On Predestination / W A Criswell

February 15, 2014
Preached: 7/22/79
Text: Acts 27.22-31
(all comments initially moderated)

On the radio and on television, to the thousands and thousands of you who are watching, many of you on cable television in New Mexico and Oklahoma and Louisiana and throughout the northern part of Texas, this is the First Baptist Church.  And this is the pastor bringing the message entitled, PredestinationIn our preaching through the Book of Acts we are in chapter 27.  And in this chapter is one of the finest illustrations of this great and meaningful doctrine that you will find in the Word of God.  I am going to read the two parts of it; the first one, God’s decree and the second one, man’s volitional effort. 

First, God’s decree in Acts 27 beginning at verse 20:

“And when neither sun nor stars in many days appeared, and no small storm lay upon us, all hope that we should be saved was taken away.—They fell into despair.— But after long abstinence, after long praying and fasting, Paul stood forth in the midst of them and says, I exhort you to be of good cheer, for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, only of the ship. For there stood by me this night, the angel of God whose I am, whom I serve, saying, Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar, carried to Rome, and lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee—two hundred and seventy-five other souls—Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer, for I believe God.” — Acts 27.20-25

And that will be my message tonight, Facing the Future With God.—

For I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me. 

That is up there in the decree, and elective purpose, and predestination of God.  Now, down here where we are, beginning at verse 30:

“And as the sailors were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat under colors, [as] though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved” Acts 27:30-31.

A contingency, a possibility, a volitional response: “Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” 

This morning, we are going to look at God’s spiritual government.  We are going to look at it.  Not that we can explain it or understand it.  We don’t explain, we don’t understand anything.  All we do is just observe it.  And write it down.  We just look at it.  But we don’t understand or explain. 

An old woman looked at a giraffe and said, “There just ain’t no such animal.”  I can understand her response.  All of God’s creation is packed with infinitude and mystery is His signature.  I stood in a planetarium and looked at the sweep of the vast infinite heavens. 

We don’t explain it.  We just look at it.  Under a powerful microscope, I looked at God’s microcosm.  As God’s macrocosm, is infinite above us, no less is His microcosm infinitesimal below us and the same hand creating it all.  Under a powerful microscope, I looked at a leaf.  The leaf with cells and protoplasm and chlorophyll and has the mysterious gift of photosynthesis, without which there would be no life; the ability of a little cell in a leaf with his chlorophyll to take the light and power and strength of the sunlight and turn it into sugar and send it to an orange or to starch and send it down to a potato; a mystery but God’s hand.

The whole world is like that when I studied anatomy, a frog, a cat; inexplicable, just look at it or the world of nuclear science; molecules, protons, electrons; the whole earth in infinitesimal orbit.  We don’t explain these things.  No one can or ever shall.  We just look at them and write them down.  Experience them.  So it is with God’s infinite spiritual government.  We look at it and observe it, experience it.  We don’t explain it.  There are two sets of words.  There are two vocabularies that describe God’s spiritual government. 

One set of words refers to the great infinitude of God in heaven; up there where He is; the words up there that refer to God and God’s infinite sovereignty.  These words are foreknowledge, election, predestination, sovereignty, certainty, omnipotence, and omniscience.  These things apply to God in heaven. 

He sees the end from beginning.  All history is present tense before Him.  He’s never surprised or caught unawares.  Every development He sees even you before the foundation of the world.  He is the alpha, the beginning, and the omega, the ending, and that is God’s sovereign decree; guiding history, moving in infinite wonder and power through His whole created universe.  That’s the language of heaven.  All of these things of God’s elective purpose and sovereign choice is predestinating grace.  That’s up there. 

Then there’s another set of the words that describe us who live in the dust of death down here.  Those words are freedom of choice, free moral agency, contingency, possibility, striving, working.  Those words apply to us.  And as long as we keep them separate, these words apply to God.  And these words apply to us, as long as we keep them separate we’ll never have any trouble.  It is only when we mix them up that we fall into confusion and un-understanding. 

You see, both of them are here.  I now speak of God in heaven; predestination, foreknowledge, using God’s language now.  “For there stood by me this night the angel of God saying, Don’t be afraid, Paul, you must be brought to Rome before Caesar.  And lo, God hath given thee all that sail with thee.”

