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

January 1, 2015
**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.
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The Five Points That Led Me Out of Calvinism | Part Two   (Click HERE for Part One)

Point #2: I came to understand the distinction between the doctrine of Original Sin (depravity) and the Calvinistic concept of “Total Inability.”  

Calvinists teach that “the natural man is blind and deaf to the message of the gospel,”[2] but I learned that is the condition of a judicially hardened man, not a natural condition from birth (Acts 28:27-28; John 12:39-41; Mark 4:11-12; Rom. 11).  Instead, God’s gracious revelation and powerful gospel appeal is the means He has chosen to draw, or enable, whosoever hears it to come.  Thus, anyone who does hear or see His truth may respond to that truth, which is why they are held response-able (able-to-respond).

At the time while Christ was on earth the Israelites, in John 6 for example, were being hardened or blinded from hearing the truth.  Only a select few Israelites, a remnant were given by the Father to the Son in order for God’s purpose in the election of Israel to be fulfilled.  That purpose was not referring to God’s plan to individually and effectually save some Jews, but His plan to bring the LIGHT or REVELATION to the rest of the world by way of the MESSIAH and HIS MESSAGE so that all may believe (John 17:21b).

The vine the Jews are being cut off of in Romans 11 is not the vine of effectual salvation, otherwise how could individuals be cut off or grafted back into it?  The vine is the LIGHT of REVELATION, the means through which one may be saved that was first sent to the Jews and then the Gentiles (Rom. 1:16).  The Gentiles are being granted repentance or “grafted into the vine” so as to be enabled to repent. The Jews, if provoked to envy and leave their unbelief, may be grafted back into that same vine (Rom. 11:14, 23).

KEY POINT: God DOES use determinative means to ensure His sovereign purposes in electing Israel, which includes:

  • (1) the setting apart of certain individual Israelites to be the lineage of the Messiah, and
  • (2) the setting apart of certain individual Israelites to carry His divinely inspired message to the world (using convincing means like big fish and blinding lights to persuade their wills)
    and
  • (3) temporarily blinding the rest of Israel to accomplish redemption through their rebellion.

However, there is no indication in scripture that:

  • (1) all those who DO believe the appointed messenger’s teachings were likewise set apart by such persuasive means (especially not inward effectual means).
  • (2) all those who DO NOT believe the appointed messenger’s teachings were likewise hardened from the time they were born to the time they died.

As a Calvinist I did not understand the historical context of the scriptures as it relates to the national election of Israel followed by their judicial hardening. When the scriptures spoke of Jesus hiding the truth in parables, or only revealing Himself to a select few, or cutting off large numbers of people from seeing, hearing and understanding the truth; I immediately presumed that those were passages supporting the “T” of my T.U.L.I.P. when in reality they are supporting the doctrine of Israel’s judicial hardening.

Point #3: I realized that the decision to humble yourself and repent in faith is not meritorious. Even repentant believers deserve eternal punishment.

Calvinists are notorious for asking the unsuspecting believer, “Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?” I asked this question more times than I can remember as a young Calvinist. What I (and likely the target of my inquiry) did not understand is that the question itself is a fallacy known as “Begging the Question.”

Begging the question is a debate tactic where your opponent presumes true the very point up for debate.  For instance, if the issue being disputed was whether or not you cheat on your taxes and I began the discussion by asking you, “Have you stopped cheating on your taxes yet?” I would be begging the question.

Likewise, in the case of the Calvinist asking “Why did you make this choice,” he/she is presuming a deterministic response is necessary thus beginning the discussion with a circular and often confounding game of question begging. The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.

The cause of a choice is the chooser.  The cause of a determination is the determiner. It is not an undetermined determination, or an unchosen choice, as some attempt to frame it. If someone has an issue with this simply apply the same principle to the question, “Why did God choose to create mankind?”  He is obviously all self-sustaining and self-sufficient. He does not need us to exist. Therefore, certainly no one would suggest God was not free to refrain from creating humanity. So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?

In short, whether one appeals to mystery regarding the function of man’s will or the function of the Divine will, we all eventually appeal to mystery.  Why not appeal to mystery BEFORE drawing conclusions that could in any way impugn the holiness of God by suggesting He had something to do with determining the nature, desire and thus evil choices of His creatures?

What also must be noted is that the decision to trust in Christ for our salvation is not a meritorious work.  Asking for forgiveness does not merit being forgiven.  Think of it this way.  Did the prodigal son earn, merit or in any way deserve the reception of his father on the basis that he humbly returned home?  Of course not. He deserved to be punished, not rewarded.  The acceptance of his father was a choice of the father alone and it was ALL OF GRACE.  The father did not have to forgive, restore and throw a party for his son on the basis that he chose to come home. That was the father’s doing.

Humiliation and brokenness is not considered “better” or “praiseworthy” and it certainly is not inherently valuable.  The only thing that makes this quality “desirable” is that God has chosen to grace those who humble themselves, something He is in no way obligated to do.  God gives grace to the humble not because a humble response deserves salvation, but because He is gracious.

 

 

 

[2] http://www.reformed.org/calvinism/

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Rick Mang

“The inquiry as to what determines the choice of a free will presumes something other than the free function of the agent’s will makes the determination, thus denying the very mystery of what makes the will free and not determined.”

This is actually begging the question because it is “presuming” that there is free will.
Rick Mang

    Leighton Flowers

    Rick, thank you for you comments.

    This is a common mistake in the debate world. I know because I made the mistake more times than I’d care to admit. Believing your claim is the correct view is not question begging, otherwise we would all be begging the question all the time. Likewise, stating your belief is also not question begging. There is nothing fallacious about stating what you believe to be true. The fallacy is using your belief, a point that is up for debate, as the proof for you argument (i.e. “you are wrong, because I am right”).

    My belief that man has “free will” is not question begging. My statement claiming that men have free will is not question begging. It is merely an acknowledgement of our given perspective in light of the question being posed to us (i.e. “what determined your will”). Questions that presume a premise that is up for debate (i.e. human wills must be determined and not free) are begging the question and thus cannot be answered in any other way than to point out their fallaciousness.

    I hope that clarifies the issue as I see it. Blessings and Happy New Year!

    (BTW, is it me or are these security math questions getting harder?)

      Rick Mang

      “Why did you believe in Christ and someone else does not; are you smarter, or more praiseworthy in some way?”

