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!

          Sam

          Dr. Flowers, I read that quote from Lewis a while ago but I remember it well. I think Lewis was speaking to creation. God created humanity in his image with freedom to accept his rule or to reject it. In Adam, we all choose to reject it. We find ourselves enslaved to our wayward path. I do not think the condition of people outside Christ can be described as one of freedom. We all made the choice that enslaves us, and bondage characterizes our plight now. God thought it was worthwhile for sure!

          To extend Lewis’ argument to the matter of redemption does not make sense to me. I see it as a theodicy. God knew we would turn against him but proceeded with the plan.

    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.

      norm miller

      As a former Southern Baptist turner Presbyterian, Les, are you including in your “theological views” some sort of salvific efficacy for the ritual of paedobaptism that you previously have defended at this site? Seems to me you have been wrong about that for three decades.

        Les

        Hello Norm. I’m still a baby baptizer and adult baptizer. And there is zero salvific efficacy in baptism, baby or adult. We also need much less water. Any other questions?? I’m ready for you.

          Sam

          Yes, Les! You see that baptism is a sign of the covenant and of induction to the church. It is not able to cleanse sin away or to regenerate the person. So many Christians who reject infant baptism, for children of believing parents, think we believe this process is magical, and of course it isn’t!

            Andrew Barker

            Sam: Induction into the church? Just where did that spring from? Next thing you’ll be explaining is caesarian section no doubt!

            The only thing which is ‘magical’ about the process is how you manage to produce these rabbits out of their respective theological hats! Perhaps it’s called Presbydigition? :-)

          Les

          Right Sam. Norm just has a difficult time me even being here. I love that he periodically tries to tweak me by referring to me as a baby baptizer and former Southern Baptist. Both which are true.

          Lydia

          So why not a baby dedication or something like that? What does the water ritual mean for a baby ?

            Les

            Lydia, the best way for you to understand it is to read a Presbyterian document (in this case the PCA BCO) that explains infant baptism. Look at 56-4 and 56-5. In point 4 is an explanation the minister is to make to the congregation and point 5 contains the vows. After you read that, let me know if you have any questions.
            http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/2016-BCO-Reprint-for-web-bookmarks-links-rev.-10-5-16.pdf

              lydia00

              Thanks Les, You guys have your own manual for how to do “Christian”! You lost me at “56-4”. Seriously? 56?

              That is way too complicated for my Baptist trained Training Union mind of no creed but Jesus . :o)

                Les

                Lydia, ya know one of the things they say about Presbyterians…decently and in order! We have documents covering just about everything.

                Anyway, those sections are not long and I am certain you are quite smart enough to decipher what we are saying in them. You are no intellectual slouch. Now I don’t expect that you will agree, but those sections say better than I can how we view it. Or the WCF. In either case, saves me a lot of typing. :)

                As for creeds, as soon as any of us opens our mouths to say what we believe, we are spouting a creed. Albeit a personal one, but a creed nonetheless. Nothing wrong with creeds. There is collective wisdom in the major orthodox creeds.

                  Lysine a

                  Les, I think we are oceans apart but nice try.

                    Lydia

                    Lysine? I must have a sweet twin. Just love autocorrect.

                    Les

                    Oceans apart. No doubt. Autocorrect. Happens to us all.

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.

            Robert

            In the past Phillip has called me a “card-carrying Arminian”. I am quite familiar with both Arminian theology and Traditionalist theology. I hold to the Arminian soteriology, as do most Traditionalists. While I understand that some Arminians believe in the same conception of total depravity that Calvinists hold, this is not true of all Arminians.

            Phillip quotes:

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

            “Neither a Calvinist nor Arminian would ever agree with this.”

            This is a false statement. I deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will. AT THE SAME TIME I also hold to total depravity (which is defined as the claim that sin has effected all aspects of man’s being including his body, mind and will). I do not agree with Calvinists that the non-believer is dead like a zombie incapable of doing any good, incapable of believing the gospel if it is presented to him/her and the Holy Spirit works in the person revealing their sinfulness to them, revealing Christ to them, etc. Many non-believers in fact do good things, mistakenly believing that their good works will save them (e.g. the Jewish people in the first century who rejected Jesus falsely believing that their keeping of the law would save them rather than Christ; rather than faith alone in the finished work of Christ saving them).

            Can one believe in total depravity? Yes if it means that sin has effected all people.

            Does one need to believe in “total inability” in order to believe in total depravity? No, it is evident that non-believers have free will as they make all sorts of free choices daily including which sins they will commit. Statements such as Phillip’s here are not helpful as he displays ignorance of what Arminians believe. Again, some Arminians believe as Calvinists do about total depravity. But some also do not agree with Calvinists on total depravity, some do not believe that Adam’s sin incapacitated people’s wills.

            Rather than concluding that all Arminians believe the same things about total depravity as Phillip does. A more nuanced approach needs to be taken (i.e. evaluate where people are on a **case by case** basis, because the fact is not all Arminians agree on every point, nor do all Calvinists all agree on every point, nor do all Traditionalists all agree on every point). My beliefs would fit what a Traditionalist believes, my beliefs also fit what an Arminian believes. I believe in total depravity I also believe the nonbeliever is quite capable of understanding and responding to the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit as the Spirit leads them to personal faith in Jesus as the only way of salvation.

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.

      Robert Vaughn

      Les: “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).”

      Bob: “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.”

      Bob, Les, I wonder if there is not a subtle distinction between what Calvinists and Extensivists mean when they say “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation,” that may cause them to talk around one another? As in: “the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation” (Calvinist) versus “the message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation” (Extensivist). Is this a fair understanding of a distinction?

        Les

        Robert,

        I suspect there is a difference in what each side means. And I’m not so sure it is subtle.

        What the Reformed position states is that the power does not reside in the preacher. The power does not reside in the ink on pages of scripture as one reads it. The power does not reside in the audible syllables going forth from the speaker or preacher’s mouth. The power does not reside in the organ of the body called the ear, of the hearer. The power resides solely in God who by his Spirit and his word does something to enable the hearer or reader of the gospel to repent and believe. Otherwise, as I said, while the preacher is uttering truth, the hearer may as well be hearing the preacher read a human authored book.

          Robert Vaughn

          Les, you’re probably right that subtle is not really the way to describe it. What I was aiming at was that the same words — the gospel is the power of God unto salvation — are used by both sides, and many people think they are saying and meaning basically the same thing when they are not.

          I think I understand the Reformed position, but in your explanation above it seems you don’t use the word gospel in any way other than meaning what is preached (but maybe I am misunderstanding you). I understand that you mean the power is in God to save (with which I would agree), but in what sense is the gospel the power of God unto salvation?

          Thanks.

            Les

            Hi Robert. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation in the sense that the message of god delivering sinners, that good news, is proclaimed with the power of God to actually save sinners.

            God bless brother.

              norm miller

              So then, dear Presbyterian, paedobaptism is impotent in the salvific process? And if it is, then why do it?

                Andrew Barker

                Norm Miller: Hopefully his answer will be more precises than his belief around the salvific process itself. I mean …. “The power resides solely in God who by his Spirit and his word does something to enable the hearer or reader of the gospel to repent and believe.” Perhaps the most vital work that God does in our lives and it is reduced to ‘something’?!

                So there you have it. The Calvinist gospel is that God does ‘something’ to enable people to believe. You couldn’t make this stuff up, only they have made it up because there’s no mention of this ‘something’ in Scripture. Is there?

                  Lydia

                  “So there you have it. The Calvinist gospel is that God does ‘something’ to enable people to believe. You couldn’t make this stuff up, only they have made it up because there’s no mention of this ‘something’ in Scripture. Is there?”

                  No, no, no Andrew! God “activates” whoever He had already chosen before He created the world. Only The timing is a mystery. (Wink)

                  Evidently the baptism of a baby does something for some reason. Some bloggers on another blog are talking about the beauty and christlikeness of baptizing miscarried fetuses in Catholic hospitals and evidently it has nothing to do with viewing God as a monster when it comes to babies and their souls. This bizarre stuff is everywhere. But it sure sounds Holy and loving about those humans who baptized. Not Holy and loving about God, of course. Sigh.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Lydia: Oh dear! Does this mean instead of asking if a person has been saved, we need to enquire if they have been ‘activated’ or not?

                    Sounds more like counter espionage where central command awaits the right time to unleash its sleepers on an unsuspecting population! Would make sense for those who are looking for the next Great Awakening!!!

                    Lydia

                    Andrew, according to 9 Marks, your elders decide when you have been activated. They are “control” with “the keys” to the kingdom.

