The Five Points That Led Me Out of Calvinism | Part One

December 30, 2014
**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.
Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology at Dallas Baptist University, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.
Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
Follow @soteriology101 on Twitter HERE.
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Recently several people have asked what specific points led me away from Calvinism.  Being a Professor of Theology that once affirmed the T.U.L.I.P gives me a unique perspective on this subject.  However, I do not claim to be an expert in the field nor do I begrudge those who disagree with my perspective. I simply desire to rightly interpret the Word of God.  Hopefully this article can help you understand why I could not continue to support the Calvinistic interpretation of the scriptures.

Why are people so interested in what led me out of Calvinism? I believe there are many who are hoping to convince someone they care about to leave behind their Calvinistic beliefs.  I hate to tell them, but it is doubtful an article will accomplish that feat. It is very difficult to convince YOURSELF to leave a long held theological perspective and next to impossible to convince another.  For me it was a painstaking three-year journey after I engaged in an in-depth study of the subject.  I had no desire to leave Calvinism and I fought tooth and nail to defend my beloved “Doctrines of Grace” against the truths my studies led me to see.  There was no single argument, article, or discussion that led me to recant my adherence to the T.U.L.I.P. system.

In fact I’m quite certain I could never have been “debated out of Calvinism.”  I was much too competitive to objectively evaluate my systematic theology in the heat of a contentious type discussion.  Even if I were to come up against an argument I could not answer, I would have never admitted that to my opponent.  Few individuals would be able to get around the intense emotion and pride inducing adrenaline brought on by debating theology.  Our innate desire to be esteemed by others and seen as “smarter” than we really are often overwhelms any potential for learning and profitable dialogue.

If someone disagreed with me, my presumption was that they must not really understand my perspective.  So, instead of attempting to listen and objectively evaluate their arguments, I focused on restating my case more clearly, confidently, and dogmatically.  If I did not fully understand what they were saying I would often label and dismiss them instead of taking the time to fully evaluate their point of view.  I am not attempting to suggest every Calvinist makes these errors—I am only reflecting on what I now view as my mistakes.

I competed on the state level in CX Debate in High School and College. Our debate coach drilled into us the SKILL of taking on both the affirmative and negative side of every issue. And believe me, that is a learned skill. It is very difficult to put down one view in the defense of another opposing view, especially if you are emotionally and intellectually attached to a given perspective.  It is rare to find real objectivity in a discussion among theologically minded individuals over a doctrine as emotionally charged and intimately personal as that of our salvation.  This is ESPECIALLY true of those who have made a living and developed their identity around a particular set of beliefs.  Imagine R.C. Sproul, for example, coming to believe he was mistaken on these points of doctrine.  Think how much it would cost him and his reputation as a scholar to recant those views. This is never an easy or painless transition for anyone at any level of notoriety.

I say all this to tell any Calvinistic readers who may have clicked on this link in order to refute my claims:  I am NOT so naive as to think this article is going to convince you to leave Calvinism, thus that is NOT my goal in creating it.  My goal, however, is that you simply understand the reasons I left Calvinism…and I mean REALLY understand.  That most likely cannot happen if you begin with an axe to grind or a point to defend.  Can we put down the weapons and first seek to hear and fully understand each other before launching into a debate?  If you finish this article and walk away still as Calvinistic as you are right now, but you fully understand why I felt I had to leave Calvinism, then I will consider this a great success.

I adopted all five points of the Calvinistic T.U.L.I.P when I was a freshman in college after digesting books from John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer and later John Piper.  Louie Giglio, the man who brought John Piper into the mainstream through events like Passion, was one of my father’s close friends.  My first ministry position was with GRACE at Hardin-Simmons University modeled after Louie’s ministry at Baylor University in the 80s.  Here is where I worked along side Matt Chandler, being discipled by the same mentor.  I grew very convinced in my Calvinism over the next decade of life even helping to start a new “Reformed” Baptist Church that split off from my home church.

Later I served on staff at the new Reformed Church and then began working for the Texas Baptist state convention.  We hired John Piper along with various other notable Calvinistic communicators to speak at many of the events I direct.  I very much loved being apart of this “brotherhood” of ministers who proudly affirmed the doctrine of Spurgeon and the forefathers of our Southern Baptist faith.  I was a card-carrying member of “The Founders” of the SBC and would never have dreamed that one day I would be writing this article.

One morning I was reading a book by A.W. Tozer, a man I knew was respected in the Calvinistic community.  John Piper often quoted him and people referenced his works regularly in my Reformed circles.  Some of what he wrote simple did not fit into my paradigm.  As I read, I remember thinking to myself, “Isn’t Tozer a Calvinist?”  I distinctly remember how I felt when I learned that A.W. Tozer and C.S. Lewis, two men I greatly respected, did not affirm T.U.L.I.P.  At that point, I recalled what my debate training taught me and I realized I had never really objectively and thoroughly vetted the scholarly views that oppose Calvinism.  This started my journey.

Six months to a year into this sporadic study of doctrines I was not the least bit convinced that Calvinism was wrong. Even after being presented with several convincing arguments against my long held beliefs, I subconsciously felt I had too much too lose to leave my Calvinism.  My reputation, my friends, my ministry connections–all gone if I recant my views on this!  I had converted way too many people and hurt way too many relationships in defense of these views for me to go back on what I was so certain to be true for so many years.  However, my years of training in debate helped me to recognize this bias and proceed with my studies nonetheless.  As I was trained, I forced myself to drop my preconceived ideas, my biases, and anything that might hinder me from fully understanding the other perspective. I wanted to know what Godly, intelligent men like Tozer and Lewis saw in the scriptures that led them to their conclusions. I wanted to fully vet their perspective on soteriology.

In that process there were five key truths that came to light which eventually led me out of my Calvinism.  Below is a short summary of those views:

POINT #1: I came to realize that the “foresight faith view” (classical Wesleyan Arminianism) was not the only scholarly alternative to the Calvinistic interpretation.  

I had so saturated myself with Calvinistic preachers and authors that the only thing I knew of the opposing views was what they told me. Thus, I had been led to believe the only real alternative to Calvinism was this strange concept of God “looking through the corridors of time to elect those He foresees would choose Him.” Notable Calvinistic teachers almost always paint all non-Calvinistic scholars as holding to this perspective. Once I realized I had been misled on this point, I was more open to consider other interpretations objectively.

I found a much more robust and theologically sound systematic in what is called “The Corporate View of Election,”[1] which so happened to be the most popular view among the biblical scholars of my own denomination (Southern Baptists). Much more can be said about this view that I will not take the liberty to expound upon in this article. However, I must warn readers that the all too common phrase, “nations are made up of individuals too,” does not even begin to rebut the claims of this perspective. Individuals are just as much involved in the Corporate perspective as they are the Calvinistic perspective (maybe even more so). Anyone who believes the Corporate view is easily dismissed with that simple one-liner has not yet come to understand it rightly. In my experience, very few Calvinists give this view the attention it deserves because it requires a shift in perspective that, if recognized, would undermine their entire premise.

Do you understand “The Corporate View of Election”…I mean really understand it? Could you defend it in a debate if you had to? Could you explain it objectively to a classroom of students? Are you willing to study it and evaluate its claims?

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” -Aristotle

 

Part two is HERE!

 

[1] http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/pdf/ashland_theological_journal/41-1_059.pdf

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Les Prouty

Leighton,

Thank you for taking the time to write about your experience. Though I have been Reformed for almost 30 years and am unlikely to to become non-Reformed, one never knows. I’m certainly not infallible. In any case I always enjoy reading about my brothers and sisters and their faith journey.

Max

Thank you Brother Flowers for detailing your journey. I look forward to the rest of your article on this site. I am encouraged to know that you have focused your ministry on youth evangelism. There is no doubt that New Calvinism is targeting the Millennial generation with this theology. New SBC church plants are primarily populated with the young, restless and reformed. I pray that your efforts with this article and other ministry activities will get the attention of young Southern Baptists who have been persuaded to adopt reformed theology, contrary to mainstream SBC belief and practice. If the spiritual battle for their minds can be won, the SBC will be Calvinized within a generation.

    Leighton Flowers

    Max, thank you for your encouragement brother! I do believe if young people understood both perspectives fully far fewer would choose the Calvinistic interpretation. Calvinism is a very tough pill to swallow (as even Calvinists testify), so if a sound robust theological answer to the most pressing questions is presented along side the Calvinistic answer I do sincerely believe the resurgence of Calvinism would subside in the SBC. I was drawn to Calvinism out of ignorance of any other answers to the questions having to do with election, predestination and hardening. The non-Calvinists were virtually silent about the difficult passages leaving the youth to find answers for themselves. Men like Sproul, MacArthur and Piper were more than happy to answer their questions directly and even with an easy to remember acrostic, all the while the non-Calvinists quoted John 3:16 and said, “Can’t we all just get along?” …as if that would appease the young and restless looking for serious answers! It’s time for people to step up and provide some BIBLICAL answers to these hard questions. We can’t run from controversy and pretend it will just go away. We need to answer with truth in love.

      Max

      “The non-Calvinists were virtually silent about the difficult passages leaving the youth to find answers for themselves.”

      That is exactly our dilemma, Leighton … majority Southern Baptists in both pulpit and pew have been virtually silent. New Calvinists hold all the conferences, with charismatic speakers and cool bands. New Calvinists write all the popular books. New Calvinists now control most SBC entities. Makes the rest of us (the majority millions) look like we are stuck in the mud. Efforts to turn the tide may be too little too late. I know New Calvinism will run its course, but I’m concerned that we may lose a disillusioned generation when it does. May God bless your ministry – we must focus on reaching the 20s-40s beyond singing another verse of “Can’t we all just get along?” Can two distinctly different soteriological views really coexist in a single denomination going forward? I realize that the BFM2000 provides plenty of theological wiggle room for both Calvinist and Non-Calvinist under one big tent … but should it?

        Leighton Flowers

        Max, I don’t know the answer to that question. Before I would have said it is better for the statements to be inclusive of many, but I do think it is an important enough of a topic to be addressed forthrightly.

        The difference between Calvinists and non-Calvinists (IMO) is that the Calvinists are much more committed to their system than the non-Calvinists are (typically). Calvinism is a “brotherhood” of sorts… almost like being apart of the masons, or something (not meaning any insult by that comparison). Non-Calvinists don’t have that. Non-Cals typically want to avoid conflict or labels. They want to focus on other topics and thus they rarely address the issues associated with this dilemma in their local churches. And many non-Cals wrongly believe that Calvinists think the same way, but they do not. In the public mainstream, yes…Calvinists can sound as ‘nonchalant as the non-Calvinist about the whole issue, but Calvinists take this issue VERY SERIOUSLY and do not TYPICALLY shy away from addressing it whenever and where ever they can. They are looking for ways to work it into conversations and lessons. They LIKE talking about it. They WANT to discuss predestination and election. Non-Cals typically do not…mainly because they don’t want conflict or they haven’t studied the subject enough to feel real comfortable discussing it. If they do…they have a “pat answer” like the sign on the front of the door says “whosoever will” and the sign inside that says “you were chosen.” Some do the same thing with end time theories… “Yes, I’m a PAN- millennialist…it will all PAN OUT in the end”…har har har. Why do some do that? Because they are not studied up enough on that subject to offer good theological guidance.

        These kind of answers may appease the older generations but they will NOT appease the younger!

          Max

          ” … they are not studied up enough …”

          And, thus, ripe for the pickins! I had this very discussion with a Founders’ disciple. He said that mainline Southern Baptists don’t have enough Bible in them to know what they believe! From my vantage point of 50+ years as a Southern Baptist, I sadly agree with that assessment. While we are supposed to be a “People of the Word”, not many truly are. I sat by a deacon while visiting another church who was amazed that my Bible was so marked up and asked me if I was a preacher! I’m not. SBC’s publishing house could easily slip in reformed indoctrination and the masses would not recognize the difference (I actually flagged that problem a few years ago in LifeWay’s young adult literature). Fortunately, the SBC masses are still holding onto “whosoever will” and will defend John 3:16 to the death … even though they couldn’t quote John 3:17. You could ask many of them to turn to Thomas 1:1 and they would flip the pages looking for it! Yep, I’d say Southern Baptists should be reformed in a sense … but transformed would be better. In my humble, but accurate opinion, a spiritual resurgence is long overdue for the largest Protestant denomination in America! New Calvinism isn’t the answer … it is just filling the void. Genuine revival would help – I’m praying more desperately for that these days.

          andy

          Can/should the SBC exist as including both Calvinists and non-Calvinists?

          I believe it can, and should. It has for 150 years. It has simply not been the dividing line that it is now. I recall many college conversations about this issue in late-night dorms, but whatever anybody’s opinion, I did not prevent us from getting up the next morning as friends and co-laborers in ministry.

          My current church has people all over the board on this issue, and it has not caused problems. We have had open Sunday school discussions of the election issues, and no enemies were made.

          Baptists have a unique place in that we do Not have a settled position on this, az opposed to Presbyterians vs methodists/wesleyans/nazarenes. I believe this allows one viewpoint to sharpen and temper the other.

          I also think that marking a dividing line would lea e out a large number of people and pastors who are simply not sure. It is not necessarily the mark of a lazy or ignorant person to say “these are complicated issues, I have questions about both sides.”. (whether soteriology, or eschatology).

            Max

            “It has simply not been the dividing line that it is now.”

            Andy, as a 50+ year Southern Baptist, I agree with that. The primary concern with informed non-Calvinists within SBC does not lie so much with “Calvinism”, as with the current movement to “Calvinize” the denomination to achieve reformed theology as SBC’s primary default for belief and practice. Most SBC entities have come under the control of Calvinist leaders within recent years. New Calvinism, especially among the young, restless and reformed, is proving to be militant and aggressive in some corners of SBC life – there are growing reports of young New Calvinist pastors splitting traditional churches by stealth and deception regarding their theological leaning. While the “Old” Calvinists within our ranks (of the Founders’ sort) have been satisfied to conduct a quiet revolution for years, many “New” Calvinists are bold, impatient, and in our face. Statements like the following from New Calvinist leaders only fuel the growing dissension:

            “If you’re a theological minded, deeply convictional young evangelical, if you’re committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ, if you want to see gospel built and structured committed churches, your theology is just going to end up basically being Reformed, basically something like this New Calvinism, or you’re going to have to invent some label for what is basically going to be the same thing, there just are not options out there …” (Dr. Albert Mohler, President of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary).

            Andy, in my lifetime, mainline non-Calvinist Southern Baptists have been “committed to the gospel and want to see the nations rejoice in the name of Christ.” We have structured and financed effective home and foreign mission agencies to accomplish that mission. To suggest that the majority of Southern Baptists have somehow lost the real gospel, to endeavor to convince our youth that “there just are not options out there” to reformed theology, and to advance New Calvinism as the vehicle to achieve “gospel built and structured committed churches” just doesn’t set well with those of us who have spent lifetimes, as non-Calvinists, to take “whosoever will” to our communities and remote corners of the earth.

              volfan007

              And, with that statement, Max has spelled it out, very clearly.

              David

              andy

              So then what would be your answer to your original question…”Should the SBC exist as both going forward or not?”

                Max

                Andy, as we enter a new year, I’m still trying to sort that out in my spirit. Perhaps the Lord will answer that question for all of us in the days ahead. I’m still looking for His hand in all of this. I wish you the best in your ministry.

pam knight

Thank you for sharing this. I wish so many more would not only share their journey out of Calvinism but share it in such a way as you have done here. I’m praying that more and more Christians will not only speak up but will join together and reach out in a very compassionate and understanding way to those who hold to these “Doctrines of Grace” and I believe that people who have at one point in their Christian Life held to these same doctrines might be able to share in a different way than those of us who have never held to these Doctrines. I totally agree with you that debates or clever arguments is not the answer. The Truth is the answer….for it is The Truth that sets men free. So in this coming year let’s all make a joint effort to share that Truth with them praying and knowing that it is the Holy Spirit that is at work in the hearts and minds of everyone who hears the Truth. Thanks again …looking forward to the coming post.
In Christ
pam knight

Leighton Flowers

Thank your for you kind words, Les. We are forever learning, that is for sure!

Ron F. Hale

Thanks Leighton … I so enjoyed your compelling story and the kind way you have expressed your journey. I look forward to your next articles! Blessings!

Bill Mac

I’d be interested to know how many are agreeing with the author about his view of election. I’m loosely in the calvinistic camp, but I find the view of corporate election much more tenable than the foreseen faith view, which I think is frankly illogical in the extreme.

Richard Coords

This is a great article, and I can’t wait for part 2. I had elsewhere indicated that I felt that the foresight-of-faith explanation was a “disaster” for Arminians, especially in light of a much stronger “Corporate Election” that you have described. In relation to this, I’ve recently decided to try the technique of Bible memorization, and not of individual verses, and but whole chapters, in order not to miss anything, and so I decided to start with Ephesians, and as I memorized the chapter, I couldn’t help but notice that v.4 starts out with “just as,” in relation to the prior statement in v.3, and I have thus come to see Ephesians 1:3 as a powerhouse verse for the Corporate View, since I believe that Calvinism derives the foundation of its blessings directly from the Father, rather than where the Father has said that He has deferred His blessings. Then when I read the subsequent verses, it became clear to me that Paul is illustrating what those “blessings” are, specifically, and which are corporately in Christ. For instance, the blessing of a Christian’s eternal election to holiness, the blessing of a Christian’s eternal predestination to sonship, the blessing of a Christian’s redemption in Christ’s blood, the blessing of the revelation of mysteries being purposed in Him, the blessing of a Christian’s inheritance, the blessing of a Christian being indwelled by the Holy Spirit as God’s own possession, ect. Each of these things were the delineated by Paul as being blessings that are corporately (and exclusively) in Christ, while yet with Calvinism, the superior blessings are in the Father, by which one is made the Father’s “elect” and is thus given to become “in Christ,” and if so, then I can’t seem to reconcile that with Paul’s statement in verse 3.

    Leighton Flowers

    Richard,

    Thank you for your kind words. Even to this day if you listen to John Piper, Wayne Grudem, Mark Driscoll, or a host of other notable Calvinistic pastor’s web presentations on this subject you will see that they present the only other alternative to Calvinism as this foresight faith view. If they mention the corporate perspective at all its usually dismissed by that one-liner I mentioned in the article. Not a single one of them (that I’ve come across) rightly presents the corporate perspective, which leads me to believe they do not understand it or they think it is too difficult to answer (what other reason could their be?). If both views were presented fairly and fully to a crowd of believers not yet decided on this subject I would bet my bottom dollar (if I were a betting man) that most would run to the corporate view. Calvinists probably would agree with that prediction and wear it as a badge of honor because they have convinced themselves the more hated a view is by the majority the most likely it is to be accurate. But, where does the bible teach that is be expected? It’s one thing to say the world will hate our message…its a whole other thing to say that born again believers will be confused and disheartened by the “good news.”

    Les Prouty

    Leighton,

    I don’t read much of Piper, Grudem and non of Driscoll. So of course I’ll take your word for how they approach any alternatives to Calvinism.

    But have you read Schreiner’s piece on corporate vs individual election in Romans 9-11?
    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/sdg/Schreiner,%20Thomas%20-%20Corporate%20and%20Individual%20Elect.pdf

      Leighton Flowers

      Yes, I try to read everything from Abasciano and those who engage him in discussion. I spoke briefly about this exchange in the recent podcast in fact. There isn’t enough time or space to address it fully here but notice this one point that Dr. Schreiner mentions:

      Instead what we have in Romans 9-11 is both corporate and individual election,
      for we cannot have the one without the other. If individuals are not elected, one cannot
      have a corporate group. It follows, then, that Paul may focus on corporate election without
      in the least suggesting that individual election is excluded. Indeed, I still claim that such a
      logical relation between corporate and individual election must be the case, for corporate
      and individual election are, as Frank Sinatra sang about love and marriage, logically
      inseparable. “You can’t have one without the other.” ….
      “Are individuals elected by God? Not according to Abasciano.”