      This is a valid question because it is posing a hypothetical. It is not assuming that the person has to be praiseworthy or smarter in some way. It’s merely for diagnostic purposes in order to ensure accurate communication. This question is not asked in order to score points (as in a debate) but in order to get enough data in order to determine someone’s position. There is more than one possible correct answer without the necessity of being trapped.
      Rick

      (And yes, I believe the questions are getting harder!)

        Leighton Flowers

        Rick,

        Oh, if the question is merely a hypothetical and the Calvinist really just wants to know if the free decision to come to Christ makes one “better” then the answer is simple. No, it doesn’t. Both the one who comes home and the one who remains in the pig sty equally deserve punishment. The one who returns to the father experiences the grace of the father because the father is gracious…not because the decision to return merited the father’s response.

        I do believe some Calvinists use this question as a ‘trap’ of sorts to get someone to admit they are ‘not better’ and then the Calvinist equates ‘not better’ with ‘inability to return home.’ At least that is how I used the question when I was a Calvinist…and it often worked.

        But go back to using the analogy of the prodigal son, I don’t believe the father had to sneak out and put a nature altering drug in the pig slop to effectually change the son’s will in order for the father to get full glory for his gracious response…in fact that would seem to undermine the personal and relational aspects of that whole interaction. The son’s brokenness and choice to humble himself and beg his father for help seems to be the very goal the father was willing to risk by giving up his inheritance and allowing the son to leave to begin with…

        As Lewis concludes, ““God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong, but I can’t. If a thing is free to be good it’s also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata -of creatures that worked like machines- would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they’ve got to be free.

        Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way: apparently, He thought it worth the risk. (…) If God thinks this state of war in the universe a price worth paying for free will -that is, for making a real world in which creatures can do real good or harm and something of real importance can happen, instead of a toy world which only moves when He pulls the strings- then we may take it it is worth paying.”

        (if the questions move on to calculus then I’m out!)

          volfan007

          Leighton,

          Great response….great insight, Bro.

          David

          Rick Mang

          Hi Leighton:

          “I do believe some Calvinists use this question as a ‘trap’ of sorts to get someone to admit they are ‘not better’ and then the Calvinist equates ‘not better’ with ‘inability to return home.’ At least that is how I used the question when I was a Calvinist…and it often worked.”

          You say “some” Calvinists use it as a trap, but what about others? Can you think of a way in which others could use this question legitimately? Do you think it’s possible that there is a legitimate way to “use” this question? I’m curious as to how this question helped you to “trap” someone into admitting their “inability to return home”. I agree with you first paragraph totally, but the next one doesn’t seem to logically follow. Maybe I am missing something.

          “Of course God knew what would happen if they used their freedom the wrong way:…”

          “If they used their freedom the wrong way:”? Is this to suggest that God DID NOT know what they would do with their freedom? Was God’s plan of salvation a “risky” proposition? I imagine that you would assert that God’s plan of salvation was settled from before the foundation of the world. If that’s true, then these conditional clauses seem incongruous with that.

          Leighton, I am honored that you have taken the time and patience to indulge my questions. I can tell that you are a very clear thinker and that you have a heart to serve the Lord. I hope that I have not come across as anything but as sincere as I deem you to be. In the mid 80’s I was in Duncanville studying with SIL. I took my GRE at DBU(DBC). If I ever am able to get back to that part of the country, I would hope that I would get a chance to meet you personally. Not to debate…but to get acquainted!

          Sincerely
          Rick Mang

            Leighton Flowers

            Rick,

            It is a joy to discuss this matters with you, brother. Many would be wise to follow your example of how to approach a disagreement over doctrinal matters. Thank you for your comments.

            Let me clarify, I do not believe Calvinists are thinking of the question as a “trap.” I know they are genuinely intending to reveal what they perceive to be a truth about the nature of man in response to God. Questions are often good tools to reveal a valid point. My argument, however, is that the question itself is based on a fallacy…i.e. the premise that a deterministic response is necessary AND (more importantly) that a genuinely free response to God’s gracious appeal to be reconciled would somehow earn or merit salvation. The “trap” is when the Calvinist gets the person to admit they would be “better” and thus “meriting salvation” if they made the choice apart from an irresistible work of God, which is simply untrue (for the reasons I’ve already argued). I hope that clarifies my intentions.

            As to CS Lewis’ quote I cannot speak for his intentions but it appears to me Lewis is arguing that God felt free will was worth the risk of the potential evil that the world would experience under the dominion and rule of mutable creatures (those who act against God’s will not controlled by it). The scripture is chalk full of temporal language…even in regard to God’s knowledge and response within time and space (some call it “anthropomorphic” language). Why does God inspire such writings? Most scholars agree it is so we might better understand Him and His ways. If this is so, then why not understand Him in the way He has chosen to reveal Himself? He reveals Himself as intimately personal and responsive within our circumstances (immanent), yet not bound by the temporal world (transcendent). God seems fine with the authors of scripture expressing both aspects of His divine nature as he relates to man, so why shouldn’t we?

            Good discussion…thank again and Happy New Year!

    Andrew Barker

    Rick: If we start from the point of view that there is no such thing as ‘free will’ then whether we affirm it or not becomes irrelevant because whatever decision we make has in effect been made for us? So there can be no meaningful discussion if there is no free will, because the outcome has been predetermined. In fact your question was predetermined so was it really even a question? Can you have a question, or at least what is the point of a question where there is no possible deviation in the answer?

    The more interesting question is where our free will conflicts with God’s will and just how and why God deals with us. [and also of course how good our maths is :) ]

      Rick Mang

      Hello Andrew:

      I take it that you are assuming that this discussion is relevant, (Seriously, this is not meant to be a snarky remark), and that the posts are meaningful only because there is libertarian free will. (Am I right?) But our questions and musings are just as relevant and meaningful in the context of compatabilism. So yes, something can be predetermined and truly volitional.

      Thank you for your contribution to the discussion.
      Rick

        Andrew Barker

        Rick: I’m not so sure that compatibilism holds the answers for which you are looking. I prefer to call it ‘soft determinism’ because that doesn’t hide what compatibilism essentially is and that is determinism in a different guise. I can see the attraction of compatibilism for the Calvinist because it enables them to offload the responsibility of ‘faith’ onto God. The ‘believer’ is given a changed nature which enables them to make those ‘right’ decisions which according to Calvinistic thinking they were previously unable to do because of their degenerate state. So in the compatibilist’s world everything works nicely, until you look closely at what happens in practice.