That’s God.  That’s the elective decree and predestinary purpose of God.  That’s God’s language.  That’s up there in heaven.  Down here in this earth where we are.  Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, “If you let these sailors escape and leave this ship without a guide, you cannot be saved.” 

Contingency, possibility, that is language down here.  So we look at both of them; first of all, the decrees of God, the sovereign purpose of God, the elective choice of the Lord, God’s language. 

He will say in the twenty-third chapter of Acts in verse 11, He will say to Paul in a conspiracy by which they sought to murder him, by night, the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul, as thou has testified of Me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also of Me at Rome.”  God says that.  Whatever the providence or the turn of fortune, whatever apparent interdiction, God says, “Paul you shall testify of Me in Rome.”  God says that. 

And he repeats that in the passage that I have just read.  “There stood by me this night the angel of God saying, Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar.”  God says that.  And not only does God say that, not only does He announce that, but the Lord also said other details that follow after. 

Here’s one, “Not only shall you be brought before Caesar in Rome, but there shall not be the loss of any man’s life among you.”  Not one.  And that’s repeated three times.

In verse 22, “There shall not be a man’s life that is lost.”
Number 24, “Lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee.”
And verse 34, “There shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you.” 

That’s what God says.  That’s what God has decreed.  Not only that, not only does God say, “Paul you’re going to stand before Caesar in Rome,” and not only does God say, “There shall not be a one that is on the boat that is lost, two hundred and seventy-six of you, not one.” 

But God also says that the ship will be destroyed.  In verse 22, “You’ll lose the ship,” and not only that, but in verse 26 God says, “You will be cast upon a certain island.”  That’s what God says.  And those are the decrees of the Almighty.  And they cannot be interdicted or changed.  That’s predestination.  That’s election.  That’s God ruling the universe up there in the infinitude of His glory in heaven. 

So when God says that you are going to stand before Caesar and all of these are going to be saved, there is no providence that will interdict it.  The storm rages for two solid weeks, fourteen days and fourteen nights, the sun and the stars are blotted out.  And the storm takes that little vessel and drives it up and down the Sea of Adria, but God said, “They will all be saved.  You, Paul, will stand before Caesar in Rome.”  However the storm rages. 

Seemingly death was impatient of its prey.  Not only did the storm rage, but the sailors panic-stricken sought to flee out of the ship in a little boat.  In a little lifeboat and go to the shore of the island.  Not only that but the sailors said to the centurion—but the soldiers said to the centurion, “Let us kill all of these prisoners lest they escape,” and were responsible for their lives. 

Seemingly death was on every hand, but God had said, “You’re all going to be saved and you, Paul, are going to stand before Caesar.”  So Paul says and look at him.  In the midst of the fury of the storm, and certain death that awaited them, Paul says, “Be of good cheer, for I believe God that it shall be even as it was told me.”  And he took bread and gave thanks and began to eat.  And he said, “All of you be of good cheer.  And break bread with me.” 

And in quiet and in confidence, in the raging storm, the apostle is quiet in the Word and the promise of God.  That is predestination.  That is election.  That is the foreknowledge and the sovereign grace of the Lord.  That’s up there in heaven. 

Now, we’re going to look at the other side of God’s government.  We are going to look at the strivings of man; at the volitional choice of man.  And it is very plainly set forth here in this story of the raging storm on the Mediterranean Sea.  For God’s decrees, God’s predestinated purpose for us includes our efforts.  It includes us. 

So when God said to Paul, “You’re going to be saved and everybody in the ship with you.  And you’re going to stand before Caesar,” God said that to him.  Then when Paul sees those sailors about to forsake the ship and nobody to run it, nobody to guide it, Paul said to the centurion, “Except these sailors abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved.” 

That’s contingency.  That’s possibility.  That’s down here in this world talking to the centurion and to the soldiers.  So the whole thing follows after a tremendous effort on the part of those men who are on that ship, two hundred seventy-six of them.  God says they’re going to be saved.  Not a one of them is going to be lost.  But dear me, how they strive and how they work down here in the earth where we live.  When the ship was broken up, all of those that could swim, swam.  With all of their might and power in that raging storm they swam to the shore. 