      I believe these quotes best summarize Schreiner’s error. He, like most, fails to recognize the PURPOSE of the national election of Israel (as Abasciano explains it). The NATION is chosen to bring the MESSIAH and HIS MESSAGE, which necessarily does require that individuals are chosen effectually to bring about that purpose (God uses persuasive means like big fish, blinding lights, signs to convince his messengers from Israel to go). So, in that regard we agree with Schreiner’s statement, “If individuals are not elected, one cannot have a corporate group.” However, I would alter that statement for the sake of clarity in this way, “If individuals are not elected, one cannot fulfill the purpose of that corporate group.” In other words, God elected Israel to bring the LIGHT and thus he elected the LIGHT CARRIERS (only Jews) to fulfill that purpose. The LIGHT (messiah/message) is the means by which anyone can see, hear, understand and repent. Make sense?

      So, if this is confusing, which it can be if one is used to viewing it only from the perspective of God’s choosing individuals for irresistible salvation, look at the parable of the wedding banquet in Matt. 22. There are two different groups ELECTED in that parable.

      (1) The king appointed his servants to go and invite their own kind first. There is the first ‘election’…he is selecting his messengers who will have the authority (noble cause) to go and invite people of their same race to the wedding. The apostles, a preselected group of Israelites persuaded by convincingly outward means to believe and obey, are represented by these “servants” in the parable. They aren’t chosen because of their being ‘better’ or more moral…God chose them to fulfill a greater redemptive purpose despite anything good or bad in them. After most of those from their own race rejected the invitation the king sends the messengers to go everywhere and invite anyone (“many are called/invited.”). Everyone is unconditionally invited.

      (2) The second group that is elected are those chosen by the king to enter the banquet. They are conditionally chosen based on being clothed in the right garments (i.e. clothed in righteousness by faith in Christ). “Few are chosen.” But notice the choice or ‘election’ in this parable is clearly conditioned upon faith. The election of the servant messengers was not. So, do you see the two elections of God? God’s UNCONDITIONAL choice of his messengers and God’s CONDITIONAL choice of those who enter.

      IMHO, Calvinists are mistakenly confusing God’s unconditional individual selection (and effectual calling out by externally persuasive means) His “servants” or “messengers” from Israel with THEIR PREMISE that God individually selects (and irresistibly calls by internally effectual means) some people from all different nations to believe their message. Paul, in Romans 9 speaks of all three of these individuals, which is what I believe causes some confusion:

      1. The remnant from Israel chosen unconditionally to carry the message to the rest of the world so that God purpose in electing Israel would stand.
      2. The hardened from Israel who where shown patience a long time (Rm 10:21) but where now being “cut off” or hardened from the LIGHT originally sent to them so as to accomplish redemption through their rebellion. (but who may be grafted back in…Rm 11)
      3. The nations (gentiles) being brought the light/invitation to enter covenant with God through faith. (grafted into the vine)

      Does that clarify our view at all, or did I make it worse?

      Richard Coords

      Les,

      Here is the SEA president’s reply to Schreiner:

      http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/49/49-2/JETS_49-2_351-371_Abasciano.pdf

      Here is another article from the SEA president as well:

      http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Paul/Abasciano._Thesis._Paul_s_Use_of_the_OT_in_Rom_9.1-9._One_File_Version.pdf

      SEA = Society of Evangelical Arminians
      SEA president = Brian Abasciano

      http://www.evangelicalarminians.org/

      SEA is also on Facebook, and is available for interaction.

        Les Prouty

        Thanks Richard. I will definitely click over and read these responses to his article.

        BTW, I clicked over to your site and saw this.

        “Throughout Church history, many have challenged whether the concepts of Calvinism are Biblical, even from the days when determinism was associated with Augustine and the Gnostics. One such person to confront Calvinism was Jacob Arminius, whose beliefs are known as “Arminianism.” Prominent Arminian denominations are Methodists and Southern Baptists.”

        So you believe that the Southern Baptists are Arminians, apparently by and large? As a denomination? Are you Southern Baptist?

        Many on this site will vehemently reject the Arminian designation.

        Have a blessed Lord’s day.

          Richard Coords

          Les,

          At the website that you’ve copied the quote above, did you see the blue hyperlink? “Southern Baptists” is lit up with a blue hyperlink that is directed to a Blog post which discusses that very question. Your post above might give the impression that there was no further discussion on it.

          One of the issues with the term “Arminian” is that neither Jacob Arminius nor the Remonstrants had advocated Conditional Security, and were explicitly neutral on the matter, and thus their opposition to Calvinism was broader than just the single issue of Eternal Security vs. Conditional Security. Much of the reluctance of SBC members to embrace the Arminian label is due to an issue, ironically, that neither Arminius nor the Remonstrants advocated.

          http://examiningcalvinism.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-sbc-arminian-denomination.html

            Les Prouty

            Thanks Richard. I did click over (now after the fact) and read further. There you early on state, “I make the argument that the SBC is functionally an “OSAS Arminian” denomination, in which OSAS stands for “Once Saved Always Saved.”” And, “In my estimation, when considering the John 3:16 Conference, apologetics books, recent activity within the SBC and the general consensus of SBC Presidents, it appears that a fair case can be made that the SBC leans most closely towards being functionally an “OSAS Arminian” denomination, even though the label itself is officially rejected.” Ok, so you DO state that the SBC is Arminian.

            Anyway, you say here “neither Jacob Arminius nor the Remonstrants had advocated Conditional Security, and were explicitly neutral on the matter.”

            JA said, “If David had died in the very moment in which he had sinned against Uriah by adultery and murder, he would have been condemned to death eternal.” (The Works of James Arminius, Vol. 2, Pn Regenerate and Regeneration)

            What do you think he meant there if not that David was not eternally secure? Just trying to understand brother.

            Thanks.

              Richard Coords

              Les,

              I’m actually not familiar with that particular quote. Do you have a link to the full context? You should see Arminius’ other statements on the subject, and balance it with that, because they *specifically* address the doctrine itself, which then is superior to the quote cited by “JA.” Consider the following 3 pieces of evidence:

              (1)) Jacob Arminius explains: “Though I here openly and ingenuously affirm, I never taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish; yet I will not conceal, that there are passages of scripture which seem to me to wear this aspect; and those answers to them which I have been permitted to see, are not of such kind as to approve themselves on all points to my understanding. On the other hand, certain passages are produced for the contrary doctrine [of unconditional perseverance] which are worthy of much consideration….” (cited in What Love is This? by Dave Hunt, p.92, cross referenced to The Works of James Arminius, Vols. 1 & 2)

              (2) See this link, in which Arminius address the doctrine explicitly, and uses strong language to clarify the matter. See the highlighted portion in Red, in the Yellow Dialogue Box:

              http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/RollCall/Arminius.html

              (3) The Remonstrance: “But whether they are capable…of turning away…that must be more particularly determined out of the Holy Scripture, before we ourselves can teach it with full persuasion of our minds.” (The Remonstrance, Article V)

              This came after Arminius’ death, and shows me that “Arminianism” was not originally, nor immediately afterward, centered around the single doctrine of Conditional Security, and was broader than that. I think that Calvinists have successfully created a perception about Arminianism that leads those who are functionally “Classical Arminians” to reject the label. Of course, Wesleyan Arminians have also worked hard to create the same perception, because they strongly wish to advocate Conditional Security.

              Les Prouty

              Richard,

              The link is here. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/arminius/works2.ix.viii.xx.html

              I looked at the link. The quote you have:

              “those persons who have been grafted into Christ by true faith, and have thus been made partakers of his life-giving Spirit, possess sufficient powers [or strength] to fight against Satan, sin, the world and their own flesh, and to gain the victor over these enemies—yet not without the assistance of the grace of the same Holy Spirit. Jesus Christ also by his Spirit assists them in all their temptations, and affords them the ready aid of his hand; and, ***provided they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves,*** Christ preserves them from falling. So that it is not possible for them, by any of the cunning craftiness or power of Satan, to be either seduced or dragged out of the hands of Christ….” I have added ** to note the qualifier he has, which is the same as the articles of the remonstrants.

              Richard all that says is that the true believer is able to stand firm in faith and Christ is ready to assist, IF…….”they stand prepared for the battle, implore his help, and be not wanting to themselves…”

              At best it is **conditional** eternal security of the believer. Conditional on the believer standing prepared for the battle, imploring his help, and be not wanting to themselves.

              That is not eternal security based on God securely holding onto us.

              Les Prouty

              Richard,

              Roger Olsen writes in his e-Book Arminianism FAQ:

              “FAQ 5: Isn’t there a middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism?
              A: No, there isn’t, not that is logically coherent. In fact, Arminianism is the middle ground between Calvinism and semi-Pelagianism, which is the heresy (so declared by the Second Synod of Orange in 529 and all the Reformers agreed) that sinners are capable of exercising a good will toward God unassisted by God’s grace. Like semi- Pelagianism (still an extremely popular view in American Christianity), Arminianism holds that sinners have free will. However, Arminianism also holds (like Calvinism) that free will, in matters of salvation, must be given by God through prevenient, assisting grace. Left to them- selves, without the liberating power of grace, sinners will not exercise a good will toward God. But under the pressure of liberating, enabling grace many do reach out to God, who has already reached down and into them, calling them to repent and believe. Against semi-Pela- gianism and with Calvinism, Arminianism believes and teaches that the initiative in salvation is God’s and that all the ability in salvation is God’s. But against Calvinism and with semi-Pelagianism, Arminians believe sinners can resist God’s grace and, in order to be saved, must accept it freely.”

              Do you agree here with Olsen?

                Richard Coords

                Les,

                I think that you may be taking that quote out of context, because in that same quote, Arminius adds: “I *never* taught that a true believer can, either totally or finally fall away from the faith, and perish.” (Emphasis mine)

                That seems pretty definitive to me, because he is specifically talking about one’s eternal destiny, Heaven or Hell.

                (1) Some may infer that a “true believer” is Born Again, and that such a Born Again, true believer can never fall away, based upon the “perseverance of the Savior.” Adrian Rogers uses the language of the “Perseverance of the Savior.”

                (2) In the prior statement by Arminius, one could interpret his statements in light of something like 1st Corinthians 10:13, in which God provides the alternative of the way of escape, but a Christian will fall into sin if they don’t stand fast, but that is not necessarily talking about final salvation, whereas Arminius’ following comment does address final salvation. So I don’t think that you’ve made an accurate assessment.

                Regarding Roger Olson, he was a member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians when the Statement of Faith was drafted, and which addresses salvation for those “persevering in faith.”

                http://evangelicalarminians.org/statement-of-faith/

                (1) That statement does not mandate a Lordship doctrine, as necessary for eternal salvation.
                (2) When the matter was discussed internally, the SEA president stated that such a SOF was open to the interpretation that those who are Born Again, will be those who (by the Spirit’s power) be found to be “persevering in faith.” So, in essence, it is the doctrine of Eternal Security for those who are truly Born Again.
                (3) One thing that the SOF sought to avoid was the impression that self-avowed Atheists, who at some time in their life, once professed Christ.

                As for Roger Olson’s quote, I agree with him that there is no middle ground between Calvinism and Arminianism *if* it is understood as the difference between absolute Determinism vs. libertarian free will. Compatibilism, for instance, is not a middle ground position, but still Determinism in essence. The closest thing to a “middle ground,” as I understand it, is 4-Point Calvinism, though it nonetheless maintains the signature doctrine of Calvinism, which is Corporate Election in the Father. As an Arminian, I believe in Corporate Election in Christ. The former would imply an Unconditional, Corporate Election of those who are spiritually blessed in the Father, and by the Father; the latter would imply an Unconditional Election of those who are sealed in Christ as Born Again believers. Someone who falls away, was never Born Again, as I understand it, based upon the parable of Luke chapter 8, and the “good soil” Christians.

                  Richard Coords

                  I need to make a clarification to the statement above:

                  When I said that SEA was open to the interpretation of the Eternal Security of those who are Born Again, that does not mean that it wasn’t *also* open to the view that even Born Again, true believers can fall away, since SEA allows both views, and members do, in fact, hold differing views. Again, I would point out that Arminius himself denied ever having taught the latter. Moreover, it is logical that SEA would be open to both views, or else it couldn’t hold the name “Arminian.” Are their SBC members who are also SEA members? Yes. Do SBC members regularly correspond with SEA? Yes. Is SEA friendly toward the SBC? Yes. One of the founding members attended a SBC Seminary and regularly corresponded with SBC leadership at the highest levels, and it was stated that the SBC would never accept the “Arminian” label, simply due to the stigma attached to it, which I believe is an erroneous stigma, but it is what it is. My hope is that perceptions change.

                  Les Prouty

                  Richard,

                  Thanks for the reply. I don’t have much time right now. I’ll just say that JA was at best confused then. He contradicted himself. In any case, the Arminian positions I have seen documented either said 1) one can be saved and lose it, outright said or 2) as I quoted, at best hold to a position that can best be described as “conditional” ES, which depends on man to make it secure.

                  Blessings brother.

                    Richard Coords

                    Les,

                    Yes, there’s no question that JA was confused, since he candidly admitted it, in the rest of the quote, and as did even the Remonstrants, stated in their Creed. But, honestly, part of me finds that refreshing, since he was a distinguished professor and theologian of his day, and yet was willing to admit that he was having trouble sorting out what he felt were good arguments on both sides. But if I could paraphrase his remarks, I would say that he believed that Christians could fall into sin, if they did not hold fast, in the battle against the flesh and of the devil, though yet clarifying that he never before gone so far as to teach that a “true” believing Christian could fall into final apostasy, even though some theologians of his era had tried to associate him with that particular doctrine.

                    Be blessed as well,

                    Richard

Lydia

“I do believe if young people understood both perspectives fully far fewer would choose the Calvinistic interpretation. Calvinism is a very tough pill to swallow (as even Calvinists testify), so if a sound robust theological answer to the most pressing questions is presented along side the Calvinistic answer I do sincerely believe the resurgence of Calvinism would subside in the SBC.”

This is it! My last church had a Calvinist literally pushed through based on the fact he was young and the church had too many older people. His Calvinism was brought up time after time during the process by some who understood it and figured out he was a Calvinist. Most are not familiar with Piper whose sermons and tactics he emulated quite well and he quoted constantly. All of his teaching is from Calvinists.

We were even told that “voting” was not from the Holy Spirit because God had chosen him. We were also told there were good and bad Calvinists but he was not “one of the bad Calvinists”. the topic of Calvinism was verboten during the Q&A sessions. As it turned out, the pulpit committee were being advised by SBC entity Calvinists who were not selling his Calvinism but his youthfulness.

I am always suspicious when such things are verboten. People are not even allowed to civilly discuss both views because no one thinks it can be done. It is considered mean and hateful to disagree. That is simply a censoring tactic. It is unfair and sneaky to hold it against people because they have not studied a particular doctrine in depth. They go to work, they pay their bills, raise families, pay for the church and are expected to pay the salary of the new guy without asking in depth questions about his beliefs? Or even expecting their church to be honest that they are quite different from the last guys beliefs. I find it all so sorted. All to get Calvinists in leadership positions.

I personally believe Calvinism has reached its peak in the SBC but we have thrown so much money at resurging Calvinism we are in a problem state. I think we will see more Calvinistic leaders focus on other issues and try to deflect from the resurgence and where it has led. I think they are rebranding, so to speak. And I think the new mantra will be toward unity and accepting both beliefs while the focus is really power and control. What confusion it will be.

If my runs around blogosphere the last 10 years are any indicator, the typical Calvinist seminary grad is not prepared to debate or discuss this. They seem almost indoctrinated. They can do the proof texting, the framed questions which demand yes or no answers, etc. They are very good at that. It is about winning an argument, besting your opponent. . Not about seeking truth. In some ways, this has been useful on the internet especially for those who were not intimidated by it or fell too easily for the unity mantra. . Most folks had no where to go to see both sides presented in real time without reading a ton of books. I think this free exchange has been beneficial for many. We are really discussing the Character of God when you get right down to it.

But the biggest Achilles Heel to Calvinism is practical application in daily life for those who are not in paid ministry. It can be paralyzing if thought through to its logical conclusions. I have seen that happen to several especially those who bought into as teens but are not in paid ministry. It has a fatalistic quality to it that is not so easily erased just by calling it “Grace”..

    Leighton Flowers

    Lydia, you are very right about the practical application of Calvinism. I recently did a podcast on that very subject which got a lot of push back from Calvinists. The very fact that some of them say to “preach like an Arminian and believe like a Calvinist” speaks to the untenable nature of the system’s claims. It’s almost as if you have to ignore the implications of the system in order to even argue in favor of it. For instance, when a Calvinist spends hours upon hours in a theological debate forum attempting to convince an Arminian to become a Calvinist and then turns around and criticizes a pastor for a public invitation because its manipulative…don’t they see the irony? Is God not just as much in sovereign control over who believes in Calvinism as He is over who believes in Christ in that system?

Lydia

“Lydia, you are very right about the practical application of Calvinism. I recently did a podcast on that very subject which got a lot of push back from Calvinists.”

Is there any chance you could link to that podcast here?

Lydia

Found it. Will give a listen when I get to my computer that has iTunes. Thank you.

Lydia

Ok, Been listening to that particular podcast and you have hit on something interesting to me. If one is chosen, irresistibly chosen, for salvation, why aren’t the sinful desires removed, too, since we are unable? This was actually the big question for some 20 something’s I know who came out of a local Acts 29/SBC plant. They concluded they were not really elect.

The problem was the focus on what I see are redefinitions of the concepts of Sovereignty and Grace —so that they could not escape the deterministic paradigm. There were even attempts to convince them that sinning was expected. They could be chosen for salvation and remain in those desires. Even act upon them. They were told God understands this, so to speak, and it is not held against them. I have been flabbergasted at how prevalent this thinking is out there in churches. It makes church very a unhealthy place.

Once you take human volition out of the equation, it is fatalistic.

Good catch on the conservative politics/theological doctrine realm when it comes to Calvinism. In the former they seem to believe we have free will but the latter, not. Makes no sense.

Good stuff. Will be enjoying other podcasts. Thanks for keeping it simple for us plebes.

    Leighton Flowers

    Lydia,
    You are right. Some Calvinists teach (as discussed in the Soteriology101 Podcast) that addiction is a “thorn in the flesh” that God chooses to either remove or leave in you to keep you humble (I provide recorded quotes to support that on the podcast). What does that practically do to someone caught in addiction? It makes them a victim. All they feel they can do is beg for God to remove the thorn and think to themselves, “I guess this is God’s decree.” How unhealthy is that for a young person trapped in their sin? I know not all Calvinists teach this kind of thing…but some do, and it is a natural conclusion one can draw from their teachings. This can be dangerous when taken to seed.

    BTW, I keep it simple because I am simple…which will become more and more obvious as you listen. :-) Thanks for the kind words. And thanks to all the others who have left comments. You are all very encouraging!

Steve Withers

Lydia, I believe Calvinism reached its peak among American Southern Baptists in the 1850’s. Historically, you were “them” before you were “us”.
Leighton, as a Calvinist baptist (PCA Presbyterian) of 30 years I must say that your first point is not well developed and may not dodge the difficulty of sovereign election. If there is a perceived injustice in an individual election, there is a compounded injustice in a corporate election.
Also, the reason many find the pat answers of Arminian free will theology over the years so unpersuasive is the fact that the challenges are framed as a devine antinomy. We are told that God chooses and that we choose. We may not know why God chooses some and not others (we are not told in scripture) but God is not illogical. We both can’t have free will…..either He does or we do.

    Leighton Flowers

    Hi Steve,

    Thanks for your comments. You wrote, “Leighton, as a Calvinist baptist (PCA Presbyterian) of 30 years I must say that your first point is not well developed.”

    I agree. That is the nature of an article as opposed to a book. I blame Jonathan, the editor, for not allowing me to ramble on longer than I did. ;-) Actually, in the article you might notice that I admitted much more could and should be said in explanation of the view and if you notice in the footnote I provide a link to Brian Abasciano’s work on the Corporate View of Election. If after reading that you still find this point needs further development please let me know.