                    Les

                    “Some bloggers on another blog are talking about the beauty and christlikeness of baptizing miscarried fetuses in Catholic hospitals and evidently it has nothing to do with viewing God as a monster when it comes to babies and their souls”

                    Truly bizarre.

                    Lydia

                    Why? Once you go down the baby baptizing road…….

                Les

                Norm, we practice paedobaptism for the same reason we and you practice credobaptism. It’s biblical.

                Andrew, that “something” is in the same verse as “libertarian free will.” Look it up and Oster it back here. I eagerly await.

                  Les

                  Should read, “Look it up and post it back here. I eagerly await.”

                  Andrew Barker

                  1. For Biblical it needs to be in the Bible
                  2. Libertarian freewill is not a scriptural phrase.
                  3. Read up on your fallacies, after all, you use them enough. Hint: the fact that 2. is true cannot be used to support the fact that paedobaptism is not Biblical as in 1.

                    Les

                    “1. For Biblical it needs to be in the Bible”

                    It is.

                    “2. Libertarian freewill is not a scriptural phrase.”

                    I never said it was. It’s just thrown around her quite a bit.

                    “3. Read up on your fallacies, after all, you use them enough. Hint: the fact that 2. is true cannot be used to support the fact that paedobaptism is not Biblical as in 1.”

                    I didn’t try to use 1 to prove that paedobaptism wasn’t biblical.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Paedobaptism is not described or mentioned in Scripture. Fact.

                    At ‘best’ it is inferred.
                    At worst it is assumed. It’s extremely difficult to disprove a negative.
                    It is a fallacy to argue fact from inference but that is exactly what all paedobaptists do.

                    Jesus himself was baptized at the age of 30. How did Mary and Joseph get it so wrong!!!

                    Les

                    Libertarian free will is not described or mentioned in the scripture. Fact.

                    Oh you poor soul is you’re trying to equate Jesus’ baptism at age 30 with Christian baptism. Be a Berean brother.

                    Lydia

                    Les, you communicate like the typical gnostic. Where are the passages we need the special ruling elder decoder ring (or keys!) sto understand?

                    “Choice” is all over scripture, btw. Only despots explain it as a ruse designed by God to fool us.

                    Les

                    Lydia, if you’re real nice I just may get one of those ruling elder decoding rings for you. :)

                    Lydia

                    I would rather see your version of baby baptizing scripture passages.

                    Les

                    Lydia and Andrew,

                    This post is not about paedobaptism. Norm brings it up every now and then out of nowhere. I think he thinks it needles me. Ha ha to that.

                    Anyway, I’ll be happy to debate paedobaptism today, tomorrow, and everyday with you two. So here is the deal. I’ll create a Facebook group that is by invite only. You two join. We can each invite some others to join in. Norm can join. Let’s get after that debate. But are you game for a real debate without your cheerleaders and anonymity? I doubt it. But there’s the offer. Let’s see what you do with it.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Les, if you were able to provide an answer, you’d have done it by now. The fact that you haven’t speaks volumes.

                    Neither is it so off topic as you try to suggest. Leighton has raised the concept of being response-able in order to respond to the Gospel. If there’s one thing that we can all agree on, it’s that paedobasptism does not involve the child being responsible in any way for what is done to them.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Lydia: Agreed. The phrase libertarian freewill is a theological position but it’s based on choice…. pure and simple. A choice which is simple enough for a child to understand without being childish! Only those with Gnostic tendencies want to complicate matters! ?

                    Andrew Barker

                    Noted is that you avoid the question of biblical verses mentioning paedobaptism.

                    In addition, there is more correlation between Jesus’ baptism and Christian baptism than there is between the former and paedobaptism. For starters, both parties consent to be baptized.

                    But don’t use this to avoid the question. Where are these verses supporting paedobaptism??

                    Les

                    Andrew, see my reply to Lydia a few minutes prior to this comment. I sure hope you and Lydia and Norm take the paedo challenge. Can hardly wait.

                    Lydia

                    Les, I would never travel to your turf, office, etc. . Never. That is 101 when dealing with manipulative brain gamer “ruler” types.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Lydia: I think the phrase I’m looking for is “all hat and no cattle”?

                    Les

                    Ha ha Andrew and Lydia. I was soooo hoping you’d venture out of your safe zone, but honestly I figured you didn’t have the fortitude to do so.

                    I was just hoping to show you Lydia some “ruling” interaction. Ha ha. And Andrew, nice try. When dealing with you brother I’m reminded of Col. Jessup, “You Can’t handle the truth.” That is so you.

                    But if you two decide to “man up,”, I’m on Facebook and easy to find. Hiding in plain sight. Come on over and let’s get after it…on MY turf for a change. Come on. I’m ready.

                    Lydia

                    .” I was soooo hoping you’d venture out of your safe zone, but honestly I figured you didn’t have the fortitude to do so.”

                    I fully admit to being a cowardess. It took long enough! I don’t “go-to”the toxic brain gamers anymore. I think that IS wisdom. It’s like venturing into a dystopian zone knowing full well what it is. I don’t comment on their dystopian blogs either.

                    Les

                    So happy you’ve found your safe zone Lydia.

                    Lydia

                    Les, that’s ” non dystopian” zone where evil is evil and good is good with no Book of Order or creeds and confessions involved. No cognitive dissonance needed. Where God is actually Sovereign over His own Sovereignty. :o)

                    Les

                    I gotcha Lydia. Some of you out there have to make up your reality. I get it. Have fun.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Les, you keep quoting Colonel Jessup but he’s not a nice man and his language, well let’s just say that moderation prevents me from speaking all the truth.

                    Les

                    IOW boys and girls (or boy and girl) if you want to have a serious discussion on one of my doctrines, it will happen not on a SB site. It will happen on my site. So come on over. The sprinkling water is just fine. :)

                    Robert

                    Les,
                    You wrote: “Libertarian free will is not described or mentioned in the scripture. Fact.”

                    The phrase LFW is not found specifically mentioned in scripture (nor is “compatibilism” by the same token).

                    The concept (i.e. that a person has a genuine choice between two different options, neither of which is decreed by God) **is** present in scripture. We have been through this before, if everything were actually decreed as Calvinists such as yourself believe, then we would never ever have a genuine choice between two available and accessible options. Scripture presents instances where people did have genuine choices between two options so the concept of LFW is present and the claim that all is decreed is false.

                    Les I really don’t think this is the place to push your infant baptism beliefs or argue for them. And trying to draw others out to debate paedobaptism with you is also inappropriate for this site. You know this site is Baptist so keep to subjects on the site, not tangents like paedobaptism, thanks.

                    Les

                    Robert,

                    Thanks for your comments about LFW. Obviously we disagree.

                    On paedobaptism, for the record I never bring it up. Norm is the one who usually does that. I will usually answer whatever question he has for me about paedobaptism. But that’s all. I respect that this is a credo immersion site and have not tried to promote a different baptism view.

                    Also is you note in my reply to Andrew’s and Lydia’s questions for me about paedobaptism, I typed the following:

                    “This post is not about paedobaptism. Norm brings it up every now and then out of nowhere. I think he thinks it needles me. Ha ha to that.

                    Anyway, I’ll be happy to debate paedobaptism today, tomorrow, and everyday with you two. So here is the deal. I’ll create a Facebook group that is by invite only.”

                    THEY wanted to have the debate here on this site and I refused. I offered to talk about it elsewhere out of respect for this site.

                    Thanks again Robert.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Robert: While it is true that Norm Miller does tweak Lee’s nose occasionally regarding paedobaptism it is not done in a vacuum but for good reasons.

                    If you want to argue that regeneration comes before faith, which is what was being discussed, then it certainly becomes germane to include paedobaptism since that too is in effect a spanner in the salvific process. Of course Les will not bring this up, because he cannot defend it and this is amply demonstrated each time these exchanges happen.

                    So I welcome the occasional dig from Norm since it gently exposes the futility of Les’s position. Regeneration before faith and paedobaptism? They go hand in hand from my point of view.

                    Les

                    Yeah, I actually look forward to the occasional dig attempt by Norm. It’s funny that I live part time in his head. :)

                    And since “Regeneration before faith and paedobaptism? They go hand in hand from my point of view,” well my offer still stands to have the debate on a Facebook group that I will create just for the occasion. I’ll make it easy for you to find me Andrew. https://www.facebook.com/LesProuty

                    As I said earlier, come on over. The paedo water is sprinkling all over the place, and it’s warm. :)

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sorry Les. Kind of thanks, but no thanks!

