Defined by a former Calvinist: “A Better Gospel”

December 11, 2013

by Ronnie Rogers, pastor
Trinity Baptist Church
Norman, Okla.

The good news according to Calvinism is to be proclaimed to everyone everywhere, but it is not good news for everyone who hears. I believe the gospel according to Jesus presents a better gospel.

To many it appears that Calvinists, Arminians, Molinists, Traditionalists, etc., all believe the same thing about the gospel while merely differing on tertiaries. Consequently, they quite understandably retort, “Why all of this wasteful bickering; let us just preach the gospel.” I wholeheartedly agree that we can all communicate the gospel message so that anyone and everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved; therefore, we should do so and applaud all endeavors at such. I also emphatically believe that non-Calvinists and Calvinists can be evangelistic.

However, I do think it is incumbent upon Christians to make clear that, even though these things are true, the differences between Calvinists’ and non-Calvinists’ perspectives regarding salvation do in fact influence the evangelistic and missionary endeavor. This influence is even determinative of what one can and cannot say to a lost and hell-bound world or a lost and hell-bound individual with whom we communicate the gospel.

These differences are not tertiary as some claim, for they do in fact change the raison d’etre (reason for being or existence) of the gospel, the purpose for sharing the gospel, the language used in communicating the gospel, and the nature of our passion derived from the gospel. Thus, these dissimilarities are substantial. So much so that they actually and unavoidably define the missiology of the church; accordingly, they are not tertiary, all asseverations to the contrary notwithstanding. Our differences even affect our understanding of arguably the most well-known, lucid, humbling, awe inspiring verse regarding the gospel and mission of evangelizing (John 3:16).

The well-known five-point Calvinist, John Piper, asked the question, “What message would missionaries rather take than the message: Be glad in God! Rejoice in God! Sing for joy in God! …God loves to exalt himself by showing mercy to sinners.” My answer to this question is the truth that when someone hears this glorious message, that same someone has a chance, by the grace and mercy of God, to receive the truth of the message by faith. Further, without opportunity for all sinners to accept, Piper’s message should be changed to say, “Some can be glad in God if He predestined you” or “God loves to exalt Himself by showing mercy to some sinners.” This is the actual message of Calvinism, and everyone who understands Calvinism knows it. Unfortunately, it is popularly and ubiquitously stated in the manner cited by Piper (or similarly opaque phrases) that shield most from yet another disquieting reality of Calvinism. I would greatly appreciate Calvinists’ due diligence to speak in such a way that all can be reminded of this reality (as some Calvinists are very careful to do). To propose that this distinction is tertiary is baffling indeed.

There is an abstractness to Calvinism’s understanding of the gospel, which results in a concomitant chilling unfriendliness of the “good news” when shared one on one. For example, it is one thing to say God loves Canada and desires the gospel to go there, or that He desires for Canadians to be saved. It is quite another for the missionary to look into the eyes of a lost and perishing Canadian and say God loves you and desires you to receive the good news of the gospel, which is the friendliness of the gospel in Scripture. The former has an abstract quality about it that the latter does not have (like the difference between saying I love Canadians and then really loving the one who moves in next door). A Calvinist can say, “Believe in Jesus for the remission of sins,” but there is a secret aloofness imbedded in the invitation for the vast majority of individuals who hear the gospel; an aloofness the Calvinist is very aware of and staunchly committed to.

Further, this abstract quality of Calvinism is the provenance of the “good faith offer,” which is reflective of Calvinism’s different understanding of the gospel. I for one find neither this abstraction, with its secret indifference for the majority of individuals who hear the gospel, nor the suggestion of such a concept as a “good faith offer” in the scriptural presentations of the gospel

This abstract quality transforms the simple straightforward gospel as seen in Scriptures from being exoteric (available to all) into an esoteric gospel (only available to some). The exoteric gospel of Scripture calls upon every individual with whom we share to receive the gospel and gives every indication that he should and can believe; that is to say, it is authentically and dependably what it appears to be, the good news of God’s love and compassion offered to all who hear.

Whereas the esoteric gospel according to Calvinism says everyone should come, but the secret is that while God has told Calvinists to tell the lost man to come, be forgiven, and flee the wrath to come, the inner circle—Calvinists—know that God has been pleased to exclude most individuals to whom the Calvinist present this truth. Therefore, if one is to be consistent with Calvinism, the gospel must be protectingly presented so that the hearer believes that God loves him and truly desires for him to be delivered from the fiery cauldron of God’s eternal fury; something no Calvinist can say to any particular individual unless God inspires him to intuit that the lost man to whom he is witnessing is one of God’s elect.

Actually, according to Calvinism, the gospel is good news for some, but inherent in their understanding of the gospel is that for most with whom they speak the good news, it is the ghastliest horror one could ever imagine (whether a sinner desires to believe or not does nothing to palliate this point). That being the case, one may rightly question the righteous legitimacy of indiscriminately declaring a gospel so construed that, in any way, intimates that it is for all who hear because it is emphatically not; something every good Calvinist knows. To wit, if a Calvinist shares the gospel in such a way that the hearers believe that God loves them, desires for them to repent and be saved by faith in Jesus, something that by God’s grace they can do, then the Calvinist has been true to the Scripture but not to Calvinism; additionally, is there not a point when “a good faith offer” is transmogrified into an “ungodly deception?” One that Calvinists can avoid by determinedly shunning any semblance of offering, via precisely chosen guarded language, what the Calvinist is convinced does not exist. Or is the concept of “a good faith offer” an unchallengeably justifiable and un-fillable reservoir for storing gospel secrets of Calvinism? I am simply asking Calvinists to be clear in presenting what they so doggedly believe to be the whole good news, and I do not think that is too much to ask.

Non-Calvinists follow the scriptural pattern of presenting the good news as good news for everyone who hears because, by God’s loving grace, they should and can believe; if they choose to reject, which they do not have to do, they will forfeit being adopted as a child of God and succumb to a sinner’s just dessert. This is based upon a clear, simple, and straight-forward reading of the clearest presentations of the gospel and the declared nature of God. Calvinism’s understanding of the gospel disallows any meaningfully eternal difference in the gospel if they simply said, “God hates you and has a terrible plan for you because the elect will get saved and the non-elect will not.” For Calvinists to respond that they are sharing the gospel out of obedience is not a solution to the problem I pose, but rather it is symptomatic of it. Further, for a Calvinist to rely upon such an idea as “a good faith offer” does nothing to absolve God from intentionally obscuring His real plan.

The gospel according to Calvinism is that the gospel that is commanded to be preached to all, is presented as available to all with an urgency that it be received by all, yet it cannot be received by all who hear the wonderful message of love and forgiveness; even though its universal availability is the obvious inference any listener would draw based upon most Calvinists’ carefully guarded presentation of the gospel (guarding the divulgence of the secret limitations of the gospel according to Calvinism).

Actually, the doctrine of selective regeneration preceding faith dictates that the gospel—good news— is really not good news at all because it cannot be received by anyone who just hears the good news, and this unavailability is just as true for the elect as the non-elect. Reception of the gospel is divinely limited to the selectively regenerated; therefore, the primary good news of Calvinism is not the gospel, but rather that some to whom they speak are on the secret list of those who have been selected for regeneration, which results in receiving the good news—gospel. That is to say, according to Calvinism, the gospel is not the good news to be received by all or any listener, but rather a description of the benefits that will be bestowed upon those on the secret list. Simply put, the gospel according to Scripture is a better gospel than the gospel according to Calvinism.

 

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Ron F. Hale

Thanks for reminding us that: constructs have consequences!
Blessings!

Dean

Ronnie, thank you for your post. You have identified a difference in the Calvinist and the non-Calvinists that absolutely will change the motivation of the Gospel presenter. For the non-Calvinist the sharing of the Gospel is necessary for salvation for it is the means in which a person comes to Christ and is saved. For the Calvinist the sharing of the Gospel is necessary for salvation only in that it is the means the elect are revealed. The reason is regeneration has preceded faith. Both evangelists could be equally motivated – one motivated to win the lost and the other motivated to see the elect revealed. However, even though both are equally motivated and indeed sharing the same Gospel it is easy to see something different is taking place when the Gospel is presented and I do think the Gospel of the Scripture is better. Blessings, Dean

Gary Snowden

Thanks for sharing this challenge to Calvinists to honestly confront what indeed isn’t very good news for most folks if Calvinists’ soteriology is correct. I’m in the process of reading Roger Olson’s “Against Calvinism” and he makes essentially the same arguments in other words. His affirmation that divine determinism as sustained by most Calvinists ultimately renders God as the author of evil is a telling argument, despite the word games which many attempt to play to avoid that end.

Ben Simpson

Bro Rogers,

First, better, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. You claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends upon the individual. I claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends up on God. The difference here is really in our differing anthropologies. I see in Scripture that sinfulness in man brings about total moral inability, such that nobody can even say from the heart “Jesus is Lord” without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). However, you see the sinfulness in man as bringing about some moral debilitation, such that while handicapped by sin, it is still within his moral power to say from the heart “Jesus is Lord.” From what I see in Scripture, every boast concerning my salvation is in the Lord because it is completely by His doing that I am IN Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30-31), but for you, the determining factor is in man. Therefore, at best you can say, “It is by His doing and my own doing that I am in Jesus Christ.” To say anything less is to engage in the double speak that you regularly accuse Calvinists of.

So, you may perceive the theology you espouse makes the gospel better news, but from what I see in Scripture, your theology is not good news at all because in the end you say it’s up to us. That’s terrible news for everybody given what Scripture has said about the sinfulness of man. You claim that the Calvinist gospel is good news to only some, but yours is not even that. It’s good news for none I’m afraid, if my anthropology is biblical.

Second, I find it very interesting that you expect “Calvinists to be clear in presenting what they so doggedly believe to be the whole good news” and don’t think that it’s too much to ask. Then I don’t think it’s too much to ask the same of you, believing that you are not Pelagian or aSemi-Pelagian. I assume that you believe that in order for a man to be saved, the Holy Spirit MUST draw him. Therefore, you could present the gospel, and the Holy Spirit not draw that man, resulting in the requisite rejection of the gospel. So, would it be fair to ask that you share the gospel by saying, “Come to Jesus and be saved, if the Holy Spirit draws you,”? That’s precisely what you are asking Calvinists to do, “Come to Jesus and be saved, if you are one of the elect.” I don’t expect you to begin doing that, and I don’t expect Calvinists to begin either.

Calvinists and “Traditionalists” alike will go forward proclaiming the same gospel to every person, “Come to Jesus and be saved” and will alike be praying that God works in the meantime to bring about that salvation.

    Norm Miller

    Ben: Thanks for your comments. I know that Pastor Rogers is engaged this afternoon in the funeral of a staff member’s mother. He has assured me, however, that he does read all comments. Based on those comments, he may/may not respond. He has a track record, here, of responding, sometimes individually and sometimes corporately. Thanks again for your input.

    Robert

    Ben you keep repeating the same old stale and already answered Calvinist arguments over and over.

    First you start with the “God versus man: who ultimately decides” argument:

    “First, better, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. You claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends upon the individual. I claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends up on God.”

    When will a Calvinist such as yourself ever see that the non-Calvinist view is not that our decision saves us (just as a person’s decision to have major surgery is not what does the actual surgery) but that God himself has decided that he will choose to save those who choose to trust in Him? Why do you keep disparaging faith in the role of salvation? These points have been made over and over everywhere including on this blog and yet you keep presenting your same argument.

    Next you present the “our view of depravity is better than your view of depravity” argument:

    “The difference here is really in our differing anthropologies. I see in Scripture that sinfulness in man brings about total moral inability, such that nobody can even say from the heart “Jesus is Lord” without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). However, you see the sinfulness in man as bringing about some moral debilitation, such that while handicapped by sin, it is still within his moral power to say from the heart “Jesus is Lord.”

    Again answered over and over again including here.

    Fact is depravity simply means that due to the extent of sin, none of us on our own (i.e. apart from the work of the Holy Spirit preconversion) could ever choose to trust in Christ for salvation. Non-Calvinists who are biblical claim that the Spirit enables but does not necessitate faith. You have heard this before and yet you just keep ignoring it over and over again.

    “So, you may perceive the theology you espouse makes the gospel better news, but from what I see in Scripture, your theology is not good news at all because in the end you say it’s up to us.”

    Again our decision is not what saves us it is the work of God that saves us. And yes it is good news that a perfectly holy God would come in the flesh and die for the sins of the whole world (and that does not mean just for some lucky few).

    “That’s terrible news for everybody given what Scripture has said about the sinfulness of man.”

    I agree with what the Scripture says about the sinfulness of man: I also agree with what the Scripture says about the preconversion work of the Spirit (He convicts the world of righteousness, sin judgment . . .).

    “You claim that the Calvinist gospel is good news to only some, but yours is not even that. It’s good news for none I’m afraid, if my anthropology is biblical.”

    The Calvinist gospel is and can only be good news for some, only for those lucky to be chosen for salvation.

    For the rest it is not only not good news, but it is news that has absolutely nothing to do with them at all.

    “I assume that you believe that in order for a man to be saved, the Holy Spirit MUST draw him. Therefore, you could present the gospel, and the Holy Spirit not draw that man, resulting in the requisite rejection of the gospel. So, would it be fair to ask that you share the gospel by saying, “Come to Jesus and be saved, if the Holy Spirit draws you,”?”

