John 3:16 Pre-conference Interview with Steve Gaines

March 18, 2013

SteveGainesIn the weeks preceding this year’s John 3.16 Conference (see ad to right), SBCToday will post interviews with each person scheduled to speak at the Conference. The following interview is with Dr. Steve Gaines — pastor of the famed Bellevue Baptist Church outside of Memphis, Tenn., — who succeeded Dr. Adrian Rogers in 2005. To learn more about Dr. Gaines and Bellevue, go to www.bellevue.org. 


1. How has the invitation to speak at the conference impacted you?

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak at the conference. Regardless of where a person lines up concerning Calvinism, we should all seek to be biblical in our convictions. I am hopeful that the popular inclination on the part of some within the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) to recoil from the concept of praying a “sinner’s prayer” can be alleviated as we analyze and understand what Scriptures say about: 1) God’s desire to transform the sinful heart of man, 2) God’s desire to indwell our bodies with the Holy Spirit, and 3) man’s need to repent of sin, believe in Jesus, and receive Jesus as Lord and Savior by calling on His name in prayer.

2. How important is this conference in light of the current climate within the SBC, and what result(s) do you hope to see from the Conference?

I am grateful for the concern that exists today regarding the present and eternal dangers associated with anyone mindlessly praying any sort of “sinner’s prayer” in an insincere manner without simultaneously repenting of sin and believing in Jesus. No doubt there have been abuses in this regard. When overly zealous Christians tell someone to “just pray this prayer and you will be saved,” and that person neither understands the Gospel nor knows what’s at stake, then an indescribable tragedy has occurred.

When we share the Gospel, we must focus not only on the blessings and benefits of knowing Christ but also on the demands of the Gospel and the biblical requirements for salvation. Hopefully, we can all agree on that.

However, just because there have been some who have intentionally or unintentionally encouraged non-Christians to pray a “sinner’s prayer” prematurely does not mean that there is anything wrong or unbiblical about encouraging an unbeliever who does understand the demands of the Gospel to call on the name of Lord in prayer for salvation.

Can a person mindlessly repeat a “sinner’s prayer” without experiencing regeneration? Absolutely, just as someone can mindlessly repeat their wedding vows and not mean them. It is also possible for a person to mindlessly repeat a scripted prayer.

Thus, it is possible for someone to mindlessly voice a “sinner’s prayer,” but with no salvific results. If someone does that and does not mean it or understand it, he will not experience regeneration. Isaiah 29:13 states: “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.” Though God is speaking about his children in that text, I believe the biblical principle applies to any prayer. God hears prayers from the heart. And according to Scripture, no one can be saved or experience regeneration without sincerely calling on the name of the Lord in prayer for salvation.

3. How important is your assigned topic — “Is The Sinner’s Prayer Biblical?” — to the total content of the Conference?

It is very important because it closely relates to how we do evangelism – how we lead a lost person to receive Christ as Savior and Lord. I am very concerned when I hear well-meaning brothers in Christ, whom I know and dearly love, go too far in criticizing phrases such as “asking Jesus into your heart” or “inviting Christ into your life.” They say that the Bible never mentions such prayers and that nowhere in Scripture is anyone ever told to ask Jesus into their heart. In my opinion, this is a “straw man” argument.

While those exact words or phrases do not appear in the New Testament, the concepts of “asking Jesus into your heart” and “inviting Christ into your life” do appear. Most of us recognize the fact that just because a specific word does not appear in Scripture does not mean the idea doesn’t. The words “inerrancy” and “Trinity” are not found in the New Testament, but the ideas are. Both the Old and New Testaments reveal God’s desire to give people new hearts and to indwell their physical bodies with His Holy Spirit (Who represents Christ in us). With that understanding, the phrase “asking Jesus to come and live in your heart” is biblical after all. In fact, that phrase might just be one of the most accurate ways to delineate one of the fundamental differences between the Old and New Covenants.

Any thoughtful Christian will desire to avoid “easy believism.” But some have unwisely chosen to jettison calling on the name of the Lord utilizing a sinner’s prayer in the process. They often try to prove the danger of such a prayer by highlighting testimonies of people who earlier in life prayed such a prayer, only to be convinced years later that they were not genuinely saved/regenerated at that time. But do such testimonies really prove that praying a certain prayer caused the problem? Could not the real problem have been something else, such as poor evangelism that did not emphasize the demands of the Gospel? Such subjective testimonies denigrating the sinner’s prayer do not prove anything except perhaps a theological bias on the part of anyone who presents them as irrefutable evidence.

As a senior pastor for 30 years, I have talked with many who thought they were saved when they were young, but in retrospect came to believe that they were not genuine followers of Jesus. They needed to repent of their sin, believe in Jesus and call on His name for salvation. I’ve led many to do just that in order to experience genuine conversion. But never once did I belittle the method of calling on the name of the Lord as being the reason they were not originally saved at an early age.

It has also been my observation that many people in our Baptist churches who doubt their salvation were actually genuinely converted at an early age. However, because they did not get involved immediately in an appropriate discipleship setting, they doubted their conversion experience.

Dr. Roy Fish used to tell us that sometimes Baptists are guilty of majoring in spiritual obstetrics while minoring in spiritual pediatrics. He was noting that we often give more attention to leading people to Christ than we do to following up with them after they are saved to help them mature spiritually. Newborn believers are spiritual babies. A baby cannot grow and mature without help from others. A babe in Christ needs mature believers to encourage and stimulate Christian maturity. Nevertheless, poor discipleship practices are not valid reasons to question whether calling upon the name of the Lord in prayer to be saved is a valid, scriptural practice.

4. Regarding your assigned topic, what do you hope your paper will accomplish?

I hope that at the end of the day, whether we are Calvinists or not (I am not), we will stop denigrating biblical concepts that do not fit our theological or philosophical grids. I believe the heart of this issue in the SBC is this: the New Testament teaches that in order to experience regeneration, a person must be exposed to the Gospel, repent of sin, believe in Jesus, surrender totally to His Lordship, and call on His name in prayer. While there is no exact wording of a sinner’s prayer prescribed precisely in Scripture, a “sinner’s prayer” is a valid expression of calling upon the name of the Lord for salvation.

According to Romans 10:9-13, before anyone can be saved his heart and mouth must come into agreement. Again, God rejects those who draw near to Him with their lips while their hearts are far from Him. But when our mouth and heart are in sync and we come to God for salvation, good things happen! When we confess with our mouth Jesus as Lord, and simultaneously believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we are saved. That’s because with our heart we believe, resulting in righteousness, and with our mouth we confess, resulting in salvation. God will save any person when his mouth and heart are in unison and agreement when he calls on the name of the Lord Jesus.

5. How important is your assigned topic within the broader SBC conversation regarding Calvinism?

A person is saved when he hears the Gospel, repents of his sin, believes in Jesus, and calls upon the name of the Lord for salvation. That pattern is clearly set forth in Ephesians 1:13, which says, “In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation– having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise.” The Gospel is preached, the lost person hears it, the lost person believes (and repents), and God regenerates him and seals him with the Holy Spirit.  That means that salvation occurs at a specific point in time (i.e. it is punctiliar in nature). No one has “always been saved.” Rather, there is a nanosecond at which a person repents, believes and calls on Jesus and is regenerated. Before that nanosecond of repentance, faith, and calling on Jesus, a person is lost and on his way to hell. After it, he is saved and on his way to heaven.

Whether a person is a non-Calvinist or a Calvinist, evangelism should be based on solid scriptural ground. I believe that some in our Convention, in a well-meaning effort to avoid easy believism, have gone too far by denigrating the use of a “sinner’s prayer” to help a lost person express repentance, faith, and calling on Jesus for salvation. Even though the New Testament does not use the exact words “ask Jesus into your heart” does not mean that the concept of doing so isn’t Scriptural. When we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord, and simultaneously repent of our sin and believe in Jesus with our hearts, it results in Him imputing His righteousness to us and saving (regenerating) us. Our words indicate what is in our hearts. Our believing hearts result in righteousness. Our confessing mouths result in salvation (Romans 10:8-9).  This is biblical, and we should ALL be able to agree on this!

6. Is there anything else that is a concern to you?

I serve Jesus in Memphis alongside many evangelical pastors of churches from various denominational backgrounds. Our congregations enjoy amazing harmony as we fellowship and do ministry together. We witness/evangelize, fellowship, and participate in service projects to “the least of these.” Yet we have a healthy, realistic understanding that, while we love and respect each other as brothers and sisters in Jesus, we probably cannot plant churches together, primarily because of our theological differences. Yet, for the sake of the Gospel of Jesus, we willingly work together.

I see similarities regarding the SBC. Most Non-Calvinists have Calvinistic friends (and vice versa). They genuinely love each other and are able and willing to cooperate with each other in most areas. Nevertheless, many (if not most) on either side of Calvinism in the SBC would not be comfortable planting churches together. Just as most Southern Baptists do not want to plant Presbyterian or Pentecostal churches (and vice versa), many (if not most) Calvinistic Baptists would not want to plant a non-Calvinistic church (and vice versa). The Calvinists probably wouldn’t want to help start a church that did not teach forthrightly their version of “the doctrines of grace.” Similarly, many others and I would not want to plant churches that did emphasize their version of those doctrines.

In saying this, I am not trying to be divisive. Rather, I am seeking to be realistic. Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic theology simply does not mix very well. We have genuine theological disagreements in the SBC that should be addressed. Sentimental platitudes along the line of, “Well, let’s all just love each other, be gracious, and do missions together. Then all will be well,” will solve nothing. It will take real action to prevent further division. We must be loving and gracious, but we must also be plainspoken. We need to honestly and lovingly deal with the theological dissimilarities that exist among us.

So how will we address these theological differences? Will we revert to a “Calvinist Resurgence” fighting against a “Traditionalist Resurgence”? Will both sides seek overtly or covertly to elect SBC presidents that will only appoint trustees to SBC entity boards that embrace their theological “points” so that in time all of our seminaries and agencies will operate from their theological view? I certainly hope not.

Why not come together and acknowledge the obvious: Southern Baptists are theologically diverse regarding Calvinism. Thus, why not be proactive and develop different curriculum tracks at LifeWay – Calvinistic and non-Calvinistic?  Why not go on to amiably agree that some of our seminaries will be Calvinistic while others will not. Why not openly appoint trustees to our entity boards that will hire presidents, professors, and other employees accordingly?

I make these suggestions (and that is all they are) not as an exact blueprint for what needs to take place in the SBC. But I do believe that these are the types of solutions that should be seriously considered by our SBC leaders. I certainly do not claim to have all the answers. But those who disagree with my ideas should be prepared to openly present their own to help us get past the present impasse. The SBC needs more than a little “pep talk.” “Let’s all just be sweet, agree to disagree, and get along” won’t cut it anymore. We need decisive action with a definitive plan, and we need it now.

When I was growing up, my older brother and I would sometimes fuss and fight. But when someone else came against either of us, we immediately became a united team, making us a force to be reckoned with. Even though we disagreed with each other, when threatened by others, we stuck together.

In case you haven’t noticed, our world is becoming increasingly anti-Christian. We are going to need each other as we face the spiritual battles and obstacles ahead. Whether or not we agree with each other on every point of Calvinism, both Calvinists and non-Calvinists in the SBC need one another. We may not see everything eye-to-eye. We may not even be able to plant churches together. But we can serve together, pray together, and evangelize the lost together. And that will please the heart of our heavenly Father, as well as help us in our efforts to evangelize lost people.

I don’t want a split in the SBC. But neither do I want an overt or covert takeover, where one side of the Calvinistic argument “wins” and everyone loses. The way I see it, we need to set some boundaries and make room for each other if we’re going to continue to live in the same house. Otherwise, we will become a house divided. And Jesus said such a house will not stand.

I’ll make room for both sides in the SBC house. Will you?

One last thought. On a grander scale, there is a greater need. The SBC needs a major outpouring of God’s Spirit. We need to honestly, earnestly, and desperately seek God in fervent prayer for revival so we can operate in the power of the Holy Spirit at the level we should and could. I’m convinced that our churches are spiritually weak, not because of the theologies we hold, the sermons we preach, or the methods we use (e.g., “the sinner’s prayer”). I believe that our spiritual weakness is rooted in the fact that we pray frivolously, not fervently. I yearn for the day when we unite and pray in faith for a major outpouring of God’s Spirit on our lives, our churches, and our denomination.

Surely that is something that we can all agree on. May that revival begin in you and me today.

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Norm Miller

Dr. Gaines: As salient and as apropos as your comments are, the most salient and apropos, I believe, is your last sentence. Having been in church all of my life, I recall several revivals that mended broken relationships, averted disaster, and swept souls into the Kingdom. I wholeheartedly resonate with your call for revival. May it begin in me. — Norm

brad whitt

Thanks Bro. Steve. Your responses were, as always, Biblical, insightful and gracious. Thanks for your leadership and example.

dr. james willingham

I would like to leave a reply to this approach by Dr. Gaines. There is much in it with which I, a Sovereign Grace believer (I prefer the term Sovereign Grace to Calvinism due to being a Baptist who believes in religious liberty), agree. My ordaining pastor was Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, who once served as Dr. R.G. Lee’s Associate at Bellevue, was a Supralapsarian Hyper Calvinist. Those are his terms, used in the pulpit and person to person, when he served as pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in St. Louis, Mo. When he ordained me, I was not a believer in Sovereign Grace. In fact, he asked me what I believed about the Fall of Man, and I answered, “Which theory do you want? There are five or six of them (I was referring in particular to A.H. Strong’s Systematic Theology).” Dr. Campbell said, “Don’t be a smart alec, Jim.” He went on with the ordination. After a year in my first pastorate, I had become a Federalist or an Augustinian on the Fall of man, meaning as the old Puritan speller in New England put it, “In Adam’s Fall, We sinned All.” It took me perhaps 10 years and many mistakes to work out the original theology of Southern Baptists. It also took that many years and some more to find how it should be preached.

Looking on the process, I realize that what Baptists have done is that they have left the issue open to the ministers and members, only asking that it not be used as a billy club with which to beat someone over the head. And it is not an easy matter. Our Lord preached such to his own fellow citizens of Nazareth, and they tried to murder him whereas the woman of Canaan in Mt.15 fell down in worship. I have spent literally years in thinking, studying, and reflecting on these truths and how they should be preached. One thing I am sure of, and that is that we should accord to ministers and members the freedom to study, think, and change for themselves on these issues. Actually, I believe this sense of freedom grows out the Sovereign Grace Approach as witness the fact that it was the Calvinists of Virginia, Kentucky, and other states who developed the agreement, that the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man shall be no barrier to fellowship. This during the years 1787-1800. During that 1787 period the Separates and Regulars agreed to unite with the proviso that those who preached Christ tasted death for every man would be no bar to communion. 50 years later a church was organized in Missouri, the old Sardis United Baptist Church (The First Baptist Church of Elston, Mo.) under the leadership of Elder J.B. Longan. A History of Missouri Baptists indicates that 50 years after that union, the Baptists in Mo. knew what they were doing, and they were allowing for the differences.

Interestingly enough, Rev. Luther Rice came to the Sandy Creek Baptist Assn. to enlist them in the cause of missions (read the modern missionary movement or The Great Century of Missions). RIce also chaired the committee that drew up the Sandy Creek Confession of 1816. The first named member of that Committee was Hezekiah Harmon, the founding pastor of a church that I served in Sandy Creek for 11 years. Also on that committee was a man of great importance to Southern Baptists, Basil Manly (later, Sr.). In any case, two points in that confession are clearly Calvinistic, two of the same points to be found in the Abstract of Principles of Southern and Southeastern Seminaries. I leave it to the reader to look them up. I also call attention to the fact that present at the 1816 meeting were the messengers of Mt. Pisgah which had been organized in 1814, and its articles of faith spoke of Christ dying for the church, not a word about Him dying for the world. What is important about that fact is that Mt. Pisgah is the Church from which came the first missionary of Southern Baptists to China, Rev. Matthew T. Yates. Moreover, Basil Manly, Sr., will go on to pastor the FBC of Charleston, the most calvinistic of our original churches. A Separate Baptist, he followed another Separate Baptist, Dr. Richard Furman. And from Charleston Church would come the first President of Southern Seminary, Dr. James P. Boyce, who was a believer in Particular Redemption, even rejecting Andrew Fuller’s view.
Dr. Boyce would reason with one young minister, he could wish that the young man would follow him with regards to the calvinistic view of the Gospel. That was the extent of Dr. Boyce, who also had a sermon on Rev.3:20 (which I have been trying to locate).

There is more, but I wish to exhort that people would not give into the desire to get rid of one group or the other, to just leave people free to preach and practice their views, remembering that the Calvinists, as Dr. George W. Truett put it in his centenary address on Spurgeon, press “dowon on the brow of man the crown of responsibility.” Remember we are joined at the hips so to speak by our beliefs in the Bible, the Trinity, the Shed Blood of Christ, and many more such truths.

dr. james willingham

I would like to add, further, to Dr. Gaines appeal for prayer for revival. I began praying for a Third Great Awakening (could be the 4h or 5th, depending on how one might want to view the visitations in our history as a nation and as a denomination) after preaching a sermon on the subject, A Great Awakening, to the Ministers’ Prayer Meeting in the Fall of ’73. I would later preach the 5th and 10th anniversary messages of that meeting on the subject, A Third Great Awakening. Sandy Creek, of course, grew out of the labors of Shubal Stearns who had been converted in the First Great Awakening under the preaching of George Whitefield. His brother-in-law, Daniel Marshall, had also been affected by that First Awakening. Later, in 1801 Sandy Creek along with other Assns. and other denominations would experience the Second Great Awakening. It is my belief that the theology of the original Southern Baptists is coming back, because we are being prepared for another Awakening, the Third as I like to call it, but one can call it whatever he pleases. All that matters, is that we have such a visitation. One thing I do know for sure, for it is written in the records in the Confessions of Faith, in the church and associational minutes and circular letters and sermons and biographical accountts, the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings is what I called Sovereign Grace or, as some call it, Calvinism. Why? What is there about such truths that arouses either undying enmity or devotion that hangs in there until one finishes one’s journey in this life?, It is a fact that I found that these truths have opposite effects, that is, effects that are seemingly contrary to what one would expect. I am presently working on article, “Calvinism’s Compelling Compassion,” which provides materials from missionary history indicative and illustrative of such a reality. These are the truths of invitation, inviting, engaging, attractive, alluring, appealing, compelling, magnetic, winsome, wonderful to such a degree that one would not want to resist them, and more. Spurgeon, in his Evening Devotions for Aug.5th and Dec.24 prayed for every soul on earth and for his or her conversion. Think of it, a Calvinist praying for the conversion of the whole earth. Is that not a mystery beyond words to explain? Then think of the first convert of the modern missionary movement being led to Christ by a hyper calvinist, Dr. John Thomas, who goes insane with joy over having been privileged to do such a thing. The convert, Krishna Pal, would be baptized by a five point calvinist, William Carey, who would get the credit for his conversion. Carey had witnessed to the man, but it was Thomas during a time of setting a broken arm for Pal that he won Pal to Christ.

Jack Woodard

Wheather a Calvinist or a Non-Calvinist we each agree that a sinner must “Repent” in order to be saved. To one group it is ordained to the other it is a matter of personal choice.
The condition of the Church in America testifies to the fact that many, if not a majority of its members have never truly repented and trusted Jesus for salvation. I would believe that each group could agree that our greatest need may be that once again as we preach the Gospel that it include a thundering call demanding genuine “Repentance” from all who claim to be saved or who may be coming for savaltion.That we could unite on, leaving the results to the Lord.

    Preach BlackMan Preach

    Even the statistics years ago from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association reveals an interesting “find” if anyone is paying attention. For many years, across denominational lines, this prayer was the method of choice to lead someone to Christ with absolutely “no” mention of Scriptural “repentance”. I said across denominational lines!

    Soteriologically, it is impossible to believe on Jesus Christ until the Spirit by the preaching of the gospel has convicted the sinner of sin, righteousness, and judgment. The sinner must first, by the Spirit of God who uses the word of God, see himself in the perfect law of liberty as God knows him. Once conviction is complete, the sinner is convinced of the truth that he is a sinner. His heart is broken, and his spirit is crushed because of sin. The Spirit of God leads the hell deserving, lake of fire doomed sinner in genuine repentance. So much so, that in his “mind” the sinner is finished with sin forever. I repeat in his mind! That’s when the Spirit by faith from the word of God, reveals The Only All Sufficient Savior, The Lord Jesus whom the repentant sinner will “desperately” believe in with all of his heart.

    It’s much like the drowning man who didn’t realize he would need the lifeguard he just walked by, stationed on the beach, until he realizes there is no Hope as he is about to go down for the last time in the Atlantic ocean.

    Listen, other denominations aren’t having this robust discussion about this prayer. We can say we have it all figured out but what about them. Remember they got on this same wave years ago also.

David R. Brumbelow

Steve Gaines,
Thanks for your thoughts. I agree completely concerning your comments on the Sinner’s Prayer and asking Jesus into our hearts.

And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, “Abba, Father!” -Galatians 4:6

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. -Ephesians 3:17
David R. Brumbelow

volfan007

Steve,

Amen, Bro. Great words spoken here….words which the SBC needs to hear.

David

KBH

When multitudes of people who have “prayed the prayer” in the SBC cannot be found in the church (the majority), and multitudes show no fruit of regeneration. I would hope that there would be room for serious discussion in non-Calvinistic camps as to whether the “sinners prayer” has being misapplied by many over the years.

Something is off, somewhere.

    Norm Miller

    Kevin: I agree, something is off somewhere. However, I don’t think one can blame the recitation of a prayer, whether sincere or not, on the millions of absentee members on SBC church rolls. You may be indicating what I think is our greatest need next to intentional evangelism, and that is not whether someone prays a prayer, but whether the convert is appropriately discipled. Dr. Gaines noted this when he mentioned more than once the “demands of the Gospel.” — Norm

      Norm Miller

      Afterthought, Kevin: I remain perplexed why Calvinists are upset about the sinner’s prayer. There is no prayer that will put a soul into heaven that God condemned to hell before the foundation of the world (if God indeed does that). Conversely, there is no lack of a “formulaic” prayer, if you will, that will keep the “called-out ones” from heaven. Unless Calvinists have a low view of God’s sovereignty, then why the hubbub about the sinner’s prayer? Oh, and let me add that the sinner’s prayer when voiced by the “elect” hinders no one from heaven. However, in light of Rom. 10.9, it appears something needs to be said with one’s mouth for salvation to come. I see no harm whatsoever in helping someone under the Spirit’s conviction to pray a sincere prayer of repentance and commitment to the God who is saving them. If that person is not elect, he is going to hell anyway. If he is elect, Rom. 10.9 has been obeyed. — Norm

        KBH

        my point has nothing to do with calvinism or even calvinists who take issue with the “sinners prayer”. I know plenty of non-calvinists who think something is off, and has been off, for sometime in evangelistic counseling and discernment. Lot of older folks, who don’t know a tulip from a daisy, notice that something is off.

        Personally, I use the sinners prayer with people who have clearly been taught the gospel and understand what Biblical repentance looks like, so that’s not my beef.

        I feel like instead of debating “the sinners prayer” we should be having a dialog about discernment in how to use it.

        We need to dialogue about the reality that many people who pray the prayer may not be really converted. And I think it would be prudent to add to our evangelistic counseling, the sober warning that even though they have prayed the prayer, if their life shows no evidence of change, no fruit, no zeal for Christ , they should soberly examine their relationship with God and whether they are saved. Many pastors have a hard time pressing people with no fruit or spiritual pulse, to come to church and follow Christ, because they already “prayed the prayer”, they got their fire insurance, and so they are happy to be left alone.

        I also, think we need to dialog about how we use it with kids. Yes God can save kids. But I have to wonder if in the movement toward getting younger kids to pray the prayer and be baptized isn’t somewhat of a cultural reaction. We used to say, “we gotta get em saved before they become adults.” Now it seems like, “we gotta get em saved before they become teens”. Which to me seems like, “we gotta get em saved while they are still somewhat innocent”. (that a little cynicism I guess)

        I think we need to dialogue about the pressure pastors face to produce numbers or be shamed in their associations, Surely pastors are tempted to rush kids or adults who may not be born again to the waters of baptism.

        I hope read this not as a calvinist argument (who said I was), but the heartfelt concerns of an experienced pastor who believes there is a need to a fresh assessment of how we do things.

    Ron F. Hale

    KBH,
    On the other hand, think of all those who have abandoned the lifeless reformed churches in Europe and N. America because of the ongoing anxiety and confusion of NOT sensing or feeling they were one of the Elect. Or, the many that simply chose to trust in their infant baptism based on the supposed Covenant relationship between their parent(s) and God.

      KBH

      of course you are talking about presbyterianism, not anything that reformed SBC guys believe, they believe that you only baptize those who have repented and believed in Jesus..
      Ironically, you can argue, in practice, that many non-calvinists are closer to infant baptism, because we keep baptizing kids younger and younger.

      And, also ironically, those 6 year old kids in the SBC are experiencing anxiety and confusion you talked about. They experience doubt because they were so immature when they were baptised. That anxiety is why we baptize most of those kids again when they are 12 and perhaps again when they are 18.

        Norm Miller

        Kevin: Can you offer the first names of a few 6 years olds you know personally who are suffering the anxiety you note, or are you generalizing without hard evidence?

          Ryan Abernathy

          Norm,

          I can offer you a whole lot of first names of kids who were “saved” at six via praying a prayer at VBS, kids camp, etc who later either came to the realization that they needed Christ or who left the church and rejected Christ- Erin, Jennifer, Chris, Matt, Kevin…

          What exactly does a list of first names prove?

          The problem a lot of people have with the “sinners prayer” is that in some circles it is treated like a magic spell- “if you have repeated these words after me, you have become a follower of Jesus…”

          That’s what David Platt is talking about and what some- including some on this site- just refuse to see or acknowledge. There has been a lot of abuse of a good idea in the name of numbers and feeling good about someone’s eternal destiny- regardless of what their life looks like after that prayer.

          What so many of us are saying is- God saves people- not repeating a few words- and the evidence of God’s salvation is a changed life.

          But when you mix the magic words of the “sinners prayer” with the Baptist (and Calvinist) theology of “once saved always saved” you get an unregenerate people who do not look at their lives for evidence of the activity of God’s grace but instead lean on the memory of “I prayed what the pastor prayed.”

          Surely Norm you can see the danger in that?

            Norm Miller

            Hey Ryan:
            I asked Kevin for the names and am curious why he cannot answer the question for himself. Apparently he was generalizing w/o benefit of evidence, I guess. I don’t doubt your list, however.
            As has been repeatedly stated, the problem is not with the prayer. Also, as I have said, I don’t advocate the ‘sloppy use’ of the prayer. And, if the damned will go to hell regardless, then the whining about the sinner’s prayer is pointless — unless Calvinists have a low view of God’s sovereignty.
            I read another commentor’s theory that those who pray the prayer insincerely become problems in the local church. But, that is not a problem inherent with the sinner’s prayer despite efforts to make that the case.
            If such people do become such a problem, they need to be confronted, they need to repent, they need to be restored, or, finally, if none of the above can happen, then they need to be removed. It is high time to stop blaming the cowardice of some church leaders to biblically deal with problem members on the straw man of an improperly administered or insincerely prayed sinner’s prayer. That dog just won’t hunt. — Norm

Mary S.

I’m confident that most of what Mr. Gaines taught above, Calvinists also teach and believe.

Ron F. Hale

Bro. Steve,
As always your message is straight forward, uncoated with sugary sentimentalism, and passionate about reaching the lost. May the Lord bless your message at JN316.

cb scott

Great post and very timely. I look forward to the conference. I am waiting for this conference with much anticipation. I had the opportunity to eat lunch with Dr. Vines last week. He is still the Baptist Statesman he was 30 years ago and just as sharp. I have never failed to learn something new and fresh when having heard Dr. Vines preach.

I hope to see all of you guys at the Brewton-Parker College booth.

Chris Twilley

Dr. Gaines,
Thank you for your comments. No one disagrees that a sinner will pray when the spirit convicts them of their sin, through the preaching of the Gospel. Romans 10:13 is clear on this. Here is where the difference occurs. Whose job is it to lead someone else in the prayer? Our job or the Holy Spirit’s? Where in Scripture do we see the example of someone leading someone else in the prayer? It is not there. We see Peter commanding people to “Repent” and Scripture goes on to say that “those who believed his message were baptized and 3,000 were added to their number” He did not lead people in a prayer. He did not say, “Come here to the front and repeat after me.” This is what is being questioned. The methodology (which lacks Scriptural support) of leading someone else in the prayer, after the Gospel is preached. The Gospel IS the Invitation (Martyn Llyod Jones has a great chapter on the ‘The invitation’ in ‘Preaching and Preachers’, which is so helpful on this issue. Our job is to preach the Gospel. The Holy Spirit can handle conversion. I appreciate your words about Revival. This is what we need.

Preach BlackMan Preach

Dr. Adrian Rogers was one of two men whom mentored me from a distance. His predecessor Dr. R G Lee was and still is a preachers’ “preacher”, who continues to cause many of us whom heard him preach to question whether we were even call at all to open our mouths before God’s people.(smile). Bellevue Baptist Church has experienced immeasureable blessings as it relates to the ministry of the word of God. We ask our God to bless Dr. Gaines and the other contributors with the fullness of His Spirit to admonish with courage, to instruct with with wisdom, to speak the hard truth in love as we see The Day approaching. “Payday Someday” is closer than it’s ever been!

rhutchin

As Dr. Gaines affirms and Calvinists agree, praying the sinner’s prayer does not indicate, imply, or guarantee that a person has a relationship with Christ or what that relationship is. I have seen the “Sinner’s Prayer” misused, as I suspect everyone else has, and we all know people who came forward at a revival, prayer the sinner’s prayer, and walked out no better than they came in. Given our personal experiences with the Sinner’s Prayer, why has it become a big deal? A believer can pray the Sinner’s Prayer and go out a believer; a non-Believer can pray the Sinner’s Prayer and go out a non-believer. Praying the Sinner’s Prayer does not make a believer more of a believer than he already is and Praying the Sinner’s Prayer does not change a non-believer into a believer.

