Faith is the Condition of Salvation and Grace is the Work of Salvation | Part Two

October 12, 2015

Ronnie Rogers | Pastor
Trinity Baptist Church, Norman, OK

Click HERE for Part One.

I do believe that since the fall, man is totally depraved (extensively); therefore, I do not believe in partial depravity. My difference with Calvinism is that we hold to essentially dissimilar views regarding what total depravity means, which is determined by two drastically different and irreconcilable views of man, i.e. freedom; accordingly, we differ regarding what it takes to make fallen man savable. Calvinists are correct regarding depravity as affecting every part of man. They are tragically mistaken in their understanding of the nature of man being comprised of compatible freedom.

“Depravity can be understood as an inability to initiate or attain salvation without the grace of God.”[1] As a result, man is so affected by the fall, that he, unlike Adam before the fall, must receive additional grace enablements beyond creative grace enablements in order to have a genuine opportunity to choose to walk with God. This includes such things as God’s redemptive love, Christ’s payment for sin, conviction of the Holy Spirit, drawing of the Father and Son, power of the gospel, etc. None of which were necessary for Adam and Eve prior to the fall because God’s provision of creative grace was sufficient.

In Calvinism, faith is the predetermined result of God’s creative and redemptive grace provision, whereas in Extensivism, choice is the predetermined result of God’s creative and redemptive grace provision. This means that whatever decision is made, it arises from grace provision and is therefore a grace choice rather than a meritorious or self-virtuous choice (Romans 4:16; Ephesians 2:8—10). Within God’s options, He could have created man to be able to only determinatively exercise a free choosing of faith, or He could have created man to be able to deliberatively exercise a free choice of faith, and the latter is no less a work of grace than the former, Calvinists asseverations notwithstanding.

Rather than succumb to the insistence of some Calvinists that this puts salvation in man’s hand, somehow makes man deserving or participating in the work of salvation, or makes God dependent upon man, it actually is a strong point of Extensivism and poignantly highlights Calvinism’s inadvertent low view of God’s plan, man’s creation, and the simple reading of Scripture. I see no biblical problem with believing that if a person trusts Christ, he will not perish, and if he does not he will (Luke 13:3, 5), and that God sovereignly and graciously determinatively provisioned for that choice to reside within man; such choice existing without any contrary or cryptic programs running in the background known to only a few, which ultimately reduce the former from true to trivially true.

Upon reflection, it does seem quite odd that one can become more comfortable creating non-biblically attested to covenants,[2] extra biblical decrees that trump the simple meaning of revelation, two will hypothesis (which secret soteriology will ultimately trump the revealed soteriology), a selective internal call for the elect only (making the preaching of the gospel a vacuous proclamation for most, and I would even say a misleading one), election as taught in the Scripture transmogrified into an unconditional election (thereby making every passage that reflects opportunity and the need to choose a ghastly phantom), substituting a good faith offer for the good offer of Scripture (offering what does not exist for the vast majority who hear), having a salvific love for the unconditionally elect while only a temporal love for His creation (which if understood biblically actually appears to exist in concert with salvific love not in lieu of it), and usage of such language in presenting the gospel that leaves every lost person who hears believing they can and should believe, all the while the Calvinist knows his words are actually an encryption for God calling out His unconditionally elect and actually have nothing to do with the non-elect except to further condemn them. All of this dependence upon speculative theology might at least cause one to temper such hubris pronouncements as mentioned above regarding those who disagree.

When I compare Calvinism and Extensivism, just based upon the unclouded teaching of Scripture and apart from speculative theology whose fecundity of producing other such speculations is vast indeed, it results in recognizing that God’s decision to condition the restoration of man’s walk with Him upon grace-enabled faith, seems so simple—apparently too simple for some.

The understanding of Scripture presented here simply means that faith is the condition for receiving God’s work of salvation, but faith is not the basis or work of salvation. The basis of Adam’s relational ability and fallen man’s relational ability (salvation) is always the love of God for His creation (John 3:16). This fact is the same as with Adam because he related to God by trusting God’s word, which relationship was corrupted when he chose to distrust God’s word (Genesis 2:17—18). As the first man related to God by faith and broke his relationship by not trusting God, every subsequent person returns to God by faith (Acts 16:31, Hebrews 11:6), or remains separated from God for one reason; he refuses to trust God (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30), which is the ultimate sin of Adam. That dynamic has not changed. It further seems that since man will forever be finite, he will always relate to God by faith even though the range of options will change.