    Again Ben you seem to be completely unaware of what non-Calvinists believe. We believe because scripture explicitly states it, that all are drawn. It is true that not all may be drawn at the same time or in precisely the same way. It is also true that not all who are drawn will end up saved. But all are drawn at some point in their lives. The Spirit enables those who hear the message to believe it, though this enabling does not necessitate their response. It could only be necessitated if determinism were true: and we reject determinism.

    Robert

      Ben Simpson

      Robert,
      Thanks for the interaction. It’s always a pleasure discussing these things with you.

      Robert said: “the non-Calvinist view is… that God himself has decided that he will choose to save those who choose to trust in Him”

      Ben’s response: Robert, I never said that from the nonCalvinist view, the human decision is the only decision. Of course, God’s decision to save is prior to the human decision. However, that decision was made at least as far back as the fall of Adam, which means that the only one that has any actual bearing now is the human one. God’s already decided, and praise be to God’s grace, but it’s now up to mankind, so nonCalvinists say. So, yes, the deciding factor resides in mankind from your viewpoint. This fact is especially clear in how you phrased it, “God himself has decided that he will choose to save those who choose to trust in Him.” Given what God has decided, on whose decision does salvation now rest from your viewpoint but for man’s? I don’t know why you won’t embrace this.

      Robert said: “Non-Calvinists… claim that the Spirit enables but does not necessitate faith”

      Ben’s response: Robert, I just want to ask a question for clarification here. Does man retain in spite of his depravity the natural ability to choose to trust Christ, or is his depravity such that he can only do so through a work of prevenient grace by the Holy Spirit, enabling man to choose to trust Christ if he wants to?

      Robert said: “Again our decision is not what saves us. It is the work of God that saves us”

      Ben’s response: Robert, according to your soteriology, unless man decides to receive the work of God, there is never salvation, and if man does receive the work, there is always salvation. So, again, given what God has decided, the deciding factor is now in man.

      Robert said: “We believe because scripture explicitly states it, that all are drawn”

      Ben’s response: Robert, I don’t think I’m quite unaware as you make me out to be, but anyways. Are you getting your scriptural warrant for you statement from John 12:32? If so, you are interpreting “all” to mean every single person. My lexicon says that the Greek word pantas, which is the accusative, plural, masculine form of pas can mean “every single one of something” or can mean “some of all types.” I think the context here clearly tells us that second meaning—some of all types—is in mind here because it comes in response to Gentiles coming to meet Jesus at a Jewish feast. Jesus will draw unto Himself all types of people.

      Robert said: “It is true that not all may be drawn at the same time or in precisely the same way. It is also true that not all who are drawn will end up saved. But all are drawn at some point in their lives.”

      Ben’s response: From your viewpoint, is every person drawn to at least the point that they could actually be saved if they wanted to be? If so, how can every person be drawn to this point if there are countless people who die having never heard the gospel?

        Norm Miller

        Ben: Your allusion to election must entail foreknowledge, as the scriptures aver. What was it God foreknew?

          wingedfooted1

          Norm,

          It’s not a question of what, but rather who…..

          Romans 11:1-2 (NKJV)…….
          “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.”

          Romans 11:28 (NKJV)……
          “Concerning the gospel they (the Jews) are enemies for your (the Gentiles) sake, but concerning the election they (the Jews) are (not were, but still are) beloved for the sake of the fathers.”

          Blessings

          Ben Simpson

          Norm,

          God “foreknew” a people according to Romans 8:29. He foreknew “those,” implying “those persons.” Many want to read that verse “for those whom He foreknew” and then add the words “would choose Christ,” but that’s adding to the text what’s not there even in implication. He foreknew simply “those.” Those what? People.

          This understanding is confirmed three chapters later in Romans 11:2, which says speaking of ethnic Jews, “God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew.” Foreknew what? People.

          So, “foreknow” in this sense is not merely prescience. It’s fixing a covenantal love on a people.

            Norm Miller

            The question I raise is relevant. I don’t reject all of what you said in its objectivity, but I am pointing to subjectivity, which is inherent in that foreknowledge. Dr. Patterson’s excellent post months ago addressed this matter. Election is wrapped up in foreknowledge, and no one can say they know what that was/is in its entirety. So, as noted earlier today, neither you nor I can say with any certainty what all was/is entailed in the foreknowledge that led to election. This is why we (should) reject each other’s positions. And BTW: I think your understanding makes it hard to deny determinism. I say that just because knows a thing will happen doesn’t mean he causes it to happen. If you reject that, then you must also accept God being the author of evil. From the Trad perspective, this line of Calvinistic thinking raises many more theological entanglements than it could ever hope to unwind.

            Ben Simpson

            Norm,

            For some reason I’m not following your point. I would say that God, in one sense of foreknew, foreknew every single thing about every person and in mercy and love, in another sense of foreknew, foreknew a people as His own to be redeemed through Jesus Christ. Praise God for His mercy and love because even though He foreknew everything about my sorry self, He nevertheless foreknew me and then predestined me to conformity to Christ, calling, justification, and glorification.

            Also, I gladly espouse what is called “soft determinism” or “compatibilism” at the same time affirming that God is not the author of evil. God ordains all that comes to pass, even evil, but just because He ordains everything doesn’t mean that He causes everything to happen. Ordaining and causing are two different things. Ordaining includes both the “I will make this happen” and the “I will let this happen.” The first one is God causing something; the second is God allowing something, but both categories fall under what has been ordained by God.

              Norm Miller

              Compatibilism has serious problems, in my view, as tomorrow’s post will show. Therefore, I would guess soft compatibilism has softer, serious problems. This is yet another of the entanglements that fallen Calvin has spun in his web of theologically sticky problems.

              I would remind you that Ronnie Rogers was a 20-yr Calvinist, but left it all behind after reading and studying only the Bible for what God says about salvation. Anyone who reads after Ronnie must conclude that he is a pastor/scholar. And though I cannot speak for him in terms of volunteering him for a debate, I would say that he would tie any current Calvinist in knots. And that not with debate tactics (which do not always lead to the truth), but with the Scriptures alone. As we all have seen on this blog, his responses are formidable.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            There is, again, as with the conversation below with 1 Peter 1:2, too much freight from all sides being dumped on Romans 8:29, that Paul never conveys, teaches, or implies at all here.

            The who are the elect.

            The when is AFTER the glory came (Romans 8:18 is the time indicator here in the passage, and when that glory came, looking back from that is what happens in 8:29-30), it was those God foreknew before THEN (when the glory came…a future-retro perspective, which also happens to make the most sense of the Christ-centeredness and the use of the aorist tense used throughout the verses) that are the ones who were predestined (marked-out beforehand), called (designated/named), justified, and glorified. No “eternity’s past” language here.

            That what is everything said about them in Romans 8:1-28.

            All of this intimate knowing of the elect only follows their having been justified by faith (Romans 1-7) and thus includes:

            1. They have no condemnation in Christ Jesus (something that happens because of justification) in verse 8:1

            2. Are free. 8:2

            3. Have the law’s requirement fulfilled for them. 8:4

            4. Walk according to the Spirit. 8:4

            5. Think about things of the Spirit. 8:5

            6. Have the mindset of the Spirit. 8:6

            7. Have life and peace. 8:6

            8. In the Spirit. 8:9

            9. Have the Spirit living in them. 8:9

            10. Life and righteousness. 8:10

            11. Will have their mortal bodies resurrected. 8:11

            12. By the Spirit put to death deeds of the body. 8:13

            13. Are God’s sons. 8:14

            14. Received the Spirit of adoption. 8:15

            15. Cry “Abba Father.” 8:16

            16. Has the Spirit testify with their spirit. 8:16

            17.  Are children and heirs 8:17

            18. Suffer and will be glorified with Jesus. 8:17

            19. Will have glory revealed to them. 8:18

            20. Will be revealed as God’s sons. 8:19

            21. Are groaning and waiting. 8:23

            22. Saved in hope. 8:24

            23. Waiting with patience. 8:25

            24. Has the Spirit joined in their weakness. 8:26

            25. The Spirit intercedes for them. 8:27

            26. Has their hearts searched. 8:28

            27. Love God. 8:28

            28. Called according to His purpose. 8:28

            People need to leave the systematic and philosophical baggage at the door regarding “foreknew”, “predestined”, etc.

            Philosophically speaking, I fully agree God had all knowledge regarding who these people were logically prior to the creation of the temporal universe, but that isn’t what is being stated here.

            This intimate, personal foreknowing by God regarding the elect in this passage is relational, not strictly conceptional or propositional. There is no “eternity’s past” stuff here, and Paul knows how to write phrases like “before time began” (2 Tim. 1:9) and “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4) and NONE of that is here.

            It is also worth noting that people must actually exist (not conceptually exist as would be the case in eternity’s past) to be described as the passage describes them, which shapes the “foreknew” as I stated above.

            People tend to dump all their systematic and philosophical baggage onto two verses in Romans 8 (29-30) completely disconnected from the rest of the passage, along with parachuting (some bad) inferences from Ephesians, because of similar words like “predestined”, even though they treat Eph 1:1-11 as badly as they do Romans 8 with the same baggage, and even though that Epistle was written later than Romans and is in a different context.

    wingedfooted1

    “I claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends up on God.”

    If calvinism is true, every soul suffering eternal torment disagrees with you.

    Exactly how was it “good news” for them?

      Norm Miller

      I agree. But WHAT did God foreknow about those WHOM he foreknew? Cals are quick to say what God didn’t foreknow, because that opens the door too wide for their system. But since neither I nor any Calvinist can answer my question, it is inappropriate for either to speculate what that foreknowledge was, and then to couch such speculation as biblical fact.

        wingedfooted1

        Brother,

        In regards to Romans 11:1-2 it is not “what”, but rather “who”. God foreknew them in the OT when He entered into a loving and intimate relationship with the people of Israel. He foreknew them in the sense that He had a prior relationship with them. It does not imply from eternity past.

        In regards to foreknowledge found in 1 Peter 1:2 we have to remember that Peter is addressing the Jews since he was given the gospel to preach to the Jews (Galatians 2:7-9). Both preterism and replacement theology believes Peter is addressing the church, but those scattered in 1 Peter 1:1 are the same ones scattered in James 1:1. That said, perhaps foreknowledge here refers to the people of Israel being the recipients of God’s earthly promises thru whom the entire world would be blessed.

        But I get the distinct feeling you already know this :-)

          Norm Miller

          “Both preterism and replacement theology believes Peter is addressing the church, but those scattered in 1 Peter 1:1…”

          So, if I believe in eating breakfast as do Calvinists, does that make me a Reformed?

            wingedfooted1

            Is eating breakfast a uniquely calvinistic doctrine?

              Norm Miller

              You make a great point in terms of a debate. But I think you missed my point. I am neither a preterist nor a replacement theologian to believe that verses in 1 Peter, yea, hundreds of verses in the NT have modern application. Your statement to me in that regard borders on guilt by association. Not a fair thing to do.

          Johnathan Pritchett

          Not so fast brother. ;)

          There is no conclusive evidence that Peter’s audience was strictly Jewish converts. Many argue mixed, but majority Gentile, but probably the best explanation is an indiscriminate address to those Christians, Jew or Gentile though both within the Israel/Biblical tradition, in those areas.

          You make a close connection between James 1:1 and 1 Peter 1:1 because of the word Dispersion, but the actual words used by both in the first verses of each Epistle have little in common besides that one word, and thus this connection you try to make is hardly convincing in regards to the audience make-up.

          The word “foreknowledge” (noun) in regards to the elect in 1 Peter 1:1, when stripped away of all the philosophical and systematic baggage (from all theological traditions), simply points out that God has always had these people in view while on sojourn, so they can take comfort in both having a purpose and a great outcome (1 Peter 1:3-9).

          That’s Peter’s only point here. He isn’t teaching us anything “theological” (in the systematic sense) about omniscience, philosophy, election, eternity’s past (the only mention of that in regards to foreknow, or foreknown since it is a verb here, is in verse 1:20 concerning Jesus…since Jesus actually existed back then, and the sojourners did not) or all that freight people want to dump on that verse, or that word even.

            wingedfooted1

            Blessings, brother.

            I fully understand that the vast majority of Christendom (by far) believes Peter is addressing the church (and a predominately gentile church). But consider the following…

            Galatians 2:7-9….
            “But on the contrary, when they (Peter and the others in Jerusalem) saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised (the Gentiles) had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised (the Jews) was to Peter for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised (the Jews) also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles, and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship (a gentleman’s agreement), that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised (Jews).”

            1 Peter 1:1-2a…..
            “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, (writing) to the strangers (Not to the citizens, but rather the non-citizens, people dispersed from their own land) scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia. 2. Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father…”

            1 Peter 2:9…..
            “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light:”

            Now compare that with Exodus 19:5-6…..

            “Now therefore, (God is speaking to Moses up there in Mount Sinai just after the Red Sea.) if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: (Now here come the identical words of 1 Peter chapter 2.). And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.”

            Same exact language. And who is God speaking to? The children of Israel.

            “But ye are a chosen generation (or race), a royal priesthood, an holy (set apart) nation….”

            Nation defined…..
            “a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory.”

            I can hardly see how that applies to the church, but it sure applies to the Jews.

            So with Israel clearly being God’s elect in the OT (Isaiah 45:4)), with election clearly referring to the Jews in the NT (Romans 11:28), with Peter clearly being given the apostleship to the Jews (Galatians 2:8), and with Babylon not being a code word for Rome (1 Peter 5:13), I’ll stick with “elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father” referring to the Jews/Israel since “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

            And, oh yeah, Merry Christmas to you and yours!

