The TULIP’s Petals and Sepals, part 1

May 6, 2013

by Ronnie Rogers

Before you make the TULIP your flower of choice, consider it in full bloom.

TULIP is used acronymically to succinctly point out the major emphases of Calvinism. I well understand that the use of the TULIP does not fully illustrate the depth and breadth of Calvinism. I do understand that some believe the acronym has outlived its usefulness. However, it still enjoys ubiquitous usage among Calvinists and non-Calvinists alike. I find this to be particularly true among those seeking to explain Calvinism to people who may demonstrate some interest in understanding Calvinism, or as a simple tool to convince young people of its biblical and systematic cogency. I am not considering this acronym in order to either portray Calvinism simplistically or inaccurately. Rather, I use it in the manner described by Roger Nicole when he said, “the five points provide a classic framework which is quite well adapted for the expression of certain distinguishing emphases of Calvinism.”

Now admittedly, I do want to call attention to some of the frequently elided essentials of the TULIP in order to augment our understanding. To wit, I wish to not only consider the petals but the sepals (leaves) as well, so-to-speak. I consider these lesser known beliefs, premises, and entailments to be biblically unsustainable and therefore crippling to the more palatably related beliefs demonstrated by the TULIP.

First, I will give the normal understanding communicated by Calvinists, which will be in italics. Second, I will include some of these infrequently presented and therefore less known beliefs and entailments associated with each particular petal.

1. Total Depravity: The whole of man’s being is corrupted by sin and therefore incapable of doing any eternal spiritual good.

Calvinism’s understanding of total depravity includes a compatibilist view of human nature, unconditional election, and limited and selective regeneration. This means that the only interpretive option that Calvinism permits for God to be able to redeem such a compatibly defined totally depraved person is that God must give him a new nature, which He is pleased to do only for the limited unconditionally elect; thereby, guarantying their subsequent free exercise of faith.

Viewing man from a compatibilist perspective means that, while fallen man freely chooses to sin, he cannot freely choose to believe in the gospel unless God gives him a new nature which assures that he will freely choose to exercise faith in Christ; however, in either state, man cannot choose to do otherwise than he did in fact choose because while freely choosing, he has no salvific choice.

Further, defining man compatibly necessitates that while God is not the efficient cause of man’s depravity, He did in fact desire it. This is evidenced by His choice to create man with a compatibilist free will, which guaranteed by design that Adam would freely choose (be the efficient cause) to sin, and equally assured that he could not have done otherwise than what he did in fact do. To wit, if God would have desired that man not sin, he would have given him a different nature. Moreover, the use of the word “desire” as a deterministic desire in Calvinism is essentially dissimilar to other perspectives that believe God always desired man to choose holiness, a desire which permitted man to choose unholiness and comprehended that he would so choose.

Therefore, if a person believes the Scripture teaches the following, he cannot be a Calvinist:

    • God’s only desire for Adam was for him to be holy because God is holy and always desires holiness;
    • God created Adam with true otherwise choice so that he could have chosen to sin or chosen not to sin, and whatever he did in fact choose he could have chosen otherwise;
    • that fallen man is totally depraved and God is able to be sovereign over beings with otherwise choice and to grace enable fallen man to have a free choice to either believe the gospel or not believe the gospel without resorting to a compatibilist (deterministic) view of free will;
    • whatever choice someone makes with regard to the gospel, he could have chosen otherwise.

This view is held in various biblical approaches but not Calvinism.

Ronnie is senior pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Norman, Okla., and is the author of  “Reflections of a Disenchanted Calvinist.”

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available

Norm Miller

Pastor Ronnie:
With perhaps the exception of the word “elided,” you have placed all the cookies on the lower shelf.
Of particular interest to me is your explanation of the bi-partisan sounding word compatibilist. Whereas the word implies that God’s sovereignty and man’s agency are compatible, such is not the case as it is understood and expressed by some Calvinists, who, in the final analysis, apply to the word a deterministic (preordained) outcome. — Norm

Alan Davis

“that fallen man is totally depraved and God is able to be sovereign over beings with otherwise choice and to grace enable fallen man to have a free choice to either believe the gospel or not believe the gospel without resorting to a compatibilist (deterministic) view of free will;”

I am at a loss as to understand you here. Are you saying that you believe in total depravity? I do see that the church you pastor does by their statement of belief. However that would be in tension with many other writers (in fact most) here in support of the Traditionalist view as they have written against the view of total depravity. Maybe you are redefining the words “total depravity” or maybe I misunderstood the statement and you do not believe in total depravity?