“If it is disagreeable in your sight to serve the Lord, choose for yourselves today whom you will serve: whether the gods which your fathers served which were beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).

 

 

[1] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 756.
[2] Referring to the chapter title and part one in his Systematic Theology Charles Hodge states, “This statement does not rest upon any express declaration of the Scriptures….Although the word covenant is not used in Genesis, and does not elsewhere, in any clear passage, occur in reference to the transaction there recorded, yet inasmuch as the plan of salvation is constantly represented as a New Covenant, new, not merely in antithesis to that made at Sinai, but new in reference to all legal covenants whatever, it is plain that the Bible does represent arrangement made with Adam as a truly federal transaction.” Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. II (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1986), 117.

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Jake Fowler

Pastor Rodgers,
I appreciate the time you spent on enumerating your issues with such a divisive topic and providing us a decent comparative essay. You say, in a sense, that God puts something (man’s choice) sovereignly outside his control. This reminds me of the Atheist’s antithical question “can God create a rock so large that He cannot lift it?” What I’m saying is if God uses His omnipotence to put something outside His omnipotence does He negate His own omnipotence? And if God was not in control of my choice to choose Him, who should really get the glory over that choice?
And please don’t misread me, I’m not trying to come across as “smart” or anything with these questions; but as I read your essay, these are the questions that come to mind. I hope they can further fuel the conversation without bickering. I pray we can search and find the truth of scripture without hidden daggers waiting to backstab our opponents.

    Andy

    “This reminds me of the Atheist’s antithical question “can God create a rock so large that He cannot lift it?”
    –Ha, I thought this was a “Christian College Freshman” question! (My answer is always Yes, he can create such a rock, and THEN, after he has created it, He can lift it! :-)

    Seriously, I would say that you must because you are using words the bible doesn’t use. We in our minds may equate: “giving man free choice” with “putting something outside of his omnipotence”, but scripture doesn’t. He is putting outside of his determination, but that doesn’t mean he no longer has power over that choice, should he choose to exercise it.

    As to who get’s the “glory” for such a decision, who get’s the glory when a drowning man is thrown a life ring? Especially if the man ended up in the water due to his own stupidity of diving off of a cruise ship?

    Just some thoughts…

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Jake

    Thanks for your question, but I am not sure of your point; I will respond to what I think it is—dangerous business indeed. It appears that the following is your main point.

    You referred to me saying in a sense, “you say in a sense, that God puts something (man’s choice) sovereignly outside his control.”

    If you mean that I am suggesting otherwise choice is such that is a misunderstanding of my article, because I actually argue the opposite. For example I start the article saying, “According to Calvinists, this conditional nature of salvation (as opposed to monergism and man’s total passiveness prior to regeneration) is supposed to emanate from, at best, a lesser view of salvation by grace and God’s sovereignty, which results in some sort of communal glory or credit between man and God for one’s salvation. Fortunately, Calvinism’s final conclusion is reasoned from Calvinism rather than Scripture.” Then I proceed to argue against such a suggestion; consequently, every force, including libertarian freedom is a freedom under, not outside of God’s sovereignty.

    You said, “And if God was not in control of my choice to choose Him, who should really, get the glory over that choice?”

    Of course, this is what the article is about, and I am well aware that Calvinist’s belief that creating man with otherwise choice, and God grace-enabling and sovereignly determining to condition salvation upon man’s choice is outside the ability of God—if it is not then this particular discussion is resolved—but I do not. To wit, whether God conditions salvation upon His sovereign choice to determinatively choose individuals apart from choice, or He sovereignly chooses to comprehend otherwise choice in His plan does not change, and cannot, change who receives the glory from such.

    Thus, the one who gets the glory from the sovereignly designed plan that conditions faith upon grace-enabled choice can only be God since He freely designed it (this would be true regardless if He required us to peel bananas or break dance with a hula-hoop so long as He sovereignly and graciously provided the bananas, hula-hoops and rhythmic dexterity). Nothing within an Extensivism perspective operates outside of God’s sovereignty, but rather we disagree about what He chose to exist. To conclude otherwise seems to me to be contrary to Scripture and logically without merit.