                    BTW as you are fond of pointing out to others, you have no idea what Norm is thinking have you! It’s all assumption and conjecture on your part. But you must rate yourself highly if you think you “live part time in his head”!

                    Les

                    Andrew, figured you wouldn’t accept the challenge on my turf. Don’t blame you.

                    And you’re right about Norm’s thinking. I have no idea really what’s going up there. :)

                    Andrew Barker

                    Les, As Ronnie said ” there you go again” !

                    Robert

                    Andrew,

                    I have no problems with anything Norm says, I always appreciate his comments.

                    Regarding the false regeneration precedes faith doctrine, there is no biblical basis for it whatsoever. A fact that I am well aware of. Because of this lack, it is sometimes amusing to see the eisegetical contortions and gymnastics that Calvinists must engage in when trying to make this false doctrine acceptable to others.

                    I also agree with you that Norm often “exposes the futility of Les’s position.

                    Les

                    “I also agree with you that Norm often “exposes the futility of Les’s position.”

                    Only in dreams and imaginations.

                    Robert

                    Well somebody is dreaming here, and I don’t think it’s Norm! :-)

                    Sam

                    For me, the promise to you and your children in Acts is the biggest suggestion of paedobaptism. Ultimately, I don’t think either side can be proven by verses. Only in terms of the covenant will it stand or fall, and that’s the framework in which paedobaptism makes sense. Tertullian denied infant baptism along with ordinary Christianity when he embraced the super-spirituality of Montanism.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Well that’s not the first time Tertullian has been misquoted. You’ll have to declare your source because it is at variance with The Tertullian Project’s account.

Brian McDonald

My biggest problem with Calvinism is that words essentially have no meaning…. When I say America is a sovereign nation, or that Queen Elizabeth was sovereign what does that mean? I know that it certainly doesn’t mean that America or Queen Elizabeth meticulously controls/controlled everything… but somehow that’s what sovereignty means within Calvinism.. is simply a synonym for determinism. Or foreknowledge, when I say I foreknew my son would eat a cookie or that I foreknew that it would rain.. Again that simply means to know before hand but in Calvinism foreknew means to “determine before hand”… The same thing with draw, in any normal context draw means to influence in Calvinism when God is the subject draw no longer means influence, it means “to irresistibly pull”… World is another one… sometimes world means everybody, but in other passages, according to Calvinism world simply means world of the elect…. I have noticed that Calvinistic theologians do this as well… they make arbitrary distinctions between words like freedom and liberty, i.e. when “man has liberty but no freedom”… What does that even mean? I could go on but the point is within reformed thought key words literally have different meaning which make Calvinism and ultimately God very elusive… Another big one is the two wills of God which are not just different but diametrically opposed so that compliance with one will necessarily mean noncompliance with the other… Thus one part of God desires to save all men, but the other part desires that most should burn in hell. One part of God is commanding that Pharaoh obey but the other part of God is ensuring that pharaoh cannot obey… One part of God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but then another part does because it glorified Him… when you digest it all, it begs the question who is God?… really? Not that God can be known exhaustively but within Calvinism God cannot be known fundamentally.. Even James said a double minded man is unstable in all of his ways.. If God says one thing, i.e. (repent and belief in the person of Christ) but does another, i.e. works to determine that man will not believe… then ultimately how can God be trusted… How can His character be confirmed? When He says something how do I know He means it…. I’m ranting here I know, and I’m sure no one will read this but Calvinism is a dangerous in my opinion because if its tenets are followed then no one can know who God is or what He means by anything He says…

Sam

The fact remains that God calls people to salvation in him and that these people are chosen. The language of Scripture advances this notion again and again. Ultimately we can’t get around the fact that the Father appointed the Son to die for those whom the Father elected. Each person’s salvation is grounded in this fact and could be grounded in nothing else. It is for this reason that Scripture calls people to examine themselves and to ascertain their standing. Otherwise that pastoral advice wouldn’t even make sense.

    Brian

    No, that’s not how any of this works. i would suggest doing a study of John 3:16

      Sam

      That God has dealt corporately with people no one will deny. Everyone agrees passages reference that. But many other areas describe salvation for the individual, and these also point to a calling from before time.

    Andrew Barker

    Sam: Of course Good calls everyone to salvation. There would be little point in providing it and then no it doing so. But you can’t site a single bible verse which declares that God chooses individual people to salvation, for the good reason there isn’t one.

      Sam

      Andrew, it’s always about reading Scripture as a whole, seeing each verse in that wider framework. I would never expect a verse to say much by itself.

        Andrew Barker

        Sam: That’s the biggest cop out I’ve seen for many a year. Take as many verses as you like if you must ….. BTW the wider framework of biblical teaching is that God is no respector of persons and that he treats everyone the same which rather excludes your choice of ‘some ‘ over others!

          Sam

          Andrew, I believe that “no respecter of persons” refers to the fact that God redeems people from all nations. Likewise, he judges the world irrespective of whether they were handed the commandments. This seems to be how the phrase is employed. That’s what I wanted to get across about reading each portion of the Bible in terms of widening circles of context, until we arrive at a cross-scriptural understanding. God calls on humanity everywhere to believe and repent and to obey him, and to accept his gracious offer of salvation.

          Having said that, I believe Scripture refers to a chosen people whom God has covenanted with, to save them from their sin and to restore them. We find that God affirms, embraces, and reserves people for his glory. His plan is to redeem these people. That’s all people who are Christians. Many Christians believe they have been saved because they decided to accept this gift. I do not think that will work. I think the tenor of this theme is that God initiates, accomplishes, and completes the salvation process.

          Scripture tells us to test our lives by the Gospel to see whether we were called. This would make no sense if it came down to a point of decision. If it were simply a matter of our choice, I think the advice would be to look back upon the day we believed and find certainty there. Or perhaps it would call upon us to remember our baptism and profession before others. We do not find Scripture asking us to do that. I think the assumption was that people were called and chosen, and that they found themselves identifying at least to some degree with this message. The natural response would be to ascertain our standing as individuals. This seems to be what the letters are getting at.

          Your thoughts?

            Andrew Barker

            Sam: My thoughts? My thoughts are not your thoughts!

            Brian

            So are you saying that God does not mean what He says? Again you say God commands humanity everywhere to repent and believe (to which I agree) THEN you immediately begin to argue that only those whom God choses to redeem will be saved. Thus God’s own command for humanity to repent and believe will not be fulfilled because God Himself does not intend for it to be fulfilled by everybody only the redeemed? So that would beg the question, does God actually mean what He says? In John 3:16 He says for “God so loved the “world” (Gk Kosmos), that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”. So God has made it possible for the world to be reconciled back to Him by paying for their sins. To pay for the sins of the world, then command to world to believe, command Christians to share the Gospel with the whole world but then turn around and say that God will not save most people because they are not preselected is contradictory. Calvinists know it, that’s why the honest Calvinist affirms limited atonement to hold to any other conviction within this theological frame work is grossly irrational. So again my question to you would be, 1) Does God mean what He says when He says He desires to save the whole world and that He died for them? and 2) If God does not mean what He says, but rather says one thing and does another, then how can anybody have faith?

              Sam

              Brian, I think when we compare Scripture with Scripture we reach a conclusion: God has reserved, called, and sanctified a ‘nation’ for himself. We all put things together in some way, and that is what I get. I don’t think this is something St. Augustine made up. When Protestants look back upon the ancient and medieval tradition, Augustinianism appears as the guiding light.

              I believe Reformed theology is correct in saying that God saves people for no other reason than that he saves them. His choice is sovereign. It is not based upon merit or the choice of the individual.

              God holds the nations accountable to his law. He also calls the nations to repentance through the Gospel. Salvation is available to people from every nation so that whenever someone repents and believes, they become saved.

              God does love the “kosmos.” He redeems it. We do not disagree on that statement. For an understanding of what that entails, we look elsewhere.

              As per your last questions, Reformed theology holds that no one is interested in salvation. It says that God graciously redeems a portion of humanity (in order to redeem creation–he loves the “kosmos”). God does not violate these peoples’ wills but “places his Spirit within them” and “writes his law on their minds and in their hearts.” No one who is saved wishes they weren’t. No one who really wants in will be left out.