        It is my observation that there is nothing about Reformed Calvinistic believers which sets them apart in terms of Christian living by which I mean Christians who adhere to that set of beliefs are no less likely to fall into sin or failure. It would appear then that God having given them this ‘new’ nature still expects them to put it into practice. They still have to make the right choices in life. Granted they now have the ability to make those ‘right’ decisions but they still have to be made by them! I then ask myself the question, “why do some Calvinists sin more than others?” Why doesn’t God do the same thing again and ‘change’ their natures so that they do not even ‘wish’ to sin? Or is it that compatibilism only works in the aspect of salvation in the Christian life? If so, then in practice I cannot see the difference in practice between compatibilism and the hard determinism of God’s predestined choice of who will be saved. In both senarios God is ultimately the one who chooses who is and is not saved, it’s just that God gives some and not all, the ability to make that choice!

        Much of this debate centres around what Leighton mentioned in point 3# which is a really key point. Many Christians who have been fed a diet of Reformed theology
        do not correctly understand faith and that it is never meritorious to express faith nor can it ever be considered ‘a work’. They have been served up this constant rhetoric of ‘all of Him’ which on the face of it sounds very noble but which in fact does not reflect the whole truth. Salvation is of course totally dependent on God and there is nothing we can do to earn it. But if God has made ‘us’ responsible for our actions then we would be just as wrong to expect God to do it for us as we would be in claiming that we have done it for ourselves!

        I find the claims of compatibilism deeply unsatisfying from a Christian perspective. There are plenty of verse which describe the correct application of faith and how it works. There are no direct references to ‘compatibilism’ in scripture. Personally, I would start with the known and work towards the unknown. I think if you can correctly understand how faith works in the Christian experience then you will see that compatibilism and the ‘need’ for compatibilism becomes obsolete.

Rick Mang

So, what determined God’s choice to create if not the mysterious function of His free will?

Pro 3:19
The LORD by wisdom founded the earth,
By understanding He established the heavens
Rick Mang.

    Leighton Flowers

    Rick,

    This tells us the Lord (with all his attributes) established creation, but are you suggesting God was not free to refrain from creating? Was God bound to create by some necessity?

      Rick Mang

      He certainly did not create for any contingency, but definitely for His good pleasure.

      Rick

        Leighton Flowers

        Again, are you suggesting he could not have refrained from creating? Was God bound to create? That is the point…

          Rick Mang

          I can only suggest that all His works are perfect, and it could not be any other way. Interpret that however you like.

          Rick

            Leighton Flowers

            So, you believe God was not able to refrain from creating? That is what you appear to be saying, but not wanting to come right out and say it.

            You seem to be defending the idea that choice (selection between two available options) is not a reality for anyone, including God. Yet, the doctrine we are debating is called “Election,” which clearly means CHOICE. If God could not have refrained from creating and or saving you then why do you all call it “election?” After all, there appears to have been no actual divine choice ever made (selection between to available options). Unless you redefine choice to mean as “acting in accordance with a preset eternal plan” (which does violence to the meaning of language itself) then your system appears to be undermining even the concept of divine election itself. Maybe I’m not understanding something. Can you define “choice” for us and give an example of God making a choice? Then, give an example of man making a choice? How do the two compare or contrast in your view?

David R. Brumbelow

Leighton,
Great series. Keep up the good work.
I look forward to reading more.
David R. Brumbelow

Patrick

What is next? Open theism? TULIP was establshed to refute Arminius. Returning to Arminius and Pelagius eventually leads to my own works. I spent 20+ years in arminianism and was never sure of my salvation. Too much-just a smidgen, was enough to capsize the boat. I’m no professor, but have spent some time in debate through high school and beyond. In those years in arminian churches, the libelous slander directed towards Calvinists always seemed strange. Why such vitriol? They seemed to hate Calvinists and damn them to hell, while not having such heated rhetoric for Mormons, JWs or other cults. This lead me to start reading Calvin and Luther’s works without commentary. What is so evil about these reformed guys? I found The WCF to be far more biblical than my Church’s Statement of Faith. For the longest time, I thought I was a 4 pointer–the L was the last element that I could accept. I was also perplexed that these arminian pastors loved Spurgeon and used Packer’s Knowing God as a guide for new believers. I never knew Spurgeon was Calvinist until I left the Arminian circles. Happily, I was able to make the transition without losing fellowship with all those dear friends in Christ. I explained my beliefs to my elders and pastor when I was about to be selected for leadership, and expected that it would be problematic. We’re all still on good speaking terms and rejoice in those things that unite us in Christ. Good luck, sir. I hope you can in a direction that does not create disunity or disfellowship.

    Leighton Flowers

    Happy New Year Patrick! Thanks for engaging in this discussion. I will attempt to address a few of your points…

    You ask, “What is next? Open theism?” I believe that would be tantamount to me asking a Calvinist, “What is next? Hyper-Calvinism?” Any view can be taken beyond scripture and into speculative theories leading to error, which is why I prefer to deal directly with those things the scriptures do address and the claims relative to the interpretation of the text.

    You wrote, “Returning to Arminius and Pelagius eventually leads to my own works.” As the last two paragraphs in my article spell out, the decision to repent is not a “work” because it does not earn or merit our being made righteous. If you think faith is a work then you’ve created a problem even for your own system. After all, we are saved by grace through faith. Thus, even if we are made to believe effectually by God you would have to conclude we are saved by grace through a work…a work effectually caused by God, but a work nonetheless. Faith, whether a response enabled by God’s direct agency or effectually caused by God’s direct agency, cannot be classified as a “work” by either system of thought.

    You wrote, “…the libelous slander directed towards Calvinists always seemed strange. Why such vitriol? They seemed to hate Calvinists and damn them to hell, while not having such heated rhetoric for Mormons, JWs or other cults.” I am so sorry your experience with those claiming to be non-Calvinistic believers was so negative. No individual calling them self a Christ follower should treat others with such vitriol. This happens far to often on both sides of this debate and that is very unfortunate. It should not be so. However, the fact that it is so seems to support the concept that men are free to choose their own systems of belief and the manner in which they defend those beliefs. It does not make a lot of sense to suggest God determined some people to believe view #1 and others to believe view #2 and then determine them to fight it out using sinful tactics. Our disagreement over these issues is evidence of man’s ability to reason, choose, and then defend their perspective freely (even if that means they sin in the process). I really can’t imagine God has much to do with all the non-sense that too often is credited to His meticulously deterministic control.

