Theological Vocabulary Thursday
Free Will: Two Versions in Southern Baptist Life

June 30, 2011

By L. Manning Garrett III, Ph.D., Pastor, East Laurel Baptist Church, Jackson, TN

This article is intended to be of interest to pastors and lay persons.  I do not begin with the assumption that all of the readers of SBC Today are familiar with the philosophical discussion surrounding the issue of free will. Nonetheless, the writer’s motivation is to encourage the reader to check out his/her view about free will with regard to an issue that is foremost in the mind of every evangelical Christian: whether one who rejects Jesus Christ as Savior, Son of God, Messiah, and Lord does so by one’s own free will choice and if so to ask: what does free will mean? It is assumed that most Southern Baptists will affirm that the decision to reject Jesus follows from a free will decision. In Southern Baptist life there are and probably have always been two versions of free will that separate most NonCalvinist and Calvinist Southern Baptists: libertarian free will and compatibilistic free will.

Most NonCalvinist advocates of libertarian free will maintain that in regard to a choice or action that was exercised the agent had a real option to have wanted to do otherwise. In other words, there were genuine alternatives other than the choice and action that was made.  Most Calvinists who hold to compatibilistic free will maintain that determinism eliminates real options but determinism does coexist with a free will.  So, the choice is determined but the agent also can be said to have exercised free will.  Clearly, there is a definitional difference among Southern Baptists over what it means to exercise a free choice.

If both Calvinist and NonCalvinist Southern Baptists hold that those who reject Jesus are thereby consigned by God to Hell for eternity, then one might well wonder what all of the debate is over.  Both sides agree that the unbeliever’s irrevocable, terminal state of separation from God’s grace and presence is deserved due to the unbeliever’s free will choice to reject Jesus. Differences arise because the two groups of Southern Baptists (Calvinist and NonCalvinist) do not mean the same thing by free will choice.

It will be helpful to proffer an explanation setting forth the importance of free will relative to moral responsibility. Most people believe that free will is a necessary condition for moral responsibility.  It makes sense to hold people morally accountable (blame, punish, praise, or reward) only if those people made a free will choice to perform the action.  So, if people are going to be condemned to hell (a form of moral responsibility) for rejecting Jesus, then that decision must be the result of a free will decision.  This means that if the decision to reject Jesus was not a free will decision, then the person should not be held morally accountable for rejecting Jesus. Both libertarians and compatibilists can affirm this fact; thus the disagreement between libertarian NonCalvinist Southern Baptists and compatibilistic Calvinist Southern Baptists is not because one side believes unbelievers have free will and the other side does not believe unbelievers have free will.  The disagreement concerns what each side means by free will.

I turn to a version of free will that is probably familiar to most readers: libertarian free will.  In general, libertarians hold that free will means having real options—that is, having genuine alternatives to choose some action other than what one chose to do. With regard to the issue of “rejecting Jesus,” NonCalvinist Southern Baptist libertarians maintain that the choice to reject Jesus was a free choice because the unbeliever had the real option to choose to accept Jesus.  Since the unbeliever freely rejected Jesus and could have wanted to accept Jesus, the unbeliever can be held morally responsible for the choice to reject Jesus.  Therefore, it is the unbeliever and not God who is morally accountable for the decision to reject Jesus.

Interestingly and significantly, the Calvinist Southern Baptist compatibilist also affirms that the unbeliever is responsible for the decision to reject Jesus despite the fact that the unbeliever did not have the genuine alternative to accept Jesus.  The unbeliever made the free choice to reject Jesus because compatibilistic free will does not mean having real alternatives to do otherwise or even to want to do otherwise. The reason that there can be no real alternatives is because one’s desire, want, choice, and action were determined.  Given the determining force of a totally depraved will (due to the fall), the unbeliever cannot want to accept Jesus; therefore, the choice to accept Jesus is not a real option because of the presence of determining depraved will.  Yet, there is still room for free will—just not libertarian free will.