                Brian

                Lets clarify your statement about the “Kosmos” so we can get to the specifics of what you and I are saying when we discuss this. Kosmos, translated world in John 3:16 specifically means people. Both the near and far context necessitates this interpretation. Christ says God so loved the “kosmos” that WHOsoever believes… John also affirms this in 1 Jn 2:2 when he said that Christ died not just for our sins but the sins of the whole world. The key here is that Kosmos is a holistic term, one that is all inclusive. Therefore when when I read it in context I understand it to mean God so loved every single person. This makes sense and it the light of other verses like Mark 16:15 which commands us to preach the gospel to everyone. And 2 Pet 3:9 that God is not wiling that any (as in nobody) should perish, and Acts10:34 that God is no respecter of persons.. Also that the Holy Spirit convicts the world (every single person) of sin. Therefore, I affirm that 1) God is serious about saving every single individual, 2) God has made a provision to save very single person upon the condition of faith, and 3) God intentionally pursues every single person to save them even when He know they will not believe. So my question for you is simple : Is God serious about saving every single person or is He only interested in saving a small few. Again its a very simple and straight forward question that I would honestly like to know because how you answer this is paramount to this conversation.

                  Sam

                  Brian, John 3:16 carries certain meaning. Anchored within the surrounding text, we get a better understanding of that verse. Read within the gospel we get a clearer picture yet. Finally, we read it in light of the canon itself.

                  When I try to figure something out, I never look at isolated verses. We can easily burden them with weight they don’t carry. On the other hand, we may not ascertain their full import apart from their context. John 3:16 cannot decide the debate one way or the other. Some people try to accomplish that but it is not really sufficient.

                  When I read Scripture, I look to see if any patterns emerge naturally from the text. This inductive approach helps me to see whether I am actually finding a doctrine within Scripture or just reading one into it. One pattern I see is that God named and claimed people before time began, while others are destined to perish. I don’t think Scripture comes out and says this just to give us a “behind the curtains look.” I think it rather highlights God’s covenant love. I think Scripture brings it down to that. When I consider Paul’s argumentation in Romans, and we can find there an exposition of the doctrines of grace as well as theodicy and an answer to the big question Jewish converts asked (not to mention part of a very long argument going back to Romans 1), I find the election of specific individuals. In Romans 9, Paul gets down to the hot topic: Why hasn’t Israel been saved? To explain that, Paul has to explain that Israel and being a Jew had undergone redefinition. Paul himself reworked this theologically and it was true to God’s plan. It was a brilliant theology also. What he conveys is this. Israel is God’s people, provided we understand Israel as all those who are children of the promise and spiritual descendants of Abraham. That’s you and me and all those who are in Christ. Jews and Gentiles in Christ form the Israel of God that is redeemed. We are the true Jews in this regard. Now here is where Dispensationalists would accuse me of replacement theology. This is not replacement. It is gentile believers grafted in, while false physical descendants are removed. And so all Israel does in fact become saved. Israel is an organic unity. A one track plan for the people of God of all ages, gathered in and around Jesus Christ. This is the Good News! It is also, incidentally, what was promised beforehand through the prophets.

                  Now, to return to the matter of sovereign choice. All of physical Israel did not get saved. Why? Because it wasn’t corporate. It was individually based. It was the children of the promise who were counted as Abraham’s Seed. And note that the Seed is Christ in whom we all reside. So Paul brought it down to the individual level. It is Christ and those who are in him, from among the Jews and the Gentiles. This was where the sovereign choice of election meant salvation.

                  Paul anticipates the remark: That’s not fair! He responds to it by saying that God has a right to choose whom he chooses. He loved Jacob and hated Esau before they even did anything, for example. He’s the potter. We’re all a lump of clay. If he forms some of that clay into a wondrous work of art, he should not be questioned for it. Neither should he be questioned if he decides not to shine his light into some dark corner or to leave chaotic something that could have been ordered. I think that’s what Paul’s getting at. What he does with each individual is his business. We should not try to figure out why some people are saved and others damned. Perhaps we’ll learn something someday that will illumine this matter. Until then, election is a mystery.

                  Having said all of that, we do not know whom God has chosen. We do know he promised to work through his church, so we should take advantage of every opportunity to live as children of the light and to prioritize our lives for the kingdom’s sake.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam:
                    ” He loved Jacob and hated Esau before they even did anything, for example. He’s the potter. We’re all a lump of clay.”

                    Get a grip son, this is factually incorrect. Seems like it’s your thinking which is ‘muddied’ :-)

                    Brian

                    Sam, I think you have an unfair biased when it comes to reading Scripture. Several times you have mentioned, in so many words, that you take a holistic approach to understanding Scripture.. which my brother begs the question. Why do you not look at the other Pot and Potter metaphors in Scripture??Consider the following 3..

                    1. 2 Tim 2:20 says “Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, and some for dishonorable. Therefore IF Anyone cleanses HIMSELF from what is dishonorable he will be a vessel for honorable use” (emphasis added). Here Paul affirms the vessels ability to “cleanse himself”, not through works but through belief in the Person and work of Jesus Christ.

                    2. Jeremiah 18 “Can I not do with you, Israel, as this potter does?” declares the Lord. “Like clay in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, Israel. 7 If at any time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be uprooted, torn down and destroyed, 8 and IF that nation I warned Repents of its evil, THEN I (God) WILL Relent and not inflict on it the disaster I had planned. 9 And IF at another time I announce that a nation or kingdom is to be built up and planted, 10 and IF it does evil in my sight and does not obey me, (pay close attention to this part) then I WILL RECONSIDER the good I had intended to do for it.” (Emphasis added.

                    3. Isaiah 29: 13-14 “These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.14 Therefore once more I will astound these people with wonder upon wonder;
                    the wisdom of the wise will perish, the intelligence of the intelligent will vanish…. V 16 You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it “You did not make me”?
                    Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”

                    In all there of these instances God places the onus directly on the vessel AND the whole point… I say again the WHOLE point of it all is to show that God who is the Potter is responding TO the POTS!!! Keep in mind they are the same Pots that WILL NOT REPENT. Therefore when God brings His inevitable judgments the Pots then get upset with God and answer against Him… i.e. “Why have you done this to me??” But who are the pots to answer back against God, when they would not repent! That’s the whole point. It blows my mind how Calvinists focus on Romans 9 while completely ignoring every other Potter/Pot metaphor… When we read Romans 9 in light of the other verses it makes perfect sense. In Romans 9:20 Paul says who are you to answer back against God, “answer against” is the greek word antapokrinomenos denotes a sinful, angry, accusation, much like the kind satan has when He goes against God. Therefore we know that these vessels are not passive individuals being prepared for hell who, asks “Lord why are you sending me to Hell” only for God to reply “Shut up! I can do with you what I will”… No my brother, these are vessels that are hardened in sin and refuse to repent. This is says in verse 22 What if God Wanting to show His wrath and make His power known bore with great patience the objects of His wrath, prepared for destruction. Lets break this down.
                    1) God wants to show His wrath and make His power known BUT He does not….. instead of crushing these vessels of wrath what He does is bears with them….. That is, He patiently puts up with them which leads us to the B clause of verse 22. which says “He bore with GREAT LONG SUFFERING the objects of His wrath, the vessels fitted for destruction. Notice katertismena “being fitted” is reflexive. so the text literally reads, God Bore with much long suffering the vessels that were fitting themselves for destruction. Does this not confirm 2 Timothy 2:20, Jer. 18, Isaiah 29? Furthermore Why would God put up with vessels? Peter answers this question in 2 Pet 3:9 “God is not willing that any should perish”…

                    But I digress my original question to you was is God serious about saving every person, that is, is the Lord making real attempts to save every individual. My answer is Yes because God died for the whole world (Jn 3:16), the Holy Spirit convicts the whole world of sin (Jn 16:8), we are commanded to preach the Gospel to all people (Mk 16:15).
                    So if God is not interested in saving everyone as you affirm, then how can you possibly fulfill the great commission? What do you tell unbelievers? Again the word Gospel literally means “Good News” and we are commanded to tell every person the Good News that they can be saved, but you cannot do that in a truthful way because you don’t believe God wants to save everybody. So what “Good News” do you tell unbelievers? That Christ raised from the dead? how is that good news for people whom God refuses to save as you so affirm?

                    Sam

                    Thanks, Brian. You mention several different things. When we repent and believe the gospel, we come to God through Jesus Christ. Election is something we learn of later on. When we read about that decree, it strengthens us. We know our standing before God is fixed. There is nothing like assurance rooted in God’s choice. So I don’t have to look back upon the day I think I believed or professed Christianity or the time I underwent baptism. With faith in the promise of salvation, I know I am among those whom God set apart. As the writer says in Psalm 4: The Lord set apart the godly for himself.

