The Election to Salvation / Eric Hankins, Ph.D.

March 21, 2014

by Eric Hankins, Ph.D.
Eric Hankins is pastor of FBC, Oxford, Miss.
He is the primary author of “A Statement of the Traditional Southern Baptist Understanding of God’s Plan of Salvation.”

Article 6 (of the Traditional Statement) rests on the reality that election is clearly taught in the Scriptures and is an essential component of the doctrine of salvation. Election emphasizes the fact that salvation is accomplished through the Father’s initiative, guaranteed by the person and work of Christ alone, and actualized in the lives of sinners through the power of the Holy Spirit. Election, therefore, communicates that salvation is completely gracious. It signifies the lavish generosity of God, who will save not just a few but an innumerable multitude. Election’s announcement of God’s sovereignty in salvation includes the role of the sinner’s repentance and faith. God has chosen to bring into existence a people who belong to Him by faith in a world where their decisions for or against Christ really matter. Rather than determining these choices Himself, God has gloriously and sovereignly decided to accord to each sinner the responsibility of surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s leading in the preaching of the gospel. Since gospel proclamation is the means by which God brings His elective purposes to bear, election cannot be understood apart from the plan of God to bring salvation to the world through His chosen people and their sharing of the gospel with the lost.

God desires the salvation of everyone (John 3:16; 1 Tim 2:3–4; 2 Peter 3:9). No one is excluded from His saving intentions. Article Six, therefore, denies that election language in the Bible refers to God’s eternal and fixed choice of some individuals for salvation and not others without respect to their response to the gospel. If God desires the salvation of all people, it cannot be the case that He has actually determined to save only some individuals, while planning from eternity to consign the rest to everlasting punishment. When believers say, “God chose me,” they cannot also mean, “and, from eternity, He did not choose others.” To make such a statement is to dismiss the clear teaching of Scripture that God wants everyone to be saved. Therefore, when one says, “God chose me,” he means, “God has done everything necessary to bring me to salvation in a world where people’s decisions are a critical part of God’s ultimate purposes.” It is our belief, therefore, that the majority of Southern Baptists reject the idea that God predestines some people to hell.[1]

If God has decided in eternity past which individuals He will not save, then those individuals cannot be thought of either as being truly loved by God or as being the objects of His saving intentions. Calvinists protest that it is simply a mystery as to how God loves people He wills to condemn before they are ever born. Some assert that God has two wills, one “hidden” and one “revealed,”[2] or two kinds of love,[3] but most Southern Baptists view these answers as having neither a biblical nor logical basis. Moreover, Calvinists’ affirmation of “single predestination” over against “double predestination” as a method for absolving God of the charge of actively causing the lost to spend eternity in hell is unconvincing. To say that God merely passes over the lost rather than actively causing their perdition is both a distinction without a difference[4] and a flat refusal to own the implications of the Calvinist system.[5]

Article Six and the Baptist Faith and Message (BFM)
Article 6 is completely in keeping with the treatment of the doctrine of election in the BFM, which has expressed Southern Baptist consensus on the matter for nearly a century and is based on a consensus that had emerged among Baptists in America nearly a century before that. Article 5 of the BFM states:

Election is the gracious purpose of God, according to which He regenerates, justifies, sanctifies, and glorifies sinners. It is consistent with the free agency of man, and comprehends all the means in connection with the end. It is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy, and unchangeable. It excludes boasting and promotes humility.

This definition of election stands in clear contrast to more Calvinistic Baptist confessions.[6] First, there is no mention of individuals who are not elect. The BFM does not affirm God’s eternal and absolute rejection of certain individuals. Election is not God’s plan to damn sinners; it is His plan to save sinners. Second, election is not configured in association with a deterministic view of divine action. The BFM makes no statement regarding God’s decrees or His meticulous foreordination of all things including the supposedly “free” decisions of men. Instead, Article 2 emphasizes God’s absolute foreknowledge of the free decisions of His creatures.

Older Calvinistic Baptist confessions deal with election before treating the doctrines of Christ, Man, and Salvation, making God’s choice of some individuals but not others the lens through which these other doctrines should be understood. The BFM places election after these doctrines. In doing so, election serves God’s glorious desire to save all rather than constraining it. The framers and revisers of the BFM had these much more Calvinistic Baptist confessions available to them, confessions which are much more consistent with the Westminster Confession’s vision of election. Southern Baptists, however, have always been more comfortable with an understanding of election that was simpler, less speculative, and fully compatible with God’s desire for the salvation of all people.

Election and Southern Baptist “Non-Calvinism”
Most Southern Baptists categorically deny that certain individuals are selected for hell before creation. They know what election does not mean. What is needed in Southern Baptist life is a clear statement of what election does mean. Southern Baptists affirm that election is taught in the Bible, that God is sovereign in salvation, and that He has a very specific plan for each life but a plan that includes their free choices. A strategy that many Southern Baptists adopt to deal with election is to employ what they think is “compatibilism,” their idea that God’s sovereign choice of some individuals is compatible with man’s free response to the gospel. Strictly speaking, however, “compatibilism” is a technical philosophical term asserting that determinism and free will are compatible.[7] Compatibilism is actually the Calvinistic view of divine action which sees every event as foreordained by God such that no human has the freedom of choice. Instead, “freedom” is the ability to do what one desires most. However, since people are not able to choose what they desire, those desires must be determined by God. This view of the relationship between divine action and human willing is simply unacceptable to most Southern Baptists who believe that the clear sense of Scripture is that people have real choices for which they are morally responsible.[8]

A Positive Construction of Election
A truly Southern Baptist understanding of election, one that is faithful to God’s desire to save all and to the necessity of a real response to the gospel must incorporate the totality of…*


[1]Calvinists likely will object to the phrase “predestined to hell” as a mischaracterization of their position, insisting that God does not “predestine” some sinners to hell; rather, He “foreordains” it, or “permits” it by withholding the grace necessary for them to be saved. Such double-speak should be rejected as mere semantics in the service of hiding a truth of Calvinism most Southern Baptists find unbiblical and objectionable: there is no one in hell who ever had the opportunity to be anywhere else.
[2]John Piper, “Are There Two Wills in God? Divine Election and God’s Desire for All to Be Saved,” in The Grace of God and the Bondage of the Will, ed. Thomas R. Schreiner and Bruce A. Ware (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995), 107–24.
[3]John MacArthur, “Does God Love the Elect and Hate the Non-Elect,” Grace to You; available at http:// www.gty.org/resources/questions/QA184 (accessed October 3, 2012).
[4]If I have the ability and opportunity to rescue someone who is drowning, then I have an obligation to render aid. If I simply stand aside and let them die, then I am morally culpable. Calvinist objections that the sinner is already dead will not suffice. If I have the ability and opportunity to resurrect a person but do not, my culpability is the same.
[5]Kenneth Keathley, Salvation and Sovereignty: A Molinist Approach (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2010), 148–49.
[6]See, i.e., The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689), The Philadelphia Confession of Faith (1742), The Baptist Catechism (Charleston Association, 1813), and the Abstract of Principles (1858).
[7]Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, s.v. “compatibilism,” available at http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/ compatibilism/ (accessed October 3, 2012).
[8]John S. Hammett, “Human Nature” in A Theology for the Church, ed. Daniel L. Akin (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2007), 381–92.
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*Click HERE to read the rest of this post by downloading the FREE, 2-volume NOBTS Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry.
SBCToday reprinted with permission the above excerpt.