For the Calvinist compatibilist, free will means: being able to do what one wants to do when one’s “want to” reflects the deepest values, reasons, and desires of the individual. In essence, this means that one has compatibilistic free will as long as one can do what one wants to do. Given this understanding, it is clear why compatibilists maintain that the unbeliever can be held morally accountable by God for the choice to reject Jesus despite the fact that the unbeliever’s “want to” was determined by a depraved will.  Since the unbeliever wants to reject Jesus and since nothing forbids him/her to act based on that want to (deepest desire), the unbeliever’s choice to reject Jesus is one for which he/she must assume the responsibility.

If there is any doubt, just ask the unbeliever:  “Don’t you want to accept Jesus, come to church and worship Him, and read the Bible to find out more about His plan for your life?”   Without hesitation, the answer will be—NO!! I REALLY DO NOT WANT ALL OF THAT!! Clearly, Calvinist Southern Baptist compatibilists will affirm that since the unbeliever is doing what he/she wants to do, the unbeliever is making a free will choice; therefore the unbeliever is responsible for the decision to reject Jesus and is responsible for going to hell.

In conclusion, it is hoped that two things have been accomplished in this article regarding the important theological term: free will.  First, it should be clear that both NonCalvinist Southern Baptist libertarians and Calvinist Southern Baptist compatibilists affirm that the unbeliever has made a free will decision to reject Jesus. Hopefully this article will also serve to inspire pastors and laypersons to think seriously about free will and its implications.  What does one’s Southern Baptist congregation think it means to freely accept or reject Jesus?  Is it time for this discussion about free will to take place in one’s local church, at the Southern Baptist Convention, and surely when the Pastor Search Committee of the local Southern Baptist congregation meets with a prospective candidate for a church ministry staff position?

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Jeff Douglas

Dr. Garrett,
I appreciate your work at defining the terms of this debate accurately. I also appreciate the tone of the article, promoting discussion rather than hurling accusation. However, I think you have missed the heart of the matter. The real question is not what do Calvinists or “non-calvinists” say, but what does the word of God say.

Byroniac

I really like the new SBC Today format. This is an interesting blog, and I do read it occasionally. I particularly enjoy doctrinal discussions such as these, even though I am no longer religious in any personal sense.

I used to be a Calvinist who held to compatibilist free-will, but the problem I had even back then was that even if I am simply doing what I desire to do and I am free to do it even though I am not free to do the alternative, God still determined my desire beforehand which determines my ultimate choice: rejecting Jesus in this example. God can certainly hold a person responsible for his/her decision based on the individual’s desire and freedom to act, but that simply pushes the problem back a step. Even if a person’s desires and actions could be determined simply based on previous desires, actions, and experiences, still ultimately God determined the individual’s existence, circumstances of birth, and initial environment. It is a very difficult question for a Calvinist believer to answer, I think, and it is one with which I too struggled.

Del Traffanstedt

You incorrectly fix the discussion in terms of a moral decision only. If it is a moral decision, then it implies moral neutrality. Humans are not morally neutral according to Romans. We are fallen, corrupt, enemies of God guilty by our sin nature & own sin of rebellion against our Lord. That is not a morally neutral position. Conceptually the debate around “freewill” or defining it apart from scripture says more about our denomination’s self love than any thing else. The answer, as all answer of this type, should be framed in Scripture and it should shine light on our own error.

Mark

Dr. Garrett,

What is your position on the affect of the fall on the will for one who holds to libertarian free will (LFW)? Is it your position that the non-Calvinist should understand the will of the natural man is free to believe on its own regardless of the fall?

I’m asking because you mentioned depravity and how it affects the will for the Calvinist, but said nothing of the LFW side.

Steve Lemke

Manning,
I appreciate your taking on this challenging subject, and I think it is a useful and fair description. However, I would like to quibble with this statement:

… the disagreement between libertarian NonCalvinist Southern Baptists and compatibilistic Calvinist Southern Baptists is not because one side believes unbelievers have free will and the other side does not believe unbelievers have free will. The disagreement concerns what each side means by free will.

 
I think the second sentence significantly qualifies or contradicts the first sentence — that is, if the definition of free will is in question or debate, then we cannot assert with clarity that both sides have free will. It might be the case that both sides say they have free will.