Alan Davis

Randall Cofield

Did God desire (in the same way He desired that man choose holiness) that Christ would become the Lamb slain in time before He created man?

Randall Cofield

God created Adam with true otherwise choice so that he could have chosen to sin or chosen not to sin, and whatever he did in fact choose he could have chosen otherwise;

Does this make God the Author of sin, albeit through secondary causes?

    Dean

    Randal, it would seem to deny this would make God the primary Author of sin.

      Randall Cofield

      Avoided via negativa…..

      :-)

        Dean

        :) Would you use cataphatic theology and say positively that God is primarily the Author of sin? If we are going to attribute secondary causes to God then there is nothing He is not responsible for. He indeed is the Cause of the universe.

          Randall Cofield

          The apophatic position does seem to always beg the question, doesn’t it?

          Indeed He is the Cause of all that exists, and doesn’t this cause equitable difficulty for libertarian free-willism?

            Robert

            Not al all. Just as Human parents may create a human child through their actions. We do not then hold the parents responsible for the actions of the child when they do crimes for instance: we hold the child responsible for their own actions if they are adults and freely chose to do them. In the prisons, there is a joke going around that makes this point very nicely. A guy gets arrested for a crime and responds: “You are making a mistake. Dont’ arrest me, arrest my parents for this. If they had not conceived me this crime would never have happened!”

            Most of us see through this criminals argument. It is true that he would not exist if the parents had engaged in the actions that resulted in him being conceived and born. But that does not make THEM responsible for his later freely performed acts as an adult. In the same way, God creates us with a nature that includes the capacity to have and make our own choices, and do our own actions. If we freely choose to do something wrong we cannot then turn around and blame God for creating us with the capacity to have and make our own choices. Most of us understand these points, unfortunately many calvinists don’t seem to understand these things. As they will prattle on about how if God created everything, then isn’t he just as responsible for evil and sin under noncalvinistic premises as under calvinism where he preplans all evil and ensures that it all happens.

            Robert

    Robert

    The phrase “author of sin” refers to the idea that God plans and originates and ensures that every sin take place just as he Planned for it to occur. The charge is made, rightly, against calvinists who maintain that God predestined every event, that this makes God the “author of sin”. Just as the author of a novel decides who the characters will be in his/her story, their every thought and action, every detail of the story. Likewise if God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, then he becomes the author of sin. He preplanned them all, desired them all to occur exactly as they occur and controls all circumstances to make sure that everything goes according to the total plan he conceived and carries out.

    I find it interesting that most calvnists will deny that God is the author of sin and yet the premises of their thinking lead directly and unavodiably to this conclusion. Its like they realize this makes God’s character highly questionable and even evil, so they don’t want to admit that their theology does this. So they engage in all sorts of evasions of this simple point. And yet noncalvinists clearly see this problem and keep bringing it up. No calvinist has ever successfully dealt with this objection. They may try to redefine things, use the same words with different meanings, etc. etc. But they cannot escape the fact that their theology makes God the author of sin. And not just the author of sins like the fall, but all of them. If he predestines our every thought and action, then whenever we sin we are doing exactly what God preplanned for us to do and wanted us to do. Fortunately the vast majority of Christians across all theological tradictions and throughout church history recoil at this idea that God is the author of sin. So they reject the thought and also reject calvinism which necessarily if consistent makes God the author of all sin.

    Robert

      Randall Cofield

      Robert,

      In your non-Calvinist position, from whence do you locate the rise of sin in God’s perfect creation?

        Robert

        Tje devil brough sin into the world. He had to have already fallen when he came to tempt Adam and Eve. He also led other angels to join in his rebellion according to scripture. Why do you refer to this as “your non-Calvinist position”?

        Don’t you believe that Satan first brought sin into God’s creation???

        Isn’t that the standard and orthodox Christian position???

        And what does THAT have to do with God being the author of sin? God creating mutable creatures that could choose to rebel against him is not at all like Him preplanning every sin and then controlling things to ensure that all of these preplanned sins occur.

        Robert

          Randall Cofield

          Robert,

          And who created the mutable creature’s will?

          Let’s trace this out over a series of exchanges.

          PS. Could you extend to me the Christian courtesy of not attributing positions to me that I have not articulated…and let’s just have a conversation?