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Trey Medley

Fantastic article here. Compatibilism is just determinism in different clothes. For, additionally, there seem to be three other concerns with the Dortian Calvinist doctrine of election,

1) To say that God predestines some without regard for their free will (in the sense of libertarian freedom) while simply allowing others to be consigned to hell paints a picture of God as either a monster (he does not genuinely care about those in everlasting torment), or else as one prone to caprice (he is only concerned about the freedom of creation some of the time, while other times he is free to ignore and override it).

2) Any time one wants to speak of God overriding freedom of any part of creation (which most Calvinist versions of Radical or Total Depravity and of Irresistible Grace necessitate), one risks the logical entailment that all freedom is merely illusory. Either all of creation is contingent, in which case it is sustained by God’s faithful love, or none of it is, in which case we are merely automatons, unable to make moral value judgements.

3) Perhaps the biggest issue for with election is that whenever the bible speaks about “the elect” at least in the OT (where it is more explicit), “the elect” are always elected *to do* something not *to be* something. The Dortian Calvinist doctrine of election loses the mission of aspect of election. Israel was elected to be a light (by which it implies an active component to others), judges were elected for specific tasks. If one takes this meaning to the NT, and in particular Pauline use of the term “elect” it makes complete sense. Election is a calling to a task, not an impartation of a state. One is relational, intimate, and challenging, the other is distant, domineering and easy. Don’t sell short our grace.

Ron F. Hale

Eric,
I enjoyed reading your post; great work!

Also, Trey … I enjoyed your comments.

Blessings!

Carl

What is freedom of choice if not freedom to do what one desires most? One wil not choose what one does not desire. Also where is the ultimate freedom of the human will taught in scripture? I don’t see it. I see man and his ability is often limited in the Bible. Only God has the ability to do what He wills. Man does not seem to have the ability to chose without the help of God. Thus man does not have free will because it would seem that man cannot choose everything especially the most important choice in life.

    Norm Miller

    Joshua 24.16 comes to mind.

    Also, Dr. Hankins’ response at Dr. Harwood’s FB page I find instructive:

    “Carl, the literature on my position on libertarian freedom is immense. There is nothing “confusing” about it. You are espousing compatibilism. Fine, lots of people share your viewpoint. I don’t share it for completely legitimate and orthodox reasons. Compatibilism is also not demanded by Scripture. A libertarian understanding of freedom was the standard in Christian theology until Augustine. Where in the Bible does it say that “freedom is doing what we most desire”? Of course, there is no such text. That view a product of theological reflection on the Scripture.”

    Robert

    Carl makes some assertions here. And most of us would agree with many of the assertions that Carl made. There are a lot of assumptions packed into these few lines. The problem is that we can agree with much of what is said here and yet, that does not amount to the claim that “Thus man does not have free will”.

    That conclusion does not at all follow logically from these other statements (unless you *assume* determinism and compatibilism as well).
    Start with the first claim. That is merely a restatement of Jonathan Edwards’ view on the will (i.e. that we always choose according to what we most desire). There are lots of problems with Edwards view and I will not go into all of them here (e.g. – including that he sets up his view my presenting definitions that he wants to believe rather than what is established). A major problem with this claim about our always choosing according to our strongest desire is that say we have two desires, one is to go to one restaurant and another is to go to another restaurant. Saying that we act according to our “strongest desire” is a *mere tautology* (as the desire we end up acting upon is deemed and defined as our strongest desire!). But how is one desire made to be the stronger? Do people have the ability to decide which desire of two contrasting desires they will act upon? Do they decide which desire becomes “the strongest”, the one they end up acting upon?

    The second claim asks “where is the ultimate freedom of the human will taught in scripture?” If you mean Bible verses that teach that man’s will is ”ultimate”? There are no such verses. But that is not what people mean by “free will”. Christians who believe in free will do not believe that it means that our will is ultimate in the universe! The ordinary understanding and also the view held by the vast majority of Christians refers to our universally experienced ability to make choices that are sometimes up to us.

    Say we are considering what cereal to have this morning. We have a choice. We can choose either cereal and the choice is up to us. Most people believe this choice is theirs and act accordingly and speak accordingly (“I picked the Chex cereal this morning but I could have picked the Special K this morning.”) In fact we have and make choices like this all day long no matter who we are and for most people this is not controversial at all, they don’t even really think about it. They just have and make their choices as they go through their days. It is only theological determinists/Calvinists who question the reality of us sometimes having and making our own choices.

    The statement that only God does as He wills is true and is a good definition of his sovereignty. He alone can always do whatever He wants in any situation without the limitations and constraints that we have.

    And finally regarding the statement that: “Man does not seem to have the ability to choose without the help of God.”

    That is also true. We cannot freely choose to trust that God alone will save us until we have experienced the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has to come along and convict us of our sin, show us our need for Christ, show us the identity and work of Christ. Etc. etc. Unless the Spirit does this in our hearts we could never choose to follow Christ. As we do not deserve this work of the Spirit and as it is a sovereign activity of God: most simply refer to this work as the “grace of God”. It is undeserved, unmerited, its timing is up to God and none of us can come to faith without it.

    Here is the thing. One can believe in free will as ordinarily understood (that we sometimes have and make our own choices) AND at the same time believe in the need for the preconversion grace of God for a person to be enabled to choose to trust in Christ for salvation.

    Robert

Mitchell

regarding footnote #4. God isn’t morally culpable for passing over sinners and them experiencing eternal judgment. God is completely just in damning sinners.

    Allen Rea

    Brother, I wonder how your statement can be justified in light of texts such as 2 Peter 3:9. God chose to make Himself morally culpable by sending His Son for the sins of the world. If someone is fully capable of acting and does not act, how is that justice, much less mercy? From what text do you reach your conclusion brother?

      Mitchell

      I don’t believe God made himself morally evil by sending Jesus for atoning sacrifice. Yes, God is fully capable of acting, but that does not mean God is obligated to act. And it doesn’t make God unjust if He chooses not to act. Eternal damnation is what humanity deserves. Therefore, if God did not choose to save anyone God would still be just in His actions. Since this is true, salvation is a gift from God, not something God is obligated to give. Scripture says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

        Mitchell

        And 2 Peter 3:9, teaches us that the Day of the Lord has not come because of God’s patient towards sinners. The passages shows us that God is patient towards all and that God desires that none should perish and that all should reach repentance. Even though God desires salvation for all, doesn’t mean He is obligated to offer salvation to all. In short, the passage describes God’s desire not His obligation.

          Allen Rea

          Are you familiar with the original Greek in that text? Austin Fischer uses this text to illustrate that indeed God does not always get what God wants; therefore, divine determinism is not true. What about such texts as Luke 7:30 and Acts 7:51?

            Norm Miller

            Good point, Allen. I was truly perplexed by this statement from Mitchell:

            “Even though God desires salvation for all, doesn’t mean He is obligated to offer salvation to all.”

