Decoding Calvinism | Part Two

February 19, 2016

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

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

Click HERE for Part One.

Fourth, in this next part he elaborates on this new power to choose “spiritual good,” i.e. exercise free choice to believe, but keep in mind that this ability, as he has sequenced, comes only after the forced “renovation.” He says, “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.” Therefore, once man’s nature has been changed in the forced renovation, then and only then, man is enabled to “co-operate with the Spirit of God.”

Accordingly, the Calvinists are correct in denying that they believe man is forced to believe in Christ because this free choice to believe is in fact what one does after the “renovation,” but notice that the renovation was not something that man freely chose or even actively participated in; actually, his only activity up to and at that point in the salvific process was rebellion. At the time of renovation—regeneration, quickening—man is only active in rebellion and resisting the omnipotent work of grace—irresistible grace or effectual calling— which he cannot succeed in resisting, and he is not cooperating spiritually or willfully in any sense because he is totally passive until after the renovation. Thus, this renovation is imposed upon man against the exercise of his free will, free choice, which can only act in rebellion, emanating from the desires of his fallen nature, and is therefore monergistic.[1]

Only subsequently, having been renovated, does his new nature emanate new desires enabling him to become a participant in the process by freely choosing to believe in Christ. Notably, and often elided in Calvinism’s explanations as is done here, subsequent to renovation the person is no more able to choose not to believe than he was able to choose to believe prior to God’s omnipotently imposed renovation. What is seen by examining Cunningham’s statements is that because of these encryptions, one has to be very precise in order to expose the actual meaning and determinism of Calvinism, thereby avoiding being summarily dismissed by Calvinists as misrepresenting their perspective.

Fifth, his summarization of his remarks is precisely according to compatibilism as is my explanation of the meaning of his comments. He states, “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.” What his refutation of the Arminian charge does in the final analysis is only to point out an imprecision in their critique rather than liberating Calvinism from definite determinism.

As we look at this statement more closely we see at the “commencement” of the salvific process (up to and when the renovation happens), man is not “an actor” in the progression because he is “wholly passive” and this passivity continues until the “divine operation” is complete. Once the operation is complete and the “subject” has experienced the divine “renovation” (receives a new nature which emanates new desires), “they begin to act in the matter, or really do…anything, they act freely and voluntarily.” This is the component about which many are confused and, consequently, makes them imprecise in their evaluation of Calvinism, leaving them legitimately open to the charge of misrepresenting Calvinism. Compatibilism includes voluntariness (the person acts freely), but excludes origination (that the person can given the same past or nature originate a new sequence of events). This is precisely what is seen in his defense of Calvinism and entailed in compatibilism.

He concludes, “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.” Once again, technically he is correct because the exercise of repentance and faith after the renovation is according to their new wills and desires. However, what is eloquently concealed in Cunningham’s correction of the Arminians is that the free choosing to repent is indeed a predetermined free choosing that emanates from God’s irresistible (although it was indeed resisted by the lost man every step of the way) renovation. That is to say, the free choice to repent and believe after the renovation was as inviolably necessary and irresistible as the free choice of the sinner to resist God prior to the renovation; in each state the individual did what he voluntarily chose to do, but he could not have originated a new sequence of events (chosen differently) other than the sequence that did in fact happen in the respective states of the continuum.

Therefore, Calvinism’s embracement of man being endowed with compatible freedom does in fact mean that every decision, from choosing to sin to accepting or rejecting Christ is a predetermined free choice based not merely upon God’s foreknowledge of what man will choose (libertarian freedom), but rather upon what God predetermined that man can only will to choose. The nature of compatibilism is that man, given the same past or nature, at the moral moment of decision, cannot will himself to choose differently than he does in fact choose. That is to say, while he does possess voluntariness, he does not possess the ability to originate a new sequence of events; such possibility is absolutely absent from compatibilism and Calvinism.

This determinism is necessarily based upon the nature of compatibilism, microscopic to the point that if it were true, every biblical portrait of man choosing between accessible options of good and evil, your choosing to read or not read this article, and even whether you agree or not, was inviolably determined by your past or nature, which was given by God; any sense of choosing between reading or not, agreeing or not is in fact a delusion—as is every sense of choosing between various seemingly accessible options.