    Norm Miller

    That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. Rom. 10.9

    cb scott

    rhutchin,

    Just curious. Have you ever shared the gospel with another person (lost person) one-on-one and upon having come to a point in your presentation that you believed that person to be under Holy Spirit conviction that he/she was a sinner before a just and righteous God asked that person if they would be willing to pray a prayer of repentance and believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ to save their lost soul?

      rhutchin

      Not without manipulating them to get to that point.

      I have talked to many people one-on-one, up front and personal, who had no history of church attendance other than as a child. They tend to believe that they will go to heaven because they are good people. They tend to think that they do not sin or that what they do is not sin. They understand that Christ died so that they can go to heaven so they are going to heaven. They believe that they are Christian just because they were born. Some even had the experience of praying the sinner’s prayer.

      I have seen a Pastor steal money from the church, cry many tears in repentance when confronted with his behavior privately by the deacons and then go out and tell the church he did nothing wrong.

      I have watched people who believed that praying the sinner’s prayer saved a person and they would confidently assure people that they “led to Christ” that they were going to heaven.

      I have seen people in church on Sunday and out in the world on Monday.

      I have seen people praise the Lord with their first breath and curse like a sailor with the second.

      I know people who write things like you do and ask pious questions and I don’t get my hopes up.

      I have seen people being manipulated to pray the Sinner’s Prayer and being manipulated by those who prayed the Sinner’s Prayer.

      I maintain that leading a person to pray the Sinner’s Prayer offer’s no tangible benefits to anyone. However, I have been impressed with people who have prayed the Sinner’s Prayer when alone in the privacy of their room with no one present except them and the Holy Spirit.

        Norm Miller

        I, and several million others I am sure, take great exception to your statement: “I maintain that leading a person to pray the Sinner’s Prayer offer’s no tangible benefits to anyone.” I point you again to Rom. 10.9.
        And I point you to the multiplied multitudes who have prayed that prayer in repentance and faith, and b/c, in part, of that confessional prayer, they are now believers. — Norm

        cb scott

        So, rhutchin,

        I may take it then that you answer is no? Thanks for the answer.

        Another question; Do you serve a local church as pastor?

    Mary S.

    Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with leading a person to Christ through a sinner’s prayer, any more than it would be wrong to baptize them. In either case, we can’t see their heart, all we can do is accept their confession of faith as genuine and leave it in God’s hands.

    PS: I follow the ABC method when leading a person to Christ:
    ADMIT you are a sinner in need of a Savior;
    BELIEVE that Jesus died to take away your sin and rose from the dead.
    COMMIT your life to Him as your Savior, Lord your only hope, etc.

    It is not a magic formula or anything, but this is what each believer does in practice, so what is wrong with it?

    Many of you consider me a Calvinist (even though I completely reject limited atonement). Do you guys (Calvinists and Traditionalists) think what I am doing is the right thing or do you think the ABC’s are off? I just don’t see a problem with it. I don’t want to give anyone false assurance of salvation, but at the same time, God has not given me the ability to know what is in anyone’s heart, so I basically have to take their word for it that their confession of faith in Jesus is genuine.

Robert

James Willingham says that he is a Calvinist who prefers to be called a “Sovereign Grace believer” rather than a Calvinist:

“There is much in it with which I, a Sovereign Grace believer (I prefer the term Sovereign Grace to Calvinism due to being a Baptist who believes in religious liberty)”

And note that he says he “believes in religious liberty”.

This is a misleading statement because a consistent Calvinist or “Sovereign Grace believer” denies the reality and presence of what is ordinarily referred to as free will.

If all is preplanned and ordained by God, then there is no such thing as free will. Nor does religious liberty exist.

For Free will to exist, a person must not only make choices they must HAVE CHOICES.

And we all know exactly what this means. It means that an individual has more than one option from which to choose and he/she can choose either option. The choice is up to him/her, the choice is not already decided by God so that the person has to make the choice that God already decided that they would make.

The New Testament talks about issues of Christian liberty, areas in which Christians are free to make different choices. Baptists have also historically been strongly committed to the idea and reality of religious liberty. But religious liberty ***presupposes the reality of free will***: that people do in fact have choices and they have the right to make those choices, even when they make differing choices.

And yet here we have a Calvinist claiming that he believes that we have religious liberty. But that contradicts his espoused theology, a theology which if true, negates free will and makes religious liberty an illusion. If God has ordained all things and controls everything to make sure that it all goes according to the plan he conceived of before anything else existed. Then none of us ever has a choice. If God ordains you and controls you to believe in religious liberty, you do. If God ordains you and controls you to reject religious liberty, then that is what you believe. If God ordains all and controls everyone’s mind, thoughts, wills, bodies, then religious liberty is a mirage, an illusion. Even this belief is something ordained which some are ordained to have and others are not ordained to have.

As Baptists we believe in religious liberty, and hence the free will upon which it is built is real.

James writes:

“I have spent literally years in thinking, studying, and reflecting on these truths and how they should be preached. One thing I am sure of, and that is that we should accord to ministers and members the freedom to study, think, and change for themselves on these issues.”

The “freedom to study, think and change for themselves”???

Again, this cannot be real if his Calvinism is true. If all is ordained then we do not control our thoughts, wills, beliefs, they are all ordained by God. If all is ordained then nobody “thinks for themselves”, instead they only think what God prescripted for them to thing.

One of the areas of concern that I have regarding the presence of Calvinism in Baptist circles is that the theology denies free will and free will is the basis or foundation for our Baptist belief in religious liberty. Take away free will, which consistent Calvinism does, and religious liberty goes with it.

Thankfully since Calvinists like everyone else live in this world, the world that God created and intended, a world where we clearly have free will. They do not live by their espoused theology. They cannot because they have free will and have and make choices for which they are responsible just like everyone else in the real world. But Baptists need to be aware that Calvinistic ideas if lived out and carried out will challenge and undermine the Baptist belief in religious liberty.

James ends with a plea for tolerance, again an idea whose basis is the reality of free will:

“There is more, but I wish to exhort that people would not give into the desire to get rid of one group or the other, to just leave people free to preach and practice their views.”

“just leave people free to preach and practice their views”???

Again if Calvinism is true then free will does not exist and the exhortation to “leave people free to preach and practice their views” is hollow and misleading and false. If all is ordained people preach and practice whatever God ordained for them to preach and practice. If God ordained them to preach and practice error then that is what they will do and they cannot help themselves, they have to do it, it is impossible for them to do otherwise. If God ordained them to preach and practice truth then that is what they will do and they cannot help themselves, they have to do it, it is impossible for them to do otherwise.

That is why I find some of the discussions of things such as the sinner’s prayer to be almost comical. Comical because those who oppose it, usually Calvinists, forget that if their theology is true, and some are practicing it they are ordained to do it, they have to do it, and it is impossible for them to do otherwise. And yet these same Calvinists who deny the reality of free will are trying to persuade people to stop engaging in the practice, as if they have a choice in the matter. Likewise those who favor the practice are trying to persuade people that if it is not abused it can be a useful practice, and that we do have a choice in the matter. Both sides are arguing and acting as if we have a choice, as if religious liberty is real, as if free will is real. And yet one side rejects the reality of free will, wanting to believe that everything is ordained.

Robert

    Mary s.

    You misrepresent Calvinism, Robert. Calvinism teaches that people are free to do whatever is in accord with their nature. So they are free to do most everything; but they are not “free” to call Godward because that is not in accordance with their nature which is “enslaved” to sin.

    But, as I’ve told you before, I don’t call myself a Calvinist. I reject limited atonement, I also have strong doubts about everything being ordained (for instance everything I am writing now, I am content to believe that I did so freely, and that unbelievers can do this freely as well, and I don’t believe myy typing errors were ordained!)

    But fortunately we who lean more toward Calvinism than not, live in the real world. We see the results of sin. Man’s nature is not getting better. He is still a slave to sin, who has to be freed by God in order to be able to freely call upon Christ for Salvation.

    dr. james willingham

    Robert are you unacquainted with Baptist History? While the General Baptists advocated religious liberty, The Calvinistic or Particular Baptists implemented it, putting religious liberty into law and practice. For example, two Calvinists, Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke established religious liberty in Rhode Island, and the first synagogue in the New World was built in that colony (and is still standing according to the last account I had of it).. And then in respect to the rest of your statements, I simply reply that the General Baptists in America, and I do not denigrate them, were simply a small group and accomplished little. In fact, in the 1700s they suffered from being soft on evangelism, willing to accept a mere profession of easy believism without a commensurate commitment. The Regular or Particular Baptists demanded evidence of the New Birth, and they were evangelistic. Witness the visit of two ministers of the Philadelphia Baptist Assn. to North Carolina in 1755, Peter Peterson Van Horn and Benjamin Miller, who persuaded some General Baptist churches to give up their non-evangelistic and non-missionary approach in General Atonement to accept Particular Redemption and a real concern for whether one was born again or not. That outfit went along a for about 46 years baptizing 25-30 per year, Then in 1801 came the Second Great Awakening. In that year they baptized 872, The Regular or Particular or Calvinistic Baptists were also the ones who turned out in force to fight for religious liberty. In fact, the leader of the General Committee of Baptists in Va., Elijah Craig, was a noted Calvinist, and he made the agreement with the colonial legislators that in exchange for the freedom to practice their freedom the Baptist ministers would encourage the young men in their communities to enlist in the patriots cause. Elder Craig must have been effective, for I found a whole regiment of Craigs (every last member of the Regiment bore the last name of Craig) in the Virginia Militia. Elijah was the ancestor of a preacher friend of mine, and was likely a kin of my family as my Grandmother was a Craig, and she name our son before he was born.

    Apparently, Robert you lack knowledge of our history. You might want to examine the Memoirs of Luther Rice, the father of missions among Southern Baptists, who said the doctrines of predestination and the decrees of God are in the Bible and ministers had better preach them as well as the invitations to trust Christ. Many of our ministers who led in the struggle for religious liberty were noted Calvinists, and if you will check the history of Dr. George Bancroft, a major historian of American in the first part of the 1800s you will find he calls America the Calvinistic Republic. There is a little secret that is not well known today, due to new interpretations of American History designed to replace the original understandings, and that is that the Bible is a great source for our political documents. Two professors from Houston did the research and found that by double digits, about 34%, the Bible was the leading source for our political documents, and the next nearest sources fell into single digits, John Locke and Montesquieu, 9 and 7% or there abouts, respectively.

    Have you ever heard of therapeutic paradoxes, about opposites offered as solutions to situations? More popularly, it is called, reverse psychology. And then again, have you ever read any of our Southern Baptist founders like Dagg, Johnson, Manly, Mell, Boyce, Broadus, Carroll, or Truett. You might want to note that Truett was chosen to give the Centenary Address for the remembrance of C.H, Spurgeon in 1934. On that momentous occasion at the Royal Albert Hall in London, where Truett was introduced by the Prime Minister of the then British Empire, Dr. Truett stated that Calvinism presses down on the brow of man the crown of responsibility. If Calvinism is so stultified as you imply, why would such theology receive such praise from Dr. Truett. You might want to read his great address, You can find it in his book, The Inspiration of Ideals. In that address, Dr. Truett cites, Dr. John A. Broadus as stating: “The people who sneer at Calvinism might as well sneer at Mont Blanc.” Sneering at the theology of the Sovereignty of God is not new; it is as old as the Garden of Eden. You will no doubt remember who or what it was that sneered then.

    As to man’s inability to respond, our Lord spoke very plainly, saying, “No man can, no man is able,” or as the Sandy Creek Committee in 1816 under the leadership of the Father of Missions for Southern Baptists, “man is utterly impotent of his own free will or ability.” I will cease with that, but you might want to consider by making a study of our history, one that is far more evocative of liberty than any free will approach of others.

Shawn

Dear Brother Robert,

I appreciate your post, but you are arguing with a straw man, not what most Calvinists actually contend. Yes, the Calvinist rejects the idea of a “free” will because we believe Scripture teaches that the will of man is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. (Rom 6; Gal 4:3,8; 2 Pet 2:19). The natural will of man is not “free” to do anything but serve self. However, we certainly believe that every man is endued with a real will through which we make real choices with real consequences. The voluntary exercise of our will results in real effects for which we are really and truly culpable. Yet at the same time, God is sovereign and moving all of human history toward His desired end. His will is “primary” in the sense that He determines what will come to pass, even working through the voluntary wills of saints and sinners alike. In theological speak, this view is know as compatibilism. It is the both/and position, not the either/or position which you are accusing every Calvinist of holding.

Lest you accuse us of being inconsistent at this point, I would remind you that this position is similarly represented in what we believe about the Trinity. God is both Three and One — three persons, one being. He is not one or the other, He is both. We cannot explain it perfectly, but we know Scripture teaches this to be true. It is the same kind of tension we encounter on this subject of God’s will and man’s will. God is sovereign over ever circumstance and choice (Gen 50:20, Prov 16:33, Acts 2:23; 4:27-28), yet man is fully responsible for every choice he makes and the consequences of those choices. Scripture teaches this to be true, and Paul writes Romans 9 to answer anyone who might try to do away with one or the other perspective.

I have learned much through reading these exchanges — I have learned particularly to appreciate my traditionalist brethren and the wisdom and passion with which they approach the Scriptures. I have also learned ways in which I was misrepresenting their views. I hope I have helped you at this point, just as many of my traditionalist brothers have helped me over and over again. God bless you, brother.

Shawn

    Norm Miller

    Shawn,
    You wrote: “The natural will of man is not ‘free’ to do anything but serve self.”
    Can a lost man run into a burning building and rescue a complete stranger? If so, how is that serving self?
    I have pondered this question for a long time. I know the life-risking act is not salvific, but I reject that is is self-serving.
    I have been watching the reality show on NatGeo: Inside Combat Rescue. These heli-borne medics, one of whom is a Roman Catholic, volunteered to do this. If the RC medic is trusting RC dogma for salvation, we know he is in trouble. But how is his risking his life considered selfish?
    I know the passages about none being good, none righteous, etc.; however, I cannot wrap my brain around why a hell-bound person would risk his/her life for a total stranger. — Norm

      Shawn

      Hey Norm,

      Thank you for the reply. Jesus even agrees that sinful men do “good” in some sense (Luke 6:33). Natural (unsaved) men are certainly capable of “good” works if we understand the term “good” properly. Albert Schweitzer denied biblical Christianity, yet left his promising career and home in Europe to suffer with and serve the people of Africa. Other unsaved persons give thousands and millions of dollars to charity. And Yes, many unsaved persons risk their lives or even give their lives to rescue others. These are all “good” from a cultural perspective. But in all of these examples, two necessary ingredients of the biblical definition of “good” are missing: faith in Jesus Christ and the motive of doing these things to the glory of the Triune God.

      A man may run into a burning building to save a person, but if he does not do it for Christ, then why? Honest concern for another human being? To make him feel better about himself (ie. he couldn’t have lived with his own conscience if he didn’t help)? Keeping some cultural cultural standard of “good?” Erroneously thinking that doing something selfless will earn him favor with God? Even depraved men are capable of doing noble things, but biblically speaking, whatever is not done for Christ is done for self on some level. As Paul says in Romans 14:23, whatever is not from faith is sin. At the end of the day, the only reason sinful men do anything “good,” even by cultural standards, is because of the common grace of God. When it comes to salvation, all of our good works are like filthy rags. That’s why no matter how noble a person might be in their actions, they are still a sinner in need of Christ.

      Thank you for the kind exchange, brother.

        Norm Miller

        You’re welcome, Shawn.
        This always comes down to defining ‘good.’ I recognize that some people do ‘good’ in hopes of getting a tax break, or appearing before others as magnanimnous, etc.; however, I do not see how a selfish person can save stranger’s life. While I cannot know the motivations of such people, who, when interviewed, e.g., refuse the label “hero,” I still want to know what those motivations are. Some such people say they simply reacted instinctively. Well, sure, the heart is deceitfully wicked; but, instinctively these people have risked their lives? I have heard some say they didn’t give it a second thought. I suspect there is something much deeper here that, with all due respect, your response doesn’t even touch. That is not to say your response isn’t valid. I just think it is incomplete. How? I don’t know. Still pondering. — Norm

          Shawn

          It’s a Good thing to Ponder. Perhaps the best we can do is to thank God for such exhibits of “grace” even when they come through unexpected means. Have a great day, brother.

danielmcgaha

While I understand that you have to leave some proverbial meat on the bone for the conference, I would have liked to see some evidence of the sinner’s prayer being Biblical in question #3. I do not say this out of disagreement, but many arguments are made where things are put forth as biblical without any biblical evidence. God Bless

    Norm Miller

    I appreciate your question and agree that God gets credit for a lot of things, some of which may not be deserved. I am wondering if anyone can demonstrate that leading someone in such a prayer is unbiblical.
    Too many people want to blame a prayer when Dr. Gaines ably demonstrated the prayer is not to blame.
    If the prayer is unbiblical, then let’s aske a few other questions: Where did the Apostle’s Creed originate? Why was the Didache necessary? One commentor noted it is the Holy Spirit’s job to lead such a prayer. Really? Then why can’t the Holy Spirit also “make disciples”? What was the need of the Didache if the Holy Spirit can handle such matters?
    Please don’t think I’m bombing you, Daniel, with these questions. Your comment has simply pointed me to these questions, which I think are rhetorical. — Norm

      Shawn

      Hey Norm,

      As a Calvinist, I would say that the biblical means of conversion is repentance and faith, and that is what we should call and instruct men to do. However, I would not say helping a sinner to pray a prayer expressing repentance and faith is unbiblical at all. Prayer is the most natural expression of confessing Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9-10). I further appreciated the content and tone of Gaines’ response to the questions. The issue is the pragmatic misuse of the sinner’s prayer, which I think Calvinists and Traditionalists both would take issue with. In mass-evangelism settings (from VBS gatherings to stadium crusades), I think we have to be very careful not to give false assurance to many on the basis of the prayer even as we seek to assist those who are sincerely seeking to express their belief in Jesus Christ. Once again, I think Gaines would basically agree with this caution. Thanks for allowing me to chime in, brother!

      Shawn

        Norm Miller

        I take seriously your concern regarding the misuse of such a prayer. But, if God is sovereign, then the non-elect person praying that prayer remains eternally unaffected.
        Also, I would say some Trads are as much offended by those who offer no invitation to come to Christ as some Cs are with the Sinner’s Prayer. I would rather lead that prayer en masse than not to offer a public invitation. — Norm

          Shawn

          First, you move from a discussion of the sinner’s prayer to the subject of the invitation. These are two separate issues. I certainly believe in offering a biblical invitation, and challenging men to repent and believe in that invitation. I don’t, however, have to recite a formulaic prayer for them to follow for the invitation to be effective.

          Secondly, God’s sovereignty does not excuse sloppy evangelism. That non-elect person (or elect, but not yet at the appointed time of conversion) who prays a prayer may remain eternally unaffected, but they become a spiritual detriment. They believe they are saved on the basis of a recited prayer, they become an unregenerate member of a church, they are hardened to hearing the gospel because they think they are already saved, and they either end up as spiritually dead anchors to the church, pridefully controlling churches through simple longevity of tenure, bringing reproach on the name of Christ and His church through open sin, or they fall off the map and become one of the 10 million unaccounted for SBC church members. In rare circumstances, a few come to true faith after the fact through the ministry of the church, but the four aforementioned cases are blights on our churches. And that’s just in my system where God is sovereign over man’s salvation. In your system, where God is not sovereign in bringing the person to Christ, a falsely recited sinner’s prayer results in a false assurance of faith that could keep them from ever legitimately considering the gospel. In your system, it would seem that the sloppy use of a sinners prayer contributes to men’s damnation. I would think that would tend to make you more careful.

          Shawn

            Norm Miller

            Nowhere do I advocate the sloppy use of the sinners prayer. That is not my system but is your characterization. Further, many churches have unregenerate members who never uttered a formulaic prayer. Too many Calvinists want to blame the sinners prayer for problems you have cited but can provide no quantifiable evidence for the unproven theory. My noting that some Calvinists avoid the public invitation was an apt comparison, I think, and was not a move away from the topic at hand.

            Shawn

            Hey Norm,

            Please forgive me, I was not intending to mischaracterize your position. I agree that we have many unregenerate church members who never uttered a sinners prayer, and I am not saying the sinners prayer is the source of all our problems. What I am saying is that the misuse of the sinners prayer is one part of the greater problem of an SBC-wide tendency toward pragmatic decisionism rather than biblical evangelism and discipleship. As far as quantifiable evidence: 16 million plus SBC church members and only about 6 million in church on a given Sunday. Thank you again for the exchange.

              Norm Miller

              No offense taken, Shawn. Digital exchanges on such matters are fraught with misinterpretation and misunderstanding. So, no problem.
              As far as your quantifiable evidence of 16M SBC members and 6M in church — that includes what I suspect is a significant number of members whose names are still on church rolls but have moved, and, sadly, who have died. The 10M missing cannot possibly be the sole responsibility of a Sinner’s Prayer, and I don’t think you believe that. I accept your idea regarding discipleship issues, but reject that the 10M are missing b/c of “pragmatic decisionism” or the lack of “biblical evangelism.” The entire missing 10M cannot ALL be chalked up to your categories I noted in the quotes. Were I to guess, I think that 9.5M are missing due to poor discipleship and no other reason. I know that is a guess, but it is based on my experience of never having heard the Sinner’s Prayer abused. I appreciate your tone, Shawn. Thx. — Norm

        Chris Twilley

        Shawn,
        We don’t “help” a sinner by giving them the words to pray. The Scriptures do mention the ‘sinners prayer’ (Romans 10:13) but nowhere do we see someone helping someone else with the prayer. Scripture is sufficient and can guide us on this issue. The way that we help a sinner is to explain the Gospel fully and if they say that they need ‘help’ we explain the Gospel again (the person and work of Christ, repentance and faith, etc.) We don’t have to ‘help’ the Holy Spirit out by coverting a soul. God’s got that covered. I’m glad that you see the problems with this being done in VBS and mass crusades. You just need to take it one step further and see that the method is not biblical. ‘The Invitation system’ by Andrew Murray is a good book dealing with this. I have had to learn the hard way on this issue. I had a disconnect between my theology and my practice. I believed in Sovereign Grace but that I had to ‘help’ sinners out by calling them to the front and giving them the words to pray. This is the way that I had been taught how to do evangelism. I didn’t question it until I had been in the same church for seven years. Then I had to live with the “fruit” of my evangelistic methods. I have great freedom now. I witness to people most every day. We don’t have a walk to the front invitational system in our church but we are seeing many profess faith in Christ and follow the Lord in believers baptism. God is good and Jesus saves. God Bless you brother.

      danielmcgaha

      I agree – I just think that much of the animosity towards the sinner’s prayer could be more properly pointed towards a lack of discipleship in many churches. Yes, many people may pray the prayer and not be regenerated, but when some evangelists get their ego fueled by watching people come down front and those people are never discipled, the sinner’s prayer is not to blame.

Stephanie Kilday Blackiston

I am so incredibly grateful for you godly leaders taking a stand for truth and for the body that is getting splattered with all this stuff. I feel like we have been on the run from this teaching for the last 4 years. :( It has been incredibly hard. And it is getting harder and harder to find sound Churches….Truth is being swallowed up by the philosophy of man. May God bless this conference and these pastors as they seek to honor God and His Word!

Robert

Hello Norm,

I understand your confusion regarding the discussion about the nature of goodness with Shawn. Shawn makes some very common errors made by Calvinists regarding the nature of goodness. I think if I point them out and explain them to you, you will better understand both why you are confused about this and what Shawn is claiming.

Most of us (believer or nonbeliever) have no problem recognizing when an action is good or evil. We also realize that a person’s motives play a place as well. Basically good is what conforms to the Word of God and the character of God. So for example, God is faithful, so being faithful to your spouse is a good thing (whether you are a believer or nonbeliever). Jesus himself was explicit that everyone does good to their own children (he made no such distinction that what the nonbelievers did towards their kids was sin and what the believers did to their kids was good, this distinction is contrived and invented by Calvinists as I will show shortly). We also know from scripture that the law of God is written on the heart of man (i.e. everyone has a basic knowledge of good and evil in their hearts). Most of us have no difficulty recognizing and acknowledging a good action when we see it. When a soldier sacrifices himself for his fellows we see this as good. When a firemen rushes into a burning building and saves people from death, we see this as good. We also recognize kindness, compassion and mercy when we see it. Again I would attribute this all to the fact the law of God is written on the heart of every man. C. S. Lewis talked about this in his books, that there was a universal moral law, and it could be found and seen in every culture. Some theologians (primarily Catholics) have spoken of it by means of the framework of natural law. The point is that we all recognize that there are universals of morality, of right and wrong, that are cross cultural (true in all cultures, manifested in some more than others).

Besides this sense of universal good and bad, if we are Christians we also recognize that there are differing standards for believers and unbelievers. So we cannot expect nor should we (though many make this mistake) expect nonbelievers to live by our Christian standards. The reality is that they do not and they cannot. For example we are exhorted to walk by the Spirit and not the flesh (this is a standard for believers, but I do not put this standard on nonbelievers). Or take another example, as Christian husbands we are commanded to love our wives as Christ loved the church (this is again a standard I put on believers but do not expect nonbelievers to be following).

Now the errors that Calvinists make include (1) putting Christian standards on nonbelievers and (2) defining goodness so that by definition the nonbeliever is incapable of every doing any good whatsoever (primarily motivated by their view of depravity in which they want to believe that faith is a good action, so they have to define goodness so that the nonbeliever is incapable of faith unless regenerated first, all in line with their erroneous theology of course). They define goodness so that only a Christian is capable of it. So of course by THAT definition, nonbelievers never do any good actions are incapable of good. You can see these errors clearly in Shawn’s words.

He writes:

“Thank you for the reply. Jesus even agrees that sinful men do “good” in some sense (Luke 6:33).”

Hold it stop there, Jesus does not put qualifications on the good acts of nonbelievers by saying that they only do good in a sense (he says explicitly and without qualification that they do in fact do good at times).

“ Natural (unsaved) men are certainly capable of “good” works if we understand the term “good” properly.”

If we understand good as conformity to the character of God and the Word of God, then an unbeliever who is faithful to his spouse is doing good. An unbeliever who at work deals honestly and fairly with people is doing good. Etc. Etc. Etc.

“Albert Schweitzer denied biblical Christianity, yet left his promising career and home in Europe to suffer with and serve the people of Africa. Other unsaved persons give thousands and millions of dollars to charity. And Yes, many unsaved persons risk their lives or even give their lives to rescue others. These are all “good” from a cultural perspective.”

No, not just from a “cultural perspective”, they are good acts in themselves. Again most of us have no problem recognizing both when good and bad acts are done.

“But in all of these examples, two necessary ingredients of the biblical definition of “good” are missing: faith in Jesus Christ and the motive of doing these things to the glory of the Triune God.”

Now notice here that Shawn is bringing in standards that ***apply to Christians*** and making them universal. His two standards are actions must be done in faith and done to the glory of God. Now obviously nonbelievers are doing their actions in faith in Jesus Christ nor to glorify God. So by THAT definition, the nonbeliever never ever does any good whatsoever.

Shawn now goes into discussing the motives for an action and is assuming that doing things in faith in Jesus Christ and in order to glorify God are what makes an action good:

“A man may run into a burning building to save a person, but if he does not do it for Christ, then why? Honest concern for another human being? To make him feel better about himself (ie. he couldn’t have lived with his own conscience if he didn’t help)? Keeping some cultural cultural standard of “good?” Erroneously thinking that doing something selfless will earn him favor with God? Even depraved men are capable of doing noble things, but biblically speaking, whatever is not done for Christ is done for self on some level. As Paul says in Romans 14:23, whatever is not from faith is sin.”

Now hold it again. That exhortation/command given by Paul in Romans 14:23 in context is intended for whom? Is Paul giving a universal standard for all people, or is he talking to believers? It is true that for believers whatever is not of faith is sin, but this standard is meant for believers not all people. It should also be noted that Romans 14 in context is discussing the issue of Christian liberty: so Paul is not intending to present universal moral principles for all people at all times. And if we look at the issue of Christian liberty we find principles one of which is that what may be right for one believers may not be the same for another believer. So Shawn like many other Calvinists is proof texting and ignoring the context of Romans 14. He wanted to find a verse that could be used to argue that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing good. So he “finds” Romans 14:23 yanks it from its context of a discussion of Christian liberty and presents it as a statement of universal morality. That principle is for believers, in a context of a discussion of believers and is not a universal principle meant for all people at all times. And notice where some mistakenly go with this proof texting from 14:23. If all actions are of faith or are sin, and the nonbeliever is not doing their actions in faith in Jesus Christ, then all of the actions by the nonbeliever are by definition sin. Try pulling that one off with nonbelievers and tell them clearly good actions are sin. Try telling a nonbelieving spouse who is doing some good things in their marriage that it is all sin, and that they are incapable of doing any good until they are saved. Calvinism breaks down quickly in the counseling context, especially where nonbelievers are involved.
The same goes to the exhortation by Paul in 1 Cor. 10:31 to do all things in such a way that you glorify God. That principle was exhorted upon the Corinthian church. And it occurred also in the context of a discussion of Christian liberty (not universal principles that apply to all men at all times). Paul was not saying that he expected nonbelievers to be doing their actions in such a way as to glorify God. He was however exhorting BELIEVERS to be doing so.

So these two standards are biblical standards, that hold true for Christians not all people. The examples could be multiplied. Christians are to pray without ceasing, should we expect nonbelievers to be following this standard?

Another mistake Calvinists make is to conflate good actions that nonbelievers do in general and the attitude that doing good works can save you or justify you before God:

”When it comes to salvation, all of our good works are like filthy rags. That’s why no matter how noble a person might be in their actions, they are still a sinner in need of Christ.”

It is true that our good works cannot justify us before God. But that is not what we are talking about here. We are talking about whether or not nonbelievers can ever do good works. Regarding the error of believing that you can justify yourself by means of your good works, even the apostle Paul when he spoke to the Jewish people who were rejecting Christ and trusting in their keeping of the law for salvation. Paul never says that they were not doing any good or that the keeping of the law was sin. Instead he argued that the keeping of the law does not justify you, only faith in Christ does so.