    You continue, “…and may not dodge the difficulty of sovereign election. If there is a perceived injustice in an individual election, there is a compounded injustice in a corporate election.” Steve, this point is not well developed. :-) If you don’t mind, could you make the case for your claim here so that the readers can view it. In doing so I predict you will reveal the point I was alluding to in my article regarding my experience with Calvinists in regard to their misperceptions of the corporate view. Do you mind making a case for why you perceive the corporate view as “compounding injustice?” That will help us to better understand how you see our view so that we might better engage in a profitable discussion. Thank you for your time and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Lydia

“Lydia, I believe Calvinism reached its peak among American Southern Baptists in the 1850’s. Historically, you were “them” before you were “us”.”

Steve, I am old but not THAT old. :o) I was never “them” as my SBC forbears were never “them”, either. Now, I have heard your view many times from those in the resurgence but I think there was a real working out of that doctrine after the South lost the war.

Not many folks are buying into the argument that Calvinism is the real SBC because of what that tends to communicate about our history. Our “founders” were also pro slavers. Not a great point to make, is it? Ever read Broaddus’ bio of Boyce? It is embarrassing how he gushes over his “right” stance on slavery.

Steve Pruett

Leighton, I admire your ability to objectively assess a long-held view, in which you had much invested, and to reach a different conclusion. This is a rare occurrence in all walks of life. I am a scientist, and I suspect it is as uncommon among we who claim to value objectivity as in theology or any other area of study.

I enjoyed this first installment and look forward to the others. With regard to one of your points in this first post, I would like to offer an alternative explanation. Although it is certainly possible that non-Calvinists do not want to discuss or make an issue of Calvinist doctrinal points because they have not studied the topic well enough and would not be confident in their statements or in addressing possible questions or challenges, it is also possible that they have studied and have simply come to the conclusion that Scripture is intentionally written in a manner that allows no definitive resolution of the correctness or incorrectness of T.U.L.I.P. I know that this will not be an appealing idea to someone who has spent as much time and effort as you to reach the correct conclusion. I base this proposition primarily on two observations: 1) My own study of scripture (though not as sophisticated or formally guided as yours) suggests to me that there appear to be unresolvable conflicts in the teachings on this issue in different passages. I believe that Scripture is all true, so when passages seem to conflict, I assume that it is because I do not understand one or both of them properly. However, no amount of turning them over in my head, making different starting assumptions, putting them into different frameworks or other techniques has allowed me to resolve the apparent conflicts. 2) I would ignore observation 1 and just chalk it up to my own limited knowledge, except that I have also observed that this issue has been debated by some of the smartest human beings in history for hundreds of years and that neither side has been able to present a case that has become a consensus view. My conclusion? For reasons that I do not understand, God purposely revealed these issues in a manner that may never lead to a definitive consensus interpretation. As a believer and a Baptist layman, this does not cause me any concern. It does not affect how I share my faith and it is not an issue that I believe I have to understand to be either intellectually satisfied or spiritually satisfied. Would I like to know to know the “right” answer? Sure! However, I am not concerned at all if the right answer is a mystery that we were not intended to understand until the next life, when the Author of the Book can tell us face to face. One additional reason that I have adopted this view is that the rancorous disagreements among Christians over this issue have done great harm. There is a particularly poignant passage in the diary of John Adams (2nd President) indicating that arguments on this topic between Christians were so unchristian and apparently so common in his church that he decided to no longer associate himself with a church. I understand that we cannot simply avoid doctrines on which there is disagreement only because there is disagreement. However, at least in the Baptist world, it seems to me that there are some doctrines that we have concluded are so difficult that we have agreed to disagree and have not made them an issue that has caused dissension. Doctrines of the end times would be an example of this. Is there a good reason that the Doctrines of Grace should not be in this category?

    Leighton Flowers

    Steve Pruett,

    Thank you for your comments. You wrote, “…it is also possible that they have studied and have simply come to the conclusion that Scripture is intentionally written in a manner that allows no definitive resolution of the correctness or incorrectness of T.U.L.I.P.” I suppose that is possible but I do not believe it is true. God is the author of peace not confusion. If there is confusion it is our doing, not His. In my experience, this conflict becomes virtually non-extant when a couple preconceived ideas are dropped. For instance, have you ever wondered why this debate does not exist in Eastern Orthodoxy? Dr. Leo Garrett, in his popular systematic, writes,

    “FROM AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO TO THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, WESTERN CHRISTIANITY HAS TENDED TO INTERPRET THE DOCTRINE OF ELECTION FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF AND WITH REGARD TO INDIVIDUAL HUMAN BEINGS. DURING THOSE SAME CENTURIES THE DOCTRINE HAS BEEN FAR LESS EMPHASIZED AND SELDOM EVER CONTROVERSIAL IN EASTERN ORTHODOXY. IS IT POSSIBLE THAT AUGUSTINE AND LATER CALVIN, WITH THE HELP OF MANY OTHERS, CONTRIBUTED TO A HYPER INDIVIDUALIZATION OF THIS DOCTRINE THAT WAS HARDLY WARRANTED BY ROMANS 9-11, EPH. 1, AND I PETER 2? IS IT NOT TRUE THAT THE MAJOR EMPHASIS IN BOTH TESTAMENTS FALLS UPON AN ELECT PEOPLE — ISRAEL (OT) AND DISCIPLES OR CHURCH (NT)?” – LEO GARRETT

    For me it was like the picture of the old and young woman: http://www.grand-illusions.com/opticalillusions/woman/

    For the longest time I could only see the young woman, but once I could see the old one too I am able to switch back and forth and see both. This conflict, IMHO, is really a change in perspective. The problem is that most approach it as if its solved by parsing greek words and while that may be helpful, it will never lead you “to see both women in the picture.” Now, your question seems to suggest that God inspired the text to contain both of the women (so to speak) and we just have to accept both exist and are true in the text. I simply do not believe that is the case. I believe when the author wrote down the words on the page he has a clear intention. I do not believe the biblical authors were like the artist intentionally drawing a picture which contained both woman within its lines. I believe the “artists” of scripture drew one picture and any alternation we perceive comes from our own biases and false perceptions…our free will.

    Now these differing opinions throughout history presents quite the conundrum for the Calvinist who denies contra-causal free will. From a deterministic framework you cannot merely blame free will for all the false perceptions of God’s Word and leave it at that. No, you must conclude that God unchangeably determined some of his own children to understand His Word one way and others to understand it differently (or conclude that those who understand it wrongly aren’t really His children, which is where some of the more logically consistent Calvinists are forced to go). I don’t know if that makes sense, but that is the way I currently see it…

Steve Withers

Thank you for your response, Leighton.
It is important for us not to characterize individuals in certain ways. For example it really doesn’t advance the case to say that Calvinists do such and such and are obnoxious or strident or whatever….even if we are (sometimes:-)
I assumed that your definition was the same as the first one articulated here.
http://www.monergism.com/topics/election/election-individual-vs-corporate
Maybe a bad assumption. My point was that if someone perceives that it is unjust of God to elect individuals, it in no way, eliminates the difficulty to elect entire groups of individuals. I have heard and read this view applied to Romans 9 in particular to suggest that references to Jacob and Easu are not individual applications but for the church (Jacob) and for unbelievers (Easu).
Your view may be more like the other one from the link.
The issue is not so much about our definition of election and predestination, it’s about our definition of depravity. Are we so depraved that we no ability to please God in our unregenerate state? Romans 8:7-8 and I Cor. 2:14 seem clear in that regard. The seminal question is this, does faith and repentance precede regeneration or does regeneration preceded faith and repentance. If it’s the former, we must revisit our definition of depravity. If the latter, we must conclude that our salvation is monergistic and a total work of God from the begining. We bring nothing…not one thing. We are totally hopeless outside of the regenerating, saving power of the atonement. We were dead, like Lazarus who had to be made alive before he could even hear the command to come out. It is only in that way that we can look up and give all the glory to God for his sovereign provision for wretched sinners, of which I am one!
May The Lord bless you in this new year. May we all discover new ways to serve and glorify Him!

    Leighton Flowers

    Steve,

    I apologize if you felt I mischaracterized you or any one else. I was intending to find out why you specifically viewed corporate election as being “compounded injustice.” You stated in response to my inquiry, “…if someone perceives that it is unjust of God to elect individuals, it in no way, eliminates the difficulty to elect entire groups of individuals.” But that would depend entirely upon what the group was elected for. Indeed, if God corporately elected to irresistibly save all Jews and condemn the rest to eternal torment, that would be a corporate view that “compounded injustice,” but surely you understand that is not our view, right?

    Your statement needs a few more qualifiers to bring out the misunderstanding: “if someone perceives that it is unjust of God to UNCONDITIONALLY elect individuals TO BE IRRESISTIBLY SAVED, it in no way, eliminates the difficulty to UNCONDITIONALLY elect entire groups of individuals TO BE IRRESISTIBLY SAVED.”

    If that is what you mean, then I could not agree more! I would reject both of those views out right. But, of course, as your definition explained, we don’t believe “God unconditionally elects entire groups of individuals to be irresistibly saved,” thus you accusation of “compounded injustice” would not apply to us. May I humbly request you go back and study our view with these points in mind so as to better understand where we are coming from in this discussion?

    Regarding, total inability…I get into that in the latter part of the article and on my website if your interested. And maybe I misunderstood your intention, but I realize Tozer and Lewis were not proponents of Calvinism. That was the reason I began studying their perspectives.

      Richard Coords

      Leighton,

      I like your reply because it breaks down the errant premise of the question. In my experience of discussing theology with Calvinists,I’ve felt that Calvinists don’t always develop their points as thoroughly and tightly as they otherwise ought. Here is how I believe Steve’s question would be more thoroughly developed:

      “If it is perceived by Arminians that God would be unjust to unconditionally elect individuals to salvation, then wouldn’t there be a sense of compounded injustice if God should unconditionally elect entire corporate groups to salvation?”

      So when the question is fully developed, the inherent flaw becomes readily apparent.

      Lastly, when one becomes “sealed [in Christ]” (described at Ephesians 1:13), then in the Corporate Model, they have access to all the Father’s deferred heavenly spiritual blessings, such as a Christian’s eternal election to holiness, eternal predestination to adoption as sons, redemption through Christ’s blood, an inheritance, ect., ect.

    Richard Coords

    Steve, the problem is that you are approaching the matter from the C standpoint of election as “election to becoming in Christ,” insomuch that *if* it is deemed wrong by Arminians for God to irresistibly call individuals to become in Christ, then the problem is compounded if God should irresistibly call entire groups to become in Christ. However, the Corporate Model simply doesn’t work that way. In the Corporate Model, which I believe should be based upon Ephesians 1:3, Paul states that “every spiritual blessing in the Heavenly places is in Christ.” So, then, God is calling everyone, everywhere to a seat at the Lamb’s table, and those who do, have access to the blessings that Paul *just stated.” If one reads the following verses in Ephesians chapter 1, they are all based upon the foundational principle in v.3. Each one of the described *blessings* are a function of the *promise* in v.3. The other issue is that God has indeed made a sovereign choice, and His sovereign choice is that man would make a choice. For whatever reasons, God values choices. Choices are what separated 1/3 of the angels from the rest. A choice was what sent man into spiritual separation from God. And a choice is what separates man from receiving the gracious offer of salvation. Compare with John 3:14 and Numbers 21:6-9, in which God made *His* choice to base the transmission of healing from the “provision of the serpent on a standard” to man, on his choice of whether or not to look upon it. That’s was God’s choice to set it up that way, which is because God values choices.

Steve Withers

Oh, one more thing. I don’t think there are very many Calvinists that consider Tozer or Lewis to be strong proponents of the doctrine.

Richard Coords

James White weighed in on the Corporate Model approach, and concluded that gets away from the concept of God choosing a *specific people*, and instead simply amounts to God choosing “a plan.”

However, I would reply that God’s choice is that all men everywhere should repent and turn to Christ (Acts 17:30; 2Peter 3:9), rather than just a “certain number,” and those who do, have access to all that comes with being Christ, based upon what God has, by His authority, deferred in Christ.

    Leighton Flowers

    Great insights Richard!

    I’ve had a few discussions with Dr. White and you are correct. He calls our view “class election” and dismisses it as “woefully impersonal.” What he seems to miss is that God does personally and individually elect to save those who come to faith in Christ from our perspective, so there is nothing impersonal about it. Which is more or less personal: (1) the arbitrary choice to irresistibly save some individuals before time began or (2) the choice to save those who willingly come broken and humiliated begging for forgiveness? It is all about one’s perspective.

    Les Prouty

    Brother Leighton,

    I’m trying to maintain my focus on college football, so I’ll likely not get too deep in the weeds today, a brief comment here and there, But when you say this:

    “1) the arbitrary choice to irresistibly save some individuals before time began…” If you are to deal fairly with what Reformed theologians confess, the word “arbitrary” may **seem* appropriate for your opinion of Reformed theology, but Reformed folks confess that there is nothing arbitrary about God’s choices. WCF:

    “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of his glory, some men and angels are predestinated unto everlasting life; and others foreordained to everlasting death.” Nothing arbitrary in the Reformed confession.

    Blessings brother.

      Leighton Flowers

      Les,

      Yes! I’ve got the games on too… I seem to enjoy them more when I’m engaged in theology for some reason. Well, that’s true of all my pastimes I suppose….fishing, golf, driving…etc…they are all made better with a good ol’ theological discussion!

      I used to shy away from the term ‘arbitrary’ for this reason but considering the definition I really don’t see why we need to…this is from Websters:

      1: depending on individual discretion (as of a judge) and not fixed by law
      2
      a : not restrained or limited in the exercise of power : ruling by absolute authority
      b : marked by or resulting from the unrestrained and often tyrannical exercise of power
      3
      a : based on or determined by individual preference or convenience rather than by necessity or the intrinsic nature of something
      b : existing or coming about seemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will

      Arbitrary can simply mean that we are not aware of reasons or conditions of the choice, which is what unconditional election is all about. Arbitrary doesn’t necessarily mean ‘without reason’ though some may take it that way (causing the objection). It can and does include choices that are made without the reasons being revealed. You cannot tell us, for example, how or why it bests glorifies God for him to choose you and not your lost neighbor, that choice is “seemingly random” even though their may be a very clear reason for that choice. If that reason isn’t known then the term ‘arbitrary’ would apply. Would you agree?

        Les Prouty

        Leighton,

        I see now. Usually when I’ve encountered that word used by non Cals, upon further questioning they reveal that they mean “eemingly at random or by chance or as a capricious and unreasonable act of will.” Individual discretion (with purpose) is what I see in God’s choices.

        “You cannot tell us, for example, how or why it bests glorifies God for him to choose you and not your lost neighbor, that choice is “seemingly random” even though their may be a very clear reason for that choice. If that reason isn’t known then the term ‘arbitrary’ would apply. Would you agree?”

        Yes, I agree from a human standpoint we cannot always know why God chooses one and not another. We cannot know why God does many things. So from a human standpoint, it surely “may seem” arbitrary or capricious, though the scriptures tell us that it is not.

Steve Withers

We don’t have the ability to believe. Spiritually dead men have no will to choose God. We can’t understand the Gospel. The passages from Romans 8 and I Cor. 12 make that abundantly clear. Our only fleshly inclination is to sin. Our righteousness are as filthy rags. When we discuss choice, we have to understand that we are talking about apparent choice. We seem to think that we freely choose but “it is God who is at work within us to will and do of his good pleasure.” I feel like I freely chose to ask her to be my wife but God had chosen her to be my wife before I was born. It was by His decree that I married her.
So when we say that all men are given a choice what we are really suggesting that there is some reason, other than God’s sovereign regenerating power, that some believe and others don’t. What are those reasons? Better judgment? Better upbringing? Softer heart? Nicer people? Smarter people?

    Leighton Flowers

    Steve,

    I respond to these passage as well as many of these arguments on my website to I’ll refer you there for the sake of brevity… However, I did want to address this statement:

    “So when we say that all men are given a choice what we are really suggesting that there is some reason, other than God’s sovereign regenerating power, that some believe and others don’t. What are those reasons? Better judgment? Better upbringing? Softer heart? Nicer people? Smarter people?”

    This the “trap” I was attempting to reference in the other discussion with Rick (on the 2nd part). I’ve already attempted one method to reveal the fallacy of this conclusion in my article, but now allow me attempt another. Steve, are you smarter, better, nicer than AW Tozer? If not, then why have you accepted ‘correct’ soteriology where as he did not? Oh…and if your answer is that God granted you understanding then explain how is that different just being born smarter…aren’t both equally “of God?” And then let us know why you suppose God granted you that ability (or made you smarter) but refrained from doing so for all his other elect children?

    Thanks for the discussion!

      Richard Coords

      Here are my thoughts on Steve’s comments:

      (1) Lydia was already a worshipper of God, which according to Calvinism would have required a “regeneration,” and thus it would need to be explained why she needed a 2nd regeneration in her encounter with Paul. This is why some C’s deny that she was ever, previously, a worshipper of God, and relegate her to the status of the Pharisees, prior to this occurrence, and which is pure speculation, necessitated by theological pre-commitments. The reality is that God said that He appointed Paul to open people’s eyes (Acts 26:18), and for Lydia’s heart to be opened, is consistent with this concept, and which is done through the dynamite power of the Gospel. Nowhere is it said that God gave her a heart “transplant,” which is restricted to only for “new creatures in Christ” anyway. The promises of Ezekiel are not for unbelievers, but for those in the New Covenant.

      (2) Regeneration is never once stated as a means to bridge the gap between unbelief and conversion. Not once is it ever said that “since man is fall, God must make him born again in order to believe in the Gospel.” Of course, some will pull out the glue, tape and scissors and make it work, but I would demand a concrete, bullet-proof statement from Calvinists, and yet there is not; there is only a patch-work used to force it together, and for good reason, since there are technical flaws for the Calvinistic approach, as regeneration is never for unbelievers. Regeneration is restricted to only those in Christ, which is part of the overall picture of being a “new creature in Christ.” If it was possible for an unbeliever to be “in Christ,” only then could an unbeliever have access to regeneration and the new birth and the new heart, ect. But if unbelievers are restricted from access, then there is a fatal flaw in the Calvinistic paradigm. For instance, the mark of someone “in Christ” is that they are (1) redeemed and (2) free from the condemnation of the law. This is evident from Romans 8:1, 33. However, unbelievers are said to be the opposite, in that they are “condemned.” (John 3:18) Therefore, it logically follows that no “condemned” unbeliever can be said to be blessed “in Christ” where there is otherwise redemption. So Calvinistic regeneration creates a condemned/redeemed paradox.

      (3) God fully knows that unregenerate man will resist Him, and which is why God intervenes. You see this illustrated at Acts 26:14. However, my favorite passage on this subject is Jeremiah 18:1-13. In this passage, God extends His mercy and offer of forgiveness (conditioned on Israel’s repentance), but it is rejected, as Israel has the audacity to throw Total Depravity in God’s face, as their basis for non-repentance. God doesn’t take it well. God appeals to the heathens, in terms of whether, even they, had heard of any excuse as ridiculous as this. So God doesn’t accept Total Depravity as a basis for rejecting His offer of forgiveness. However, I see Calvinists giving little to no attention to this fantastic passage of Scripture.

      (4) I left Calvinism because of God’s sovereignty. (I was a member of Changed By Grace, after a church split had occurred.) I saw God as being very utilitarian. God created the elect, and God created the non-elect. The non-elect served for the spiritual growth of the elect. The non-elect was a necessary creation; they were a utility. However, we tend to think this way, only because of our own concept of sovereignty being absolute power and control. This is not necessarily so with God. What I had come to believe, through Scripture, is that it was God’s sovereignty prerogative to deem His creation as more than just utilities. I had come to learn is that I had the wrong view of how God considered the lost. God did not create a non-elect “Lower Caste” vs. an elect “Upper Caste.” God, in His sovereignty, values all souls. That is what I had gotten wrong when I was initially converted to the Calvinist viewpoint. So I did not leave Calvinism because I had a reduced or lower view of God’s sovereignty, but rather I left Calvinism because I embraced the biblical view of how God exercises His sovereignty, whereas before I had established a man-made, unbiblical definition of sovereignty. God is God, and we don’t create boundaries for Him. He tells us who *He* is, rather than us telling Him how He must exercise His sovereignty. For instance, Jonah had his own personal view on how God is sovereign, but later learned that God does not look at lost souls like he did. Jonah, like Calvinists, had constructed an idol of sovereignty, and insisted that God must rule their way, than His way.