And those that couldn’t swim, some of them seized a board and some of them other parts of the broken pieces of the ship.  And in great effort and in great striving, they finally found themselves safe on the shore of the land. 

Isn’t that amazing?  God said, “You are going to be saved.”  God said, “Not a one of you is going to be lost.”  God said, “Not a hair of your head shall fall to the ground from anyone of you.”  That’s what God says.  And yet they are striving for all that they can to reach that shore. 

I’m amazed at the effort they put forth.  Those sailors sensed that in the fury of that storm, they were drawing near to some country.  So they sounded.  They let down a plumb line and found it one hundred and twenty feet deep.  And when they further, they sound it again and found it ninety feet deep. 

And then fearing lest they should be driven against rocks that were hidden, they cast four anchors out of the stern of the ship.  You always cast your anchor in the foreship.  They cast it out of the stern of the ship.  They anchored the thing and let it drive, let it fold itself out before the wind. 

And then Paul says when those sailors were trying to escape, “Except these abide in the ship you’ll not be saved.”  Then Paul said to them, “Listen, you’re going to have a great strenuous ordeal tomorrow, eat a good meal so you will be strengthened for it.”  And he encouraged them to eat. 

Then finally, they took up the anchors and they loosed the rudder bands that held the rudders so that the ship should somehow be guided.  And they hoisted the mainsail to the wind and they made for the shore.  Then when the ship broke up as it was caught in the violence of the waves on the shore, those that could swim, they swam.  And those that couldn’t swim, took broken pieces of the ship and so they came to the land. 

And isn’t that amazing?  The decree of God plainly announced by the Apostle Paul, “Not a one of you will be lost.  Not a hair of your head will fall.  All of us are going to be saved.”  But, when the time came, they struggled and they swam and they clung to broken pieces of the ship.  They poured their utmost strength into that effort to reach the land. 

Now, those two always go together, always.  The decree of God, the elective purpose of God, the predestinated announcement of God always carries with it the effort of man.  They go together; God’s decree and purpose and man’s volition and choice.  The Lord’s elective predestinary announcement and our volitional decision to follow after the will of God, both of them go together. 

The preacher has to preach.  Paul plants.  Apollos waters.  The preacher has to preach.  But it is God that gives the increase.  If anybody’s saved, if anybody responds, if anybody comes down that aisle, it is because of the moving Spirit of the grace of the Lord Jesus. 

And it takes both of them.  And both of them are in God’s will; His elective purpose for us.  He knew us before we were born.  He called our names before the foundation of the world.  He knows all about us.  He knows how our lives shall end.  He knows when I shall die and how, all in the elective purpose of God.  But at the same time, things happen to me, a day at a time, a moment at a time.  And I strive and a work and all of it is in the will and circumference of God’s good pleasure. 

Thus it is in the doctrine of election in our salvation. In the first chapter of Ephesians, verses 4 and 5:

According as God hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself according to the good pleasure of His will.

What an astonishing statement: “Before the foundation of the world.”  Before God flung this planet into orbit, God chose us, called us, new us, adopted us.  He knew all about our salvation before we were born.  That’s called election and predestination.  And yet, at the same time, at the same time God says as in Luke 13:3, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish,” or in [Acts]16 verse [31]: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.”  God elects and God knows before the world is made, but I must repent and I must believe. 

In one instance, I’m talking about the language of God in heaven when I talk about election and predestination.  When I am talking about repentance and belief, I’m talking about language down here in the earth, about us. 

It is like our eternal salvation and security.  Jesus says in chapter 10 of John verses 27-29:

“I know My sheep. I call them by name. I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.  Neither shall anyone pluck them out of My hand. My Father Who gave them Me is greater than all.  And no one is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one” John 10:27-30.

Secure, saved forever in the decree and elective purpose of God.  No one is able to pluck us out of the hand of the Almighty, omnipotent God.  And yet, in Hebrews 10:38, “The just shall live by faith.  And if he draws back my soul shall have no pleasure in him.”  Or the tenth chapter of Matthew, “He that endureth unto the end, the same shall be saved.”  They are together; God’s grace and elective purpose in my volitional choice and decision.  All of them are in God’s infinite government.  That’s His spiritual world. 