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Ben

    Thanks for your response. Here are my thoughts concerning your thoughts.

    You said, “First better, I suppose, is in the eye of the beholder. You claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends upon the individual. I claim it’s a better gospel when the deciding factor depends up on God.”

    First, I did not “claim” what makes the gospel better is that “the deciding factor depends upon the individual”; consequently, your response is a misrepresentation of what I said and believe. Second, by better, I do not mean merely better perspectively, but rather that the Scripture’s clear portrayal of the gospel is that it is good news for all who hear, and that it can be received by anyone as opposed to the gospel as understood by Calvinism. That is better. Third, you have misunderstood my position, and therefore provided a false dichotomy which (if your dichotomy were accurate) would for any Christian result, ipso facto, in Calvinism being the only possibly correct biblical position. That is to say, you present me as believing everything is in the hands of most capable man, whereas humble Calvinists trust God. The fact is, I do not believe, nor have I ever said nor written such a concept or juxtaposition as you have portrayed. I believe the deciding factor of everything depends on God, e.g. whether there even is a gospel. This belief includes whether God would sovereignly decide to include other substantive factors or not e.g. grace-enabled faith. To wit, a person can only be saved because God decided to offer that opportunity. A person can only be saved because God sovereignly chose to create man with otherwise choice (libertarian free will), and then sovereignly provided sufficient grace (convicting of the Holy Spirit, power of the gospel etc.,) to enable the lost to either exercise faith in the gospel or not. Therefore, regardless of the salvific plan, if God sovereignly chose to set up the plan, He is the deciding factor. To characterize your brothers otherwise is pap.

    You said, “The difference here is really in our differing anthropologies.”

    Although not in the sense you articulate, there are indeed two irreconcilable anthropologies – Calvinism’s compatibilism and libertarianism. I do utterly reject Calvinism’s deterministic anthropology and theology. Remember that compatibilism does nothing to moderate determinism except in seeking to provide a plausible sense in which man, although man is determined, can still be responsible (something a pure determinist is not interested in demonstrating). I do not think compatibilists are successful in this attempt, much less demonstrating the legitimacy of compatibilism from the Scripture. I do call on you, all Calvinists, to speak consistently with compatibilism so as not to confuse hearers who may not grasp the serious entailments of such.

    You said, “I see in Scripture that sinfulness in man brings about total moral inability, such that nobody can even say from the heart “Jesus is Lord” without the enabling power of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12:3). However, you see the sinfulness in man as bringing about some moral debilitation, such that while handicapped by sin, it is still within his moral power to say from the heart “Jesus is Lord.””

    Ben, I go to great lengths to express the essence of Calvinism accurately, and I would appreciate the same consideration. This is the only way we can actually have meaningful discussions about these vital issues. Rightly reflecting a person’s view is not tantamount to agreement, but it is an indicator of whether one is willing to learn or to just defend the system. We can unwittingly misrepresent a position, but your representation of my article seems quite beyond that since you are saying what I believe, which ideas I have never spoken nor written. In everything I have written on SBC Today and elsewhere, I have expressed my belief in the total (extensive) depravity of man so that man cannot come nor will he even rightly seek God on his own. God is the initiator and even works throughout the entire salvific process.

    You said, “From what I see in Scripture, every boast concerning my salvation is in the Lord because it is completely by His doing that I am IN Christ Jesus (1 Cor 1:30-31), but for you, the determining factor is in man. Therefore, at best you can say, “It is by His doing and my own doing that I am in Jesus Christ.” To say anything less is to engage in the double speak that you regularly accuse Calvinists of.”

    First, see my response above regarding the determining factor. I make no apologies for believing that God has both required faith (faith or belief are used about 150 times in the New Testament as the condition for receiving salvation) and grace enabled man with the ability to exercise that faith or not exercise that faith. Second, you have apparently misunderstood my concept of “double talk.” In previous SBC Today articles, as well as many other places, I have articulated this, but here it is again.
    By double-talk, I specifically and only mean thinking, praying, writing or speaking in such a way that obscures the disquieting realities of consistent Calvinism. I believe much of the double talk is unintentional but unfortunately not all of it. If a person accepts and clearly and unabashedly articulates these realities, then he can be a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist; if one is unwilling to do so, he cannot be a consistent Calvinist. Since I use the term double talk in this specifically limited way, the problem of inconsistencies that I am addressing cannot be ameliorated by referring to inconsistencies due to the frailty of man that may be present in others’ approaches to Scripture—as well as in Calvinism.
    Here is an example of what would be Scriptural double talk. If I did not regularly speak clearly about hell in my preaching and witnessing, then I would be guilty of double talk because things like the exclusivity of Christianity, hell, inability of man, etc., are the harsh realities (entailments) of the gospel and Scripture. Since I do tirelessly seek to explicate this class of biblical truths, I am not engaged in double talk as I use it regarding Calvinism. Therefore, your indictment fails on two accounts; first, it is disanalogous with the point I am making with Calvinism in my use of double talk; second, and more importantly, I do not believe what you say I believe.

    You said, “So, you may perceive the theology you espouse makes the gospel better news, but from what I see in Scripture, your theology is not good news at all because in the end you say it’s up to us.” (Italics added)

    At first you were addressing my article by saying what I believe (things I never said nor intimated) which beliefs are actually so misrepresentative of my beliefs and article that they only exist in the tawdry caricatures of some Calvinists lofted against those who disagree with Calvinism rather than in reality. Now you are telling me what I said, e.g. “you say it’s up to us.” (Italics added). Where did I say that? Again, some Calvinists lack of concern for accurately reflecting a brother’s beliefs or words is disconcerting at best, and it turns what could be a beneficial dialogue into an Augean trip along the road of wasted time to the land of frustration.

    You said, “You claim that the Calvinist gospel is good news to only some, but yours is not even that. It’s good news for none I’m afraid, if my anthropology is biblical.” (Italics added)

    You refer to my representation of Calvinism’s gospel as being good news for only some as my “claim”. Characterizing a statement in this manner generally means that the claim is just that – a claim not corresponding to the facts. That is my inference of your delimitation of my statement; consequently may I ask, “Are you denying that Calvinism’s soteriology is actually good news for only some? If it is good news for more than some, I would greatly appreciate being corrected on my understanding of Calvinism. Could you explain how the gospel according to Calvinism is good news for more than some or maybe even good news for all?” if I was correct in my understanding of the gospel according to Calvinism, then my statements and article are more than a mere “claim”.

    You said, “if my anthropology is biblical.” I do not think it is!

    You said, “Second, I find it very interesting that you expect ‘Calvinists to be clear in presenting what they so doggedly believe to be the whole good news’ and don’t think that it’s too much to ask. Then I don’t think it’s too much to ask the same of you, believing that you are not Pelagian or a Semi-Pelagian. I assume that you believe that in order for a man to be saved, the Holy Spirit MUST draw him. Therefore, you could present the gospel, and the Holy Spirit not draw that man, resulting in the requisite rejection of the gospel. So, would it be fair to ask that you share the gospel by saying, “Come to Jesus and be saved, if the Holy Spirit draws you?” That’s precisely what you are asking Calvinists to do, “Come to Jesus and be saved, if you are one of the elect.” I don’t expect you to begin doing that, and I don’t expect Calvinists to begin either.”

    First, you correctly noted that I am neither a Pelagian nor a Semi-Pelagian. Thank you! Second, to be clear, I am not asking Calvinists to merely say, “Come to Jesus and be saved, if you are one of the elect.” I am actually asking Calvinists to present the gospel according to Calvinism in such a way that the hearers understand precisely what is actually available to them and how God works and loves or does not love the hearers, which involves more than your simple statement. To wit, do not present the gospel in such a way that hearers believe it is for everyone when it is in fact not—according to Calvinism. Third, I do believe that, among other things, the Holy Spirit must draw someone before they can be saved. However, in contrast to Calvinism, I believe all are drawn, and drawing precedes grace-enabled faith, and this drawing is neither prior to faith nor determinative of faith—this by God’s sovereign decision. I do not suggest that I know when this is happening; however, our beliefs about it happening and to whom are irreconcilably different, and to intimate otherwise is double talk. Lastly, contrary to what you say I do, I do actually and quotidianly incorporate the essentialness of the enabling of the Holy Spirit into my public invitations and private sharing of the gospel. I assure the masses or the individual that that God loves the world, Christ died for the world, and the Holy Spirit convicts the world, but while we know the work of the Holy Spirit works to enable faith and that enablement is essential for someone to accept the gospel, we do not know when or how long the Holy Spirit works in an individual’s life. I share the good news, but I also share the bad news. I warn them that without the Holy Spirit drawing, they cannot be saved; therefore, if the Holy Spirit is working in them, they need to flee the wrath to come and be saved now because they have no guarentees about how often they will get this chance or if this is their last chance. “Today is the day of salvation”. I explain this in many places but particularly in my explanation of the Unpardonable Sin—see my book Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist.

    You said, “Calvinists and “Traditionalists” alike will go forward proclaiming the same gospel to every person, “Come to Jesus and be saved” and will alike be praying that God works in the meantime to bring about that salvation.”

    Here we go again, saying things in such a way that clearly indicate there are no notable and massively important soteriological differences in the gospel according to Calvinism and the rest of us, and yet we all know there are and they are brobdingnagian. Unfortunately, you have provided an excellent example of double talk.

      Ben Simpson

      Ronnie, our sesquipedalian brother,

      First, let me respond to you with a question: in your article, are you dealing with what Calvinists have claimed or with implications you see coming out of Calvinism?
      I believe that clearly you are dealing with the implications you see and not what Calvinists have actually said. In fact, you demonstrate this very thing when you said:

      John Piper, asked the question, “What message would missionaries rather take than the message: Be glad in God! Rejoice in God! Sing for joy in God! …God loves to exalt himself by showing mercy to sinners.”… Piper’s message should be changed to say, “Some can be glad in God if He predestined you” or “God loves to exalt Himself by showing mercy to some sinners.” This is the actual message of Calvinism, and everyone who understands Calvinism knows it.

      Without a doubt you are dealing with the implications you see of Calvinism and not what Calvinists actually say. Do you agree?

      By the way, I wonder if John Piper would say to you, “I go to great lengths to express the essence of [nonCalvinism] accurately, and I would appreciate the same consideration. Rightly reflecting a person’s view is not tantamount to agreement, but it is an indicator of whether one is willing to learn or to just defend the system… Some [nonCalvinists] lack of concern for accurately reflecting a brother’s beliefs or words is disconcerting at best, and it turns what could be a beneficial dialogue into an Augean trip along the road of wasted time to the land of frustration,” which is what you said to me only from the other perspective. What is amazing to me is how much of the argument you use against me in your response could be turned around and used against you and your actual article here.

      Therefore, in good turn, I did the same to you that you did to Calvinists. I addressed the implications that I see in your theology instead of addressing what you have actually said. That is apparently completely fair game.

      Second, now on to your response itself. You said, “I have expressed my belief in the total (extensive) depravity of man so that man cannot come nor will he even rightly seek God on his own. God is the initiator and even works throughout the entire salvific process.” Yes and amen. I’m glad to hear you say this. But then you go on to say:

      I believe the deciding factor of everything depends on God, e.g. whether there even is a gospel. This belief includes whether God would sovereignly decide to include other substantive factors or not e.g. grace-enabled faith. To wit, a person can only be saved because God decided to offer that opportunity. A person can only be saved because God sovereignly chose to create man with otherwise choice (libertarian free will), and then sovereignly provided sufficient grace (convicting of the Holy Spirit, power of the gospel etc.,) to enable the lost to either exercise faith in the gospel or not. Therefore, regardless of the salvific plan, if God sovereignly chose to set up the plan, He is the deciding factor.

      There’s that double talk I was talking about: man must use his otherwise choice ability to exercise faith or not, but God is the deciding factor. Certainly from you viewpoint, God is the original deciding factor in setting up “the plan,” but given what He’s already decided, it’s now up to the man, “grace-enabled” or not. Please stop giving God all the credit when it’s up to man to close the deal now according to your theology.

      Third, when I said, “if my anthropology is biblical,” I was merely trying to be gracious in the conversation. Of course, I think mine is more right than yours is. Otherwise, I’d believe what you believe.

      Fourth, you insist that Calvinists stop presenting “the gospel in such a way that hearers believe it is for everyone when it is in fact not—according to Calvinism.” Sorry, I’ll continue to present it like it is for everyone *because it is for everyone* regardless of your uncharitable characterization of your Calvinistic brothers and sisters. Nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel and believe. Therefore, I’ll gladly preach until the Lord comes, “Come to Jesus, and be saved!” to every person indiscriminately and pray that God sovereignly brings about salvation, and I’ll gladly cooperate with those that do the same.

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Ben, here are my thoughts regarding your thoughts about my thoughts.

        You said, “Are you dealing with what Calvinists have claimed or with implications you see coming out of Calvinism? I believe that clearly you are dealing with the implications you see and not what Calvinists have actually said….Without a doubt you are dealing with the implications you see of Calvinism and not what Calvinists actually say. Do you agree?”