                    Obviously I can share the gospel without getting into God’s eternal decree, and to mention that decree to someone who hasn’t even believed yet would probably be ridiculous. I’m not sure anyone actually does that–except maybe for someone who just learned about it themselves and who thought it would be beneficial to tell people that. It seems rather silly.

                    The offer is honest. Whoever believes in him will be saved. There is no catch here. As I said before, no one who genuinely wants in will be left out. No one left outside really wants in. So you raise a problem that does not exist in reality. No one is being lied to or teased. It seems there is always this misunderstanding that people are offered the gospel who want it and can’t get it, while others find themselves trapped in it and wish they could get out. This is all misunderstanding of the nature of what is happening.

                    You mention the image of the potter and clay and the metaphor of the vessels. I think two different illustrations exist there. In one place the verses refer to God’s redemptive plan. In another place it seems to refer to what we do with our life–whatever is good is woven into the fabric of the kingdom, while all else is burned up and wasted. As for the O.T. metaphors, I would have to look at them because I don’t remember them now.

                    Brian

                    Its an honest offer? Seriously? An honest offer? Ok lets start with the basics again. Honest – free of deceit and untruthfulness. Offer – An expression of readiness to give or do something if desired.

                    Now that we have those definitions clear, lets discuss what you just said about “honest offer”. Your telling that you can tell a reprobate person, a person whom you say God has determined to damn since eternity past… that “God loves them and will save them from their sin if they trust in Christ” and that can be an honest offer? Please explain how? You may say “well its honest because God would save them if they did believe” that’s a sophisticated linguistic maneuver to side step the question. According to your theology God will not save them because they are not the elect, therefore there is not now or ever any hope of them ever being saved. Since you believe this to be true, how then can you tell a person who is reprobate that “God will save them if they believe” when in fact God has determined Not to save them? How is this an honest offer? It isn’t.

                    Now you may be tempted to reply “but we don’t know who the reprobate are only God does so we shouldn’t concern ourselves with that.” If this is your response (or something similar to it) then you prove exactly what I was saying to begin with. Because you do not know who the reprobate are, and thus you do know if God has determined to save or damn the person, then you cannot tell them that God will save them if they believe because for all you know you are talking to some whom you say God has determine He will not save.

                    This is what I find so incredibly frustrating with Calvinism. Reformed thought when pressed is not only extremely evasive but irrational, and you cannot have an honest discussion because about things that matter because they always switches gears.. Please, if you would, allow me to use Daniel Gracely’s example with eating fruit so you can see exactly what I mean. Suppose you have an apple and an orange and the doctor tells you eating the orange last will make you sick. Therefore eat the orange first and the apple last. This is what a Calvinist would say

                    Example:

                    “Today I ate the apple before I ate the orange so I wouldn’t get sick, yet not in such a way so that the orange was eaten last which would have made me sick”

                    Calvinist: I feel sick
                    Me: you must have eaten the orange first?
                    Calvinist: No, I told you I ate the apple before I ate the orange..
                    Me: Then why are you sick
                    Calvinist: I told you, I didn’t eat the orange last….
                    Me: ‘Im confused…
                    Calvinist: Look I told you already what I did “Today I ate the apple before I ate the orange so I wouldn’t get sick, yet not in such a way that the orange was eaten last, which would have made me sick.”
                    Me: Ok whatever..

                    In this fake scenario the debate goes on and on because their is no real logic here, therefore nothing has any meaning.

                    Brother with all the love I can muster I humbly submit to you that this is exactly what you are doing.

                    Sam

                    Brian, the offer is available to anyone who believes. As we talk to people about Christ we’re not thinking about it abstractly or from the vantage point of omnicience and God’s decree. You are setting up a false problem. Calvinists are not going around with this difficulty that you suppose.

                    The offer is available and we bring it to everyone. We say that if they beleive they will be saved. And if they believe they will be saved. There is no problem but the false philosophical riddle that non calvinists keep advancing. Calvinists are never actually having this problem. Non calvinists keep looking from the outside and imagining that all these riddles exist. They don’t. There is so much misunderstanding.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: You have a real problem in that you don’t understand your own systematic.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    So why do those who make up the host termed “whosoever” in Scripture fail to believe based on Christ Jesus’s engaging these individuals during His earthly ministry?

                    His experience with these hard hearted rebels in the gospel was identical to His experience with Cain, who was of that wicked one, it was identical to those presently breathing His air, eating His food, drinking His water, wearing His clothes, and walking around in His shoes while living in His houses.

                    Those who fail to believe then and now do so deceived by Satan, blind and lost refusing the love of God. Why, because they are already in love with evil. Those who fail to believe do so having hardened their own sinful hearts.

                    When the sinner twice dead in sins and trespasses says no to God. God brings out that hardness revealing the true condition of heart.

                    Self inflicted hardness, fueled by choice, energized by their free will, influenced by the Wicked One himself.

                    No one is ever saved according to Acts 26, who wasn’t previously under the authority and power of Satan in their lost condition.

                    It’s not Biblical to suggest they cannot believe, yea rather, they will not believe.

                    Sam

                    Dennis, once again I have to say that there is an incredible amount of misunderstanding. Everyone agrees that unsaved people will not believe and that they refuse the gospel.

                    Saved people are saved because of God. Unsaved people are unsaved because of themselves. But there is no difference between us, except for the distinction that one group is rescued.

                    Those who believe were rescued. They hear and believe. Others only hear the gospel, but refuse to believe. The ones who believe do so because of God and not themselves. An old hymn puts it in the following way: “I sought the Lord and afterward I knew, it was not I but he was seeking me.”

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    The misunderstanding has occurred due to double talk, Brian’s point and questionable handling of said portions of Scripture.

                    The saved are truly saved by God and they that perish do so in spite of an all merciful God who alone is Good extending grace to all of them.

                    He has pursued all sinners, the ungodly and the disobedient.

                    Sam

                    Dennis, Scripture speaks to us at different levels saying things that at first glance might seem contradictory, but which upon closer examination clear up. We have to put it together. God is sovereign. People and angels act within God’s sphere. Fallen angels too. Scripture is replete with examples of this, where things are attributed at once on multiple levels. This is not something that Calvin came along and introduced. That kind of complexity was always there. And devout Jews always knew that. They spoke in line with that understanding.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    God has dealt graciously, merciful and good with the pair in the Garden of Eden found in sin, with each of their children and all others down to this present moment.

                    Each Biblical story sets forth God pursuing, finding and confronting sinners wherever He finds them with their Salvation available to them in Him.

                    The divine nature of God and His attributes make Him One God.

                    He is more than Sovereign, He is more than love. He is God. He specializes in the unimaginable, the impossible, and the incredible.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: Your fooling nobody but yourself if you think that your comments amount to anything but a demonstration of your failure to put together a coherent argument.

                    BTW I would guard against taking your theology from hymns. Hymn writers have a bad habit of using poetic license !

                    Sam

                    In the Gospel of John, 17:9, Jesus prays for his own and not for the world. He knew who they were but we don’t. So we bring the message to everyone.

                    Also, elsewhere in John we find that the Father gives certain people to the son and they alone are drawn to him. It is hard to read through John’s Gospel without noticing this.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    Those other than His own, the world, shall reject Him even as those He warned saying , Ye shall die in your sins.

                    Why would He pray them, when in short order He would soon die for them. They made their own bed in Hell, not God.

                    Those given to Him, must learn of the Father. Here again free will is in view. The publicans gladly heard Him but the “in the know crowd” they turned their noses up at Him. These sorted individuals, the Baptist called them snakes and the Lord Jesus developed John’s Spirit given assessment of those who refused the Lord Jesus Christ message from the Father.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    Unfortunately Reformed theology limits salvation in the referenced texts above from God’s perspective however salvation is limited in like manner as “The traditions of men makes the Word of God of “none effect”.

                    Brian

                    lol Sam the “offer” (if offer it can be called) of salvation is not for everybody. The Command to repent and believe is, but not the Offer of Salvation.

                    Within reformed thought there is a fundamental difference between the “Commands” of God and the “Will” of God. So although God “commands” everybody to Believe, He simultaneously “Wills” that most cannot believe. And this is the Calvinist depiction of God, A Person who Wills against His commands and demands obedience to those whom He has predestined to disobedience.

                    This is precisely why I find it disturbing that you say a serious problem does not exist in relation to the Great Commission…. Enlighten me! Please! I beg you!