    The conundrum of which you speak only exist if determinism, compatibilism and God’s ability to know the future is totally dependent upon foreordination, and He cannot know contingencies (what free beings would choose), and He cannot have predetermined to enable choice by grace rather than outcome in every circumstance; however, I believe He sovereignly and freely chose to give other wise choice rather than necessary choosing to man. I further believe that God being essentially omniscient, rather than knowing perceptively, He is not dependent upon determinism to know, and He can, does and always has fully known all contingencies.

    If I have missed your point, I apologize.

    doug sayers

    Jake you raise a common question, to which I’ll offer a short attempt to answer, in laymen’ s terms. (Ronnie is determined to expand my vocabulary!)

    I think both sides of the issue would agree that every promise of God is a self imposed partial restriction to His sovereign control. For example, when God promised that He would never flood the earth again He was limiting Himself, in terms of using water to destroy life on earth. (He still has plenty of options available but a flood is no longer one of them).

    God, if He is truly sovereign can make such decrees and promises without compromising His ultimate authority.

    The same is true with God’s right to delegate the power of contrary choice to fallen sinners, in terms of repentance and faith. God’s power is not negated as He still holds sovereign sway over the consequences of our choices.

    Remember also, that boasting is excluded when the human condition of our salvation is a contrite faith that works by love. Rom 3:27
    We are kept by the power of God through faith, like Peter’s abbreviated walk on the water. God has decreed that we will be saved by His power unleashed according to our faith.

    Hope it helps.

Andy

DR. ROGERS: “As a result, man is so affected by the fall, that he, unlike Adam before the fall, must receive additional grace enablements beyond creative grace enablements in order to have a genuine opportunity to choose to walk with God. This includes such things as God’s redemptive love, Christ’s payment for sin, conviction of the Holy Spirit, drawing of the Father and Son, power of the gospel, etc. None of which were necessary for Adam and Eve prior to the fall because God’s provision of creative grace was sufficient.”

Would you say this is the same, or different than the Arminian view of prevenient grace?

Also, How would you say this fits with the Traditional Statement: “We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will…”?

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Andy

    You said, “Dr. Rogers,” I do not know much, but this I know that is an untrue appellation—not a doctor (thank you though). ?

    You said, “Would you say this is the same, or different than the Arminian view of prevenient grace?”

    I would not say either since I do not study Arminianism nor seek to align nor necessarily determine my views based upon their similarity or dissimilarity with Arminianism. I think if one reads my writings long enough, he will discover similarities with Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism. While I do study the latter two, and seek to expose weaknesses and disquieting realities of Calvinism, I do not necessarily seek to align nor necessarily determine my views based upon their similarity or dissimilarity with Calvinism or Molinism. My attempt is to present a coherent biblically reflective understanding of Scripture, which in the theological milieu I find myself requires often contrasting such with Calvinism in order to offer an alternative perspective and avoid detrimental and inaccurate obscurations.

    I am not avoiding your question to be difficult, but it (similarity to Arminianism) is something that I give zero consideration to, and all of my theology books are Calvinist except for one Arminian, which I have not resourced (to my recollection since 1983).

    You said, “How would you say this fits with the Traditional Statement….”

    The short, and I trust sufficient answer is, this has been asked before, and those who know the document well (supporters, drafters etc.) say when the statement you quote is considered in light of the entire document, my view does fit. Additionally, I have signed the statement and contributed a chapter in the NOBTS journal and to date neither has been deleted. I personally know many of the signers who unabashedly deny that man can come to God without more grace than creative grace—what Adam and Eve needed to be able to walk with God.

    I hope this helps some.

      Andy

      Thanks for the reply, MR. Rogers…

      I suppose your article simply brought to my mind the 2 primary weaknesses I see in the Traditionalist Movement, and they both relate a bit to Arminianism…(this will be a little off topic, and is not really directed at you, Ronnie.):

      1. It seems that the traditionalists, while seeking to push back against the rapid rise of Calvinism, have excluded a group of people who might have been their allies. They have done this by insisting that they are not Arminians, and even that they don’t believe the same things as Arminians, despite Arminian history and modern scholarship both agreeing there are some Arminians who believe in eternal security. So that leaves the depravity/prevenient grace issue, which articles on this site seem to show that the disagreement among various Traditionalists is AT LEAST as great, if not greater, than the disagreement between some Traditionalists and classical Arminians. No doubt there are baptist Arminians who felt that the traditionalists were going a step beyond them, excluding them; when they MIGHT have been strong allies in pointing out the weaknesses of Calvinism. The motivation for this seems to be simply a desire to not be calledArminians, no matter how closely one’s beliefs might align.