            Mitchell is right that God desires salvation for all b/c he made it available for all — and that not out of “obligation,” but b/c “For God so loved the world …”

            Max

            Also consider … “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34)

              Mitchell

              Norm, Max, & Allen,

              My point isn’t to argue for or against determinism or that if God offers salvation to all or not. (Please reread my original comment)

              My point was to state that I disagree with Dr. Hankins point described in footnote #4, that God MUST offer salvation to all in order to be morally good or just. As illustrated by footnote #4, Hankins seems to believe that the Calvinist view of God is of a God that logically is morally evil because of the Calvinist view that God passes over certain individuals in offering them salvation. In my humble opinion, God could pass over all of humanity, not offering salvation to a single soul and still be morally just. Why? Because that is what the wages of sin earns. Thus, the Calvinist view of God doesn’t have to logically lead to a God who is morally evil.

Allen Rea

Dr Hankins,

Your post is the perfect response to D A Carson’s “The Difficult Doctrine of the Love of God”. On page 54 of that text, Carson opines: “compatibilism is a necessary component to any mature and orthodox view of God and the world.” You have given a biblical alternative. I am convinced that Traditional Southern Baptist theology is both mature and orthodox without the presense of compatibilsm. The more I learn and study the BFM 2000, I am in concord with Ronnie Roger’s wonderings as to how Calvinists can sign it. Thank you for your service to a God who is not willing that ANY should perish but that ALL should come to repentance.”

Tom Fortner

The Reformed doctrine of election is built on the doctrine of the timelessness of God, presented (for example) in Isaiah 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure'” (NASB). If God exists in all time and all space simultaneously, which is what the Bible says about God’s timelessness (an aspect of His transcendence), then election of individuals to salvation in “eternity past” is simply one aspect of God’s timelessness. It occurred in “eternity past” from our perspective, but not from God’s, who is transcendent above time. Most modern objections against what our Southern Baptist founders called “Particular Redemption” are not objections to election as presented in Calvinism, but objections to the timelessness and transcendence of God (a doctrine about which we have historically agreed). This is why Reformed Southern Baptist have suggested that the “Traditional Statement” leans toward Progressive Theism or Open Theism. We see this as an assault on the timeless nature of God, not on the Reformed doctrine of Predestination. It’s a very different battle than how it is presented in the media and on most Baptist blogs.

Eric Hankins

Tom,

First, I doubt seriously that the “Reformed doctrine of election is built on the timelessness of God.” My own sense is that it is built on the decrees of God, hence the term “decretal theology.” Moreover, there are first-class Reformed philosophers like John Feinberg who argue that God is temporal not atemporal. Additionally, WL Craig, a well-regarded Christian philosopher (though not Reformed) makes a strong case for God being “in time” based in a part on his understandings of the differences between the “A” and “B” theories of time, which at least demonstrates the immense complexity of the relationship between God and Time. It is hardly the case the God’s atemporality is a simple and straightforward plank in Reformed election theology. Moreover, Traditionalist thinkers like Steve Lemke and Richard Land espouse the idea of God’s timelessness. Once again, the tendency of Calvinists like yourself is to assume the truthfulness of theistic determinism and then read everything in those terms: God’s must be timeless in a deterministic way. This viewpoint however is hardly apparent. Second, I’m unaware of any Reformed Southern Baptist, besides yourself, who has leveled the charge that Traditionalism “leans toward . . . Open Theism.” Pretty serious charge there. Now, it is typical of Calvinists to assume that there are only two options for divine foreknowledge, theistic determinism and theism than sees God’s foreknowledge as something less than absolute. This again, is hardly the case. Molinism and Complete Simple Foreknowledge are two viable options that allow for God’s total sovereignty over the universe and libertarian freedom. Third, I’m certain there is no conspiracy afoot to assault the timelessness while masquerading it as a critique of the Reformed view of election. Believe it or not, I just think the Calvinist view of election is wrong on it’s face.

    Tom Fortner

    Dr Hankins,

    Thank you for your reply. I appreciate the time you took to write it. I confess it surprised me (Norm Miller let me know about it this morning).

    The “charge” that the statement leans toward Open Theism was a hot topic about this time last year, and Dr. Mohler was at the center of that discussion. The Traditionalists I know are anything but Open Theists, and I would not make such a suggestion against any of them. I know them all to be men of sound theology, even on points where we disagree. I was fortunate to study under Richard Land at Criswell College and Steve Lemke at Southwestern Seminary and have the highest respect for both of them.

    I believe that God is both immanent and transcendent, and that all our confessions reflect that, as well of those confessions that are Reformed and outside of Baptist circles. To a great degree, I agree with Dr. Craig about the complexity of the relationship between God and time. It demonstrates that a simple understanding of foreknowledge might fit our finite understanding of how God decides to save us, but it doesn’t reflect who God really is or how intimately connected He is to the fine details of His creation. This is clearly more than theistic determinism, as such would imply that God chooses without caring, something no truly Reformed thinker would suggest. I am certain that we all would agree that God “loves us with an everlasting love,” as Jeremiah 31:3 states. The question that follows is “how everlasting?” That seems to be where we begin to disagree.

    When I look at the Reformed doctrine of election (as expressed in James Boyce’s ‘Abstract of Systematic Theology’) I see God adopting children one at a time throughout time, yet knowing which child He is adopting before the adoption process begins. I would not call this “theistic determinism.”

    Again, thank you for taking the time to reply to me.

    Serving the Savior,
    Tom Fortner

      Robert

      Hello Tom,

      You made a statement that divorced from the context of what Calvinists and non-Calvinists believe seems at first glance to be very innocuous. Even something that we all agree with.

      When you said:

      “I see God adopting children one at a time throughout time, yet knowing which child He is adopting before the adoption process begins. I would not call this “theistic determinism.”

      This seemingly innocuous statement does not accurately represent Calvinism at all.

      The reason is because any believer who believes that God foreknows all future events (which is the standard view among non-Calvinist believers including “traditionalists”) and in the biblical doctrine of “adoption” (i.e. that God makes us part of the family of God form the moment we trust Him to save us, Paul uses this metaphor of adoption to make the point that we were not born believers, not born automatically into God’s family simply because we are human beings, contrast this with the false doctrine that “everyone is a child of God”, rather we become part of God’s family at a time when we trust Him alone to save us) believes this statement.

      That statement does not represent Calvinism alone as non-Calvinists can agree that God has foreknowledge and knows who will be a believer before they become one AND knows this “before the adoption process begins”. And non-Calvinists can agree that God is “adopting children one at a time”. God saves individuals when they have faith, he does not arbitrarily save groups of people. Even in Israel there was a difference between those who truly had faith and were saved persons and those who did not have faith and were not saved persons (cf. Paul’s discussion of this especially in Romans 11).

      The ideas of God having foreknowledge and adopting people into the family of God are not ideas of “theological determinism”. These are also not ideas that are unique to Calvinism.