Norm you wrote:

“This always comes down to defining ‘good.’ I recognize that some people do ‘good’ in hopes of getting a tax break, or appearing before others as magnanimnous, etc.; however, I do not see how a selfish person can save stranger’s life. While I cannot know the motivations of such people, who, when interviewed, e.g., refuse the label “hero,” I still want to know what those motivations are. Some such people say they simply reacted instinctively. Well, sure, the heart is deceitfully wicked; but, instinctively these people have risked their lives? I have heard some say they didn’t give it a second thought. I suspect there is something much deeper here that, with all due respect, your response doesn’t even touch. That is not to say your response isn’t valid. I just think it is incomplete. How? I don’t know. Still pondering. “

His response is incomplete because he makes the error of applying Christian standards on nonbelievers (i.e. that they do everything in faith or it is sin, Rom. 14:23 and 1 Cor 10:31 to do all in such a way as to glorify God). Once we avoid this error we can recognize when a nonbeliever does good, without putting unnecessary qualifications upon it.

Robert

    Norm Miller

    Actually, Robert, I am not confused. I am perplexed. What you articulated, however, reflects my belief regarding the good acts of lost people. Numerous Calvinists have offered Shawn’s explanation to me. And I never have embraced them entirely. As noted, it always lands on who defines good and how. — Norm

      Robert

      And go check out the contexts for the verses they use, primarily Romans 14:23 and 1 Cor. 10:31 and you find that both occur in the context of “in-house discussions” among Christians regarding issues of Christian liberty. So those who try to argue from these texts that they are to apply to nonbelievers are proof texting, they are intentionally or unwittingly ignoring the contexts of these verses. If you ignore contexts you can prove anything. If you interpret these passages properly it is clear they do not apply to nonbelievers but to believers.

      Robert

Robert

Shawn, a consistent Calvinist believes as Calvin did and as the Westminster Confession declares: “he ordaineth whatsoever comes to pass”. This allows for no exceptions, it means that God has ordained everything. If he has ordained everything, then free will as ordinarily understood (i.e. we have a choice between at least two different alternative possibilities, we choose one and not the other, the choice is up to us, the choice is not coerced, we are not controlled by another person who controls our minds, wills, thoughts so that we have to make that particular choice).

If everything is ordained then we never ever have a choice. Whatever choice you make you had to make, it was impossible for you to have done otherwise. If all is ordained then you had to post what you posted as well as every word you used. And the same is true for me. Our every key stroke was ordained, so we really did not have control over what we were doing, we had to do what we were ordained to do. That is Calvinism 101. Unfortunately many professing Calvinists do not even take seriously the logic of their own premises. If all is ordained then we never ever have a choice. Religious liberty if real presupposes that we do in fact have choices. But if we have choices then everything is not ordained.

Shawn wrote:

“I appreciate your post, but you are arguing with a straw man, not what most Calvinists actually contend.”

Not true at all: it is not a straw man to affirm that Calvinists believe as Calvin did, as the Westminster Confession affirms that ALL IS ORDAINED BY GOD. And if all is ordained by God then you never ever have a choice, you don’t have free will. You have to do what you were ordained to do and it is impossible for you to do otherwise.

“Yes, the Calvinist rejects the idea of a “free” will because we believe Scripture teaches that the will of man is either a slave to sin or a slave to righteousness. (Rom 6; Gal 4:3,8; 2 Pet 2:19). The natural will of man is not “free” to do anything but serve self.”

I am not talking about inability or depravity (it is true that the nonbeliever is incapable of having a faith response to the gospel unless he/she experiences the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit who reveals Christ to people, reveals their sinfulness, reveals the way of salvation, etc. etc.).

“ However, we certainly believe that every man is endued with a real will through which we make real choices with real consequences. The voluntary exercise of our will results in real effects for which we are really and truly culpable.”

Voluntariness is not enough. If another person controlled your minds, will, thoughts, actions, you would do what you want to do, which would simultaneously be whatever the other person controlling you controls you to do. That is not free will though that would be doing what you want to do, acting voluntarily. No voluntariness is insufficient. In order to have free will you have to have genuine choices with genuine alternative possibilities available and accessible to you.

“ Yet at the same time, God is sovereign and moving all of human history toward His desired end. His will is “primary” in the sense that He determines what will come to pass, even working through the voluntary wills of saints and sinners alike.”

When you state here that he moves things “in the sense that He determines what will come to pass” do you or don’t you believe that HE ORDAINS EVERYTHING THAT OCCURS. If you do, then free will cannot exist as we never ever have a choice. We only and always do what is ordained for us to do and anything else is impossible. And if we have to do what we do and anything else is impossible then we are not acting freely we are acting by necessity. Which again means we do not have free will.

“ In theological speak, this view is know as compatibilism. It is the both/and position, not the either/or position which you are accusing every Calvinist of holding”

Whether you engage in “theological speak” or not, if all is determined (which is posited by both hard determinists and soft determinists/compatibilists), then we never ever have a choice.

Put another way, if everything is ordained by God, demonstrate how we could ever have a choice between two alternatives and we really could choose either alternative.

You cannot do that, because if all is determined, if all is ordained, then we cannot choose either alternative, we can only do what we were ordained to do. And if that is so, we don’t have a choice. And if we don’t have a choice we don’t have free will.

Robert

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Robert, I appreciate your efforts, and agree with a lot of what you are saying, but you are making some of the same errors Calvinists do by assuming their presuppositions behind certain words and then arguing against them. There is no need to do this.

    “If everything is ordained then we never ever have a choice. Whatever choice you make you had to make, it was impossible for you to have done otherwise.”

    This is actually false. This non-sequitur rests on a modal error and has been refuted by the Molinists a long time ago. Whatever the merits, or lack thereof, regarding the positive case for Molinism, their refutations of invalid claims are sound. It is a given that the logically false can not possibly be theologically true. There is no sense in continuing to make fallacious statements, Calvinist or otherwise.

    I am neither Calvinist nor Molinist, but I believe God ordained everything that comes to pass. The issue is that, without any warrant whatsoever, it is insisted, though implied rather than stated forthrightly, that “ordained” or “decreed” entails “philosophical determinism”. This is false.

    Just like it is insisted that the word “sovereignty” entails “philosophical determinism”.

    There is no good reason to concede words like “ordain”, “decree” or “Sovereign” or “predestination”, or “election” to the Calvinists simply because they have privately insisted meanings and concepts they do not contain and non-Calvinists reject.

    These sort of butchering of the gift of language, coupled with private definition problems, are rarely pointed out. But they must be. In any case, there is nothing about the word “ordain” that entails that philosophical determinism must be a part of that. To “ordain” is simply “to bring about”, “to issue”, etc. That God ordained all that comes to pass, and the mechanics and content of what does come to pass in that issuing are separate issues. Calvinists, however fallaciously, have done a good job in cleverly smashing together that which is distinct and thus can be distinguished.

    “Put another way, if everything is ordained by God, demonstrate how we could ever have a choice between two alternatives and we really could choose either alternative.

    You cannot do that,”

    The great thing about history is that one doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are some good books already written on it, especially from the Molinists. Now, I am not saying buy into everything they assert, but their refutations of what they reject from fallacious Calvinist arguments are good (and are equally good at refuting the Calvinist’s atheist bedfellows like Daniel Dennett and others who affirm naturalistic determinism, whether hard or soft).

    “because if all is determined, if all is ordained, then we cannot choose either alternative, we can only do what we were ordained to do. And if that is so, we don’t have a choice. And if we don’t have a choice we don’t have free will.”

    Again, ordination doesn’t necessitate determinism in the philosophical sense. You are buying into this conflating of apples and oranges. If God ordained that all that comes to pass includes creaturely acts of libertarian freedom, then that’s how it is. God will accomplish all His council, He will do all that He wills, no one questions that. The issue is does this necessitate determinism?

    The answer is a resounding no, and I would further argue that if someone like Sproul is correct in “Chosen by God” (around page 16-17 if I remember correctly), that if determinism was necessary for God to do this, that is a rather weak God. For Sproul, God either meticulously (hard or soft) determined everything by everyone, or God lives in perpetual fear of stray molecules, whatever that means. That, of course, is nonsensical and asinine. The idea that specks of created dust could thwart an almighty God in any capacity if they were free in a libertarian sense is pure unthinking rubbish and has the effect of making God look like a cosmic weenie. For Sproul, its all or nothing, and he doesn’t see the foolishness of his statements and what they seem to imply. Now, Sproul is a wonderful and intelligent brother in the Lord, but also one who also happens to make exceedingly stupid arguments with alarming regularity.

    Again, this notion of determinism is also a separate concept from meticulous providence. I fully affirm and believe in meticulous providence, but there is nothing about meticulous providence that necessitates philosophical determinism regarding creaturely actions. We shouldn’t allow these things to get compounded.

    Anyway, that this present moment has came to pass means that God has ordained it. However, it does not follow that my typing this response was necessary and couldn’t have been otherwise. All it entails is that God ordained this moment to come to pass, including my libertarian freedom in the choice to type this response. God’s ordination and foreknowledge didn’t necessitate it, rather, it simply rendered it certain that it would obtain. We know this by virtue of the universe continuing to exist as I type this response, God’s knowledge in eternity that I would type it, and there being nothing that necessitates my typing this response. Given all those things are true, where then is philosophical determinism? Nowhere.

    What the burden actually is, is to demonstrate:

    1. that God can’t know libertarian acts of freedom prior to creation.

    2. that God’s attribute of omniscience (inherent to His nature) is eternally co-dependent on taking an action (something He didn’t have to do) in eternity and that God could not possibly have known X unless He determined X in His decree rather than simply know X prior to His decree and allowed X to occur as part of the decree since in His wisdom it could serve some purpose, however insignificant or significant, in His creation.

    If someone wants to argue that God is, at one logical point in eternity, as ignorant and uncertain as the Open Theists claim He is perpetually, they can feel free.

    If someone wants to argue that God’s nature changed in that His knowledge logically increased by virtue of it being co-dependent upon His decree in order for His attribute of omniscience to be fully complete, they can feel free.

    I hope they have fun insisting that God is at, logical points in eternity’s past, ignorant, changing, and incomplete though. That’s essentially what it is to do so. Belligerent insistence to the contrary won’t suffice as a counter-argument.

    These problems are why both Calvinism and Molinism fail, because both place God’s free knowledge logically subsequent to the decree, making the decree (an action) necessary to God’s being omniscient (an attribute). and I want no part of it.

    These issues and consequences of the formulations just haven’t been sufficiently addressed or thought through by either the Calvinists or the Molinists as to what they unfortunately imply.

    William Lane Craig makes sport of Calvinists and Open Theists being strange bedfellows in committing the same logical fallacy regarding omniscience and libertarianism, but Molinists fare no better in placing free knowledge subsequent to the decree along with the Calvinists.

    But if it is the case that there is no logical problem with omniscience and libertarian freedom, as the Molinists rightly insist, then it is also the case that no part of God’s nature (the attribute of omniscience) is eternally co-dependent upon God’s own free action to decree all that comes to pass which also could have just as easily been otherwise (unless someone wants to maintain God had to create THIS cosmos and could not have done otherwise…which is seriously erroneous as well).

    Bottom line is that God is not dependent upon either His decree or creation to be fully and unchangingly God. None of this demands “determinism”, hard or soft, in the philosophical sense. Too often, people conflate GOD’S DETERMINATION to accomplish something with philosophical determinism, and it is important to parse all this stuff out and not let words mean private things with foreign concepts added to them and it all end up conflated.

    There is a lot of irony when Calvinists gripe about post-modernism, when they define words privately themselves, and end up compounding error and butchering language in the process (don’t get me started on words like justification, grace, election, atonement, etc…lol).

    I hardly consider myself having a good philosophical mind, since my interests lie elsewhere as a consequence, and yet I can even detect these problems.

    Shawn

    Dear Robert,

    Thank you for quoting the Westminster, but I prefer a Baptist Confession, the 1689 Second London confession which states in article 3, “God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.”

    You continue to want to resolve with Logical argument what is not resolved for us in the text of Scripture. He absolutely ordains everything that comes to pass. To argue otherwise and improperly elevate man’s freedom of the will (as you seem to be doing) logically takes you to the position of open theism. As I noted before, the only Scriptural resolution is a both/and position, not the either/or position you continue to defend. Even though God ordains everything that comes to pass, no violence is offered to man’s will nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away (as the 1689 states). You are indeed taking what you have determined to be logically necessary and forcing it upon the Calvinist — misrepresenting the position and striking your blows at the straw man.

    But let us move from mere logical discourse to the text of Scripture. Who is responsible for the death of Christ? Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish religious authorities, or God?

    Acts 4:27-28
    27 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,
    28 to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. (NAS)

    This is just one of many verses that I would ask you to interpret for me.

    Regarding my earlier conversation with Norm on the nature of goodness, I believe my own lack of clarity led to a poorly represented position. I was principally approaching the subject of what is “good” in terms of justification. I agree with you that unbelievers are certainly capable of moral “good”, and that God himself would call their actions morally “good.” Yet at the same time, I recognize what Jesus said to the rich young ruler in Mark 10:18 – that only God is good. I was attempting to state that no human being is capable of meeting God’s perfect standard of “good” (in the justifying sense) apart from God’s grace in salvation; that when it comes to salvation, all our human works are indeed like filthy rags in the sense that they earn us no standing before a Holy God. Romans 14:23 and 1 Cor 10:31 apply to believer and unbeliever alike. I would further add that even in doing moral “good” the unbeliever is still hostile toward God AND CANNOT PLEASE GOD.
    Rom 8:6-8
    6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace,
    7 because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able {to do so}
    8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
    Heb 11:6
    6 And without faith it is impossible to please {Him} for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and {that} He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

    To quote once again the 1689 Second London confession, article 16: “Works done by unregenerate men, although for the matter of them they may be things which God commands, and of good use both to themselves and others; yet because they proceed not from a heart purified by faith, nor are done in a right manner according to the word, nor to a right end, the glory of God, they are therefore sinful, and cannot please God, nor make a man meet to receive grace from God, and yet their neglect of them is more sinful and displeasing to God. ( 2 Kings 10:30; 1 Kings 21:27, 29; Genesis 4:5; Hebrews 11:4, 6; 1 Corinthians 13:1; Matthew 6:2, 5; Amos 5:21, 22; Romans 9:16; Titus 3:5; Job 21:14, 15; Matthew 25:41-43 )

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Acts 4:27-28
      “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. (NAS)

      ““For truly in this city”

      In Jerusalem.

      “there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint,”

      Jesus was the anointed holy servant whom people were gathered against in Jerusalem.

      “both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,”

      These individuals and people-groups, which is a representation of “everyone” (Jews and Gentiles) were in the city of Jerusalem gathered together against the anointed holy servant Jesus.

      “to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.”

      These individuals and people-groups, which is a representation of “everyone” (Jews and Gentiles) were in the city of Jerusalem gathered together against the anointed holy servant Jesus to…

      STOP!

      Here we find the first issue. We must ask, what does “do whatever” mean, and is the word “do whatever” even the best translation of “??????? ???”? (hope the font shows up)

      Of course, this can be a “yes and no” thing if we understand the context and proper sense of it. Since I understand what it actually means, I don’t mind it, but even so…many people seem perplexed, so it should probably be translated more literally.

      So what does “do” here mean? In the Greek, in this context (and its tense), it means “to cause”, or “to bring forth”. That would be a more helpful translation than “do” to cause less confusion as to what this passage ACTUALLY teaches.

      Next issue. Does the plural here in “whatever” (i.e. as great as/how many) refer to the number of things that occurred which killed Jesus, or to the extent of the things that occurred from the death of Jesus and other things that flow from it which God purposed beforehand?

      The former maximizes the quantity of the various activities among those gathered together, and the latter maximizes the quantity in the extent of things in the thing done (if you are into canonical readings, it is worth noting that Luke uses this sense of the word when referring to God as in Luke 8:39).

      So, what did the conspirators cause/bring forth? They brought forth/caused the “whatever” or “as great as/how many”.

      The proper sense to read this verse is that their “doing” is what kicked off the “whatever” God predestined purpose and hand would do.

      This “whatever”, this “as great as/how many” comes before “this hand (of) you” and “this purpose (of) you”, and thus DOES NOT refer back to those gathered and their activities, but rather, to the “as great as/how many” that occurred according to God’s hand and purpose in what they brought forth/caused.

      A paraphrase to help make this clear:

      “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to cause/bring forth as great as/how many Thy hand (the hand of you) and Thy purpose (the purpose of you) predestined to occur.

      That is the best sense of the text, and we’ll see this more clearly below.

      CONTINUE.

      “Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.”

      So what was this that those wicked men brought forth? The “whatever”, the “as great as/how many” begins with the crucifixion. That, and what was accomplished in that which was what was predestined to take place (or better yet, predetermined…but the word “determined” doesn’t mean nor entail “philosophical determinism.”). Remember, the “whatever/as great as/how many” is plural, so it isn’t simply on thing.

      So, what we DO NOT have is God controlling the brains of two individuals and two people groups, who are meticulously prescripted and preprogrammed to do something God implanted in them to do.

      What we have are individuals who bring forth some things that God had intended, which are 1. that which was to be done to His Son all along, AND 2. the things that flowed from it we find in the next verses.

      DIGRESSION

      We can understand that this isn’t the only passage in Acts that spells all this out to confirm this reading. We ALREADY know this:

      “this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.” (Acts 2:23)

      So there was a predetermined plan, and foreknowledge. Not that I NEEDED to mention this verse to make my case, but it certainly adds to it.

      Foreknowledge didn’t cause Herod, Pilate, Jews, and Gentiles to do what God predetermined to happen. They brought forth what God predetermined and purposed to happen by His hand. He accomplished His purpose, in spite of the Jews using the Gentiles to accomplish their own purpose not knowing a wise God providentially had another purpose in the death of Jesus than they did, and had a purpose in what flows from it in the life and ministry of the apostles as we see in their prayer we are considering.

      What excellent wisdom in God, knowing who would do what when! Therefore, we rejoice, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!'” (Galatians 4:4-6)

      God knew what He was doing sending Jesus when He did, to whom He did, in His foreknowledge and predetermination to carry out His purpose DESPITE the intentions and purposes of those whom conspired against Jesus.

      Where then is determinism?

      Nowhere.

      God is a God of wisdom, purpose, and DETERMINATION (not determinism), and not a cosmic determinator (philosophically speaking).

      God is so powerful, so wise, so intentional, so “determined”, that He can accomplish His purposes IN SPITE of the actions of others, not because He has to implant thoughts, words, and deeds into others for them to do the evil for which He would intend for good.

      It is like the debate over Genesis 50:20 If it said “God intended the evil you intended against me because He intended all this for good…” I’d shut-up and become a determinist. But that isn’t what the text says. It isn’t even what the text implies on a natural reading.

      It says “you intended evil against me…” I.e. the evil was theirs. “…”But God intended it for good…” They had their plans, God had His, and NOWHERE does the text mix their plans with God’s plans. Rather, we see a complete distinction in intentions of the same event between God and the brothers. Wisdom and providence in action, not “determinism” in action.

      BACK ON TRACK

      On the surface, I can see how some, who never read Acts 2:23, or understood the Greek and the grammar, would think that what this passage is saying is that God’s hand directed two individuals and two people groups to do something.

      HOWEVER, that isn’t what it says. What IT DOES SAY is that these two individuals and two people groups brought about that which was God’s hand and predetermined purpose…namely, bringing about that “whatever”, as in the “as great as/how many” in the death of Christ and what flowed from it, done by God’s hand and purpose predestined (predetermined) to occur.

      What is this “whatever”, this “as great as/how many” of God’s hand and predestined purpose? This plural “whatever” brought about by the wicked men according to what God predestined to do by His hand according to His purpose are found in what FOLLOWS in the prayer. The grammar and use of the word “hand” ties it all together.

      1. The death of Christ plus other stuff. (the obvious referent in v. 28 of the hand and purpose predetermined to occur)

      That other stuff “as great as/how many” in the word “whatever” also includes.

      2. boldness that was prayed for and received. (4:29/31)

      3. God’s hand in healing, signs, and wonders to be performed through the name of Jesus. (Acts 4:30, same word used as in 4:48)

      In the Psalms reference that further makes my points in verse 4:25-26 and in the fuller context of it, God is basically laughing at the wicked conspirators for their efforts, because God’s purposes are greater.

      Here in these verses in Acts, what we ONLY find is God’s hand and purposes associated with HIS POSITIVE (good) actions, the death of Christ, boldness, miracles, signs, wonders, etc. which came about by the actions of Pilate, Herod, Jews, and Gentiles. I.e. the “whatever” that was “brought forth” by the actions of wicked men.

      It makes no sense to say that Herod, Pilate, the Jews, and the Gentiles did these things of which are the CONTENT of the “whatever” (as great as/how many) God’s hand and predestined purpose are. The apostles did them by God’s power.

      So we must take it as they “…bring forth/caused as great as/how many things which God’s hand and purpose He predestined to take place.” See? That makes perfect sense.

      It doesn’t have Herod, Pilate, Jews, and Gentiles associated with the GOOD of the death of Christ, and the boldness, and all the healing, signs, and wonders. It only has them associated with the evil in their “to bring forth” of those things, since they had zero to do with the good in the death of Christ, and did no healing, signs, or wonders, or have boldness, etc. That would be absurd and would be the consistent interpretation IF, IF, IF, if we misunderstood what is loaded in the phrase translated “to do whatever” and how it functions in the sentence AND the passage.

      So, given what the text actually says, and therefore makes it easier to see what it actually means, what we DON’T find is God’s hand either behind of, or controlling of the evil in Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the people of Israel. What would be so great about that anyway? Acts 2:23 provides a corrective to this sort of thinking in any case…Even smart Calvinists recognize this, and don’t read into “hand” some kind of puppeteering, since most Calvinists do not like, nor affirm, THAT kind of determinism.

      Since the grammar points us forward, we see those wicked men “do” as in their “bringing forth/causing” the “as great as/how many” in the “whatever” as referring to the death of Christ, and all the benefits flowed to the apostles in the rest of the prayer.

      In other words, we simply find Pilate, Herod, Jews, and Gentiles being the people doing the things they wished to do, in order for God to accomplish what He intends to do.

      Again, where is determinism necessary?

      Nowhere.

      I am sure this won’t put to bed the usage of this verse by Calvinists trying to prove something the Bible never talks about (i.e. philosophical determinism”), but I hope you understand that that idea isn’t in the text, isn’t required of the text, and not even all that clear in the text given what the text associates God’s purposes and plans and hand in which is contrasted with the plans of the people, and God not at all behind their actions, but rather usurps them (as the Psalms makes clear as well) and allows them in their evil to be the cause of which God used to accomplish His how great “whatever” in Christ and the outflow from that for the apostles ministry aided by Him.

      Anyway, apologies for the length, but if there wasn’t a need to counter bad interpretations while giving an interpretation at the same time, this would all be simpler. But I thank the Calvinists for making simple passages convoluted. It allows us to all wrestle with the texts.

      It is like my response to Robert, people automatically import philosophical ideas whenever words like “predestined” or “predetermined” show up, and make the HUGE leap in logic (a non-sequitur actually) that this means philosophical determinism. Apples and oranges. :)

      “But let us move from mere logical discourse to the text of Scripture. Who is responsible for the death of Christ? Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Jewish religious authorities, or God?”

      Interesting question.

      Isaiah says God crushed Him. (Isaiah 53:10)

      John records Jesus saying he lays down his own life. (John 10:17-18)

      Luke records Him giving up His spirit. (Luke 23:46)

      Luke in Acts says the Jews and lawless people killed him. (Acts 2:23)

      Depending on your definition of “is” is (LOL, believe it or not, Clinton had a point with that), and what you imply by “responsible”, one could just as well simply suggest you remove the “or” from your question, include Jesus in the question, and you will have the Biblical answer.

        Johnathan Pritchett

        Let me summarize and make it more simple.

        1. The phrase “to do whatever” poses a problem if we misunderstand it.

        2. The Greek actually says “to cause/to bring about” and what is brought about is “whatever” which is better translated “as great as/how many” and the word is plural.

        3. Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the people of Israel can not be “doing” the “whatever”, because the “whatever” has plural content as it relates to the whole prayer the apostles are offering, which includes boldness, which they receive, and God’s hand in healing, signs, and wonders.

        Two considerations here:

        a. Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel can not be doing the “whatever” they are bringing about in the “whatever” of God’s hand and purpose predestined to occur. They are bringing the “whatever” about by their actions, not doing the “whatever”..

        b. The content of the things they are bringing about, as it relates to God’s hand and predestined purpose has nothing to do with the actions of Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel, since that is what they are bringing forth in their actions against Christ even if they don’t know it.

        4. That “whatever”, as in the plural “as great as/how many” of God’s hand and purpose predetermined to occur that is brought forth by those wicked people has to do with Christ’s death overflowing into boldness, God’s hand (same word in both 4:28 and 4:30) in healing, signs, and wonders as the apostles go about their ministry.

        5. Since all that is the case, taking the actions of Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel as meaning “to do whatever” as it relates to God’s hand and purpose predestined to take place results in those wicked people doing the content attributed to the apostles in the prayer, which is nonsense, and doing the very things they are simply bringing about (for others) at the same time, which is also nonsense. People can’t do things that are being brought forth to happen and be done.

        6.Furthermore, saying God’s hand and purpose predetermined to take place simply refers backwards (rather than forward) also has God controlling the brains in the thoughts, words, and deeds of wicked people to do evil so God can do good. God need not do that, since the wicked are wicked already and will do what they do.

        7. What God’s hand and purpose predestined to occur is directly related to all the GOOD and POSITIVE things in the death of Christ and the overflow of God’s hand in the apostles ministry. THAT is what God predetermined to occur, and God is simply allowing and using the situation of Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel as the ones who bring forth this whatever that God’s hand and purpose predestined to take place. A purpose for which God will laugh and ridicule at those who do this evil because of what He will accomplish through their wickedness (Acts 4:25-26/Psalms 2:1-2) .

        8. We know God’s predetermined plan and foreknowledge are linked in all this according to Acts 2:23, So God predestined His purpose in accordance with His foreknowledge (foreknowledge doesn’t “cause” things), which included the actions of Pilate, Herod, Gentiles, and the peoples of Israel. In which in His infinite wisdom, God arranged it so that they in their evil do that which will bring forth all the good in His hand and purpose He has predestined to occur, all without having to “determine” (in the philosophical determinism sense) their thoughts, words, and deeds, and cause them deterministically to do what they do in order for God’s hand and purpose predestined to occur actually occurs.

        9. A clearer, more accurate and less confusing translation given what the Greek means would be:

        Acts 4:27-31
        “’For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to bring forth as great as [things] Thy *hand* and Thy purpose predestined to occur. And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Your bond-servants may speak Your word with all confidence, while You extend Your *hand* to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Your holy servant Jesus.’ And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak the word of God with boldness.

        Again, this “as great as [things] Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur” would include the good in Jesus’ death, boldness in preaching, God’s hand in healing, signs, and wonders, and that it became so (Acts 4:31) just as it ALREADY was so (Acts 4:13-22) before the prayer was offered. The actions of wicked men bringing forth all this, as described in the prayer, is the evil in their intentions that God usurped for His eternal purpose unfolding in the death and resurrection of Jesus and the ministry of the apostles.

        What this passage does not mean, and seriously CAN NOT mean given what it does mean, is that God predestined Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel in the sense that they are “to do whatever”…whatever that could possibly mean given what this passage actually says in what they bring forth and what that content is in the whatever having to do with the good of God’s actions in Christ’s death and equipping the apostles’ ministry. It would make no sense for those wicked people “to do whatever” in the wrong sense usually bandied about by Calvinists since what that means is 1. they do the “whatever” they are described as bringing forth to happen and be done which is nonsense, and 2. if they did the whatever, that would mean those wicked men are receiving boldness for preaching, and having God’s hand in healing, signs, and wonders…which would be absurd.

Ron F. Hale

(KBH said) Of course you are talking about presbyterianism, not anything that reformed SBC guys believe, they believe that you only baptize those who have repented and believed in Jesus.
(Me) So are you saying that SBC reformed guys have not been influenced by Calvin, Edwards, Hodge, Warfield, Sproul, Frame, Keller ….etc. and etc.?

(KBH said) Ironically, you can argue, in practice, that many non-calvinists are closer to infant baptism, because we keep baptizing kids younger and younger.

(Me) I was baptized at the age of 23 and have tried to be sensitive to young children making professions of faith. Several times, I have asked parents to hold off having their children baptized due to their age. Most of the SBC pastors that I know have also been careful and concerned about the spiritual welfare of younger children. Have there been abuses? Certainly! Maybe this overall conversation is helpful in allowing pastors/ministers check their motivations and do a better job in our Gospel presentations and follow up (before and after baptism).

However, many non-Calvinist pastors are very weary of hearing a continual whine from our brother Paul Washer and his disciples by saying stuff like, “I would not send my child to a VBS in 99.9% of the Baptist churches in America …” And, the same ole droning on and on about how bad the SBC is.
While at the same time hearing the Sproulites saying stuff like, “One of the most dramatic moments in my life for the shaping of my theology took place in a seminary classroom. One of my professors sent to the blackboard and wrote these words in bold letters: “Regeneration Precedes Faith.”

Sproul goes on to say, “These words were a shock to my system. I had entered seminary believing that the key work of man to effect rebirth was faith. I thought that we first had to believe in Christ in order to be born again.”

Brother KBH … most of the SBC pastors that I know believe the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation (period). They preach repentance (a turning from) and they preach that the Holy Spirit does the convicting and the sinner is saved (born again/regenerated) when they by simple faith …turn to a living resurrected Lord by calling on Him to be saved.

We have some major differences – men like Dr. Gaines understands these differences and is willing to talk about them openly and honestly.