Now to the question of this article, “Does Unconditional Election Include a Forced Change, a Freely Chosen Change, or Both? The answer is both. Accordingly, it is inaccurate to say that Calvinists believe man is forced to believe, but it is equally inaccurate for Calvinists to deny that they believe the elect are forced to freely believe. My prayer is that Calvinists would be more forthright in the conveyance of their compatibilist perspective on freedom, and do so accurately.

A precise understanding of the issue regarding our different perspectives concerning the moral freedom and nature of man brings us to the real issue, which is the person of God. This is where the genesiacal and cardinal disagreement between Extensivists and Calvinists exists from which others emerge.[2]

 

[1] Any reliance upon the distinction between logical and chronological priority seems to a most inadequate liberator from this time and space descriptive chronology.
[2] I use this term specifically as a label for my own soteriological position, and at times, as here, more generally to include the various soteriological perspectives that reject Calvinism.

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doug sayers

You’re making my head hurt Ronnie!

Here is a question that, I think, cuts through all the verbal gymnastics and brings some clarity:

Q: In the Calvinistic system, can the regenerated (or effectually called) sinner resist repenting and trusting the Truth?

A: No possible way. They *must* repent; penitent faith *cannot* be resisted among the elect.

To which I would say, again, you have decoded the divine kind of fatalism taught in the Reformed system.

Repentance, by definition, is a self imposed changing of the mind; therefore, an irresistible repentance is no meaningful repentance. God has graciously deputized every culpable sinner with the power of contrary choice. We each can ultimately receive the Truth or suppress the Truth.

    Prchrbill Conover

    By whose definition is it “self imposed”?

      Robert

      Preacher Bill,

      Doug meant that when we CHANGE OUT MINDS, which is what metanoia/repentance means (it was a military term referring to a soldier who is marching one way and then abruptly changes and goes the opposite way, our expression for it is “about face”) it is US who is changing our mind about something or someone.

      It is not another person controlling our minds to the point that they change our minds. It is us.

      If you ever changed your mind about anything (and I am guessing that you have, and you have done so many times), was it not YOU who was changing your mind?

      Or was some sort of mind control going on in which ANOTHER PERSON was controlling your mind and changed your mind against your will???

      This is all that Doug is referring to, he is saying it is self evident, that when WE change our minds about something it is US changing our minds, not another person controlling our minds to the extent that they control our thoughts and control our minds and so they change our minds rather than us doing so. Pretty simple, pretty commonsensical, pretty surprising that you don’t seem to get what Doug is talking about here.

        Jon Estes

        “Doug meant that when we CHANGE OUT MINDS, which is what metanoia/repentance means (it was a military term referring to a soldier who is marching one way and then abruptly changes and goes the opposite way, our expression for it is “about face”) it is US who is changing our mind about something or someone.”

        Good example but I would like to ask a question. When a soldier is marching and he does an about face, does he do that at his whim or at the command of his superior?

        “Pretty simple, pretty commonsensical, pretty surprising that you don’t seem to get what Doug is talking about here.”

        That one gets what Doug is talking about here is probably going to be due to their understanding of scripture. The traditionalist will see it one way and the reformed another. Then again, the reformed might understand exactly what Doug is saying but disagree with him. Does that make them simple minded or without common sense? I do not think so.

    Prchrbill Conovee

    Can you give us the scripture passage where God made us His deputies?

      Robert

      Prchrbill Conovee,

      Looking at your name here, am I correct in concluding that this is supposed to be saying “Preacher Bill Conovee”?

      If you are a preacher then I am wondering, did you really think that Doug was LITERALLY saying that God actually deputized us at some point?

      And if it did not happen literally, did it ever occur to you A PREACHER, that Doug was speaking metaphorically? :-)

      As a PREACHER don’t you know language well enough to know when someone is speaking metaphorically or literally? :-)

      Do you interpret the Bible as LITERALLY as you do Doug’s post so that you can’t tell the difference between a metaphor and something that literally occurs or does not occur? :-)

      I have taught PREACHERS in seminary in the Homiletics class and they all know the difference between metaphorical expressions in scripture and literal expressions, did you miss that in your preaching class??? :-)

      I mean seriously, can’t you tell that Doug was speaking metaphorically when he spoke of being deputized????

        doug sayers

        Thanks for the support Robert and your contributions to the cause. May I offer one suggestion that I hope you don’t take in the wrong spirit.

