                  Les

                  “Hey, the blog played a trick on me.”

                  Most likely a Calvinist has hacked in and is trying to wreak havoc. :) :)

          Les

          “Leeman also believes in human mediators who hold the keys.”

          1. You don’t even know what that means in protestant theology.
          2. Has zero to do with what he said about altar calls.
          3. Can’t defeat his argument, so try to tear him down. Priceless.

            Lydia

            “1. You don’t even know what that means in protestant theology.
            2. Has zero to do with what he said about altar calls.
            3. Can’t defeat his argument, so try to tear him down. Priceless.”

            1. That does not surprise me. Unless one agrees in your world, it means they “don’t understand”. :o)
            2. His take on “human mediators” and “keys” has to do with his “state of thinking” and credibility as a teacher
            3. Repeating what he teaches in important areas is not “tearing him down”. I don’t need to “defeat” his “argument”. Wondering why you think I need to?

            Altar calls are not necessary at all. but I do wonder why the YRR made a such a big deal about them for so long considering what they believe about being chosen while others damned by default. And before they were even born, the world was formed or even before Adam sinned. Seems to me, altar calls would be a moot point compared to all that. :o)

            Les

            “1. That does not surprise me. Unless one agrees in your world, it means they “don’t understand”. :o)
            2. His take on “human mediators” and “keys” has to do with his “state of thinking” and credibility as a teacher
            3. Repeating what he teaches in important areas is not “tearing him down”. I don’t need to “defeat” his “argument”. Wondering why you think I need to?”

            1. Why don’t you articulate the Leeman’s view of the keys of the kingdom? Let’s see if you know what he actually believes.
            2. Show what his state of thinking actually is.
            3. Tearing him down was not the best choice of words on my part. Should have said “Can’t defeat his argument, so try to discredit him. Priceless.”

            Attempting to be accurate scripturally is never a moot point.

              Lydia

              Les, People can go read Leeman and the 9 Marks view of keys and their fluffy explanation of the human mediators…if they want. Unless some of it was taken down.

              They are referred to as the “Hotel California” churches for a reason. :o)

Andrew Barker

Debbie Kaufman: Your comment “Regeneration is being born again by the Holy Spirit ” makes me wonder why you need to use the word ‘regeneration’ at all. It’s certainly not in any of the major bible verses concerning “being born again”. I also have to ask, what is it that you are regenerating? If my memory serves me correct, when a person is ‘born again’ they become a ‘new creation’. They are not, at least as I read it, re-created, or indeed regenerated.

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