      Calvinism goes further and suggests that not only does God have foreknowledge and “adopt” people into his family. He also decided beforehand who alone would be adoptable and who would be rejected. If you want to stay with the analogy of adoption. In consistent Calvinism God decides whom he would adopt and whom he would reject before they were born. And in the case of those he chose to reject they never ever had any chance of being adopted. He *wanted them to be rejected*,* planned for them to be rejected* and *controlled circumstances to make sure that none of them could be or were adopted*. None of this fits the God of the Bible at all.

      It is these extra ideas, especially when combined with the idea that God predecided beforehand not only who would be adopted and who would be rejected *but every other detail* of history as well. *That* is theological determinism and *That* is what consistent Calvinists believe. Non-Calvinists (including SBC “traditionalists”) do not reject foreknowledge nor adoption, they do reject determinism and double predestination and the predetermination of all events.

      Robert

Doug Sayers

Thanks Eric:

It is nice to know we have some folks on the non-Calvinist side that can wade through all the smoke, mirrors, and ethereal speculation about aspects of theology (that will remain out of reach to everyone this side of heaven) and bring the discussion back to the biblical revelation!

If our Calvinistic brethren have to resort to this kind of objection, then it is a good indication that they are running out of biblical arguments. Calvinists may one day rule the SBC seminaries, but it is a safe bet that Tom’s objections will never resonate with the rank-and-file believer of any era.

The average Bible reader will never conclude that the biblical God would send anyone to hell for a sin they didn’t *actually* commit, sins they couldn’t prevent, or sins they couldn’t even confess properly.

As a former Calvinist, I have given up looking for a text (or group of texts), which would teach explicitly (or by good & necessary inference) that Jesus did not die for some sinners. If there was such a text in Scripture, you can be sure that all Calvinists would be rallying around it like desperate bees on a lone flower. They would have 3 books out on that text alone… in every generation.

I’m just a layman, and I certainly believe in the foreknowledge and omniscience of God, but the Bible teaches that the final judgment comes after we die… not before we are born. You don’t have to be an Open Theist to reject the 5 inferences.

Doug Sayers

    Max

    “I’m just a layman …”

    Layman, look up! God has a place for you!!

    Doug, you have discovered that education doesn’t produce one ounce of revelation. Congratulations! When the Word of God connects with the Spirit of Truth, it becomes revealed truth … and you, sir, have clearly pointed out the errors of reformed thinking which is spreading through SBC ranks. In my SBC journey these days, I am finding numerous laymen who get it, while much of our professional clergy still debate the fine points of theology. Biblical revelation always trumps Biblical education. Jesus warned us not to forsake the commandments of God for the teachings and traditions of men – we better sort that out soon! I keep praying and waiting for SBC leadership to come to their senses about these two distinctly different paths of God’s plan of salvation … they both cannot coexist in a single denomination, even though the BFM2000 revision allows such theological wiggle room – too much in my humble, but accurate, opinion.

Eric Robinson, MD

“God has chosen to bring into existence a people who belong to Him by faith in a world where their decisions for or against Christ really matter. Rather than determining these choices Himself, God has gloriously and sovereignly decided to accord to each sinner the responsibility of surrendering to the Holy Spirit’s leading in the preaching of the gospel.”

Seemingly, decisional regeneration is the issue facing Southern Baptists today. It appears more as a left-over influence from Finney than from any scriptural basis. If anyone could be so kind as to show me from scripture (not philosophy) where God has given man the responsibility to determine his destiny apart from the work of the Holy Spirit to “quicken”, I would be most grateful. It seems so logical that I could hardly object, nor could Paul hardly anticipate any objection to the notion in Rm. 9. But I’m not asking for a “re-hashing” of the old, but a biblical basis for your position.

The preaching of “decisional regeneration” with the necessary focus on man is why there is now such weak theology in the SBC. Even the leaders opt for “seal the deal” approaches, using emotional appeals, worldly gimmickry, and the like.(2 Cor. 4) To the “layman” above, I understand, but from a different perspective. The KISS principle…Keep It Simple Stupid…works great to make simple complicated tasks. However, the preaching of Christ and Him crucified for the remission of sins is not the complicated part! The part we have made complicated is where we tend to place ourselves in the place of the Spirit and persuade or coerce men to “decide” or “accept” Jesus with the whole emphasis on our ability to persuade…or theirs to choose wisely, lest they fall and perish. The Holy Spirit is, I’m sure, quite adequate for the task of regenerating the heart. (Ez. 36)

Pastor Hankins, I know you know all the intricacies of these verses that I, a crude neophyte, have given. Please help with that scripture that supports your (Amyrauldian) position. (I won’t lump you into a tribe if you promise not to provide anymore inaccurate caricatures:) I appreciated your responses and candor in the interview with Dr. Mohler. I must admit I’ve found myself in the same position as the church member you described. Sola Christi, my brother.

    Eric Hankins

    “If anyone could be so kind as to show me from scripture (not philosophy) where God has given man the responsibility to determine his destiny apart from the work of the Holy Spirit to “quicken”, I would be most grateful.”

    Since this is not the claim that the TS is making, nor is it a claim that I would ever agree with, I guess you’ll have to look elsewhere for someone to provide a positive argument for it. The view you’ve described above is patently semi-Pelagian and, as both Harwood and Finn have recently demonstrated decisively, that charge does not apply to the TS.

    If your description of “decisional regeneration” (a term with which I am unfamiliar) is accurate, then I agree with your rejection of it.

    I am not an Amyraldian.

    You may not like the fact that the great issue of this discussion is philosophical and not textual, but that is the case, nevertheless.

      Robert

      Hello Eric R.,

      You bring up the issue of what you call “decisional regeneration” (“Seemingly, decisional regeneration is the issue facing Southern Baptists today”). You do not define the term so I am not absolutely sure of what you mean by this term. You give indications that it troubles you that people are trying to *persuade others to decide* to follow Jesus (“The part we have made complicated is where we tend to place ourselves in the place of the Spirit and persuade or coerce men to “decide” or “accept” Jesus with the whole emphasis on our ability to persuade…or theirs to choose wisely, lest they fall and perish. “).. You also claim that only the Holy Spirit regenerates people (“The Holy Spirit is, I’m sure, quite adequate for the task of regenerating the heart. (Ez. 36”).

      Seems to me that you may be conflating persuasion of sinners and regeneration as if they are the same when they are not.

      Regarding regeneration, you are correct, we cannot regenerate ourselves and even deciding to follow Jesus does not regenerate us.
      At the same time there is nothing wrong with trying to persuade others to decide to follow Jesus as we do this all the time when evangelizing. There is also a whole realm of study and information called apologetics which seeks to persuade the nonbeliever of the truth of Christianity. Again, nothing wrong with that at all. Apologetics has been a part of Christianity for a long time, even predating the Southern Baptist denomination (so apologetics is not the problem).

      You also conflate the fact that God ultimately decides a person’s eternal destiny and our decision to follow Christ for salvation. Ultimately God alone decides who is saved or who is lost. God has developed a plan of salvation in which he chooses to save those who trust Him alone for salvation. So put simply God saves those who trust Him. But our faith in itself does not save us, rather, God alone saves us. Many cannot understand this simple and biblical notion. Some mistakenly act as if our faith is what saves us. They then take this and run to the extreme in which they believe that our decision to trust Jesus *is* what saves us (this is the false doctrine of “decisionism”, i.e. that our decision to follow Jesus is what actually saves us). But even this decision does not save us. Rather, this decision puts us in the position where God will save us.