        We will get more traction if we can filter the following type comments: “…did you miss that in your preaching class??? :-) I mean seriously, ”

        These appear to be more personally belittling than good natured ribbing. They tend to backfire in terms of establishing credibility. From PC’s questions we could not be certain if he was defending Calvinism or simply asking a couple of genuine questions. History has shown that both sides of the dispute over Calvinism have hurt their own cause by too much of these kind of remarks.

        Please feel free to call me on the same when you feel it’s warranted.

          Robert

          Doug,

          I don’t know you personally, I don’t know how much you like to joke around, nor do I know whether you hang out with pastors and have lots of pastor friends. I do, and a common joke among us when someone does something funny or foolish or makes some sort of humorous mistake is to say: “well I guess you weren’t in X class (seminary class) when they talked about Y.” It is meant as good natured ribbing. I figured that this fellow was a pastor from the title on his posts and so I engaged in that exact form of reply. You responded with an attempted correction:

          [[“May I offer one suggestion that I hope you don’t take in the wrong spirit.
          We will get more traction if we can filter the following type comments: “…did you miss that in your preaching class??? :-) I mean seriously,
          These appear to be more personally belittling than good natured ribbing. They tend to backfire in terms of establishing credibility”]]

          So you don’t think that people who have been to seminary (or should I say “cemetary”, :-) I am only joking) can joke this way?

          You continued:

          “From PC’s questions we could not be certain if he was defending Calvinism or simply asking a couple of genuine questions. History has shown that both sides of the dispute over Calvinism have hurt their own cause by too much of these kind of remarks.”

          “these kind of remarks”?

          I guess that whenever I joke around I need to not only put a smiley face behind the comment, but also write out in a parenthesis” (I am only joking)”. Then perhaps there will be less misunderstanding. It is easy to misunderstand emails without the emotion or humor that is intended in them, perhaps that would make it more clear.

          Doug have you ever heard pastors joke this way with one another? I like to joke around and do lots of practical jokes on people that I know: hence one of my nicknames is “trickster”. I don’t think I will be changing this about myself very soon. But I appreciate your caution. Doug have you been to seminary yourself?

          I think sometimes we take ourselves way too seriously, there’s got to be room for some humor.

      Doug Sayers

      PC, fair questions both. I will try to answer briefly. I have no doubt that many others could do a better job of breaking down [metanoia] in its various forms than I; but I don’t think we need too much help with the idea of repenting being self imposed. It would much be harder to show from Scripture that the term should be understood as a “God imposed / irresistible changing of the mind.” I have never seen any dictionary or Bible dictionary that defines repentance as being “God imposed.” (God enabled – no doubt but we don’t eat breakfast without God’s enabling.) The context of the term repentance in OT and NT implies, by obvious inference, that *we* must change *our* minds from unbelief and sin to trust and obedience. One quick instance would be found in Rev 2:21 where God gave “Jezebel” space/time to repent but she refused. This would make no sense if *her* repentance was essentially an irresistible work of God. God would be waiting on Himself to deliver the irresistible grace and blaming her for not repenting! Likewise, it would not make sense to say, “except God imposes repentance on you, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13 This kind of re-definition of the term would alter the Bible dramatically.

      As to my claim that God has deputized everyone with the power of contrary choice (aka: liberty of will) in the context of the gospel, we can, again, apply evident reason to the Bible. We should also ask any Calvinist sympathizer to prove that God *has not* given mankind the necessary power (authority and ability) to do that which He so often commands us to do. That God has given men some authority to make contrary decisions apart from His direct control is easy to prove from Scripture. God clearly gave Adam/mankind authority in the Garden. He gave a limited measure of authority to Moses and the kings of Israel. He has given some authority to governments/civil magistrates to act on His behalf (and they surely don’t always do the right thing!). He has given husbands/fathers some under-authority in the home, and He has deputized pastors and deacons in the church.