      2. (And this one really has nothing to do with your post Ronnie, and I have never seen YOU do this). AT THE SAME TIME, there is an insistence that a young pastor, who perhaps agrees with 3 or 4 points of the TULIP, or perhaps takes a “God chooses us, and we must choose God, and I don’t know how it works,” or perhaps even agrees strongly with 4 points and is unsure about limted atonement — There is an insistence that such a man immediately identify himself as a Calvinist, and in fact a charge of deceit if he does not do so, or if he refuses the label of Calvinist and seeks to explain his beliefs in other terms. It seems that some within Traditionalism want to make others take a label, when they believe that the label fits, while not allowing others to label them.

        Bill Mac

        Andy: I’ll be interested in Mr. Roger’s response, but I’ll weigh in if I may.

        Point 1: If I had to guess, I would say the traditionalist pushback against Arminianism is twofold, I think most people think Arminians do not believe in eternal security, so it is rejected on those grounds. Secondly, some Calvinists have an unfortunate tendency to label anyone who is not a Calvinist as an Arminian, and so it is used as a pejorative and non-Calvinists quite understandably don’t like that.
        Point 2: You are spot on. I’ve tried to make this point for some time. Non-Calvinists make the argument that people shouldn’t label themselves after a man, and if Calvinists agree, and stop calling themselves Calvinists, they are accused of deception.

        phillip

        Andy,

        Roger Olson writes…

        “The problem with this Southern Baptist statement is its neglect of emphasis on the necessity of the prevenience of supernatural grace for the exercise of a good will toward God (including acceptance of the gospel by faith). If the authors believe in that cardinal biblical truth, they need to spell it out more clearly. And they need to delete the sentence that denies the incapacitation of free will due to Adam’s sin.”

        Olson then adds…

        “I am not accusing the authors or signers of semi-Pelagianism. But, as it stands, the statement affirms it, whether intentionally or unintentionally. It begs correction. When corrected, however, if it is ever corrected, to include the necessity of prevenient grace due to incapacitation of will, it will be an Arminian statement whether that term is used or admitted or not. The only reason I can think of why the authors won’t amend it is to avoid being Arminian.”

        I think it is obvious now that the omission of PG by the authors of the TS was intentional.

        I think it is also quite obvious now that there are indeed Arminian Baptists among us and that’s fine. However, there are Traditional Baptists (Pastors included) who both reject TD and PG. There are those that maintain that, while fallen, man never lost his ability to respond favorably to God (Adam a prime example). We are not suggesting that fallen man “initiates” or is capable of “attaining” salvation, but simply that fallen man can still say “yes” to God.

        I am not opposed to folks holding to Calvinists/Arminian beliefs (Total Depravity and Prevenient Grace as examples), but I do believe those who do hold to those beliefs should me more upfront about it. For the TS to read….

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

        ….is both misleading and deceptive. Now we learn the language is there, but we must delve deeper into the TS to find it.

        The point is this. There are Calvinist Baptists. There are Traditional Baptists. And, yes, there are even Arminian Baptists.

        Blessings, brother.

        Ronnie W Rogers

        Hello Andy

        Good words and thank you for recognizing what I do not do. The following are just some of my thoughts regarding my choice of Extensivism so no real disagreements

        You said, “It seems that the traditionalists, while seeking to push back against the rapid rise of Calvinism, have excluded a group of people who might have been their allies.”

        As you probably know, I use the term Extensivism to encapsulate my soteriological understanding. I gave considerable thought in choosing the term. Although only used by me (so the need to continuously define for others), it does not seem to have negative connotations, and appears to me to be a suitable parallel for discussing soteriology within this Calvinist/non-Calvinist theological milieu in which I live. That is, consistent Calvinism is Exclusive (unconditional election, efficacious call, limited atonement etc.) in soteriology whereas; those who disagree with that Exclusive approach do so because we believe the Scripture teaches an Extensive soteriology.

        I use the term in two ways. Broadly, I use it to include all who believe that God salvifically loves everyone and has evidenced such by provisioning sufficiently for everyone to have an opportunity to believe and be saved. This includes Traditionalist, Arminians, and Molinist with all their variations so long as they believe that. In this sense it serves as a positive term for non-Calvinists.