It is a strange thing how it works out in our lives.  In this story here, in the raging storm, “all hope that we should be saved was taken away.”  They expected to die.  Fourteen days, they were in that terrible storm; fourteen days.  God said every one of them is going to live; everyone of them.  And after great trial and terror and striving, they finally landed on the shore; all of them, all of them; every one of them; two hundred and seventy-six of them. 

Now you look.  I can just see those 276 sailors, soldiers and prisoners.  I can just see them standing up there before all of those natives on the island of Malta and gathering around and telling them about that awesome storm and how the ship was broken up and how finally they came to land.  And there they are drenched with water; shivering with cold; exhausted with the effort.  I can just see them, each man telling his story to a wide-eyed amazed native.  But all of the time, it was God who said, “You are going to be saved.  All of you.” 

I can just see that.  And you know what?  I can see it in my life and yours.  I can’t this way, living a day at a time, moment at a time.  I can’t see it that way.  I can’t see it before me.  I don’t know.  How shall I die?  Will it be a heart attack?  Will it be a heavy cancer?  Will it be after long days, maybe years of agony? 

Will it be like my old mother, having a terrible cerebral hemorrhage, she lived without her mind almost seven years?  It will be like that?  Or will I just fall asleep in Jesus?  Will it be in old, old age?  Will it be tomorrow?  Will God wonderfully bless us in these days that lie ahead here in the church? 

You see, I just live that moment at a time, day at a time, because I’m down here in the dust of death.  And I’m circumscribed and I can’t see.  That’s before me that way.  But when I look back of me that way, oh, I can just preach to you almost forever about the hand of God that I can see that way.  Back yonder looking down through those years, almost sixty years ago now, I can tell you all about how God saved me. 

Just a boy, 10 years of age, I can tell you all about that.  How God saved me sixty years ago.  And I can tell you how I felt as a little boy, called of God to be a pastor.  And all through those years, even as a little boy, going to elementary school and then to high school, how I was preparing to be a preacher and a pastor.  I can tell you all about that.  That’s back there; the hand of God. 

I can tell you all about those days against the day when Bob Coleman called me on Wednesday night and he said, “We’ve had a conference here in the church and they have unanimously asked you to be their pastor and under shepherd.”  I can tell you all about that.  The things that are past, I can see God’s hand in a thousand ways.  I can see that.  This way, I can’t see.  But my brother, the same gracious hand that guided in those years that are past, will be the same gracious hand that guides in these years or days that lie ahead.  God’s infinite purpose; some of which I see.  Some of which I can’t see.  But like Paul; quiet and assured in it all. 

My brother, my sister, that’s a wonderful way to live.  That in all things God works together for good to them that love the Lord.  That He purposes some better thing for us.  That He is guiding us to some ultimate and final and glorious home.  It is a pilgrimage filled with song.  It is a life overflowing with praise and gratitude.  It is the joy of the Christian life.  And it is ours in the love and mercy of our blessed Jesus.  Now, I want us all to stand together with our heads bowed in quietness before the Lord. 

Our wonderful sovereign Savior, how infinitely good Thou art.  Ah Lord, before we were born you called us by name; chose us before the foundation of the world.  And now Thou hast brought us to this present gracious moment.  And Thy Holy Spirit moving in our souls fills us with praise and gladness to God for His wonderful goodnesses to us.  And our Lord, these today, who have heard God’s call, may they answer with their lives in the saving name of our wonderful blessed Christ Jesus.  Amen. 

Now we are going to sing our hymn of appeal.  As we pray, as we wait, down that stairway, down this aisle, “Pastor, the Lord has spoken to me and here I am.  My family; all of us are coming.  The two of us, my friend or my wife,” or just one somebody you as we pray before the Lord, as we wait before God, and as we sing this hymn of appeal, I will be standing right there.  You come and stand with me.  “Today I accept Jesus as my Savior.”  Or, “Today we are putting our lives in the circle of circumference of this wonderful church.”  On the first note of the fist stanza, into that aisle or down that stairway, “Here I am pastor.”  God love you.  God bless you.  Angels attend you as you come while we sing.