      Lastly, most of us would find it hard to believe that the biblical God would eternally punish someone in a place called the lake of fire for failing to do the impossible. The command issued (especially under threat of punishment) presupposes the ability. Here is a quote of Al Mohler from a message given at the 2006 Ligonier Conference, entitled Blessing or Curse? : Dr M said, “God provides what he demands.” This was in the context of the ram caught in the thicket when Abraham was offering Isaac, so I suppose Dr Mohler could mean that God provides what He demands *of the elect only*… but he didn’t say that; and this would take us back to Ronnie’s assertion that Calvinistic teaching often needs to be “decoded.”

      Andrew Barker

      PC: I’m not sure your question deserves serious consideration “Can you give us the scripture passage where God made us His deputies?” but giving you the benefit of the doubt I would suggest that 2 Cor 5:20 comes as close as anything else I’ve thought of. We are to act as ambassadors for Christ. Is that enough like a deputy for you?

    Robert

    Doug,

    I just saw your post after I posted to this thread myself. I think I can help you and stop you from feeling:

    “You’re making my head hurt Ronnie!”

    As I said in my other post, a very simple way to understand and get at the difference between all forms of **determinism** and **free will as ordinarily understood** is to compare them as to whether or not the person HAS a choice or not.

    In determinism people MAKE choices but never HAVE a choice.

    In the ordinary view of free will we BOTH have choices and make choices.

    Take this distinction and apply it to your question:

    [[“Here is a question that, I think, cuts through all the verbal gymnastics and brings some clarity:
    Q: In the Calvinistic system, can the regenerated (or effectually called) sinner resist repenting and trusting the Truth?
    A: No possible way. They *must* repent; penitent faith *cannot* be resisted among the elect.
    To which I would say, again, you have decoded the divine kind of fatalism taught in the Reformed system”]]

    The answer to your question is No: because for the regenerated sinner to “resist repenting and trusting the Truth” he/she would have to HAVE two options available to them (one option being to resist repenting, the other option being to repent and trust the Truth). For him/her to have genuine free will, they would have to be able to access both options, they would have to be able to choose to resist or be able to choose not to resist and to repent and trust the truth. But in theological determinism, they do not HAVE choice, though they MAKE choice. The only option available to them is to repent and trust the truth. They will make this choice, but they did not HAVE the choice between choosing to resist or choosing to repent. They may want to make the choice of repenting due to their regenerated nature causing them to make that choice (but it would be impossible for them to choose to resist and not choose to repent). A dead giveaway of the presence of determinism is that not only can the person not make a different choice then the one that he makes, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE for them to make that other choice. They choose to do what they want alright, but they do not HAVE A CHOICE.

    “Repentance, by definition, is a self imposed changing of the mind; therefore, an irresistible repentance is no meaningful repentance.”

    True, just as an “irresistible love is no meaningful love”, an “irresistible obedience is not meaningful obedience” an “irresistible worship is not meaningful worship” an “irresistible trusting is not meaningful trusting”. What makes these things meaningful is that the person can and does freely choose to do them when they could have done otherwise.

    “God has graciously deputized every culpable sinner with the power of contrary choice. We each can ultimately receive the Truth or suppress the Truth.”

    Yes, we can all ultimately receive or suppress the truth after the Holy Spirit works in our hearts and minds revealing the truth to us about scripture, Jesus, the way of salvation, etc. The sinners in Romans 1 are without excuse because though God revealed himself to them and showed the truth to them, they had a choice of accepting the truth and worshipping the true God or rejecting the truth and worshipping a false god: and they chose to worship the false god instead of the true God that they should have chosen to worship.

    I appreciate your posts Doug as you are always making good points.

    Les

    Doug,

    Yes they have a choice not to repent. They just don’t WANT to reject Jesus after they have been born again. He is irresistible.

    On another note, I don’t usually bother to look up all the $5 words in these posts. No offense intended Ronnie. You just happen to have a superior vocab. But this word, “genetical.” I looked for it in Webster. Couldn’t find it. Found it in dictionary.com. Maybe there is an easier way to say some of these things for lower shelf people like me. Blessings to you brother Ronnie.

      Stephen Jones.

      Les,
      Not only is your soteriology off (plenty of people that Jesus would LOVE to save resist Him), but so is your grasp of rhetorical inflation. Ronnie uses ten dollar words, even too expensive for some dictionaries as you discovered. (ha ha) You are right, though, “maybe there is an easier way to say some of these things”. Blessings to you.