    You wrote, “This lead me to start reading Calvin and Luther’s works without commentary. What is so evil about these reformed guys?” I would not call them evil. I would simply call them mistaken on this interpretation, as they would likely conclude about me.

    You wrote, “I never knew Spurgeon was Calvinist until I left the Arminian circles.” Well, that is an easy mistake to make given that he wasn’t what you would call a “consistent Calvinist.” He would side with the Arminian interpretation on some texts and the Calvinistic interpretation on others.

    You wrote, “Good luck, sir. I hope you can in a direction that does not create disunity or disfellowship.” Thank you. I pray for unity as well. Blessings brother!

Jeph Palit-ang

Thanks Leighton for writing this article…I find it interesting that Calvinists are not happy when they read articles such as this and they’re not happy when someone leave Calvinism. God bless you.

    Les Prouty

    Jeph,

    Bro my happiness factor is just fine. Thankfully my happiness and joy is not based on how many people agree with my theology or how many articles are written in agreement with my theology. I say keep em coming. Reformed theology has been around well, a long time. It can handle articles on the other side. I’m close to 30 years with Reformed theology and have never been more anchored in my theological views before.

    God bless you.

Doug Sayers

Thanks for putting yourself out there, Leighton; I appreciate the tone of these posts and replies.

For what its worth, I concur on the blinding of the Jews. It seems that they needed divine intervention (blinding/spirit of stupor) *to prevent* them from embracing Jesus… not in order to embrace Him. This demonstrates an ability to believe within the unbeliever.

I gave up trying to understand and explain how we must be irresistibly dragged… to voluntarily repent. Calling it “compatible” does not make it so!

A good Calvinist says “regeneration precedes faith”… what they mean is irresistible regeneration precedes irresistible faith.

Looking for that Blessed Hope…

    Leighton Flowers

    Doug,

    Thanks for the encouragement. I enjoy theological discussion especially when they are cordial!

    You hit on such a crucial point. God’s active work in blinding the Jews during the time of the NT is so key to understanding the intentions of the authors. For example, knowing God is blinding his audience from the truth in order to keep them from coming to Christ while he was there on earth in John 6 is so vital to rightly understanding it. The presumption that they can’t see, hear, understand and turn because they were born unchosen and in a state of total inability is foreign to the text. In fact, it flat out contradicts John 12:39-41, Romans 11 and Acts 28:27-28. Once the doctrine of God’s judicial hardening is better explained from our pulpits the Calvinistic resurgence will subside, IMO.

Steve Withers

I was raised in a SBC church in the early sixties and the doctrine of election was not teaches. Topical sermons allowed the pastor to never have to deal with the P or E word. My dad took us to church. My mom never attended. She was raised Methodist and had strong dose of God’s love. She believed that because God loved His creation (all people) he would be gracious to them…even save them. Sadly, He was, for her, a cosmic Grand pop. She would ask, “if God loves everyone, why would he send any of them to hell?” I remember thinking as a kid, “if only I could answer her objection she would join the church and attend with us.” As I got older I began to find the stock answers wholly unsatisfactory. It always seemed to go to, “the two doctrines are true, God elects and we choose….we can’t explain it but they both seem to be taught in Scripture”. “It’s a Devine antinomy.” But these two doctrines juxtaposed are illogical and I began to discover that the doctrine of man’s free will is not taught in Scripture at all. I found the opposite to be true. Man’s will, as Luther describes it, is bound to his nature (The Bondage of the Will). Spurgeon preached a sermon entitled Free Will a Slave.
I was introduced to these glorious doctrines by S. Lewis Johnson over 30 years ago and began reading and understanding Romans and John and the entire Scriptures from a new (new to me) perspective. I had never been exposed before. I was fed a constant diet of Arminianism as a young man with no historical church perspective. I became more and more convinced that in the light of the history of redemption and biblical anthropology that the doctrines of the Reformation were true.
We are all born with an imputed sin of Adam and add to our helpless estate every day outside of a Devine conversion and enablement.

Leighton, please tell me how you reconcile Romans 8:7-8 and I Cor. 2:14 to your system? How do you read the narrative of Romans 9 concerning Jacob and Esau and conclude anything but a choice made of individuals. They were after all twins, by the same parents…not yet born to anything good or bad. Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, seems to go out of his way to make this point crystal clear. After reading this one can only conclude like Jonah, “salvation is of The Lord”.
How do you reconcile the fact that Jesus tell us in John 17 that he “prays not for the world” but for the ones given to Him by the Father. Also, please tell me how it’s possible (without creating confusion in the Godhead) that The Holy Spirit draws those individuals that God the Father knows will reject.
These are not “trap” questions. These are not questions designed to trap, they are questions designed to shed light. If A=B and B=C, then A=C.
If it is true, as you posit, that some believe and others don’t and it’s based on their free choice, why are some born with God inclined dispositions and others are not. God clearly did not create all equal in that regard because all don’t believe and all don’t disbelieve. You could concede that much.

    Leighton Flowers

    Steve,

    Thanks for sharing your story. For me to type out my full response to these questions would be quite redundant given that all of these answers are on my website. And if you don’t like reading you are welcome to listen to my podcast where I go through everyone of these points. In fact, if Jonathan allows this…here is a direct link to the podcast where I cover those two verses you mentioned: http://directory.libsyn.com/episode/index/id/3145879

    And there are also three other podcasts (starting with the one titled “Romans 9”) that go step by step through that chapter from our perspective. If after listening to these you still have question please don’t hesitate to contact me.

    Blessings!

Steve Withers

Your Prodigal Son reference fails to recognize that there are other prodigals who are content to live among the pigs. They never come home. God moved on the heart of this prodigal and made him recognize that he had no hope among the pigs. If he had not acted on his heart and made him discontent and given him a sense of separation, he would not have returned home. God was gracious to him to make him recognize his sin and also to pour out his grace on him with full restoration and a feast!

Steve Withers

At least nobody’s dredged up these old saws, “Calvinists don’t give a hoot about evangelism” or “if you believe THAT you wouldn’t ______.”