          I am not your enemy.

          Grace to you, Robert

Ben Simpson

God created the world in such a way as to maximize His glory, and since it is more glorious to redeem man than for man to earn heaven himself, God ordained the fall of humanity and slew Christ from the foundation of the world to redeem His chosen ones. Glorious!

    Norm Miller

    I know of no one w/in SBC circles who believes that man can earn heaven. — Norm

      Lydia

      So, God forced Adam to sin so He could Glorify Himself. This is the same sort of comment I have seen on Ex Christians where some were calling it the narcissistic god. All the subsequent murder and mayhan was simply so He could glorify Himself to us? Us…..the ones He already controls as He controls all the molecules 24/7?

      Perhaps what you are really saying is God is not Sovereign enough to create beings who could say no to Him and defy Him. That would mean He planned Satan to torment us, too. All to glorify Himself.

      How you guys impugn a loving and merciful God who loves us all with an enduring love. It would also mean He has wrath for those who cannot help their evil because God forced it, too with the fall.

        Wayne

        “like”

        Robert

        Hello Lydia,

        Your points are true here except for one that I believe is mistaken. Noncalvinists sometimes mistakenly speak about God “forcing” people to do things like sin. You wrote: “So, God forced Adam to sin so He could Glorify Himself.”

        Lydia you have to realize how deep God’s control is under calvinistic premises. What I mean is that if God preplans everything. If God decides beforehand how every detail of history is going to go. If God directly and completley and continuoulsy controls everybody’s thoughts, minds, wills, bodies, actions. Then he does not force anyone to sin. Instead he preplans for them to sin, and controls them to sin so they have to sin, so it is impossible for them to do otherwise. If God predestined for you to sin and commit sin X. If he controls your thoughts, predestined all of your thoughts, all of your desires all of your choices, everything. Then when you commit sin X you had to do it but were not forced to do it against your will. You forget that under consistent calvinism he controls the will and so he does not need to force anyone to do anything “agaisnt their will”. The reality is they have no will of their own, so they are not forced against their will to do anything. God like a divine puppet master just moves the strings of your mind, will to cause you to do what he predestined you to do.

        Robert

Bob Cleveland

For one thing, it was Adam’s fall that gave the rest of us a depraved nature. God gave Adam freedom to choose right or wrong (which we with our fallen nature don’t have). Thus, God’s not the author of sin.

Second, 1 Corinthians 2:14 says that our natures cannot comprehend things of the Spirit, so how could we grasp salvation by faith, unless God first gave us, somehow and call it what you wish, a new nature?

    Norm Miller

    While I believe that Pastor Rogers has dealt with “otherwise choice” effectively, and whereas I don’t pretend to understand the tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, I will simply note that I take exception to your parenthetical statement above: “…(which we with our fallen nature don’t have)….” — Norm

Ben Simpson

I agree, Norm, and didn’t imply thus.

    Norm Miller

    Ben: Our two original comments highlight what constitutes a problem we all may suffer from now and again in both what we write and how we read it.
    Given your Reformed bent, I thought you were implying that “earn heaven himself” somehow referred to “free will.” Thx for the clarity. — Norm

Adam Harwood

Ronnie,

Good start to your post.

In reply to some of the comments in this stream, I offer the following quote from a book written by this SEBTS professor of theology:

Ken Keathley, _Salvation & Sovereignty_ (B&H, 2010), 98, “But it has to be noted that compatibilists do not employ determinism consistently to described God’s actions, especially in their use of primary and secondary causation and the incurring of merit or blame. They declare that when God (the primary cause) caused Adam (the secondary cause) to sin, all guilt belonged to Adam. But when God (the primary cause) causes the Christian (the secondary cause) to believe and to obey, all merit belongs to God. If God is the primary cause of sin, but yet is free from its guilt, then He also is free from the glory of salvation. Of course, this is unacceptable.”

In Him,
Adam

    Randall Cofield

    Indeed, that is a problem…for compatibilists.

    This raises an interesting point. Augustine’s theodicy was a titanic effort directed at resolving the problem of evil, though he never quite succeeded, imho. The Irenaean theodicy (though not fully developed in his extant works) has been hijacked by John Hick in defense of the evolutionary status-quo. The theodicy of process theology led directly to open theism.

    I see lots of disdain for the theodicies of Calvinists, so here’s my question:

    What theodicy has Traditionalism formulated?