      Les

      Stephen,

      I fear his modality may obfuscate his intended aspiration. As to my soteriology being off, well that’s certainly one opinion shared here by the usual suspects. :)

      Ronnie W Rogers

      Hello Les
      I will try to do better, but you know that I learned all those words from the Calvinists–there they go again :)
      Have a great day!

      Ronnie W Rogers

      Les
      I forgot to mention that the particular word you reference, “genesiacal” is really just an adjectival form of “genesis”. I am sorry for the confusion.
      Thanks Les, and have a great day. Always appreciate your interactions.

        Les

        Ronnie, I figured it was genesis related.

        Brother I just want to say that I really did not mean to come across as lecturing you on how you write. You are obviously an excellent writer and have an incredible vocabulary. I always appreciate your writing. And yes some Cals can be a bit difficult to read. I realize that.

        I’m just a country boy from Alabama and line up well with the folks Jeff Foxworthy talks about in his routines. Apparently I wasn’t paying enough attention back in my English classes in high school.

        Many blessings to you brother.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Doug
    You have cut to the heart of it as usual. That I made your head hurt, oh how misery loves company. Some feel your pain, I want you to fell mine. :)
    Thanks Doug & have a great day

Robert

Hello Ronnie,

As usual a great analysis and accurate analysis of Calvinistic beliefs.

I want to aim at one section where you speak of how people experience voluntariness (i.e. they do what they want to do) however this falls short of having genuine free will as ordinarily understood.

Where genuine free will is present, the person BOTH HAS a choice between at least two different options and MAKES a choice. In Calvinistic compatibilism they MAKE choices but they NEVER HAVE CHOICES.

[[“This is the component about which many are confused and, consequently, makes them imprecise in their evaluation of Calvinism, leaving them legitimately open to the charge of misrepresenting Calvinism. Compatibilism includes voluntariness (the person acts freely), but excludes origination (that the person can given the same past or nature originate a new sequence of events). This is precisely what is seen in his defense of Calvinism and entailed in compatibilism.
He concludes, “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.” Once again, technically he is correct because the exercise of repentance and faith after the renovation is according to their new wills and desires. However, what is eloquently concealed in Cunningham’s correction of the Arminians is that the free choosing to repent is indeed a predetermined free choosing that emanates from God’s irresistible (although it was indeed resisted by the lost man every step of the way) renovation. That is to say, the free choice to repent and believe after the renovation was as inviolably necessary and irresistible as the free choice of the sinner to resist God prior to the renovation; in each state the individual did what he voluntarily chose to do, but he could not have originated a new sequence of events (chosen differently) other than the sequence that did in fact happen in the respective states of the continuum.”]]

You speak of it as they make choices but “he could not have originated a new sequence of events (chosen differently)”.

I suggest we make it even simpler: he did not HAVE choice, he only MADE a choice.

Where any form of determinism is present (whether theological, biological, environmental, genetic, neural/the brain made me do it, etc. etc.) people engage in the MAKING of choices: they just *****never***** HAVE choices.

You have a choice when you can access either option. If you only have access to one option, then you may be making a choice but you do not HAVE A CHOICE.

I have used this way of explaining the difference to people and people immediately see the difference between free will as ordinarily understood (where you both make choices and have choices) and determinism (where you make choices, go through the selecting process, but you never have choices, where you could select either of two options). Just wanted to share this clarification once again.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Robert

    Thank you for your opening comment

    You said “I want to aim at one section where you speak of how people experience voluntariness (i.e. they do what they want to do) however this falls short of having genuine free will as ordinarily understood.”

    Yes, that is correct, Calvinist often will avoid the term free will and use morally free agent. They do not believe one has free will to choose between accessible options.

    You said, “Where genuine free will is present, the person BOTH HAS a choice between at least two different options and MAKES a choice. In Calvinistic compatibilism they MAKE choices but they NEVER HAVE CHOICES.”

    Yes that is correct, given their past or nature, according to compatibilism, they can choose freely what they do choose (concordant with determinative antecedents) but they could not have chosen differently; hence, the do not have otherwise choice.