Steve Withers

Lydia,
When I referred to “us” and “them” I surely wasn’t referring to you in the 21st century. I was referring to the historical theology of Baptists. They were firmly in the Calvinist camp before they were in the Arminian camp. Spurgeon and even the early American Southern Baptists were Calvinists.
Oh, your namesake In the Book of Acts was a recipient of a Devine heart transplant. That’s why she believed. She was changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and she did the natural thing….she believed. She joined the company of the other saints we read about in the Acts…”as many as were appointed to eternal life believed”. Appointed and believed…in that order.

Lydia

“When I referred to “us” and “them” I surely wasn’t referring to you in the 21st century. I was referring to the historical theology of Baptists. They were firmly in the Calvinist camp before they were in the Arminian camp. Spurgeon and even the early American Southern Baptists were Calvinists.”

I knew your point and sorry for the cliché joke. I am not sure what it matters what camp the SBC founders were firmly in since most of us would not want to identify with their pro slaving stance anyway. Calvinism does not have a great history when it comes to such things and tends to work best in a church state environment. And what is up with the Arminian/Calvin dichotomy? Why is it always presented as the “default” position?

“Oh, your namesake In the Book of Acts was a recipient of a Devine heart transplant. That’s why she believed. She was changed by the power of the Holy Spirit and she did the natural thing….she believed. She joined the company of the other saints we read about in the Acts…”as many as were appointed to eternal life believed”. Appointed and believed…in that order.”

Strange, when I read about her I am always cognizant of where she was at the time and what she was doing: She is described as one who “worshiped God”. Sort of like Cornelius was.

Steve Withers

Lydia’s conversion to Christ was felt and demonstrated by her belief and fruit….in the same way it is for each and every believer. The new birth comes first (just like it does for our passive, unwilled physical birth) and then followed by faith and repentance.
Now as far as slavery is concerned, these are two different subjects and I’m not at all convinced that Calvinists had a corner on that abomination. I will say that there were many ministers in the south that spoke up against the practice. John Newton (a British Calvinist) was instrumental in the British abolotion movement before it moved here. But for the sake of argument, you would never attempt to invalidate a point by discrediting another point. Just because slavery is wrong doesn’t mean Calvinism is wrong. We are all sinners. If an unbeliever examined my life and concluded that because I continue to sin every day that the Bible is therefore unreliable and fiction, that would be sad.

Steve Withers

Richard,
If God’s choice is not of individuals and includes every person, we have thanked great liberties with the language. It would be as though I told my neighbor I went shipping for a car and he asked me which one I chose and I told him, “every car”. God’s love is particular and for a particular people and the entire narrative of Romans 9 makes that point. Even the fictitious objector asks, “what shall we say? Is God unjust?” The objector gets it. He goes straight to the heart of theodicy….the problem of evil. When we start out with the understanding that we are justly condemned and are deserving of God’s full wrath, we have no problem whatsoever with Devine election…..we rejoice in it. That is why I pointed out earlier that the heart of the discussion is the doctrine of total depravity. If two men are in prison for the same crime and the governor freely pardons one, is the other remaining prisoner justified in his complaining? That’s the point Paul is making in Romans 9.
Another difficulty for this understanding of a universal choice is created with two passages found in John 6. “All that the Father gives me will come” and “no man can come unless the Father which has sent me draw him”. These are irreconcilable difficulties. If all are given, all will come. God is not illogical. Romans 8 also outlines the ordo salutis and if we recognized that all are chosen by God in that context, we would be staring the face of universalism.
I enjoy the civil discourse, brothers and sisters! (And also the math problems that allow me to post.)

    Richard Coords

    Steve,

    Regarding your citation of John 6 and Romans 9, I believe that the Calvinist proof-texts fail to do justice to the context and dialogue involved. I can’t help but notice (as your post shows), that you argue from your perspective alone, so that your view of the opposition must naturally defer to “Universalism.” I don’t mean to offend, but my opinion is that Calvinists are not well read, and are poor researchers, and simply get their ideas of the opposition from other (poorly researched) Calvinists, which then often results in the construction of fallacies. If you wish to critique the opposition’s view of John 6 or Romans 9 or Ephesians 1:4, then you should cite a reputable source and quote, and launch the critique accordingly. I also wouldn’t site multiple passages at once, either, but rather to cite one passage at a time to either defend or advocate. If your interest is in any of the text mentioned above, I would recommend that you cite a quote, and then address it. (When Jacob Arminius set off to debate a Calvinist, it was his research that led him to conclude that Calvinism had errors.)

Steve Withers

Should be “….taken great liberties…” In the first line.

Steve Withers

Leighton,
Tozer, if he were alive today, wouldn’t concede the point. (He would make me look like Swiss cheese in short order. I’d need Six Gun Johnny Calvin as backup;-)
It’s not about something as trivial (trivial as compared to the Gospel) as different soteriological views, it’s about the very understanding of the heart of the Gospel. We cannot understand the Gospel as long as we are in the flesh. We were all in the flesh in our unregenerate state. That is the very deflation of unregenerate.
We are told in I John 5:1, “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him” and “And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” 1 John 5:20
The Bible is replete with these passages.
So it’s not about why Tozer and I might not agree on a particular point but according to your understanding, there is some particular reason why some believe and others don’t. It doesn’t solve the difficulty. According to your reasoning, why would God create some with a disposition toward the Gospel and others not? The difficulty of a perceived inequity are not solved by this system. Why would some be born into families where the Gospel is preached and practiced and others are born into families in remote villages where the Gospel is never heard? Is it randomized by God? It is a Devine lottery? I’m not being flippant (OK, lottery is flippant) about it but I don’t see how this system that asserts that God’s choice is that we all have choice solves any particular difficulty. How can we take in the difficulties and derive comfort in this life if God has randomized the circumstances? (I’m sure you don’t believe in randomized circumstances.)

    Leighton Flowers

    Steve,

    You and Six Gun Johnny didn’t answer the question ;-)

    Right doctrinal belief may not be as significant as belief in the gospel, but how you answer goes directly to the nature of man’s responsibility in light of God’s truth. I know why you don’t want to answer the question. To do so puts you in a bit of quandary. If you say that God granted you the ability to accept Calvinistic soteriology then that implies God didn’t grant that ability to another one of His elect, which wouldn’t make sense. But if you say you “did it by your own choosing” then you’d be acknowledging contra-causal freedom, which would be going against your systematic. One mystery deserves another… The question is which mystery is actually afforded by the text.

    You asked, “According to your reasoning, why would God create some with a disposition toward the Gospel and others not?” This shows me you think like a determinist. You cannot seem to accept that we believe God created mankind to be FREE to make choices, and not “with a disposition” (i.e. determined) to choose one option over another.

    As Tozer explained it, ““GOD SOVEREIGNLY DECREED THAT MAN SHOULD BE FREE TO EXERCISE MORAL CHOICE, AND MAN FROM THE BEGINNING HAS FULFILLED THAT DECREE BY MAKING HIS CHOICE BETWEEN GOOD AND EVIL. WHEN HE CHOOSES TO DO EVIL, HE DOES NOT THEREBY COUNTERVAIL THE SOVEREIGN WILL OF GOD BUT FULFILLS IT, INASMUCH AS THE ETERNAL DECREE DECIDED NOT WHICH CHOICE THE MAN SHOULD MAKE BUT THAT HE SHOULD BE FREE TO MAKE IT. IF IN HIS ABSOLUTE FREEDOM GOD HAS WILLED TO GIVE MAN LIMITED FREEDOM, WHO IS THERE TO STAY HIS HAND OR SAY, ‘WHAT DOEST THOU?’ MAN’S WILL IS FREE BECAUSE GOD IS SOVEREIGN. A GOD LESS THAN SOVEREIGN COULD NOT BESTOW MORAL FREEDOM UPON HIS CREATURES. HE WOULD BE AFRAID TO DO SO.” – A.W. TOZER, THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE HOLY: THE ATTRIBUTES OF GOD

    Mary

    Nothing random about when and where or even each of us lives according to Acts 17:26-27

    “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and find him though he is not far from each one of us.”

    Les Prouty

    Leighton,

    Is this discussion on man’s “free will” really getting ahead of what man’s condition is post fall? It appears to me that before we can discuss man’s will, free of bound, we would need to establish what fallen man’s spiritual condition is. So let me throw this out there from the WCF:

    “Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”

    Now this is not addressing what color socks we choose to put on in the morning (or even if to wear socks at all). It doesn’t seem to me to be addressing whether our theology is even all correct as Christians (soteriology, eschatology, etc). Rather it seems to me the question of man’s will, free or bound, is with respect to salvation.

    Blessings brothers.

Steve Withers

We can differ on many issues. Why limit it to soteriology? We have ecclesiastical differences, eschatological differences, pneumatological differences, different understandings and modes of baptism. I could go on and on. I would have to be a hermit not to see differences in and among sincere believers.
These differences were apparent early on and recorded in Scripture. Why are we not monolithic? Why did God create diversity among believers? I don’t know. But to suggest that just because we have diversity in the professing church, we have a freedom to chose to believe the Gospel is to deny the power of conversion and the new birth. I don’t equate salvation to diversity in the nonessentials. When we are convinced that one particular doctrine is in error, we don’t communicate it to others as though we are a new creation. We don’t say “all Dispensational things have passed away and behold I am now amillennial”.

Steve Withers

Now, what about those questions I asked?
That Tozer quote….did he YELL it that way? :-0

Steve Withers

Paul, on the road to Damascus, was not seeking the truth to learn, he was seeking the Truth (Christ) to persecute. He was an enemy and made a friend. My former pastor S. Lewis Johnson, once preached a sermon entitled From Enmity to Amity. Our salvation is not a matter of becoming convinced of the error of our ways, swaying our neutral will and being convinced in the truth of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, it’s much more than that. We are changed from within, from without. Salvation is wrought by God alone. Only God can change a heart of stone to a heart of flesh. There is no synergy involved in this activity.

    Mary

    Being made in the image of God means that we are all “seekers,” but sin has caused our “seeker” to be broken. We know something is missing but we look in all the wrong places. Even Paul was “seeking” – he counted himself as a Jew among Jews. God does not leave us “seeking” in all the wrong places which is what we would do without His drawing. Christ said ” if I be lifted up I will draw all men to me.”

    The problem with Calvinism is that it diminishes the work of the Cross. Christ sacrifice on the Cross is not sufficient for salvation. According to Calvinists God must perform a work before men are even able to hear the Gospel. The Gospel has no power. Calvinists believe that God first has to bring dead men to life so that God can bring dead men to life.

    Jesus did not have to fix Lazarus’ hearing before he said “Lazarus come forth” There is absolutely nothing in that passage to support Steve’s presupposition that Lazarus first had to be made to hear before Lazarus could hear. Can you imagine? Lazarus was sooooo dead that not even God could reach him. This is what Calvinists believe – men are so far away that not even God can speak to them without first performing a miracle. I happen to believe that when God speaks even the dean can hear.

    Total Depravity does not equal Total Inability – the ability to hear God when He speaks and respond to God. After Adam sinned in the garden God did not perform a miracle to cause Adam to hear when God was walking through the garden. God did not have to fix Adam’s hearing and ability to respond back to God. Adam’s ability to hear and respond was not lost.

Steve Withers

Richard, it seems all I got was a lesson on how to discuss without citing too many references and an ad hominem commentary on Calvinists. Nothing of substance. If you can’t discuss the point, discuss the person. Is that the strategy?
I have never hear or read anyone ever say that many Calvinists are not well read and are poor researchers. It make me wonder how much research you’ve actually done. And to say that Calvinists only see one perspective? I can say the same thing about Arminians and the way they argue. That gets us nowhere. Now, why not use your own lesson and give us a few examples of Calvinists who are poorly read and use poor research. What a remarkable observation. You surely aren’t suggesting that free will Arminian “theologians” like Finney, Sunday, Tilton, Popoff, Kuhlman, Swaggart, Hinn, Lucado, Osteen and so many others are better read. Many of them have written more books than they’ve read.
Also, to suggest that Calvinistic references to John 6 and Romans 9 are out of context with out telling me how, is unconvincing. It’s easy to say something is out of context but a much more difficult task to prove.

Pick Romans 9 (that’s one) and tell me that the narrative of Paul as it relates to Jacob and Esau is wrongly understood by Calvinists to refer to individuals. Frame it as proposition and respond.

    Mary

    I’m not Richard but one problem I see with the way you are communicating Steve is that you are assuming that everyone who rejects Calvinism must therefore be Arminian and thus you are making your arguments based on what you believe Arminians believe. Most of us here are not Arminian and no that doesn’t mean we are semi-Pelegian either.

    And not to be flip but you don’t really seem to have a good grasp of Arminianism let alone what those of us who reject Armnianism and Calvnism actually believe. You come across as someone who realized what you were taught as a young person was wrong but the person who taught you what you thought you knew as a young person labeled it “Arminianism” and so now you are convinced you were once an Arminian who came to Calvinism. It goes back to the place earlier in the thread about how young people are not being taught much of anything and so are easily swayed because they didn’t really have much knowledge of what the questions were regarding Soteriology and the only answers they’ve been given were given by Calvinists.

      Mary

      And I said all that to say that many Calvinists only read Calvinist and what Calvinists say those who reject Calvinism believe. So not well read outside Calvinism. It’s very seldom you see a Calvinist who accurately portrays those of us who reject Calvinism. And please don’t insult us by putting us in the same camp as Joel Osteen. Talk about your ad hominum.

    Richard Coords

    Steve,

    It’s odd that you would name the likes of Kuhlman, Swaggert, Osteen and Hinn, but somehow miss names like Adrian Rogers, David Allen, Jerry Vines, Johnny Hunt, Jerry Walls, Roger Olson, Norm Geisler, Daniel Whedon, John Wesley and John Goodwin. (It seems that Finney is a Calvinist’s favorite whipping boy. He must be in the deepest level of the Calvinist’s conception of Hell.)

    Speaking of Norm Geisler, and also Jacob & Esau, which you mentioned, he pointed out the poor research of John Piper:

    Norman Geisler comments: “…God’s ‘love’ for Jacob and ‘hate’ for Esau is not speaking of those men before they were born, but long after they lived. The citation in Romans 9:13 is not from Genesis when they were alive (c. 2000 B.C.) but from Malachi 1:2-3 (c. 400 B.C.), long after they died! The evil deeds done by the Edomites to the Israelites are well documented in the Old Testament (e.g., Num. 20). And it is for these that God is said to have hated them as a country. Here again, this did not mean that no individuals from that country would be saved. In fact, there were believers from both Edom (Amos 9:12) and the neighboring country of Moab (Ruth 1), just as there will be people in heaven from every tribe, kindred, nation, and tongue (Rev. 7:9).” (Chosen But Free, p.85)

    Geisler adds: “John Piper, widely held by extreme Calvinists to have the best treatment on Romans 9, makes this mistake. Piper claims that ‘the divine decision to “hate” Esau was made “before they were born or had done anything good or evil” (9:11).’ But, as shown on the previous page, the reference here is not to something said in Genesis about the individuals Jacob and Esau before they were born. What Genesis 25 says is simply that the older would serve the younger. What is said in Malachi 1:2-3 about the nations of Jacob and Esau (Edom) is not only centuries after their progenitors had died, but it is also in regard to what the nation of Edom had done to the chosen nation of Israel….” (Chosen But Free, p.85)

    Based upon my study of John Piper, James White, Erwin Lutzer, R.C. Sproul, they seem to be poorly informed. I’ve documented James White’s misunderstandings on my Blog at examining calvinism dot com. There, I also discuss Romans 9 and many other related texts, while pouring through quotes on both sides. I explain both the context of the Book of Romans, and also the context of Romans 9, as it relates to the rest of the book, and also discuss the specific Calvinist proof-texts offered.

    If you want to believe that the names you mentioned represent the leading voices opposing Calvinism, then that in itself speaks volumes.

Steve Withers

All of the ones (Osteen included) I cited embrace the doctrine of the free will of man. Call it what you want…if you want to call it anything at all.
I guess I’m the reverse of Leighton. He started out a Calvinist and embraced free will. I did the reverse.
I reject the doctrine of the free will of man because I find no support for it in Scripture. You and others have determined otherwise and that’s what makes this life interesting. May The Lord bless you!

    Richard Coords

    Steve,

    I think that it is a mistake to lump all non-Calvinists into the same group, just because they believe in freewill. The Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons believe in freewill, while Islamists and Gnostics believe in Determinism, so should I put Islamists, Gnostics and Calvinists together into the same group, and JW’s, Mormons and Southern Baptists in the opposite group? That’s why such class-identification is erroneous.

    In my experience, most Calvinists who claim to have been former “Arminians,” were actually just uninformed non-Calvinists, just like how I was formerly an uninformed non-Calvinist before being indoctrinated into a Calvinist church, with a very Utilitarian understanding of God’s sovereignty with respect to the elect and non-elect. When I left Calvinism, it wasn’t because I stopped believing in divine sovereignty, but because like Jonah, I came to understand that I had the wrong idea of how the God of the Bible expresses His sovereignty. Upon leaving the Calvinist church, Changed by Grace, it wasn’t Joel Osteen that helped me, but instead those like Adrian Rogers. He has a great sermon on Calvinism, besides his series in Romans, entitled “Let the Earth Hear His Voice. 2 Corinthians 5:13-20 in CD format, which is available on his LWF website. He also has another sermon, which is linked to my name, if you click on my name.

    Note: There is no question that freewill is taught in the Bible, whether it is “freewill” (Ezra 7:13, KJV), “self-will” (Genesis 49:6) or “own initiative.” (Luke 12:57) The dispute is over how the biblical term “freewill” is understood by both sides. I trust that that is what you meant, rather than freewill itself not being a biblical term.

    Mary

    Steve, I’m sorry but you are only proving your complete and utter ignorance if you think any of us here have anything at all in common with someone like Swaggert, Benny Hinn, and Osteen. And if you think Swaggert, Hinn, and Osteen are representative of Armininism then again you display that you have no clue what an Arminian is.

      Max

      “… you have no clue …”

      Mary! What are you thinking?! Steve has it all figured out, you know … the rest of us are Biblical illiterates.

      For the multitude of non-Calvinist Southern Baptists who listen in on this blog, but never comment, this is what is headed your way. New Calvinism, in all of its glorious arrogance, will be in a church near you soon … perhaps yours.

        Mary

        Max, if only we had a Bible handy and knew how to read it. Just look below in the post where Steve tells us with determination that free will is “specifically excluded” when the verses he sites do no such of a thing. Kinda like how he thinks Jesus had to first raise Lazarus from the dead so he could hear so then Jesus could raise him from the dead. Tortured scripture. But hey if you reject Calvinism you are just like a Benny Hinn heretic! At least he’s honest in his assertion that we sup with the heretics and are incapable of reading Scripture.

Steve Withers

So it’s acceptable to lump non-Arminians but not non-Calvinists? You made an assertion that (unnamed) Christian Calvinists lack scholarship and I made an assertion that certain (with names) free will adherent Christians lack scholarship. I was not including Islamists, Mormon, JWs, or ancient Gnostics.
Also, be fair, not all determinism is created equal. Theological determinism is not equivalent to fatalism even though both are classified as deterministic systems.

Steve Withers

Richard, I believe you understood that I was referring to “free will” in a soteriological context. It is specifically excluded in that context in John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,
13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God” and in Romans 9:16 “So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”
Furthermore, free will in a soteriological context is excluded by valid inference in many other places in Scripture. Scripture that defines our natural, hostile, sinful disposition toward God…most notably Romans 3, preclude it.

    Richard Coords

    Steve,

    You mentioned a couple of verses.

    If you are interested in my research on John 1:12-13, it is here:

    http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Gospels/John1_13.html

    If you are interested in my research on Romans 9:16, it is here:

    http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Paul/Romans9_16.html

    If you are interested in my research on how God was incredulous when Israel used the excuse of Total Depravity to defend their lack of repentance, it is here:

    http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/OT/Jer18_6.html

      Steve Withers

      So Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells us that God loved Jacob and hated Esau and it wasn’t because they did anything good or bad because they hadn’t yet been born and you believe, because the Genesis account does not include that information, Piper is short in the scholarship department. Is that about right?