    Norm Miller

    Ron: I must add my amen to what you have said. No one is denying abuses Re: the Sinner’s Prayer. All agree there have been abuses. However, I have reflected on my near-5 decades as a believer, and I cannot recall even once when a pastor or evangelist ever said, “ALL you have to do is pray this prayer and you are saved.” I have never in my life heard those words or words approximating that error.
    What I have heard is such an invitation to be heavily qualified with remarks like, “If you sense God is at work in your heart and want to pray to him,” or, “If you agree that you are a sinner and are in need of repentance,” or, “You have a sense of guilt and want to repent of your sins and have God cleanse your heart,” or other such phraseology. And, those comments always have been followed by a public appeal to either come forward and talk with a deacon or trained counselor or the pastor. And even after that, when the invitation time was closed, an evangelist or pastor would encourage those who prayed the prayer or raised their hands or whatever to let the pastor or a Sunday school teacher or some other church leader know.
    I am like so many others in that I am sick and tired of being broad-brushed by the errors of a few, and told that the way I and millions of others have been saved was somehow flawed b/c the Sinner’s Prayer isn’t biblical. To that I say a hearty “Hogwash!”
    Frankly, to-date, I suspect there have been more complaints about the Sinner’s Prayer than there have been abuses of it. And it’s high time such detractors got off this hobby horse as an excuse for why SBC churches are declining. If those who are complaining about the sinner’s prayer would spend the same amount of time proclaiming the Gospel to lost sinners, then I suspect the SBC’s decline may see a change of direction.
    I would point every one of us to the blog post of a few days ago regarding the book, Evangelistic effectiveness. The stats prove that what causes churches to grow (not sheep-swapping, but conversions and baptisms) is intentional evangelistic emphases. Nowhere did I read in the book I reviewed that a certain strain of theology or the avoidance of a certain prayer were factors in church growth.
    I also want to appeal again to my Calvinistic brothers and urge them to consistently support the brand of God’s sovereignty they claim. The condemned are going to hell regardless of any prayer, or so Calvinists believe. And to the fatalists in the Calvinist camp I say that those who may have insincerely prayed the Sinner’s Prayer and have become church problems, was that not ordained by God? — Norm

      Mary S.

      Doesn’t it seem more likely that SBC churches are declining because most of them are designed for old people?? Most SBC churches I know play songs on an organ or Piano and sing them the same way they were sung at Billy Graham crusades in 1950. Sorry, but that attracts people who were born before 1950 and not young generation people today. Unless the SBC “updates”, it will likely continue its decline. Because whether one is a non-beliver 20-year-old or a born-again 20-year-old, neither wants to go to a church designed for their Grandma. And that is the SBC byandlarge I’m afraid.

        Norm Miller

        For the last 20 years or so I have worshiped in SBC churches across this nation. I honestly cannot recall the last time I heard an organ in a church service. Surely, it has been more than 20 years ago (unless at a funeral). — Norm

          Lydia

          “For the last 20 years or so I have worshiped in SBC churches across this nation. I honestly cannot recall the last time I heard an organ in a church service. Surely, it has been more than 20 years ago (unless at a funeral). —”

          Me too, Norm. In fact, I have often wondered if there are organ graveyards across the South. If Mary can find me a pipe organ in an SBC church, she will get extra points.

          Reminder of my childhood-me mom playing Handel on a grand pipe organ.

            Lydia

            “Unless the SBC “updates”, it will likely continue its decline. Because whether one is a non-beliver 20-year-old or a born-again 20-year-old, neither wants to go to a church designed for their Grandma.”

            Mary, I thought we were looking for authenticity. Grandma’s love Jesus, too, and have lots of wisdom. I praise God for the seniors in my church they bring a richness to the body for my children. In fact, the kids adopt a senior class and they study together and socialize together often. It is really cool. It is true Grandma’s would rather sing Fanny Crosby but they have been known to rock out a tiny bit when the Youth perform. After all, when it is someone you know well and love, it makes all the difference in what you are willing to tolerate for both sides.

            It is all about relationship.

            Mary S.

            I don’t mind it. I enjoy the piano and hymns have more theological meat on the bones, but I see young peoples’ eyes glazing over. They want keyboards, modern worship songs, relaxed clothing, not all the old-timer traditions.

            Lydia

            but I see young peoples’ eyes glazing over. They want keyboards, modern worship songs, relaxed clothing, not all the old-timer traditions”

            Mary, Those same young get a tiny bit older and get sick of that and start craving something like a traditional liturgical type church. That is the problem with chasing relevance. It never ends. We should have learned our lesson watching the seeker megas throughout the 90’s.

            . It is a never ending parade of Madison Ave/Disney relevance to attract 20 somethings and young families. The megas spend millions trying to stay relevant.

            Besides, the old people, on average, have the money and still believe in tithing. :o)

randallcofield

A BIBLICAL MODEL FOR EFFECTIVE EVANGELISM

On the day of Pentecost, after Peter had preached a Christ-centered, sin-confronting message, we find the following response:

Acts 2:37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?”

Clearly these individuals were being powerfully convicted of sin by the Holy Spirit, and their question looms large in this current discussion: “Brothers, what shall we do??!!” With this question hanging in the air, pregnant with expectation…what would Peter do? How would he respond to their question? What would Peter “lead” them to do?

Watch carefully:

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent!”…..

Of all the directions Peter could have taken them at that moment, he commands them to repent…. Was Peter somehow unaware of the golden opportunity sitting right in front of him? Was he somehow unaware of how to lead them to close with Christ?

Nay.

After assuring them that the promise of salvation belonged to all whom “the Lord our God calls to himself” (vs. 39), Peter continues to “bear witness” to them and “exhort them” with “many other words” (vs. 40).

Notice the astounding results:

Acts 2:41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Who was baptized? Was it those whom Peter led in the “Sinner’s Prayer”? No. The ones baptized were the ones who “gladly received his word”…after he had commanded them to repent and had born witness and exhorted them with many other words. Three thousand of ‘em.

How do we know these souls were genuinely converted? How may we know that Peter’s method of evangelism was effective?

Acts 2:42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Sounds like they got the “real thing,” doesn’t it?

Brothers, this is the most productive and effective single account of evangelism in all of scripture. There is no evidence that Peter lead these seekers in a “Sinner’s Prayer.”

He did command them to repent and he witnessed of Christ and exhorted them with “many words.”

Is Peter’s method of evangelism not sufficient in the SBC?

    Norm Miller

    Robert: I note you did not cite all of Acts 2.38. You noted the word repent, but if you are going to use this verse as a model for biblical evangelism, ought’n you include the command to be baptized so one’s sins may be remitted? — Norm

      randallcofield

      Norm,

      I didn’t see it as pertinent to my point as we generally don’t baptize until after one is converted. :-)

      I did find you statement intriguing though. When you say “the command to be baptized so one’s sins may be remitted”…what do you mean by that?

        Norm Miller

        My point is your selective use of a partial verse. I am not a Campbellite.
        Granted, Pentecost provides an example, but it is one of many the New Testament records, e.g., what did Jesus tell the rich young ruler on how to inherit eternal life? — Norm

        randallcofield

        Norm,

        The way you phrased it seemed to indicate that baptism is the cause of sins being remitted.

        Am I reading you wrongly?

          Norm Miller

          Again, Randall, my point was your selective use of a partial verse to make your point — and that smacked of proof-texting to me. Further, you were appealing to a segment of one verse in an apparent attempt to controvert the Sinner’s Prayer, thus saying that Peter and the people at Pentecost provided a biblical model of attaining salvation on the singular act of repentance. I’m saying it is not the only model, as there are many. — Norm

volfan007

Norm,

Excellent points. You and Ron explain where many of us, out here, are at, and have been at, for years. Dealing with this extreme of doctrine(Aggressive Calvinism) is tiring and concerning. And, you both…along with Steve Gaines….have pointed out exactly why it is so concerning. Thanks for standing on the truth. Yall encourage me.

David

Adam Davis

My position is I don’t believe the Sinner’s Prayer is necessary for salvation. At the same time, I don’t think anything is inherently wrong with the “Sinner’s Prayer.” My concerns are two fold and they have to deal with the use of the prayer.

First, I believe we tend to rush prematurely to the prayer rather than letting the Holy Spirit do His work through the gospel. How often have we seen when sharing the Gospel that a person is agreeing with you almost simply for the purpose of getting the conversation over more quickly? They are hearing you, but they are not hearing you. I believe this happens so often, especially when cold knocking on people’s doors. It is in these situations where I believe the Gospel has been sown and the Sinner’s Prayer may be inappropriate to use. On the other hand, we have seen people when sharing the Gospel as if the scales have fallen from the person’s eyes and he/she sees for the first time the beauty of Christ. It is at that moment that I believe the sinner’s prayer is appropriate. I have no issue with the prayer as long as the person has truly come to grips with his/her sinfulness and Christ’s work in and through the crucifixion and His resurrection.

Second, the Sinner’s Prayer has been misused in giving people assurance of their salvation. I remember people asking me when I doubted my salvation if I prayed “The Prayer.” When I would respond in the affirmative, they would reassure me of my salvation. So what did I do when people came to me doubting their salvation? I would point them back to a time and place and whether they prayed The Prayer. I would give them assurance of their salvation based upon them praying the prayer…and meaning it. In doing so, did I give people a false security of their salvation? Am i pointing people and their faith to a prayer or to Christ? I do not believe my case is an anomaly. When I provide a baptism class for parents of children, many of them express this happening in their lives as well.

These are my concerns with the Sinner’s Prayer. With that said, I am looking forward to attending the John 3:16 conference tomorrow and Friday. My prayer is that we will be challenged and yet unified around the Gospel of Jesus Christ…despite where we land on soteriological line.

    Norm Miller

    Thx for your comments, Adam. I accept them as representative of yourself and others. I also agree that the Sinner’s Prayer is not needed for salvation to happen. But Romans 10.9 requires some sort of utterance for salvation to come. While that confession does not have to be a printed prayer from the back of a tract, neither can such a printed prayer be excluded as evidence of obedience to Rom. 10.9.
    Thx again, and I hope we can meet at Jn. 3.16. — Norm

    Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

    Norm, just pressing you a bit. If Roman 10:9 means that some sort of utterance is required for salvation to come, are our mute neighbors barred from heaven?

      Norm Miller

      Clever, Ben. May I answer that w/a question? What exception will God make for mutes, and why?

brad whitt

Ok, I have to admit it. I’ve been watching this discussion for a while and following the comments in this thread, and I still don’t get it. It seems that Dr. John MacArthur is correct when he stated just this week that many of those who claim to be Reformed theologically are practically/pragmatically Arminian. If salvation is determined/predestined before creation was created, regeneration comes before repentance/faith and God’s grace is irresistible, then why spend all your time arguing against something that according to your belief set doesn’t change anything? What does it matter if somebody has anxiety over their salvation if it isn’t possible for them to possess it, or if they are going to be saved anyway. It seems that there must be another motive (money, speaking opportunities, downplaying evangelistic growth in other churches, etc) or your theology and faith isn’t full grown yet. Just a thought.

    Norm Miller

    Just a thought, Brad, a mere thought?
    No Sir!
    A homerun of the highest order.
    Not only have you spoken directly to the matter, you have generally indicated the significant and important difference between systematic and biblical theology.
    “Systems” require a peg for every hole; and if you have a peg and no hole, then make a hole.
    Biblical theology is just that, no more or less. Where “tensions” exist, the biblicist affirms that he is simply unable, with his pea-sized, fallen, finite brain, to understand what God is doing in his infinite, eternal omniscience.
    Thank you. — Norm

    Adam Davis

    “Why spend all your time arguing against something that according to your belief set doesn’t change anything?”

    Because the Gospel is worth it. Because the Bible takes salvation seriously. Because Christ commands it. These are just a few.

Robert

Hello Brad,

You wrote:

“It seems that Dr. John MacArthur is correct when he stated just this week that many of those who claim to be Reformed theologically are practically/pragmatically Arminian.”

MacArthur is correct, but even he falls prey to this common reality among Calvinists. They preach and teach and argue against the reality of free will, but watch them and their actions and their words closely and you see they still live as if free will is a daily reality. They talk about having choices and making the right choices when considering alternative possibilities just like the rest of us. But in acting in this way they betray their professed belief that God has ordained everything. Because if God has in fact ordained everything then we never ever have a choice, we only and always do what we were ordained to do. But none of them lives as if that is true. And they can’t because they find themselves in the real world, this real world in which God created us with the capacity to have and make our own choices.

A particular place where you will see these professing Calvinists display their inconsistency (between their espoused theological beliefs and their actual practices) is when it comes to arguing for points This is true because when you argue, when you seek to persuade another person to change their view/position/stance/belief, you presuppose that they can do so. You presuppose that they have free will, that up until this time they have chosen to hold to X, but that they have the ability, if they so choose, to reject X and instead choose to hold to Y. Everyone presupposes this when they seek to persuade. Which again shows that everyone actually lives as if free will is real and present.

Brad you wrote:

“If salvation is determined/predestined before creation was created, regeneration comes before repentance/faith and God’s grace is irresistible, then why spend all your time arguing against something that according to your belief set doesn’t change anything?”

Actually it goes even deeper than that. If all is ordained, then whatever is happening is exactly what God wants to be happening in every detail. If some are using the sinners prayer and even abusing it, then God ordained them to do so (if Calvinism is true and everything is ordained). If some are advocating the sinners prayer and doing so without the abuses then God ordained that. Doesn’t’ matter what position you hold or don’t hold, if all is ordained we all are believing and doing exactly what we were ordained to believe and to do. Which makes attempts at persuading the other side a bit foolish as that would mean that God is ordaining for one to argue with another when God has ordained what the other believes and the other cannot do otherwise than what God ordained them to believe!

“What does it matter if somebody has anxiety over their salvation if it isn’t possible for them to possess it, or if they are going to be saved anyway.”

And if someone has “anxiety over their salvation” if all is ordained then God ordained that as well. Put another way, whatever God ordains has to happen and has to happen exactly as it happens. So why seek to persuade others if all is ordained? Oh, but even their seeking to persuade others is ordained as well. So we keep coming back to the loop of ordination, everything just goes around and around and around on this loop, if Calvinism is true.

“ It seems that there must be another motive (money, speaking opportunities, downplaying evangelistic growth in other churches, etc) or your theology and faith isn’t full grown yet. Just a thought.”

I agree with you here, other motives are present. One motive for the Calvinists is that those who consider themselves “monergists” want salvation to be something totally done by God with us not being involved in it in any way, shape, or form. If that is what you want to believe, then anything that smacks in any way of man being involved in salvation has to be attacked, destroyed and eliminated. Well the sinners prayer fits as this kind of target quite well. Hence it must be attacked, destroyed and eliminated, for the sake of preserving monergism. So it is monergistic theology that drives this attack against the sinner’s prayer.

If they were not so intent on attacking, destroying and eliminating it, they could do what most of have done: practice it without the abuses. Practiced without the abuses there should be no problem, right? No, not if you are a mongergist. Monergists are on a “seek and destroy mission” when it comes to free will as well. Can’t have free will, cause then we can’t keep things monergistic. So the motive is there, it is a motive to defend and maintain monergism. That is the primary motive, understand that and you see why they have to attack, destroy and eliminate certain realities, beliefs, ideas, etc. anything that goes against their monergistic theology. The comical and ironic thing is that they engage in arguments attempting to persuade others to hold their thinking: but persuasion presupposes the reality of free will !!

Robert

    lydiasellerofpurple

    “The comical and ironic thing is that they engage in arguments attempting to persuade others to hold their thinking: but persuasion presupposes the reality of free will !!”

    Bingo. What did Luther say about “reason”? :o) Your entire comment elucidates the black hole of Reformed thinking. It looks good on paper and works well if you are powerful enough to punish those who question but does not work so well in basic every day application.

volfan007

Brad,

You are exactly correct….I think you’ve hit the nail squarely on top of the head. with your comment above.

David

Adam Davis

Robert,
In the words of Inigo Montoya…”You keep using that word (Free Will). I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Jack Woodard

It seems to me from the “Parable of the Marriage Feast” in Luke 22:1-14 that we are sent to share the Gospel to ALL and the Lord Chooses to save all who are willing to respond to the call and willing to respond according to the terms of the Gospel. Simply put, the Chosen are those who are willing to be saved and willing to be saved God’s way, the way of the Cross.

    Jack Woodard

    I realize my interpretation of the Parable of the Marriage Feast makes salvation so simple that even a little child could understand it, but isn’t that what Jesus says the Gospel is to be, isn’t that the simplicity that is in Christ?

    Mary S.

    Jack Woodard writes “the Chosen are those who are willing to be saved”

    Simple yes, but biblical? Doubtful. Your definition of “Chosen” means “to choose yourself”. But Jesus says “You did not choose me, but I chose you.” Jesus makes it so simple a little child can understand it!

      Jack Woodard

      Mary, those whom Jesus chooses, choose to choose Him, do they not?

        Jack Woodard

        Mary, Scripture reference should have been “Matthew 22:1-14”, but my interpretation of Chosen from the parable is the lost who chose to respond to Jesus’ call to salvation and do soon His terms are those whom Jesus chooses to save.

    Jack Woodard

    The Scripture reference should have been Matthew 22:1-14 and not Luke 22:1-14.

volfan007

I think some people need to remember the Parable of the Soils and the Sower, in order to understand why there are false professions of faith. Maybe they need to also read accounts of people like Simon the Sorcerer to understand better about people, who make a profession of faith, but then fall away later. I mean, Jesus told us that there would be people, who would make false professions of faith. And, the Early Church had people in it, who made false professions of faith.

So, before people come down on the SBC and the Sinners Prayer as being the reason for lack of faithful members, maybe we need to remember what the Bible teaches about this matter….

But, I do say that I want to agree that there are some people, out there, who are preaching EASY BELIEVISM. And, preaching this easy believism is leading people astray….they’re not surrendering their hearts to Jesus….they’re just saying a prayer and joining a Church, and that’s it. They’re wanting their ticket to Heaven, but they’re really not putting their faith in Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. But, easy believism and the sinners prayer are 2 different things. The problem is in the counseling…not in helping people to call on the Lord.

Shawn

Robert,

Adam is right. Furthermore, you continue to misrepresent the Calvinist position and yet still call it Calvinism. “Free Will” seems to be your god. On what level do you hold to God’s sovereignty, if at all?

Phil W

You guys make me tired. I think I will better spend my time by going out into the highways and hedges to find some repentant sinners that I might lead in sinner’s prayer bringing about a genuine salvation experience, like a pastor (SBC) led me in over 40 years ago. While you argue bringing about no change of heart or mind that I can see, thousands upon thousands are dying and going to a hell that God is not willing one single one ot them should enter. Men let’s be wise and go win some souls to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

wingedfooted1

John 15:16….
“Ye have not chosen me, but I have CHOSEN you, and ORDAINED you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain….”

Mark 3:14….
“And he ORDAINED twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach…”

Luke 6:13….
“And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he CHOSE twelve, whom also he named apostles…”

John 6:70….
“Jesus answered them, ‘Have not I CHOSEN you twelve, and one of you is a devil?’”

Mary,

I believe when you look into the context of John 15:16 we see that Jesus was speaking to His apostles (who happened also to be disciples), though Judas was not present at this particular moment. These “disciples” whom Jesus had chosen and ordained were His apostles of which Judas was one. So those in John 15:16 were not people unconditionally chosen for salvation, but rather disciples who had been chosen and ordained by Christ to be His apostles.

God bless

Jack Woodard

It is a strange doctrine that leads a person to criticize and even attack a Preacher for preaching John 3:16.

    wingedfooted1

    Blessings, Jack.

    Here is how calvinist Vincent Cheung puts it…….

    “Christians would often say to someone, ‘God has a wonderful plan for your life’. And they mean that the person could either go along with God’s plan, or reject God’s goodness and pursue a path of destruction. This kind of thinking is entirely hostile to the Bible, and entails a denial of the nature of God and the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul insists in this same letter to the Romans that God creates some individuals for salvation, to receive his mercy and kindness, and he creates all other individuals for damnation, to suffer everlasting torment in hell. God’s decision as to whom to save or damn is not based on the kind of people we are; rather, we are the kind of people that we are because of God’s decision. So we must not indiscriminately say to someone, ‘God has a wonderful plan for your life’. No, if God has created you for damnation, then he has a terrible plan for your life. Do not feel relief when someone tells you, ‘Everything will turn out fine’. No, everything will turn out wrong for you. Your future is filled with fear and confusion, and with extreme pain that will never end. And even the little pleasures that you enjoy in this life are designed to dull your conscience and to increase your trespasses, so that your punishment may be multiplied. As long as you remain ignorant of or resistant to the message of Jesus Christ, we have reason to think that you are numbered among the damned. But if God gives you faith, then you can become a Christian.”

    It appears to me that calvinism is the worst news possible.

      Mary S.

      You misrepresent Calvinism wingedfooted1. Vincent Cheung is rejected by every Calvinist I have ever met. He is a hyperCalvinist rejected by 5-point Calvinists.

Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

I personally stood and spoke against the Sinner’s Prayer resolution that Steve Gaines submitted to our Tennessee Baptist Convention last fall. First, it was verbatim the resolution Eric Hankins submitted to the Southern Baptist Convention last summer, which was greatly amended by the resolutions committee before being brought to the floor and passing.

Second, in speaking for the resolution, Dr Gaines made it sound as if this is a Calvinist/non-Calvinist issue. It is not in my opinion. Rather, it is a what-must-I-do-to-be-saved issue. Those who champion the sinner’s prayer are usually softer on repentance and lordship. The Bible declares that repentance from sin and faith in Jesus go hand in hand. Furthermore, if Jesus is not your Lord, He is not your Savior. Both our more Arminian Southern Baptist brothers and our more Calvinistic Southern Baptist brothers should be wary of the easy believism usually associated with the sinners prayer

Finally, the resolution’s greatest weakness is it begins to sacramentalize the sinner’s prayer. As Hankins originally wrote and Gaines submitted to the TBC, the sinner’s prayer “is the biblical means by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life.” In other words, you can’t be saved apart from this outward work of the sinner’s prayer if it is the exclusive biblical means of becoming saved. As I said at the convention, this is faith in the sinner’s prayer instead of faith in Jesus.

    Norm Miller

    Thank the Lord for the privilege to dissent, Ben.
    Apparently, however, the folks in Tenn. and four other states are not nearly as Calvinistic as the SBC Resolutions Committee in NOLA was, as the Sinners Prayer resolution passed overwhelmingly in those states. I believe it passed verbatim in all but Texas, where it was part of a resolution on evangelism. Also, I think if one were to research that resolutions committee, one would discover some ties to SBTS. The committee may not have been an accurate representation of the SBC at large where, as a LW survey showed 60% have problems w/ encroaching Calvinism in the SBC.
    I suspect that, if the resolutions committee in NOLA had been more accurately and fairly representative of the SBC constituency it was to have represented, the Dr. Hankin’s resolution on the Sinner’s Prayer would have been reported out in its original form. — Norm

Steve Gaines

Ben,

You misrepresented what Eric’s resolution said by not giving the entire sentence.

You said, “As Hankins originally wrote and Gaines submitted to the TBC, the sinner’s prayer ‘is the biblical means by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life.’ In other words, you can’t be saved apart from this outward work of the sinner’s prayer if it is the exclusive biblical means of becoming saved.”

But His resolution actually said: “While there is no one uniform wording found in Scripture or in the churches for a “Sinner’s Prayer,” the prayer of repentance and faith, acknowledging salvation through Christ alone and expressing complete surrender to His Lordship, is the biblical means by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life (Luke 18:9-14, 23:39-43).”

Eric’s resolution did not say, “the sinner’s prayer “is the biblical means…” It said, “the prayer of repentance and faith…is the biblical means…” You misrepresented Eric’s statement.

His resolution also went on to deny what you said about it being “the exclusive biblical means of salvation.” His resolution denied that by saying, “It is biblically appropriate to help a sinner in calling on the Lord for salvation and to speak of Christ’s response to such a prayer as “entering a sinner’s heart and life” (John 14:23; Acts 2:37-40; 16:29-30; Romans 10:11-17; Ephesians 3:17); and WHEREAS, A “Sinner’s Prayer” is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation and should never be manipulatively employed or utilized apart from a clear articulation of the Gospel (Matthew 6:7, 15:7-9; 28:18-20); now, therefore, be it RESOLVED, That the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in New Orleans, commend the use of a “Sinner’s Prayer” as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church.”

That last sentence is a far cry from what you said: “The exclusive biblical means of becoming saved.” Please do not misrepresent Eric’s resolution like that.

Steve Gaines

    Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

    Steve,

    Did Eric not equate “the prayer of repentance and faith” with the “Sinner’s Prayer”?

    I would say he most certainly did. Therefore, I did not misrepresent him.

    Furthermore, you highlight the inconsistency in the resolution. Since Eric equated “the prayer of repentance and faith” with the “Sinner’s Prayer” and claimed that it “is THE BIBLICAL MEANS by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life” (uppercase added by me), it is inconsistent to then just commend it “as a biblically sound and spiritually significant component of the evangelistic task of the church.” If it’s THE BIBLICAL MEANS UNTO SALVATION, then everybody should use it or else nobody will be saved.

      Johnathan Pritchett

      Ben,

      That is a bit of a pedantic haggle. They are only equated in the sense that the “Sinner’s Prayer” is a form of a “prayer of repentance and faith.”

      In that sense, it is the Biblical means in that it is a form that accounts for all the Biblical means. As I read it, I saw nothing that demands more than this notion, and you simply insisting to the contrary doesn’t put there what isn’t there.

      What you would say he certainly did and what he actually did are two different things. Best to keep them separate. Given that, all that you wrote which follows is erroneous in what you think it ultimately entails.

Robert

I always appreciate when wingfooted1 shares quotes from Vincent Cheung.

Because if you want pure undiluted calvinism, the kind of “spirit” that Calvin himself was peddling, just take a drink from Cheung’s writings. Cheung really tells it like it is, straight and accurate talk of what calvinism entails.

After sharing the Cheung quote wingfooted1 concluded:

“It appears to me that calvinism is the worst news possible.”

Not only is this the worst news possible, it is the worst news possible for the****majority of the human race****.

According to the Calvinists the “reprobates” are created for the purpose of revealing the wrath of God against sin. So God reprobated billions of people. He chose them for damnation and preplanned their every thought, belief, choice, movement, action and controlled their minds and wills (that is their conception of sovereignty) to ensure that everything goes exactly as preplanned. So billions of human persons were damned from eternity, never had or will have any chance to be saved.

As one person characterized it:

“That is just the collateral damage that is connected with preplanning who will be saved and who will be lost. Besides if you are lucky enough to be elect who cares about these reprobates anyway, God certainly doesn’t! He hates them so why should you lose any sleep over them?”

This is chilling stuff and it is amazing that professing believers have imbibed these spirits that Calvin was so zealous to sell the church. Better we reject this strong drink and stay sober and watchful against this kind of error and hold to what the Bible presents instead.

Robert

    Mary S.

    Robert,
    Vincent Cheung is rejected by Calvinists for being a hyperCalvinist, so he does not represent Calvinism or Calvinists.

    This is just another false attack. It is no different than quoting Pelagius and applying it to Traditionalists. Cheung does not accurately represent Calvinists and Pelagius does not accurately represent you.

      Robert

      Mary S. wrote:

      “Vincent Cheung is rejected by Calvinists for being a hyperCalvinist, so he does not represent Calvinism or Calvinists.”

      This is not accurate at all. Cheung is not a “hyperCalvinist”. That is just a term that some Calvinists such as yourself throw around to distance yourself from the pure unvarnished variety of Calvinism that CALVIN HIMSELF PROMOTED.

      You can get quotes from Cheung and line them up with quotes from Calvin and they say exactly the same things regarding election and reprobation.

      So if you want to attack Cheung as “hypercalvinist” then you have to, in order to be consistent attack Calvin as well.

      And if you want to be consistent, since Cheung holds the identical ideas as Calvin when it comes to election and reprobation, since you claim that Cheung: “does not represent Calvinism or Calvinists” then NEITHER DOES JOHN CALVIN.

      It is a major inconsistency on the part of Calvinists such as yourself who attack Cheung as “hypercalvinist” but do not do so with John Calvin himself. They hold the same beliefs so if you attack one you simultaneously attack the other as well. Likewise if Calvin represents Calvinism then so does Cheung as both promote the same ideas.
      The fact that you are trying to evade the clear implications of Calvinism presented by both Cheung and Calvin suggests that you have read neither sufficiently and just want to defend and protect your Calvinism.

      “This is just another false attack. It is no different than quoting Pelagius and applying it to Traditionalists. Cheung does not accurately represent Calvinists and Pelagius does not accurately represent you.”

      Not true at all. Pelagius and Traditionalists disagree and do not hold the same beliefs. So to claim that Traditionalists are Pelagian is false and a misrepresentation.

      On the other hand, Cheung does represent consistent Calvinism as he holds the same ideas that Calvin held.

      Robert

        Mary S.

        Cheung has no problem calling God the author of sin. All Calvinists reject that idea, including John Calvin. The Westminister Confession rejects that God is the author of sin, so Cheung is clearly outside of Calvinistic orthodoxy.

Robert

Hello Johnathan,

“Robert, I appreciate your efforts, and agree with a lot of what you are saying, but you are making some of the same errors Calvinists do by assuming their presuppositions behind certain words and then arguing against them. There is no need to do this.”

Actually I am taking their premises and showing problems with their view. Sometimes you have to stand in the shoes of someone else to effectively show the problems with their views. Judging by your comments it appears we hold a lot in common.

You quoted me as saying:

“If everything is ordained then we never ever have a choice. Whatever choice you make you had to make, it was impossible for you to have done otherwise.”

And responded:

“This is actually false. This non-sequitur rests on a modal error and has been refuted by the Molinists a long time ago. Whatever the merits, or lack thereof, regarding the positive case for Molinism, their refutations of invalid claims are sound. It is a given that the logically false can not possibly be theologically true.
There is no sense in continuing to make fallacious statements, Calvinist or otherwise.”

I am familiar with the “modal error” you refer to here. But I am not talking about the claim that what was foreknown must occur of necessity. I am instead talking about the Calvinist controlling premise that God has ordained all things. It is not false **according to their premises**. If everything is ordained as Calvinists believe, coupled with their belief that God controls everything directly, continuously and completely, then everything must occur exactly as it does. If this is true (and it is true under their premises) then we never ever have a choice. That is not my view that is theirs. I am going by their conception not mine.