      I sometimes use the illustration of a major life saving surgery. You may decide upon consultation with the doctor to have this surgery. And if the decision is made to have the surgery, the surgical team then does *all* the work of actually performing the surgery and saving your life. In fact you are unconscious when the work is done and you do none of it, you do nothing at all regarding the actual surgery. Nor does your decision to have the surgery save you; it is ALL THE WORK of the surgical team. Likewise, when we have faith that God will save us (He promises to save those who trust Him to save them) He does all the saving work.

      I disagree with your claim that:

      “The preaching of “decisional regeneration” with the necessary focus on man is why there is now such weak theology in the SBC.”

      If there is a weak theology in the SBC it is caused by people not knowing and obeying their Bibles (as is true wherever people are weak in their theology) not “the preaching of decisional regeneration”. Because if people knew their Bibles they would know that they do not save themselves, only God saves people. They also would know things such as: while God saves those who trust Him, faith is not a religious work that earns salvation, faith in itself does not save us, our decision to trust Jesus does not save us, etc. etc.

      Robert

      Eric Robinson, MD

      Thank you Dr. Hankins for clarifying this as a “philosophical” exchange. I didn’t address the “straw man” that has apparently been beat to death for the obvious exploitation of one view at the expense of another. I understand the intent of this post is help us understand the TS better. Although it seems to go a bit more than what has been revealed of the communicable attribute of God’s love in that God would desire to save all, but yet all are not saved by a Sovereign God, and this somehow relates to a condemnation of Calvinism…that I don’t see. You are clearly trying to have it both ways. What I do see is an attempt to not be labeled into a camp, so that a “new” theology may arise. First let me clarify the definition of “decisional regeneration” as that which does have some roots in what is termed semi-Pelagianism…however, I am not making that charge here. You have eloquently articulated what I presume you would have us believe as something “new under the sun.” A new soteriology, never before considered, unique to Southern Baptists that encompasses the majority opinion, as if majority opinion carries more significance, let’s say than scripture. (Part of the reason for my original question. Majority rules, right. It is frustrating to be pigeon-holed and caricatured incorrectly without being heard.)

      As to the definitions of other terms, it appears that some major terms such as grace and faith have been changed to fit a more universal atonement view. As to effectual grace, or even prevenient grace, I would give you either, for Whitfield and Wesley could “cooperate” with these assumptions. Both of these men also believed strongly in a real substitutionary atonement. But today there appears a new definition of grace, one which seems to me closer to a cooperative grace espoused by the RCC, where man is acted on by the Holy Spirit thus allowing making him morally neutral and free of his sin nature like Adam in order to make his own choice to trust, and trust he must. It seems to me that Faith Alone is also filtered with a lot of “if’s” and “but’s” among modern Southern Baptists. It gets translated as “yes, you are saved by faith alone, BUT, you must ACT on that faith to be truly saved.” Yes, you are saved by grace alone, BUT, God does his part, now you have to do yours. So in essence, faith is replaced with “accepting” and/or “deciding”. These are terms which sound more “actionable.” Grace has been replaced with “love”…something that is more of a feeling and less of an action (on God’s part). After all our pontificating, when can we just say of FAITH…… “Lord I believe, help my unbelief” and leave it there, ALONE?

      NOW, as to the straw man argument of double predestination that has been beaten to death…. It seems to me silly to assume for the sake of argument against God that He elects “arbitrarily”, without love, and without being dependent on man. The presumptions at stake are clearly this:
      1. Universal atonement
      2. God loves all people completely equally the same
      3. God desires to save all men

      If you are not Reformed, not Calvinistic, not ?, but accept God’s sovereignty, then God wants something that he wills not. Now being a simple man, I wonder, given “foreknowledge” as most would portray, why would God create those would not choose him? Is He still not then creating some that He ultimately knows will choose Him and some that He knows will reject Him?? What a cruel trick even, to sovereignly place some in families and countries who never even have the chance to hear.

      From a Historical Redemptive framework consider this Loving God, who so strongly desires something, but is unable to get what He wants…..
      So God supposedly loves everyone completely the same. Yet His grand plan for letting us know that is to call one man (Abram) thru whom a nation would come who would be the light to the world. (The NC always misses the point here that the “light” of Israel was not the nation but Christ). That nation would one day, about 5000 years later, have a Son who would die for the sins of the whole world. BUT, even then, that Son calls twelve men in a small nation to be emissaries. With much pain and struggle they reach into the know world, but still not reaching every single person, nor every people groups, not even yet. MAN, this all loving all knowing God sure does have a unique way of showing it. What about all those people from Abraham to Jesus who had the bad misfortune of being born Canaanite (or Chinese!)? If you don’t venture into quasi-Universalism here and say “they are in heaven since they didn’t have an OPPORTUNITY to respond”, then a larger problem arises for your knew theology.

      OR, could it be that we are all in fact guilty in ADAM, and the urgency of spreading the Gospel is found in a generous God who extends Grace through the Gospel, a gospel that is mighty to save! Could it be that this God sovereignly elects based on His measure of good, not ours, and He extends grace based on His defining love, not ours? Could it be that He purposes the means as well as the ends, and works thru second causes like Satan, angels, and men in a great mystery of sovereignty to paint a beautiful picture of His Glory over the tapestry of time?

      The NC painting, I suppose, is of a muscular Atlas, hands outstretched, reaching to save, yet shackled to the final decision of man, unable to rescue those he desires to, those He died as a substitute for, but His efforts on the cross were diminished by the final decision of man.

      Dr. Hankins, I am aware of the passages regarding God’s love you referenced. I understand the thinking behind the presuppositions. I was hoping to get more of your thought process (or a biblical basis), or the experiential reference points for your assertions. Again…. given “foreknowledge” as most would portray, why would God create those would not choose him? Is He still not then “culpable” for creating some that He ultimately knows will reject Him and thus spend eternity in Hell? Does this sound like God is the author of evil in your new soteriology. (If you come back with God desires man’s free will to choose, despite Eph. 2:1-2, more than his own desires, I would interested in your view of God’s sovereignty.)
      Robert, I hope this helps clarify some of the “definitions”.

Robert

Hello again Eric,

I saw your last response and there are so many problems with it, that I feel compelled to point out some of them. I will let Eric Hankins speak for himself if he chooses to do so. But you made so many mistakes that I just cannot allow them to go by without some response to them. First of all though asked you never do present your definition of “decisional regeneration” though you act as if you will do so when you write:

“First let me clarify the definition of “decisional regeneration” as that which does have some roots in what is termed semi-Pelagianism…however, I am not making that charge here. You have eloquently articulated what I presume you would have us believe as something “new under the sun.”

No definition or clarification there at all.

You make reference to what appears to be a problem for you:

“Although it seems to go a bit more than what has been revealed of the communicable attribute of God’s love in that God would desire to save all, but yet all are not saved by a Sovereign God, and this somehow relates to a condemnation of Calvinism…that I don’t see. You are clearly trying to have it both ways.”