      I read your links. I surely don’t agree with much of it but did appreciate the Calvin quotes;-)
      You interpretation of Romans 9 is tortured, with all due respect.
      There is a lot that I could discuss but I would like to discuss your treatment of Romans 9 as it relates to the potter.
      Here is the portion in particular with which you are familiar.

      “14 What shall we say then? wIs there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, x“I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” 16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion,2 but on God, who has mercy. 17 For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, y“For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I might show my power in you, and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” 18 So then he has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills.”
      19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For zwho can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, ato answer back to God? bWill what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?”21 cHas the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump done vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience evessels of wrath fprepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known gthe riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he hhas prepared beforehand for glory—24 even us whom he ihas called, jnot from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?

      You conclude that the dishonorable vessel is made dishonorable by the vessel himself? That is not what Paul is saying….at all.
      Part of this account is conversation between a potter (God) a pot (a human objector). The potter made two pots from one lump. I shouldn’t be explaining what the verse is saying. It says what it says. It’s very clear. We are not talking about pots polishing or fracturing themselves. Paul is going out of his way to communicate the polar opposite of what you are contending. He even says he endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction. It’s a hard saying but it’s a clear saying.
      Pay attention to the objector. He is coming to the conclusion that is consistent with the Reformed understanding. He is complaining about God’s unfairness in two places…one in v.14 and one in v.19. Why would he complain about a perceived unfairness if what Paul was communicating was that the potter fractures himself? It make no sense at all.
      I believe if you can’t embrace what Geisler and other Arminians embrace (that there exists a divine antinomy in Scripture) you should rethink your current view. Just be honest and say, “both an individual election and free will are taught in scripture and I can’t explain it.” That’s what the rest do. The majority at Dallas Seminary, who call themselves modified or 4 pt. Calvinists, are completely comfortable with that view. They don’t try to deny an individual election…they embrace it. They also embrace free will. I know (and you may know as well) it’s not logical but, to attempt to deny an individual election from Romans 9 in particular, is wrong, in my opinion.

      Sent from my iPad

        Steve Withers

        Should have said the pot fractures himself..not potter.

        Richard Coords

        Steve,

        You raised several points. I would like to address one at a time, so I will address the first one.

        Romans 9:12-13: “It was said to her, ‘The older will serve the younger.’ it is written, ‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.'”

        So I take it that according to Paul, the two concepts are RELATED. So, then, when did Esau ever serve Jacob? Obviously, the individuals never did. Only in the descendants did this occur. Unsurprisingly, the quote from Paul is taken from Malachi, rather than Genesis:

        Malachi 1:2-5
        “I have loved you,” says the Lord. But you say, “How have You loved us?” “Was not Esau Jacob’s brother?” declares the Lord. “Yet I have loved Jacob; 3 but I have hated Esau, and I have made his mountains a desolation and appointed his inheritance for the jackals of the wilderness.” 4 Though Edom says, “We have been beaten down, but we will return and build up the ruins”; thus says the Lord of hosts, “They may build, but I will tear down; and men will call them the wicked territory, and the people toward whom the Lord is indignant forever.”

        The way that Paul’s narrative flows is that he begins by asserting that he is not the enemy of Israel, but intercedes for Israel in unending prayer. See Romans 9:1-3. This demonstrates that Paul has Israel’s best interest at heart, in what he is about to say. Paul breaks down two major Jewish strongholds in resisting the Christian faith. The unbelieving Jews essentially said: “Why I do I need Jesus? I am a Jew, born as a son of Abraham.” John the Baptist dealt with this, and then Jesus dealt with it, and Paul deals with it. The relevance to bringing this issue up in Romans 9, is to cite the obvious fact that just because one is a Jew, no more guarantees a right standing with God, than do the Edomites, whom God hated on account of their treachery against Israel during the Babylonian siege, documented in the book of Obadiah. So Paul’s point with regard to Jacob and Esau addresses the most common roadblock for Jews to come to Christ. The second matter of resistance for the Jews to turn to Christ is that the Jews claimed the superiority of having the Law, by which they believed that they were made righteous, but Paul repeatedly argued that the Law served to *expose* man’s guilt before God, rather than generating righteousness. The “willing” and “running” of the unbelieving Jews is related to this point, in that it referenced their mistaken reliance upon the Law. So Paul first asserts that he has Israel’s best interests at heart, and is not their enemy, and then breaks down two major strongholds of resistance in turning to Christ. Next, Paul deals with the historical context of why the Jews were not coming to Christ in the way that the Gentiles were, and this deals with the forewarned Jewish hardening. Romans 11:25 specifically references the partial hardening of the Jews until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Paul mentions God as being a “Potter,” which is illustrated in great detail at Jeremiah 18:1-13, in which God warned Israel that He was going to harden it, like a Potter hardening a piece of clay, which was because of their failure to repent. Jeremiah’s illustration of the Potter shows that the pottery work of God is *conditional* and also note that Israel throws Total Depravity in God’s face at v.12, which God rebukes at v.13. Ultimately, Calvinists are taking Israel’s side against God, but that’s another matter. The Jewish hardening in Romans 9, again, references Jewish unbelief from a historical context, as a fulfillment of God’s warning, cited at Jeremiah 18, Isaiah 6, and fulfilled at John 12. So at Romans 9, Paul anticipates the Jewish protest, in how can God still find fault. By doing this, Paul is showing that the Jewish argument against God at Jeremiah 18:12, now continues in Romans 9, with how God would find fault, since they are both allegedly helpless and now hardened. Yes, they were hardened, but God claimed a just basis in hardening them, which God was very indignant about at Jeremiah 18:13. I’m not sure why Calvinists are so resistant to Jeremiah 18. Whenever Calvinists claim Romans 9, I want to ask, “Have you read Jeremiah 18?” “You realize that it addresses God as ‘the Potter,’ don’t you?” I feel that Jeremiah 18 is one of the best refutations against Calvinism that there is. Clearly, the hardening is shown to be conditional, and clearly God establishes His own just basis for warning Israel of the hardening, and then carrying it out, and Israel was arguing against God, and as Paul shows, they still are! So that is the essence of how I see Romans chapter 9 through 11. Paul has the Jews best interests at heart, and he breaks down two often used excuses for turning to Christ, and then deals with their lack of belief from a historical standpoint. The Jew/Gentile theme is very prevalent in Romans 9 through 11, and in fact, the entire book of Romans.

          Richard Coords

          While mentioning that Esau and the Edomites were sons of Abraham, I forgot to add that Ishmael (whom Paul also cited in Romans 9) was also a son of Abraham. So if the Jews are going to rely on being a “son of Abraham,” then they’d have to admit that these others had the same assurance.

          Matthew 3:9: “And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, `We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”

          That’s what I meant about how John the Baptist dealt with this Jewish roadblock to faith in Christ. Jesus then dealt with it, and then Paul did too.

          Richard Coords

          I’d now like to make a comment on Calvinist election, and why it is impossible. Before I do, though, in the prior statement I had said: “The relevance to bringing this issue up in Romans 9, is to cite the obvious fact that just because one is a *Jew*, no more guarantees a right standing with God, than do the Edomites….” It should instead state: “The relevance to bringing this issue up in Romans 9, is to cite the obvious fact that just because one is [a son of Abraham], no more guarantees a right standing with God, than do the Edomites….” That language is preferable.

          Ephesians 1:4 states: “…just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him.”

          The two most important words are “just as.” Unfortunately, they generate very little attention. What “just as” implies, is that the clause in v.3, is that basis for understanding v.4. In fact, the statement in v.4 is a function of the statement in v.3. When John Piper commented on Ephesians 1:3-5, he completely blew past v.3, and concluded that we are simply chosen. One cannot properly understand v.4, without understanding v.3. In v.3, God has deferred not some, not most, not the majority, but “every” spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. This is the fact upon which v.4 rests. The eternal election in Christ to holiness is a function of the fact that “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” is “in Christ.” In v.3, Paul states a fact, which is the foundation for the subsequent points.

          Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places is in Christ…”

          (1) just as the spiritual blessing of a Christian’s eternal election to holiness is in Christ,
          (2) just as the spiritual blessing of a Christian’s eternal predestination to adaption as sons is in Christ,
          (3) just as the spiritual blessing of a Christian’s redemption is in Christ,
          (4) just as the spiritual blessing of a Christian’s revelation of mysteries is in Christ,
          (5) just as the spiritual blessing of a Christian’s inheritance is in Christ,
          (5) just as the spiritual blessing of a Christian’s Indwelling of the Holy Spirit is in Christ.

          As is evident, v.3 is the vital foundation. However, according to Calvinism, the best spiritual blessings are in the Father, by which one becomes in Christ. So here is how Calvinism would have it:

          *Fake* Ephesians 1:3: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing *in Himself*…”

          (1) just as the spiritual blessing of the Calvinistically elect to be efficaciously drawn to become “in Christ” is in the Father,
          (2) just as the spiritual blessing of the Calvinistically elect to monergistically be regenerated is in the Father,
          (3) just as the spiritual blessing of the Calvinistically elect to unilaterally receive the Atonement is in the Father.

          For the Calvinist, the very BEST blessings are in the Father, by which, one is effectually drawn and irresistibly called to become in Christ, but Paul is showing that no such spiritual blessing can exist, since the Father Himself has deferred “every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” However, a Calvinist would say that God has made them one of His secret elect, so that “in Christ,” they can gain access to all that they have been blessed for. But if that was the case, then they would have a spiritual blessing outside of being “in Christ,” and thus nullifying Ephesians 1:3. So there is simply no biblical foundation for Calvinism whatsoever, especially not in Pauline, Christ-centered theology. This is why I argue that Arminianism is fundamentally Christocentric, whereas Calvinism is fundamentally Patricentric. Calvinist claim a special arrangement with the Father, and the Father denies it, by deferring any and all of His blessings in Christ, which of course is to honor His Son. Calvinist deem themselves as specially honored in the Father, as His secret sheep, but it’s simply a hoax.

            Steve Withers

            I would like to respond to this when I have a bit more time. Thanks for writing.

          Steve Withers

          Romans 9
          Jacob did receive the blessing that his brother deserved. It was contrary to Jewish custom. In that sense and in the same way the younger would have served the elder Esau served Jacob.
          You didn’t comment on Paul’s objector’s questions especially, “why does he still find fault for who can resist his will?” The conclusion is similar to Paul’s discussion of grace abounding in Romans 5 with the question in 6:1 “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Those questions validate the meaning of the texts.
          The potter made the pot. I mentioned that earlier. How do you conclude that the pot has anything whatsoever to do with his estate? He is what he is because the potter made him that way. It just makes no sense. Paul is using an illustration that makes it impossible to conclude otherwise. The potter is animated the pot is not. The pot has no ability to create or recreate himself. He is what he is because the potter made him that way.
          I don’t deny a national representation at all. For me and most Calvinists, it’s not an either/or proposition, it’s a both/and.

          Jer. 18
          I think you’re reading too much into this portion of Scripture. We see prophetic warnings throughout the OT. It would be like this warning: if you continue in unrepentant sin you will be punished. Now, does that mean that your punishment is certain? Of course not. We are not automatons….we face choices every day and many of them have consequences. Not surprisingly, I embrace compatibilism.

          The doctrine of divine election is taught throughout the Scriptures of both the OT and NT. It’s taught in the way God chose a people for himself and guided them in the wilderness. They received his discipline because he loved them. The Gentiles received no such guidance! they received wrath? God even punished the People of God because they didn’t kill every gentile as they were commanded. How can you look at God’s electing grace for this little band of marauding, idol making sinners and not see his electing grace in the NT among modern day idol making sinners? Not since I’ve come to understand these doctrines have I understood how this doctrine is so hated among professing Christians who will so readily admit that God chose a nation among peoples to be his own. He provided a tabernacle, manna, fire, cloud, priests and atonement. A nation is after all, made up of a collection of individuals.

          Now, I will say that we could discuss any number of verses in the Bible that relate to God’s sovereign choice. I am familiar with most. We could discuss the nature and of the atonement and the verses that relate. We could discuss election, predestination, choice, chosen, given, called, foreknowledge, ordained, all, free will, world (cosmos), foundation of the cosmos and many many more. We could discuss libertarian free will, compatibilism, Augustine, Pelagius, patristics, theodicy, lapsarian views and every other thing.

          The Bible is filled with the language of distinguishing grace….from cover to cover. We could discuss these but unless we have a common anthropological understanding, we can’t have a meeting of the minds on soteriology. The topic of a divine election hinges, in my mind, on the doctrine of human depravity. It’s the linchpin. The Bible defines us as totally helpless and hopeless in our unregenerate state. Without faith it’s impossible to please God and the unregenerate, natural man doesn’t have the capacity or ability to exercise faith. His righteousness are filthy rags. Now, if his righteousness are filthy rags, how can he please God? What can he conjure up? I Cor. 2:14, Romans 8:7-8, Jer. 17:9, Romans 3 and others make it impossible for the unbeliever to do anything at all that pleases God. Impossible. You can’t read those verses and conclude that we have the ability to make a choice that pleases God. Salvation is not a synergistic activity. We don’t contribute anything of value because we don’t have anything of value to contribute.
          We certainly have what we perceive is a free will. I don’t think I’m an automation…I don’t feel like one. I act with what I perceive is a free will. I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling but I know God is at work within me both to do and to will according to his good pleasure. He has ordained good works for me to walk in. He is directing my steps.

          If you want to discuss a doctrine that practically (in practice) robs God of what is due Him, consider the doctrine you embrace. Can you imagine a customer of a liquid health product writing a letter of testimonial with something like this? “I love your product…I use it every day. I mix it with honey, milk, cinnamon and juice an apple and drink it all. By the way, you are free to use my letter in your advertising.” Would they use the letter?
          How does the letter to God read? “I am thankful that I was smart enough or soft hearted enough or born in the right home (or country) to respond of my free will to your Good News…..thank you for creating me with willingness to exercise my free will and choose you”.
          The doctrine of total depravity recognizes that salvation is all of grace and is imputed to us. God the Father elects, God the Son made atonement and God the Holy Spirit applies salvation through conversion. That all three persons of the trinity are engaged in this process is glorious. That each particular sheep is called by name and none will be lost! Can you imagine a father telling his child, “son, I love you SO MUCH……but I also love the other children in the neighborhood….why, I love all the children in the world”? It would sound ridiculous and no father would ever tell his son that. That’s no love. God’s love is not dependent on the softness or hardness of our unregenerate hearts. His love saves. None of the objects of his love are perishing in hell for eternity. What kind of love is that? He loves them and he saves them.

      Steve Withers

      Scroll down to Wrath Vessels, Mercy Vessels
      This is one of the sermons that really challenged my Arminian assumptions over 30 years ago.
      http://sljinstitute.net/category/pauls-epistles/romans/

Steve Withers

Max and Mary, I think I have been respectful. I haven’t called names. There is nothing wrong with conviction. There’s nothing disrespectful about believing you’re right. Why would you be offended by that? I’m not offended that either one of you consider me wrong. Not at all.
Stereotyping is wrong and frankly, uncharitable.
Also Mary, I never said any such thing about Lazarus. What I said is that Lazarus had to be made alive before he could hear the command to come out. His ears, along with the rest of his body were dead. He couldn’t hear until he was made alive. I believe that is a picture of our own conversion. We are spiritually dead….we can’t understand the Gospel…we are even hostile to it. We have to be born again before we can consider the Good News, good news.

    Mary

    Steve, putting us along side heretics like Benny Hinn is not at all respectful. It is an insult and an attack showing your ignorance about what those who reject Calvinism actually believe.

    The scripture says no such of a thing about Lazarus being made alive so he could hear – that is your presupposition. There is nothing in the Lazarus account that supports your presupposition. Lazarus does demonstrate conversion – when God speaks even the dead hear. God is not such a weak God that people are ever in a state where He must first zap them with a miracle so He can communicate with them. You hold a very low view of God if you think He cannot speak to a dead man. You also make the cross an after thought – first God must make dead men alive so as to let them hear the cross – for you it’s God zapping dead men so they can hear + the Cross. For me salvation is the Cross + nothing. Jesus’ work on the Cross is sufficient for the salvation of whosoever will.

      Max

      Amen Mary! The theology one adopts must not misrepresent the character of God or the Cross of Christ. An intellectual journey to find truth will often miss Truth. Have you noticed that some Calvinists talk a lot about God, very little about Jesus, and hardly ever mention the Holy Spirit? They get caught in the Romans/Ephesians trap of awkward verses and find it difficult to pry loose. It’s as if they dodge the Gospels in favor of the Epistles! If you read Paul first, you might miss Jesus … but if you read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into perspective. I’ve learned that debating with some of these folks is not preaching the Gospel … so after a while, I advise them to read the red and pray for power.

        Mary

        Max, so many people, and I was guilty of this for years myself, get hung up in favorite places of the Bible that they really do miss “the forest for the trees” Reading the whole counsel of Scripture is so important. As we can see with Steve, he’s so hung up on what Paul says that he has gone back to the story of Lazarus and added to the Scripture the idea that Christ had to first bring Lazarus back to life so he could hear so that then Lazarus could be brought back to life. And of course we see the classic hang up of Calvinists who get so hung up on this idea that dead means dead that they make God so weak that God cannot speak so the dead hear. We get so hung up on what is man capable or incapable of doing that we act like God is somehow just a man who may have a little more power than us so if we cannot speak to the dead than obviously that means God can speak to the dead even though the story of Lazarus shows us that when God speaks the dead will hear. I’ve heard a preacher declare that the reason Jesus had to specify “Lazarus, come forth” was because if he’d simply said “Come forth” all the dead in the tombs would have “come forth.” And then of course we know “dead” is not always as simple as “dead is dead” when we see verses stating we’ve died to sin. If we follow the logic that would mean Christians don’t sin which of course we know is not true. And we could wander in the weeds with dead and look to the story of the other Lazarus and the Rich Man who were both dead but seemed to hear and respond fine.

          Max

          Yes, I suppose all Christians have been guilty of that Mary – camping out in favorite Bible passages. The danger comes when we allow those favorite places to substitute for the location we need to be in. I made a statement above beginning with “If you read Paul first, you might miss Jesus … “. Perhaps that should be “If you read Paul first, you might read Jesus wrong … but if you read Jesus first, the writings of Paul come into perspective.” The point I was trying to make was that if we begin with the words of Jesus – allowing them to sink into our spirit, the writings of His followers fall in place, as well as Old Testament instruction. It all works together to point us to the Cross of Christ and salvation found there for whosoever will. Almost 60 years since I gave my life to Christ and I see it no other way.

            Mary

            Good points Max. I think reading the whole Scripture really just emphasizes who God is and who we are. We are completely lost without Him but he does not leave us lost, but He does give us real choice which is displayed through out the Scripture.

      Les Prouty

      Max,

      The supposition that Reformed folks need to read “red” is pretty shallow brother. The black letters are just as inspired. And when you say, “If you read Paul first, you might miss Jesus,” do you realize how many times Christ is mentioned in Pauline writing?

      Romans 70, 1 Cor. 58, 2 Cor. 44, Gal. 33, Eph. 45, Philippians 36, Col. 25, 1 Thes. 10, 2 Thes. 11, 1 Tim. 14, 2 Tim. 12, Titus 4, Philemon 4. You might want to rethink that one brother.

      Les

        Max

        Granted, there is a scarlet thread woven throughout the whole of Scripture.

        Steve Withers

        I agree, Les. It’s curious how easily they refer to Calvinists as arrogant and we read statements like that. I’ve cited John 6, John 1 and John 17 in this string alone.
        “New Calvinsim, in all its glorious arrogance will be in a church near you soon…perhaps yours.”
        Oh, please.