        First, I note that you asked me a question, and then you quite appropriately answered it with your opinion. Then your answer was followed by, what appears to me to be, your unalterable answer for me to the question you asked me—note the words “without a doubt….” This seems to make my answer, well, rather inconsequential to your conversation since there remains no doubt as to what I was dealing with, but I will forgo prudence and loft my two cents into the mix. Second, if by “implications” you mean “entailments” i.e. inescapable realities of Calvinism, then yes that is, in part, what I am addressing. These are no less important (in other ways they are more important) to a belief system than what one unabashedly espouses; further, some Calvinists do, at times, articulate these as a part of their beliefs, which they should in fact do—that is where I learned such things. Additionally, I am addressing the actual, claims or stated beliefs of Calvinism, as stated by Calvinists (note the following italicized words); such as, “These differences are not tertiary as some claim,”, “Piper’s claim” and the differences that are espoused in interpreting “arguably the most well-known, lucid, humbling, awe inspiring verse regarding the gospel and mission of evangelizing (John 3:16).” Again, “Whereas the esoteric gospel according to Calvinism says everyone should come, but the secret is that while God has told Calvinists to tell the lost man to come, be forgiven, and flee the wrath to come, the inner circle—Calvinists—know that God has been pleased to exclude most individuals [unconditional election, Total depravity, limited atonement, good faith offer,] to whom the Calvinist present this truth.” These relate to inescapable realities of Calvinism, which may be unspoken entailments, or the proclaimed tenets of Calvinism e.g. TULIP etc. My assumption is that you are a well-read Calvinist and therefore you are surely aware of such entailments and explicit claims in both articulating and defining Calvinism’s glorious beliefs.

        In the article, as elsewhere, I am seeking to penetrate the double talk that obscures either actual beliefs or entailments thereby clarifying the actualities of Calvinism as espoused by Calvinists themselves. I do this so that we can have meaningful and fruitful conversations about the various beliefs of Calvinism, Extensivism (my position) or Traditionalists etc., so that all understand what we actually believe. Please tell me where in seeking clarity of what Calvinism actually believes so that it can be understood by all that I have failed or misrepresented to capture the essence of Calvinism and more clearly articulate it—so that no listener could be misled about the actual beliefs of Calvinism.

        For example, I think I conveyed the actual beliefs of Calvinism in this article better than my brother John Piper. Piper said, “God loves to exalt himself by showing mercy to sinners.” I responded that he should have said, “God loves to exalt Himself by showing mercy to some sinners.” Now, please tell me which of those two statements is more precisely reflective of the actual teaching and beliefs of Calvinism? If the essence of Calvinism is that the gospel is only good news for some—in any eternally meaningful way e.g. the unconditionally elect—then I have precisely captured it. If it is actually accessible to all who hear (so that anyone who hears can believe unto salvation) then I have missed it, but then I am left wondering why all the hoopla? Please tell me where I have erred in my understanding of actual Calvinism—beliefs and entailments. Please tell me how I misrepresented Calvinism, John Piper, or did not better elucidate the reality of Calvinism.

        You said, “By the way, I wonder if John Piper would say to you, “I go to great lengths to express the essence of [nonCalvinism] accurately, and I would appreciate the same consideration….” Then you said, “What is amazing to me is how much of the argument you use against me in your response could be turned around and used against you and your actual article here.”

        Again, please identify where I inaccurately represent the actual beliefs of Calvinism when we strip away the double talk. If I have, I will gladly withdraw my statement and stand corrected. I have no desire to misrepresent Calvinism because Calvinists do not deserve that and misrepresenting Calvinism does not help people to properly evaluate all of the beliefs of Calvinism. I actually read, talk and listen to Calvinists who candidly admit the very concepts I highlight. You see, I believe Calvinism’s greatest weakness is only apparent when one has a thorough understanding of Calvinism. In part, I am trying to bring into mainstream conversations the beliefs, disquieting realities and double talk that I dealt with as a Calvinists, which were the cobblestones (so to speak) that paved the long road that led me away from Calvinism. One may doggedly believe them and unabashedly proclaim them, which is something I can respect and appreciate. What is not acceptable is to elide them or act as if they are not essential to Calvinism. Consequently, I do grow weary of some Calvinists persistent reticence to clarify these concepts in every forum so that all may really understand Calvinism.

        Additionally, Piper argues vociferously and lengthily that the mission of the church is not to give everyone a chance to be saved, but rather to call out God’s unconditionally elect. He argues repeatedly and lengthily how words like “all” “every” etc., do not mean every individual who hears the gospel, but represent people groups. I quote some of these in my book, and interact with them at length. These candid arguments can be found in every one of his books that I own as well as his other books, blog etc. As a matter of fact, they can be found in every Calvinist’s theology that I own; consequently, I find any and all marginalizing, eschewals or suggestions and implications of referring to such as misrepresentations “characterizations” as unhelpful and diversionary at best.

        You said, “Therefore, in good turn, I did the same to you that you did to Calvinists. I addressed the implications that I see in your theology instead of addressing what you have actually said. That is apparently completely fair game.”

        Again, true entailments are “fair game”, but something that one “sees” that may not exist is not. That is true for you and me. I do not read Calvinism’s beliefs through the lenses of one who holds to a different perspective. I actually read them within (through the lenses) the system of Calvinism. I respect Calvinists who are consistent in their beliefs and clear about them when they speak. That is what I am asking that we both do. If you do not, for whatever reason, consider others beliefs within the frame work of their theological system, you will never be able to properly consider alternatives—or even recognize the existence of such i.e. the possibility or probability that yours (or mine) may be wrong.

        You said, “I have expressed my belief in the total (extensive) depravity of man so that man cannot come nor will he even rightly seek God on his own. God is the initiator and even works throughout the entire salvific process.” Yes and amen. I’m glad to hear you say this.”

        Am I wrong to infer that your gladness is due to being relieved that I am not promoting a man-centered theology? If I am wrong, please forgive me for being presumptuous. If I am right, I see this as a simple resistance, for whatever reason, to hear what others with whom you disagree are saying.

        You rightly quoted me,” I believe the deciding factor of everything depends on God, e.g. whether there even is a gospel. This belief includes whether God would sovereignly decide to include other substantive factors or not e.g. grace-enabled faith. To wit, a person can only be saved because God decided to offer that opportunity. A person can only be saved because God sovereignly chose to create man with otherwise choice (libertarian free will), and then sovereignly provided sufficient grace (convicting of the Holy Spirit, power of the gospel etc.,) to enable the lost to either exercise faith in the gospel or not. Therefore, regardless of the salvific plan, if God sovereignly chose to set up the plan, He is the deciding factor.”

        Then you said, “There’s that double talk I was talking about: man must use his otherwise choice ability to exercise faith or not, but God is the deciding factor. Certainly from you viewpoint, God is the original deciding factor in setting up “the plan,” but given what He’s already decided, it’s now up to the man, “grace-enabled” or not.”

        First, it appears to me, though it may be entirely due to my obtuseness that you simply will not accept how I define and use the concept of double talk. Although I have repeatedly defined it both here and in other articles (which I know you read since you responded) with its stringent delimiters, you continue to misuse it. Double talk obscures the harsh reality such as, “whosoever will may come” which in Calvinism is only trivially true because the harsh reality is that only the unconditionally elect can and will come. It is plausible that Calvinism is true despite its cold harsh entailments (like the gospel is true even though it entails the harsh reality of eternal hell for the unsaved) but Calvinists are not justified in guardedly obscuring their real view of such truths anymore than I would be to elide hell.
        Your example would be true if in my preaching and writing, I obscured man’s responsibility to repent and exercise faith, making clear that he can and should do so or suffer eternal hell, and that God gets all the glory since He is the benefactor and salvation is all an act of grace through faith. That you do not accept how both of those can be true is not the same as a disquieting reality obscured by double talk (disquieting realities are not just an understanding or personal perspective but an irremovable essential component). When I point to double talk, it is language used to obscure an essential component of one’s belief and not merely what I think because I don’t get it. If I have stated something that is either not an explicit belief or inescapable entailment of Calvinism, please show me. That would be my misuse of the term as you have done; hence, your use is, once again, disanalogous and therefore invalid.

        If you are saying, and really only mean, (i.e. no Calvinist word maneuvers, which present people like me as really glorifying man and not God like humble Calvinists) that I believe a man is because of the love and mercy of our great and mighty God, provided with every essential pre, present, post-conversional element to enable faith (so that nothing is arising from man apart from God’s gracious intent) then of course I believe that man will only be saved by exercising that faith! Thank you Jesus! I do everything I can in every message, writing etc to make that unmistakably clear. This is what Scripture consistently, ubiquitously and explicitly portrays, so I certainly believe that. Most assuredly, I believe that salvation is available to anyone who hears the gospel and every hearer can by simple faith be saved, and without such they will not be saved—no secret list etc. I hope others are reading your critique, so they can see that the only reason you have a problem with such a clear teaching of such is that Calvinism rejects this simple truth of Biblical Theology as seen ubiquitously in Scripture.
        Moreover, I will go so far as to say that I believe that if one doffs the spectacles of Calvinism’s with its view of sovereignty that can only exist in determinism, secret will, secret list, etc., he will see this truth as well. I believe if you and I were reading countless of the clearest verses in the Bible regarding the gospel, and we only considered the straight forward message (i.e. unencumbered by theological commitments) we would both believe that any and every man can be saved by exercising faith (which he should do). This, shift in accepting the simple message of the gospel, was part of the process that led me out of Calvinism. I believe a fatal flaw of Calvinism is that while it seeks to deal with the perplexities of Scripture (which it is to be commended for) it does so in such a way that unnecessarily (meaning there is a better way to deal with the complexities without this liability) complicates and contorts the clear words of the most lucid salvific passages—as as well as any passages addressing man as a responsible being.

        You said, based upon the above quote of my position, “Please stop giving God all the credit when it’s up to man to close the deal now according to your theology.”

        Ben, this is a lucid example of the communication problem. For me, this draws attention to why I can discuss such matters with some Calvinists, and we can lovingly and respectfully disagree about the merits of our systems of belief while knowing that neither man would hold to a belief that distributes salvational credit to all participants. It seems to me, based upon your words above, that we are now getting to the essence of what you believe about those who reject Calvinism’s assumption that man’s decision to believe or disbelieve is nothing more than a subsequent cog in a predetermined unalterable sequence. It seems that, you believe that man choosing between accessible options (regardless of how that might happen) and not being actually predetermined to be able to only respond in a predetermined and unalterable way, which in fact man had nothing to do with, is irreconcilable with God getting all of the credit for salvation. Am I wrong, and if so how?

        Would I be wrong in inferring that you believe that God does not have the ability to create man with otherwise choice and offer salvation conditioned upon (grace-enabled) faith (the common sequence, words and portrayal in Scripture) without compromising His sovereignty and gracious provision of salvation of which He alone deserves thanks and glory? Note, I am not suggesting or asking if you agree with such an idea, which obviously you do not, but rather do you believe the concept is possible. If you think that it is possible, then I believe you should desist from such portrayals and requests. If you do not think it is possible for God to accomplish such, then I find that to be a problem for Calvinism’s limited view of God’s power and sovereignty rather than a problem for those with whom you disagree.

        I can fully understand how God could have created/redeemed according to Calvinism (compatibilist determinism). Within your Calvinism it fits. The same is true for Extensivism… (Incompatibilism libertarian…). Therefore, I cannot, nor should I accommodate your request.

        Let me illustrate how inaccurate your understanding seems to me. It is like when I hear people say that Calvinists believe you can be saved apart from faith. Of course, you and I know that although we disagree about the significance and sequence regarding faith that is not a true reflection of either the beliefs or entailments of Calvinism. Now, sometimes, regardless how hard I try to explain that to some of my brothers and sisters, they simply see it as bafflegab—I am protecting the Calvinists. That is the way I view this conversation with you although that may not be your intention. You continue to state this juxtaposition without granting due acknowledgement to how this can be and God still get all the glory. Your now explicitly stated request is reflective of what was always precisely implicit in your manner of framing your questions and statements regarding this juxtaposition; hence, my guardedness in responding to you. Now we can all see that my guardedness was not in vain. Therefore, as I believe the problem lies with those who will not accept the essential role of faith in Salvation according to Calvinism, I similarly believe that this unwillingness on your part is actually your problem and not mine.

        I have not minced words about my utter rejection of Calvinism’s reliance upon compatibilism. I do believe that Adam could have chosen not to sin in the garden, which Calvinism does not believe; further, Calvinists should be far more forth coming about this belief in public writing and speaking, but then I believe this would irreparably tarnish the glow of Calvinism for many; hence, the problem with double talk. Further, relying upon the idea of soft determinism (William James introduced the ideas of hard and soft) does nothing to minimize the reality of compatibilism’s inviolable determinism—misunderstandings about this on both sides notwithstanding. Regardless if it is hard or soft, both believe that every time a person chooses, it is an unalterable act (set by determinative antecedents e.g. voluntarian but no origination) and, therefore, utterly without a choice to do anything else. Consequently, according to consistent compatibilism, you do not have a choice, nor do I, about what we are writing.

        Compatibilism just seeks to argue that determinism and moral responsibility are compatible (something which both pure determinists and Libertarians reject i.e. they are both incompatibilist); thus, according to compatibilism, as long as a person acts voluntarily (no gun to the head) it is a free act. I desire for more people to understand this Calvinistic distinction in the use of such concepts as “free choice”, “responsibility” etc.

        Therefore it is still as deterministic as determinism—soft/hard distinctions notwithstanding. Consequently, when one looks at anything, within a Calvinistic perspective, immediate responsibility for actions may be argued to rest with the individual (then only in the sense of the voluntarian principle and not the origination principle) but ultimate responsibility for everything is found in God i.e. trace the causal chain back to the ultimate determinative antecedent that determined every other determinative antecedent. Also, you may need to go back further than God if you strap Him with a compatible nature as well. To wit, He could only choose to create…redeem certain ones and not redeem others etc, ad infinitum. I find this to be both biblically and intellectually wanting.