“I am neither Calvinist nor Molinist, but I believe God ordained everything that comes to pass. The issue is that, without any warrant whatsoever, it is insisted, though implied rather than stated forthrightly, that “ordained” or “decreed” entails “philosophical determinism”. This is false.”

Calvinism involves determinism, so from their thinking, God ordaining everything involves “philosophical determinism” (i.e. soft determinism/compatibilism, hence self aware Calvinist scholars like John Feinberg openly call themselves compatibilists/soft determinists, I can provide the quotes if you don’t believe me). ). In their thinking when something is “ordained” by God it is fixed it is preplanned and it cannot not happen exactly as preplanned. It also does not involve libertarian freedom as they deny that LFW exists.

You are correct that God can ordain something without “philosophical determinism” being involved. But I am not talking about a non-Calvinist perspective but about the Calvinist perspective which does involve determinism.

Personally I believe that God can and does sometimes “ordain” events by means of his foreknowledge of what people will in fact choose to do. If they are acting freely they could and should have done otherwise, yet God via his foreknowledge knows what they will in fact choose to do. So take the best example of this the crucifixion of Jesus. God knew what the responses would be to Jesus incarnation. He knew that if Jesus came and did such and such and said such and such, then certain people would freely respond by plotting for his crucifixion and then Jesus being actually crucified. God knew they could have done otherwise, but he knew via his foreknowledge that they would in fact choose to plot the crucifixion and make the choices that would result in the crucifixion. So the crucifixion was ordained by God and involved freely made human choices.

“Just like it is insisted that the word “sovereignty” entails “philosophical determinism”. “

Correct, Calvinists define sovereignty as God ordaining all events and controlling all events to ensure all events occur exactly as preplanned. But the biblical definition of sovereignty does not include all of this: it is simply the notion that God does as He pleases in any and all situations and that when He “puts his foot down” no one prevents him from doing what He wants to do.

“There is no good reason to concede words like “ordain”, “decree” or “Sovereign” or “predestination”, or “election” to the Calvinists simply because they have privately insisted meanings and concepts they do not contain and non-Calvinists reject.”

Agreed which is why it is so important to know how people are defining their terms.

“But they must be. In any case, there is nothing about the word “ordain” that entails that philosophical determinism must be a part of that.”

True as I already shared I believe that God and does sometimes ordain events via freely made choices.

“To “ordain” is simply “to bring about”, “to issue”, etc.”

If that is all that it means then why is there so much argument regarding God “ordaining” things??? :-)

People (especially Calvinists) must be putting more into that word then what you claim that it means.

“That God ordained all that comes to pass, and the mechanics and content of what does come to pass in that issuing are separate issues.”

I asked you earlier what you mean by the word “ordain”. So now I ask what do you mean by the words “God ordained all that comes to pass”?

You quoted me as saying:

“Put another way, if everything is ordained by God, demonstrate how we could ever have a choice between two alternatives and we really could choose either alternative.

You cannot do that,”

And again I was operating by the calvinist conception of ordain. When they speak of ordain it means that God preplanned some event, that he then controls things in such a ways as to ensure that that particular preplanned event takes place exactly as preplanned.

“Again, ordination doesn’t necessitate determinism in the philosophical sense. You are buying into this conflating of apples and oranges.”

No I am not, I am showing problems from their premises their conceptions.

“If God ordained that all that comes to pass includes creaturely acts of libertarian freedom, then that’s how it is.”

And it seems we are agreed that sometimes God uses foreknown freely made choices to accomplish His purposes. Nice to see we agree on this.

“God will accomplish all His council, He will do all that He wills, no one questions that.”

Right that is what the Bible means when it says that God is sovereign.

“The issue is does this necessitate determinism?”

No it does not. Unfortunately consistent Calvinism does involve determinism (i.e. soft determinism/compatibilism)

“The answer is a resounding no,”

Agreed.

“ and I would further argue that if someone like Sproul is correct in “Chosen by God” (around page 16-17 if I remember correctly), that if determinism was necessary for God to do this, that is a rather weak God. For Sproul, God either meticulously (hard or soft) determined everything by everyone, or God lives in perpetual fear of stray molecules, whatever that means. That, of course, is nonsensical and asinine.”

I have always found Sproul’s one loose molecule argument to be laughable. But I understand his point, from a **Calvinistic** perspective, God can only be sovereign (by their definition) if He directly, completely and continuously controls everything, including every molecule. So from Sproul’s perspective if God is not directly controlling every molecule then God cannot be sovereign (and he is right, he cannot be sovereign according to the Calvinistic conception of sovereignty, but that is not the biblical conception of sovereignty).

“Again, this notion of determinism is also a separate concept from meticulous providence.” I fully affirm and believe in meticulous providence, but there is nothing about meticulous providence that necessitates philosophical determinism regarding creaturely actions.”

Now this is interesting, so you believe in “meticulous providence” while simultaneously believing that it is not “meticulous providence” as Calvinists understand it, correct? Care to elaborate a bit of how you see it operating?

“Anyway, that this present moment has came to pass means that God has ordained it.”

And how did God ensure that what he ordains takes place? Does he take control of people’s minds and wills and then cause their actions to occur? Does he ordain by means of foreknowing freely made choices? What are you saying here???

“However, it does not follow that my typing this response was necessary and couldn’t have been otherwise. All it entails is that God ordained this moment to come to pass, including my libertarian freedom in the choice to type this response.”

So you believe in libertarian free will? You believe that at times we have and then make choices and these choices are up to us?

“God’s ordination and foreknowledge didn’t necessitate it, rather, it simply rendered it certain that it would obtain.”

OK, so foreknowledge is not causative but just means that God knows what will happen before it happens, correct?

“What the burden actually is, is to demonstrate:
1. that God can’t know libertarian acts of freedom prior to creation.”

Who says that he cannot? Calvinists and open theists primarily. The majority of the church, whether Catholic, Eastern Orthodox or Protestant have always believed that God foreknows all events including events that involve “libertarian acts of freedom”.

“2. that God’s attribute of omniscience (inherent to His nature) is eternally co-dependent on taking an action (something He didn’t have to do) in eternity and that God could not possibly have known X unless He determined X in His decree rather than simply know X prior to His decree and allowed X to occur as part of the decree since in His wisdom it could serve some purpose, however insignificant or significant, in His creation.”

So to put this simply, God knows what possibly could occur as well as what will in fact occur. But him knowing these things does not mean that he determines them.

“If someone wants to argue that God is, at one logical point in eternity, as ignorant and uncertain as the Open Theists claim He is perpetually, they can feel free.”

I reject open theism, so my understanding is that God knows all that he knows at all times.

“If someone wants to argue that God’s nature changed in that His knowledge logically increased by virtue of it being co-dependent upon His decree in order for His attribute of omniscience to be fully complete, they can feel free.”

God’s nature never changes, He is what He is, He is the “I AM”.

“William Lane Craig makes sport of Calvinists and Open Theists being strange bedfellows in committing the same logical fallacy regarding omniscience and libertarianism, but Molinists fare no better in placing free knowledge subsequent to the decree along with the Calvinists.”

Agreed, I see problems with Calvinism as well as with Molinism.

“But if it is the case that there is no logical problem with omniscience and libertarian freedom, as the Molinists rightly insist,”

I agree there is no logical problem with the compatibility of omniscience and libertarian freedom, despite the loud and incessant protests of Calvinists and open theists! :-)

“then it is also the case that no part of God’s nature (the attribute of omniscience) is eternally co-dependent upon God’s own free action to decree all that comes to pass which also could have just as easily been otherwise (unless someone wants to maintain God had to create THIS cosmos and could not have done otherwise…which is seriously erroneous as well).”

Right, God’s foreknowledge is independent of his actions. Some mistakenly believe and assume that unless God decrees it He cannot foreknow it. But that is just a bald assertion which is then assumed as dogma.

“Bottom line is that God is not dependent upon either His decree or creation to be fully and unchangingly God.”

True.

“None of this demands “determinism”, hard or soft, in the philosophical sense.”

Agreed.

“Too often, people conflate GOD’S DETERMINATION to accomplish something with philosophical determinism, and it is important to parse all this stuff out and not let words mean private things with foreign concepts added to them and it all end up conflated.”

I agree, and remind you again that I was using Calvinistic conceptions to show problems with their view.

“There is a lot of irony when Calvinists gripe about post-modernism, when they define words privately themselves, and end up compounding error and butchering language in the process (don’t get me started on words like justification, grace, election, atonement, etc…lol).”

After you have dealt with Calvinists you start noticing how much of their position involves redefinitions of terms, defining terms to their advantage, semantic game playing and all sorts of distortions of meanings and changing terms. Unfortunately it is similar to dealing with non-Christian cults who will use the same terms that we use but with very different meanings.

Robert

    dr. james willingham

    Robert, just briefly, don’t you every read what our Southern Baptist leaders have written. Dr. B.H. Carroll stated that when he was a young man he wanted that text, Acts. 13: 48 to read, “as many as believed were ordained to life.” But it doesn’t read that way; it reads, “as many as were ordained, destined, to eternal life, these believed.” And it could be mentioned that the active verb is ordained, whereas the passive is believed, which is the effect of the ordaining.

    Johnathan Pritchett

    Okay, I think I understand better. Though, while I see it helpful to step in their shoes, it seems fruitless if everything does indeed work in their shows, as you seem to indicate. If nothing is “false” according to their premises, then the issue lies only in definitions, not their constructs. What troubles me is the result of definition problems seems to lead you to sat something less than that God ordained all that comes to pass. I won’t concede the word, because I too affirm that God ordained all that comes to pass. I also believe this means God “preplanned” all events. I also think God is “in control” of all events. But I differ from the Calvinists who say God is “controlling” all events. Being in control, and directly controlling are two different things. God has me under His complete control. I am but a speck of dust that certainly can’t do anything to thwart God. Why would God need to be controlling me then? He doesn’t. I think our Calvinist friends are the ones who elevate “free will” to be some godlike superpower…not anyone else.

    As for meticulous providence, I certainly believe that God arranges all things in the course of history. I do not claim that He is “happy” about everything that comes to pass, but I do claim that nothing happens by chance.

    I don’t posit some deist conception of a standoff-ish God. I do believe God is active in the world, active in sustaining it, and actively engaged in it, and is bringing things together in certain ways in which His purposes are accomplished. I can attribute this to everything, from huge world events to the bringing together of me and my wife or a leaf falling from a tree. Why this would involved God determining beforehand me to make certain choices is simply beyond me. God has His activities, and I have my activities. In God’s wisdom, they form the content of history that will result in the best possible unfolding of history that will yield from creation all that God intends it to yield.

    Theistic determinism strikes me as panentheistic in practice, regardless of the dogma.

    Yeah, I’ve read John Feinberg’s ‘Many Faces of Evil”…all Calvinist scholars openly call themselves determinists…a lot of lay Calvinists do not (or even know what it means).

wingedfooted1

Mary S.,

I fully understand why certain calvinists wish to distance themselves from Vincent Cheung (who, by the way, is a 5 point calvinist himself), but I fail to see how Chueng’s comments (not mine) “misrepresent” calvinism.

If you believe that some are predestined to salvation, then surely you understand that the rest were predestined to damnation. Calvin, himself, taught double predestination….

“By predestination we mean the eternal decree of God, by which he determined with himself whatever he wished to happen with regard to every man. All are not created on equal terms, but some are preordained to eternal life, others to eternal damnation; and, accordingly, as each has been CREATED for one or other of these ends, we say that he has been PREDESTINATED TO LIFE OR TO DEATH.” – Institutes: Book 3, chapter 21, section 5

If you believe that some are elected to eternal bliss, then surely you understand that the rest were reprobated to eternal torment. Again, Calvin clearly taught this….

“This they do ignorantly and childishly since there could be no election without its opposite reprobation………Those, therefore, whom God passes by he reprobates, and that for no other cause but because he is pleased to exclude them from the inheritance which he predestines to his children” – Institutes: Book 3, Chapter 23, Section 1

Perhaps you don’t care for Cheung’s tone or delivery, but there is no “misrepresentation” in his overall message.

If there is error in Cheung’s message here, please point it out. Where is Cheung “wrong” in his above comment? Can any calvinist, who shuns the “hyper” label, please show non-calvinists where Cheung is in error??

Also, it is the calvinist who labels Mr. Cheung as a “hyper-calvinist”. But what the calvinists label as “hyper” I merely see as being “consistent” and brutally honest.

God bless

Ron F. Hale

Ben,
I wish to reply to your three pointed paragraphs:

First: I was in the convention room the session you stood to oppose the Sinner’s Prayer resolution offered by Dr. Gaines. There was good debate and the messenger’s overwhelmingly voted in favor of it and without amendments. The resolution was brought forth in several other state convention meetings and was passed strongly. I do agree with Dr. Gaines that you have indeed misrepresented Eric’s resolution.

Second: I take offense at your opinionated indictment … “Those who champion the sinner’s prayer are usually softer on repentance and lordship.” The men who stood to speak in favor of the resolution in Tennessee were pastor’s of some of the leading evangelistic congregations in the state; yes, in baptisms, CP, missions giving, and sending teams around the world. To say that these men and many others are softer on repentance and Lordship is an unkind blanket statement and figment of your imagination.

Third: Your charge of non-Calvinists being softies on repentance and Lordship expands to the accusation of us creating a sad sacrament where a sinner receives grace by mindlessly mouthing a certain ritual of words. For once allow me to use the phrase … “your caricature” of non-Calvinists is misleading.

Overall … I sense an undercurrent of disdain. Tell us what you really feel.

    Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

    Ron,

    First, as I replied to Steve above, did Eric not equate “the prayer of repentance and faith” with the “Sinner’s Prayer”? I would say he most certainly did. Therefore, I did not misrepresent him.

    Second, I do not mean to indict the men who stood to speak in favor of the resolution at the TBC. Praise God for all that He’s done through them to which you have testified! However, when the emphasis is on the prayer prayed instead of repentance and faith, repentance and lordship usually play second fiddle. How many times have we heard a preacher pray a sinner’s prayer with a congregation and then declare, “If you prayed that prayer, you are saved!”? I’ve heard way too many times. That’s spiritual malpractice. I pray that none of the men you alluded to have ever done that.

    Finally, while Eric’s resolution that he submitted to the SBC and then Steve submitted to the TBC does say that “a ‘Sinner’s Prayer’ is not an incantation that results in salvation merely by its recitation,” that declaration is contradicted by saying that “the prayer of repentance and faith,” which he equates with the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ “is THE BIBLICAL MEANS by which any person can turn from sin and self, place his faith in Christ, and find forgiveness and eternal life.” If that’s not sacramentalism, it’s get toward it.

    I have no disdain for these brothers.

      Norm Miller

      Ben: You wrote:
      “How many times have we heard a preacher pray a sinner’s prayer with a congregation and then declare, ‘If you prayed that prayer, you are saved!’”?

      Not once, ever, Ben, to answer your question. I’m not saying I have heard never those words. But as couched by you, again, never.
      What I mean is something I posted earlier, and that was whenever I have heard such a prayer led corporately, it has always, yes, always been preceded by qualifying and clarifying statements. So, to be clear, I have never ever heard a preacher say in an unqualified way, “Pray these words,” and then after that declare that all who prayed them are saved.
      You would serve all your brethren well not to make such haphazard statements.
      And, of course, Ben, as I have noted several times, no prayer will send a non-elect person to heaven, right? So, all you fellas who are complaining about this need to find a new complaint. — Norm

        Lydia

        “How many times have we heard a preacher pray a sinner’s prayer with a congregation and then declare, ‘If you prayed that prayer, you are saved!’”?”

        I grew up in SBC churches and if that was ever said by a pastor my parents would have walked out and never come back.

        I really really really would love to hear a few names of SBC pastors who do this. It sounds like there are tons out there. So who is doing this?

        (Joel Osteen does not count).

        I stopped listening to Washer a while back when he was promoting the dominionist, Doug Phillips and his wife was promoting bizarre teaching on Esther.

      Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

      Norm,

      If you’ve never heard a preacher say those words, then you are blessed, my brother. May you continue to be around solid evangelists! Unfortunately, our unregenerate church membership debacle in the SBC gives weight to my statement against yours.

      You said, “as I have noted several times, no prayer will send a non-elect person to heaven, right?” Brother, you are missing the point. We are trying to win people to Jesus. You and I have no idea who the elect are until they repent and believe on Jesus (1 Thes 1:2-5). Therefore, it is incumbent upon every Christian to preach the hope that is given to all who will repent and believe on Jesus.

      I volunteer from time to time at the Nashville Rescue Mission, which preaches the gospel to hundreds of men every day as they come in for a place to sleep. In talking to one of the staff, he said that his first job is to get a person lost so that he can then have the hope of getting them saved. He then explained that he means that every man that comes in there claims to be saved, yet they live like devils. What makes them think they are saved? They prayed a prayer at some point–maybe it was with a radio preacher or a live preacher or some gospel tract. Somebody along the way told them they were saved if they prayed that prayer and really meant it.

      Norm, we can’t get hung up on who’s elect and non-elect. We must call on every person to repent and believe on Jesus. We’re to not just offer a prayer. We are to offer the way, the truth, and the life that is to be followed by grace through faith in Jesus.

        Norm Miller

        Ben: I am not sure why your comment spent the night in moderation. It looks as though you may have used a different method (equipment or email address) to respond. Whatever the case, my apologies. The moderation was a glitch and not intentional.
        Let me say I am humbled and challenged by ‘rescue mission’ ministry. I admire you for doing it. I haven’t done that in years. However, I have noticed that those in rescue missions (and jails) will say or do most anything to “get over.” So, the hypocrisy you noted is a means to get a warm bed and meal. I don’t defend that, but I have observed it.
        To your point: I am not missing any point, but regret you have apparently missed mine. So, let me ask this in a way that should be exceedingly clear and hopefully will settle the matter as you answer one question regarding the Sinner’s Prayer:

        Can a non-elect person be saved by praying the Sinner’s Prayer?

          Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

          Norm,

          With all due respect, and I really do mean that, I put your question in the same category as the question “Can God create a rock so big He can’t lift it?”

          Every person who repents and believes on Christ, enduring in faith until the end, will be saved.

            Norm Miller

            That is unfortunate, Ben. The “rock” notion misses the point entirely and doesn’t provide you any cover as you duck my question. As a Calvinist, you must answer my question, “No.” But you don’t want to do that, and I don’t blame you. For, if you do answer in the negative, then my point is made about all this vacuous whining from Calvinists about the Sinner’s Prayer.
            I wish you hadn’t ducked the question, for in so doing you make my point.
            If a non-elect person prays the Sinner’s Prayer, Calvinism demands that the prayer is impotent and the non-elect person will go to hell.
            Is that a true statement, Ben? — Norm

            Norm Miller

            So, if the Apostle Peter had died immediately after denying Christ, he would have gone to hell? — Norm

        Norm Miller

        Ben: Your statement as follows is an utter fallacy:
        “Unfortunately, our unregenerate church membership debacle in the SBC gives weight to my statement against yours.”
        Really? Ten million absentee members are the result of the Sinner’s Prayer? Really?
        Your assertion is patently outlandish. — Norm

          Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

          Is there no correlation, Norm? Surely there is. Undoubtedly, it doesn’t account for the 10 million. Perhaps it’s only half at 5 million.

            Norm Miller

            If I object to your undocumented accusation once more, will you then drop the number to 2.5 million?
            Get off of it, Ben. Your angst toward the Sinner’s Prayer has you grasping at straws, from which you and other Calvinists are building a man.
            Let us put the blame where it belongs, in large part I believe, and that is not at the doorstep of “questionable evangelistic techniques,” as some would say (Washer and the dolts who follow him), but at the lack of discipleship. And, further, at the doorstep of spiritually anemic believers who would rather do anything else but study and obey the Word.
            But, alas, Calvinists need a whipping boy to bolster their position, so I guess the Sinner’s Prayer suffices. But, since the non-elect person who prays that prayer will go to hell anyway (per Calvinism), then, alas, that argument holds no water. — Norm

brad whitt

As I have read and watched this post, as well as this series of comments, I am perplexed and saddened. I see young men, who last year baptized 2 or 3 people questioning, lecturing and at times speaking without the respect that Paul commands for those who are older and more experienced in the ministry. (Not to mention who have been used by God to win hundreds of people to Jesus and see them baptized last year alone.) It seems so odd, and definitely not in keeping with the teaching of Scripture. In most other areas and cultures we would be listening, watching and seeking to follow the example of those who have walked with Jesus longer, led more people to Christ and been used to grow the Kingdom more than we have. It’s truly a strange day when so many of those of us who are younger are telling those we ought to be listening to and learning from because of their experience and knowledge of the Word to sit down and listen to what we have to say – because surely since we’ve been to seminary, and a conference or two. we know more than they do. Sad. Odd. But, I guess that is the nature of the world of blogs. We always seem bigger, more important and effective here than on our church fields.

    Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

    Brad,

    I’m not sure whom you had in mind with your comment since you didn’t specifically address anyone. I suppose you were aiming at the old “if the shoe fits, wear it” idea.

    If one was to follow your approach, Paul would have kept his mouth shut toward Peter in Antioch because Peter was the elder apostle and had even walked with Jesus. Yet, Paul did not sit idly by. He boldly opposed Peter to his face when Peter was wrong (Gal 2:11).

    I would be a fool if I didn’t desire to learn from those more experienced, more studied, more knowledgeable, and more acknowledged than I. I desire to learn from such men like Steve Gaines and Ron Hale. I respect them both greatly. However, I would be a coward and a brownnoser if I didn’t challenge such men when I think they got something wrong. In my challenge, I very well might find out that they are indeed right, and I am wrong. But, the opposite may be true as well.

    What’s more, some of us younger folks are listening to those who are older than we are, but the folks we are listening to are at odds with their peers. I listen to men like Paul Washer who said, “Here in America because of the last several years, several decades of evangelism the idea of born again is totally lost. It only means that at one time in a crusade you made a decision and you think you were sincere. But there is no evidence of a supernatural recreated work of the Holy Spirit in your life. If any man, not if some men, if any man be in Christ he is a new creature. And now it is the same today. What do we face? I will tell you what we face. It is not a sort of infant baptism necessarily most of the time [like Whitfield and Wesley faced]. It is not a high church confirmation by an ecclesiastical authority. What we face is the sinner’s prayer… Yes, in the same way that infant baptism, in my opinion, was the golden calf of the Reformation, for the Baptists and the Evangelicals and everyone else who has followed them today, I will tell you, that sinners’ prayer has sent more people to Hell than anything on the face of the earth,” (sermon, “Ten Indictments of the Modern Church”).

    Furthermore, some of us younger folks are also listening to those who are older than the old today. For instance, on this Sinner’s Prayer issue, Paul Chitwood, who is now the Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, wrote in his 2001 dissertation entitled “The Sinner’s Prayer: An Historical and Theological Analysis,” “In addition to the Sinner’s Prayer not occurring in the Bible, it is also absent from the pages of church history. We fail to see it even through the rise of revivalism and mass evangelism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In fact, research suggests that leading lost persons in praying the Sinner’s Prayer is a relatively new method in evangelism. My studies have revealed no occurrence of the Sinner’s Prayer before the twentieth century. The routine use of a model prayer for salvation of any form is also absent before the twentieth century,” (pg 4). You can read the entire thing online at SBTS’s digital library. My point is that some of us younger folks are listening to older folks who are pre-1900’s.

    Again, I’m not sure if you had me in mind when you delivered your general rebuke, but just in case you did, I thought I would give a response. Blessings!

      Norm Miller

      Ben:
      Are you a trinitarian and an inerrantist? Yes? Well, where do you see those words in the Bible? Using the trendy logic of en-vogue Calvinists: “Since the Sinner’s Prayer is not in the Bible, it must be unbiblical.”
      Please point me, Ben, to the words “trinity” and “inerrancy” in the Bible.
      Of course, we both can make the case for the doctrines of inerrancy and the Trinity using the Scripture.
      Likewise, Dr. Gaines did a masterful job of making the biblical case for the Sinner’s Prayer (he didn’t condemn it as Adam wrongly suggested). He even quoted the calvinistic Spurgeon, who told people to put his words in their mouths as they prayed a prayer of repentance. Imagine that, a sinner’s prayer being prescribed by the calvinistic Spurgeon, who I believe had impact in the latter 1800s (Dr. Chitwood).
      I would be pleased to read Chitwood’s dissertation to determine if he used the Spurgeon quote as did Dr. Gaines. Of course, Chitwood overlooked the Spurgeon citation as evidenced by your quote of Chitwood, to wit: “My studies have revealed no occurrence of the Sinner’s Prayer before the twentieth century.” No occurrence, my good doctor?
      Also, Chitwood’s logic regarding the absence of a historic Sinner’s Prayer ignores the antiquity of the veritable plethora of Bible verses supporting the biblicity of calling upon the name of the Lord. Neither does Chitwood’s position does not preclude the modern use of a Sinner’s Prayer. Such logic is fatally flawed and also logic harks to the the last seven words of a dying church, does it not? — Norm
      P.S. “An historic”? C’mon grammarians. If I were to ride an horse past an hopping rabbit to an house — that would be a historic event.

        Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

        LOL, I’m with you on the grammar, but when I met my wife back in 1997, she, having grown up in northern Ohio, didn’t pronounce the “h” at the beginning of a few of her words. For instance, she would say, “He’s an humble (pronouned ‘umble’) man.” She doesn’t do that as much any more since she’s been a Southerner now for a decade and a half. Perhaps that’s where Chitwood was coming from.

        Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

        Norm,

        I think what Chitwood meant in saying that Sinner’s Prayer is not found in the Bible is that there is never a formulaic approach which says, “Oh, you want to be saved? Then pray this prayer and really mean it.”

        I did not read Chad’s comment below about Gaines to mean that Gaines condemned the Sinner’s Prayer. If he did that, Jerry Vines should refuse to pass along his honorarium to him! Rather, I took Chad to mean that Gaines condemned the abuse of the Sinner’s Prayer.

        It’s interesting that you bring up Spurgeon concerning Chitwood. On page 124 of his dissertation, Chitwood completely uses Spurgeon’s approach as the way of reforming the Sinner’s Prayer as a method of evangelism. I’ll email you the dissertation.

          Norm Miller

          This gets more interesting by the minute, Ben. How can Chitwood write (as cited by you): “My studies have revealed no occurrence of the Sinner’s Prayer before the twentieth century,” but then have in his dissertation a citation of “Spurgeon’s approach” and his apparent attempt at “reforming the Sinner’s Prayer as a method of evangelism”?
          I ask, what Sinner’s Prayer? — Norm

Robert

James I made some points which you completely ignored. So now rather than interacting with my points you simply resort to a proof texting attempt from Acts 13:48. Contrary to what B.H. Carroll stated, I dnn’t have to go around interpreting bible verses so that they say what I want them to say. That is eisegesis. Regarding your suggested meaning for the verse you show extreme ignorance of the Greek text. For someone who claims to be a “Dr.” this is surprising. Apparently you don’t know Greek Because if you did you would know that you canoot get “tasso” (i.e. translated by some as “ordain”) to be an active verb which then causes the believing in the verse. That may be what YOU WANT IT TO SAY but that is not the proper interpretation of the Greek text. Tasso mean to order, it was a military term for ordering and lining up troops or setting things up. It does not mean what we mean in English by “ordain”. If we look at that verse and the surrounding verses we find that the context was evangelism. The apostles had first shared the gospel with the Jews who for the most part had rejected the gospel. So the apostles turned to the Gentiles and the text says that “as many as had been tassoed/ordained came to believe.

I happen to believe that no one can have a faith response to the gospel unless they have experienced the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit first. The Spirit reveals things such as your own sinfulness, your lost state (that unless you repent you will go to hell), that Jesus is the way of salvation, that you must trust in Him alone and his finished work in order to be saved, etc. etc. Put another way, the Spirit sets us up to believe, he enables us to have a faith response to the gospel. I have often noted that when I talk to new converts about their conversion experience they talk about it as if they had been “set up” to believe. They started to run into multiple Christians who witnessed to them, God started revealing things to them, etc. etc. I have no problem characerizing the preconversion work of the Spirit as feeling as if you had been “set up”. And that is precisely what the Greek word tasso sometimes translated as “ordained” means: to be set up.

As I have seen this setting up of sinners to believe numerous times and had lots of people describe it as having been set up to believe. I have no problem seeing this to be what Acts 13:48 is referring to. If this is so, then the tex could be well translated as “as many as had been set up came to believe”. Or put another way, while the Jews as a whole had rejected the gospel, all of the Gentiles who had been set up to believe by the Spirit came to believe. It wold be like if you had an evenaglistic outreach and all of the nonbelievers present at that meeting experienced the prconversion work of the Spirit and all of these who had been set up for a faith response by the Spirit all came to believe. It seems to me that something like this is being described in Acts 13 regarding the Gentile response to the gospel.

So your proof texting fails James. You will have to resort to another attempt at proof texting. And no I did not have to make the text asy what I want it to mean as you are attempting to do. I just take the Greek text seriously. You assume that the translation of tasso as ordain is the best rendering of tasso, I do not. The term did not refer to predestination or ordaining or preplanning on the part of God. It meant to order to set things up in order. And it makes sense to see the preconversion work of the Spirit as Him setting peoople up to believe. And we have to be set up in this way for us to be enabled to have a faith response to the gospel. I know I was set up in this way, and so were many of my friends and aqaintances. James perhaps if you look at your own converson experience you know the feeling of having been set up to believe. The Spirit has done it with us and I believe he set up those Gentiles in Acts 13 to believe as well.

Robert

dr. james willingham

Dear Robert: I goofed. Pure and simple. I have had a very hard day, and I wasn;t thinking too well. Today, I had to take my invalid wife to a doctor for an exam, a very exhausting effort for me with a heart condition. I was thinking of the Greek without checking it out before I wrote what I did. So I frankly concede the point about Acts 13:48. Now, how about your dealing with the issue of Calvinists and liberty. If you will recall, I said Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke who were both Calvinists and whose statements to that end I have seen in their writings, were the people who first established by law and practice the doctrine of religious liberty. So what do you have to say about that brother? I do not mind eating humble pie for a goof. All scholars make them, but that does not invalidate their main contentions necessaril, and that is the point with reference to the historical arguments I have offered and which you totally avoided by hoping on my mistake. Why the silence, brother? Why no answer? Can it be that you can’t stand to lose at all?