                    These are the bare bitter facts. If you share the Gospel with everybody you encounter everybody will not accept the message. These people who never accept Christ you call them the “non-elect”. That is, their destiny was eternally and immutably fixed before they were even born. SO if you… at ANY point told a reprobate person that they have/had Hope…. That there is Good News, that the Lord Jesus would personally save them if they trusted Him, then you are lied. Are God’s decrees not eternal? You say Yes! Are God’s decrees not unchangeable? Are not the Decrees of God made by God and God alone? You say Yes!
                    Then to EVER tell someone whom God has immutably and unchangeably determined to burn in hell that God is “offering” them Salvation and eternal joy through His Son is albeit one of the cruelest things to do to a person.

                    This is I am deeply disturbed that you assert no dilemma exists. How can you say God is “Offering” salvation to anyone who is “non-elect” The “Offer” you are telling them about does not apply to them. And even if you don’t know who the “non-elect” are that still doesn’t change the fact.

                    That, and exactly that, is why its REALLY convenient for you to say “oh well when it comes to the great commission we don’t think about it abstractly” or “From God’s vantage point”. Yeah I see why when you don’t! If you did you would begin to realize how deeply problematic Calvinism actually is. And if you suppose this is a misrepresentation then it would do you well to review Calvin’s Institute of Christian Religion (see the Chapter on God’s providence) or A.W. Pink’s the Sovereignty of God.

                    P.S. I was an five pointer for years… I know more about Calvinism than you think.

                    Sam

                    Brian, i still dont see what the actual problem is if God has his elect and we evangelize not knowing who is who. There is no problem for me or for the listener. A large segment of the church has always believed this and it has never presented the problems you attempt to describe. No one is actually confused or lying when as Calvinists, they share the Gospel.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: If you don’t see what the problem is, perhaps you should do a bit more listening to people like Brian who’ve been there, done that, got the T-shirt and decided it wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. When it comes to words like sovereignty, I don’t think it means quite what you think it means!

                    Sam

                    Andrew, I’m really perplexed. I keep hearing calvinist theology yields all these problems and yet Calvinists aren’t having these issues. Neither are their hearers. The problems cited only exist in the minds of people looking at Reformed theology from the outside.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: You’re really perplexed and yet you keep coming back for more. That’s really perplexing.

                    You’re sticking your head in the sand and confidently denying there is nothing too see but sand!

                    Les

                    Sam, I’ve been seeing the comments here and it seems you’re kinda new around these parts. You should be able to see the lay of the land by now. You can actually have a conversation with Dennis Lee without the smugness and condescension you get from a couple others. If you think of interactions with a couple of folks here as time waste central, and you just need to waste some time, certainly carry on. Otherwise I can give you a link to a Facebook site where actual productive interactions with non Calvinists occurs. We actually have a good time there

                    Sam

                    Yeah, Les. I dont understand what these issues are that non-calvinists are raising. These things would never be a concern when a person shares their faith. Anyway, i guess its not going to matter what i say. As you can see, and youve been reading the comments all the while where i addressed points raised. I never knew the degree of misunderstanding, or the amount of mistrust until i saw some of the blogs. I never knew, just thought it was like steak vs chicken for pastors. I dont get the mistrust. What does one side think the other is going to do?

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Les,

                    Thanks, I appreciate the compliment. I have some regrets of course over the years from my finger (heart) upon the key pad here at SBC Today, there’s no question about that. Yet I have a ways to go. Thanks for pointing out where I need to be. Lol.

                    Stay thirsty for His righteousness!

                    Les

                    Dennis, I have regrets as well in my commenting. But sir are there gold standard around here. Whether you agree or disagree with someone here, you are always gracious. You value your “opponent.”

                    Have a blessed Lord’s day.

                    Brian

                    Ok….. You do not see a problem because you have chose not to see it… or maybe it was predestined for you not to see it… Either way at this point we aren’t really having a productive conversation. I’ve given Scripture and logic to support my view and show you why Calvinism is a serious issue. You haven’t given me any Scripture and instead of engaging what I am actually telling you, you just say ” I don’t see a problem”… so okay, good luck to you buddy. No hard feelings. I still love you with the love of Christ, I just hope one day you take your theology seriously and test it…. Later man

                    Les

                    Brian, even above you say to Sam, “I just hope one day you take your theology seriously…”

                    Really bad form there brother. That’s the kind of condescension I mentioned.

                    Brian

                    Les, I’m not entirely sure why you say me asking him to take his theology serious is condescending… A key to discerning truth is identifying faulty reasoning. One element of faulty reasoning is “assertions”.. To simply state something is true without demonstrating Why it is true. Me and Sam spoke over the last several days and I challenged his theology. I referenced scripture, used sound reasoning, asked simple questions. His responses were overly simplistic like “I don’t see a problem” or “when we look at Scripture we see…..” These were assertions that were not backed up by any specific Scripture, I saw no sound hermeneutic, and I didn’t see any sound reasoning in his argument. Therefore I concluded that he should “test his theology”. I wasn’t attacking him, and my argument certainly wasn’t an ad hominem attack, but to be completely honest some of my remarks were… “smart alek” and for that I’m sorry. In the future, I will try to maintain that brotherly spirit, but I still nonetheless stand by my statement that he test his theology and he should! Sam sounds exactly like me five years ago when I only read reformed writers… that’s part of the reason I engaged him like I did… Either way I told him I loved him with brotherly love and I meant it. sorry if I offended you or anyone but still Sam if your reading this Test Your Theology!

                    Les

                    Brian, you and Sam for the most part had a great discussion. But at the end it was a bit of a condescendsion to say, “take your theology seriously.”

                    You don’t know that he doesn’t. Right? All you know about Sam is from this exchange, correct? Or correct me if I’m wrong here. Maybe you two know each other offline. Brother you have no way to judge if he does or does not take his theology seriously. Those sorts of statements are far too common around these parts.

                    Yes of course Sam should test his faith. As should you. As should I.

                    Yes Sam was making assertions. I thought both of you were doing fine in that area. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Scripture proofs serve little purpose on these kinds of forums. We all know what ouR proofs are.

                    Anyway, look. I’m certainly not pristine in the way I have interacted here, as I am quite sure one or two will point out before the day is over. So this is/was a FWIW.

                    God bless.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Brian: You can safely ignore comments from Les. Those of us who’ve been aware of him over quite a few years understand how he operates. Cutting remarks one minute, apologetic the next.

                    Accusing you of condescension is a joke in itself. So …..”All you know about Sam is from this exchange, correct? Or correct me if I’m wrong here. Maybe you two know each other offline.” All the while ignoring the fact that he doesn’t know you from Adam either. It’s the sort of double standard we’ve become used to.

                    Plus the final irony is that he has the gall to advise that if Sam wants a serious discussion he needs to go elsewhere on Facebook! And yet Les puts in regular appearances here. Lol

                    The fact of the matter is that Sam is long on rhetoric but short on substance and does not appear to recognise the many contradictions that make up Calvinism and Reformed theology. It would be condescending in deed to see these and not point them out.

                    Causing offence is not wrong in itself. The Gospel is offensive to many and we are called to contend for it. What I find truly offensive is the idea that we can’t point out short comings in a person’s comments without crys of being condescending!

                    Les

                    And there you have it Brian. He was right on cue as expected. Anyway have a blessed day.

                    Andrew Barker

                    As if your response wasn’t?? Lol

                    When Sam gets round to putting a few verses behind his many assumptions then Brian might have a conversation . Until then …..

                    Good to hear from you though. Obviously Facebook is not taking up too much of your time.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    I am currently preaching through the book of Jonah, a series titled The Mercy of God. This past Sunday was the third installment, “The Mercy Ship”. We ended up in the Philippian jailor’s house where our God was pleased to not only to save the jailor but also “Mercy” his whole house as He did the entire crew of ship.

                    Even Jonah’s disobedience afforded those heathens in route to Tarshish the opportunity to be “Mercied” by God.

                    Leighton and Michael Brown had an excellent discussion on the subject of election from an Old Testament perspective. Very easy to access on YouTube.

                    Sam

                    Thats wonderful, Dennis. The book of Jonah has so much to say to us on so many levels. I dont really find dr. Leighton’s view convinving, though. For every person who leaves aside the reformed view, several embrace it.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    Interesting enough for me the Holy Scriptures didn’t lead me into Calvinism but rather the felt need to see a movement much like the Protestant Reformation amongst my kinsmen after the flesh. Also as Michael said in the interview, Calvinism appealed to my intellectual desires due to the many men I’ve respected and still do.

                    However the truth be told the Scriptures “alone” lead me out.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Led me out.

                    Not emphasis but a spelling correction.