    You quote me [[“This is the component about which many are confused and, consequently, makes them imprecise in their evaluation of Calvinism, leaving them legitimately open to the charge of misrepresenting Calvinism. Compatibilism includes voluntariness (the person acts freely), but excludes origination (that the person can given the same past or nature originate a new sequence of events). This is precisely what is seen in his defense of Calvinism and entailed in compatibilism.”

    It seems to me that many are confounded by the Calvinists because they do not recognize the sequential nature of their theology and compatibilism. If someone charges a compatibilist or Calvinist, in this case, that their faith or repentance was forced, I believe that to be imprecise and discordant to compatibilism and Calvinism. This is the place that most people are misled by the Calvinist. The sequential nature of compatibilism or Calvinism means that the choice is only considered free when one made it according to their own desires. Which as demonstrated here, knowledgeable Calvinists do. However, it is the changing of the past (nature or determinative antecedents) from which the new free desire emanates; therefore, it is voluntary, but lacking the power to initiate a new sequence of events (choose other than they do in fact choose) given the same past, which libertarian freedom is able to do. This makes the choosing of compatibilism and Calvinism to be a predetermined unalterable free choice, without the ability to have chosen differently.

    You said, “You speak of it as they make choices but “he could not have originated a new sequence of events (chosen differently)”.

    At any given time they only actually choose, but all choices are of the same nature, predetermined voluntary choosing. Therefore, at a given moment, I do not believe they choose between accessible options, but every free choosing amounts to choices…

    You said “suggest we make it even simpler: he did not HAVE choice, he only MADE a choice.”

    Yes, this is what I am saying; however, I want people to be able to read Calvinists writings and detect the determinism amidst their eloquent musings; additionally, I do not want those who teach about Calvinism’s unflinching determinism to be dissed because they were imprecise in dealing with their terminology (and the technical terminology of compatibilism, i.e. Frankfurt Style Counterexamples). It seems to me that without observing technical distinctions and their understanding of sequence in which the determinism is often obscured, many non-Calvinists charge forced faith, and the Calvinist do not even really have to face the hard determinism of their system because it is not precisely accurate.

    You said, “Where any form of determinism is present (whether theological, biological, environmental, genetic, neural/the brain made me do it, etc. etc.) people engage in the MAKING of choices: they just *****never***** HAVE choices.”
    I agree

    You said, “I have used this way of explaining the difference to people and people immediately see the difference between free will as ordinarily understood (where you both make choices and have choices) and determinism (where you make choices, go through the selecting process, but you never have choices, where you could select either of two options). Just wanted to share this clarification once again.”

    I agree. I often, depending on with whom I am speaking do likewise. However, in order to expose Calvinism’s true determinism to adherents and non-adherents, I think it is important to analyze their writings as I have done. Having been a Calvinist, I can tell you that it is quite easy to read the determinism that is in Calvinism, only to have it palliated in the next sentence by Calvinist theologians and speakers; although, it is contradictory that is not always easy to see. These are often referred to as “gentler” or “moderate Calvinist (I now believe they are inconsistent Calvinists and seek to expose such by analyzing the precise meaning of compatibilism and their writings). Millard Erickson is one.

    I am presently writing a book in which I interact and analyze the writings of Grudem, Erickson, Strong etc., to expose their commitment to compatibilism (utter rejection of libertarian and otherwise choice), and their inconsistencies. This article was an attempt to do so with chafer and Cunningham. We often lose the argument when we do not make a distinction of when and where the force is displayed and the free choosing.

    I, and I think you do as well, know that we are on the same page with this. I always appreciate your comments to me and others.

    Thanks

      Norm

      Ronnie: I suspect you have Alphabets Cereal for breakfast, and Alphabet Soup for lunch. More seriously, I find it interesting that serious and knowledgable Calvinists do not engage you. When I moderated this blog and had access to metrics, I could attest to the scores of hits we got from Louisville, Nashville and Wake Forest, yet those readers never commented, save one.
      So glad for your heart and brain!

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Norm
        Always good to hear from you and much appreciate your comments. Actually, as I told Les, I learned these words from studying Calvinism for thirty years. :)

        Andy

        I too would enjoy seeing/hearing/reading a debate between Ronnie and some Calvinist scholar.

        Ronnie, does any such thing exist in audio, video, or text format on the World Wide Web?