      Ron F. Hale

      Randall, my Brother, ….”see to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to thr elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8 ESV).

      Blessing!

        Randall Cofield

        Ron,

        Lol.

        I genuinely appreciate your concern, but any substantive soteriological position must engage the problem of evil. This is not a merely philosophical concern, for the very righteousness of God is at stake.

        You don’t want to just go with the “blind leap of faith” defense, do you?

        So…again…I ask: What theodicy has Traditionalism formulated?

        Grace to you, brother

Ron F. Hale

Bob Clevland,

The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. As the sinner hears the Gospel and as the Holy Spirit of God brings conviction of sin and Jesus is lifted up – any “whosoever” can repent and believe!

Your picture of Total Inability … makes it impossible for any sinner to comply with the many commands of God for sinners to repent and believe. Total Inability makes God’s command to believe the Gospel an unreasonable demand. In other words, how can God be just (perfectly just) when He in the Holy Word of God says …”command all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), therefore, a just and holy God would not make a command that was impossible to obey! Thank God for the Gospel, the Holy Spirit of God, the preachers and witnesses of the Word.

However, Total Inability does “set up” the other doctrines of Calvinism.

Thanks Ronnie for your article!

    Chris Roberts

    Ron,

    “therefore, a just and holy God would not make a command that was impossible to obey!”

    Let’s trail that out a bit.

    God commands all men to be holy. God commands all men to be righteous. God commands all men to obey all his commands perfectly. You say that a just and holy God would not command things that are impossible for us. Do you believe it is at least possible for a fallen, unsaved person to be holy and just and righteous? If not, how does that not contradict your argument that a just God will not make commands that are impossible for man to obey? If it is impossible for man to be righteous apart from what Christ does (not what we do), how is God just to command that we do righteousness, whether fallen or saved?

      Norm Miller

      I apologize, Chris, for being a bit off topic, but I would ask you if you believe that God damns some to hell for his good pleasure?

        Chris Roberts

        Norm,

        While that’s a worthy discussion, there is no need to distract from my question with a separate issue that has absolutely nothing to do with this one.

          Norm Miller

          All you need to do, Chris, is to choose either two or three keys to depress. To wit, N-O, or Y-E-S.
          Pretty simple, really. Surely you would not want to appear to be dodging my question, would you?

            Chris Roberts

            Fortunately, we are both adult enough to realize I am dodging nothing, but trying to stay on topic. I want to know whether it is possible for an unsaved person to obey all of God’s commands, as Ron has stated. The question has nothing to do with how God feels about judgment.

            A more appropriate place for that discussion might be a post I wrote on a similar topic: http://www.sbcfocus.net/2013/04/08/is-god-pleased-to-send-people-to-hell/

              Norm Miller

              My apologies, Chris, for your comment containing a link to your blog being in moderation for so long. As a precautionary measure, by default SBCToday holds comments with links in moderation. Also, I have just now (10.40 a.m.) seen your comment as pending.
              I make no apology, however, for asking you to answer the question raised. I would ask again that you simply answer the question. I know that Calvin is a double-predestarian. I am just wondering if you are too. — Norm.

        Randall Cofield

        Scripture is clear that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

    Ben Simpson

    Ron, you said, “therefore, a just and holy God would not make a command that was impossible to obey.” Impossible for whom? A person without a sin nature? It’s not impossible for that man, which is how God created mankind. A person with a sin nature? It’s impossible for that man. Therefore, Adam and Jesus are the only two human beings that God’s commands are not impossible for.

    I’ll just with Augustine on this one, “O God, command what you will and give what you command.”

      Ben Simpson

      I’ll just stick with Augustine on this one, “O God, command what you will and give what you command.”

      Ron F. Hale

      Ben,
      I’m going to hang with Jesus on this one, “There will be …joy in heaven over one sinner who repents” Lukev15:7.

      Ben Simpson

      Very good, Ron! Then I’m sure you’ll also amen Jesus when He said, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father,” (John 6:65).

        Ron F. Hale

        Ben,
        The real question is: Does God give the ability to come to Him to all men or all sinners? Nothing in that wonderful verse “limits” God’s willingness to provide to only some. 2 Peter 3:9, 1 Tim.2:4

          Norm Miller

          EXACTLY, Ron. It is an exegetical error to appeal to Jn. 6.65 as an apologetic for limited atonement. One could more easily make an opposite argument from John 3.16 — and be exegetically correct. — Norm

            Randall Cofield

            For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that every believing one (pisteuon–present active participle, singular nominative masculine) should not perish but have everlasting life.