As to Greek, I am not an advanced scholar in it. I have about a minor in it, my main strength being in History and Theology due to research and reading. However, I would point out that I did do two years of research on the Greek of I Cors.12:31b-14:1a, the famous agape pericope of Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians. As to your answer about the preparation of the Holy Spirit, how about adding as Gill and Boyce and White and others do that the conception work of the Holy Spirit in Jn.3:3-8 (gennathenai anothen) is perhaps the equivalent of regeneration, whereas the apekuasen of Jas.1:18, the delivery of a child at birth would be conversion. Your prework of the Holy Spirit would seem to go nicely with that…and as to the language of Greek, you still have to deal with the reality of the fact that God determined before what would be done to His Son by Herod and Pilate and the Gentiles and the Jews, the worst sins in history, evidently determined, and all for a redemptive purpose. If for the worst, why not for the whole? And all without God being chareable for a single sin, as His determine to allow is only for the fulfillment of a good purpose. ..

dr. james willingham

As to the arguments about the sinner’s prayer and the other verses, I answer as a Calvinist, though one who prefers the term Sovereign Grace due to the fact of people dying for these truths before John Calvin was even born, God can use any verse he wishes to convert sinners. Spurgeon never thought Rev. 3:20 should be used as an evangelistic text, and yet the Puritans John Flavel and David Clarkson and even our own James Petigru Boyce apparently did. Flavel has a whole volume (11 sermons) on Rev.3:20. Clarkson has one sermon of about 80 pages in close set type (one of the old Nichol Standard Divines Volume), and it bears the title, “Christ’s Gracious Invitation to Sinners.” I only know of Dr. Boyce’s sermon through a reference in Broadus biography of him. I have sought for someone who might know of its existence. O yes, and I want to point out that Basil Manly apparently had two sermons on Rev.3:20 which I photo copied at the SEBTS Library along with many others of his sermons. I even have a sermon of my own on one of the genealogies of our Lord, due to having read of one person being converted due to reflecting upon the geneaology. On the other hand, there are many abuses of Scripture, people who have told lies to get others forward in a revival service. Add to that the multitudes that have been converted without having a truly born again experience, a real new birth, a transformation of the Holy Spirit. Who would want a preacher lying in the pulpit, and yet I heard one minister say many years ago, “Well, he got them forward, didn’t he?” Maybe so, but I sure would not want to be in that preacher’s shoes, when He faces our Master, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.

Robert

James you concede that the Greek text does not support your suggested interpretation of Acts 13:28. So we need not discuss that attempt at proff texting any further. You then get a bit ornery when you ask:

“Why the silence, brother? Why no answer? Can it be that you can’t stand to lose at all?”

First of all I don’t consider this a game, where someone “wins” and the other loses. Instead this is a discussion of what is true and what is false.

You suggest that I in some way am avoiding your historical claims that certian calvinists in history proposed, advocated religious liberty. I grant that some Calvinists historically argued for and proposed religious liberty. You missed my point entirely. My point is that calvinists who suggest the reality of religious liberty are INCONSISTENT with their espoused theology. They espouse a theology that claims that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass. They believe or better, want to believe that God preplanned all events tham make up history and then He controls everything to ensure that it all goes exactly according to what he has preplanned. The problem is that if THAT is true, then no human person ever has a choice. And religious liberty presupposes that people have free will, that they have a choice. So a calvinist may argue for religious liberty and freedom but in doing so he contradicts his own espoused theology which if true does not allow for free will/us ever having choices that are up to us. So in advocating religious liberty he is unwittingly contradicting his own espoused theology. I have not evaded your appeal to historical instances of calvinists advocating religious liberty: my argument depends on granting that they did advocate religious liberty. But they contradicted their espoused theology in doing so.

here is an example from the aread of Christian liberty. Two pastors make different choices regarding drinking alcohol. One chooses to sometimes have alcohol in moderation, say he chooses to have a glass of champagne at a wedding celebration. The other chooses not to drink at all. He serves a congregation where a lot of the people have struggled with alcohol and substance abuse. In order to not take a chance of unnecessarily stumbling any of the members of his congregation he chooses to abstain completely from alcohol. Both pastors had a choice, they could choose to sometimes have alcohol in moderation or choose to completely abstain. If these two pastors have free will as ordinarily understood then they both had a choice, both could choose whichever chice they wanted to make and the choice of each individual pastor was up to them. Either choice is acceptable within principles of Christian liberty. All of this presupposed the reality of free will, that people have and make their own choices and their choices are up to them. But calvinism comes along and claims that every thing is preordained by God. This means that we never ever have a choice, instead our choices are not up to us, they are determined by God before we ever exist. The discussion of having and making a choice only makes sense if we have chices and everything is not ordained. If everything is ordained then we never ever have a choice but must instead do what we were preordained to do. A calvinist could talk about the two pastors having a choice and that the choices are up to each pastor. But that contradicts their espoused theology which maintains that all is ordained and so we never have a choice. If the one pastor is ordained to abstain from alcohol then he has no choice in the matter, he has to abstain it is impossible for him to choose to drink in moderation. Likewise with the pastor who chooses to drink in moderation. if his every action, thought, belief, desire, choice is preordained then he has no choice regarding choosing to drink in mnoderation or choose to completely abstain from alcohol. Put simply yu cannot have choices if all is ordained. Or if we sometimes have choices and the choices are up to us, determined by us, then everything is not preordained. So calvinists can talk abot religious libety or Christian liberty all they want, but it contradicts their theology that everything is ordained beforehand by God and God controls everything to ensure that everything goes according to plan.

Robert

    Adam Davis

    I was glad to hear Dr. Gaines at the John 3:16 conference acknowledge the abuse of the Sinner’s Prayer and condemn it. I believe we underestimate the abuse of the sinner’s prayer in our churches today.

    Adam: Did you attend the same conference I did? Please provide a quote, to the best of your recollection, where Dr. Gaines condemned the Sinner’s Prayer. It will be imperative for you at this point to document your claim. Note also, Adam, the access to audio recordings. — Norm

    dr. james willingham

    Robert: You can suggest until your blue in the face, but when you fail to address the issue of paradoxes you have pretty well left the game. If as I postulate the offering of opposites, referenced in Lk.4:16-31 and Mt.15:21-28, is the means to freedom from sin, providing the impetus of supernaturalism’s entry into the human arena, then you are the wanting in scholarship and understanding. And who said this was a mere game about winning and losing? Not me, I don’t play games with the word of God. Take the matter of the simple word “CAN”. Our Lord said, NO MAN CAN COME TO ME, EXCEPT IT WERE GIVEN HIM OF MY FATHER WHICH IS ABOVE and EXCEPT MY FATHER WHICH SENT ME DRAW HIM (and the term draw is used of Paul and Silas dragged through the streets and Peter drawing his sword). CAN MEANS ABILITY, NO MAN CAN MEANS NO MAN HAS THE ABILITY. That little three letter word blows your whole man has the power to respond right out of the water. If you think you responded to God under your own power, you have a problem with Him…not me.

    dr. james willingham

    In addition, Robert, you still have to ask, “How could these deterministic people of Calvinism produce the freest societies and launch the Great Century of Missions and enjoy two of the Greatest Visitations in History since the coming of our Lord, the First and Second Great Awakenings which transformed America?”

      Norm Miller

      Do you suggest, Dr. Willingham, that Calvinists were responsible for “the freest societies” and “the Great Century of Missions” and “the Greatest Visitations in History since the coming of our Lord, the First and Second Great Awakenings which transformed America?”
      I thought the Holy Spirit under the sovereignty of God did all that.
      Also, how free were people in Calvin’s Geneva? — Norm

        dr. james willingham

        Norm: I don’t really equate the doctrines of grace with Calvinism. That is a term, like Baptist, forced upon us by society (yours for example). I found people dying for these truths before Calvin was ever born, much less converted. Before him they called believers Augustinians or some such term from some other writer. What I am suggesting is that the Calvinists or Sovereign Grace believers had a much greater hand in the establishing of free societies and missions and the Awakenings, Have you ever read the Memoirs of Luther Rice, the father of missions among Southern Baptists? I do think Calvinism, due to its emphasis on covenants from the biblical perspective were strong influences on the producing of constitutional governments and written contracts for such as we have.

          Norm Miller

          But you did not answer my questions, so I will ask again:

          “Do you suggest, Dr. Willingham, that Calvinists were responsible for “the freest societies” and “the Great Century of Missions” and “the Greatest Visitations in History since the coming of our Lord, the First and Second Great Awakenings which transformed America?” I thought the Holy Spirit under the sovereignty of God did all that. Also, how free were people in Calvin’s Geneva?”

          I asked that in response to your lengthy assertions noted in my questions, but you side-stepped my questions and did not answer them. — Norm

            dr. james willingham

            Norm, I have nothing to say about Calvin and Geneva, though some good could be said, but, due to being a Baptist who does not care for religious persecution and believing such in Geneva to be the remains of Calvin’s Catholicism as with Luther and his treatment of the same groups, the Anabaptists, I do not have anything about Geneva, except it eventually led to good. However, in answer to your question regarding “the freest societies” and the Awakenings and the Missions, I will be happy to quote you chapter and verse from the sources, so to speak, if that is what you wish.

            Shall I begin with two noted Calvinists, Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke, who established by law and practice the first place in the New World (or the Old for that matter) religious liberty. I have looked at the writings of both men, and, though Williams was a Baptist for only three months, he clearly indicates in a letter to the folks at Newport that he still believed in their view of the church (not long before his death). His problem was he wanted someone with the authority to baptize. As to his position on soteriology, he was a full-fledged Calvinist and said so in his works. His being a seeker was not a Seeker with a capital S, but a small one, seeking regarding authority to baptize as I have said. John Clarke is noted for his soteriology as being a Calvinist. These are the men who first establish religious liberty in law and practice with the charter for Providence Plantations and the beginnings of Rhode Island. Now Norm, what do you say to that.

            As to the U.S. consider Virginia and the efforts of Elijah Craig and others, noted for their soteriology of Sovereign Grace, along with John Gano, James Manning, Richard Furman, and, not a Baptist, John Witherspoon, the Presbyterian who signed the Declaration of Independence. I could continue on the religious issue.

            And you effort to switch the work to the Holy Spirit concerning the Awakenings and the Mission movement, will only serve to enhance the Calvinistic position, since the Holy Spirit chose to work through Edwards, Whitefield, Gano, Hart, Shubal Stearns, Daniel Marshall, and a host of others, including Luther Rice to spur the awakenings and the Great Century of Missions.

              Norm Miller

              With all due respect, I find your answer incomplete and evasive. You are the one who suggested that Calvinists were responsible for “the freest societies” and “the Great Century of Missions” and “the Greatest Visitations in History since the coming of our Lord…” The quoted material is from your words, not mine. And I do believe the atrocities of Geneva occurred “since the coming of our Lord.”
              Now you want to narrow your time frame to only the Awakenings in America.
              Let us also note the heartbreak some Calvinists are causing in churches today. I have the documentation. I have the emails. I have the letters. I’ve had the conversations. Let me tell you, Dr., what is happening in some churches comprises a collective travesty. These “societies” are not free. I suspect the reformers you noted would be ashamed of what some Calvinists are doing. So, let us paint a complete picture here, please. — Norm

            dr. james willingham

            Norm: It is a travesty what some Traditionalists are doing to the Calvinists. And you are not facing the fact that I gave you a bona fide example of two Calvinists who established for the first time in History freedom of religion. And that is not just my opinion; it is a fact of history duly acknowledged in the history books.

            As to the Awakenings, what about Edwards and Whitefield who were Calvinists and who inspired so many others in the First Great Awakenings. Whitefield would be the instrument of the conversion of Shubal Stearns the founder of Sandy Creek Church and Assn. and who along with his brother-in-law, Daniel Marshall, made the South a Baptist Kingdom (and also I want to include in that the labors of the Charleston FBC and Assn). The Separates of Sandy Creek were in fellowship with the Regulars of the Philadelphia Assn…as they exchanged minutes. And the FBC had two Separate Baptist noted for their calvinism, Richard Furman and Basil Manly, Sr..I notice you talk a lot about Geneva, but you grow silent after merely making assertions about the Awakenings. Also I might add, what about Edwards’ tract, Humble Attempt, which inspired William Carey and other Calvinistic Baptists of England and America to begin praying for the spread of the Gospel among people of other lands. There is likewise Luther Rice enlisting Baptists of the South in the Great Century of Missions and insisting that the doctrines of grace are in the Bible and had better be preached along with those inviting others. My ordaining pastor, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell was Supralapsarian Hyper Calvinist, and an oxymoron some folks thinking, because he won people to Christ. He even worked with one of the leading Traditionalists in Fla., Dr. L.G. Meadows, to keep some fellow from inflicting his views of eschatology on Florida Baptists. My ancestor, Holland Middleton, noted in Holcombe’s History of Alabama Baptists, was preaching what I preach back in 1840. Boyce, who did not even accept Andrew Fuller’s view of the Atonement, was the first President of SBTS, a preacher boy from Manly, Sr.’s church, FBC of Charleston.

            Also I mention the Calvinists changing the rules in Va., to allow for the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man to be no bar to communion. This was 1787-1800/

            Your silence is duly noted as something on which to reflect.

              Norm Miller

              Dear Dr.
              My silence is duly noted as an evidence of a full-time job. Your unwillingness to adequately deal with the roots of Calvinism and what happened in Geneva, e.g., causes me little reflection on your position. You said what happened in Geneva led to good. Really? So the ends justify the means? It was a ‘good’ thing to murder Servetus? As far as crediting Reformers for the Awakenings, I think that borders on idolatry. I daresay God used these man because they were Calvinists. Candidly,I also think you have selective recall of God’s movement in American history. — Norm

            Lydia

            Dr James,

            I have been reading your comments with interest as one partial to history. I do differ with you but then I thought if I believed in divine determinism then I could read that back into ALL history, too.

            Calvinist Roger Williams was divinely determined to be banished from the Calvinist Puritan colony which was divinely determined to put folks in stocks who did not attend church and to burn Quakers and women who they thought were witches all the way to the divinely determined suicides of a few who Edwards was discipling to his grandson Aaron Burr being divinely determined to be reprobate. It was divinely determined that John Adams would go against his father and become a lawyer not a clergyman. The list goes on and on and on to…..the present and my comment being divinely determined which is now part of history.

            dr. james willingham

            Lydia, I never said the Puritans did not do wrong. They would protest such assertion. They made some humdingers. Peter did, when he denied Christ three times. But it is through Calvinists like Roger Williams and Dr. John Clarke that the change was made. They followed their principles, obtained a Charter which established in law and practice the right of religious liberty. In Virginia the Calvinistic Baptists (only a few were not, and they were in another group, the General Baptists. And there were a few among the Separate Baptists) enlisted in great numbers (they were the cannon fodder, if you please, while the Presbyterians were the midlevel officers, and the Anglicans were usually the Generals with some exceptions here and there. And the last person to speak to the Continental Army before it disbanded after the American Revolution was the Chaplain John Gano who wrote a circular letter for the Philadelphia Assn. on the subject, Effectual Grace (Irresistible, if you wish). Chaplain Gano might have had the rank of General, I recently came across some records indicating that he was called General in Ky. before his death.

            As to divinely determined, I was raised by a man who was orphaned at the age of 5, and I was deprived of both parents at the age of 3 due to divorce. I also suffered the loss of four families members (including my mother) by three murders and a suicide. When I made a statement in a paper for a doctoral colloquium to the effect that God was in control to make such events turn out for good, the so-called liberal and unbelieving students jumped on what I had to say with some really rough remarks. Then the professor, a man who had been the pastor to President Harry Truman,spoke up and said” “I agree with Mr. Willingham. I had a son who was killed by a space heater in off campus housing while attending college. If I did not believe God controlled that situation to make it turn out for good, I don’t know what I would do.

            Lydia, God’s control according to Scripture includes even the worst of sins committed against our Lord and Savior, the people involved did what God had determined before to be done (Acts:4:26-28), the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God as Peter called it on the day of Pentecost, and yet he spoke of those who did it as using wicked hands to commit their acts of evil.(Acts 2:23) I have had many griefs in my life and am experiencing one now, the sins I leave to those who commit them as matters of their responsibility, if sin is involved, and I look to God to make it work together for good. He works all things after the counsel of his own will (Ephs.1:11).

          dr. james willingham

          Well, Norm, I see you again fail to comment on the evidence that I provided, which says your case is weak. I refused comment on Geneva, because I do not approve of Calvin’s putting Servetus to Death. As to the doctrines, people were dying for those truths before Calvin was ever born and likewise with reference to Augustine. Your full time job as a reason for silence means what? That you have a full time job and thus cannot answer? …

            Norm Miller

            Dr. Willingham. Do you work full time? I do. Note today’s post, please, and you will see what I mean by my comment of having a full time job. Further, I care not to debate with you about which humans did what and when as far as America’s Awakenings are concerned, except to say it was God who awakened America, not Calvinists. And, God has also used non-Calvinists to work his will to awaken people as the history of American evangelists will show. The point is that it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to reach peoplke with the gospel. It is not a theologian or a system that has the dunamis to press the gospel to lost hearts – that is the Holy Spirit’s work alone. For the sake of my time and yours, why not move on to the next topic? — Norm

            dr. james willingham

            Norm: I guess I don’t work full time at a job unless you count taking care of an invalid wife day in an day out, having to lift her to stand up, etc. All of this with a pacemaker and defibilator(sp?) in my chest. Okay, I understand you have a full time job. Why is it you cannot acknowledge the great men of God whom God used in the Awakenings and the Mission Movement? They felt like it was their theology that God was blessing, and they said so. Disregarding what they wrote, e.g., Jonathan Edwards’ Humble Attempt which inspired Carey, the Father of Modern Missions, to begin his efforts after several years of prayer per the instruction of Edwards. Both men were Calvinists, and God blessed the efforts of both. In Edwards case, the blessing was the First Great Awakening. Now why should it be hard to admit something found in the history books, and the sources for which are available?

              Norm Miller

              God bless you in your ministry to your wife, James, and I am also with you in your prayer for awakening.
              I did acknowledge those men you noted, but in a way that gives God the credit and not men. — Norm

            dr. james willingham

            Norm: Thank you for your consideration, and I have some idea of how a full time job can be quite demanding. The men mentioned would also prefer all glory go to the Lord. However, we are looking at the theology involved. When I began praying for a Third Great Awakening forty years ago (it will be this Fall), I did not think of the theology, only of the blessing. As years have passed, I have come to note the resurgence of the theology of Sovereign Grace (a more biblical term that Calvinism which just a human nick name). One day it hit me that one needs the theology in order to have the wherewithal of such a visitation. I then began to study the theology to that end, that is, the end of a Great Awakening. One poor fellow wrote a Ph.D. dissertation on the subject and was booted from seminary for his temerity. However, Having done all that research with reference to other subjects, I had some idea of the theology. Also I began looking at what the theology was designed to do. One of the problems of modern times is that knowledge can be lost. In this case, the attractiveness and compassion of Calvinism, especially as there was a deliberate effort to misrepresent it as we see in the case of Quigley’s Tragedy and Hope. Any way, I discovered how much more inviting such theological perspective was than the usual stuff preached today. True, the viewpoint provoded either hatred or worship as we see in Lk.4:16-31 and Mt.15:21-28, In any case, I have been trying to promiote Edwards’ Humble Attempt with prayer meetings accordingly to plead the promises he recorded as reasons for God to visit us in this generation…and for a thousand generations.. God bless.

              Norm Miller

              I would disagree that a certain theology is necessary to promulgate spiritual awakening. God has stopped plenty of folks in their tracks who could not even spell theology. I look primarily to 2 Chr. 7.14 as to what is required for revival to fall. Whenever God gets ready, he can do as he chooses, with or without men. He NEEDS nothing from me. I NEED everything from him. — Norm

            dr. james willingham

            Dear Norm: In my examinations of the Awakenings, etc., I have found that there is definitely a correlation between the theology preached and the awakening effect. While I know of anomalies such as you mention, they are by no means of a nature to be decisive. The period from 1750-1820 is one of the great periods in world history, comparable to the Reformation and even better, comparable to the visit of our Lord 2000 years ago, a decisive and momentous event affecting society at all levels. God is already acknowledged as deserving of all glory in that situation, where the theology of Sovereign Grace is preached. Even Ben Franklin in the Constitutional Convention is willing to ascribe the blessings of the American Revolution to the Providence of God. In 1816 a circular letter writer in Va. attributed the work to God in such a manner as to, if not a miracle, something remarkably like it, a beautiful summary of 50 years of the effects of Sovereign Grace among those Baptists of that day.

Preach BlackMan Preach

The issue with the “sinners prayer” is the matter of “confession”‘ vs prayer. The believers in the Local New Testament Church in Rome were already saved, Repentance is not mentioned to them for the obvious reason. Confession here in verse (9) is with the mouth, which is to say the same thing, but the confession God reconizes precedes that of the mouth. True biblical confession commences when the repentant sinner first “agrees” with God which orignates in the spirit of the sinner by the Holy Spirit and the written word of God before it, that is, genuine confession, can ever truly reach the “surface” of the mouth by the guidance of the Spirit of Truth 1 Cor. 12:3. In verse 10 the heart and mouth are in perfect alignment with the Holy Scriptures and the expressed will of God for the lost.

Now verses 11, 12 must be considered with verse 14, 15 . The question set forth was this, “how then shall they “CALL” on Him in whom they have not “BELIEVED”. The call comes after they have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ here. This is not a “call” in order to be saved. Remember Paul states in verse 11, whosoever “believeth” on Him shall not be ashamed which relates to the future for the believer in Christ beyond the initial salvation of the soul. He goes on to say, And how shall they “believe” in Him in whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? The apostle backs into the previous verses 11, 12 and goes forward to press his point.

We all agree the sinner’s prayer adds nothing to salvation, but I wish all of the other denominations, and even many Baptist, especially those with liberal leaders, weren’t given another tool to use, such as ” repeat after me”, or “pray this prayer” apart from the scriptural command given to His holy apostles to entrust to faithful men. We see it on TV and yes, we hear it used on radio without commanding the sinner to repent and believe the gopsel. It’s good were’re having the discussion. You just never know who drops here in from time to time.

Preach BlackMan Preach

Most of the Church folk here in rural Virginia have absolutely no idea who John Calvin was since he never played football for the Washington Redskin nor do they seem to care about Jacobus Arminius even if he played for the Dallas Cowboys and believe or not they seem to be getting along just fine not knowing. Go figure!

    wingedfooted1

    Mary S.,

    Jacob Arminius also held to the calvinistic notion of total depravity (the only difference being the solution). You could say that Arminius was a 1 (or possibly 2) point calvinist.

    Ironically, one has to be at least a 1 point calvinist if he or she wants to be a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, which is hilarious if you think about it.

    God bless

      Mary S.

      Thanks for explaining that wingedfooted1. I didn’t know that about Arminius. I was just surprised by the quote.

      Thank you for the gracious way you write. You promote dialogue and unity. I appreciate that about you.

        wingedfooted1

        Sister Mary S.,

        You are very gracious. I appreciate the kind words.

        Please believe me when I say I have complete empathy for those who embrace calvinism. Even I have felt its pull.

        God bless

lydiasellerofpurple

“Most Arminians (and Traditionalists for that matter) are so far from their roots that Jacobus Arminius is too much of a “Calvinist” for them”

Mary, The problem for me is the idea of “roots”. I cannot conceed the premise of your comment so the argument is moot for me. It is a black hole from which we cannot return.

Our roots are Jesus Christ. Why can’t we start there?

Robert

I also want to comment on what wingfooted1 said about “1 point calvinists”:

“Ironically, one has to be at least a 1 point calvinist if he or she wants to be a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, which is hilarious if you think about it.’

It is a mistake to refer to an Arminian as a “1 point calvinist” because while it is true that Arminians and Calvinists tend to agree on the first element of tulip (i.e. total depravity, that the sinner is incapable of having faith in Christ on his own, apart from the grace of God). This agreement on this element of the tulip acronym is insufficient to properly refer to an “Arminian” as a “Calvinist”.

In the usual usage sometimes calvinists who affirm universal atonement are referred to as “four pointers” to distingush them from calvinists who affirm limited atonement/”five pointers”. We do not then refer to someone who holds only one element as a “calvinist”.

If we do so, then all Baptists are “one pointers” because all baptists hold to the fifth element of tulip (i.e. perseverance of the saints, that genuine believers will never become unregenerated, never lose their salvation, if a person is saved they will remain saved). So we do not refer to all Baptists as “1 point calvinists” since they affirm “P” nor should we refer to Arminians as “1 point calvinists” since they hold to “T”. These terms are helpful to distinguish differing views.

The sine qua non of calvinism is unconditional election. All who affirm unconditional election are calvinists while all who deny unconditional election are noncalvinists. Calvinists tend to affirm T, U, L, I, and P. Though some calvinists affirm T, U, I, and P. In a similar way, most Armians tend to affirm T, but reject U, L, I, and P. Though some Arminians affirm T, deny U, L, and I, but also believe that a true believer does not and cannot lose their salvation or become unregenerate. My understanding of those who see themselves as “Traditionalists” is that they affirm “T though not in exactly the same way as calvinists. They deny U. They affirm unlimited atonement so they deny L. They deny I. And they affirm P/that the true believer will never be lost. So the Traditonalist affirms T and P of tulip. But it would be a mistake to refer to a “Traditionalist” as a “two point calvinist”. I suggest we limit the use of pointers to the four pointer and five pointer calvinist, to differentiate calvinists who affirm universal atonement from those who affirm limited atonement. To go beyond that when referring to various “pointers” confuses things too much and eliminates Calvinist, Arminian and Traditionalist from being useful terms to distinguish various positions.

Robert

wingedfooted1

Robert said…..

“It is a mistake to refer to an Arminian as a ‘1 point calvinist’”

Not at all. Consider the following regarding the different elements of the TULIP…..

5 Pointer – Full Blown Calvinist

4 Pointer – Amyraldianism (Calvinist who rejects the L, but considered by the 5 pointer as a “Confused Arminian”)

3 Pointer – ?????

2 Pointer – Arminianism (Arminian who holds to the T and the P)

1 Pointer – Arminianism (Arminian who holds only to the T)

Robert said….

“It is a mistake to refer to an Arminian as a “1 point calvinist” because while it is true that Arminians and Calvinists tend to agree on the first element of tulip…..this agreement on this element of the tulip acronym is insufficient to properly refer to an ‘Arminian’ as a ‘Calvinist’.”

However, the fact is the notion of total depravity is a uniquely Calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine. To believe and teach total depravity is to believe and teach Augustinianism. While Baptists believe in the biblical doctrine of depravity, they reject the Augustinian concept of total depravity. Arminians (1 or 2 point Calvinists) do not. This is precisely why Arminians (along with their calvinistic brothers) accuse SBCers as being Semi-Pelagian (which is in error).

Robert said….

“If we do so, then all Baptists are ‘one pointers’ because all baptists hold to the fifth element of tulip…”

This is also not true. Baptists might believe in “once saved, always saved” or “the eternal security of the believer”, but this is a far cry from “perseverance of the saints”. All the petals of the TULIP are closely intertwined. Consider the following….

“The Reformed tradition has consistently seen the doctrine of perseverance as a natural consequence to predestination. According to Calvinists, since God has drawn the elect to faith in Christ by regenerating their hearts and convincing them of their sins, and thus saving their souls by His own work and power, it naturally follows that they will be kept by the same power to the end. Since God has made satisfaction for the sins of the elect, they can no longer be condemned for them, and through the help of the Holy Spirit, they must necessarily persevere as Christians and in the end be saved. The Westminster Confession of Faith has defined perseverance as follows……

‘They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved’. ?Westminster Confession of Faith (chap. 17, sec. 1)”

So we see here that perseverance is directly associated with predestination, unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace, all of which non-calvinists and Baptists reject.

That said, the fact remains that in order to belong to the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) the member must hold to the Calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine of total depravity thus making the Arminian, at the very least, a 1 point Calvinist.

God bless

Robert

Hello Wingedfooted1:

I understand your points but in my opinion you are making a mistake which may lead to confusion regarding the use of the terms “Calvinist”, “Arminian”, and “Traditionalist”. There may be overlap in the beliefs of these three groups but just because there is some overlap they still need to be viewed as referring to distinctive groups if the terms will be useful at all as descriptions.

I wrote:

“It is a mistake to refer to an Arminian as a ‘1 point calvinist’”

Wingfooted1 responded with:

[[“Not at all. Consider the following regarding the different elements of the TULIP…..
5 Pointer – Full Blown Calvinist
4 Pointer – Amyraldianism (Calvinist who rejects the L, but considered by the 5 pointer as a “Confused Arminian”)
3 Pointer – ?????
2 Pointer – Arminianism (Arminian who holds to the T and the P)
1 Pointer – Arminianism (Arminian who holds only to the T)”]]

The acronym TULIP is used to refer to the set of beliefs held by most calvinists. In order to differentiate others, who are not Calvinists, sometimes the elements of TULIP are used to help contrast what differing people believe. There is a BIG DIFFERENCE between affirming one or more elements of the TULIP acronym and being a calvinist. Put another way, just because you may affirm an element of TULIP does not mean that you **are** a Calvinist.

There are also differences in regard to how closely a person holds a particular element. For example the last element of TULIP “P”/perseverance of the saints refers to whether or not a believer can become lost, lose their salvation, become unregenerate, etc. Baptists may not hold to the exact conception of “perseverance” held by calvinists, yet both Calvinists and Baptists do not believe that a believer can lose their salvation, become unregenerate, etc. So it is misleading to suggest that Baptists (including Traditionalists) reject “P”. It is more accurate to say that Baptists and Calvinists hold the “P” element of TULIP (though not in exactly the same way).

I had written:

“It is a mistake to refer to an Arminian as a “1 point calvinist” because while it is true that Arminians and Calvinists tend to agree on the first element of tulip…..this agreement on this element of the tulip acronym is insufficient to properly refer to an ‘Arminian’ as a ‘Calvinist’.”

Wingfooted1 responded with:

“However, the fact is the notion of total depravity is a uniquely Calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine. To believe and teach total depravity is to believe and teach Augustinianism.”