Leighton Flowers

One point of correction on this article pointed out to me by a friend who is clearly better informed on the technical aspects of formal debate. The actual fallacy is called the “COMPLEX QUESTION FALLACY” (plurium interrogationum — also known as: many questions fallacy, fallacy of presupposition, loaded question, trick question, false question)

Description: A question that has a presupposition built in, which implies something but protects the one asking the question from accusations of false claims. It is a form of misleading discourse, and it is a fallacy when the audience does not detect the assumed information implicit in the question, and accepts it as a fact.

Technically the complex question contains the question begging fallacy within it in that it presumes true the very point up for debate, but this actual fallacy is called “complex question.” I wanted to make sure I did not shame my debate coaches too much by leaving that uncorrected.

Thanks,
Leighton

Ryan Lintelman

Leighton, I like it. A few questions for discussion. As to point #2: are you asserting that election in the Old Testament is definitionally different from election described in the new? Were those Israelites who were “judicially hardened” God’s people, or not his people? When did this judicial hardening begin? Is the election of Israel fulfilled in those few who believed at the time of Christ or is the election of Israel fulfilled in Christ himself? As to point #3: Is it wise to use the prodigal parable in isolation from the other “seeking/finding” parables? Did the prodigal show repentance or remorse? Hermeneutically speaking, is the son that remains intended to represent an individual or a group of people (i.e. the Pharisees)? Hermeneutically speaking, is the wandering son representing an individual or a group of people? To be hermeneutically sound the answers to the last two questions should be consistent in my opinion.

    Leighton Flowers

    Ryan,

    How are you friend? Thanks for commenting! All great questions:

    1. OT/NT Election: No, in fact I believe they are the same: Leo Garrett, in his popular systematic states:

    “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)?”

    His point (and mine) is that God has elected the group to carry out a redemptive purpose for the rest of the world, thus he has elected individuals from that group to carry out noble purposes in order to ensure that purpose was accomplished (i.e. Jonah was individually selected to go to Nineveh whether he liked it or not, God ensured his message was delivered). God does the same in the NT (i.e. Paul blinded on road to Damascus is God ensuring his message is taken to the world). All the appointed messengers came from Israel bc that is the purpose for which the nation was chosen. That choice is unconditional…Jonah (or later Paul) wasn’t chosen because they were better than the next Jew…they were chosen so that God’s purpose in electing Israel would stand!

    “Few are chosen” – in Matt 22, the parable of the wedding banquet shows us the servants who were sent to invite all (they represent the Jonahs and Pauls of Israel…his appointed messengers/servants), but the choice of the king to allow entrance was conditioned on if the guest was dressed in the right wedding garments (i.e. clothed in Christ’s righteousness through faith). That is a CONDITIONAL CHOICE.

    So God unconditionally elects the nation of Israel and his individual servants from that nation to “bless all the families of the world” in that through them He brings the Messiah and His Message. Then He heals (or saves) whosoever looks to the provisional sacrifice (Messiah) that has been lifted up on the pole for the sins of the world (revealed by the Message of His appointed messengers). John 3:14-18

    2. “Were those Israelites who were “judicially hardened” God’s people, or not his people?” Israelites were almost always referred to as “his people” or “the elect” simply on the basis they were of the seed (cultural nickname of sorts), but as we know only those who have faith are really “his”…as Paul explains. Some of those who were Judicially hardened were expected to “not stumble beyond recovery…be provoked and saved…and grafted back in if they left their unbelief,” as Paul states in Romans 11, so some likely did become “HIS” believers.

    3. “When did this judicial hardening begin?” Not sure, but it appears to begin when Christ came because He is the one intentionally not revealing himself to them and hiding the truth in parables, sending a spirit of stupor, etc. He must accomplish the crucifixion and allow for the ingrafting the gentiles into the church, which really can only happen if Israel remains in unbelief for a time.

    4. “Is the election of Israel fulfilled in those few who believed at the time of Christ or is the election of Israel fulfilled in Christ himself?” Both. I’m not sure I understand your question… but maybe my first answer will clarify what I believe is happening.

    5. Prodigal Illustration: I do believe the story represents Jews (elder) and Gentiles (younger), but as Calvinists like to remind us “what is true of the nation is true of individuals” thus there can be individual applications drawn in this story. But even if it was a stand alone illustration that I came up with myself it would still serve the purpose to illustrate my point that the father gets all glory for his choice to receive back the wayward son…the son doesn’t merit anything. Every illustration will fall short in the attempt to make universal application to all related points, but I see no reason that the point I was attempting to illustrate by use of that parable isn’t applicable, can you? If so, why?

    Thanks!

      Ryan Lintelman

      Thanks for your answers. Wow, that probably took awhile. First of all, I am not qualified to do so, but I disagree with Dr. Garrett. Augustine was not concerned with an individual view of election. He called the church the sacrament for salvation. I also believe it is unfaithful to Calvin to claim that he individualized the doctrine of election. The individualization of our faith has been, in large part, a post enlightenment phenomenon. Despite that, I find your nuanced view of election (election of a few for the many) is interesting at the very least. I do not agree with you but I appreciate your view. I would assert that election is in Christ, who is the predestined one, and all who are in Christ are the elect. I think the witness of the New Testament is consistent on this point. So Peter or Paul are no more elect than ones who believed the message of the gospel through them. To say “all of the appointed messengers came from Israel because that is the reason the nation was chosen” answers the question of whether or not you feel Jesus brought to fulfillment the nation of Israel. It also calls into question any non-Jewish herald of the gospel. But if Jesus is the reason that the nation was chosen then all of Israel’s history is summed up in Christ. If this is true then Romans 11 is less about the grafting and more about Jesus who is the root who sustains the natural branches and the ones grafted in. So the hardening of Israel that goes back to Moses and Isaiah (thus the quotations from them by Paul in Romans 11:8-10) continues in the time of Jesus, but God who makes all things new, uses the the hard hearts of Israel to include the Gentiles which in turn will lead to the inclusion of many Jews also.