        More particularly, I use the term to precisely express my view of how this may come about, answering tough questions posed by Scripture and Calvinism (which may be a little different or worded differently than others who agree with me broadly speaking). I am presently writing a book on Extensivism, in order to describe my beliefs for fully, reasoning and answers, while also probing deeper into the underlying problems (theological, philosophical expressions and entailments etc.,) that led me out of Calvinism, and that I believe are irreconcilable with Scripture and if not properly understood serve as fecund soil for inconsistencies within Calvinism.

        Consequently, I really do not seek to exclude anyone from Extensivism broadly understood, and yet, I do not desire to make someone an Extensivist nor spend time defending nuances of others with whom I agree on many things. My disagreement with Calvinism is at its most basic, non-negotiable, fundamental level, which means that I reject all five points and more as properly defined by Calvinism—including significant assumptions about God, sovereignty, etc., that lead to such.

        It is my practice to seek to only deal with mainstream Calvinism, 4 or 5 point, and leave hyper to others. I seek to evaluate their system of beliefs based upon what they say and believe (this becomes very precise when I am engaging an individual, and mainstream when dealing with a particular topic—even here I seek to engage a person and employ both broad and specific engagement. I do find labels, with all their weakness, helpful so long as it does not cause us to engage what a particular individual is not saying (beyond consistency within their chosen system); for example, some of Erickson’s views are different than Hodge so when I engage Erickson I do so based upon what he says; both claim to be Calvinist.

        One of my actual concerns, which I often allude to, is that of consistency within the system. As a Calvinist, I found I could no longer speak, write etc., consistent with the non-negotiables of Calvinism, and eventually out of respect to Calvinists, I doffed the label. I must admit, after 32 years that was difficult and lonely.

        I have mentioned many times that I do not believe 1, 2, 3, point Calvinism is actually Calvinism because it rather becomes so personalized that it is not Calvinism, nor representative or respectful of consistent Calvinism (unfortunately, I wrongly used all for brief periods to describe where I was while processing what is essential to being a Calvinist). I think it misrepresents Calvinism, confuses the discussion, and unjustifiably makes Calvinism the standard (the question becomes what kind of Calvinist are you).

        This is my consideration based upon the very different understanding of concepts, at the most fundamental level both theologically and philosophically between Calvinism and Extensivism (broadly). Some of these include the nature of man’s freedom and God’s foreknowledge, which if properly understood and consistently applied illumine the substance of the differences as well as the irreconcilability of the fundamental non-negotiables—leading to inconsistencies within the system elsewhere i.e. 1, 2, 3, and I even now say 4.

        Consequently, I ask that when one reaches that level of nuancing and personalizing of his Calvinism that, for the sake of clarity, proper representation etc., he quit using such and realize that he is not truly a Calvinists—my opinion, which I think given the time I can demonstrate. I believe that if one accepts unconditional election (with understanding that unconditional means unconditional as defined by mainstream Calvinism, which also includes the inherent determinism in man’s freedom, God’s foreknowledge, what God can know and be sovereign over etc.,), then the question becomes are you a consistent Calvinist. If one does not accept such, I do not believe one can rightly claim to be a Calvinist, and the label actually becomes a detriment to understanding Calvinism and Extensivism (broadly). I am well aware of the number of men who are not Calvinist that I know who still occasionally use 1, 2, etc., to describe themselves, and this in spite of my exhortations to doff such.

        I think it is helpful for the discussion to evaluate one’s beliefs in light of what he claims to be. For example, when I argue for libertarian freedom, this engenders all kinds of questions in the knowledgeable Calvinist mind. I believe as an Extensivist, I need to answer the questions to be consistent with Scripture first and foremost and then with Extensivism. As I ask questions of Calvinism the same applies. Where we err (in my opinion) is when we ask the questions wanting them to answer consistent with the Scripture and our own system, which generally creates a breakdown.

        To wit, I am not engaging Calvinists to get answers that are consistent with Extensivism, nor should they only be able to evaluate my Extensivist perspectives in light of their system. I am not ambiguous; I am not a Calvinist and actually reject the underlying essentials of the system systemically (not only the TULIP, but also the ground from which the TULIP grows). My engagements with Calvinism are not to convert them to Extensivism per se, but rather to challenge them to be consistent within Calvinism to the Scripture and their chosen system in all points, speech writing etc., or leave Calvinism because they cannot. I do not mind challenges for me to do the same. I do applaud consistent Calvinists for such, even though we disagree.