Steve Withers

Mary, I was responding to Richard’s charge that Calvinist theologians (and he didn’t cite anyone) are not well read and are poor scholars and that other Calvinists merely regurgitate that poor scholarship to others. He didn’t cite an example of poor scholarship either. It’s a though all we know and think is what someone else told us. You would agree, that’s pretty arrogant, right? The ones I cited that embrace free will are professing Christians. They’re not Mormons or JWs. If he wants to talk about poor scholarship, let’s be fair.
That a dead person can’t do anything before he’s made alive is a valid inference. The dead can’t hear (and do what other alive people do) until after they are made alive. We have these images and conversion accounts over and over in scripture where wills are changed. We go from hostility with God to friendship with God. We are born hostile to God by virtue of our first birth and become friends by our second. Both are passive on our part. Our belief (and all the fruit of the Spirit) come from a new nature. Like the bad tree bearing bad fruit and the good tree bearing good fruit. A bad tree (our sinful nature) cannot please God. He speaks life into a dead person.
It is Christ + nothing…..we agree on that.

    Mary

    Steve, the people you sited are Pelegians or semi-Pelegians at best. The fact that you think that they are the same as Arminians and that everyone who rejects Calvinism must really just be Arminian demonstrates that YOU are NOT well-read ergo whoever it is you are reading to get the idea that Pelegians, Arminians and nonCalvinist are really all the same is not very scholarly. You don’t seem to get the point that by insisting that we are all just like those Pelegians proves the point that Richard orginally made about YOU not being well read.

    It doesn’t matter what a dead man can or cannot do. The point you ignore is what can God do. When God speaks even the dead hear because it’s GOD speaking. You believe GOD is weak and unable to speak to the dead unless he first performs a miracle. You also ignore the point that you torture the scripture in regards to Lazarus by imposing your doctrine back into the Scripture instead of letting the Scripture speak for itself. And you absolutely do not agree it’s Christ + nothing because you believe a work has to be performed (making the dead hear) before anybody can even get to the point of hearing Christ. You can’t just go around declaring God has to raise the dead to life so they can hear the Gospel and pretend like you didn’t add the step of raising the dead to life. According to you the Gospel is meaningless until God raises the dead to life.

    Les Prouty

    Steve,

    There are some people who simply cannot help themselves but to attack our persons. Sometimes it’s a waste of time with some brother.

      Mary

      Of course you agree with Steve that we are really just Pelegians and that’s not an attack.

      Mary

      You don’t read the replies that anybody makes to you. And again you show your ignorance if you think nonCalvinists don’t deal with Romans 9. As I already stated Romans 9 has been addressed in this thread. Go find the Adrian Rogers quote which is what I agree with. Romans 9 is not talking about the salvation of individuals but the election of nations for God’s plans ie Israel was elected to bring the Word and the line of Christ. Don’t go around calling people heretics if you can’t handle the response.

Steve Withers

I would like to know how you deal with the two texts (Romans 9:16 and John 1:13) above that seem to clearly communicate that that we don’t come to Christ by our free will. We have this statement about Jacob and Esau that talks about them not having been born to do anything good or bad in the Romans 9 narrative where Paul seems to go out of his way, from the account of the twins, to say that He made a choice among sinful men and it had nothing to do with what we do or think. The response from that chapter is even consistent with that understanding when the question, “is God unjust, for who can resist His will” is asked.

    Mary

    Steve, you have pretty much shown yourself to have an unteachable Spirit. You have insulted us here by linking us to Pelegians which if you knew anything you would understand means you’ve called us heretics. You’ve demonstrated an arrogance in the thought that we’re really just Arminians who don’t know it. Those verses have already been dealt with in the thread. People have tried to engage with you and you ignore the points they bring up only to ramble around bringing up different points. And again like your torture of the Lazarus Scriptures the verses don’t say what you claim they say. Your order is Born Again (raising the dead to life so they can hear) and then Come to Christ which is completely backwards. It’s Come to Christ and then Born Again. The Coming to Christ part is Faith which is not a work and the Born Again part is all on God – He does the regeneration.

Steve Withers

But I am saying, as Spurgeon and the Reformers did, that the new birth is not activated by our belief, it is a byproduct. We are unable to do anything in our flesh (free will) to please God. Filthy rags…that’s what they are? That’s the message of Luther and the Reformers.
As far as faith and works. John 6:28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”
29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

Nobody will discuss Romans 9 and I can understand why.

I asked you a direct question about a text of Scripture (Romans 9) and I get “unteachable spirit”. More ad hominem.
Over and out.

    Mary

    See the reply up above I hit the wrong reply button in response to Les’ snark Les who at one point had been banned from posting here I thought.

    Again you are the one who comes in here calling everybody heretics so get over your ad hominem nonsense.

    #1 I don’t care what the reformers and Spurgeon said. Sola Scriptura. And again you keep pushing your Calvinism back into the Bible. Nobody here is saying that we add anything to salvation. Faith is not a work. It’s Calvinists who make Faith into a work and that’s completely unbiblical.

Lydia

I am always amused with the anti Finney position of Calvinists over the years in blogging. If I remember correctly he was an abolitionist and helped grow Oberlin College who first admitted blacks as equals in academia. Why would a pro slavery Calvinist with “correct” doctrine be a better poster boy for living out the kingdom now? Doctrine over people?

Yes, the math questions are getting harder. I just had to multiply.

    Les Prouty

    “I am always amused with the anti Finney position of Calvinists over the years in blogging. If I remember correctly he was an abolitionist and helped grow Oberlin College who first admitted blacks as equals in academia. Why would a pro slavery Calvinist with “correct” doctrine be a better poster boy for living out the kingdom now? Doctrine over people?”

    Could be because his theology is heretical.

    Finney:
    “The doctrine of an imputed righteousness, or that Christ’s obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption.” After all, Christ’s righteousness “could do no more than justify himself. It can never be imputed to us…It was naturally impossible, then, for him to obey in our behalf.” This “representing of the atonement as the ground of the sinner’s justification has been a sad occasion of stumbling to many”

    Otherwise his abolition activity could be admired.

      Lydia

      If that is a direct Finney quote, I really do not have a problem with it with a tweak or two. I do not think Jesus hung on the cross and was resurrected to perpetually obey for us. I also do not subscribe to PSA which I think fits too nicely with ESS — Jesus as a lesser god of sorts. I am more toward the Ramson/Christus Victor view. I see Justification very differently than you might. It is for everyone who repents and believes. I also have very different views on sanctification than most determinists. I am all about our responsibility and accountability here and now.

      Guess I can be included in your heresy category. I do fear the idea of doctrine over people. It means any behavior is rationalized like we saw with all those years of the Reformed resurgence excusing Driscoll’s continuous bad boy behavior. Their mantra was that he had correct doctrine and preached the Gospel. Never mind the bodies under the bus, eh?

Lydia

“Nobody will discuss Romans 9 and I can understand why.”

But they have. The problem is that they view it through a different filter so there won’t be much agreement. There is some very interesting historical scholarship that backs up the corporate view and what was going on in Rome during that time. There is the whole Jew/Gentile dichotomy, Jews being banished from Rome were coming back and this was causing some misunderstanding between Jewish/Gentile Christians in the Roman churches. NT Wright has some interesting historical scholarship on Romans. I think historical context is very important to our understanding and we can miss a larger beautiful truth when we ignore it.

This is, of course, just another perspective. But one that doesn’t impugns God’s character as a Deity that creates to hate and harden people.

Steve Withers

But they haven’t, Lydia. I have asked a direct question about Romans 9 and no one has responded. Show me where anyone has responded to Romans 9.
It asked earlier about Romans 8:7-8 and I Cor. 2:14, which deal with the same human inability question and no answer. I was told I threw out too many verses.
I was told I was taking verses out of context…..and now I’m being told (if that’s what you are suggesting) that my doctrine “creates hate and hardens people”. (The Gospel creates hate and hardens people. It does. Read the Bible. Read the Acts of the Apostles. Read about Stephen. Look at Jesus. How did men react to him?)
I got scolded because I used the term “Arminian” to describe this belief system.
I am being compared to a slave keeper. Slavery and Calvinsim are two COMPLETELY different issues. If I could prove that Arminian (free will or what ever you want to call your belief system) pastors embraced slavery, that should end that allegation, right? That’s what Richard correctly pointed out about using two different examples to attempt to prove something.
I was told that I need to learn more about the corporate view and I provided a link to two definitions. I was told I need to learn more about it.
I believe I understand the broad premises of this view and I understand why it hasn’t been widely accepted. Thinking Arminians like Norman Geisler are still saying, “it’s a divine antinomy” and can’t explain it.

    Mary

    See Richard Coords response 02-01-2015 22:22

    Lydia

    “But they haven’t, Lydia. I have asked a direct question about Romans 9 and no one has responded”

    I am sure they have not based upon your expectations. Romans 9 is part of an entire letter. As some Jewish Rabbi might say of something similar, “Paul is making an argument”. We must read it as a whole. Just to give you one tiny example of how we might misunderstand some scriptures is the potter/clay analogy. Potters will tell you that often the clay takes on a mind of its own and won’t do exactly what they intended. They must start over and over, rewetting, resmushing it, reforming, etc.

    As to Romans 3, I take the view that Paul is quoting the OT for a reason specific to that situation. So if we go to the OT, who is speaking, who are they speaking to and what about the occasion? We must take all that into consideration. The same Psalm says this:

    But there they are, overwhelmed with dread,
    for God is present in the company of the righteous.

    6
    You evildoers frustrate the plans of the poor,
    but the Lord is their refuge.

    There are other examples but I have to run.

      Steve Withers

      Lydia,
      Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit said what he said. He said that “there is none righteous, no, not one”. You believe that, right?
      You believe everything else he said too, right? He said that “no one understands, no one seeks for God”. It’s a straightforward statement.
      Paul says the same thing in I Cor. 2:14 and Romans 8:7-8. Why would you take simple statements and attempt to make them something they’re not. Do you think that some OT historical context will make this plain language mean something else? Paul is telling us that we are unable to believe in our flesh. We can’t have free will because our wills are inclined to only sin. Remember, whatever is not of faith is sin. Rom. 9 tells us we don’t have free will and John 1 tells us the same thing. The Gospel foolishness to the unbeliever. He is hostile to God. We were ALL unbelievers at one time. Our state, before conversion, is described by these verses.

        Lydia

        Steve, It is ok if we disagree. I am not going to convince you nor will you convince me. I am not really interested in a proof text war.

          Steve Withers

          Hey, I agree.
          I really do believe that The Lord is pleased when we discuss His Word…even when we disagree. I think he is more pleased that we are contending over His divine revelation than if we were discussing pro football or politics or any of the millions of things that distract us in this life. The Bereans were commended. We see examples in the NT where the people of God disagreed. They thought enough about it to have an opinion.
          So, grace to you! May The Lord bless you and keep you!

        Mary

        Steve you keep thinking that if you keep posting verses proving Total Depravity that you have somehow proven Total Inability. They don’t. You believe that the God who spoke the world into existence, the God who can speak through a donkey, who commands the angels, parted the Red Sea, turned back time YOU BELIEVE THAT THE GOD OF ALL THINGS has an INABILITY to communicate with man in his depravity. Not only is God incapable of communicating with those whom He created but the work of the Cross was not enough – because YOU BELIEVE that in order for anyone to be saved God must work a miracle of bringing dead men to life first before they are able to hear about the cross. According to you no one can get saved until God works a miracle in raising the dead so that God then raise them from the dead.

        And further you keep making the mistake that all Calvinists make – you have made Faith a work. Your so hung up on Faith being a work that you keep thinking we cannot exercise Faith because it must be a work. The Gospel is the Power of Salvation. No one seeks it and they would never find it of their own will. There is absolutely nothing we can do that causes us to earn it. And we certainly don’t deserve it. But God does not leaves us wandering alone. Just like He came to Paul on the road to Damascus. It’s only when we exercise Faith – not a work – that we are able to receive the Gift.

        Now here’s some help; you can claim that God could speak to man in His depraved state if he wanted to but for some reason God decides to perform some extra work which makes absolutely no sense, but what you cannot explain away is that you have added a step to salvation beyond the Cross no matter how much you tell yourself you believe the Cross + nothing.

        But seriously you’re wasting time by continuing to post verses on Total Depravity when the issue is how you deal with what you believe is God’s Inability to reach depraved man and the extra step you’ve added to salvation. Thus Unteachable.

          Lydia

          “And further you keep making the mistake that all Calvinists make – you have made Faith a work. Your so hung up on Faith being a work that you keep thinking we cannot exercise Faith because it must be a work.”

          My experience is they believe God has to make you have faith because you cannot have faith on your own. But this is a problem because Jesus rebuked people for not having faith. He also told them to have faith. Why would He do that if He was the one who must give them faith?

          I literally feel like I am reading about angry and confusing Greek gods when they are describing their beliefs.

            Mary

            Right, you can’t have Faith on your own because it’s something “good” which makes it into a work.

            There’s just this complete cognitive dissonance going on. You can see where you cannot move them out of the box.

            And seriously, now I have to multiply?

              Steve Withers

              One of you (can’t remember which one) was discussing the nasty effects of theistic determinism on the growth and perpetuation of slavery.
              Did you do any exploration on the effects of theistic indeterminism on the Crusades? They were forcing Christianity on people who refused to bend their will. Bend the will or die….now that’s a choice.

                Lydia

                Augustine wanted to wipe out the Donatists because they did not want to take communion from corrupt priests. How dare them defy the church! This authoritarianism and “control” stuff has been going on since Christianity became legal and institutionalized. Power corrupts. I think the Catholics are as bad as the Protestants when it comes to caste system Christianity. Christians don’t “force” Christianity on people. They live out the kingdom and reflect Christ to others.

                  Steve Withers

                  So this nasty stuff may have something to do with sinful authoritarianism and less to do with determinism. Causation is really hard to prove.

                    Lydia

                    Steve, determinism is inherently authoritarian. It does not work without it. Islam is another example of determinism.

                  Steve Withers

                  Theological (as defined by the God of Scripture) determinism is not inherently authoritarian.
                  You keep using the term “determinism”. Do you realize that there are different types of determinism? It’s very imprecise to just use a word when the word has several very different forms.

            Steve Withers

            Paul’s objector in Romans 9 asked the very same question.
            “For why does he still find fault for who can resist his will?”
            It’s the very same question.

            And you’re kind of speaking to each other like I’m not in the room:-|

            Debbie Kaufman

            Lydia: Christ told people what they could not do in order for them to know it is something they cannot do and to look to Him and Him only. The Law is something that we cannot keep anymore than Israel could. It was to show us that Christ is the only answer. We do not have faith on our own. Romans is clear on that. It is a gift of God(Ephesians 2:8&9

              Lydia

              “Lydia: Christ told people what they could not do in order for them to know it is something they cannot do and to look to Him and Him only. The Law is something that we cannot keep anymore than Israel could. It was to show us that Christ is the only answer.”

              So God made up “Laws” knowing that people could not keep them? Can you imagine a parent like that? A boss? I think that view impugns God’s character.

              ” We do not have faith on our own. Romans is clear on that. It is a gift of God(Ephesians 2:8&9″

              Why would Jesus admonish anyone for not having faith since He knew only He could give it to them?

              I think you read Eph 2 wrongly but that is ok. We both know we don’t agree and are not going to convince one another so what is the point?

                Steve Withers

                Lydia, I suggest that it is you that impugn God’s character. You are applying your own sinful standard of justice to God. You are like the one who answers back to God by asking, “Is God unjust?” or “why did does he still find fault for who can resist his will?”
                Are you able to see that you are asking those very questions? You really are. Give it some thought. These are two profound questions. They come closer to addressing the challenges of the theodicy than any verse I can think of. They are very short but very profound and are made complete with the answer “who are you, oh man, to answer back to God?”
                God can do as he wills. If he orders the Israelites to kill each and every Gentile (who were never given a chance to believe because God command the Israelites to leave them) in the land, it is his prerogative. He is God and he can do as he likes. He creates and he destroys. He doesn’t have to answer to us as to what he does with sinful creatures. He endured with much patience the vessels of wrath fit for destruction. He made them and He can destroy them.
                We were born with the inputed sin of Adam. We die in Adam. His sin condemns us. Do we suggest that that is unfair of God to lay upon me a sin I didn’t commit? That I never sinned but was conceived and born a sinner? Is imputation fair? Why did He create Adam with peccability? Why did he create some with the ability to believe and others without? Some in places where they hear the Gospel and others where they die never hearing it?
                He chose a people to be his own. He provided manna in the wilderness and a pillar of fire by night and a pillar of cloud by day. Did he provide manna to the Gentiles? He discliplined Hid people because He loved them. He set His affection on them not because they were a great nation. They were the smallest. They had a priest who went into the Holy of Holies with twelve stones on his breastplate (representing the twelve tribes) to make an intercession for their sins. Was there a stone for the Gentiles?
                I could go on and on but I’m afraid that it is your view reduces God to a man.

                Now, a command we can’t keep.
                “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5
                My challenge. Try it for five minutes.

                  Lydia

                  Steve, Let’s just leave it as I do not read the OT through the same lens you use. You sound like you are describing Allah. I just don’t have the time nor the inclination to go through this anymore.

                    Steve Withers

                    Well, at least you now know of one command that God gave that he knew could not be kept.

                  Mary

                  Steve, you should really try reading the whole Bible instead of living in your Calvinist proof texts. You might try Jeremiah 18 to get a better understanding of what God is saying in those verses from Romans 9 you keep quoting. Of course being a Calvinist you’ll own push your Calvinism into the places where God declares that Israel could either do what he says or go their own way.

                    Steve Withers

                    Mary, you should really try reading the whole Bible instead of living in your own doctrinal proof texts.
                    We didn’t get anywhere with that, now did we?

                    Mary

                    The place we got was you again ignoring what some would call the point. But then you’ve done that this whole thread. You keep repeating the same things over and over and several people made responses which you ignore.

                    Steve Withers

                    I have read Jer. 18 and it’s a prophetic warning against disobedience like so many others. It doesn’t mean God’s choice is conditioned upon our behavior. God does not change his mind. He rules by decree. Eph. 1:11 and Romans 8:28 should shed light. There addressed Jer. 18.
                    Now why don’t you address my broken record texts. Rom. 8-7-8, I Cor. 2:14, Romans 3 and Jer. 17:9 (that’s a new one). All of them relate to human inability.
                    Read them and tell me how we can have free will.

                    Mary

                    And Steve one has to wonder what place you think we should be after you’ve declared that all those who reject Calvinism are heretics like Benny Hinn?

                    Steve Withers

                    He’s just another free willer along with the others.

                    Don Johnson

                    Steve,

                    Couldn’t help but notice that you gave no Scripture to support your claim. Interesting.

                    1 John 5:1 has nothing to do with the order of salvation. Please don’t do what James White does and simply take the first phrase out of its context. The verse and its context is about recognizing a brother in Christ and as such we love him as he is loved of God.

                  Mary

                  Steve all of your texts have been addressed ad nausuem over these three threads now. You just keep saying the same things and ignoring the responses of people. It’s clear you are just here to insult people by calling them heretics. It’s also clear that you have no clue what anybody is actually saying in their responses to you since you keeping responding with the same old Calvinists tropes again and again and not dealing with what anybody is actually saying. You just wrote a book on another comment where everyone of your points has been addressed and yet you refused to engage any of the actual points. You just seem to think if you keep saying Calvinism is Biblical that that must make it so. And of course people who reject your idol of Calvinism deserve to be lumped with heretics. Hey why don’t you whine some more about how hateful “Arminians” are again.

                  Nice way for you to blow off Jer 18 by the way. Of course it doesn’t apply according to you since it clearly shows what Paul was saying when he referenced the potter and it’s one of the many, many passages which show God telling Israel to make a choice. All those places where God tells Israel to choose is just God yanking their chain because that’s who you think God is.

                    Steve Withers

                    Not one word about human inability and the passages I referenced. Not a word. Just a lecture about me. I am going to assume that you can’t explain how they fit into your system of beliefs.
                    Textbook ad hominem.

                    Don Johnson

                    Steve,

                    Rom. 8:7-8 is in reference to not being able to keep the law. It has nothing to do with an “inability” to believe the Gospel. The only way to please God in the flesh is to keep all the commandments, which of course is impossible.

                    1 Cor. 2:14 is a contrast of those who have received the Spirit and those who haven’t. In other words, the saved and the unsaved. The saved are able to understand the deep things of God, the lost cannot. To them it is foolishness.