      So your summation is that “God elected Israel and some individuals Israelites through whom he brings the person and message of Jesus so that many might look to him for salvation” (paraphrase but I think I said it right) is saying that the apostles were the final ones to be elected. Everyone else is chosen conditionally based on whether or not they have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ through faith. Here’s my question. Why nuance election? Jesus called all believers “the elect” in Matthew 24 (Mark 13 parallel), Paul called believers “the elect” in Romans 8, 2 Timothy 2, and Titus 1, Peter called believers “the elect” in 1 Peter 1:1, and Peter encourages believers to be sure of their “election” in 2 Peter 1. I am not sure what you would do with these texts. If suppose you could say that the sayings of Jesus and Peter are referring to Jews only (though I would heartily disagree) but you could not say that about Paul. I didn’t even go to the proof texts for the doctrine of election, because that is not my concern. To me a nuanced version of election is not faithful to to the biblical witness.

      As to the question about the prodigal, I think it is important. You say a decision to repent does not equal merit. To ask is not to deserve. First of all, most who talk in terms of a decision do not talk about a decision to repent. Most talk about deciding to be saved or to get saved, as if they found out they were drowning and considered the merits of being saved from drowning and then decided to be saved from drowning. In any other real context, deciding to be saved is laughable. This is what the hypothetical question that some calvinists ask is perhaps trying to reveal. As to the issue of merit the question is not whether one’s humility to ask for salvation is meritorious, but whether the faith that brings a person to that point originates within that person or from without. If it originates from within, then something inherent in that person merited their salvation. If, however, faith is a gift, or perhaps a faith work begun and completed by Christ, then no person has a claim to merit.

      The questions about the interpretation of the prodigal were merely out of curiosity. I am wrestling with the corporate aim of the parables and was wondering if I was alone. I see both the younger and older son as referring to Israel however rather than one to Gentiles. That really has no bearing on this discussion. But as to the use of the prodigal as illustration of your point I suppose a calvinist could use the same story to illustrate their own. Did the younger son merit restoration? Of course not. Did the younger son ask for restoration? In no way. The father ran to him and gave it. Did the younger son believe that he had been restored? Only after the fact.

      I am not a systematician, and I do not believe there are simple answers to these questions. I do believe that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ. So all I know to do is preach the word. But I do love to talk about theology.

        Leighton Flowers

        Thanks Ryan,

        It seems we may be talking past each other somewhat because I agree with your statement, “I would assert that election is in Christ, who is the predestined one, and all who are in Christ are the elect. I think the witness of the New Testament is consistent on this point,” as that represents the heart of the Corporate view (and Garrett’s perspective, if I’m not mistaken). Now, Paul and Peter’s election to the noble purpose of apostleship is not up for debate, as that is just a fact, so I’m not really sure what your point was in reference to them? I may just misunderstand your perspective?

        You said, “So your summation is that “God elected Israel and some individuals Israelites through whom he brings the person and message of Jesus so that many might look to him for salvation” (paraphrase but I think I said it right) is saying that the apostles were the final ones to be elected. Everyone else is chosen conditionally based on whether or not they have been clothed in the righteousness of Christ through faith. Here’s my question. Why nuance election? Jesus called all believers “the elect” in Matthew 24 (Mark 13 parallel), Paul called believers “the elect” in Romans 8, 2 Timothy 2, and Titus 1, Peter called believers “the elect” in 1 Peter 1:1, and Peter encourages believers to be sure of their “election” in 2 Peter 1. I am not sure what you would do with these texts.”

        This also leads me to believe I wasn’t very clear and we are talking past each other because I don’t believe the apostles were the final ones elected. I believe they were the final apostles chosen to be apostles…and I never objected to calling those conditionally grafted in by faith as ‘elect’ or ‘chosen.’ I was just saying that in that day the term “elect” was typically referring to Israelites as a cultural norm. Paul was fighting that culture norm by teaching God has elected the gentiles from the beginning too. Does that help clarify?

        You wrote, “As to the issue of merit the question is not whether one’s humility to ask for salvation is meritorious, but whether the faith that brings a person to that point originates within that person or from without.”

        I need clarity here because one can’t have faith in Christ without hearing the powerful appeal of the gospel, which comes from Him. Are you asking if God’s gracious, powerful, life-giving, soul penetrating words of spirit and life need an additional effectual work of grace in order to enable the lost to respond in faith to it? Why do you suppose Jesus rebukes people for their lack of faith? Should Jesus not appeal to God if indeed its His responsibility to effectually give faith? Now, don’t misunderstand me. We are only able to do that which God has created us with the capacity to do…so the question is not whether we can believe APART from God as if we get that capacity from the faith fairy or something (har har har), but has God enabled us to CHOOSE to place our trust in him or ‘trade the truth in for lies’ and suffer the consequences of our choices? Are we indeed created Response-abled? I believe we are…

        Why do you believe the choice to trust in Christ is meritorious given that God was not obligated to send Christ nor was He obligated to save anyone who trusts in Him? He graciously chooses to save those who trust in Christ…and He doesn’t have to.

        We need to talk about it next time we see each other…fun discussion! Good thoughts!

          Ryan Lintelman

          I definitely read some of what you wrote (especially about apostolic election) incorrectly, but it is clearer now. Yes I believe this is a corporate view of election. I only disagree with Garrett’s characterizations of Augustine and Calvin, though I would say I hold to a modified corporate view. The corporate view talks about an offer of election, and I don’t see that supported biblically.

          Another point of misfire is that I don’t like to separate Israel/Christ/Church, because of the effect dispensationalism has had on evangelical scholarship and the church. I don’t know if I have found a clear way to do that yet, however.

          As to your question as to whether the word needs an additional effectual work of grace I would say NO. Of course not. Are you kidding. The 116 click would have me taken out (I jest of course, they don’t even know who I am and don’t care to know). I would say however that the spirit-applied word is the effectual work of Christ for salvation for those who believe. So the question is not can whosoever will come, the question is who will come unless they are regenerated by the work of God Trinity in their hearts through the provided means of the proclaimed message of the gospel. I do not believe the gospel is power external from God himself nor do I believe that the gospel awakens power inherent in man himself, I believe the gospel is the power of God for salvation for those who believe.

          As to Jesus’ rebuke of people’s lack of faith when he is in the flesh, the Holy Spirit had not yet come. With that said, some of those whom he rebukes in your schema are “judicially hardened,” so that begs the question of why would he rebuke those who could not have faith for not having faith. But to answer your question rather than avoid it, the rebuke is gospel. The message of Christ to his hearers was effective to save those who believed.