        Have a good day Andy.

          Andy

          Thank you for the “extensive” and thorough reply.

          1. I actually think your term “extensivism” is one of the better terms for one of these belief systems, better than Tradtionalism, Calvinism, and Arminianism. And while your alternative term “exclusivism” would probably be seen as negative by calvinists, perhaps the old Baptist distinction of “Particular” (vs General) would be a term that is actually descriptive, not based on a person’s name.

          2. (Another side topic, so feel free to simply ignore it): You said you disagree with all 5 points of the Tulip. I have heard other SBC Baptists say this, who nonetheless agree that a truly saved person cannot lose their salvation. It seems to me that there is not a real disagreement here, at least in the way I have heard others describe it. In my understanding, a calvinists believes that a truly saved person will, because of the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit within them, persevere in faith until their death. I cannot see how this is any different than the regular baptist belief in eternal security: You cannot lose your salvation, and (most would say) you will also not totally abandon faith in Christ, because of the Holy Spirit within you. Am I missing something?
          (I have heard the calvinist belief described as: “Your final salvation is dependent on your continued obedience and faith until death,” and so baptists would say the disagree with THAT…but I really don’t think that is what they say…perhaps I’m wrong)

            Ronnie W Rogers

            Hello Andy

            I do not spend as much energy on this point as others for the reasons you mentioned. However, there is enough difference in the way it is often explained by Calvinist (the perseverance part) and how certain scriptures are used to prompt my distancing my view from theirs. The following is a quote I often give with regard to this question.

            Perseverance of the Saints: This includes both preservation by God and perseverance by the saints. The Westminster Confession says, with regard to the truly elect, they “can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of Grace.” J.P. Boyce notes in his Abstract of Systematic Theology, “It is not merely preservation by God, but also perseverance of the believer, in faith and holiness, unto the end.” Within Calvinism, God’s preservation of the truly elect is standard, while there is variation in understanding of how eternal security, internal and external assurances, and warning passages of the Scripture relate to knowing one is elect in this life.

            This petal is not a simple affirmation of the eternal security of the believer. Since there does seem to be such acceptable variance in defining perseverance of the saints as long as one does not question the security of the truly elect, this point does not seem to be as biblically problematic as the other four petals—a point with which some disagree.

norm

Whereas the entire post — today and part 1 — comprise verbiage that seems strongly to dissuade comments from this blog’s usual detractors, I am most particularly fond of paragraphs five and six in part II.

Though, Pastor Ronnie, you have provoked much thoughts in the vein of faith, I keep landing at Sola Scriptura. Your personal testimony is that, a study of Sola Scriptura is what lead you out of the Calvinism to which you held for decades. If I recall correctly, you basically ignored your library of predominantly Calvinistic commentaries and studied only the Bible for a long season; and then, at the end of your study, renounced Calvinism. Therefore, I think you have given all of us a new view of what Sola Scriptura has always accurately meant. So many Calvinists oft’ say “Sola Scriptura,” and I think I know what they mean by that. However, they did not arrive at their system “Sola Scriptura.” No, they did not. Their reality is “Sola Scriptura,” plus the “Institutes,” and Piper and Sproul, et al. I do not mention that to disparage our Calvinist brethren, but to encourage them to take a true “Sola Scriptura” look and see if what happened to you will also happen to them.
We are your debtors, Pastor, for the time you have taken to study and share what you have learned. And even if we have not advanced under your theological/soteriological tutelage — surely, our vocabularies are significantly enhanced.

Ronnie W Rogers

Hello Norm
Thank you for your perennial encouragement. Although I did continue to study Calvinism and read their commentaries on my pilgrimage out of Calvinism, I did spend about thirteen years evaluating what Calvinists said, what I had said as a dedicated Calvinist, and the entailments of Calvinism in light of a simple reading of soteriological scriptures. In every area other than soteriology, the simple reading has been my guide, but one cannot be a consistent Calvinist and do so; at least that is what I now believe even though it seems the opposite while immersed in Calvinism. By simple, I mean evaluation of the text based upon context, grammar, history, congruence with other Scriptures etc. Consequently, this is quite different from a simplistic approach.