        -Andy

          Ronnie W Rogers

          Hello Andy
          No, nothing does exist. I am not actually a debater for a couple of reasons. one, I am not that quick in my thinking. two, while I appreciate and admire a good debater, and we surely need them. Debating tends to rather easily turn into misrepresentations, ad hominin arguments, delving into what I believe to be non-essentials, or in some way speaking things, or in ways that may win the argument but hurt a Christian brother or sister; all of which I try to avoid.

          My desire is to accurately present the essentials of Calvinism, and offer an alternative that is more biblically reflective than Calvinism (so not just deconstruct one system without an alternative), and answer the tough questions lodged against people with my view–I am writing a book on this. I do genuinely respect and love my Calvinist brothers and sisters, even more than I disagree with them, and I think my present forum of discussion–writing, talking and the like–enable me to disagree without as much potential for sinning against a brother as is possible, at least for me, in debating.

          I actually participate in a secular forum composed of professionals, leaders, scholars etc., (of which I am none, but I get invited so I go) from various states and other countries. Of course, I present a Christian perspective on the subjects at hand (Church and State, Public education, global warming, terrorism etc.), but this is in the form of papers being presented and then challenged. My Christian position is always seriously challenged, but while the secularists can be nasty at times (not all of them), I can in that format disagree as Christian. That is to say, I enjoy serious discussion and presentations of various perspectives, but not debating. I would rather lose the argument than involve myself at a level that I know because of my own weaknesses might unnecessarily hurt a brother and ultimately my Lord.

          Sorry for the lengthy answer, but that is one of my weaknesses, which is actually another reason I am not a good debater.
          Thank you Andy, have a great day

Max

Extensivists … Calvinists … Baptists … too darn many “ists” floating around in Christendom! Using the words from the title of a Vance Havner book on my shelf … “Why Not Just Be Christians?” When we exit this world, we will find that is the only name which counts when we stand at heaven’s door. I suspect that there are Christians in all the varieties of ists, but it’s getting increasingly difficult to identify the genuine among the counterfeit. I’ve been a Southern Baptist for 60+ years; it used to be so much simpler in the SBC.

    Scott Shaver

    Hey Max….could narcissIST also be among the words we’re looking for with the abundance floating around?

      Max

      Oh, certainly Scott! There’s been an outbreak of that particular “ist” in Christendom! SBC in recent years has attracted a preponderance of folks with an egotistical admiration of their own attributes and an inflated sense of their own importance. Such behavior is not very becoming of ministers. He that will be first will be last.

    Jim P

    When the Church started there was one and only one dividing point, that was whether you were a disciple of Jesus or not, Christian (a little Christ).
    Now, the label Christian needs to be refined to the nth degree and if you are off one degree get ready to be hit in the head with a baseball bat.

      Max

      Jim, the litmus test used by the early church that you note is still applicable today. All creation groans at the 21st century religious labels, degrees, and fine points of doctrine we have mixed into the recipe. Religion has a way of distancing us from relationship. So many churchmen stand outside looking in the window of the Kingdom on earth wondering what it must be like, without ever entering in. We sharpen our intellect, without ever getting any revelation. I’ve circled the wagons so many times that I’ve arrived back at the simple truth which launched me on my journey “Jesus loves me, this I know.” Along the way, I’ve rediscovered that the Gospel really is simple enough for a child to understand … so, in my last chapter of life, I’ll preach and teach that while the ists debate jots and tittles.

      Jim P

      Max,

      Thanks for your note and an honest testimony.

      I want to note the Gospel, The Gospel. At it’s core is “Jesus is Lord.” The early church lived and many died or lived under the threat of death for 2 or 3 centuries. To the Jews, ‘Jesus is Lord’ is a scandal, therefore, Christians were the Jews enemies. To the Gentiles, ‘Jesus is Lord’ flew in the face of ‘Cesar is Lord,’ therefore Christians disturbed the status quo and were the Gentile’s enemies.

      The litmus test for a the Church was the confession “Jesus is Lord.” No one can say, “Jesus is Lord’ except by the Spirit of God.

      To bad in this day you have to qualify ‘confess’ with also ‘live is out’. In those past centuries there was not qualification. If you confessed you set yourself up as a target of the world. They had to have guts. They had to love their Lord, Period.