        You quoted me, “you insist that Calvinists stop presenting “the gospel in such a way that hearers believe it is for everyone when it is in fact not—according to Calvinism.” Then you said, “Sorry, I’ll continue to present it like it is for everyone *because it is for everyone*”

        Ben, really! For one who is so doggedly dedicated to refuting those of us who reject Calvinism’s determinism (irresistible grace, unconditional election, faith as a predetermined free act subsequent to regeneration), unceasingly seeks to correct us, and tirelessly works to defend Calvinism, I am astonished that such clarity is not as tenaciously pursued in presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ so that everyone is unmistakably clear about what you mean by what you say. You know that the gospel according to Calvinism is emphatically not for everyone in any meaningful sense. Please explain to me how the gospel is in any eternally meaningful sense “for everyone” if unconditional election is true. If you cannot, then you have provided yet another, unambiguous and unsettling example of double talk. If you do not know what I mean by double talk, read your own statement in light of the actual teachings of Calvinism. I pray that you reconsider. To quote a Scripture, or command in Scripture to share the gospel indiscriminately is not an answer because that is the biblical command, which is not the same as Calvinism.

        If it were, we would not be having these discussions. As long as some Calvinists continue to do as you have said you are going to do, I will seek to enlighten people to actual beliefs of consistent Calvinism so that presentations like yours will not leave them believing Calvinism teaches what it emphatically does not—and we both know that it does not. I must say, I find such a conscious obscuration of such to be unconscionable; hence, my migration from Calvinism. I assume that you do not find it to be so.

        I do view this Calvinistic practice by some Calvinists as not only a biblical problem for Calvinism but an ethical one for Calvinists as well. For anyone to intentionally speak or write so that listeners will believe what the presenter’s belief system resolutely and undeniably denies is inexcusable. That goes for me too! This would be true of me if I preached the gospel without clearly articulating the reality of hell. Fortunately, some of your Calvinists brothers do try to make what they so stanchly believe and look down on us who do not, explicit when they share the gospel so that people are not confused. I respect and applaud them for doing so.

        You said, “regardless of your uncharitable characterization of your Calvinistic brothers and sisters. Nobody is saved unless they hear the gospel and believe. Therefore, I’ll gladly preach until the Lord comes, “Come to Jesus, and be saved!” to every person indiscriminately and pray that God sovereignly brings about salvation, and I’ll gladly cooperate with those that do the same.”

        I believe you take my insistence upon bringing to light the essence of Calvinism as an “uncharitable characterization”, which it is not. Please explain to me how I am wrong in my understanding of the actual beliefs and entailments of Calvinism.

          wingedfooted1

          2 Corinthians 2:4 (NKJV)…..
          “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

          Blessing, Ronnie.

          It amazes me how calvinists define calvinism as the one true gospel, when in fact, the calvinist believed a very non-calvinistic gospel when he was saved. They believed, which they had to, to be saved, “Christ died for ME”. However, that is not the message they heard from the calvinist, but that is the message the calvinist implied. The calvinist definitely leaves the sinner with that impression. For example, a calvinist will say “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). But what the calvinist really means is “Christ Jesus came into the world to save some sinners.”

          Merry Christmas.

Max

“… according to Calvinism, the gospel is not the good news to be received by all or any listener, but rather a description of the benefits that will be bestowed upon those on the secret list.”

I doubt seriously that the angel of the Lord had a secret-list-gospel in mind when he proclaimed “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to ALL people.” A veiled message would not be good tidings of great joy to all and any listener of that day, nor good news to all Canadians today! The real “list” is open to all who come by way of the Cross, not the teachings and traditions of mere men. I rejoice in a message of hope for every man on planet earth which began in a manger, included a cross, and has an eternal stamp on it … if it’s heard, believed, and received. Preach that Gospel, folks, to the ends of the earth … that God loves “you” – Jesus was born and died for “you”.

JimP

I think that Calvinism is built on a faulty understanding of election. But that faulty understanding permeates both Calvinism and other than Calvinism. Calvinism has built a pretty neat package on that flaw that appeals to the mind and intuition of many. One of the reason why others can’t compete is that they also try to built on that flaw. Both fall in the error of ‘the traditions of men invalidating the Word of God.’ Some of these fundamentals need addressing for a cogent alternative to Calvinism is offered, one that also appeals to the mind, intuition and Scripture.

    Robert

    Jim P you’ve got me curious now from what you said: what is this flaw that Calvinism is built upon? (i.e. “I think that Calvinism is built on a faulty understanding of election. But that faulty understanding permeates both Calvinism and other than Calvinism. Calvinism has built a pretty neat package on that flaw that appeals to the mind and intuition of many. One of the reason why others can’t compete is that they also try to built on that flaw.”).

    So what is “that flaw”?

    Jim P you also claim that non-Calvinists also build upon the same flaw (i.e. “But that faulty understanding permeates both Calvinism and other than Calvinism.”)

    What other than “Calvinism and other than Calvinism” does not make this error?

    Robert

      JimP

      Hello Robert,

      First let us agree that ‘the traditions of men’ is formidable in any discussion. It is such that , I believe, was one of the major factors leading to the Crucifixion.
      That said, I want to admit up front, I may not have the point argued to the degree to withstand a theological scrutinization. But for myself it is bringing understanding to the discussion that satisfies me.

      The point of ‘election’ has been brought up in the past on this forum. I feel it should continue to be more a focus. The point is that ‘election’ Biblically is for service and not for salvation. Examples would be Abraham, Moses, Israel, and even Christ. The church is called to minister to the world, elect from every nation.

      I think this goes counter to much of Church’s thinking. Reducing God’s work to a strict deliverance from darkness and sin is a loss for the Church’s appreciation of its call.

      Thank You

        Norm Miller

        Jim: You are not alone.

        Ben Simpson

        Jim,

        I hear people say that a lot: “election is for service and not for salvation.” In order for that differentiation to be valid, there would have to be somebody who has been elected for service to God but never actually experiences salvation. Is there anybody like that?

        I say “no,” which completely invalidates your maxim. To be elected for service is to be elected for salvation, and to be elected for salvation is to be elected to service.

        Furthermore, we have Scripture clearly indicating what the chosen have been chosen for. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 says, “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.”

          Norm Miller

          Disagree, Ben. Many heathens, indeed, nations God ‘elected’ to use for his purposes, but they still worshiped Baal.

          wingedfooted1

          “To be elected for service is to be elected for salvation, and to be elected for salvation is to be elected to service.”

          John 6:70-71 (NKJV)……
          Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose (aka: elect) you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.

          Ben Simpson

          So, you two,

          Is it appropriate then to call Judas and let’s say Assyria, the “elect” of God?

          What about 2 Thessalonians 2:13, which tells us explicitly that at least in one sense, election is unto salvation?

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Hi Ben,

            I actually think that comes close to illegitimate totality transfer.

            In context, soteria here doesn’t mean “being born again” a la “saved-saved”, but rather to be delivered. This is akin to the use of soteria in Philippians 1:19, and it is the ONLY mention of the word in the entire Epistle. Hence, extremely doubtful this is an aside in soteriology to teach on the nature of salvation or some ordo salutis or whatever.

            Just because the word soteria occurs in proximity to the words gospel or called doesn’t mean it means what Evangelicals are wont to automatically think it means. The immediate context is the man of lawlessness, and this is a word of encouragement that God has had the Thessalonica church in view from the beginning to be delivered through it by means of sanctification and belief in the truth. Hence, the exhortation to persevere in this sanctification and belief in verse 15. The Gospel calls people to more than simply “bein’ born again”, and God has called them to obtain “the glory of our Lord Jesus” in contradistinction to those who will receive condemnation and perishing, i.e. those who were deceived and subsequently deluded in this period.

            Worth noting also they perish because they did not believe the truth, and because they did not, it was on that account they received the delusion as a consequence of rejection, not the cause of the rejection, and because of falling for deception. The s?z? in verse 10 doesn’t mean “not born again” in that sense either. The closest we get to this sort of thing is in verse 12 that points to actual judging/condemning.

            Another interesting tidbit is the continual reference to “brother(s)” and “tradition(s)”, and see especially 2:15 and 3:6 and the responsibility of pressing on, working, avoiding irresponsible brothers among them and also exhorting them to get busy, etc. Paul is not teaching believers a soteriological lesson in the middle of this prophetic discourse. He is exhorting them to remain in how they came to be brothers in the first place.

            No, verse 2:1 is not dealing with the second coming of Jesus on the last day just because the word parousia is being used either, and it is important to notice the differences in 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9 and the future, eternal results, and the immediate issues in regards to chapter 2 relevant to the present circumstances.

            I just don’t see “soteriology”. “election”, some phantom ordo salutis even, etc. in this verse in its context.

            In any case, even if one rejects the eschatological dimensions of this passage with regards to the last things in chapter one and the upcoming destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., hairéomai (especially given its usage only two other times, and is related to preference or appointment to office, and curiously enough appear 2 verses later in the aforementioned verse in Philippians 1) still ain’t eklektos, and soteria still ain’t “born again saved-saved” or whatever here.

            In actuality, this passage says nothing explicitly or otherwise at all regarding election unto salvation regardless of how one takes the passage.

            As for Judas, yes, if Jesus thinks it is appropriate, then why should we not? Think exegetically, not systematically.

            As for Assyria, then sort of, if we just generalize the word in its intended meaning of purpose or service, but again, not exegetically from Scripture. But no, if we use “elect” in some sort of bad systematic theological way, rather than a Biblical/Exegetical way, i.e. the way you don’t want to use it for Judas (which is irrelevant exegetically, just as it is irrelevant to say Assyria is “elect” exegetically).

          JimP

          Hello Ben,

          Let’s agree upfront this is a discussion. A person so taken by a simple comment I made compared it to two mule kicking contests he went to. Please, let’s just discuss. I think also the issues brought up are extremely involved and ‘traditions’ make this even more so.

          Norm is right. God elected to use a serpent for His ends. He can elect as he pleases. A difference with a serpent and those in the church is one of conscience involvement to God’s rule, particularly in Christ.

          In Christ’s conversation with Nicodemus, He said, “one must be ‘born again’ to SEE the kingdom of God,” Then, “‘born again’ to ENTER the kingdom of God.” ‘Seeing’ and ‘Entering’ are metaphors for understanding and being involved in. So, seems, being ‘born again’ has a direct reference to service and ‘kingdom’ is a reference to rule and administration.

          And that opens the door to the enigmatic phrase, ‘born again.’

            Norm Miller

            I tend to agree, Jim, it is both/and & not either/or. Abram is one whom God elected to serve. However, it was Abram’s DECISION to serve. And that decision was seen as obedience, and that obedience was “counted unto him as righteousness.” Was Abram required to serve? Did he have to move from Ur? I say no. But he chose to obey. A study of Abram-turned-Abraham is instructive in many veins.
            Israel, in turn, was elected to be God’s representative in that land-bridge of the day, Canaan. But did they do that? No. They were elected to service, but will they all be in heaven?

            My nickel’s worth.

          wingedfooted1

          Here’s something else to consider.

          In the OT, specifically in the book of Isaiah, the nation of Israel was God’s elect. Prior to the nation of Israel, God never referred to anyone as “elect”. Yes, Jesus Christ is the “Elect One”, but He Himself is also a Jew coming from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of Israel. No one outside of Israel was ever referred to as “the elect”. However, thousands were saved prior to Israel. Lot was saved and he was never referred to as being “elect” in scripture. Abram/Abraham was never an Israelite and never referred to as “elect”. That distinction was given only to the people or descendants of Israel. Still, being an Israelite did not guarantee ones salvation.

          Jude 1:5…7 (NIV)……
          “Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord at one time delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe……they serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire.”

        Robert

        Thanks for your response JimP.

        “First let us agree that ‘the traditions of men’ is formidable in any discussion. It is such that , I believe, was one of the major factors leading to the Crucifixion.
        That said, I want to admit up front, I may not have the point argued to the degree to withstand a theological scrutinization. But for myself it is bringing understanding to the discussion that satisfies me.”

        That’s fair and I understand.

        You went on to say:

        “The point of ‘election’ has been brought up in the past on this forum. I feel it should continue to be more a focus. The point is that ‘election’ Biblically is for service and not for salvation. Examples would be Abraham, Moses, Israel, and even Christ. The church is called to minister to the world, elect from every nation.”

        My own view on “election” JimP is that at times it refers to salvation and at times it refers to service. Its meaning depends on the particular bible passage and context that you are considering. You are correct that examples of election to service would be those you brought up. And you are correct that the church sometimes acts as if or behaves as if we are not elected to service.

        “I think this goes counter to much of Church’s thinking. Reducing God’s work to a strict deliverance from darkness and sin is a loss for the Church’s appreciation of its call.”

        Agreed.

        I agree that election as service is often minimized or left out of the discussion. At the same time I believe that election can be for salvation and for service It is not an either/or, rather it is a both/and.

        Thanks for your clarification JimP.

        Robert

Robert

Part 1 =

In my previous post I responded to multiple points made by Ben. Here I want to focus more narrowly upon one and show how Ben keeps making the same mistakes (again mistakes that have already been dealt with here at this site repeatedly).

Ben said (I have numbered his comments):

“(1) So, you may perceive the theology you espouse makes the gospel better news, but from what I see in Scripture, your theology is not good news at all because in the end you say it’s up to us. (2) That’s terrible news for everybody given what Scripture has said about the sinfulness of man. (3) You claim that the Calvinist gospel is good news to only some, but yours is not even that. It’s good news for none I’m afraid, if my anthropology is biblical.”