          Why does Jesus not appeal to God for the faith of the people? One reason is because he is God. Second is because the heart of God is that none should perish but all should come to repentance. Third it is because the means established for salvation is the proclamation of the death burial and resurrection of Jesus looking forward to his imminent return (none of which had happened yet) empowered by the spirit of God (who had not been sent yet), and yet even then he was actively rescuing a people to himself because “to those who received him, the ones who believed in his name, they were given the right to be called children of God, who were born not of blood or the will of the flesh nor the will of man but of God.” (Because he’s cool like that.)

          Of course man was created with the capacity to respond to God. But man sinned, hid his body from his wife, hid himself from the presence of God. If you eat of the tree you will surely die. And so man died. He was put to eternal shame. Jesus didn’t come to condemn because we were already condemned. So are we able to respond to the gospel. Not unless the Holy Spirit pierces our hard hearts with the gospel thus bringing it to life. Dead doesn’t respond unless it is resurrected.

          If I choose to place my trust in him, can I later choose not to trust him? If my choice is the effective cause of my going from death to life, can I choose later and die once more spiritually?

          And I agree we should talk about this sometime. The only problem is I wouldn’t be able to delete some of the stupid stuff that I put out there. I wish my schedule still allowed me to be a dean at Super Summer. I can’t tell you how much I miss it.

Kenneth Cole

Thanks for the article Leighton, especially appreciate the tone. There are good sincere followers of Christ on both sides of this debate. Sometimes what I’d like to hear is “I don’t know”…..it seems there is a lot certainty in our opinions. Although I can’t accept Calvinism, I can respect, worship,and fellowship with those who do. And also acknowledge that perhaps I’m not totally right in my view of God…..after all he is a mighty big God

Mike

Dr. Flower,

I read the link provided from Soteriology 101 about Cooperate Election. In the summary, this view was likened to a great ship on its way to Heaven. If you get on the ship then you are elect; if you jump off the ship then you are not or are no longer elect. My question is how does this view work with the belief of, “once saved, always saved”?

Thanks

    Mike

    Dr. Flowers,

    My apologies for spelling your name wrong. I got so caught up in phrasing my question, I did a poor job of proofreading.:(

    Leighton Flowers

    Mike, please call me Leighton. I’m not even a registered nurse, and it won’t be another year until I finish my doctoral work… Then I’ll be able to write prescriptions, I think? ;-)

    Great question…. I wrote an article and did a podcast covering this very issue if you are interested: http://soteriology101.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/can-you-lose-your-salvation-once-saved-always-saved/

    I hope that helps. Let me know if you have questions. Blessings!

      Mike

      Leighton,

      Thanks for your reply. I will read it in detail and listen to the podcast. Also, I understand you are an alumnus of Hardin-Simmons, as am I. :)

Steve Withers

“Are we indeed created Response-abled? I believe we are…”

That’s a remarkable statement in light of the following passages, Leighton.

A description of unbelieving Jews and the Greeks (which includes us in our unregenerate state) from Romans 3:10-18
“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.”

We were all “in the flesh” prior to conversion.
Romans 8:7-8
“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.”

We were all “natural” persons prior to conversion.
I Cor. 2:14
“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.”

This difficulty can be addressed by a conversion that precedes faith and repentance.
If you can show me another way, I’m all ears.

We were created for worship…may He be pleased as we engage our hearts and minds tomorrow!
Grace to you!

    Andrew Barker

    Steve Withers: Leighton covers your comments re Rom 3 on his site, very well, so you can read that at your leisure.

    As for 1 Cor. 2:14 This if often quoted in the way you have used it, but rarely do people talk much about the context of to whom it was said. I will leave others to pass comment if they disagree, but to my mind the passage is directed primarily at Christians. Those who already believe! Paul is pointing out that when we are born again we receive the Spirit from God so that we can understand. He then goes on to use the phrase the ‘natural man’. In this context I feel this says that all of us have a choice to either listen to the voice of the old man, the natural man, or the Spirit of God who lives in each believer. It is not aimed directly at the complete non-believer. As Paul says, “we have the mind of Christ” but we do still need to exercise it. All of us as Christians, if we do not listen to the Spirit of God are effectively living as the ‘natural man’.

    I would also question your insistence on a person having to understand spiritual truths before they can be saved. I can find little if any support for this idea. Nicodemus was told that in order to see the Kingdom of God he needed to be born again. He was not told that he needed to understand it first! There is a level of understanding involved, of course, but it is more along the lines of a realisation of sin and the need for repentance and forgiveness. These are concepts which I believe God through his Spirit is able to bring about in the life of the unbeliever without requiring any deep theological or spiritual understanding. It is described often as child like faith. Simple, but profound. Who of us fully understood what we were doing when we said ‘yes’ to the prompting of God’s Spirit?

      Steve Withers

      So you’re suggesting the carnal Christian thing? Believers are described as natural men? If so, they seem to posses no understanding and a real hostility toward God. To believe Romans 3 is describing a backslidden Christian is a depressing assessment of the role of the Holy Spirit in our sanctification.

    Bob Hadley

    Leighton,

    Outstanding job here both in your articles and your comments. May God increase your tribe…

    Steve,

    God has chosen to REVEAL Himself in the Scriptures. Revelation DEMANDS a response. God has also chosen to reconcile the world unto Himself. Reconciliation DEMANDS a response. Men not only have the ability to respond to God’s initiative, they have the responsibility to do so. This is not Pelagianism as is often charged, because God is the Sole initiator.

    In all fairness, your presupposition of total depravity and inability frame your own position as if it is the gospel itself and that simply is not the case.

    Happy New Year to all!

      Steve Withers

      Bob, I just don’t see how you can assert that we have the ability to believe. How do unbelievers conjure up this faith when we (in our unregenerate state) are described and defined by Jer. 17:9, I Cor. 2:14, Romans 3 and Rom. 8:7-8. How do you come to that conclusion? I may sound like a broken record on this topic but I believe it’s critically important to have a Biblical understanding of human depravity. How deep is the stain of sin? We understand how rich our salvation is by understanding how deep our stain is. I believe that is the message of Romans 9 where Paul tells us that the very purpose that the potter created the vessles of wrath is to “make known the riches of his glory to vessels of mercy which he has prepared beforehand, EVEN US whom he has called not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles.”
      “Even us”….even wretched me……an individual, unmerited, sovereign, unconditional, divine election.
      God removed this individual’s heart of stone and replaced it with a heart of flesh! I give Him all the glory for this gracious, monergistic salvation that reached down and saved.