Declaring both (1) that God desires to save all, and (2) “yet all are not saved” is not “trying to have it both ways”. (1) is presented by various scriptures which I am sure you know, so I will not repeat them here. (2) is also presented by various scriptures. The Bible declares both that God desires the salvation of all and that not all will be saved.

“As to the definitions of other terms, it appears that some major terms such as grace and faith have been changed to fit a more universal atonement view.”

Again not true at all. Faith means to trust. In the OT the term meant to lean upon a rock. In the NT the term means to choose to trust Christ to save you. Neither of these terms needs to be “changed to fit a more universal atonement view.”

Eric R your points about grace and faith that follow are controlled by Calvinistic assumptions. Others who hold differing assumptions are not going to accept your statements about grace or faith (i.e. “But today there appears a new definition of grace, one which seems to me closer to a cooperative grace espoused by the RCC, where man is acted on by the Holy Spirit thus allowing making him morally neutral and free of his sin nature like Adam in order to make his own choice to trust, and trust he must. It seems to me that Faith Alone is also filtered with a lot of “if’s” and “but’s” among modern Southern Baptists. It gets translated as “yes, you are saved by faith alone, BUT, you must ACT on that faith to be truly saved.” Yes, you are saved by grace alone, BUT, God does his part, now you have to do yours. So in essence, faith is replaced with “accepting” and/or “deciding”. These are terms which sound more “actionable.” Grace has been replaced with “love”…something that is more of a feeling and less of an action (on God’s part”).

Robert

Robert

Part 2 –

“NOW, as to the straw man argument of double predestination that has been beaten to death…. It seems to me silly to assume for the sake of argument against God that He elects “arbitrarily”, without love, and without being dependent on man.”

God does not elect people to be His people *arbitrarily*: both in the OT and NT the pattern is the same; He chooses those who trust Him to be His people and those are the people He saves.

You next state three propositions and apparently you do not understand how non-Calvinists view these propositions.

“ The presumptions at stake are clearly this:
1. Universal atonement
2. God loves all people completely equally the same
3. God desires to save all men”

Regarding Universal atonement, we mean that God provides an atonement in Christ for all people. And simultaneously only those who trust God will have this atonement applied to them individually. Thus we believe in “universal atonement” but not universalism (i.e. those who reject Christ will themselves be rejected, not everyone will be saved).

Regarding the idea that God loves all people “completely equally the same” where do you get this? In both scripture and in our own experience it is clear that God neither loves nor treats everyone “the same”. As a simple example, God treats faithful believers differently than professing believers who are not faithful.

What I think you are mistaking here is the claim that non-Calvinists make that God loves all people and this is demonstrated in that He gave His Son Jesus for all people. That demonstrates He loves all people: but that is not the same as saying that He loves everyone in exactly the same way and treats everybody in exactly the same way. So we believe that God loves everyone and demonstrates this by his provision of atonement and at the same time reject proposition 2 as false.

Proposition 3 is true because that is what God says Himself in scripture.

Robert

Robert

Part 3-

“If you are not Reformed, not Calvinistic, not ?, but accept God’s sovereignty, then God wants something that he wills not. Now being a simple man, I wonder, given “foreknowledge” as most would portray, why would God create those would not choose him? Is He still not then creating some that He ultimately knows will choose Him and some that He knows will reject Him?? What a cruel trick even, to sovereignly place some in families and countries who never even have the chance to hear.”

Here you throw out multiple ideas at once. Start with the one I will not address here as it will take too much time: the fate of those “who never even have the chance to hear.” Babies and the developmentally disabled never hear the gospel without understanding: do you presume that they all automatically go to hell because they have never heard it and understood it?

You state “then God wants something that he wills not”. The truth is there are definitely things that the Lord wills and yet they do not come to pass. For example God wants all believers to be mature believers: do they all become mature believers? No. God wants all Christian marriages to be healthy and models for others, are they all the way God intends? No. God wants believers to be careful with their speech building others up and not tearing them down, does this always happen? No. God wanted Israel to be faithful to Him, over all were they? No. The fact is scripture clearly presents things that God desires or wants and yet do not happen. Unfortunately salvation is one of these as well. God says He desires for all to be saved, and yet are all saved? No.

You try to present foreknowledge as a problem “I wonder, given “foreknowledge” as most would portray, why would God create those would not choose him?”

Does God foreknow everything that will take place? Yes. God foreknew that people would sin (including believers) should he have not created mankind then knowing they would sin? Eric R. you say about “those who would not choose him” that God created them. How so? Does God create every person that ends up as an unbeliever to be an unbeliever? No. Does God control the wills and minds of unbelievers to force them to reject Him? No. So what does it mean to ask whether or not God should have created those who would be unbelievers? Some of those unbelievers had believing children. So if they never exist neither will there believing children. Just where was God supposed to draw the line: should he have caused abortions to all the women who were going to have children that God foreknew would end up as unbelievers? The Biblical picture is that those who reject God choose to do so. They are not forced to not believe, nor are they controlled to ensure their nonbelief.

God does not make people into exactly what they are. I work with inmates, some have committed the most disgusting and vile sins imaginable. Did God create them to do these things? Did he make them into child molesters, murderers, spousal abusers, etc. etc. etc.? No, they chose to do these things themselves which is why they are accountable for them and in prison for them. There is a joke that is sometimes heard in prisons that makes this point very well: “a person was arrested for a serious crime and he said upon arrest: “Don’t arrest me, arrest my parents if they had not had me and allowed me to live then this never would have happened!” It is a joke because we recognize that the inmate not the parents is responsible for his/her crimes. Likewise we don’t say “well blame God for their unbelief or their sins or their criminal acts because if he had not allowed them to live (he could have killed them to prevent their acts) none of these things would ever have happened. We simply cannot blame God for everything that happens. People’s sinful choices whether they be unbelief or crimes are their choices and their responsibility. And each will give an account at the final judgment no one gets away with anything!

Robert

Robert

Part 4

“From a Historical Redemptive framework consider this Loving God, who so strongly desires something, but is unable to get what He wants….”

Well God is a loving God and so strongly desired that Israel be His people and be faithful and yet most of them were not. Did God fail then? Or did these people make the wrong choices?

“So God supposedly loves everyone completely the same.”

Propostion 3 again where do you get this error?

“With much pain and struggle they reach into the know world, but still not reaching every single person, nor every people groups, not even yet. MAN, this all loving all knowing God sure does have a unique way of showing it. What about all those people from Abraham to Jesus who had the bad misfortune of being born Canaanite (or Chinese!)?”

Again you bring up those who have never heard the gospel. And your comments here imply that God is a failure. How so? God wanted to provide an atonement for the whole world through Jesus: he achieved that. God also set up a plan of salvation in which he would save all those who trust Him: is He failing in that according to you?

“If you don’t venture into quasi-Universalism here and say “they are in heaven since they didn’t have an OPPORTUNITY to respond”, then a larger problem arises for your knew theology.”

Why should Eric Hankins or anyone else “venture into quasi-Universalism” ? When the Bible I will say it again: presents the twin facts that while God desires the salvation of all, not all will end up saved. Universalism claims all will be saved but that is not what the Bible says.