(1)

We have to be very careful to clearly focus upon what precisely is “up to us”. It is true that the choice to trust the Lord to save us is “up to us”. If we don’t make **that decision** we will not be saved. But that decision is not what actually saves us. God had to regenerate us, God has to keep us in the faith, God has to resurrect our bodies or change us if we are alive at His Coming (i.e. glorify us at the end, prepare us for the eternal state). Our decision to trust him to save us accomplishes none of these things. And yet it is these things that really save us not our decision to trust Him. It is true that he will save all who make this decision to trust but it is not true that this decision in itself saves us.

This is the error made over and over by Ben: he fails either intentionally or unintentionally to acknowledge that in the non-Calvinistic understanding of faith and salvation, our faith is part of the process but it is not our faith that actually does the work of saving us.

If a man is going to undergo a serious and complicated and life threatening operation, he gives consent to the operation (that is like faith in being saved). But his consent does not perform the operation that saves his life, in fact he is unconscious and others are doing all the **work** that saves him. In the same way, our faith puts us in the place where God will save us, but God alone does the work that actually saves us. So while it is true that the choice to trust is “up to us”: this decision to trust does not actually save anyone, only God’s actions do that. It is inaccurate to say that since we must choose to trust in Christ that this choice in and of itself is what saves us. Only God’s actions save us. This distinction has been stated by Traditionalists over and over and over again here at this blog. And yet some will ignore this and keep claiming that we believe (or our theology leads to the conclusion that) our faith is what actually saves us.

Robert

    Norm Miller

    Robert:
    The error of many Calvinists is to embrace and espouse total depravity as total inability. That point, too, has been roundly proven false. As I have noted several times, Dr. Allen in an earlier post this year cited about a dozen or so verses where unregenerate people either responded to God, or are shown to be able to respond to God. With all due respect to our brothers, they are simply mistaken to ignore the biblical evidence for the sake of a fallen man’s systematic theology. Further, if the Calvinsts’ understanding of depravity were more biblical, then the other cards of Calvin’s house would fall. Of course, it takes courage to leave the pied Piper and the peer pressure of that parade. In recent days I have discovered some more former Calvinists whose testimonies I am seeking to publish. I am trusting that they who have been willing to quietly say the emperor is threadbare would also be willing to say it louder — and that not for the embarrassment of anyone, but simply for the sake of theological and biblical integrity.

      Robert

      Hello Norm,

      I want to make a distinction here that may help with things. The distinction is this: (A) the condition of a person apart from any working of the Spirit in their life and (B) the condition of a person who has experienced the working of the Spirit in their life.

      Norm you stated that:

      “The error of many Calvinists is to embrace and espouse total depravity as total inability. That point, too, has been roundly proven false. As I have noted several times, Dr. Allen in an earlier post this year cited about a dozen or so verses where unregenerate people either responded to God, or are shown to be able to respond to God.”

      I would say that “inability” applies to a person in condition A.

      If God has not worked in your life at all then you will not be open to spiritual things, you will not understand spiritual things, you will not have any desire or interest in trusting in Christ for salvation. So “inability” **is** true in regards to a person in condition A.

      A person in condition B on the other hand has experienced the work of the Spirit in some way. They may have had the Spirit convict them of their sinfulness. Or the Spirit may have given them understanding of a bible verse when they heard a sermon or were being witnessed to. Etc. etc. etc. etc.

      The person who has had God working in them does have the ability to start responding to God. Jesus likened the work of the Spirit to the wind: it comes and causes consequences but you do not see it coming or know when and how it is working. There is a mystery element here to the working of the Spirit. He works at different times and in different ways, He is sovereign, He is God, so we can never fully understand it. I would say that in any case where someone has any response to God they had to have experienced the work of the Spirit in some way.

      So I can agree with the Calvinist that person apart from the work of the Spirit is trapped in a state of inability.

      But God does not leaves us in that condition, He works in us and enables us to respond.

      What the calvinists do wrong is to emphasize the condition A, as if that is the only condition of sinners prior to salvation.
      But sinners also experience the work of the Spirit that enables them to respond, that is condition B. Regarding condition B, we know that in this condition people are enabled to respond and some respond and some do not become believers. This shows that the Spirit’s work while it enables a response it does not necessitate a response. He enables you to choose to respond, but then you have to choose to respond.

      It is wrong to deny inability of sinners *while they are in condition A* (an error sometimes made by non-Calvinists). It is also wrong to leave out and minimize *the reality that in condition B sinners can respond* (an error sometimes made by Calvinists). In my opinion it is biblical to believe in both inability of people while they are in condition A (apart from the work of the Spirit they cannot respond) and believe that they are enabled to respond by the work of the Spirit in condition B (when the Spirit works in us we can respond). Leave out either one and you will be both unbalanced and unbiblical.

      Robert

        Norm Miller

        Thank you, Robert. I do not concur that regeneration comes before faith. However, I do believe that no one comes to God unless called by him. Cals say if the call comes, then the affirmative answer is unavoidable (irresistible). I say it is a volitional decision to answer the call. I do not believe that God makes that decision for me, but neither do I reject that I can answer in the affirmative unless he first called me.

        As previously noted numerous times to others, here, if I invite you to dinner, MUST you come? No. But Cals take the John 6 verse that no one comes unless called to mean that, if called, you WILL/MUST/CANNOT HELP BUT come. I reject that opinion.

          Robert

          Norm you said that:

          “I do not concur that regeneration comes before faith.”

          We are in complete agreement on that. Regeneration does not precede faith, though they at times seem to occur instantaneously.

          “However, I do believe that no one comes to God unless called by him.”

          And Norm what you are calling being “called by him” is what I would say is one of the things that God does before a person becomes a believer. It is one of those things that happens in what I called in my previous post condition B.

          “Cals say if the call comes, then the affirmative answer is unavoidable (irresistible). I say it is a volitional decision to answer the call. I do not believe that God makes that decision for me, but neither do I reject that I can answer in the affirmative unless he first called me.”

          Agreed.

          I would add as an example proving that you are right, consider the parables were Jesus clearly has stories where many are invited (that is the call from God) but not all come and respond in a positive way to the invitation. I have always seen the parables as directly contradicting Calvinism because you have people who are obviously called by the person in the story and yet they don’t all come to the wedding or party or whatever (and that person calling the others in the story is God). In one parable one of the big points in the story is that while many are called many also comes up with all sorts of really weak excuses to justify their not coming (if that is not a clear and devastating argument against irresistible grace then what is?). In another parable the invitation is to Israel and they for the most part decline and the one inviting becomes angry at them for their rejection of the invitation (consider if Calvinism were true and all were predestined how the story becomes a joke: God invites Israel and really wants them to come but then most reject Him [their rejection itself being determined to occur by Him] and then He gets angry at them for rejecting Him when he predestined their rejection! That makes God into a schizophrenic/he gets mad at outcomes and results even though he predestined those very outcomes and results?).

          “As previously noted numerous times to others, here, if I invite you to dinner, MUST you come? No.”

          The people in Jesus’ parables certainly did not all come when they were invited!

          “But Cals take the John 6 verse that no one comes unless called to mean that, if called, you WILL/MUST/CANNOT HELP BUT come. I reject that opinion.”

          I reject it too.

          John 6 does not teach that *all drawn will come* (it never says that though Cals assume that it does).

          John 6 does not teach that *only some are drawn* (that only the preselected elect are drawn, cf. what John presents in John 12:32).

          John 6 does teach that *you will not come unless you were drawn* (i.e. a person on their own will not come to faith in Christ; God has to draw you for you to be able to believe). So all who come and then believe in Jesus must have experienced the preconversion work of the Spirit (condition B that I referred to) in order to become a Christian. And yet not all who experience the preconversion work of the Spirit end up as believers which means that this preconversion work of the Spirit can be resisted.

          Robert

      wingedfooted1

      “The error of many Calvinists is to embrace and espouse total depravity as total inability.”

      Ah, yes, the calvinistic doctrine of total depravity/total inability. And yet the scriptures are full of biblical examples of people coming to faith without any mention, or hint, of being previously regenerated or released from the bondage of sin.

      How our “systems” blind us to the plain teaching of scripture.

Robert

(2)

What does scripture say about the sinfulness of man? It says that all have sinned and deserve eternal separation from God. It says that sin is pervasive and has effected everyone without exception. It says that we cannot come to Christ unless drawn (which means we cannot come to Him **on our own**). It says that God draws all. It says the Holy Spirit convicts the world (which is all) of sin, righteousness and judgment. It says than many will reject God and the gospel.

If we put these things together the picture that emerges is that a person cannot have faith unless drawn and that not all do in fact respond in faith to the gospel. This means there is definite inability in every person to have faith **on their own** (that none can have faith on their own). But that is just it; it also openly declares that the Holy Spirit works to convict the world.

So while in our normal condition (i.e. apart from the work of the Spirit) we cannot have a faith response. If the Spirit works in us things change completely so that we are able to trust.

It does not take rocket science to conclude that this must mean that the Spirit enables faith, that people can only have faith if the Spirit enables them.
Since we know that many will not end up believers we can also safely conclude that while the Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness and judgment: not all who experience this work of the Spirit end up as believers. This means that the Spirit’s work can and is resisted.

And we all know this from personal experience. We have seen others who were open about spiritual things not become believers. We have seen others go through time periods of becoming more open and yet not yet believing. We have experienced this in our own conversion experiences and even as believers at times we resist the work of the Spirit. The Bible also explicitly declares that the Spirit can be resisted (i.e.- “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.” Acts 7:51).

Robert

Robert

Part 3 =

Lastly, Ben you speak of (3) “It’s good news for none I’m afraid, if my anthropology is biblical.” If you mean by your anthropology being biblical that sinners in their ordinary condition (apart from the work of the Spirit) are inable to have a faith response to the gospel, you are absolutely correct.

Without the Spirit’s work nobody can believe. The problem Ben is not with the doctrine of inability, the problem is you stop there.

You leave out or minimize the work of the Spirit. THAT is what changes things for sinners. It is the Spirit revealing Christ, revealing a person’s sinful condition, revealing their condition that unless they repent they are going to hell, revealing that Jesus is the only way of salvation, etc. etc. If the Spirit does not reveal these things to an individual there is no way they can believe. If the Spirit does reveal these things to an individual then they are enabled to have faith. Ben what you, and myriads of other calvinists do is to present inability and STOP THERE. You stop there and leave out the preconversion work of the Spirit. You go from sinner with no ability to believe to regenerated sinner who has to believe. You leave out the middle part, one of the most critical parts, between the sinner being unable to believe and the sinner being regenerated is the preconversion work of the Spirit.

This is an unconscionable error as you are literally leaving God out of the process of salvation. It is true that the Spirit is always pointing to Christ and glorifying Him, not seeking attention for Himself. Nevertheless, it is the Spirit who enables faith, who reveals Christ to a sinner. And you leave this out completely focusing solely on inability.

You are like a person who talks about the nature of a quarter while only talking about the “heads” side. You are correct in what you say about the “heads” side, but it is not a real quarter unless you also include discussion of the “tails” side. It is not that you are wrong about the “heads” side, it is that you leave out the “tails” side. True salvation like a true quarter is more than just the “heads” side.

Robert

Ben Simpson

Robert,

I took the time to answer you above and then noticed this three-part, 1,200+ word booklet (which is just a couple of paragraphs shy of the length of Ronnie’s actual article that sparked this discussion), which wasn’t here when I began to answer you. So, I’ll be very brief.

1. Man’s “consent” in your soteriology is the deciding factor, without which the mechanism of salvation would never be experienced in an individual’s life. So, try as you might to downplay or rebrand it, you efforts fall short of proving that from your standpoint given what God has decided, salvation is now up to man.

2. It’s clear to me that you are espousing nothing more than the Wesleyan view of prevenient grace, which is not supported by a single shred of biblical data. I would commend to you Southern Baptist theologian Thomas Schreiner’s chapter in the book Still Sovereign entitled “Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?”. You can read it in its entirety at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/pdf/schreiner_prevenient.pdf. I’ll simply quote a portion of the conclusion for you:

“Prevenient grace is attractive because it solves so many problems, but it should be rejected because it cannot be exegetically vindicated. But if prevenient grace is rejected, then
all people are in bondage to sin. They will never turn to God because they are so enslaved by sin that they will never desire to turn to him. How then can any be saved? The Scriptures
teach that the effectual calling of God is what persuades those who are chosen to turn to him. God’s grace effectively works in the heart of the elect so that they see the beauty and glory of
Christ and put their faith in him (2 Cor. 4:6). Because God’s choice lies behind our salvation, we cannot boast before him that we were noble or wise enough to choose him. We can only
boast in the Lord who chose us to be his own (1 Cor. 1:29, 31),”
(the final paragraph of the chapter).

3. You said of me, “[Your leaving out the work of the Spirit which enables man to believe on Christ if He wants to] is an unconscionable error as you are literally leaving God out of the process of salvation.” I’m leaving God out of the process? Seriously? I’ve never been accused of that before. Now leaving man out of the process I could see somebody accusing me of, but leaving God out? Absolutely not.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Ben,

    I agree with Dr. Schreiner on prevenient grace. I disagree with him on his subsequent “theological” speculation, bad, random proof-texting, and just plain drivel he goes on about since he gets as much wrong as the Wesleyan folk with whom he disagrees. He misuses grace in the same way they do. It is worth mentioning that there isn’t a shred of Biblical evidence to support his jibber-jabber either.