            How is it “exegetically correct” to appeal to Jn. 3:16 as an apologetic for universal atonement?

              Norm Miller

              The Calvinist camp is divided on what “world” (cosmos) means. Some force that word to mean “elect.” Some, like DA Carson, responsibly do not interpret cosmos to mean eklektos.
              Yet, as I have repeatedly asked on this blog, and as yet have not gotten an answer: If God the Holy Spirit desired, through the inspiration process, for cosmos to mean eklektos, why wasn’t that word used? Further, I do not see “every believing one” as contra to “whoseover.” The terms are not mutually exclusive. Further, I think it does violence to force pisteuon to be a quantitative word regarding the amount, or the extent of the number of who will or won’t believe. — Norm

            Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

            Norm, I wasn’t using John 6:65 as an apologetic for limited atonement and don’t think Ron thought was either.

          Chris Roberts

          Ron,

          My question for you may have been buried in the midst of other comments and distractions, so let me ask again what I think is also an important question.

          If a just God only commands what we are able to obey, is a fallen sinner able to obey God’s command to be holy as he is holy?

        Ben Simpson (@JBenSimpson)

        Ron,

        Then are you saying that John 6:65 and the surrounding context is stating that God has granted every person the ability to come to Christ?

        That just does not square with the text, my friend. The answer to your question “Does God give the ability to come to Him to all sinners?” No, He does not. It is completely by the grace of God, and John 6:65 is plain spoken proof of that.

Alan Davis

Ron,
“As the sinner hears the Gospel and as the Holy Spirit of God brings conviction of sin and Jesus is lifted up – any “whosoever” can repent and believe!”

I am going to assume in saying this you mean without the work of the Holy Spirit one would not be able to repent and believe? For if you were to say that sentence with out the words “and the Holy Spirit of God brings conviction” I think we would both agree it would not be correct nor make sense theologically. So if you mean that without the work of the Spirit of God that one can not repent and believe then my question on this would be three fold, 1. Do you believe the Spirit of God convicts every person of their sin in the manner you stated above? 2. If so then does the Holy Spirit do it in equal degrees or more for some and less for others? 3. How would this not be God ‘manipulating” that persons free will if He does in fact send the Holy Spirit to “persuade men and especially in different degrees?

In the second paragraph you said; “Total Inability makes God’s command to believe the Gospel an unreasonable demand. In other words, how can God be just (perfectly just) when He in the Holy Word of God says …”command all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), therefore, a just and holy God would not make a command that was impossible to obey! ”
A couple of questions here. 1. Would a “limited inability” not also make the demand unreasonable? And why wouldn’t it? 2. With your statement above how do you rectify the possibility of the one who never hears the gospel so they can repent and believe? In other words with the view you take in your statement how do you see it not unreasonable for the one who never hears the gospel but unreasonable for the one God might not call?

Alan Davis

    Ron F. Hale

    Alan,
    My statements were fairly simple and straightforward — not too difficult to discern. So in the context of my first paragraph, do you believe any “whosoever” can repent and believe the Gospel …”which is the power of God unto salvation”?

      Alan Davis

      In the context of your first paragraph I believe “The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. As the sinner hears the Gospel and as the Holy Spirit of God brings conviction of sin and Jesus is lifted up – the “whosoevers” will repent and believe!”

      As to the “not to difficult to discern” I still have the questions hanging there as I do not see the answers in what you wrote.

      Alan

mike davis

“…man cannot choose to do otherwise than he did in fact choose because while freely choosing, he has no salvific choice.”

Certainly there are Calvinists who hold to that, but it does not describe every Calvinist. In Freedom of the WillJonathan Edwards distinguishes between natural inability and moral inability. Unredeemed humans do not have a natural inability to respond to the gospel, thus they to make a genuine decision to obey or disobey the gospel call. Their inability is a moral one: they don’t want to obey (Rom 8:7, Gal 5:17). This moral inability can only be overcome by the drawing power of the Holy Spirit. Obviously the point of disagreement between Calvinists and non-Calvinists is whether that drawing can be resisted.

rhutchin

Pastor Rogers writes, “…if God would have desired that man not sin, he would have given him a different nature.”

Maybe not. It may be that God would have had to make man equal to Himself in order that man not sin. To make man less than God may be sufficient to ensure that man would sin.