“OR, could it be that we are all in fact guilty in ADAM, and the urgency of spreading the Gospel is found in a generous God who extends Grace through the Gospel, a gospel that is mighty to save! Could it be that this God sovereignly elects based on His measure of good, not ours, and He extends grace based on His defining love, not ours? Could it be that He purposes the means as well as the ends, and works thru second causes like Satan, angels, and men in a great mystery of sovereignty to paint a beautiful picture of His Glory over the tapestry of time?”

This is just Calvinist progaganda and language: it is filled with false assumptions.

“The NC painting, I suppose, is of a muscular Atlas, hands outstretched, reaching to save, yet shackled to the final decision of man, unable to rescue those he desires to, those He died as a substitute for, but His efforts on the cross were diminished by the final decision of man.”

How are Jesus efforts on the cross diminished if God’s goal was to provide an atonement for the whole world which is exactly what he did?

And your picture of God being “shackled to the final decision of man” seems to ignore the fact that it is God who decided that the plan of salvation would include people choosing to trust Him and being saved: why? You present this “final decision of man” stuff again and yet we do not hold to “decisionism” (i.e. that the decision to trust is what actually saves a person, remember the surgery analogy?)
.
“Again…. given “foreknowledge” as most would portray, why would God create those would not choose him?”

Again given foreknowledge as most would portray, why would God create those who commit murder, rape, incest, adultery, spousal abuse, child molesting, drug dealing etc. etc. etc.?

“Is He still not then “culpable” for creating some that He ultimately knows will reject Him and thus spend eternity in Hell?”

Is he still not then “culpable” for creating some that He ultimately knows will commit all sorts of crimes and sins . . .

Eric R. you don’t seem to get the point. If you are going to argue via foreknowledge about those who end up as nonbelievers, that very same reasoning will apply to criminals and to all sin that is ever committed by people! The problem is the same, God foreknows it and you seem to imply that he should not have allowed it then. But he allows unbelief and he allows crime and sin. Apparently he actually allows people to even choose to do the wrong thing and even choose against Him.

“Robert, I hope this helps clarify some of the “definitions”.”

You did not clarify your definitions at all, instead you simply presented a long post full of errors.

Robert

Eric Robinson, MD

Decisional Regeneration- a form of synergism whereby God “must”, as defined by His finite creatures, depend on man’s cooperation/effort no matter how small to accomplish regeneration. As opposed to “grace through faith” as a gift in Eph. 2:8-9, or the orthodox position of “regeneration precedes faith” Ezek. 36. The just shall live by faith…His faithfulness, not ours, and once seen from this perspective, bondage to sin is broken.

Robert, it appears their is much riding on this discussion for you and I’m not quite sure I understand why. When I talked about Israel as a “light to the nations” did you understand that I meant Christ? For some have said using NT passages that God desires to save “all” people. You said in Part 2 I think…”God does not elect people to be His people *arbitrarily*: both in the OT and NT the pattern is the same; He chooses those who trust Him to be His people and those are the people He saves.” Did God change His focus to “the nations” after Christ, or was this predicted earlier, say Gen. 15 or so? None of the nations around Israel were sent “Jewish evangelists” or prophets, though some gentiles did come into the nation of Israel and “believed” in God, as you know. But you must admit for God who “desires” to save every individual on the planet, for 5,000 years the efforts at “evangelism” seemed quite inadequate, and not “at the right time.” In an earlier post I noticed an accusation of eisegesis against another brother while committing the same in the same post. Simply look at who God chose in the OT…out of all the peoples, Abram. The least of the nations. In his desire in the OT for His people to repent, lest they perish, but after the prophets bring the “lawsuit” afforded by the Mosaic economy, still no repentance, except for a remnant. Finally, down to a stump, to a root…of Jesse, the Light of the nation, Christ, through whom all nations would be blessed. My point, was for an immutable God, to go from one small people among many larger nations, to now every single person….what happened to all those in the OT who never heard?? From a pastoral perspective, I can understand that the coldness of a statement, such as “you don’t know if your kid is in heaven,” made to the parent who loses a child is just as cruel and unloving, since it goes beyond scripture as well.

I am simply responding to this one simple charge…Dr. Hankins placed “double predestination” up as the typical straw man for everyone to beat to death…do you see that? I simply believe that all are under the law, and thus deserve death, since no one is righteous. The bible clearly presents God electing a nation to be His people. Then others would come in “who be His people who were not formerly His people.” The gentiles (i.e. nations other Israel) being grafted into the tree was the mystery Paul was given to proclaim…that grace is not just for you (Jews) but also for you who are far off (gentiles). You have apparently assumed I am using foreknowledge as an apologetic. See footnotes to the original TS.

My question is, in the soteriology proposed by the TS, how do you escape the fact that God still brought into existence those who would reject Him, and therefore, God foreknowingly created that man for hell? There is no wiggle room around this. We must not continue to try to make a god WE are more comfortable with.

I noticed your defense centered around the evil in men. You said, “God does not make people into exactly what they are.” Correct, they by the effects of the fall, are born bound in sin, following the prince of the power of the air, and we all suffer the consequences of sin in this life. You aren’t saying these men are committing these acts because they are morally neutral I know. But they are in desperate need of a “heart transplant,” not just turning over a new leaf or trying to follow Jesus’ teachings. Romans 8:28-30. So according to this following explanation, foreknowledge is not a problem in my soteriology. Again..“OR, could it be that we are all in fact guilty in ADAM, and the urgency of spreading the Gospel is found in a generous God who extends Grace through the Gospel, a gospel that is mighty to save! Could it be that this God sovereignly elects based on His measure of good, not ours, and He extends grace based on His defining love, not ours? Could it be that He purposes the means as well as the ends, and works thru second causes like Satan, angels, and men in a great mystery of sovereignty to paint a beautiful picture of His Glory over the tapestry of time?”

You said something in the last post that mirrored my comments about definitions of faith being changed into more “actionable” words like accepting/deciding. “Ultimately God alone decides who is saved or who is lost. God has developed a plan of salvation in which he chooses to save those who trust Him alone for salvation. So put simply God saves those who trust Him. But our faith in itself does not save us, rather, God alone saves us.” OK, you said our faith does not save us. If we are not saved by faith alone, then what else must be done?

You also said in regards to inmates “we don’t say..well blame God for their unbelief or their sins or their criminal acts because if he had not allowed them to live (he could have killed them to prevent their acts) none of these things would ever have happened. We simply cannot blame God for everything that happens. People’s sinful choices whether they be unbelief or crimes are their choices and their responsibility. And each will give an account at the final judgment no one gets away with anything! No one is blaming God for evil. Remember as a Holy, Just, Sovereign, Merciful, Loving, Omniscient, Creator He knows all He did and didn’t place into existence to display His glory. And in this existence scripture tells us that man is responsible for his evil actions, not God. Why? God set it up that way. Why? We’ll have to ask him if it seems that important when we see Him “face to face.” :)

    Robert

    Eric you keep asking the same question (which appears to be a favored argument of yours against the Traditionalist view. You stated it yet again in your last post when you wrote:

    “My question is, in the soteriology proposed by the TS, how do you escape the fact that God still brought into existence those who would reject Him, and therefore, God foreknowingly created that man for hell? There is no wiggle room around this. We must not continue to try to make a god WE are more comfortable with.”