    As for consent, it isn’t a “deciding” factor in the way you insist. Which, by the way, is bad form. Someone should just as well accuse you of believing God is the author of all sin and evil even though you don’t. But, you are essentially doing the same thing, and ought to know better than hoisting your own beliefs about what you think are them necessary consequences regarding your opponents’ views upon them. If we all did that to one another, we’d get nowhere but a shouting match in all theological discussions and debates. It isn’t helpful.

    But anyway, does not “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will saved” not imply a response of either consent or not from the one to whom the proclamation is made? Surely it does.

    As to grace. It is worth mentioning that grace, by definition, is reciprocal, or in the Medieval language you are probably accustomed to hearing, “synergistic.” The extension of benefaction from a patron requires either the response of gratitude and the meeting of certain conditions and undertaking certain obligations by the clients, or rejection. If rejection, this brings shame on the one who rejects it, and does nothing to upset the honor of the patron, which, of course, means that all the Calvinist talk about God’s grace “failing”, “not being sufficient”, etc. is just irrelevant blather and misunderstands what the word means in Scripture in this context.

    Grace is not primarily a religious word. Though, Seneca does talk about patrons reflecting the disposition of the gods, and his and others’ descriptive references to the three goddesses in the circle dance. Those kinds of things notwithstanding, grace is primarily an honor word, as in either a socio-economic word relating to patron/client reciprocity, or to beauty, gratitude or thanks, beneficence, benefaction, etc.

    I am fine with discussing God’s necessary activity prior to an individual’s conversion, but technically, that isn’t what the Bible refers to as “grace” in the later theological sense you have adopted.

    Of course, that is, if by grace, we mean what the New Testament authors were talking about that the original audience understood, and not what systematicians mean by the English word “grace”. This appears to be how you and Schriener are using it, which is no different than the Wesleyan usage.

    However, the problem is that if we aren’t talking about grace in the same way as the NT authors did and their original audiences understood, then all this later theological talk about grace is basically meaningless and irrelevant and no one should really care about it. I know I don’t, as I am interested in Scripture, and reading and understanding it properly, first and foremost. I know that sounds like such a lofty and goofy platitude everyone says, but it is what it is.

    2,000 years of over-embellishment regarding theology, “big Bible words”, etc. has led to all manner of trouble in regards to bad inferences, speculative conjecture, needless discord, and just plain rubbish.

    Just my opinion though. :)

      Johnathan Pritchett

      “But anyway, does not “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will saved” not imply a response of either consent or not from the one to whom the proclamation is made? Surely it does.”

      ACK! Attempts at proof-reading when it is 4:30 in the morning certainly has its downsides. I will take another crack at this sentence minus the horrific usage of “not”. :D

      But anyway, does “believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will saved” imply a response of either consent or not from the one to whom the proclamation is made? Surely it does.

Robert

Ben I have a couple things to say about your latest post. I want to talk about your manner of questioning and skepticism concerning the preconversion work of the Spirit.

Ben you said that:

“I took the time to answer you above and then noticed this three-part, 1,200+ word booklet (which is just a couple of paragraphs shy of the length of Ronnie’s actual article that sparked this discussion), which wasn’t here when I began to answer you. So, I’ll be very brief.”

I have noticed that when you post you repeatedly ask questions that cannot be properly answered with just a straight Yes or No.

It is like when someone asks the question: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

That question is intentionally meant to set a person up, because it is framed in such a way that no matter how they answer, Yes or No, they will look bad (Yes = well then you did so in the past . . . No = well then you are continuing to do so now . . .).

In order to answer this type of set up question you need to talk about it further to properly explain things. I have run into this type of thing from skeptics as well. They frame things and ask questions that are set ups. They are not asking because they want to know, they are asking because they want to trap you or attack your thinking (e.g. note the “innocent questions” asked of Jesus by the Pharisees like who should we serve God or Caesar?).
You ask your set up questions and I answer them, which takes both time and space. Then when answered you complain about how much time and space I took. That is not right.

One of your most common set ups is the “God versus Man decides” set up. In this one you think that by showing that a person’s choice to trust in God to save them is really up to them: that that then makes man not God the one who ultimately saves. I have taken the time to refute this set up (as have others here), and you just keep doing it.

Here is yet another example of it from your latest post:

“1. Man’s “consent” in your soteriology is the deciding factor, without which the mechanism of salvation would never be experienced in an individual’s life. So, try as you might to downplay or rebrand it, you efforts fall short of proving that from your standpoint given what God has decided, salvation is now up to man.”

Everybody catch that “salvation is now up to man”???

Traditionalists have said repeatedly and carefully demonstrated over and over at this site that in their soteriology “salvation is not up to man” that God chooses to save those who choose to trust Him. That it is his plan of salvation that makes faith part of the process. It is not a case of man saving himself and yet Ben you keep trying to frame things this way: why???

Do you really want to misrepresent traditionalists as Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians or heretics?

I personally think that what you are doing is both divisive and wrong. Since you keep doing this over and over I also conclude this is no accident, this is intentional on your part.

Robert

Robert

Your next set up Ben is actually a new one. Instead of acknowledging that the Spirit does work in people before their conversion and that this work by Him is necessary for a person to be saved: you now attack this work of the Spirit by labeling it as a Wesleyan invention:

“2. It’s clear to me that you are espousing nothing more than the Wesleyan view of prevenient grace, which is not supported by a single shred of biblical data. I would commend to you Southern Baptist theologian Thomas Schreiner’s chapter in the book Still Sovereign entitled “Does Scripture Teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?”. You can read it in its entirety at http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/pdf/schreiner_prevenient.pdf. “

I read Schreiner’s chapter years ago (I had the two books before they were combined into one book), and it was just as false then as it is now.
Anyone who does any evangelism knows that the Spirit must work in people to enable them to come to faith in Christ.

Now if you want to call this preconversion work of the Spirit “prevenient grace” or “enabling grace” or just call it “the Spirit working in a person” as I do, what you call it makes no difference. To deny that this is happening, to minimize this, to attack this as a false reality is to “attack the work of the Spirit and the Spirit Himself*.” This is not the unforgiveable sin but it is very close to the mindset exhibited by the Pharisees towards Jesus’ miracles when they committed the unforgiveable sin.

They saw the miracles, they knew they were happening, but it did not fit their theology so they attacked Jesus and the miracles (claiming they were being done through the power of the devil) and in so doing were attacking the work of the Spirit (because it was the Spirit who was using these miracles to attest to who Jesus was and the truth of what He was saying). In attacking these miracles they were attacking the Spirit and his work of drawing people to Christ for salvation. And Jesus said it was the unforgiveable sin because this work of the Spirit is what leads people to be saved.

Attack that, and you will not be saved as you will reject the Spirit who is trying to lead you to salvation through Christ. I am not saying that you are committing that sin Ben, but your attacking the preconversion work of the Spirit is the same kind of questioning and denial of the reality that the Spirit is working that the Pharisees engaged in with regards to the miracles of Jesus.

Lastly, your last words show that you again leave out the preconversion work of the Spirit and that does not bother you a bit:

“3. You said of me, “[Your leaving out the work of the Spirit which enables man to believe on Christ if He wants to] is an unconscionable error as you are literally leaving God out of the process of salvation.” I’m leaving God out of the process? Seriously? I’ve never been accused of that before. Now leaving man out of the process I could see somebody accusing me of, but leaving God out? Absolutely not.”

You **are** leaving God out of the process of salvation. You talk *exclusively* of the inability of man to believe. And while you do so you completely leave out, ignore, minimize the preconversion work of the Spirit. And THAT is leaving God out of the process. Because without this preconversion work of the Spirit (and again I don’t care what you call it) no one will have faith in Jesus for salvation. You are like the guy talking about the “heads” side of a quarter and acting as if that is all there is to the story, as if that is the whole picture, when it clearly is not. That quarter also includes the “tails” side. Ben you leave out the preconversion work of the Spirit and even attack it as some sort of Wesleyan invention. That is leaving God out of the process of salvation because without THAT work of the Spirit no one would ever have faith.

Robert

Ben Simpson

Robert,

First off, I never asked you a single question or even made a single comment to you until you had written approximately 2,000 words to me, which is an 8-page double-spaced paper. Look at the time stamps, and tell me if this is not so. You merely commented on what I said to Ronnie Rogers, and even then, there was only one question, which was a simple yes or no question. So, please don’t lay your verbosity on my account.

Second, I’ll address what you’ve written most recently here later on as time allows. In the meantime, I hope you’ll interact with my comment to you way in the thread at the “12-12-2013, 13:01” time stamp. Thanks!

    Robert

    Ben you wanted a response to your comments at 13:01 here ya go (in three parts because there is no way to deal with it in one and meet the characters limit).

    Ben you say:

    “Robert, I never said that from the nonCalvinist view, the human decision is the only decision. Of course, God’s decision to save is prior to the human decision. However, that decision was made at least as far back as the fall of Adam, which means that the only one that has any actual bearing now is the human one. God’s already decided, and praise be to God’s grace, but it’s now up to mankind, so nonCalvinists say. So, yes, the deciding factor resides in mankind from your viewpoint. This fact is especially clear in how you phrased it, “God himself has decided that he will choose to save those who choose to trust in Him.” Given what God has decided, on whose decision does salvation now rest from your viewpoint but for man’s? I don’t know why you won’t embrace this.”

    Ben I believe that when it comes to the nature of salvation we have to assume that God is the one who decides *how people will be saved*. Do you agree with that Ben? That is the ultimate decision that really is *ultimate* as it was decided before God created the world and it was up to God alone not us.

    And God has revealed explicitly in the Bible the process by which men are to be saved: it says, drum role please: that individual persons are saved through faith. It does not say we are saved through regeneration nor does it say we are saved because God selected us to be saved in eternity and selected others to be damned in eternity. It says we are saved through faith (this is especially clear in Romans and Galatians). That is what the Bible reveals whether we want to accept it or not.

    My statement then that “God himself has decided that he will choose to save those who choose to trust in Him” is correct because it is merely a restatement of the biblically revealed truth that God saves people through faith.

    Furthermore if we examine both the Old and New Testaments we see this repeated theme that God chooses those who trust Him to be His people (this is said of Abraham and all who are his spiritual descendants whether they be Jew or Gentile).

    Ben you asked:

    “Robert, I just want to ask a question for clarification here. Does man retain in spite of his depravity the natural ability to choose to trust Christ, or is his depravity such that he can only do so through a work of prevenient grace by the Holy Spirit, enabling man to choose to trust Christ if he wants to?”

    If by depravity you mean the extensiveness of sin (i.e. that sin has permeated everything in this creation), then even as believers we still suffer from it. If you are asking whether depravity leads to a condition in which we are inable to believe the answer is that prior to the work of the Spirit in us we do suffer from inability. But after the work of the Spirit we are enabled do respond to God. When discussing depravity in order to be precise we need to figure out if we are talking about the extensiveness of sin (one element of depravity) or the particular consequence of depravity that people cannot come to faith in Christ or their own unless drawn by God. And this drawing involves the preconversion work of the Spirit.

    Robert

Robert

Ben your next line is without your intending it to be: laughable to me:

“Robert, according to your soteriology, unless man decides to receive the work of God, there is never salvation, and if man does receive the work, there is always salvation.”

It is laughable because you are asking me if my “soteriology” involves faith (are we saved only when we have faith and if we have faith is it guaranteed that we will be saved). Yes, unless a man has faith there is not salvation (i.e. “decides to receive the work of God there is no salvation”): and if a man does have faith he will always be saved (i.e. “and if man does receive the work, there is always salvation”).

Ben surely you must know that we are saved through faith?

That is why I find your statement here laughable. You are trying so hard to argue with what I am saying that you end up attacking the simple notion that a person must have faith to be saved and that if they do have faith they will be saved.

My statement is merely a rewording of the biblically revealed truths that a person must be saved through faith and that all who have faith in the Lord will be saved.

Unless we trust (receive by faith) in the finished work of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection then we cannot be saved.

I regularly tell people that if they trust the Lord He will save them.

Should I stop saying this?

Should I start telling people that they are not saved through faith or that all who trust may not be saved?

Robert

Robert

[Robert said: “We believe because scripture explicitly states it, that all are drawn”]

“Robert, I don’t think I’m quite unaware as you make me out to be, but anyways. Are you getting your scriptural warrant for you statement from John 12:32?”

I don’t believe you are unaware, I believe you are very aware of what Traditionalists believe and what you believe: you are here to serve as the skeptic of Traditionalist theology and the defender of Calvinist theology.

I find it interesting that in John 6 we are told that no one can come to faith unless drawn (and calvinists really push this verse). But then a few chapters later when the same author John, writing just as inspired scripture as in John 6 says that all are drawn: then the Calvinist has to argue with the plain and intended meaning of the scripture and John because it does not fit his theology. This is completely arbitrary and shows that your interpretation is based not on scripture itself but on how it will fit with your system of theology.

Ben you went on to say:

“If so, you are interpreting “all” to mean every single person. My lexicon says that the Greek word pantas, which is the accusative, plural, masculine form of pas can mean “every single one of something” or can mean “some of all types.” I think the context here clearly tells us that second meaning—some of all types—is in mind here because it comes in response to Gentiles coming to meet Jesus at a Jewish feast. Jesus will draw unto Himself all types of people.”

Jesus does not say “some of all types” in John 12:32. The Greek has words for “kinds” (e.g. in 1 Cor. 12 “*kinds* of tongues”) and it does not say “some of all kinds”, it says all. The only reason that you want to interpret it as referring to some is for the sake of your theology.