Copyright © 2014 The W. A. Criswell Foundation.
All Rights Reserved.
Posted with permission.
Visit www.wacriswell.org to view/read hundreds of sermons by Dr. Criswell.

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rhutchin

The angel said, “Fear not, Paul; you must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given you all them that sail with you.” So, why does Paul then say to the centurion, “Except these abide in the ship, you cannot be saved.” Would not the men have been saved even if they had left the ship? Is Paul improvising? Perhaps, the angel told Paul more than Paul had first reported. It appears that more was going on here than Paul has told us.

Regardless, God had ordained all that was to happen and God would bring it about. None will be lost, not through their own human efforts, but because it is God who would ensure that they would be saved. So it is with salvation. None are saved through merely human effort. It is God who acts to bring His elect to salvation even as it was God who brought the 276 aboard the ship safely to the island.

In John 16, Christ tells us, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” We face tribulation in this world perhaps some as severe as the men aboard the ship. But as Christ has overcome the world, so He will not let the world overcome us. We are not alone; it is God who works in us to will and to do of his good pleasure. That is predestination; God actively involved in the lives of His elect for we are “predestinated according to the purpose of him who works all things after the counsel of his own will;” “predestinated unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself;” ” predestinated to be conformed to the image of his Son.” God has declared it; God will bring it about.

    Norm Miller

    I think Dr. Criswell would agree w/your take on predestination. He pairs predestination and responsibility as seen in his last two sermon posts. Do you agree with him regarding human responsibility and choice?

      rhutchin

      Paul explained responsibility and choice in Romans 2, “…when you…pass judgment on others and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” and earlier, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”(1:32) Finally, “the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (8:7) The depraved cannot do but those things pleasing to its depraved nature.

      Choice is derived from the person’s nature; the depraved will choose depravity because that is what pleases it. The person is responsible for the things he does because he judges that others should not do to him those things he does to them. Of the depraved, Paul said, “they changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator.” (1:25)

      So enters God’s choice: “in time past you walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now works in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)” (Eph 2)

    Max

    If we listen to them carefully in the Scriptural record, angels of the Lord give us a glimpse of God’s planning in the affairs of men. For example, the birth of Christ was heralded by an angel: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” A word of predetermined salvation or damnation before a person draws his first breath would not be good tidings of great joy to ALL people. Scripture speaks a lot about the sovereignty of God. Scripture speaks a lot about human responsibility. It all works together in a way that is beyond human comprehension. To put the mind of God into a complex, systematic theological box is to stand before Him in I-have-it figured-out arrogance. When sovereignty and free will come together, we are saved with a purpose in mind: predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, elected to walk worthy of our calling, chosen to live pure and blameless in His sight … predestined to be Christlike … the message which most Southern Baptists have preached and lived by in my 50+ year association with them.

      rhutchin

      The issue here is not so much about responsibility but about free will. What do people mean by the term, “free will”? The Bible never speaks of people having a will that is “free.” The will is said to be captive to sin or people headed for destruction are blinded by Satan or people hear the gospel preached and it is foolishness to them.

      There are people who say that people have a free will and are able to “choose otherwise.” Applied to the issue of salvation, this means that a person understands what salvation means and can choose to accept or reject. However, a rational person faced with a decision between eternal life and eternal death would always choose eternal life. To choose eternal death is to make an irrational decision and an irrational decision points to the absence of a free will – the very condition that afflicts the unsaved. When God quickens the dead, He effectively gives them a “free will” and they use that free will to choose salvation because they can now know the truth and are truly free.

        Andrew Barker

        You mention the phrase “God quickens the dead” which gives them a ‘free will’ to choose. The problem with this approach is that there is no Biblical support for it. You will often hear the phrase regeneration proceeds faith, but again this is a position taken by Reformed theologians who seek to make the Bible fit their own order of salvation. It is never clearly expressed.