    Andy

    Wait! Are you just a Christian, or a Southern Baptist? I’m confused. ;-)

Norm

Ronnie has improved my articulation of biblical soteriology AND improved my Scrabble game. I played “elide” recently and scored 37 pts.

Andrew Barker

I think Ronnie Rogers is getting his own back on those Calvinists who for years have resorted to the catch all defense of “you just don’t understand Calvinism”! Now it’s the Calvinists who don’t understand their own systematic. At 5$ a word I would say this was exceptional value for money! lol

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Andrew
    You are on to something. My experience has been that if one is going to successfully expose the intricacies of meaning, sequence etc., within Calvinism, at sophisticated levels, and avoid being summarily dismissed as one who does not understand (as is seen in my article), he had better choose his words wisely.
    Thanks, have a great day, and always enjoy reading your feedback on this site.

Debbie Kaufman

How was Saul/The Apostle Paul converted according to scripture, what about Lydia the seller of Purple in scripture? This would be just 2 of many I could point to in the Bible.

    Andrew Barker

    Debbie Kaufman: Actually, I think this is a list of two examples in a long list of … two! Perhaps you could enlighten us as to just at what point did Saul become a Christian?

    Lydia

    “How was Saul/The Apostle Paul converted according to scripture, what about Lydia the seller of Purple in scripture? This would be just 2 of many I could point to in the Bible.”

    What about all those He told to repent and believe? … Unless you want to conclude He was pulling a bait and switch con on some by telling the masses to do something He knew they could not do.

    Jim P

    How? The Lord hit Saul/Paul over the head with a baseball bat to make him recognize who He was. ‘Hitting over the head with a baseball bat’ is a figure of speech they didn’t use in the 1st century but maybe some will understand it in this century.

Debbie Kaufman

The beauty of God using the gospel, working in people’s hearts, changing them to choose Christ, is that even the worst of the worst of the worst, those we would give up on eventually, can come to Christ.

    Lydia

    “The beauty of God using the gospel, working in people’s hearts, changing them to choose Christ, is that even the worst of the worst of the worst, those we would give up on eventually, can come to Christ.”

    I am confused. I thought ALL are “totally depraved” in that system. Are you implying there are degrees of depravity?

    Andrew Barker

    Debbie Kaufman: The beauty of the true Gospel is that God doesn’t give up on anyone, neither does he choose only an elect who are capable of responding. It is only Calvinism and Reformed theology which gives up on those who are deemed to be reprobate and not chosen. In fact, ‘gives up on’ is probably not the correct turn of phrase. They were not ‘given up on’. They were never in the running. They never had a chance in the first place!

    Contrast this with the true Gospel message from none other than Paul himself. 1 Tim 1 15-16 Paul describes himself as the worst of sinners and sites himself as an example of the fact that if ‘he’ can be saved, so can anybody. Turn over the page and in 1 Tim 2:4 God “desires ALL men to be saved”!

Debbie Kaufman

Oh and the timing of these kinds of articles and the number of them every year really reminds that the Convention is nearing.

    Scott Shaver

    “Reminds that the convention is nearing”…..

    Not everybody who writes “these articles” is among the ravenous 17-1800 preacher/professor wave descending upon local restaurants of various American cities once a year for three days.

Mary

Poor Debbie, how dare people talk about her IDOL without first getting her permission. Yeah the convention is just around the corner but using Debbielogic it’s always nearing since people are always talking about Calvinism somewhere on the net.

    Chris

    Poor Mary. She must not be familiar with those passages in Ephesians and Colossians that talk about gracious speech that builds up the listener instead of tearing them down.

Mackenzie

Surely the easier way to expose this fallacy is simply with another example.

Let’s say I’m a supervillain. As a supervillain, I invent a mind-changing ray. When I shoot someone with this ray, it changes their heart and mind (you could even throw in other buzzwords here), so that what they desire most in all the world is to murder their family.

Now the Calvinist is BOUND by their own arguments to say that I am not making anyone do anything “against their will.” Which reveals that the Calvinist argument itself is laughably simplistic, and also completely missing the point. It’s not as if God is cartoonishly controlling people’s bodies while their minds scream “No, I don’t want to do this!” That’s not the true objection at all, and Calvinists know this…and to pretend otherwise is ignorant at best, and dishonest at worst.

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