No, because Baptists affirm “total depravity” as well, with some of them being calvinists, and some of them being Traditionalists.

“While Baptists believe in the biblical doctrine of depravity, they reject the Augustinian concept of total depravity.”

When you speak of “the biblical doctrine of depravity” both Calvinists and Traditionalists would claim that their doctrine on “depravity” is the biblical one. Instead of saying that Baptists deny total depravity and Calvinists affirm it, I believe it is more accurate to say that Traditionalists and Calvinists both affirm total depravity but have different conceptions of it. It is similar to perseverance (both Traditionalists and Calvinists affirm perseverance but have different conceptions of it).

“Arminians (1 or 2 point Calvinists) do not”

This is not accurate in my opinion either. Both Arminians and Calvinists claim to affirm total depravity (yet they may have different conceptions of it). It is not the case that all Arminians affirm the “Augustinian” conception of depravity (some do, for example Arminius himself, and some do not).

“This is precisely why Arminians (along with their calvinistic brothers) accuse SBCers as being Semi-Pelagian (which is in error).”

I don’t believe this is accurate either. It is some calvinists who accuse SBCers of being semi-Pelagian. And they do so because some of the SBC’er/Traditionalists affirm depravity but not in exactly the same way that calvinists do so. Arminians do not accuse SBC’ers of being semi-Pelagian: rather some Arminians claim that SBC’ers are Arminian in their beliefs but don’t know it.

I had said:

“If we do so, then all Baptists are ‘one pointers’ because all baptists hold to the fifth element of tulip…”

Wingfooted1 responded with:

“This is also not true. Baptists might believe in “once saved, always saved” or “the eternal security of the believer”, but this is a far cry from “perseverance of the saints”.”

This proves my point, Baptists and calvinists affirm the fifth element of TULILP, “P”, though they may not do so in exactly the same way. Hence, I have seen writings where traditionalists have claimed to hold to “P”.

I guess my point boils down to the reality that it seems reasonable to me (and many others as I am not alone in this perspective) to believe that when we use the acronym TULIP we use it to distinguish and compare differing views. But this does not mean that everybody holds completely opposite beliefs on these elements. Baptists and Calvinists do not hold opposite beliefs on “P” rather they hold variations of “P” (so I think it is accurate to say they both hold to “P” though not in the identical same way. Likewise Traditionalists and Calvinists both hold to “T” though not in the identical same way.

If we ignore the commonalities, that some hold to a particular element of TULIP but with some variation, we make claims that are not accurate. Such as that someone who holds to a single element of TULIP **is** a calvinist, when they are not. Again Arminians affirm depravity but that does not make them calvinists. Baptists affirm perseverance but that does not make them calvinists. Rather than saying that someone is a calvinist because they hold one of the elements of TULIP, it is better to simply say that someone holds this or that particular element of TULIP without designating them as calvinists. If we do not do this, then the terms Arminian, Calvinist and Traditionalist lose their meaning and become useless in differentiating these groups.

Wingfooted1 claims:

[[“All the petals of the TULIP are closely intertwined. Consider the following….
“The Reformed tradition has consistently seen the doctrine of perseverance as a natural consequence to predestination. According to Calvinists, since God has drawn the elect to faith in Christ by regenerating their hearts and convincing them of their sins, and thus saving their souls by His own work and power, it naturally follows that they will be kept by the same power to the end. Since God has made satisfaction for the sins of the elect, they can no longer be condemned for them, and through the help of the Holy Spirit, they must necessarily persevere as Christians and in the end be saved. The Westminster Confession of Faith has defined perseverance as follows……
‘They whom God hath accepted in His Beloved, effectually called and sanctified by his Spirit, can neither totally nor finally fall away from the state of grace; but shall certainly persevere therein to the end, and be eternally saved’. ?Westminster Confession of Faith (chap. 17, sec. 1)”
So we see here that perseverance is directly associated with predestination, unconditional election, limited atonement, and irresistible grace, all of which non-calvinists and Baptists reject.”]]

It is true that for a consistent Calvinist all of the elements hang together. Hence five pointers claim that four pointers are inconsistent Calvinists.

“That said, the fact remains that in order to belong to the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA) the member must hold to the Calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine of total depravity thus making the Arminian, at the very least, a 1 point Calvinist.”

Not quite accurate. To belong to SEA a person must affirm depravity, but that does not mean they have to hold to the Augustinian conception of depravity. Similarly a Traditionalist may not hold to the Augustinian conception of depravity, though they do hold to a conception of depravity. In my opinion those who hold to depravity but not to the Augustinian conception of depravity hold the most biblical position. But not holding the Augustinian conception of depravity does not mean that you deny depravity. And this is precisely the point where some calvinists mistakenly accuse Traditionalists of being semi-Pelagian. The Traditionalists are not semi-Pelagian, rather, they affirm a different conception of depravity than calvinists/Augustinians do. But holding a different conception of depravity does not make you semi-Pelagian: instead it makes you non-Augustinian in your understanding of depravity. Take myself as an example, I deny semi-Pelagian beliefs, but affirm depravity. But I do not affirm the Augustinian understanding of depravity, so I disagree with Calvinists on depravity though I hold to depravity.

Wingfooted1 just curious what is your own position on depravity? Do you hold the Augustinian conception? Do you affirm depraivity but deny the Augustinian conception? Do you deny all conceptions of depravity?

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    Robert,

    Bless your heart. There is so much you said that is simply not accurate. However, out of respect for this blog-site I wish to address only one comment (or thought).

    You said… “Arminians do not accuse SBC’ers of being semi-Pelagian: rather some Arminians claim that SBC’ers are Arminian in their beliefs but don’t know it.”

    Completely inaccurate. Back in the summer of 2012 the SEA on their website called the SBC into question regarding their “Semi-Pelagian” beliefs precisely because they denied the calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine of total depravity (their website is now under construction or I would share the link). Also, from my own personal experience, and other SBC Pastors could confirm this, I have been accused and labeled a Semi-Pelagian from one of the SEA leading contributors at that time (whose name I do not care to disclose). He insisted that a rejection of the calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine of total depravity put one in the semi-pelagian camp by default. And that it was a rejection of this calvinistic/augustinian doctrine that keeps others outside membership of the SEA. When I asked him if one has to be at least a 1 point calvinist in order to be a member of the SEA he answered with a resounding “Yes!” Its not the rejection of the biblical doctrine of depravity, but a rejection of the REFORMED doctrine of TOTAL depravity that denies membership within the SEA. So while Traditionalists might embrace the biblical doctrine of depravity, they reject the calvinistic/augustinian doctrine of TOTAL depravity.

    You said…. “Again Arminians affirm depravity but that does not make them calvinists.”

    Simply wrong. Arminians wholeheartedly affirm the calvinistic/augustinian doctrine of TOTAL depravity, which is precisely what makes them at least a 1 point Calvinist.

    Peace

Robert

Hello wingedfooted1,

You wrote:

[[“Bless your heart. There is so much you said that is simply not accurate. However, out of respect for this blog-site I wish to address only one comment (or thought).
You said… “Arminians do not accuse SBC’ers of being semi-Pelagian: rather some Arminians claim that SBC’ers are Arminian in their beliefs but don’t know it.”
Completely inaccurate. Back in the summer of 2012 the SEA on their website called the SBC into question regarding their “Semi-Pelagian” beliefs precisely because they denied the calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine of total depravity (their website is now under construction or I would share the link).”]]

Could you please provide this link, I really would like to see this for myself. I would like clarification on this, thanks.

“Also, from my own personal experience, and other SBC Pastors could confirm this, I have been accused and labeled a Semi-Pelagian from one of the SEA leading contributors at that time (whose name I do not care to disclose).”

Again I would like to see this post if you could provide it.

“He insisted that a rejection of the calvinistic/Augustinian doctrine of total depravity put one in the semi-pelagian camp by default. And that it was a rejection of this calvinistic/augustinian doctrine that keeps others outside membership of the SEA.”

I was under the impression that SEA allows differing conceptions of depravity within its membership. You are claiming that they only allow people who hold to the Augustinian conception to be members.

“When I asked him if one has to be at least a 1 point calvinist in order to be a member of the SEA he answered with a resounding “Yes!””

Well I have to disagree with him (whoever he is) and you on this as well: because merely affirming one element of the TULIP acronym does not make you a calvinist!

Again Baptists affirm “P” though they may not conceive of it in exactly the same way as a calvinist does. But we don’t conclude, nor should we, that this means that since all Baptists affirm a form of “P” therefore all Baptists are Calvinists.

“Its not the rejection of the biblical doctrine of depravity, but a rejection of the REFORMED doctrine of TOTAL depravity that denies membership within the SEA.”

Wingedfooted1 are you a member of SEA?

And if not, how do you know this to be true?

“So while Traditionalists might embrace the biblical doctrine of depravity, they reject the calvinistic/augustinian doctrine of TOTAL depravity.”

And that would describe me: I affirm depravity but deny the Augustinian conception of depravity. So I would also be referred to as a “Traditionalist” in regard to the doctrine of depravity (i.e. holding to depravity but rejecting the Augustinian conception of depravity).

“You said…. “Again Arminians affirm depravity but that does not make them calvinists.”
Simply wrong.”

And many would label my views on soteriology as Arminian. And again Arminians affirm some form of depravity (whether Augustinian or otherwise) and it is not right to refer to them all as calvinists (even if they affirm the Augustinian conception of depravity). If we do so, the terms Arminian and Calvinist lose all usefulness.

Again affirming one or more elements of the acronym TULIP does not make you a calvinist. Or does it?

If affirming one element makes you a calvinist then there are a lot more calvinists out there then I had thought. :-)

“Arminians wholeheartedly affirm the calvinistic/augustinian doctrine of TOTAL depravity, which is precisely what makes them at least a 1 point Calvinist.”

No, they all don’t, because again I am considered Arminian by many people and I don’t affirm the Calvinistic/Augustinian” conception of depravity. I also know some Arminians who hold a view of depravity that is more like that of the Eastern Orthodox church (again they do not hold the Augustinian conception of depravity).

I end by asking what I asked you previously:

Wingfooted1 just curious what is your own position on depravity?

Do you hold the Augustinian conception?

Do you affirm depravity but deny the Augustinian conception?

Do you deny all conceptions of depravity?

What is your view on this wingfooted1?

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    Robert,

    As previously stated, the SEA website is currently under construction or I would provide the link. I can’t provide it, because I can’t locate it now. Not to reopen another can of worms, but perhaps this article will suffice.

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2012/06/thoughts-about-%E2%80%9Ca-statement-of-the-traditional-southern-baptist-understanding-of-gods-plan-of-salvation-%E2%80%9D/

    It is mind boggling to me that any one would say that arminians don’t consider Traditionalists as Semi-Pelagian when last summer, on this very website, Traditionalists were under attack by Arminians for taking a stand against total depravity, which even Norm should be able to confirm (hint).

    As regarding the leading contributor to the SEA (at that time) who said that one had to be a 1 point Calvinist to be a member of the SEA, his website is no longer available as well, so I guess you will have to just take my word for it.

    Still, the classical arminian definition of total depravity is the same as the calvinistic definition of total depravity. The ONLY difference being the solution. 5 Point calvinists, for the most part, believe the sinner must first be regenerated in order to believe. The 1 or 2 point calvinist (arminians) believes the sinner must first be released from the bondage of sin. Both are unbiblical.

    John 8:31-32….To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

    Notice these Jews were still in bondage to sin and yet they believed Jesus. Even though they believed Him they had not as yet been “set free”. That is what believing the gospel does.

    Also, it is misleading to blur perseverance with “eternal security of the believer” and “once saved, always saved”. Once perseverance is spelled out in its entirety and its correlation with the other petals of TULIP it is usually rejected by non-reformed folks.

    In response to your final question(s) my stance on depravity is irrelevant to the discussion. Suffice it say I reject the Augustinian (thus Arminian) doctrine of total depravity. Again, and I can’t stress this enough, the doctrine of total depravity is uniquely Augustinian. As one SBC preacher once told me “I can’t discuss total depravity biblically because I can’t find it in the holy scriptures”. To that I say “amen.”

    God bless.

      Robert

      Wingedfooted1 you brought up Roger Olson’s article in which he attacks the Traditionalist statement. This is the article that I mentioned may have been one to which you were referring. You then wrote:

      “It is mind boggling to me that any one would say that arminians don’t consider Traditionalists as Semi-Pelagian when last summer, on this very website, Traditionalists were under attack by Arminians for taking a stand against total depravity, which even Norm should be able to confirm (hint).”

      The Traditionalists were not under attack by Arminians for taking a stand against total depravity. First of all the Traditionalists have not spoken against depravity they have disagreed with the strictly Augustinian conception of depravity. Olson was concerned that the Traditionalists statement was not strong enough on depravity (not that it was a complete denial of depravity). Olson incorrectly, in my opinion claimed that SBCers are for the most part semi-pelagian.

      A friend of mine, Richard Coords, is an Arminian and he responded to Olson’s article at Olson’s site. Note that Richard explicitly cites evidence that Baptists hold to total depravity. And then note Roger Olson basically ignores the evidence presented in his response:

      [[Richard Coords says:

      June 8, 2012 at 4:45 pm

      I want to add further clarification on the Semi-Pelagian charge. The SBC has been outstpoken in support of Total Depravity. See here: http://bpnews.net/BPnews.asp?ID=33792

      Dr. Olson, do you share the SBC view of Total Depravity as espoused in the linked article?

      Reply

      rogereolson says:

      June 9, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      I don’t have time to read every article people invite me to read and respond to. I think I’ll decline this time. I don’t really care what the SBC says. (Who speaks for the SBC, anyway?) I’ve never been Southern Baptist although many years ago my wife and I attended a SBC church for a year (Munich International Baptist Church in Munich, Germany). I didn’t join. They wouldn’t let me without re-baptizing me. I was baptized as a believer by immersion, but as it was not in a Baptist church Munich International Baptist Church wouldn’t extend membership to me without re-baptism. They told me to my face my baptism was “alien immersion.” They invited my wife to join because she was baptized in a Conservative Baptist Church. They’d never heard of it, but they said it sounded good to them! They let me fill the pulpit and teach the men’s (!) Sunday School class, but they wouldn’t let me vote. I didn’t really care. Our fellowship with them for that year was beautiful.]]

      In my opinion this was a very unfair response on the part of Olson. He makes the public charge that SBC’ers deny total depravity and that they are semi-Pelagian. Another person writes a brief response and directly rebuts his claim with actual evidence. He then dismisses this evidence out of hand without even considering it. That is not right, and that is why I say again that Olson does not represent what all Arminians think in this issue.

      Robert

        Mary S.

        What disappoints me the most is that a Baptist church rejected Olson’s believer’s baptism by immersion. If it was in the Name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, there is nothing alien about it!

          wingedfooted1

          Blessings, Sis.

          I understand.

          I hear phrases such as “New Testament Church” or “like faith” when it comes to Baptists referring to water baptism. For instance Landmark Baptists are notorious for considering all baptisms outside their denomination as “alien”. They believe John the Baptist was literally a Baptist (contrary to, let’s say, John the Methodist). Maybe he was really John the “Reformed” Baptist. Just kidding.

          That said, I can at least see where they get it. Obviously, every one baptized in the Bible was baptized by a believer (someone already saved, at least how we see it in the book of Acts). If you question the salvation of other denominations, then it seems only natural you would question that denomination’s method of baptism.

          Grace

Robert

Hello again wingedfooted1,

I did some further research and found what I believe to be the Arminian that you correctly claimed had said that he believes that nost SBCers are semipelagians. It was Roger Olson in an article in which he was giving his opinion regarding the statment by Traditionalists. Olson felt that the statment could be interpreted as semipelagian because it denied that Adam’s sin had completely incapicated the human will. Olson claimed that the statement was insufficient, that it was not strong enough on depravity and did not present prevenient grace sufficiently. At the time Olson was a member of SEA but there were some disagreements between Olson and others at SEA (including that while other members of SEA affirm inerrancy, Olson does not and has made it clear on his own blog that he denies inerrancy of scripture: so Olson eventually left the group). My point is that while Olaon ia a scholar regarding the history of Arminianism, he does not represent the opinion of all Arminians(whether it is inerrancy or depravity: so he does not represent all Arminians in some of his claims). I believe Olson is mistaken regarding his claim that most Baptists are seni-pelagian. My observation is that most Baptists hold to some conception of depravity. I also believe that Olson misinterpreted the statement made by Traditionalists. That statement denies the augustinian conception of depravity, but that is not the same as denyihng depravity or affirming semipelagian beliefs. So you were correct about Olson making the claim.

At the same time I continue to maintain that yuu are mistaken regarding your claim that those who hold an element of the TUlIP acronym are thus calvinists.

And I remain curious wingfooted1, what is your own position regarding depravity? I take it you deny the augustinian conception of depravity. Do you still hold to a form of depravity or do you deny depravity entirely?

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    Robert,

    Consider the following definition of Total Depravity….

    “Total depravity is a theological doctrine that derives from the Augustinian concept of original sin. It is the teaching that, as a consequence of the Fall of Man, every person born into the world is enslaved to the service of sin and, apart from the efficacious or prevenient grace of God, is utterly unable to choose to follow God or choose to accept salvation as it is offered.”

    Now even that definition is over-simplified, but my understanding is Traditionalists reject Augustine’s concept of original sin, therefore they reject Augustine’s concept of Total Depravity. This is precisely what caused such an uproar last summer from Calvinists (and Arminians), since they both embrace fully the notion of Total Depravity.

    Now regarding your research, perhaps it was Roger Olson who provided the post at the SEA website (again, I can’t confirm this because I can’t currently locate it), but I can assure you his stance is not unique at the SEA.

    Now here are just a few comments/quotes from that other major contributor to the SEA (whose website is no longer available and, out of respect for the individual, whose name I choose not to disclose) with whom I had interaction regarding the topic to total depravity…….

    “Even Arminius thought of himself as an Augustinian, however modified of an Augustinian he may have been.”

    “…the reason I spend so much time on Arminius’s view of Total Depravity is because of the Calvinists who call him a semi-Pelagian. His commentaries on this doctrine were every bit as ‘Calvinistic’ as is the modern day Calvinist.”

    “Calvinism, IMO, needs more time to be addressed than semi-Pelagianism. Now, whether or not you want that label, to deny Total Depravity is to place yourself in the semi-Pelagian camp. That is just the way it is. You can deny the label, and that is your right, I suppose, but that doesn’t change the fact that the belief to which you hold is semi-Pelagian.”

    And there you have it. Both calvinists and arminians (but I repeat myself) hold dearly to the Augustinian doctrine of Total Depravity. As Roger Olson puts it…..

    “It doesn’t matter what ‘most Baptists’ believe or what is the ‘traditional Southern Baptist understanding.’ For a long time I’ve been stating that most American Christians, including most Baptists, are semi-Pelagian, not Arminian and not merely non-Calvinist. Calvinists and Arminians stand together, with Scripture, against semi-Pelagianism.”

    So why do Arminians stand together with their Calvinist brothers on this issue?

    Simple. Because Arminians themselves are at least 1 point Calvinists.

    God bless

      Norm Miller

      Robert: If there is such broad unanimity among believers on total depravity, why must we be either Calvinists or Arminians?
      Can’t we all be biblicists? — Norm

Robert

Hello Norm,

You asked:

“Robert: If there is such broad unanimity among believers on total depravity, why must we be either Calvinists or Arminians?
Can’t we all be biblicists?”

Who said that we must “be either Calvinists or Arminians”? It wasn’t me.

Personally I consider myself to be a “Biblicist”, though many others like to try to pigeonhole me.

Because I try to be a Biblicist I end up rejecting some people’s pet positions. That is also why I am sympathetic towards the theological positions of those who call themselves “Traditionalists” here. As far as I can see I hold identical positions to those held by “Traditionalists” and it also appears to me that “Traditionalists” seem to be more Biblicist than others.

Can we all be Biblicists?

This question reminds me of a famous quote:

“You want the truth? You can’t handle the truth . . .” Colonel Jessup (from a FEW GOOD MEN)

The answer to your question Norm is “No”. Some are too committed and emotionally connected to their theological traditions and theologies. So they cannot be biblicists though it is ironic that many of them will tell you they are biblicist when defending their traditions/theologies (it is was interesting that when I did a lot of counter cult ministry virtually every cult member would tell you that they were biblicists!). So they have to defend their theology or tradition no matter what evidence is presented to the contrary, at all costs. Doesn’t matter if the Bible properly interpreted goes against their tradition/theology. Doesn’t matter if they have to resort to misrepresentations and caricatures of other people and their positions. And it does not matter whether this person is a Calvinist or a Catholic, defense of their theology/tradition no matter what, is their commitment.

Robert

Robert

Wingfooted1 wrote:

“Still, the classical arminian definition of total depravity is the same as the calvinistic definition of total depravity. The ONLY difference being the solution. 5 Point calvinists, for the most part, believe the sinner must first be regenerated in order to believe. The 1 or 2 point calvinist (arminians) believes the sinner must first be released from the bondage of sin. Both are unbiblical.”

Not all Arminians hold the same conception of depravity. Some are “classical Arminians” holding to an Augustinian conception of depravity, some do not. So it is not true or accurate to say that all Arminians hold the same conception of depravity.

But that is not all that you say here. You say that Calvinists are wrong in their claim that “the sinner must first be regenerated in order to believe” (I agree with you on that). You say that Arminians are wrong because they believe “the sinner must first be released from the bondage of sin”. A denial of nonbelievers being in the bondage of sin is a denial of depravity. You say both ideas are “unbiblical.”

I had asked you repeatedly what your own position is in regards to depravity.

You responded:

“In response to your final question(s) my stance on depravity is irrelevant to the discussion.”

I have been open about my own view (i.e. I hold to depravity but do not hold the Augustinian conception of it). Why the reticence in sharing your own view on this?

You reject the Augustinian conception of depravity, but then go on to say:

“Again, and I can’t stress this enough, the doctrine of total depravity is uniquely Augustinian.”

That is not true, one can hold to depravity without holding to the Augustinian conception of it. In fact that is precisely the position of those calling themselves “Traditionalists”, those who run this blog. They deny the Augustinian conception and yet hold to depravity.

You then cite an unnamed source:

“As one SBC preacher once told me “I can’t discuss total depravity biblically because I can’t find it in the holy scriptures”. To that I say “amen.””

This appears to be you approvingly quoting an SBC preacher who denies depravity. He says that depravity cannot be found in scripture and you whole heartedly agree with him giving an “amen” to his claim.

Wingfooted1 if you deny the Augustinian conception and deny **any** conception of total depravity, that was the position of Pelagians. You appear to reject the views of Calvinists and Arminians regarding depravity. And your “amen” to the unnamed SBC pastor suggests you reject ***all*** conceptions of depravity: is this true?

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    “This appears to be you approvingly quoting an SBC preacher who denies depravity. He says that depravity cannot be found in scripture and you whole heartedly agree with him giving an ‘amen’ to his claim.”

    Brother, please go back in read my post(s) carefully.

    Again….

    “TOTAL depravity is a theological doctrine that derives from the Augustinian concept of original sin.”

    Again, as one prominent contributor to the SEA said….

    “…to deny TOTAL Depravity is to place yourself in the semi-Pelagian camp. That is just the way it is.”

    I reject the Augustinian/Calvinistic/Arminian concept of TOTAL Depravity as most (if not all) non-reformed SBCers do.

    God bless

      Godismyjudge

      Hi Wingedfooted1,

      Here’s SEA’s article on depravity. Could you agree with it?

      “5. We believe that humanity was created in the image of God but fell from its original sinless state through willful disobedience and Satan’s deception, resulting in eternal condemnation and separation from God. In and of themselves and apart from the grace of God human beings can neither think, will, nor do anything good, including believe. But the prevenient grace of God prepares and enables sinners to receive the free gift of salvation offered in Christ and his gospel. Only through the grace of God can sinners believe and so be regenerated by the Holy Spirit unto salvation and spiritual life. It is also the grace of God that enables believers to continue in faith as well as good in thought, will, and deed, so that all good deeds or movements that can be conceived must be ascribed to the grace of God.”

      God be with you,
      Dan

        wingedfooted1

        Dan,

        “In and of themselves and apart from the grace of God human beings can neither think, will, nor do anything good, including believe. But the prevenient grace of God prepares and enables sinners to receive the free gift of salvation offered in Christ and his gospel.”

        What does it mean by “prevenient” grace? Can you expand on that a bit? How does it “enable” sinners in regards to the gospel? I need to know this before I can answer.

        Also, if you can speak on behalf of the SEA, does one have to embrace the Augustinian/Calvinistic doctrine of total depravity to be a member of the SEA? I was told by one contributor (over a year ago now) “Yes”. Is that true?

        Grace.

          Godismyjudge

          Hi Wingedfooted1,

          I am not on the SEA leadership team but I have been a member for a while and have a good sense as to what they believe.

          No, one does not have to believe in Calvinist total depravity. For starters, one does not have to believe in inherited guilt. Also, when Calvinists affirm inability, they do so in a deterministic sense and no SEA member is a deterministic so we don’t mean the same thing. Also, Calvinist often explain total depravity as meaning man requires regeneration to precede faith or that depraved man needs irresistible grace. None of these things are required by SEA. That’s why I brought up article 5 of SEA’s SOF – to look at what we do believe.

          I don’t know who you spoke with but if it’s the person I am thinking of, that person was very passionate in guarding Arminianism against the charge of heresy, but at times he was prone to overstatement or not being very theologically precise.

          Previenient grace minimally means God makes the first move when it comes to our relationship with Him. In some sense, no man seeks after God without God first seeking after Him. Likewise, grace is unmerited favor. We do not earn God’s salvation or even His taking the initiative in salvation. But the exact way in which this grace works is explained differently by different SEA members. The concern would be if your position was that in no sense does man require God’s previenient grace.

          On enablement, again, this is open to a number of alternative ways of explaining it. But if you denied that in *any* sense God enables us to believe, that would be a problem. Put another way, SEA members can’t denying passages like John 6:44, John 15:6, Romans 8:7 or 1 Corinthians 2:14. SEA is open to a wide range of interpretation of these texts but denying them is a no, no. I suppose I should add that “abusive interpretations” don’t count either. For example, a liberal who says the bible is wrong when it says those things wouldn’t count. Another example might be something like Pelagious’ explanation of passages that talk about grace. He said passages that say we are saved by grace mean God graciously grants eternal life to those who have earned it. But as long as someone isn’t dismissing those texts, they should be able to agree with SEA’s article, in their own way.

          So I guess I should ask again, is there any sense in which you could agree with SEA’s statement?

          God be with you,
          Dan

          wingedfooted1

          Dan,

          I want to stay sensitive here regarding the person(s) from the SEA I have had interactions with. He was definitely passionate about defending “classical arminianism” and more so Arminius himself. The brother appeared to be a major contributor to the SEA at that time, but has since fallen on some hard times. So out of respect for him and the SEA I chose not to disclose his name.

          I was told, quite strongly (in his exact words)….

          “….the reason I spend so much time on Arminius’s view of Total Depravity is because of the Calvinists who call him a semi-Pelagian. His commentaries on this doctrine were every bit as ‘Calvinistic’ as is the modern day Calvinist.”

          Also, I blatantly asked him if one had to hold to the Augustinian notion of Total Depravity to be a member of the SEA and he firmly responded “Yes!” In other words, if someone rejected the T (from the TULIP) they would be denied membership into the SEA.

          That said, his interpretation of “prevenient grace” was the sinner must first be released from the bondage of sin in order to make a “free will” acceptance of the gospel. His analogy was one of a sinner being in a cell cage and until the Lord open the cell door, the sinner (or prisoner) couldn’t respond to the gospel. The followers of this blog (and there were many) seemed to embrace this interpretation as well. Of course this analogy continued to come unraveled when I asked “then why does one depraved sinner accept the gospel and the other depraved sinner doesn’t?”

          However, biblically, this doesn’t work. Just as “regeneration doesn’t precede faith”, neither does “freedom precede faith”. It is only until the sinner is found “not guilty” (declared righteous) is he then, and only then, “set free” (given freedom) and granted “life” (regeneration).

          John 8:31…
          To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

          Romans 6:17…..
          But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.

          In both instances being a slave to sin did not prevent the sinner from believing him (John 8:31) nor obeying the gospel (Romans 6:17). In fact, as believers, as long as we are in the flesh, we are still slaves to sin (Romans 7:14-23).

          That said, I believe all men have the God given ability to believe. If man can’t believe then Christ’s finished works on the cross were pointless. It would be like replacing the impossible (the law of works) with the impossible (the law of faith).

          For me, the drawing/enablement (John 6:44; 65) found in John 6 is referring to divine instruction. God teaches and man listens and learns (John 6:45). In the words of Paul in Romans 10:14…

          “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”

          Do I believe God makes the first move in regards to salvation? YES! But not by first generating them or releasing them from the bondage of sin. But rather by planting the seed (the word of God) in the sinner’s heart. Once the seed has been planted the sinner is then enabled, due to the knowledge of the gospel, to accept or reject God’s gracious provision. I believe this is precisely what happened to Lydia in Acts 16. Just as a Farmer must open the ground, the Lord opened her heart and planted the seed, or the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am not discounting the work of the Holy Spirit here. It is Him who convicts the lost sinner. In fact, every sinner knows he is a sinner, otherwise, why does he run from the light (John 3:20)?

          Still, I don’t believe men are born depraved (please don’t confuse that with being born with a sin nature). When reading Romans 1:18-32 we notice that these men were not born that way, but rather became that way. I don’t see a time when Adam was depraved, much less totally depraved. Notice, even in a fallen state, he still had a relationship with God and even brought Him offerings. So I don’t see depravity as something that we are born with, but rather as something that occurs over time. I do believe in depravity, but only in the sense the Spirit reveals it to me in the Holy Scriptures.

          All that said, you tell me. Does my understanding of grace and depravity fall within the parameters of the SEA’s definition of depravity?