The problem may not be man’s nature as much as the necessity of God’s direct interaction with the man. Despite Adam’s nature, whatever that nature could have been, it may have been necessary for God to be continuously and actively intervening in Adam’s life to ensure that Adam not sin.

What seems to be true is that God desired that Adam be permitted to make choices without God’s interference. Without God’s help, Adam may have been doomed to sin no matter what nature God could have given him.

    Ben Simpson

    Very interesting insight here, rhtuchin! I’ve never thought about that way: for God to have given mankind a nature less than His (which He certainly did in that Adam was able to not sin, but God is not able to sin) set Adam up for the inevitability of sin. That seems very right! I’ve been sharpened today.

    Randall Cofield

    rhutchin,

    That seems to draw from Irenaeus’ theodicy….

    Interesting! :-)

rhutchin

Pastor Rogers uses the phrase, “…he could have chosen otherwise.”

What does this mean? If left alone, a dug addict can choose otherwise with regard to the use of drugs. He never does. A drug addict (sinner) can choose otherwise – if only because he is not forced against his will to use drugs (to sin) – but will he he choose otherwise if his choices reflect his true desires? Will a drug addict (sinner) ever choose differently without q change to the conditions in which he finds himself?

The question is not what Adam could do but what Adam would do. Adam could have chosen otherwise. Would Adam ever have chosen otherwise under the same conditions we read about in Genesis or would something have had to change in those conditions for him to make a different choice?

It is so easy to say, “…he could have chosen otherwise,” but we cannot say it without asking, “Would he have chosen otherwise?” The Calvinists may be right on this. A person can always choose otherwise but will always choose consistent with their desires.

Norm Miller

Take a break, gentlemen, and read what Dr. David Allen has written in this vein.
The thumbnail version is that spiritual “deadness” is metaphorical, and he shows that in scripture.
He also cites verses showing so-called spiritually dead people responding to God.

Allen’s comments are below.

Calvinists’ belief that regeneration precedes faith is largely based on their tenet that man is spiritually dead and thus is unable to exercise faith unless first regenerated by God.

Allen offered extensive exegetical evidence controverting this claim, but SBCToday offers the following verbiage from Allen’s notes, which he related almost verbatim at the Conference.

Allen said this in reference to Ephesians 2:1-10:

“Part of what is driving the ‘regeneration precedes faith’ issue is a flawed anthropology drawn partly from Ephesians 2. With respect to Ephesians 2:1-10, when Paul speaks of the unregenerate as being ‘dead in sins’ there is no question that ‘dead’ is being used metaphorically. In Scripture, ‘death’ is often used metaphorically to express alienation from God and ‘life’ is used to express union with God via salvation (See Aquinas and O’Brien in Ephesians, [Pillar Commentary]). This death is ‘on account of’ or ‘with respect to’ our sins (notice the nouns are in the dative and there is no preposition in the Greek text). Many Calvinists suggest that this passage either 1) overtly teaches human inability (usually moral inability) in the sense of ‘one cannot because they will not,’ affirming the Edwardsian distinction between natural and moral inability of sinners to respond to the gospel; or 2) implies human inability to respond to the gospel (John Eadie, Ephesians, 121, argued that ‘dead’ implies inability.). There are other biblical figures of speech used to connote depravity which do not indicate or imply total inability. Calvinists assume their definition of spiritual death is correct and then superimpose it on the word ‘dead’ in Ephesians 2. Notice in the broader context the separation motif in Ephesians (2:12, 13, 19, 4:18). Notice also the parallel passage in Colossians 2:12-13, where Paul affirms that even though people are spiritually dead, they can still exercise faith in God.”

Allen noted that spiritual death means primarily separation from God, not a total inability to respond to God. Calvinists make a significant linguistic mistake by pushing the metaphor “dead” beyond its legitimate metaphorical boundaries. This can be seen when Paul’s use of the metaphor of “dead” as used in Romans 6:1-14 is compared to Eph. 2.