    Note that you are using God’s foreknowledge and the fact that some will end up as unbelievers as an argument against the Traditionalist view. A major reason that this argument concerns me (besides being wrong) is that this exact same argument is regularly used by atheists against Christianity! I have heard many atheists make this exact same argument against Christianity.

    Here is an example. Vincent Bugliosi who did a fantastic job in prosecuting the Manson family and bringing them to justice, also is an extremely hostile critic of Christianity. In his book aimed against Christianity, DIVINITY OF DOUBT, makes this exact same argument. Here are a couple of examples (the first being his early doubting of Christianity as a Catholic student in third grade:

    “One day when I was in third or fourth grade, he was explaining that God was all-good, all-powerful, and all-knowing, and I asked him why (I had a yen for the why question even back then), if God was all-good, he would put people on this earth who he knew were going to end up in hell, burning throughout eternity. The monsignor proceeded to tell me it was a good question, but he had the answer. God gives all of us free will, the monsignor assured us, and when we come to the fork in the road where one path will lead us to heaven and one to hell, we have a choice, and God is not responsible for what choice we make. Yes, I said, but if God is also all-knowing, he knows what path we’re going to take before we take it. So, I said I still don’ understand how God would put people on this earth who he already knew were going to end up in hell. The monsignor coughed nervously, noted it was the end of the hour, and said we’d talk about it some other time, a time that never came. No one in Christianity, to my knowledge, can answer that question.” (p. 5-6 Vincent Bugliosi, DIVINITY OF DOUBT)

    Bugliosi brings up this argument repeatedly in his book, another example: “Most Christians apparently have no problem with the notion that their God created a world with the foreknowledge (being all-knowing), and therefore the intention, that the vast majority of its people would spend eternity in never-ending torture.” (p. 201)

    Note he says here that if God foreknows something and allows it (or does not directly prevent it), Bugliosi says this means that what results is “therefore the intention” that God has. This logically does not follow and is false. Just because God foreknows something (whether it be particular sins committed by people, or people ending up in hell) and allows it: it does not follow that He intends it to happen (or desires for it to happen)!

    Eric you make the same mistake when you repeatedly bring up this argument, and you conclude that God creates people for hell.

    God does not create people for hell nor does he create them to commit particular sins. In each case they freely choose to commit sins or freely choose to reject him.

    What Bugliosi and you leave out is that while God has intentions, *people have intentions as well*. And when people sin or reject God, it *their* intention not God’s that results in them committing sin or ending up in hell.

    Eric R. does it bother you at all that you are using the exact same argument as a hostile critic of Christianity, when you bring up God’s foreknowledge and people ending up in hell as a problem for traditionalists?

    Robert

Robert

I need to say something about another issue that Eric R. does not seem to be understanding. I have made it clear that while we have to have faith in order to be in a saving relationship with Jesus. Our faith IN ITSELF is not what saves us: God alone saves us. I took quite some time making myself clear and yet Eric asks:

“OK, you said our faith does not save us. If we are not saved by faith alone, then what else must be done?”

A major mistake made by many is that in so emphasizing the role of faith in our coming to a saving relationship with Jesus, unfortunately they leave out other Bible passages that are talk about the process of salvation.

I say “process” because our relationship with God begins with the work of the Spirit in us prior to our initial faith (i.e. the Spirit shows us our sinfulness, convicts us of sin, shows us the need for Jesus, shows us the identity of Jesus, etc. etc. all things we need to know in order to enter in a saving relationship with Jesus). But it does not end there. There is also how we live after we have begun a relationship with Jesus. Here we must obey Jesus as master while we are His servants (i.e. the Lordship of Christ over all areas of our life) and live a life of holiness (the scripture says explicitly that without holiness no one will see the Lord). This means that we “don’t just believe and then live anyway that we want” (as some wrongly charge us with). Put simply there is faith and works. Our works as believers do not save us and yet they will be present in our lives as we belong to Him and obey His Word. No works evidences a dead faith according to the apostle James. Lastly when we die (or if the Lord returns first) the last part of our salvation occurs (i.e. God glorifies our bodies and prepares them for the eternal state with Him).

In answer to your question Eric: If we are not saved by faith alone, then what else must be done? The answer is that from our side we need to trust the Lord, repent of sin, confess sin and grow and mature as believers and manifest our faith through our works. From God’s side, he justifies us, he regenerates us, making us a part of his family/adoption, he sets us apart for his use, he sanctifies us, and finally he glorifies us. When we talk about God saving us we are talking about the things that He alone does, that we cannot do (again this would include justifying us, regenerating us, etc. and finally glorifying us).

Unfortunately some so press the need for faith at the beginning of our walk with the Lord, that they speak as if these other things are not part of the process of salvation. So some deemphasize repentance and doing good works. So you have some who trust in their decision to trust in Jesus (sometimes made years ago) and yet they are not living obedient lives and yet are confident that they are genuine believers (cf. “decisionism” the idea that as long as I made a decision to follow Jesus at some point, that alone will save me, even if I never ever do any good works of obedience to Christ). Our assurance that we are believers comes via the work of the Spirit and our doing good works.

Robert

    Eric Robinson, MD

    Hey Robert,

    All this debating stuff aside, let’s talk about one separate issue. You said that the Spirit works in us before we are able to believe or have faith, this I would wholeheartedly agree with. The Spirit by God’s grace alone is the sole reason anyone comes to faith in Christ and His work for them on the cross.

    As far as “process” of salvation goes, can we at least clarify this process in terms of justification and sanctification? I was poking at you a little when I asked what else must be done. When we say someone is saved by faith in Christ, we would both confirm that this person would be as Abraham is portrayed in Romans 4, that he “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Right? Now this is before he had offered Isaac on Mariah, as evidence of his faith. So in terms of justification, or God’s declaring us righteous before Him as a legal declaration, we would both agree this occurs at conversion? Right? At conversion/belief/trust/faith/ God imputes or credits the righteousness of Christ to our account so that when God looks at us, He doesn’t see our sin nature that we know we all still fight against (Rm. 7), instead God sees the wedding garment of righteous supplied to us based on the finished work of Christ. From this perspective of imputed righteousness, we live as new creations. The other things you were mentioning, like good works, these would be because we are “his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus….”Eph2:10. So the salvation guaranteed by the Seal of the Spirit, is a reality both here and now, and in the future, for those “whom He began the good work in” that they may rest assured “He will be faithful to complete it.” When you said “we must obey” and “we must live lives of Holiness” something in me wanted to say Yes!, but not as a command like “must”, because this was the essence of the commandments given through Moses, and the command given by Jesus that we “must repent and believe”….neither of which man can obey! Hence, the good news of the Gospel. What God required, He also provided…the Perfect Priestly sacrifice, the Perfect law keeper, the Perfect King as a substitute, so that by faith, we who are united with Christ, are no longer condemned! Rm.8:1.
    “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Rm. 5:1-2

    God Bless,
    Eric

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