                    Sam

                    Dennis, don’t you find it significant that the reformed view arises during times of renovation? After a low ebb, we are witnessing a reformed renewal. Churches that operated within the revivalist Arminian framework are adopting reformed doctrine. I think people are realizing that they cannot control salvation and church growth. I think we are returning to a more theocentric outlook. I think of how Mullins’ thought represented a movement away from that and I hope the corrective spreads. Of course Mullins was brilliant, but his originality represented a movement away from protestant reformed roots. The famous literary criticism Harold Bloom referred to him as Jamesean. It was very American, interiorized, and practical, as Bloom held. I accept his thesis.

                    Sam

                    Dennis, it was reformed doctrine that led the church to renewal. Calvin and Luther could have toned down the message of unconditional election and so forth, but they didn’t. It was the Jesuits who worked out a middle position in their reactionary efforts. Luther taught that the will is in bondage because of our own fault, and in this he agreed with Calvin. They both taught predestination, though Calvin in some some sense stressed the side of reprobation, while Luther was less inclined to speak to that.

                    Together, they asserted the Augustinian view of the person and God’s grace, and never wavered from it. Later groups moved toward the path of the Jesuits–that middle position–and confessed false doctrines too. Baptists often reach for the anabaptists for their pedigree and I really don’t see how that’s helpful.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: As I said before , you appear to be making it up as you go along. Your revisionist view of ‘history’ is not based in truth.

                    Sam

                    Just basic Reformation history. Not giving it any spin. The disagreement comes in where people take different theological approaches.

                    Robert

                    Sam you said “For every person who leaves aside the reformed view, several embrace it.” That statement is false if you look at church history. Throughout church history the reformed view if always a minority view among Christians. It has spurts where it seems to grow but then it declines and reverts to its minority position. Same is true in the SBC, it is the minority position among all Southern Baptists. It is having a spurt and with time will return to its minority position.

                    Sam

                    Robert, you are right in saying it is a segment and that it reasserts itself at times. My argument is that reassertion occurs at intervals when the church is most in need of doctrine. During those times, Calvinism is embraced oftentimes only to decline again. I never tried to support doctrine or theology based on popularity. I do think we can trace a strain throughout church history, though. I also think reformed doctrine expressed itself whenever the church officially advanced it’s doctrine and practice, whether on the Roman or the Protestant side.

                    Robert

                    Sam,
                    Your comments show your original comment to be false (i.e. that with everyone that leaves several embrace it). Because if that were so then reformed theology would become the majority view among professing Christians. But it **never** does. In fact, it is always the minority position rejection by most other Christians. This is a fact of church history.

                    Sam

                    I was referring to individuals who switch sides, not to general trends or movements.

                    Brian

                    Sam, out of curiosity.. what do you hope to achieve with your comments and responses? What is your main objective?

                    Sam

                    I trust it is the same as everyone else’s. That through fruitful debate we will arrive at better understanding.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: You hide from any semblance of debate. I also have to question just what it is you hope to achieve. It’s not so much a case of not getting your facts right, it’s having some facts in the first place.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    Hope you don’t mind me asking, how did you embrace reformed theology?

                    Sam

                    Dennis, I came to reformed theology through scriptural study and reflection. As I put things together the reformed view emerged. It is an inductive thing.

                    Robert

                    It is not an “inductive thing”. Because presumably all Bible believing Christians practice inductive study of Scripture (i.e. come to your conclusions from what scripture properly interpreted reveals). But the majority of believers come to others conclusions including rejecting Calvinism, theological determinism, the denial of the ordinary conception of free will, etc.. It is not an inductive thing, it is an INTERPRETIVE THING (i.e. different people come to different interpretations of scripture). This means the difference between an SBC traditionalist and an SBC Calvinists is not an “inductive thing” but the fact they interpret certain key scriptures differently.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    Interesting enough I came to Reformed theology by the indoctrination of men. Before RT none of my reading of the canon nor study of the Holy Scriptures remotely presented our God’s Sovereignty as suggested by those men.

                    Sovereignty was pressed beyond the Self Existing One who reveals.

                    Total depravity had a dead corpse riding around in the trunk. Lol

                    Unconditional election doesn’t exist in soteriology.

                    Limited atonement fell short, Irresistible grace went too far.

                    The Holy Scriptures led me out along with many others.

                    I think those such as myself didn’t initially set out to convert Calvinist before our experience of being converted ourselves to RT.

                    At the time I really didn’t care what Calvinist believed and their conversion to my held beliefs really didn’t matter.

                    As you can see that has changed.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    The Scriptures led me out of liberalism, ushered through the entanglement of the Word of faith movement to a place where I am an outspoken advocate for sound doctrine in these parts.

                    My stance has cost me tremendously amongst the kinsmen after the flesh in regard to ministry opportunities.

                    But none of those things move me!

                    I was a so called rising star in our association and convention, having my sights set on the nation convention and top office until the Lord took me out to the woodshed due to my own sin and disobedience.

                    It was there where He straighten this poor preachers out. He put me flat on my back so all I could do was look up.

                    In the last several years I have written the presidents of seminaries and nation convention. Penned well known pastors and leaders. Contacted national TV networks.

                    My cry to them has been for Scriptural Restoration of The Church, restoring the New Testament Church to the Scriptures, the pulpits to honor, the assemblies to respect, for the glory of God, that souls are saved, lives changed, family established and strengthen, and marriages restored.

                    Dennis Lee Dabney

                    Sam,

                    At the end of the day you are my brother and that will never change.

                    Andrew Barker

                    Sam: This is all bluster and easy speak from you. Nothing of any substance. Please provide some facts to back up this assertion that “for every person who leaves aside the reformed view, several embrace it”. I would hazard a guess that this will not be forthcoming!

                    But there have been several notable examples of people previously espousing Calvinism/Reformed theology who have publicly declared their change of thought to what we might term a more Biblical viewpoint. I hesitate to use the term non-calvinist because this should not be seen as a negative stance against Calvinism but a positive declaration of the truth. Of course Leighton is one such example if I can spare his blushes! There are others.

                    I’m not aware of any current significant Bible scholars/teachers who have made the transition the other way. Are you? If so, please share and we can look into why they have done this and on what basis.

                    I’m sure there must have been examples in the past, so I’m not declaring this never happens. Just that you seem ready to claim certain things as ‘facts’, but you don’t appear to be able to back them up.

                    Brian

                    Andrew, you have a point brother. I have noticed the same thing.

                    Sam, if you’re reading this, I’m not trying to “pick” on you, but you don’t substantiate any of your claims… without any support you don’t have an argument….

                    Sam

                    Brian, I can quote many verses. But so can an Arminian or a cult adherent. As I read Scripture first of all I read it from cover to cover to see it progress. Only within that framework do I then study its parts more in depth. Nothing in isolation. Everything in context. This frustrates people who are used to micro-analysis. But I believe it’s the most sensible way to approach the Bible. What I say may seem like rhetoric to some. As I said, i could quote verses, but someone could interpret them differently. I’ve quoted things in John’s Gospel which are clear enough. Butat the micro level, people could give it their own spin. So quoting portions of Scripture only work when one has the broader understanding of God’s elective grace.

                    Brian

                    ROFLOL Sam…. are you seriously trying to give a reasonable explication for why you DON’T use Scripture in your defense of Calvinism. hahahahahahahhahah… Also to imply that Calvinism takes a holistic approach is also implying that non-calvinist don’t which again is an unsubstantiated claim and irrational claim. But either way.

                    Lydia

                    Wow Brian, great comment. You describe the cognitive dissonance so clearly.

    Lydia

    “Ultimately we can’t get around the fact that the Father appointed the Son to die for those whom the Father elected.”

    So Jesus is a lesser god who who was not there -at creation –when all this electing was going on? He is not the One True God in the Flesh?

    Sam, you sound like you do a lot of parroting of Reformed pastors–their ESS and their Platonic theory of determinism and lesser gods in the Trinity. .

    Maybe we should encourage the young guys coming out of Mohlers world of Calvin and it’s offspring, to learn the Shema.

Dennis Lee Dabney

Leighton,

Well done, once again a mighty presentation and representation of the One True Living God who lovingly sent Jesus Christ into the world.

Lydia

“Dennis, don’t you find it significant that the reformed view arises during times of renovation? After a low ebb, we are witnessing a reformed renewal.”

Not true historically at all. It follows authoritarianism and an attempt to curb dissent and freedoms. The Puritans are a perfect example. Geneva is an example. Recently, as more and more people look to the government to solve their problems they also look to the church and the leaders to solve their spiritual problems. these are adults looking to other adults to solve their problems and control is always the result. Calvinism claims that it points people to God but what it really does is point people to other people to tell them who God is. But not to a personal relationship with a risen Savior.