Also from Allen’s notes:

“According to the Bible, the unsaved who are spiritually dead have the ability to:
Act in accordance with conscience (Gen. 3:7)
Hear God (Gen. 3:10-13)
Respond to God (Gen. 3:10-13)
Adam and Eve died spiritually when they ate the fruit.
But they were still capable of hearing from/responding to God. (Gen. 3:10-13).
Repent of sins (Luke 15:18-19)
The prodigal son, in a state of deadness (Luke 15:32),
still recognized his sin and returned to the father.
Seek God (John 3)
Fear God (Acts 10:2)
Pray to God (Acts 10:2)
Both Nicodemus and Cornelius were ‘seeking’ God before their regeneration.
But if they are dead in their sins, how can this be?
Know the truth about God (Rom. 1:18-20)
Perceive God’s invisible attributes (Rom. 1:18-20)
Again if they are spiritually dead in the sense of total inability, how can this be?

    Randall Cofield

    Notice also the parallel passage in Colossians 2:12-13, where Paul affirms that even though people are spiritually dead, they can still exercise faith in God.”

    12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead.
    13 ¶ And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

    You “were also raised” (synegerthete–aorist PASSIVE indicative).

    This does not seem to “affirm that even though people are spirtually dead, they can still exercise faith in God.” The ones being raised are PASSIVE here, not ACTIVE.

      Norm Miller

      Your last paragraph uses the words “does not seem…” That is an opinion using ‘soft’ verbiage — hardly the stuff upon which to build a theological system. Also, you deal with only one small segment of the vastness of Allen’s biblical documentation. — Norm

      Norm Miller

      Will you not deal with the plethora of passages that show so-called “spiritually dead” people responding to God?
      Anyone can build a system of belief by extracting certain verses and ignoring others; but, as I am sure you know, the total context of Scripture informs a responsible hermeneutic. — Norm

        Randall Cofield

        :-)

        What hermeneutic does Dr. Allen use to translate a passive verb into the active voice in Col. 2:12?

        I would certainly love to engage the whole of Dr. Allen’s argument, but, alas, time and space do not so allow. Besides, the refutations of this position are copious…

        Just thought I would point out one particular exegetical error.

        Peace, brother.

      Robert

      Randal wrote:

      “You “were also raised” (synegerthete–aorist PASSIVE indicative).
      This does not seem to “affirm that even though people are spirtually dead, they can still exercise faith in God.” The ones being raised are PASSIVE here, not ACTIVE.”

      Randal’s argument here is very, very weak.

      The apostle Paul sometimes (e.g. Ephesians 2) uses the metaphor of resurrection to explain the changes that have occurred with regards to believers (i.e their going from unbelievers to believers being characterized as a resurrection). Paul speaks of believers being raised as an analogy for conversion to Christ.being. Of course the person being raised is passive in this raising process. Of course God is the one doing the raising, the person not raising himself/herself up. All of this can be conceded without any problem.

      The problem is that Randal is arguing from an analogy about resurrection to an ontological reality about human persons (specifically the nature of depravity). The apostle Paul in speaking of the believer being raised from the dead was not trying to argue for the Calvinist conception of depravity (i.e. that the nonbeliever is like a physical corpse and so unable to do anything, certainly unable to have a faith response to the gospel message they were hearing). Paul **was** not speaking of the nature of depravity when speaking of resurrection he was speaking of conversion and using the analogy of resurrection to talk about it.

      So according to Paul a person who is converted to Christ is like a person who was dead and then comes to life by the power of God.

      Randal ignores what the apostle Paul was intending to speak about (i.e. conversion to Christ which he analogizes to a dead person coming back to life) and reads in (that is correct, reads in, EISEGETES) his conception of depravity.

      Fact is, Paul was not discussing or referring or even explaining the nature of depravity when using the analogy of resurrection. So Randal is engaging in eisegesis, he reads into the passage what he wants to find rather than properly exegeting the passages. If you exegete rather than eisegete the passages you find that in each case Paul was discussing conversion to Christ not the nature of depravity. Again in the analogy of resurrection of course the person is **passive** and so we would expect the Greek to reflect this as it does. But the analogy of resurrection is not aimed at describing the nature of depravity, it is aimed at describing conversion to Christ.

      So Randal’s appeal to the Greek text fails and does not disguise his attempt at eisegesis at all.

      Robert

        Randall Cofield

        It seems that Robert is reading a great deal more into this “Randal” character’s post than is actually there…

        :-)

Randall Cofield

Again, brothers, this OP begs the question of theodicy.

Have Traditionalists formulated a position on the problem of evil in relation to the belief that God is both all-powerful and all-good? If so, what is it?

It’s fine to critique Calvinistic theodicies, but at some point Trads are going to have to posit their own.