Ben you asked:

“From your viewpoint, is every person drawn to at least the point that they could actually be saved if they wanted to be? If so, how can every person be drawn to this point if there are countless people who die having never heard the gospel?”

I am not going into this topic extensively as it is a topic in which a lot could be said. I will say this. I believe that God gives every person some opportunity to respond to him. One of these “opportunities” is the creation itself. Careful consideration of the creation leads to the existence of God and God says in Romans 1 that he has used the creation to reveal himself to people. So everyone deep down knows that the God of the Bible exists. They are also given further revelation including the Nation of Israel, witnesses, the law written on their hearts, preaching, dreams and visions, etc. etc. In order to answer your question I would need to get into all of this, and this thread is not the time or the place for it.

Robert

Stephanie Usrey

After reading this article, I wonder – what can you hope to achieve? This drum you’re beating only divides us by offending and creating Calvinist haters. That may not be your intention, but that’s the effect. You have self-identified as a “former Calvinist”, as most of your books and recent articles reflect. As a result of your teaching, how do the members of your church feel about Calvinists like me in the SBC? How does this help us remain unified in the Body of our precious Christ?? How?? Please explain your motivation, I sincerely want to know.

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Stephanie

    You said, “After reading this article, I wonder – what can you hope to achieve? This drum you’re beating only divides us by offending and creating Calvinist haters. That may not be your intention, but that’s the effect.”

    I hope to explain this more fully in a future article, but I have three levels of interacting with Calvinism, none of which produces “Calvinist haters”. It may produce people who abandon Calvinism, or are clearer about Calvinism and their own beliefs. I want to articulate what Calvinists actually believe (even though some may not realize the system entails such) by exposing the cold harsh realities and entailments (disquieting realities) of Calvinism , which I believe are inconsistent with Scripture and not regularly understood nor articulated clearly by many Calvinist. I expose these by exposing double talk. This is done to accurately reflect the truth of Calvinism. I have interacted with some knowledgeable Calvinists on this blog and elsewhere (I actually have a regular meeting with a Calvinist brother about such) regarding such, and they do admit these things. Consequently, if my exposing these disquieting realities that led me away from Calvinism results in the same for others, that is ok with me. If someone remains a Calvinist, I want them to speak clearly about these necessary realities of Calvinism, and be a knowledgeable and consistent Calvinist, which is something and someone I can respect.

    After we are clear about this level of understanding, then and only then, are we equipped to actually consider Calvinism’s more palatable beliefs in light of Scripture. Lastly, I desire to offer a better alternative to Calvinism that is comprehensive, consistent and coherent.

    You said, “As a result of your teaching, how do the members of your church feel about Calvinists like me in the SBC? How does this help us remain unified in the Body of our precious Christ?? How?? Please explain your motivation, I sincerely want to know.”

    We have Calvinists in our church, and they along with the ones who reject the system of Calvinsim love their brothers and sisters who are Calvinists. Some of my closest friends are Calvinists. Some of the people in our church, or who have gone into ministry out or our church (and I trained) are Calvinists. The regular meeting that I mentioned above with a Calvinist is with a very godly, sharp young man out of our church whom I mentored for years. That being said, I desire that every one of them truly understand Calvinism. I do not want them to engage in double talk thereby obscuring the disquieting realities of Calvinism to themselves or others. This is why I have no desire to misrepresent the essence of Calvinism. My goal is to make the actual realities of Calvinism more clearly and more widely known by all. You may think this odd, but I spend a considerable amount of time correcting false ideas about Calvinism with those who reject Calvinism.

    If you read the introduction to my book, or the articles I have written here, I strive to communicate my love, appreciation and respect for most Calvinists. I deal with the beliefs of Calvinism. I articulate them as the Calvinist authors that I have read for thirty years do.

    I hope this helps, and I am sorry that my endeavor has either hurt or upset you.

      Stephanie Usrey

      Pastor Rogers,

      Thank you for your gracious and lengthy response. Forgive me for pressing deeper, but the heart of my question has not yet been answered. I believe that to be my fault for not asking the right question!

      The ultimate question: do you believe Calvinism (as you understand its true tenets) is heretical?

      Dr. Harwood presents this question more eloquently and probably more accurately than I in his November 23, 2013 review of your book:

      “The second unexplored area is a theological conclusion regarding Calvinism. Rogers affirms clearly his love for people who advocate “major” (which he defines as five-point) Calvinism and respect for their sincerity. Because Rogers regards Calvinism to be a cistern “contaminated with faulty theology and logic” (xvi), it would be helpful to know how those who imbibe of this system should be regarded. Does Rogers consider five-point Calvinism to contain errors that fall within an acceptable range of orthodox Christianity, or does he regard these particular views to be heterodoxy, teaching of another kind mentioned in 1 Tim 1:3?”

      Yes, this is my question: Do you believe Calvinism is heretical? I expect you might dance here. But I hope you won’t.

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Stephanie

        No! I do not believe that Calvinism is heretical. I do not believe that Calvinists are heretical. I consider them my brothers and sisters in Christ, (as I do you) and I respect and appreciate most Calvinists. Actually, I have no less love for my Calvinists brothers and sisters now than when I was a Calvinist. However, once I believed that Calvinism provided the best theological construct for understanding God’s salvific plan. I no longer believe that to be the case.

        I hope this clarifies my position.

          JimP

          Please if I may:

          I’d like to present a analogous scenario to the one above. It would be Dispensationalism and particularly Pre, Mid, or Post Trib. Rapture. Pre-Trip got its impetus in the 1800’s and many capable others built on this view. Whichever view a person takes it becomes a source of division even to the degree of fellow-shipping one with another. If one persons says they are not essential for fellowship another will argue one is rejecting of the Word of God.

          As I presented in a previous post above, It would be a blessing to know the ‘essential doctrines.’ the ones that do dictate separating as even the apostle Paul voiced to the Romans, that they Knew that which constituted separating. Romans 16:17

Robert

Ben you said:

“I hope you’ll interact with my comment to you way in the thread at the “12-12-2013, 13:01? time stamp. Thanks!”

I took the time to directly respond to your post “at the 12-12-2013, 13:01 time stamp”: now it is your turn to answer my questions from a post at the12-12-2013, 15:56 time stamp.

Questions you never made any attempt to answer.

I wrote:

[[Here is yet another example of it from your latest post:

“1. Man’s “consent” in your soteriology is the deciding factor, without which the mechanism of salvation would never be experienced in an individual’s life. So, try as you might to downplay or rebrand it, you efforts fall short of proving that from your standpoint given what God has decided, salvation is now up to man.”

Everybody catch that “salvation is now up to man”???

Traditionalists have said repeatedly and carefully demonstrated over and over at this site that in their soteriology “salvation is not up to man” that God chooses to save those who choose to trust Him. That it is his plan of salvation that makes faith part of the process. It is not a case of man saving himself and yet Ben you keep trying to frame things this way: why???

Do you really want to misrepresent traditionalists as Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians or heretics?]]

I believe your mistake Ben is that you fail to distinguish two realities.

The reality that Yes indeed God leaves the decision to be saved to us. That is our decision. It is a decision not made by our parents, friends, God or anyone else. It is solely our decision. We have to desire to be saved: in order for God to save us.

The other reality is that while it is true that the decision of whether or not we want to be saved is left to us: at the same time *this decision is not what saves us*. Only God’s actions save us.

When the scripture speaks of God alone saving a person it is talking about the things that God does to save us. These things include regenerating us, justifying us, forgiving us of our sin, making us a member of the family of God, giving us the indwelling Spirit, keeping us saved once we have become believers, resurrecting us or changing our bodies so they are eternal and suited for the eternal state, etc. We do not and cannot regenerate ourselves, justify ourselves, forgive ourselves, . . . resurrect ourselves. It is these things that save a person and we can do none of them (not even close). Now does God do these things in the experience of those who trust Him (i.e. believers)? Yes. God promises that he will save those who trust Him. He promises to raise us from the dead: we cannot do that ourselves. He promises to forgive our sins: we cannot do that. Etc. etc. etc.

But just because we desire to be saved and so trust in Him alone to save us does not mean we are saving ourselves or even that that decision to trust is what actually saves us. This is what you just do not seem to get. Or you get it and understand it, but misrepresent it in order to be the apologist for Calvinism that you desire to be.

Robert

    Ben Simpson

    Robert,

    As I said in my initial response to Ronnie Rogers above, I don’t consider him or you to be Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians. Some believe that you are Semi-Pelagian, including the well-known Arminian Roger Olson, but I don’t.

    By the way, I’m glad that you finally owned up to it and admitted that given what God has decided, man is now the deciding factor in salvation. You said, “The reality that Yes indeed God leaves the decision to be saved to us. That is our decision. It is a decision not made by our parents, friends, God or anyone else. It is solely our decision. We have to desire to be saved: in order for God to save us. The other reality is that while it is true that the decision of whether or not we want to be saved is left to us: at the same time *this decision is not what saves us*. Only God’s actions save us.” Thank you for being so forthright! Have a blessed week, Robert.

      Robert

      Ben you said:

      “As I said in my initial response to Ronnie Rogers above, I don’t consider him or you to be Pelagians or Semi-Pelagians. Some believe that you are Semi-Pelagian, including the well-known Arminian Roger Olson, but I don’t.”

      When you claim that we believe that we save ourselves or that we are the deciding factor in our own salvation, you are claiming that we are Pelagians, Semi-Pelagians or even heretics.

      You say that you don’t believe that we are and yet you keep saying that we believe our decision saves us, is the deciding factor in our salvation.

      Second regarding Olson he did not say Traditionalists *are* semi-Pelagians, he said that in his opinion he thought the statement in its wording was Semi-Pelagian and needed to be amended and clarified:

      Olson said: “Semi-Pelagianism may be very far from the writers’ and signers’ intentions, but the statement is clearly semi-Pelagian in wording and needs amendment.”

      Ben you then continued to make the claim that I believe that “man is the deciding factor in salvation” again insinuating that I believe that we save ourselves by our decision to trust in the Lord to save us:

      “By the way, I’m glad that you finally owned up to it and admitted that given what God has decided, man is now the deciding factor in salvation. You said, “The reality that Yes indeed God leaves the decision to be saved to us. That is our decision. It is a decision not made by our parents, friends, God or anyone else. It is solely our decision. We have to desire to be saved: in order for God to save us. The other reality is that while it is true that the decision of whether or not we want to be saved is left to us: at the same time *this decision is not what saves us*. Only God’s actions save us.” Thank you for being so forthright!”

      This is extremely deceitful and dishonest on your part Ben.

      I explained before and say again there is a distinction between: (A) God leaving the decision as to whether or not we want to be saved to us AND (B) our saving ourselves.

      I explained it clearly and you ignored all of my explanation and continue to claim and insinuate that I and others who would be viewed as Traditionalists believe that we save ourselves by our decision to trust the Lord to save us.

      God ultimately came up with the plan of salvation in eternity. So if we are going to speak of *ultimate* decisions, then God alone made the ultimate decisions regarding the nature of salvation. God leaving the decision as to whether or not we want to be saved is not making our decision what saves us nor does it make our decision ultimate. If God had not decided to allow us the choice as to whether or not we will be saved, then we would never be in the place to make that decision. And again THAT decision is not what saves us. A single decision on our part cannot save us. That decision in and of itself does not regenerate us: God alone does. That decision in and of itself does not keep us saved: God alone does. That decision in and of itself does not raise us from the dead: God alone does. That decision does not save us. I have made myself clear and done so repeatedly and yet you continue to intentionally twist my position for the sake of defending your Calvinism. Your dishonesty and misrepresentation needs to stop.

      Robert

Johnathan Pritchett

Prevenient Grace, Irresistable Grace, grace-enabled, etc…

Are there any other misnomers that haven’t the slightest thing to do with what the Bible actually says or means in is usage of “charis” language that anyone wants to toss out with regards to “grace” so that the various theological ships around here can continue to pass one another in the night with no real bearings?

    Johnathan Pritchett

    “Calvinist soteriology, election is privileged above faith because regeneration must be prior to conversion. In Arminianism, the effects of Federal Theology and the Covenant of Works must be countermanded by further speculative adjustments like “prevenient grace” and election based on “foreseen faith,” a faith which is only possible because prevenient grace overcomes the depravity and guilt of the whole human race due to Adam’s failure. All this strays far beyond the biblical data. Such speculation does not emerge from clear inferences from the Bible, but is actually a priori argumentation designed to buttress Augustine, not Paul.” – Dr. Eric Hankins

    Yep. This still pretty much nails it in my book, and I don’t even know how much Dr. Hankins knows about the socio-cultural milieu of the Ancient Near East that backs him up.

    Though I’d have said something about irresistible grace as well in the Calvinist bit, but it is implied, and this is all dead on accurate.

Max

“These differences are not tertiary as some claim, for they do in fact change the raison d’etre (reason for being or existence) of the gospel, the purpose for sharing the gospel, the language used in communicating the gospel, and the nature of our passion derived from the gospel.”

Throughout the SBC debate on Calvinism waged in various arenas, this articulates the bottom line for me. To reduce soteriology to a tertiary level in someone’s theological triage is preposterous. God’s plan of salvation is not a non-essential! For the life of me (and millions more in pulpit and pew), I don’t see how two distinctly different soteriological views regarding the souls of men can coexist in a single denomination. Methods, message, and mission diverge … regardless of how you spin theological terms or command unity in diversity.

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