        The concept of God giving people the ability to choose freely is a result of soft determination or compatiblist thinking and again there is no evidence or suggestion within scripture that this is the case. It also makes a complete nonsense of verses which state quite clearly that those who seek God will always find him if they seek Him with all their heart. If we are to rely on God giving us the ability to seek Him in the first instance then there is precious little point in God telling us to seek Him with all our hear IF we can only find Him after He has changed our heart. The truth is that a certain section of the Christian community has got it into their head that God does everything and we do absolutely nothing when it comes to our salvation and our Christian living. This concept while having some initial appearance of merit, suffers in that it is difficult to see how God can have a meaningful relationship under such circumstances. A relationship implies two minds, or wills if you prefer, which agree to work together in some way. It comes down to this. You either believe God made human beings with the innate capacity to engage with Him, or you believe that God selects a chosen few with whom he is going to do business. I prefer the first alternative which I also feel is best supported by scripture, but I appreciate there are many others who see things quite differently.

          rhutchin

          A basic conclusion of both Calvinists and non-Calvinists is that people choose. We see this everywhere -“Choose you this day,” “Whosoever believes shall be saved,” “Believe on Christ.”

          You write, “If we are to rely on God giving us the ability to seek Him in the first instance…” Yet in the Psalms, reiterated by Paul in Romans 3, we read, “There is none who seeks God.” The condition of the unsaved is that none of them seek God. Then, all of a sudden, some do seek God. What happened? Calvinists claim that God changed the person – quickened the person. Even the Arminians agree on this with prevenient grace. I don’t know where your conclusion about “the ability to choose freely is a result of soft determination or compatiblist thinking” comes from. So far as I know it is derived by the Calvinist/Arminian doctrine of total depravity.

          You write, “The truth is that a certain section of the Christian community has got it into their head that God does everything and we do absolutely nothing when it comes to our salvation…” This statement seems to deny total depravity – a Pelagian philosophy. I don’t buy into the Pelagian view.

            Andrew Barker

            rhutchin: You quote ” Yet in the Psalms, reiterated by Paul in Romans 3, we read, “There is none who seeks God.” and “The condition of the unsaved is that none of them seek God. Then, all of a sudden, some do seek God. What happened?”

            I think if you take a fresh look at Psalm 53 and realise that it starts with the person who says there is no God and is described as a fool, then you might start to understand what the Psalmist is getting at. David himself is described as “a man after God’s heart”. Scripture is littered with verses indicating that God is asking people to seek Him and that he will be found. I simply cannot buy into this constant theme from Reformed theology that people cannot and do not seek for God.

            This is quite different from saying that people can find God in any way they like. Scripture is quite clear that Jesus came to seek and save the lost, so God is also seeking us. I think this is the kind of synergistic theology with which I am happy and which I am given to believe was the view held by the early church. It was not until Augustine and the like came along that the waters were muddied.

            One other major difficulty I have with your comment “Calvinists claim that God changed the person – quickened the person” is this. If we are to believe that God quickens a person so they can believe and that this is the only way they can be saved, why does God leave it at that? Why not change the person completely so that they never sin again. You see, my observation is this. Calvinists hold that God ‘quickened’ them but they are living lives which are somewhat less than perfect. Why? If God has ‘saved’ them without their doing anything, why hasn’t he also changed their natures so that they no longer sin. On the face of it, God doesn’t appear to have done a very good job.

            As for you comment regarding Arminians and prevenient grace one of the most common errors within the Calvinist community is the belief that anyone who is not a Calvinist, has to be an Arminian! Calvinism and Arminianism have much more in common than most people think and prevenient and irresistible grace are both concepts which come out of theology rather than specifically stated in scripture.

            Your statement regarding total depravity and Pelagianism is also telling. You have to define what you mean by total depravity before you can use blanket terms like Pelagian.

              rhutchin

              It is true that we see “verses indicating that God is asking people to seek Him and that he will be found.” At the same time, Paul is pretty emphatic in writing Romans 3, that “all are under sin,” and “there is none righteous.” In Corinthians, Paul says “we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.” If that were bad enough, Paul tells us “if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

              How does David become a man after God’s own heart? Does David have some unique insights that others do not? To Elijah, God says, “I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.” One conclusion we can draw is that God is actively involved in David’s life and those who serve Him.

              The task for you is to explain how some respond to God when others do not without making God the cause as the Calvinists do. If you can do that, you will have done something none of your non-Calvinist friends have been able to do.