I would consider the verse as read to be consistent with Calvinism, read Calvinist commentaries, and then focus entirely upon the text alone. My discovery consistently revealed inconsistencies between the straightforward simple reading of the clearest verses in Scripture and Calvinism. I knew I was not misreading the text because of what the text itself said and did not say, and significant Calvinist commentaries and preachers often explained the text exactly as it seemed to me—although, some felt compelled, quite incompatibly, to, at times, give a mention to unconditional election etc.

The reconciliation of such inconsistencies was and is handled repeatedly by the creation of supposed reconcilers (good faith offer, two wills etc.,), and what I non-pejoratively describe as double talk. Double talk obscures, elides or simply misrepresents the harsh realities found in Calvinism, which I do not believe are found in the simple reading of Scripture. Regrettably, and personally quite sadly, I had to face my own consistent double talk. Actually, once I came to grips with this pervasive practice, the need for and my own fluency in such, it troubled me greatly.

I would bow to the Scripture, as many Calvinist do on many obvious passages. It was living with the inconsistencies necessitating double talk, extra concepts, etc., that without which the clearest of scriptures did not coalesce with the essentials of Calvinism that haunted me. For example, within Calvinism, unconditional election runs in the background of every verse even those which clearly present God’s salvific love for all, or pictures all can and should obey the gospel or command of God. With decretal theology and compatibilist freedom, any suggestion of the slightest possibility of choice between options, or minimizing the micro-specific determinism that compatibilism requires is at best misleading because that is not possible within compatibilist freedom. From Adam to the antichrist—including Norm and Ronnie—everything is as it could only be. Yet, Calvinists repeatedly imply such choices when preaching, writing, praying, and talking. I do believe that much of this is the result of not fully understanding compatibilism or libertarianism

I would seek to consider soteriological verses and passages without theological importations. Thus, I would simply ask if I was not a Calvinist, what does this or that verse say—long before asking what does it mean. Quite unsettlingly, I might discover that it did not say what we said it says when viewed through Calvinism. Of course, this left many theological loose ends, but I did choose to let the Scripture say what it said; I chose to live with certainty of what pivotal scriptures said and did not say while concomitantly wandering in the dessert of thinking through these clear revelations dissonancy with Calvinism.

This gives me compassion for Calvinists who seek truly to evaluate their commitment to Calvinism. These years were years of theological isolation and confusion, as I watched the columns of Calvinism decay, crumble, and fall, eventuating in the systematic collapse of the system. I know others godlier, smarter, and more used of God than me see it quite differently, but this is how I see it.

The departure, I believe, is highly improbable unless the definitions of terms or concepts are considered as well. If one accepts the definitions employed by Calvinism, one will become and remain a Calvinist because it is a system that leads to the system. I would ask are these the only way or even the clearest and best way to define such terms in light of Scripture. My answers led to the conclusion that very often they were not.

Additionally, thinking through such concepts cannot be done by merely reading a particular verse because thinking through some of the biblical revelation leads to philosophy and speculative theology. The more I studied the Scripture as stated above, considered Calvinism’s philosophical and speculative theological commitments (I do believe there is a legitimate place for such study and actually enjoy such study), the more I became convinced that Calvinism depended upon philosophical concepts and definitions that were biblically inadequate and philosophically inferior to alternative perspectives.

I have spent a significant amount of time thinking and studying through concepts like compatibilism, libertarianism, foreknowledge, predestination, election etc.; that is what is entailed and what is not. This all played a part in my clearer understanding of what I believe to be deficiencies in Calvinism, and how to address some of the tough questions posed by Scripture and Calvinism. Although I seem to know so little, God is very good to continue His teaching of me.

Thank you. (Short on time so please forgive any incoherence and grammatical absurdities)

P.S.
Per your encouragement to do so, I started tweeting a while back. This means that old dogs can be hip; however, I do not know what to call one who tweets, but it surely seems to validate all the people who have for years said I am a twit. Nevertheless I press on toward the….

Dennis Lee Dabney

Ronnie,

We thank our God for your experience which has become our great reward. Both parts of this presentation has helped all of us regarding this in house debate. Your personal journey, Biblical understanding, along with the scholarly treatment of the Holy Scriptures has stimulated our reasoning to the degree of not only what we believe but why we believe what we believe.

Thanks

Preach!

    Ronnie W Rogers

    Hello Dennis
    Thank you for your most kind and encouraging words, and for taking the time to express them. You have blessed me!

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