    Dean

    So we have come full circle once again, One side says God is primarily responsible for evil; the other side indicates God is secondarily responsible for evil. A belief system that says God created Adam so he would sin for the purpose of redeeming Adam to glorify Himself does not portray God as just or good. If Adam were created to sin then he is not a free moral agent and has no culpability. To condemn such is not good nor is it just.

    Robert

    Randall Cofield has now asked multiple times whether Trads have posited any kind of theodicy. The answer is Yes. If you read the writings of Bruce LIttle he has written some very good stuff on theodicy from a noncalvinist perspective. In the Whoever Wills Book he wrote the chapter on God’s sovereignty and the problem of evil. LIttle’s theodicy would be considered a natural law theodicy. What this basically means is that God in designing the universe and creation (including mankind) had certain design plans in mind. He created things with a certain nature and He will not contradict his own design plan. So for example, as this is one of the more relevant design purposes: if God creates man to have a capacity to have and make his own choices (i.e to have free will as ordinarily understood: meaning that his choices are genuine not all prescripted by God, which was the case with Adam in the garden pre-fall): God is not going to then later ***CONTRADICT*** His own design plan.

    A natural law theodicy also explains why science is so successful as God creates an extremely orderly and rational universe where things are very predictable by rational agents including us. When we choose to speak and say somethng nasty the sound waves take the sounds to the intended person’s ears: God does not intervene and scramble the sounds so that the offensive words/sounds never reach their ears. We can also predict things such as if we aim a gun at someone and fire that bullet will go towards that person it will not instanteneoulsy be changed into a blade of grass.

    Atheists (and calvinists engage in this kind of thing as well) will clamor about why doesn’t God prevent all evil from occurring. If that occurred we would find ourselves in a whimsical world (cf. C. S. Lewis spoke about this in his writings, where God intervenes to prevent all evils leads to a whimsical world like Alice in Wonderland not the real world where intended causes have predictable and orderly effects). Little has written two books on this as well as that chapter in the Whosoever Will book and he makes some very good points regarding theodicy.

    It should also be kept in mind that a theodicy can have various principles from other theodicies as part of its explanation. For example I do not agree with John Hick in most of what he says regarding theodicy. And yet Hick emphasizes the soul making aspect of theodicy. And he is correct about that as the Bible clearly presents the principle that trials are to build Christian character and maturity. But if you held only this single principle in your theodicy it would be inadequate. Instead you should take what is true and combine it into a theodicy that provides various explanations for things. The mistake some make is to over emaphasize one principle in their theodicy to the exclusion of others.

    By the way, Norm you should have Bruce Little contribute here at SBC today on the theodicy issue. He teaches at an SBC seminary and holds the views of Trads so he would fit in here just fine.

    Robert

      Randall Cofield

      By the way, Norm you should have Bruce Little contribute here at SBC today on the theodicy issue.

      Excellent request.

      Could you, Norm?

volfan007

Chris,

The commands of God could’ve been kept by Adam, in his innocent state of being…but, of course, he fell. And now, fallen man can never keep the commands…in his sinful condition…thus, showing us our need for a Savior….a Savior God has provided for every fallen man.

So, theoritcally, man should be able to keep all the commands of God, and God expects man to do just that…. man wont keep the commands of God, because of his fallen, sinful condition…..

David

volfan007

Not only could Adam choose to sin, or not sin; but also, Angels could make that choice. Some Angels chose to follow Lucifer, and were kicked out of Heaven….others chose to not follow Lucifer. But, apparently, Angels had the choice.

I dont think God wants robots, or puppets on a string. I think God wants Angels and people, who choose to follow Him. And, if Angels, or men, have no ability to really choose, then we’re no more than robots, or puppets; and no one really has any choice….not really.

God wants us to choose Him. God wants us to respond to Him. jJust like with marriage. I chose my wife, and I asked her to marry me….but, she also had to choose me…to respond to me with a “yes.” Thankfully….and quite remarkably, she did say “yes.” Will wonders ever cease? But, I think this illustrates what happens in salvation…God chooses to come to us…His Spirit convinces us…woos us…but, we must choose to either “marry” Him, or not.

David

Leo

What role does the idea that humans are created in the image of God play in this discussion? Does it have a role? Has the image of God ceased to exist due to sin? In short, what (if anything) happened to the image of God in humans as a result of the fall?

Leave a Comment:

All fields with “*” are required

 characters available