              “If God has ‘saved’ them without their doing anything, why hasn’t he also changed their natures so that they no longer sin. On the face of it, God doesn’t appear to have done a very good job.” We all ask that question. Jesus told us, “If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” I am certain that you, like me, has asked God to deliver us from sin and sinful thoughts because these are surely “good things.” Yet, God does not do it – at least not completely. I think Paul struggled with this and wrote Romans 7.

              Finally, I think it difficult to stake out a middle ground between the Calvinist/Arminian and the Pelagian. If you can do it, have at it. I have not read anything to suggest that anyone has figured out how to do that yet.

                Andrew Barker

                rhutchin you quote “The task for you is to explain how some respond to God when others do not without making God the cause as the Calvinists do. If you can do that, you will have done something none of your non-Calvinist friends have been able to do.you”

                I don’t have a ‘problem’ explaining why some people respond and others don’t. I should think it’s self evident. God has given each person the ability to choose good or evil. It’s something God given, but God has given it to all. If some people choose to exercise their ‘freedom’ by rejecting God, that’s up to them. The alternative is that God selects according to his own good pleasure some for eternal life and others for eternal damnation. So who do you think has the real problem??

                It is true that all Christians struggle with sin in their lives, but that is where predestination and adoption comes in to their own when correctly viewed. Despite all our failures, we can be assured that our final state is to be conformed to His image. We have the spirit of adoption which confirms that at a future date we will enter into our inheritance (destiny) as adopted sons of God when we will be like Him. I find that difficult to imagine, but I believe it’s what scripture teaches! :-)

                  rhutchin

                  I think you need to establish the validity of the statement, “God has given each person the ability to choose good or evil. It’s something God given, but God has given it to all.” The issue is not whether God requires that people do good or that people must choose to do good. The issue is whether a person can actually do good. Proverbs tells us, “There is a way which seems right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” As our minds are tainted by sin, our evaluation of what is good is not to be trusted. The only way for us to know good is for God to tell us what is good. Yet Paul says that none seek God, so no one really seeks to do good. So, is your statement a true statement?

                Norm Miller

                “Finally, I think it difficult to stake out a middle ground between the Calvinist/Arminian and the Pelagian. If you can do it, have at it. I have not read anything to suggest that anyone has figured out how to do that yet.”

                Will not “semi-Pelagian” work? Be careful, Hutch, any insinuation that your siblings in Christ are heretics is not acceptable, here.

                I have not read anything that convincingly proves that Calvin’s God, who ordains everything, is not responsible for the most heinous crimes on the planet. Calvin’s God even created people so he could send them to hell for his good pleasure. Do you believe that, Hutch? Calvin did.

                  rhutchin

                  Will not “semi-Pelagian” work?

                  I think semi-Pelagian is kinda like being semi-pregnant. Semi-Pelagianism is a smoke screen from what I can tell. It claims to disavow the idea that people have the inherent ability to do good but then advocates something like prevenient grace that is applied to everyone, often as a right of birth. The whole point of the non-Calvinist crowd is to grant “free will” to people and I don’t think this can be done without appealing to Pelagian arguments.

                  Somewhat similar is the arguments made against limited atonement. People who oppose limited atonement and will use the arguments of the Universalists against limited atonement even though they are not Universalists and actually oppose Universalism. In the same manner, those who oppose irresistible grace will use the free will arguments of the Pelagians. They do this because they have yet to develop their own unique arguments.

                  rhutchin

                  “I have not read anything that convincingly proves that Calvin’s God, who ordains everything, is not responsible for the most heinous crimes on the planet.”

                  Think of the most heinous, vicious rape of a young girl of which you have read. We know that God was present during that rape observing all the details and nothing was hidden from Him. God made the specific decision not to intervene to prevent the rape. Calvinists will say that God is responsible for this sin but that He did not cause the sin. God is responsible simply because He is aware of the sin and has the ability to prevent it. We both should agree on the facts of the case – the rape occurred in God’s presence. We disagree on the analysis of the situation and God’s role, but this is a technical argument.

                  “Calvin’s God even created people so he could send them to hell for his good pleasure.”