                    Since you seem to believe 1 Cor. 2:14 is speaking of “inability” Do you believe one receives the Spirit before they believe?

                    Steve Withers

                    First off Don, I want to thank you that you responded to the topic directly. I appreciate that you took the time to write what’s on your mind.

                    Just for the sake of discussion I want to cite the three passages.

                    7 “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Romans 8:7-8

                    14 “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” I Cor. 2:14

                    9 What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, bothJews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

                    “None is righteous, no, not one;
                    11 no one understands;
                    no one seeks for God.
                    12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
                    no one does good,
                    not even one.”
                    13 “Their throat is an open grave;
                    they use their tongues to deceive.”
                    “The venom of asps is under their lips.”
                    14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
                    15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
                    16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
                    17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
                    18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
                    Romans 3:9-18
                    These three passages are essentially affirming the same thing.

                    We know because the Scriptures tell us that “without faith it is impossible to please God”. Agreed?

                    The only way we can please God is by faith….it’s straightforward.

                    We are also told that “our righteousness are as filthy rags”.

                    So we have to conclude, if we use Scripture to interpret Scripture (hermeneutical principle known as the analogy of faith), that the person defined as the “natural man” is the unbeliever because he’s unable to please God. (Rom. 8:8)

                    All of us were unbelievers before we were believers. We were ALL defined by these three portions of Scripture. So when we were “in the flesh” we were “hostile”, couldn’t “submit to God’s law” cannot “accept the things of the Spirit of God”, they are “folly”, “not able to understand them” because we had no spiritual discernment.

                    From the Romans 3 portion we read.

                    We’re weren’t righteous, we don’t understand, we don’t seek for God, we turn aside, we’re worthless, we don’t do good, we deceive, we curse, we’re bitter, we kill, we create ruin and misery, we don’t know how to make peace, and we don’t fear God.

                    I sure agree with you, it is a contrast but I’m not talking about contrasting I’m talking about how unbelievers are defined. I’ll say again, we were unbelievers before we were believers. After reading these verses, where do you get any idea that unbelievers are capable of doing anything to please God?

                    The saved are absolutely able to understand these things. The unsaved are not. The Spirit gives illumination, no question about it.

                    Now, you asked this question.

                    “Since you seem to believe 1 Cor. 2:14 is speaking of “inability” Do you believe one receives the Spirit before they believe?”

                    I believe that the new birth or conversion precedes faith and repentance. That is the only way these verses can be understood. There is no other way to interpret them if we understand that the “natural man” and the one “in the flesh” is describing an unbeliever. This is a critical point in the doctrines of Reformed theology. The Holy Spirit performs a divine heart transplant. He removes a heart of stone and replaces it with a heart flesh. When these verses are understood in that context, the entire issue of election and predestination becomes clear. God initiates salvation. He saves us despite our sinful hostility and hatred of Him. Paul was searching for Christians to persecute (in reality, seeking Christ to persecute) and he was transformed from a God hater to a God lover by the power of the Holy Spirit. We deserve God’s wrath but those who are cloaked in His righteousness will receive an royal inheritance. Christ’s atonement was definite…it secured salvation for His people. Our faith (if we could generate it from within) doesn’t add one single thing to the the atonement. It doesn’t ratify it or make it complete. The High Priest in the OT made a particular atonement for the Israelites (the sacrifices were not for the Gentiles) and our High Priest made a particular atonement for His people, the chosen of God.

                    Steve Withers

                    A quick illustration.
                    Tom and Bill go out on the town and both get drunk. They start throwing things at the bar (like you’d see in an episode of Gun Smoke) and end up killing a man. Both are in prison. The governor of the state pardons Bill but not Tom. Should Tom be angry? After all, he committed the crime too. The hostility to the doctrine of election is very much like this illustration. The objection is based on a perceived unfairness that, when correctly understood, is no unfairness at all.
                    We marvel over “Esau have I hated” when we should really marvel over “Jacob have I loved”. When you examine these two guys you will come to the conclusion that Jacob (whose name is “deceiver”) was the one that, humanly speaking, is more deserving of God’s wrath.
                    Remember, Esau came running to Jacob to greet him after Jacob wrestled with the angel at Peniel. Esau was driven by his flesh but Jacob was driven by deceit.

                    Mary

                    Steve you have some serious reading comprehension problems if you think not one word has been said about Total Depravity not equaling Total Inability. And seriously again you are the one who started the attacks calling us all heretics so quit your whining.

                    Don Johnson

                    Steve,

                    You did not answer my question. You gave me what you believe to be true. You base your beliefs on your logical reasoning and not with Scripture. I again ask, does one receive the Spirit before they believe?

                    Steve Withers

                    Yes. The Holy Spirit gives a new heart to believe and trust. It is immediately made evident by our faith and repentance (and all the rest of the fruit of the spirit) and, over time, in our sanctification. We must first be born from above in order to make sense of the Gospel.
                    Consider this verse.
                    “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and meveryone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.”
                    I John 5:1
                    Think about it this way. There is no time in which an individual believes that he was not born of God. It is the evidence of conversion.

                    Steve Withers

                    As far as using logic and not scripture…check again. I cited three references and did a bit of exegesis on each one.
                    Also, God is not illogical. Man can’t have a free will and God have a free will at the same time. It’s just not possible for these two to exist at the same time.

                  Les Prouty

                  Don,

                  “I again ask, does one receive the Spirit before they believe?”

                  You didn’t ask me, but I’m not sure you are being precise enough in your question. My answer (Don’t have time right now to cite the passages, but you will know of what I speak) is that the scriptures distinguish between the work of the Spirit in His regeneration (necessarily prior to conversion since spiritually dead people can’t repent & believe) and the filling work of the Spirit as believers. See Acts and the epistles.

                Debbie Kaufman

                So God made up “Laws” knowing that people could not keep them?

                God “didn’t make up laws”, he told us what a Holy God requires. It is a high view of the Law and a Holy God that sees we cannot keep these laws. God showed us these laws and required the OT saints to keep them in order to show our failure and need for a Savior, Jesus Christ. The Bible is not about keeping anything, it is about Jesus Christ.

                  Lydia

                  Debbie, You are essentially saying the same thing. God gave them laws He knew they were unable to keep. That is your position. A loving God…Pure Hesed made laws knowing they were unable to keep! Did He plan the golden calf incident, too, while giving these laws to Moses?

                  I believe they WOULD NOT keep the laws. They were a stiff necked people who had been living among pagans for centuries when the law was given. Was the Law to point them to Him? Yes. The Law would hopefully have them thinking of Yahweh daily as we see when we slog through Leviticus. They could not wake up right without thinking of Yahweh. In fact, the law was something they could understand after living among pagans for so long. It is strange what freedom can do to folks who have been in slavery for so long.

                  But to suggest He put in force laws knowing they had no “ability” to keep them makes God into a bait and switch trickster. Does He tell them they are unable to keep the law and it is for their own good they are constantly frustrated and stiff necked about it all? And that He is doing it to prove what failures they are yet it is for His glory they don’t keep the Law?

                  But the end result of tricking the Jews is your idea of Grace?

                  They were supposed to be the light of the world, you know.

                  Could we be tricked into believing we are elect to prove another point?

                    Debbie Kaufman

                    Lydia: What was Moses’ doctrine, Abraham, David, etc.?

                    That God is Sovereign(God is God and does what He wants), He chose them for specific purposes, that Christ was coming in the future, and God will take care of them for a beginning.

                    God knew about the golden calf and did allow it. They would not and could not keep all the laws. Yes, a loving God gave them Laws He knew that they could not keep. A Holy, ;loving God. To show them their sin and their need for a Savior. That is what I am saying, you are correct. It shows God to be a God who does nothing without a specific reason. In this case to start the way of Christ coming into the world to be the Only one able to keep the Laws.

                    In fact Christ upped the anty in His time here on earth. He said if you look on a woman desiring her, not even touching her, one lusts. If you hate someone you murder. He went deeper in showing how Holy the Godhead is.

                    Jim Poulos

                    ‘God giving Laws they could not keep.’
                    Yes, this seems to be the case and is parallel with what happened in the Garden of Eden. The reason they could not keep the laws was something Israel as well as Adam and Eve where not completely aware of. And if they were aware it they did not recognize the magnitude of the problem because of the problems deceptive power. And what was that problem? Sin. One of the main works of Jesus was to condemn sin in the flesh. That is to expose the problem for what is was. It was only after the coming of the Spirit of God at Pentecost that men now have the capacity to overcome the problem of Sin. They did not have that capacity prior to the Spirit’s coming.

                    Thank You, Jim Poulos

                  Les Prouty

                  Did God give laws he knew we could not keep? Absolutely. Anyone on this site, or anywhere, ever perfectly kept the moral law? The one thing God requires of all people is perfect righteousness. As one writer said,

                  “If, at the time of the final judgment, you cannot produce a perfect record of holiness and a righteous life, an unblemished résumé, which has never once broken any Law of God and have deeds that deserve merit, then, you will not be received into God’s kingdom, ever (Matt 5-7). Plain and simple.”

                  That should drive us to despair and hopelessness, and to God’s solution:

                  “The good news is that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the covenant from our side by obeying God’s Law perfectly. He alone lived the life of perfect righteousness that we should have lived and died the death on the cross that we should have died (the penalty of sin being death), so the sins of those who believe are charged to His account. And further, for all those who would trust in Him, His righteousness is freely accredited to their account. Although we justly deserve God’s wrath, Jesus suffered it in our place. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor. 5:21). So God calls you to repent of trusting in your good works and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ for your righteousness. There is no other name under heaven by which one can meet God’s requirements for no one else has ever lived a sinless life as Jesus has.”

                    Lydia

                    Les, I do not buy into the dichotomy of sinless perfection or total depravity (inability). I realize that your system is one of imputed guilt so you are born sinning as a baby. That is your starting point and it colors how we both view things.

                    So while I believe the Law was cumbersome and hard for them, I don’t for one minute believe God instituted laws people were unable to follow…on purpose just to frustrate them. I believe that impugns His character and it would mean God is NOT perfect justice, too. That is a problem.

                    I believe He is long suffering, patient and merciful. But I do believe humans have volition. Human responsibility and accountability does not work in your system without trying to sell a lot of fancy dissonant semantics.

                    Mary

                    Lydia, notice how everyone is focused on works as if exercising faith is just another work we’re unable to perform. Even the Israelites had to exercise faith.

                    Mary

                    So basic Debbie that millions of Bible believing Christians reject your view that Faith is a work because Faith as a work is not Biblical.

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  “Les, I do not buy into the dichotomy of sinless perfection or total depravity (inability). I realize that your system is one of imputed guilt so you are born sinning as a baby. That is your starting point and it colors how we both view things.”

                  Nope. You keep saying that’s the dichotomy. But it’s not. And you keep avoiding the fact: (leave the babies out for a moment) You sin, right? You cannot be perfect (as Jesus told you to be), right? You cannot and never have been able to keep His law perfectly, right? We all on that same page? Lydia, it’s always been that way. No one can keep God’s law perfectly. No on can, unless you are, well, God.

                  “So while I believe the Law was cumbersome and hard for them, I don’t for one minute believe God instituted laws people were unable to follow…”

                  Lydia, I’ve asked you before (and this where you usually bail out), Have you always and ever perfectly kept all of the decalogue? I’ll answer for you…no! God instituted those laws knowing full well that no mere human would ever be able to perfectly keep them. If you disagree with that, well…just please be clear and state such.

                  “…on purpose just to frustrate them.”

                  I agree that frustration was not the purpose. The purpose was at least in part to show us mere humans that we for sure COULD NOT keep the law perfectly and thus show us our need of the One who could do so, Jesus.

                  Please SBC non Cals here weigh in. Help Lydia out of her quagmire.

                  “I believe that impugns His character and it would mean God is NOT perfect justice, too. That is a problem.”

                  No, it is a problem for you because you are projecting your bias on the scriptures.

                  “I believe He is long suffering, patient and merciful.”

                  I do as well.

                  “But I do believe humans have volition.”

                  I do as well.

                  “Human responsibility and accountability does not work in your system without trying to sell a lot of fancy dissonant semantics.”

                  Works very well according to the scriptures.

                    Debbie Kaufman

                    Well stated Les. Basic Christianity.

                    Mary: We don’t even have the ability to have faith that a Holy God requires. God is so Holy that Moses just caught a glimpse of God and his hair turned white. The Holiness of God and what He requires is what the scriptures teach. Something we human beings cannot obtain, thus the need for Christ to come.

                    Steve Withers

                    I believe in volition as well but quick to add, in a reformed compatibilist context.
                    We don’t have the free will to do what we are unable to do.

                    Lydia

                    Les,

                    I will ask you a question below and ignore the question about keeping the Decalogue because as you and I both know, that is a cornered question. Steve has already told me I cannot “love God with all my heart”. That it is impossible. I am commanded to do something that I am totally unable to do.

                    I don’t believe sinless perfection is the requirement because I live on a corrupted earth and in a corrupted body. I am responsible and accountable for the sins I commit. I cannot blame God for making me “unable” to grow in Holiness and strive to sin less and less. I am so sick of hearing Christians(often the celebrities) who brag about sinning all the time. My goodness, lock up the children and hide the silver, Christians are coming over for Sunday lunch. It really has become ridiculous.

                    Do they think that makes them sound humble? . CJ bragged about being the biggest sinner he knew. We should have believed him. It does not sound humble, it sounds like they are not abiding in Christ and we should not trust them much.

                    Q: Do you believe a long time believer should be able to sin less and less as they grow in Holiness? Are THEY able?

                    (And keep in mind, I speak ONLY for myself and my opinion. It does not matter to me whether any non Calvinists agree with me or not. Popularity or acceptance in any group is not my goal. Those days are over for me.)

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  It is not a cornered question. Not intended to corner you. It amazes me that you are unable to admit that you are incapable of keeping God’s law perfectly. Steve was right. You cannot always and ever ““love God with all my heart.” No one can. Add to that the fact that God’s righteous requirement is that we keep the WHOLE law. 100%. James tells us that if we break any part we’ve broken it all. “I am commanded to do something that I am totally unable to do.” Yes, which is why Jesus came, to fulfill perfectly what we cannot perfectly do. This really is kindergarten theology, no disrespect intended.

                  But what you’re doing is trying to pit what I and others are saying such as the preceding sentences against sinless perfection. You’re essentially saying that WE are saying that since we can’t keep the law 100% then we can excuse ourselves and live as if there’s no law. I don’t need to quote Paul here do I? You know, shall we sin more and more? Nay!

                  No, the law requirement, and admitting our inability to perfectly and always do what we are commanded to do, does not lead to doing whatever. And anyone bragging about sinning (which maybe you are misunderstanding what they’re saying??) is just misrepresenting God’s grace. And I’m not here to defend CJ. I know you always bring him and a handful of others up and say, “see there what’s wrong with Calvinism?” Well a few bad examples misrepresenting Calvinism does not undo the theology. There are about 4,400 PCA (a Reformed denomination). I double dog dare you to name names of these “truly” Reformed in any significant number who fit your typically described “authoritarian, murdering (Calvin), despot” types. You won’t because you can’t.

                  “(And keep in mind, I speak ONLY for myself and my opinion. It does not matter to me whether any non Calvinists agree with me or not. Popularity or acceptance in any group is not my goal. Those days are over for me.)”

                  I know. But no one will come to your side on this one, even though you don’t care.

                  “Q: Do you believe a long time believer should be able to sin less and less as they grow in Holiness? Are THEY able?”

                  Yes and yes. Absolutely. It’s called growing in sanctification.

                    Steve Withers

                    Amen, Les!
                    Sanctification is a work reserved for the Holy Spirit, not us. He accomplishes it in spite of our flesh. We become more and more aware of how deeply we offend our God as we grow in grace. Someone here made an accusation that someone else was feigning humility when he called himself something like the greatest sinner in this discussion. What a sad commentary. That someone can confess his sinfulness and a professing believer then question that sincerity. Would a believer say that about Paul, who called himself the chief of sinners?

                    Lydia

                    Les, I have a totally different view of the Law and the Jewishness of Jesus fulfilling it than most Protestants do. It is uncomfortable to discuss because of the cornering questions that are impossible to discuss without getting too personal..

                    I was just raised old school that one does not talk about what they do or how they live out their beliefs or brag about being a sinner to appear more righteous (A sort of Matthew 6 thing). I was just taught that people who strive to live a righteous life never have to call attention it. These days, it seems bragging about remaining a saved sinner is entrance into the club. We are to be the light of the world, not perpetual sinners walking in the darkness.

                    Jesus won the victory and we are to be overcomers. I believe Justification is for anyone who repents and believes. Sanctification is synergistic, in my view. We were sent an Advocate and Counselor to help us.

                    I would prefer to have kept it on the issues we are discussing. And I apologize if I got too personal. I think the huge difference is that your doctrine takes humans totally out of the equation because they think this proves they believe God is Holy. And that somehow those of us who don’t buy into that doctrine think God is not Holy. But in that construct He becomes unknowable, arbitrary and a tyrant. A puppet master.

                    And over the years as I interact with more and more resurgent Reformed folks, I get the sense they are two different people. The saved person who is different from the human one who lives as a perpetual sinner but cannot help it. There is a dualistic quality to it that I cannot buy into.

                  Debbie Kaufman

                  Mary: Millions do not reject that view. That is overreaching on your part. Romans 12:3-9, 1 Corinthians 12:9, Ephesians 2:8&9, 1 Timothy 1:13-14, Phil 1:29, Luke 22:31-32(Christ prays for Peter’s faith to be sustained), Mark 9:24, Luke 17:5.

                  Les Prouty

                  Steve,

                  “Sanctification is a work reserved for the Holy Spirit, not us. He accomplishes it in spite of our flesh. We become more and more aware of how deeply we offend our God as we grow in grace. Someone here made an accusation that someone else was feigning humility when he called himself something like the greatest sinner in this discussion. What a sad commentary. That someone can confess his sinfulness and a professing believer then question that sincerity. Would a believer say that about Paul, who called himself the chief of sinners?”

                  Amen and amen!!

                    Lydia

                    “Would a believer say that about Paul, who called himself the chief of sinners?”

                    I did not realize Paul continued to persecute Christians…beyond measure. If that is not what you are referring to then are you making a moral equivalency argument about sin?

                    “Someone here made an accusation that someone else was feigning humility when he called himself something like the greatest sinner in this discussion. What a sad commentary. That someone can confess his sinfulness and a professing believer then question that sincerity”

                    I did question the sincerity because I was speaking of CJ Mahaney who often bragged about being the worst sinner he know. He went to great lengths for many years to protect child molesters and even taught his pastors to tell victims they were sinners, too, so they should just forgive and worship with their molester. Did not occur to them to call the police when children are molested.

                    When I hear a long time professing believer brag about remaining a horrible sinner, I now believe them and avoid them. They are not healthy or safe. There is no telling what they will excuse because “they cannot help it”.

                  Les Prouty

                  Lydia,

                  “I have a totally different view of the Law and the Jewishness of Jesus fulfilling it than most Protestants do.” and etc.

                  Yes you do.

                  “I believe Justification is for anyone who repents and believes. Sanctification is synergistic…” I do as well Lydia.

                  “I would prefer to have kept it on the issues we are discussing. And I apologize if I got too personal. I think the huge difference is that your doctrine takes humans totally out of the equation because they think this proves they believe God is Holy.”

                  That’s fine. No need to apologize. If it’s too personal then you should back away from the conversation. My apologies for accusing you of “bailing out.” That seems too harsh now.