          Grace

            Godismyjudge

            Wingfooted1,

            Tentatively, yes, I think so. Your SEA membership card is in the mail. :-)

            Part of what I think is happening here is that Arminians and Baptists are historically distinct groups; different traditions if you will. Both groups have proud heritages that they don’t want to let go. Likewise, both groups have their own pet phrases and theological jargon. “Depravity”, “bondage to sin” and “prevenient grace” might mean something different to a Traditional Baptist then it does to an Arminian. But the difference might be more semantic than substantive. So by me asking if you agree with SEA’s statement, I am asking you to be the translator. Likewise by your asking me if your view fits within SEA’s statement is asking me to be the translator. That’s the main reason I am tentative.
            Our common ground is scripture and I am fine with the way you explained those passages. On the other hand, I wouldn’t say man is not “depraved” or a “slave to sin”, but that might just be due to a difference in the way we define those terms.

            I really agree with your comments about God opening the heart, and planting the seed of His word in our heart and convicting sinners and giving us the ability to believe.

            God be with you,
            Dan

            wingedfooted1

            Dan,

            I respect your “tentatively yes” and fully understand (and agree).

            However, from my personal experiences, there would be many arminians within the SEA who wouldn’t. Now if they make up the majority of the SEA I don’t know. And honestly don’t care. Just being a christian is enough to keep me busy.

            If my understanding is correct, it appears Arminius was at least a 1 point calvinist if “his commentaries on this doctrine were every bit as ‘Calvinistic’ as is the modern day Calvinist.” Arminius only differed with Calvin in regards to the solution, both of which I reject. So I guess I would have to modify my stance a bit and say that at least some arminians are 1 point calvinists. For me, the only one who can truly be called a non-calvinist is someone who rejects the TULIP in full.

            Again, I do believe all men have the natural, God given ability to believe, it is just that they can’t believe in whom they have not heard (Romans 10:14). And they sure can’t believe the gospel until they hear it. Its not that they lack the hardware, just the information. So I reject total depravity, especially regarding total inability in regards to the gospel, which the scripture states even a child can understand (2 Timothy 3:15).

            Of course it was this description that got me labeled as a Semi-Pelagian, even thou I denied it repeatedly.

            Again, for clarity, I do believe (find in scripture) that all men are slaves to sin, even believers, but I don’t believe (find in scripture) all men are born depraved, much less totally depraved. I see a distinction between the sin nature and depravity. The sin nature is something we are born with. Depravity is something that occurs over time.

            But “total depravity”? I don’t see it in the scriptures.

            God bless

            Godismyjudge

            Wingfooted1,

            On getting called a semi-P, probably what’s happening is people are taking your statement that man has the natural ability to believe as a denial of passages like 1 Corinthians 2:14 and Romans 8:7. I would be scarred of the same thing, if you hadn’t said above that we need God to work on our heart.

            God be with you,
            Dan

            wingedfooted1

            Dan,

            Well that’s probably because I disagree with their interpretation of both Romans 8:7 and 1 Corinthians 2:14, which, ironically, both calvinists and arminians agree upon (there’s one red flag).

            First Romans 8:7 is referring to the law of works, not something as simple as believing the gospel, which Paul says even a child can understand (2 Timothy 3:15). Romans 8:6-8 is referring to the law of works. No one is capable of pleasing God by keeping the written code perfectly. “Because by the works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

            Second, the below is taken from the NetBible commentary regarding 1 Corinthians 2:14.

            “The natural man is any person who does not possess the Holy Spirit, namely, unbelievers. Every human being is a natural man until he or she trusts Christ and receives the Spirit. Paul called this person a natural man because he or she is only natural. He has no supernatural Person indwelling him, and his viewpoints and ideas are only what are natural. He cannot accept all that God has revealed because he does not possess the indwelling Spirit of God. The natural person can, of course, understand the gospel and experience salvation but only because the Holy Spirit illuminates his or her understanding. Paul did not mean that an unbeliever is incapable of understanding Scripture. However an unbeliever rejects and does not accept all that God wants him or her to have. One of these things is eternal life through faith in His Son. It is as though God is speaking in a language that the unbeliever does not understand; he or she fails to respond properly. He or she needs an interpreter. That is a ministry that only the Holy Spirit can perform.”

            I agree with that completely.

            God bless

            Godismyjudge

            Wingfooted1,

            I agree Romans 8 is saying we can’t please God by keeping the law perfectly. I also agree with the Net Bible commentary on 1 Corinthians 2:14. So is our difference in the way we interpret scripture, or each other?

            For example, why say “the natural man can believe”, and then agree with the Net Bible’s comment saying “the natural man can believe *with the Spirit’s illumination*”? That “with the Spirit’s illumination” would probably save you the trouble of being called semi-P. For my part, I am content with the fact that you are not a semi-P, but wouldn’t it be nice not to be confused as one?

            God be with you,
            Dan

            wingedfooted1

            Dan,

            “…the natural man can believe with the Spirit’s illumination.”

            Precisely. “The natural person can, of course, understand the gospel and experience salvation but only because the Holy Spirit illuminates his or her understanding.”

            It would be the same as saying “the student can, of course, understand mathematics and experience a passing grade, but only because the Teacher illuminates his or her understanding.”

            That is why I say that “draws” in John 6:44 and “enables” in John 6:65 refers to divine instruction. Only those who both listen and learn come to faith in Jesus. Those who don’t listen and don’t learn won’t. It is not due to an inability or learning disability, but rather a willingness to take God at His word. Man is teachable. He already knows he’s a sinner (John 3:20). The Spirit sees to that.

            Again, Paul wrote to Timothy (2 Timothy 3:15)…

            “….how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.”

            Is that true or not? Are the Spirit-breathed scriptures able to make us wise regarding salvation or not? Some calvinists say “only if you have been regenerated”. Some arminians say “only if you have been released from the bondage of sin”.

            One is just as unbiblical as the other.

            You said “I am content with the fact that you are not a semi-P.”

            Careful, brother. So far, you are the first.

            “…but wouldn’t it be nice not to be confused as one?”

            Nah….sticks and stones. As your heading says “God is my Judge”.

            Grace

            Godismyjudge

            wingedfooted1,

            In some ways I admire your courage, in other ways, I fear the confusion your expressions may cause others. Either way, I am glad to have spoken with you.

            God be with you,
            Dan

            wingedfooted1

            Dan,

            First, let me say I have appreciated the exchange and your gracious tone.

            Obviously, my past acquaintances were more concern with protecting “classical arminianism” and/or even Arminius himself. Perhaps they were letting their personal feelings cloud their judgment. However, it was made very clear to me that Arminius’ definition of total depravity was every bit as augustinian/calvinistic as today’s calvinists.

            Perhaps some of those going by “arminians” would be better off elsewhere since the society’s namesake was a 1 Point Augustinian/Calvinist.

            Just a thought.

            God bless you, brother.

            wingedfooted1

            Dan,

            I want to share one more thought with you because I think this is so paramount to this whole discussion of total depravity (or total inability) of which I believe to be unbiblical.

            I remember in my discussion with these arminians (and the same goes with calvinists) they would say to me “if man has the natural ability to believe the gospel, then why does he need grace?”

            The answer is simple. Man doesn’t need grace so that he can believe; but rather God gives us grace precisely because we can believe. See the difference? It subtle, but huge. Think about it this way.

            God gives us His law, the written code, showing us what we must do to make ourselves right with God. Jesus said “Do this (keep the law perfectly) and you will live” (Luke 10:28).

            Man responds back to God “But God, I can’t keep your law perfectly” (there’s your inability!).

            God says “Quite right. You can’t. Therefore I will send my Son and He will keep My law perfectly so that anyone who believes in Him will live”.

            Man responds back to God “But God, nothing has changed. I can’t believe either, remember? All you did is replace the impossible (the law of works) with the impossible (the law of faith)!”

            But that is not what happened. God replaced the impossible (the law of works) with the very possible (the law of faith). God replaced something that no one could do (keep the law perfectly) with something that everyone could do (believe the gospel). They just have to hear it. The “seed” must be planted. Just as Paul said “how can they believe in whom they have not heard?” (Romans 10:14). Now, again, this doesn’t discount the ministry of the Holy Spirit. As already stated, man knows he is a sinner. The Holy Spirit convicts us precisely because we are convictable.

            God teaches us (John 6:45) precisely because we are teachable. “Come now, and let us reason together” (Isaiah 1:18). But we have to have a willingness to learn. Its not because man is unable, but rather because he is unwilling.

            God bless you, brother.

            Godismyjudge

            Wingedfooted1,

            John 6:44 doesn’t say God draws or teaches us because we can believe, but rather no man can come unless the Father draws him. I don’t think that distinction survives the text. There’s a difference between being able to be taught and being able to believe. Using the foreign language example you provided above, there’s I can learn French, but I cannot speak French. Likewise, your distinction here seems against saying “the natural man cannot accept all that God has revealed because he does not possess the indwelling Spirit of God”.

            God be with you,
            Dan

            Johnathan Pritchett

            No, but given verse 6:45, and the echo of Exodus 16 and the theme of following instruction regarding the gathering of food, the point of John 6, as it relates to the narrative (remember it is a narrative), no one can come unless drawn by the Father, and before that “all that the Father has given me will come” in 6:37 refers to a specific people as it relates to the narrative given the current situation is in the pre-atonement ministry of Jesus at that point in the story.

            Those who are being given and ARE being drawn to be raised on the last day are those who listened and learned from the Father even though “all were taught by God”, which is why Jesus clarifies Isaiah 54:13, and the overall discourse of this passage given that John records the crowd’s and Jesus echo of Exodus 16, the theme of listening and learning and following instruction (or the food will stink…lol) is entirely relevant to the passage.

            We got to grab for all of it in the text, and not just edit it with certain soundbites.

            When it comes to the atonement, John 12:32-33, Jesus speaks of something new about drawing. He says He will draw all.

            Now, the good Calvinist, especially of the ones who follow James White, know to point to verse 12:36 and comment how Jesus did not reveal Himself at that time.

            Well, of course not, it wasn’t time for the crucifixion at that point, So despite the “thunder” and the wonders (John 12:27-29/37), they did not believe. Jesus says when he is raised up, He will draw all, thus, not before that happens.

            So…okay then.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            Godismyjudge,

            I am not saying you are “editing” or the Calvinist (obviously), I am just making general remarks about how they respond.

            Sorry if it reads like I am lumping you in with them. That was not intended.

            Johnathan Pritchett

            I guess the issue for me is not whether a non-Calvinist has sufficiently understood John 6:44 or John 6 in general, but rather the issue is whether the Calvinist has sufficiently understood John 6 AND John 12 and the narrative and the events and circumstances of Jesus’ earthly ministry and what his words mean.

            For me, John 6 begins with understand John 5:45-47. Obviously, the ones God is drawing to raise in John 6:37-45 are “believers” already, and so they are coming to Jesus. Certainly, no one can come unless drawn, but those being given to the son are the ones who did believe and learn from God, believe Moses so as to believe Jesus, etc.

            The issue of the principle in John 6:44, no one comes unless drawn, remains, and no one I know of rejects it, but the further issue is what does this mean in relation to the narrative, and the who, how, and why that works.

            Another issue is when Christ is lifted up, what does the drawing mean for that new situation in the world, how it relates the Holy Spirit’s ministry in conjunction with the apostles’ ministry (John 14-16), etc. and the who, how, and why that works.

            Resorting to mere propositionalism without deeper understanding about either verse is insufficient in my opinion, regardless of one’s soteriology.

            I am sure you would agree.

            wingedfooted1

            Brother, Dan.

            I greatly appreciate your time. You have been very kind and patient.

            Let me show you what I believe addresses so many of the problems created by calvinism, including total inability.

            Numbers 21:6-9….
            So the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people and they bit the people. Many of the Israelites died. The people went to Moses and said, “We’ve sinned, for we spoke against the LORD and you. Pray to the LORD so that he will send the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a poisonous snake and place it on a pole. Whoever is bitten can look at it and live.” Moses made a bronze snake and placed it on a pole. If a snake bit someone, that person could look at the bronze snake and live.

            Thou the Israelite were infected with poisonous venom (which represents the penalty for the sin), according to the Lord, did they still possess the ability to look to the brazen serpent? In other words, did the sinfulness of these Israelites (their current condition) prohibit their ability to look upon the brazen serpent?

            Also, our Lord said in John 4:48…. “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

            Dan, go back and look thru the gospel of John. Every time someone believed it was either because of something Jesus said or did. Every time. Some believed simply because of His words (John 4:41). Some believed because of other people’s testimonies (John 4:39). For others it took divine miracles (John 2:11, John 4:54, John 11:45). And we notice as the miracles increased, more and more came to faith in Christ.

            Did these sinners have the ability to believe what they heard and what they saw?

            wingedfooted1

            Johnathan,

            John 4:23…
            Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

            I agree with a lot of what you wrote. Clearly the ones being given to the Son from the Father are themselves believers in the context of John 6.

            God bless

            Godismyjudge

            Johnathan,

            I agree with much of what you say here; by focusing on just one aspect of John 6:44, I did not mean to slight any other aspect of the text.

            God be with you,
            Dan

            Johnathan Pritchett

            I know, I just wanted to make sure the intent wasn’t misunderstood. When I reply to something and don’t quote someone specifically, I try to make my replies “in general” for all readers, and wanted to let you know that I wasn’t aiming at you specifically with those comments. :)

            Godismyjudge

            Wingedfooted1,

            Yes, I think they had the ability to believe. Sometimes historic narrative provides meta narrative explaining why people believe (Acts 18:27) and sometimes it doesn’t. But just because the text doesn’t say God was working in their hearts, doesn’t mean He wasn’t.

            It’s been my pleasure wingedfooted1.

            God be with you,
            Dan

            wingedfooted1

            Dan,

            One final thought here.

            I am leery of any theology or system that can’t explain something scripturally. Calvinists are notorious for using words or phrases such as “mystery” or “behind the scenes”. I need biblical support. Either clearly outlined text or, better yet, actual biblical examples to support an idea or notion. So when I hear something like “working in their hearts” I grow skeptical.

            Regarding the gospel, I do say the opening of Lydia’s heart is simply God placing the “word of God” into her heart/mind. And nothing more (Again, I am not discounting the ministry of the Holy Spirit here. As stated before man knows he is a sinner). As stated earlier, just as a farmer must open the ground to plant his seed, the Lord must open our hearts (or minds) to plant His seed, or the word of God.

            Romans 10:6-9…..
            But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

            James 1:21….
            Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

            Now regarding the examples of people putting their faith in Jesus found in the gospel of John, I believe His words and/or divine miracles were His way of “working in their hearts” and, again, nothing more. For some, His words were enough. But for others it took divine miracles. But in each case, the scriptures tell us how or why these people put their faith in Him.

            I see no biblical evidence of man having a learning disability (total depravity). Definitely an unwillingness, but not an inability. I see Jesus teaching and doing miracles precisely because man can believe.

            When the father of the demon possessed son said to Jesus “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24) he wasn’t waiting to be regenerated or something else to happen, but simply asking for proof. All he needed was more evidence. And the Lord graciously provided it.

            Peace, brother.

Robert

Wingfooted1,

Nice to see that you have been interacting with Dan concerning Arminian beliefs here. Perhaps now you better understand what I was getting at, that not all Arminians hold to what you have been calling the augustinian conception of depravity. Also it should be clear that while Roger Olson and another person claimed that SBCers are semipelagians, they did not represent all Arminians at SEA (or any where else for that matter). Dan shared the SEA statement on total depravity and it should be clear that it is not an augustinian conception. Basically total depravity means that sin has had effects on all aspects of human nature (i.e. “total” refers to the extensiveness of sin, not that sinners are as bad as they can be) and that due to sin we cannot come to faith on our own without the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. Jn. 6:44 says that no one can come unless they are first drawn. Arminians see this drawing as grace from God and call it “prevenient grace”. I describe it to people as the Spirit comes to an individual perosn and reveals things to them. Things such as their sinful condition and separation from God due to their sin, Jesus as the way of salvation, the need for faith and repentance in order to be saved, etc. etc. It is preconversion as the person is not yet saved/regenerated. It is grace as it is not deserved or earned by us.

When I speak of “inability” I mean that the sinner is unable to have a faith response unless they have first experienced this preconversion work of the Spirit. This work of the Spirit enables but does not necessitate a faith response to the gospel. In a sense you could describe this work of the Spirit as developing informed consent in the sinner, so that the sinner knows exactly what he/she is getting into when becoming a disciple of Jesus. It is ironic wingfooted1 that in your comments to Dan you made these exact same points though you worded it differently. I really don’t care about how it is worded as long as the ideas, concepts, claims are biblical. In effect wingfooted1 you hold Arminian beliefs, you just don’t seem to want to call them that. Lastly you really should stop referring to someone who holds to a form of depravity as a “one point calvinist”. That is not an accurate description of Arminians or Traditionalists or whoever may hold elements of the TULIP acronym but without the same meanings as calvinists hold. Arminians and Traditionalists are not calvinists and should be properly distinguished from calvinism.

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    Brother Robert,

    You really do need to go back and re-read what I have said.

    You said… “Basically total depravity means that sin has had effects on all aspects of human nature and that due to sin we cannot come to faith on our own without the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit”

    Our sin nature (or sinfulness) does not prevent us from coming to faith. Even as believers, we are still slaves to sin (Romans 7:14). I reject total depravity because I maintain man, in his fallen state, can believe. It is just that he cannot believe in whom he has not heard (Romans 10:14).

    You said…. “In effect wingfooted1 you hold Arminian beliefs, you just don’t seem to want to call them that.”

    Now that is hilarious. According to that logic then you and I are Pelagians because Pelagius believed in unlimited atonement. Unlimited atonement is a Pelagian belief.

    You said “Lastly you really should stop referring to someone who holds to a form of depravity as a “one point calvinist”.

    I never did. I believe in depravity. I said someone who holds to the augustinian notion of TOTAL depravity is a 1 point calvinist. Again, total depravity is a uniquely augustinian/calvinistic doctrine. And as one arminian put it…

    “…His (Arminius’) commentaries on this doctrine were every bit as ‘Calvinistic’ as is the modern day Calvinist” and “Even Arminius thought of himself as an Augustinian, however modified of an Augustinian he may have been.”

    So I will soften my stance a bit, cautiously, and say the SEA’s namesake is at least a 1 point Calvinist. Therefore at least some arminians are 1 point calvinists.

    Total depravity is a uniquely augustinian/calvinistic doctrine. You can’t embrace it and then claim not be to a calvinist of some stripe. If you believe in Total depravity, you are at least a 1 point calvinist.

    I, and my SBC brothers and sisters (at least for the most part), are not arminians. Nor are we calvinists. Nor are we Semi-pelagians or Pelagians. I know this drives some people crazy, but it is what it is.

    Deal with it.

    Grace

      Godismyjudge

      Wingedfooted1,

      I am not quite sure what to say at this point. Every other post you *seem* to contradict John 6:44 and 1 Corinthians 2:14. I probably should bow out. Thanks for the conversation.

      God be with you,
      Dan

        wingedfooted1

        Dan,

        I apologize for any confusion I might have caused.

        For simplicity purposes, John 6:44 and 65 is simply referring to instruction. God teaches us because we are teach-able. God “draws” us because we are “draw-able”. The Holy Spirit convicts us because we are convict-able.

        1 Corinthians 2:14 is referring to “the deep things of God” (2:10) and not something as simple as the gospel. Also, Paul is referring to those who have the indwelling of the Spirit. But, look at Mark 12:28-34….

        One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

        Now was this teacher of the law regenerated? No. Had he been released from the bondage of sin? No. Was he indwelled with the Holy Spirit? No. He was the “natural” unregenerated man who Jesus said “answered wisely”. As the NetBible explains….

        “The natural man is any person who does not possess the Holy Spirit, namely, unbelievers. Every human being is a natural man until he or she trusts Christ and receives the Spirit. Paul called this person a natural man because he or she is only natural. He has no supernatural Person indwelling him, and his viewpoints and ideas are only what are natural. He cannot accept ALL that God has revealed because he does not possess the indwelling Spirit of God. The natural person CAN, of course, understand the gospel and experience salvation but only because the Holy Spirit illuminates his or her understanding. Paul did not mean that an unbeliever is INCAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING SCRIPTURE.”

        Again, brother, I appreciate your time, patience, and thoughtful consideration.

        God bless

Robert

Wingfooted1 (henceforth “W” as an abbreviation) wrote:

“You really do need to go back and re-read what I have said.”

I have read your material and you keep making the same mistakes repeatedly (e.g. “W” appears to have his own idiosyncratic terminology, no one else is calling Arminians “one point Calvinists”).

“W” wrote:

“Even as believers, we are still slaves to sin (Romans 7:14).”

This last sentence is absolutely false. According to Romans 6 we **were** “slaves to sin”. Believers are no longer slaves to sin. Jesus came to set us free from slavery to sin. To state as “W” does here that “Even as believers, we are still slaves to sin” is just false.

“I reject total depravity because I maintain man, in his fallen state, can believe.”

“W” rejects “total depravity” and says later that he affirms “depravity.” But this is yet again an idiosyncratic invention on the part of “W”. There is not total depravity versus depravity. There are instead differing conceptions of total depravity (e.g. what “W” calls the “Augustinian” version held by Calvinists and the conception held by himself).

“W” writes:

“Now that is hilarious. According to that logic then you and I are Pelagians because Pelagius believed in unlimited atonement. Unlimited atonement is a Pelagian belief.”

No according to “W’s” logic, we should call anyone who affirms unlimited atonement as a “1 point Pelagian”. For “W” if someone affirms some element of TULIP that makes them a “1 point Calvinists.” Well by THAT logic, if someone affirms unlimited atonement which is something affirmed by Pelagians, then they must be “1 point Pelagians”. So “W” unwittingly provides a perfect example of what is wrong with his use of terms. If it is incorrect to call someone a “one point Pelagian” if they affirm unconditional atonement: likewise it is incorrect to call someone a “one point Calvinist” if they affirm total depravity or perseverance of the saints (as most Baptists do).”

“W” says that:

“I believe in depravity. I said someone who holds to the augustinian notion of TOTAL depravity is a 1 point calvinist. Again, total depravity is a uniquely augustinian/calvinistic doctrine.”

And again there is not “depravity” versus “total depravity”. There are instead various conceptions of total depravity.
“So I will soften my stance a bit, cautiously, and say the SEA’s namesake is at least a 1 point Calvinist. Therefore at least some arminians are 1 point calvinists.”

And by parity of reasoning, we should also say that anyone who affirms unlimited atonement is at least a 1 point Pelagian. Therefore at least some Baptists and Traditionalists are 1 point Pelagians. [recall again that “W” said himself that if someone affirms unconditional atonement then they are affirming an element of what Pelagians affirm].

“Total depravity is a uniquely augustinian/calvinistic doctrine. You can’t embrace it and then claim not be to a calvinist of some stripe. If you believe in Total depravity, you are at least a 1 point calvinist.”

No, you can affirm total depravity as Traditionalists do and many Baptists do, without affirming the Augustinian conception of it. You can embrace it and reject Calvinism, so you can embrace it and not be a Calvinist of any kind, not even a “1 point Calvinist.”

“I, and my SBC brothers and sisters (at least for the most part), are not arminians. Nor are we calvinists. Nor are we Semi-pelagians or Pelagians. I know this drives some people crazy, but it is what it is.
Deal with it.”

Actually many SBC brothers and sisters while they may not refer to themselves as Arminians nevertheless affirm Arminian beliefs on soteriology. Unfortunately, those who deny total depravity do end up affirming semi-Pelagian or Pelagian beliefs.
Regarding “dealing with it” I have no problem dealing with reality or facts: I do however have problems when individuals reinvent the terminology and make up their own definitions for key theological categories and terms.

“W” you refer to yourself as an SBC brother. Are you a pastor or elder or church leader of any kind at the local church where you attend? I am just wondering because I want to know whether or not you represent the SBC when you declare that (1) believers remain slaves to sin and declare that (2) people who affirm total depravity are “1 point Calvinists”.

Robert

    wingedfooted1

    Brother Robert,

    I fully understand Paul’s message from Romans 6 and I agree with it. My point is starting with Romans 7:14-25 when Paul ends with…..

    “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.”

    We are not sinners because we sin; rather we sin because we are sinners. That was my point.

    Now regarding the doctrine of total depravity, the fact remains that it originated from Augustine. It is a uniquely augustinian doctrine. Everything about the TULIP is uniquely augustinian/calvinistic. Only calvinism believes that Christ died for a select few. Only calvinism believes in irresistible grace (regeneration precedes faith). Only calvinism believes in unconditional election to salvation. And only calvinism believes in total depravity. All of these doctrines are uniquely augustinian/calvinistic (even perseverance of the saints is uniquely augustinian/calvinistic when one understands how it relates to the other doctrines). All of these are unique only to that particular school of thought (calvinism).

    You claim that unlimited atonement is an arminian belief. Fine. But it is not a uniquely arminian belief since Pelagius believed it as well and he was Arminius successor for about 1,000 years. In fact, every school of thought and denomination (outside of reformed theology) believes that Christ died for all (even some calvinists affirm it). My point is simply that just as limited atonement is uniquely calvinistic, so is total depravity.

    Again, one major contributor to the SEA wrote…

    “Even Arminius thought of himself as an Augustinian, however modified of an Augustinian he may have been” and “his commentaries on this doctrine (total depravity) were every bit as ‘Calvinistic’ as is the modern day Calvinist.”

    Hence, it is fair to say that Arminius was a 1 point Calvinist, since his view of total depravity was every bit as “calvinistic” as some of the modern day calvinists.

    You said… “Unfortunately, those who deny total depravity do end up affirming semi-Pelagian or Pelagian beliefs.”

    And that is precisely what a calvinist would say. And that is precisely what calvinists (including some 1 pointers) accused SBCers of last summer.

    Those who do affirm total depravity, affirm an augustinian/calvinistic belief.

    I’m moving on, brother.

    God bless

      Robert

      Wingfooted1 you wrote:

      “I fully understand Paul’s message from Romans 6 and I agree with it.”

      Apparently you do not. Paul makes multiple statements in Romans 6 explicitly stating that believers are no longer slaves to sin. You claimed that believers remain slaves to sin. That is error and contradicted by Romans 6.

      “My point is starting with Romans 7:14-25 when Paul ends with…..
      “So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.””

      And I take Paul to be referring to a Jewish person under the law, unsaved and without the Spirit. Which is why after discussing this person Paul then launches into an extended discussion of the Spirit. One of the reasons why I take the person in Romans 7 to be a nonbeliever is because he says that he is “slave of sin” (when Paul just got through saying the believer in Romans 6 is not a slave of sin).

      “We are not sinners because we sin; rather we sin because we are sinners. That was my point.”

      OK, that point is valid, but you did not need to establish it by claiming the believer is still a slave to sin and making that error.

      “Now regarding the doctrine of total depravity, the fact remains that it originated from Augustine. It is a uniquely augustinian doctrine.”

      Not true, there are plenty of statements in scripture that talk about the extensiveness of sin, that sin has corrupted all men, that sin separates men from God and that they cannot have faith unless drawn by God. Calvinists may sometimes present an extreme version of total depravity, but no need to throw out the baby (a biblical conception of total depravity) with the bathwater (the Augustinian conception of total depravity).

      “Everything about the TULIP is uniquely augustinian/calvinistic. Only calvinism believes that Christ died for a select few. Only calvinism believes in irresistible grace (regeneration precedes faith). Only calvinism believes in unconditional election to salvation. And only calvinism believes in total depravity.”

      You were correct in the first, second, and third statements, your mistake was the last, the claim that “only Calvinism believes in total depravity.” Arminians who are not Calvinists believe in total depravity as do Traditionalists/SBCers. Actually everyone who is biblical holds to total depravity (the extensiveness of sin, the effects of sin, that nonbelievers are corrupted by sin, that “we sin because we are sinners” etc.).

      “All of these doctrines are uniquely augustinian/calvinistic (even perseverance of the saints is uniquely augustinian/calvinistic when one understands how it relates to the other doctrines). All of these are unique only to that particular school of thought (calvinism).”
      Again not true at all. Other Christians besides Calvinists hold to total depravity. And other Christians besides Calvinists hold to the belief that a person who is genuinely saved will persevere in their faith and will never be lost.

      “You claim that unlimited atonement is an arminian belief. Fine. But it is not a uniquely arminian belief since Pelagius believed it as well and he was Arminius successor for about 1,000 years.”

      Now you show that you are greatly mistaken in your understanding of Arminians, Calvinists and Pelagians. You do so because you claim here that “Pelagius believed it as well and he was Arminius successor for about 1,000 years”. That is impossible as Pelagius lived at the time of Augustine and it was Augustine who debated Pelagius. Arminius does not come onto the scene until the time of the Reformation about 1,000 years later than Pelagius. Pelagius could not have been the successor to Arminius because Pelagius lived about 1,000 years before Arminius. The fact that you could make such a big mistake suggests that you may not be as familiar with terms and theologies as you think.

      “My point is simply that just as limited atonement is uniquely calvinistic, so is total depravity.”

      Again you are mistaken, total depravity is not “uniquely Calvinistic.”

      “Again, one major contributor to the SEA wrote…
      “Even Arminius thought of himself as an Augustinian, however modified of an Augustinian he may have been” and “his commentaries on this doctrine (total depravity) were every bit as ‘Calvinistic’ as is the modern day Calvinist.””

      You contradict yourself here. You claim that total depravity is “uniquely Calvinistic” only held by Calvinists, but here you quote someone as saying that Arminius himself held to total depravity!

      “Hence, it is fair to say that Arminius was a 1 point Calvinist, since his view of total depravity was every bit as “calvinistic” as some of the modern day calvinists.”

      You keep repeating your mantra: if someone affirms an element of TULIP that makes them a “1 point Calvinist” This is just not true. Just as affirming unlimited atonement which Pelagians believe, does not make one a “1 point Pelagian.”

      “Those who do affirm total depravity, affirm an augustinian/calvinistic belief.”

      No, because I and others affirm total depravity and we are neither Calvinists nor do we affirm Augustinian beliefs. We affirm the biblical conception of total depravity not the extreme Augustinian conception of total depravity. You need to do some further reading in both church history and theology so that you can be more accurate with your use of theological terms including total depravity, Calvinist and Arminian.

      Wingfooted1 I also notice you did not answer my question about whether you are a leader in a local SBC congregation and represent the beliefs of SBCers.

      Robert

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