                  When God created the world, He knew who was to be saved and who was to be cast into hell. It was God who decreed that those to be cast into hell would be born, would sin, and would stand before Him to be judged. We know from Ephesians that God works all things after the counsel of his own will and that all things are done for His good pleasure. Did Calvin misunderstand the Scriptures on this point? How so?

        Norm Miller

        Hutch: You make many assertions for which there is no scriptural support.You are welcome to express your opinions, but they are not fact.

          rhutchin

          As much as I try to avoid doing such, it happens. It would help me if you would point out such instances to me so I can get my thinking sorted out on issues.

            Norm Miller

            You note that the Bible says nothing of free will, but Mr. Barker has done an ample job — as have many who reject(ed) Calvinism for generations, now — of pointing to passages where God invites people to seek him and follow him, etc. Hmmmm…so God doesn’t know that we cannot decide to follow him? Then why does he ask? Why does he say to seek him while he may be found?

            I surely pity the poor sinner under conviction, who reads such passages in his hotel room Gideons Bible. Sin sick and under conviction, he goes into the lobby and happens to ask a Calvinist about a verse he read where God says to seek him while he may be found, and another where God said he is not willing that any should perish. “Ooops, so sorry, sir, those verses are not for you; they are for Jews only. Besides, you are incapable of choosing to follow God of your own volition.”

            Hutch, you and I know that all — every bit of Calvinism — gets back to a biblical understanding of total depravity. A Calvinist at Southern Seminary explained that to me as no part of our beings were overlooked by the fall. “We are not as depraved as we could be, but no part of us escaped the depravity of the fall.” Of course, I suspect you will say total depravity means total inability, b/c Paul said we are dead. but please look at that metaphor. If we all are spiritually dead, then why are there Satan worshipers?

            If we are free to choose — and we are by implication of God’s invitations — then that means that total depravity does not mean what you think it does. And if TD does not fit your definition, the the call is ineffectual and grace is resistible. This is how one understands the Word w/o twisting certain scriptures, necessarily, to fit your system — you know, like changing the meaning of cosmos to mean elect.

            It’s all been said before, Hutch, to you and by you. You are wasting your time, and I, mine. Obviously, no one can convince you otherwise, but Mr. Barker is welcome to try. Certainly, you will not convince me — not until your exegesis drives your theology. When that happens, you will have no need of convincing me – except to show me that you have changed.

              rhutchin

              “I surely pity the poor sinner under conviction, who reads such passages in his hotel room Gideons Bible.”

              Every Calvinist knows that conviction of sin is a work of the Holy Spirit. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. No person comes under conviction of sin through reading the Bible except they are being drawn to Christ by God. The Calvinist will be most sympathetic to a person in that condition. Pity those who are manipulated to think they should be under conviction of sin by those who push the Holy Spirit aside as seems common in many churches especially during revivals. Children, especially, seem easily manipulated at these times.

              rhutchin

              “If we are free to choose — and we are by implication of God’s invitations…”

              If a person is truly “free to choose” then he is able to make a rational decision. The rational decision is to receive salvation. To reject salvation is an irrational decision and points to the inability to freely choose. Total Depravity says that people have no freedom to choose salvation. This is because people love their sin, have no desire for God, and think the gospel to be foolishness. In the end we see that people headed for destruction have been blinded by Satan. Unless God intervenes, none can be saved.

              rhutchin

              “If we all are spiritually dead, then why are there Satan worshipers?”

              An interesting question. So, we see the truth of what Paul told us: “if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”

              How much greater blindness than that found in those who worship him who seeks their destruction.

            Norm Miller

            “As much as I try to avoid doing such, it happens. It would help me if you would point out such instances to me so I can get my thinking sorted out on issues.”

            If you know that “it happens,” then you can stop it yourself. You don’t need me to indicate these instances.

              rhutchin

              Actually, No. I tend to think that I have a good grasp of the Scriptures and the arguments made on both sides of the reformation issue. Thus, when it does happen, it should mean that I have a blind spot and am not seeing something that you do see just because you are coming from a different background and are interacting with different sources than I have. For example, I read books put out for a general audience; I rarely get into a college text or journal articles which will go into greater depth on issues. None of us knows everything and there is always something new to learn. So, if I voice a conclusion that you think has no Scriptural support, it is good to have it pointed out.

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