                  “I think the huge difference is that your doctrine takes humans totally out of the equation…”

                  Lydia I don’t know how you come up with this. “My doctrine” is the WCF and the LBC. “My doctrine is not what somebody else may say Reformed teachings are. And if you look at the confessions which summarize my doctrine you’ll see that the statement is incorrect. This kind of thing keeps happening over and over again. I know, you can say that he did it again (saying “we non Cals just don’t understand.”). But if you are going to speak about Reformed doctrine, please speak precisely about what Reformed confessions say Reformed doctrine is. For instance we do not “take humans totally out of the equation.” From the London Baptist Confession:

                  On God’s decree:

                  “God has decreed in Himself from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things which shall ever come to pass.
                  – Yet in such a way that God is neither the author of sin nor does He have fellowship with any in the committing of sins, ***nor is violence offered to the will of the creature***

                  On Free Will:

                  “God has indued the will of man, by nature, with liberty and the power to choose and to act upon his choice. This free will is neither forced, nor destined by any necessity of nature to do good or evil.
                  Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom and power to will and to do that which was good and well-pleasing to God, but he was unstable, so that he might fall from this condition.
                  Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has completely lost all ability of will to perform any of the spiritual good ***which accompanies salvation.”***

                  On Effectual Calling:

                  “Those whom God has predestinated to life, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time to effectually call by His Word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death which they are in by nature, to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ. He enlightens their minds spiritually and savingly **to understand the things of God**. He takes away their heart of stone and gives to them a heart of flesh. He renews their wills, and by His almighty power, causes them to desire and pursue that which is good. He effectually draws them to Jesus Christ, yet in such a way that **they come absolutely freely,** being made willing by His grace.
                  This effectual call is of God’s free and special grace alone, not on account of anything at all foreseen in man. It is not made because of any power or agency in the creature who is wholly passive in the matter. Man is dead in sins and trespasses until quickened and renewed by the Holy Spirit. By this ***he is enabled to answer the call***, and ***to embrace the grace offered and conveyed by it***. This enabling power is no less power than that which raised up Christ from the dead.”

                  I could go on and on, demonstrating what Reformed teachings are but you get the picture. God acts alone first to awaken the dead sinner and then the newly alive sinner actually DOES things. He repents, believes and then sanctification (more to what we are discussing).

                  On Sanctification:

                  “Those who are united to Christ, effectually called, and regenerated, having had a new heart and a new spirit created in them through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, are then further sanctified in a very real and personal way. Because of the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection. and by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them, the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed. The different lusts of the body of sin are increasingly weakened and mortified, and Christ’s people are increasingly quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to practise all true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
                  This sanctification extends throughout the whole person, yet it remains imperfect in this life. Some remnants of corruption live on in every part, and from this arises a continuous war between irreconcilable parties – the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
                  In this war, although the remaining corruption for a time may greatly prevail, yet through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part overcomes. And so the saints grow in grace perfecting holiness in the fear of God; pressing after a heavenly life in evangelical obedience to all the commands which Christ as Head and King, in His Word, has prescribed to them.”

                  That does not indicate Reformed theology taking humans out of the equation.

                  Thanks for the exchange. These always serve to sharpen me and I trust you as well.

    Lydia

    ” Slavery and Calvinsim are two COMPLETELY different issues.”

    I would suggest reading history. Go way back and read of Augustine, Luther, Calvin and onto the Dutch Calvinist Boers and even the Puritans. All practiced a very serious caste system Christianity. It worked better in a state church environment.. Determinism has a vile history of a caste system. It is built into the very belief system. It was one reason I could not take Calvinism totally seriously as I am a student of history.

      Debbie Kaufman

      Lydia: Abraham has many slaves working for him. He was a rich man. Moses killed someone. David killed someone. Noah’s children saw him naked. It does not make their doctrine any less. Southern Baptists who were not Calvinists were for segregation and belonged to the KKK. Southern Baptists who were not Calvinists went to Germany and came back praising Hitler’s morality. You cannot hold that as a reason to reject good Biblical doctrine. You can try as you have for many years, but it just isn’t going to wash.

        Lydia

        Debbie,

        What was Abraham’s “doctrine”? Moses “doctrine”?

        Methinks you are taking description as “prescription”. I read the OT very differently than you do. I do not see their evil acts as prescriptions or excuses for us.

        But if you think Christians steal, kill, murder and buy slaves while growing in Holiness, that is your prerogative.

        There is a cult tactic called “Doctrine over people”. You might want to study up on it. I also believe there have been some very decent Calvinists in history who did great things and sacrificed for other people. Castillo was one of them.

          Debbie Kaufman

          Lydia: To say I am using them for an excuse sounds good, but no cigar. It isn’t what I am saying. I am saying that God’s Grace through Jesus Christ, in this case Jesus Christ future, is seen through these OT saints. David was called a man after God’s own heart. (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22), the stories of Noah, Abraham are well known and mentioned several places in the NT.

            Lydia

            Debbie, You still have not told me what their “doctrine” was.

            It sure did sound like you were using them as excuses. it seems you were trying to make some strange point using OT characters about correct doctrine being more important than behavior and map that to believers today. So, I am curious about what you think was their (Abraham, Moses, David, etc) “doctrine”.

        Andrew Barker

        Debbie Kaufman: “You cannot hold that as a reason to reject good Biblical doctrine.” This is just typical of the way you frame your arguments. Who says that your Calvinist/Reformed doctrine is good? I don’t think it’s Biblical in the least! That of course is my opinion.

        Where I really take issue with your line of reasoning is that you appear to want to separate doctrine from behaviour. If I see somebody preaching one thing and doing the opposite, it certainly makes me question not only their sincerity but the very truth of what they are saying. It is my observation also that what people actually do says more about them and their beliefs than anything they actually say themselves.

        Your mistaken reasoning is that you are taking a single incident in the life of a Biblical character and making that the defining action of their whole life. This is far from correct and the Bible doesn’t treat people that way either. For example David murdered Uriah but that isn’t how David is generally described in the Bible. He is shown as a man after God’s own heart. David not only repented of his sin, but he was made aware, in no uncertain terms, by the prophet Nathan that what he had done was wrong. Contrast this with the way Calvin behaved regarding the death of Servetus. The pattern of denial is seen in many of his followers even today. They deny it was a murder. They deny Calvin was complicit. They even try to make a virtue out of the fact that Calvin really wanted him killed quickly and not burned slowly over green wood. The difference between Calvin and David is that David was acting against what he knew to be God’s law whereas Calvin was acting in accordance with his own doctrine. His whole life after that event was spent in justifying what he had done and trying to purge the records of anything which might contradict his viewpoint. I think there is a justifiable cause for questioning the doctrine coming out of Calvin because of his life style. The way he behaved has to be seen as directly coming from his beliefs and I want no part in that.

          Lydia

          “It is my observation also that what people actually do says more about them and their beliefs than anything they actually say themselves.”

          Bingo.
          18 My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. 1 John 3

            Debbie Kaufman

            Your observation would be wrong. It’s Grace that is the essence of Christianity, It’s Christ. It’s enjoying HIm in everything that is Christianity. If God were to show the real you inside, you would see more need of God’s grace just as the Reformed have. It’s God’s grace that we all don’t see what you all are really like.

              Lydia

              “Your observation would be wrong. It’s Grace that is the essence of Christianity, It’s Christ. It’s enjoying HIm in everything that is Christianity. If God were to show the real you inside, you would see more need of God’s grace just as the Reformed have. It’s God’s grace that we all don’t see what you all are really like.”

              You call it grace for God to make laws that He knew all along they did not have the ability to follow.. You call it grace that God arbitrarily chooses people to salvation but damns others before they are even born or Adam even sinned. .

              And you still have not explained how this view of grace works with your declaration that most folks are racists, don’t know it and need to stop being racist. If they are unable to follow laws and are unable to not lust or hate why would you think they could stop being racist? You are inconsistent.

              If you really want to be consistent, then admit your belief system boils down to the more we sin the more God is Holy. That is exactly how you positioned the Law. We cannot obey and that makes God more Holy.

              Andrew Barker

              Debbie Kaufman: It is not my observation that the Reformed have a monopoly on the understanding of grace. They may shout about it, sing about it and even preach it, but do they live it? About three years ago we joined a Reformed evangelical church, mainly because it had a good number of children and was seen as a family church. The Reformed label didn’t mean anything to me at the time but over the next 18 months we found out firsthand. It started slowly and then the Reformed message began to be shared more openly. One family joined the church as full members and within a few months, they left. Nobody was told the reason why. I started to question the Reformed agenda and was basically told to be quiet or leave! We could not join as full members but we continued to attend as guests. I have considerable musical ability, enough that every church I have ever attended has quickly brought me onto the music team. But I found myself having to listen Sunday by Sunday to people who had no musical ability, singing and playing badly and all because they would not allow me to play the keyboard simply because I did not agree with their Reformed teaching.

              This is of course all anecdotal and I’m not suggesting that every Reformed church is like that. But it was this behaviour that prompted me to look more closely into the whole Reformed theology agenda. I was amazed to come across the practice of shunning, which while not being confined to Reformed churches does seem to more prevalent. Good people are ignored and sidelined if they do not conform to the party line. It’s a very blunt instrument of control!

              So I come back to my previous point that you learn more about people from the way they behave than what they say or preach. As far as grace is concerned, I have never met a more ungracious bunch of Christians than the eldership of my previous church, which I may add, no longer exists! (Soli Deo).

              I am coming to the conclusion that this lack of grace evidenced in Christians’ lives is due in part to a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of God’s grace. If grace is seen as irresistible it leads to a belief that provided the outcome is good, God can coerce or do what he likes with people. People who see grace as irresistible are therefore more likely to try and impose their own beliefs on others, for their own good of course! But that’s not how God works. I can think of few things which misrepresent the heart of God more than to say that He works through irresistible grace.

                Steve Withers

                A Reformed evangelical church? Which one? I doesn’t sound like it was Presbyterian or Reformed Southern Baptist because you shouldn’t have had an issue joining. Dutch (CRC) perhaps. Now, if you question the main tenets of the faith, it might not be a good idea to join. I mean if I went to a church that taught free will and was openly questioning it, I might not be too welcome. Can you free willers imagine me lurking at your church? Probably not. So don’t be too surprised, Andrew. As far as shunning, never heard it done, never not in my 30+ years in reformed churches. I have seen excommunications but never that. And excommunications are NOT shunnings, BTW.

Steve Withers

I stand corrected, he did say something about it. He quoted Norman Geisler who who pointed out that’s what’s quoted in Romans 9 (“not yet born to do anything good or bad”) by Paul is not stated in Gen. 25. Well, Geisler is stating the obvious. Just because it’s not quoted in Gen. 25 doesn’t make it less valid. Just because a verse has a national application in the Old doesn’t mean it can’t have an individual application in the New. But he did respond.

There is certainly a national and representative component to Romans 9-11 but there is also an important individual component that dovetails with Romans 8, Eph. 1, I Peter 1:1-2, John 6, John 17 and so many others. The words predestination and election and choice and given and called are found throughout both the Old and New Testaments. God made a choice in the OT (the Jews). Why is it so difficult to see the same God making a choice in the NT? We are the Children of Abraham after the promise, are we not?

    Steve Withers

    I will say that I am not that familiar with this discussion format and I’m pretty sure that’s why I missed the Romans 9 post from Richard.
    I’m not much of a blogger.

Steve Withers

I heard Norman Geisler say on the radio in Dallas many years ago that, “Calvinists don’t give a hoot about evangelism, they just sit on their hands and bless their souls.” What a hateful and untrue statement to come out of the mouth of a professing believer.

    Mary

    Yeah and RC Sproul said that “arminians” were just “barely” Christians. And I think it’s upthread where one of Mohler’s hateful comments about the only the place to go for Gospel is Reformed Theology. And then of course the Founder’s Movement is all about the idea that those who aren’t reformed have “lost the Gospel”

    Yes God made a choice of the Jews in OT just as He makes a choice of “those in Christ” in the NT. You can’t just decide what context you want Romans 9 to take to fit your doctrine. It’s not both national and individual. When you look at the references in Rom 9 you see Paul referring back to Israel/Edom, Pharoah as Egypt, the Potter reference is from Jer in regards to Israel. They are all references to nations not individuals. It’s all about those who are “in Christ” not election to Christ but election because of Christ.

      Mary

      For more on election go to the comments in Part 2 and see comment by Leighton Flowers 03-01-2015, 10:34

    Les Prouty

    Steve,

    Dr. Geisler must not have heard of the many, many Reformed folks in history who are documented to be the most zealous evangelists in the history of the church. I think of Dr. Jim Kennedy (now with the Lord) who developed Evangelism Explosion (EE) that has been used by hundreds of thousands of Christians around the world to lead many to Christ. Oh, and he was in the PCA, a Reformed church. Yes untrue and hateful.

Steve Withers

Les, it is a staggeringly uninformed statement. The ministry and mission efforts of Calvinists from the Reformation on speak for themselves. From Jonathan Edwards, missionary to the American Indians to Hudson Taylor and the China Inland Mission to George Mueller to Spurgeon’s Sword and Trowel to EE.

Mary, have read part 2 (left a couple comments there too).
So God chooses the ones that chose Him. I realize that is the free will answer to the problem, but you have to admit, it’s an odd way to choose something. It’s like my wife goes to the store and brings chocolate ice cream home and then I choose it. If I had gone, I would have chosen vanilla.

Steve Withers

Have a blessed Lord’s Day!

Brett Turner

I have been enjoying your podcasts Leighton. I’ve been saved since 1989 and the majority of the time I’ve attended Independent Baptist churches where Calvinism is very much on the outskirts. I recently started attending a larger SBC church in my town and definitely see the push of Calvinistic theology, but it is often “hidden” to a degree…it’s not pushed as much as the teachers of it: Sproul, McArthur, Ray Comfort, Todd Friel, David Platt, Paul Washer who, of course, are Calvinists when you dig deeper. It seems like a counter-movement to traditional soul-winning efforts… an effort to produce “genuine” or more serious Christians. To me, the focus is less on belief in the gospel and more on fruit inspection (if I can’t see enough fruit, your salvation experience is questionable) and it smacks of law keeping. It’s still a good church, but I appreciate the work of teachers such as yourself Leighton.

Lydia

“In fact Christ upped the anty in His time here on earth. He said if you look on a woman desiring her, not even touching her, one lusts. If you hate someone you murder. He went deeper in showing how Holy the Godhead is.”

Debbie, this makes no sense based upon your comments about God making laws for the Jews He knew they had no ability to keep. Why would it matter if He ups the ante if He knows we do not have the ability NOT to lust or hate. If humans could not keep His laws how on earth can they not do the above? Is it because Jesus is obeying for us as we speak?

I do recall you, on another blog, declaring that most people are racist and do not even know it. Then you tell them they should stop being racist. How is that possible according to your belief system? Perhaps Jesus is not being racist for all of those you have declared racist.

At least be consistent in applying your belief system.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Lydia: I find your confusion confusing as this is just basic Christianity as Southern Baptists believe. Christianity 101. I have to question what denomination you are if you have confusion over this. Why was Christ necessary if we could keep the Law ourselves? Do you think we just work our way to heaven Lydia? We don’t. A Holy God requires more than we can give.

    As for beliefs, I am very consistant. I am not going against anything I have said. With Christ in us, He does through us what we cannot do. Again, this is just basic Christianity.

Moz

Leighton,

You are right to say that very few Calvinists give serious attention to opposing views, such as Corporate Election. We would agree that this lack of theological introspection is hardly limited to Calvinists. So in the spirit of exposing oneself to good arguments on both sides of an issue, I would recommend readers check out Dan Wallace here (https://bible.org/article/corporate-election) and here (http://danielbwallace.com/2012/11/24/romans-9-1-and-asyndeton/) regarding Corporate Election.

Kindly,
Moz

Andrew Barker

His second link is not well thought out. Wallace talks about chp 8:35-39 as being towards the individual making the idea of corporate election less attractive. It’s an odd conclusion given that from chp 8:31 onwards Paul is constantly referring to ‘us’. The passage does not say “If God is for the individual” but if God is for ‘us’. I cannot see how using the group makes our individual certainty any the less. He also seems to argue that corporate election does not afford certainty for the individual. Again, another rather odd conclusion given that our hope and trust are only ‘in Him’. All the promises of God are ‘in Him’. Far from being uncertain, this provides total security because we know that if we are ‘in Him’ we are totally secure!

I am not very fond of the term ‘corporate election’. Again, I realise it is used to differentiate it from unconditional election but I would much prefer the use of the simple term ‘election’. The whole concept of saying each individual Christian is elected in their own right does not make sense. That’s the same as making ‘the elect’ a group of the ‘elect’. The whole concept of election revolves around a central person (sometimes persons) to whom the rest of the group relate. If Dan Wallace finds security outside of being in Him, I have to wonder how secure he feels and quite why he feels that way.

Lydia

“Mary: We don’t even have the ability to have faith that a Holy God requires. God is so Holy that Moses just caught a glimpse of God and his hair turned white. The Holiness of God and what He requires is what the scriptures teach. Something we human beings cannot obtain, thus the need for Christ to come.”

Strange. I thought God sought a relationship with those created in His image but they rebuffed him over and over. And of course, Jesus is God so do you think we are not Holy enough to have a relationship with Him, no matter what?

Debbie Kaufman

Lydia: Yes. Because of Christ. For the OT it was Christ future(see where Christ appeared several times in the OT) and for the NT it is Christ present and past. IF Christ had not come then no we could not have a personal relationship with the Godhead.

Lydia

“A quick illustration.
Tom and Bill go out on the town and both get drunk. They start throwing things at the bar (like you’d see in an episode of Gun Smoke) and end up killing a man. Both are in prison. The governor of the state pardons Bill but not Tom. Should Tom be angry? After all, he committed the crime too. The hostility to the doctrine of election is very much like this illustration. The objection is based on a perceived unfairness that, when correctly understood, is no unfairness at all.”

This is why the Reformers baptized babies. After all, the baby committed the crime of being born guilty. The problem with your illustration is that the Gov had to pardon Bill before he was born. It did not matter what crime he committed during his life. He was “elect”.

Stephen Pruett

Again, I would like to suggest that scripture does not include definitive statements that can be understood without any assumptions or pre-suppositions that allow the issues discussed here to be resolved. I do not know why that is the case, but the evidence is that this issue has been debated for hundreds of years by very smart believers and the arguments from the year 1700 read just like the arguments here. If a definitive understanding was possible, we should all be on the same page by now, shouldn’t we?

Why would God not provide the definitive answer on this issue to us? Perhaps to keep us humble, perhaps to emphasize the lesson taught other places in scripture that we now see through a glass darkly, perhaps to remind us that there are mysteries in scripture and that we are not required to understand them all or convince others that we have understood them all. I really don’t know.

By the way, I do have opinions on these issues. I believe in free will, both because of scripture, but to be honest, I also like true free will as a philosophical concept and believe as outlined by Francis Schaeffer that it is difficult to discern how there could possibly be meaning, purpose, and values without free will. If we are either molecular machines in a godless universe or absolutely pre-determined 5-pointers with no element of freedom to choose to accept or reject God, how can there be any basis for virtue, good, bad, guilt or any other moral attribute? In either case, our moral and immoral nature would have been put upon us in a manner completely beyond our ability to influence or choose it. If is not determined in any way by us, how then can anything we do or think have virtue? I am not expressing this very well but if you have read Shaeffer, you will probably recall that it can be expressed in a manner that seemed pretty convincing to me. However, having said all of that, I believe Romans 9 is true in its entirety and I cannot reconcile and have not read any completely satisfactory reconciliation of Romans 9 with my general opinion of just the free will aspect of this complex doctrinal issue. I am not uncomfortable with that situation. Hey, if Paul saw through a glass darkly, I am not embarrassed to say the same thing!

From the little of Piper and Mohler I have read, it seems their 5-points still leave a place for faith, evangelism (though I don’t fully understand the reasoning on this one), and regeneration through Christ alone. So, even if tend to not favor all 5 points, I think I could work side by side with those who did without feeling I was compromising on essentials. Is there a serious problem with my conclusion here?

    Steve Withers

    How do we demonstrate virtue? We can’t…we are unable. Our righteousness are as filthy rags. We cannot please God in the flesh. It really does come down to human inability. We have, what we believe, is a free will…we exercise it thousands of times each day. Just because we believe that God ordains everything that comes to pass doesn’t mean we operate as automatons. I don’t feel like a robot. How God accomplishes His will among fallen men, I can’t say. We do, however get glimpses into this divine mystery in a couple of places.
    12So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; 13for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
    Philip. 2:12-13
    And
    this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.
    Acts 2:23

    I couldn’t agree more about your observation from I Cor. 13….it is surely a dark glass.

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