Calvinism fit perfectly within this environment as government was enroaching in every area of life. . but it always wanes/reinvents itself as we have seen historically. it shrinks to a few Frozen chosen or it goes Social Gospel. Which is exactly what Moore is now doing.

the problem is going to be for all the young men who were indoctrinated and brainwashed over the last fifteen or so years. Their leaders are already on to other things and what was once the true gospel you had to take to everyone else is now a cry for Unity and a declaration of acceptance for those who still do not hold the true gospel. :o) funny how that works.

    Sam

    I understand what you say, Lydia. Calvinism has been accused of totalitarianism. It is the irony of reformed theology, however, that it served as the impetus for democracy and radical egalitarianism. It’s a confusion for people reading history, but it’s true. Likewise, knowledge of a limited number of elect did not deter the famous reformed evangelists and missionary enterprises. It’s not a straightforward thing, but something we see upon closer scrutiny.

    There is an American narrative, Jeffersonian, Jacksonian, that may suggest calvinism stands in the way of democracy. I don’t think so. Presbyterian government is republican, and many calvinists were congregational. These are still the polities found among reformed church bodies.

      Lydia

      Sam All they did was adapt determinism and affirm cognitive dissonance.

    Dennis Lee Dabney

    Lydia,

    My experience was brief but my error great. I was in long enough to pay homage to the above and unfortunately repeat the held beliefs of these men from that era and even now, without first properly “vetting” them and “Berean” the teachings espoused.

Lydia

Sam, I think it is a mistake to separate the church from the state when discussing Calvinism. Historically, it has operated within a very thin line of a Theocracy. The Puritans in England had to live around other Puritans who disagreed with them. They had no control. The Puritans who came here, were much worse concerning control and punishments for non conformity than what they left behind!

Nothing scared me more than to see young men gushing over and promoting Puritan practice and polity. Yikes! It scares me as much as Moore not taking Sharia into consideration when hawking religious freedom. England already has some forms of Sharia courts because they went down that road. Last I looked, 80 of them operating. There ARE limits to religious freedom that even Jefferson faced when he tried to negotiate with the Ambassador of Tripoli concerning the Barbary Pirates.

I find Calvinism and Islam distant cousins. I call it Chrislam.

“The Calvinistic doctrines of election, reprobation, and the atonement are so repulsive to human reason that they can never obtain the assent of the mind, but through the medium of the passions; and the master passion of orthodoxy is fear.”
— John Quincy Adams —

“The Life of John Adams”, page 53. Published in 1874. Started by John Quincy and completed by Charles Francis Adams. Free on Google books.

Sam

Lydia, to be honest, calvinism can result in authoritarianism, but I don’t see that in mainstream reformed theology. I see it in distortions and revisions of calvinism. The worldly trajectory that churches assume with succeeding generations is from all theological backgrounds. But significantly, when we reject the authority of God and his Word, we find ourselves captive to the elements of this world. Rules, church leaders, program gurus, and so on emerge to replace the sovereign Lord. Dark forces enter into the vacuum. I’ve seen strong dependency in arminian groups where the pastor or strong personalities dominate. I’ve seen the control and it is alarming. And worship leaders and praise teams can and often do replace the congregation. The pastor, who should be minister of Word and Sacrament, tethered to a dialogical script, oftentimes becomes the monologue and star of the show.

    Lydia

    Sam, Read history with the church state filter. Not the sanitized versions your gurus recommend. Calvinism was conceived as authoritarian and practiced as despotic authoritarianism. One would have to believe the Holy Spirit was simply awol during that time to excuse it. And we know that’s not true because there were radical reformers who gave their lives in peaceful dissent.

    It was eventually adapted to culture or its original practice would be against the law! Individual civil rights did not exist from Geneva to the Puritans.

    Let’s hope Sharia is never allowed to be practiced here. But I fear it already is in various forms in some communities. When the American Pediatric association suggests a policy to permit cultural female circumcision be performed by their doctors on little girls for safety, it is already bad enough. Thankfully they rescinded it in 2010 but who in their right mind would want to affirm such a heinous practice? These are supposedly very educated people who took an oath not to harm. This is where we are. This is where Moore is on religious freedom? He needs to keep his mouth shut on Islam. He likes it too much. It’s serious business.

    http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/722840

    On an amusing note, I saw where Al Sharpton called Jesus a refugee. Been hearing that from some Moore fans. I thought He was God in the flesh who owns it all.

Sam

Lydia, I am unaware of Moore’s thought, but with regard to the reformed tradition, I do not see where it leads people into that kind of a situation. Someone else could argue that arminianism results in mob rule or even anarchy. Theology seeks to express Scripture. I do not see where Scripture asks us to open ourselves up to his reign only to forget the broader implications of the kingdom. I see that Scripture enjoins us to claim the gospel, its promise, and to obey God and pay him homage, because we will all be called to account. True. But if Jesus is Lord, then he is Lord of all creation. We ought to recognize him as sovereign over the nations, and Puritans and calvinists influenced society and politics to some degree or another for this reason. “This is my Father’s world…” as the hymn puts it, expresses this point.

    Lydia

    Sam,

    Calvinism demands submission. So does Islam.

    One does not “pay homage” to Yahweh. It is a real and serious relationship.

    One pays homage to gods.

    Andrew Barker

    Sam: Instead of saying that …. ” Someone else could argue that arminianism results in mob rule or even anarchy. ” perhaps you could be more specific. Who that you know of who his credible has argued that arminianism results in mob rule or even anarchy? Please cite your source, we are waiting to hear!

      Sam

      Lol…As if you didn’t get the point. OK, so I’m saying it’s tricky to make connections in history between ideas and certain results. We see that generally, where reformed theology exerted influence on society, it seemed to create a climate conducive to republicanism. Someone hinted that Calvinism might be oppressive so I wanted to make that point. What I was saying was that authoritarianism is linked with Calvinism as mob rule or anarchy is linked to Arminianism. In other words, no such connections exist! We do see, as I already mentioned, a relationship between Calvinism and republicanism. This connection is usually explained in terms of the doctrine of pervasive depravity and the need for checks and balances. That does not mean that republicanism happens automatically or immediately. The influence may need to build up over time and other variables exist that could redirect things politically.

      As I reflect on the discussions going on, and I’ve been following religious issues for years, im coming to believe that some of the disagreement among Southern Baptists stems from differences in general outlook, which is in part, of course, due to where people are at on the theological spectrum. More deeply, some disagreement looks cultural and social, with roots that stretch far back in time. This is only speculation. But the more I consider it, the more I believe there is a clash of visions, and that it’s as much cultural and social, and perhaps even geographical, as it is theological. It was interesting to see so much debate surrounded Moore. At first I was confused because at a basic level he’s not all that different from most other Southern Baptists. If he were, he would not be one and would not have risen to his position. Further, he does have some very conservative views that would put him at odds in some other biblical denominations that aren’t quite so traditional. He’s clearly a Christian committed to the same fundamentals. That leads me to think it’s a clash of outlooks that is taking place. Not just disagreement about where people should be at on the theological spectrum. And I don’t really believe that theological differences alone can account for the profound difference. Theology gives rise to some of it, no doubt, but much of it arises from elsewhere.

        Andrew Barker

        Sam. Just needed to know that you’re making this up as you go along, so thanks for the confirmation .

Sam

Of course its a relationship but we also worship him because he is God. We have a relationship to the living God.

    Lydia

    Sam, Separating relationship and worship is part of the problem you guys have.

      Sam

      Sorry, I don’t exactly understand what you mean. Can you elaborate on that?

Jonathan O'Dowd

I am praising God for your journey in discovering a plausible and logical perspective on the most difficult and disturbing passages in the Bible. I have never felt right about TULIP as it doesn’t fit the whole counsel of the Bible. I am going to purchase your book on Romans 9-11. Our Pastors just preached on it. They gave the Spurgeon/Calvinistic viewpoint. I was deeply convicted they got it wrong. I will point them to your resources. Not sure it will change their minds, but I certainly pray so because they are teaching 1000’s of people incorrectly. I have seen the aftermath already as they have taught it before in their theology class they offer. A leader of a small group I’m in is doubting whether he is one of the ‘elect’ even though he accepted Christ and was baptized way back when.

    Max

    “A leader of a small group I’m in is doubting whether he is one of the ‘elect’ even though he accepted Christ and was baptized way back when.”

    If God is not the author of confusion, who is?

    Mark

    Get out of that church. They are trying to indoctrinate you into their system. They will not listen to you, nor read your non calvinistic books.

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