        Steve Withers

        We should never think our salvation is any less effectual and glorious than Paul’s on the road to Damascus. That he temporarily lost his eyesight is a small consequence. He received a new heart in the same way we do. He was just as undeserving.

          Bob Hadley

          We probably see that is a little different light as well. I believe Saul was saved when he made the decision to go to Damascus. Nowhere does the Scripture hint that in him being struck blind was his heart renewed. Had he told his men to get him back to Jerusalem, he would still be lost today. He heart that voice of the Savior and he repented and DID WHAT THE LORD TOLD HIM TO DO and was gloriously forgiven and saved in his response to the Savior’s initiative.

          For the record, I do not believe my salvation is any less miraculous and glorious than you do. God did it. I did not deserve it nor did I merit salvation because I repented and THEN received a new heart as Paul did. Let me ask you a question. Did you or did you not repent to be saved? If you repented of your sin then your salvation is no less based on a repentant heart then mine is. We are in the same boat. The only difference in our positions is your believe you repented because God chose to allow you to repent. I believe God chose to save those who DO repent.

          I believe God gave man the choice to choose. We did not have a choice in the matter. God made that choice. He also gave us the consequences of our choices. Once again, we did no have a choice in the matter. His choice related to my eternal state is solely based on my choice related to the gift of His Son. A gift has two parts; there must be a giver and a receiver. God gave Jesus and I must accept that gift and THEN receive the benefits of that gift.

          My position is no less deserving than yours.

        Bob Hadley

        Steve,

        “I do not see how you can assert we have the ability to believe.” “I believe it is critically important to have a Biblical understanding of human depravity.”

        We were created in the image of God. Sin separated us from Him but it does not destroy our ability to respond to God’s initiative of revelation and reconciliation. I find the whole argument of total depravity and inability difficult to swallow because we have the ability to believe everything EXCEPT God. You will argue that God MUST give the unregenerate man a new heart BEFORE he can repent and believe. I would argue that this concept makes for a pitifully poor God because your God has no ability to communicate with the unregenerate. The truth is, the gospel not regeneration is the power of God unto salvation to ALL who believe. The whole concept of “those believing” are the ones God gives the unique ability to believe is a philosophical argument created by the calvinist salvific system and not a Biblically based concept.

        We all agree that the stain of sin runs deep. Man is no doubt depraved in his lost state without Christ in his heart. You are correct. God removes the heart of stone and replaces it with a heart of flesh. The question is WHEN does He do so. The calvinist position is that He does this and THEN man repents. I argue man hears the gospel and through the convicting initiative of the Holy Spirit he repents and believes by faith that God is indeed everything His Word says He is and He will do everything He says HE will do and through a prayer of repentance God forgives Him of His sin and makes that person a part of His forever family and in doing so gives Him a new heart and new life. In YOUR position the Holy Spirit takes up residence in an unrepentant heart since repentance follows new life and there is no new life apart from the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. I find that terribly problematic.

        Our differences are primarily rooted in the view of total depravity and inability. I understand fully the implications of the differing positions. In both systems men without Christ are equally damned and headed for a devil’s hell. That is as depraved as one can get. The difference is in how God changes that depraved state. Does He do so BEFORE on repents or after one repents. Scripture is consistently on the latter as I see it.

          phillip

          Bob,

          You said…. “I find the whole argument of total depravity and inability difficult to swallow because we have the ability to believe everything EXCEPT God.”

          So true.

          Total depravity (total inability) is a uniquely Calvinistic doctrine held solely by both Calvinists and Arminians. Article 2 of the Traditional Statements reads…

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

          Neither a Calvinist nor Arminian would ever agree with this.

          God bless, brother.

Les Prouty

Andrew,

On 1 Cor., I do think Paul is there comparing believers with unbelievers. In v. 12 he says “Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God. In v. 14 he talks about the natural and then says, “…for they are folly to HIM.” My BOLD added. He seems there to be contrasting “us” Christians and “them” natural men.

“I would also question your insistence on a person having to understand spiritual truths before they can be saved.” I can’t speak for Steve, but most Reformed folk who believe that regeneration is logically prior to conversion would say that before conversion (repentance & faith) the natural man must be enlightened, born again, regenerated, made alive…before he can understand the gospel (scripture) words he is reading or hearing. We say that unless his spiritual eyes and ears are opened, the preacher reading scripture to him and preaching the gospel to him is just saying words which the natural man can hear and understand as words intellectually (same as if the words are being read from Popular Mechanics for instance) but not understand in his spirit (spiritually). The key difference between Reformed folk like me and non Reformed is man’s condition after the fall.

I do have a question. You said, “These are concepts which I believe God through his Spirit is able to bring about in the life of the unbeliever without requiring any deep theological or spiritual understanding.”

What exactly does God do to “bring about in the life of the unbeliever?”

Thanks for the interaction.

    Steve Withers

    Les, you certainly could have be speaking for me. Completely agree.

      Andrew Barker

      Steve: Perhaps you should continue the conversation, such as it is, with Les because both of you seem incapable of interacting in a meaningful way with other people’s comments. I quote one of your comments “but I believe it’s critically important to have a Biblical understanding of human depravity”. We all think that Steve, it’s just that your idea of ‘Biblical’ follows Reformed theology and is not grounded in scripture. Nobody as far as I can see has tried to argue that people can save themselves by their own means but that is totally different to saying that people cannot respond to the message of the Gospel. You argue that people need to be regenerated before they can respond to the Gospel, but when confronted with scripture which says otherwise, you totally ignore it! It is the Gospel itself which is the power of God to salvation. To say that a person needs to be regenerated before the Gospel can be effective in their life is nothing short of denying the power of the Gospel.

    Bob Hadley

    Lester,

    Happy New Year my brother.

    I found the following statement to be very interesting. You said. “We say that unless his spiritual eyes and ears are opened, the preacher reading scripture to him and preaching the gospel to him is just saying words which the natural man can hear and understand as words intellectually (same as if the words are being read from Popular Mechanics for instance) but not understand in his spirit (spiritually).”

    Here is the problem I have with that position. If what you said is true, then the gospel cannot be the power of God unto salvation, for the gospel is powerless to save anyone who is not FIRST regenerated. Regeneration for the calvinist position is the power of God unto salvation and one’s response to regeneration is a first act of sanctification. That simply does not comport.

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