How can compatibilists believe in free will when by definition the view they advocate is decidedly not free but is completely determined by prior events (if they didn’t believe that human choices were compatible with determinism, they wouldn’t be called compatibilists)? Clearly, compatibilists affirm that humans are willing to do what they do, but they cannot choose to do otherwise. Therefore, in no meaningful sense are they free to do otherwise. So, in compatibilism they have will, but they do not have free will.

Steve Lemke

Sorry, all of my post did not come through. I’ll try to repost.

Bob Cleveland

Two things; One question and one observation.

1) The question: Is natural man free to perceive things of the Spirit?

2) I don’t think people go to hell for rejecting Jesus. They go to hell because of sin.

Just two thoughts from the pew….

    Manning Garrett

    BOB, before going back to boxes in the office, I will reply to your good questions? Regarding the second: why can it not be both? Jesus said the person who ‘does not believe in Him’ is condemned already. Paul says that the ‘wages of sin is death’.
    Your first question needs some explanation: what do you mean by ‘perceive’ and ‘what are the things of the Spirit’ that you (and Paul i assume) have in mind? Can unbelieving scholars agree with elect scholars on the proper interpretation of certain scriptures? Hopefully this will help you see why i asked the two questions relative to your first question. I am not being evasive. I need clarification. It is a fair question.

Manning Garrett

REPLY TO BYRONIC: I used to be a four-point Calvinist. The problem you introduced was one of the reasons I abandoned that option. So, i can’t dispute your point except to say the Calvinist is not going to hold that God determined one to reject Jesus. I think the real point you raise is that God determines that some unbeliever’s continue to reject Jesus because God does not determine them to accept Jesus. One other point: the options are not Calvinism or rejection of Christianity.
REPLY TO MARK: Great question. To some degree the unbeliever has the option to accept Jesus. The role of the Holy Spirit is to bring conviction of sin. I suspect there is more to your question than i am addressing. The reason that I hold people have libertarian free will is that the compatibilist view makes it difficult to explain Jesus’ reaction to Jerusalem’s rejection of Him. Perhaps you enlighten me on how Calvinism would explain Jesus’ lamentation over Jersusalem’s rejection of him and their rejection of God’s prophets in the Old Testament.
TO STEVE: You make a good point regarding the contradiction of CFW (as i set it forth) and ‘could do otherwise’ (CDO). Of course, other than ‘Hypothetical Could Do Otherwise’ compatibilists like AJ Ayer, compatibilists will simply declare that they gladly give up ‘could do otherwise’. I don’t think Ayer’s view will work and many compatibilists don’t either and that is why they don’t try to defend Since I agree with LFW and real options at some point along the way, I share your deep reservations concerning how compatibilism can make sense of moral responsbility especially within the parameters of God’s reactive attitude toward those who reject Him. See my comments above on Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem.
TO ALL: i appreciate your fine responses. What do you think about my real concern: whether Southern Baptist Churches ought to clarify what the congregation believes about free will. Would that not reduce the number of casualities occuring in churches among laity and pastors and potential pastors. I am completely off-base to think that this is a discussion worth having?—What say you about this!!!
ONE MORE THING: i am in the process of clearing out my office. The next two days are going to hectic. I apologize. I will only have limited time to respond. So, i wanted you to know why my comments are slowly emerging.

    Mark

    Manning,

    My point above has to do with grace. In your reply you stated, “To some degree the unbeliever has the option to accept Jesus.

    Is this natural man in your view? Or does God’s grace first need to act upon man? For both the Calvinist and the Arminian natural man cannot reply to God without grace first enacting upon him. The pelagian and semipelgian would hold that God’s grace does not need to be present prior to natural man exercising his will in coming to faith in Christ.

    I’m just wondering what your view of man is as it relates to this discussion.

      Manning Garrett

      TO MARK: According to Jesus (John 16:7-11) the Holy Spirit is the one who convicts the world of sin and unbelief. So, the natural man is brought to a place where he or she is aware of one’s sinfulness before God and the need for deliverance. It is at these points that the unbeliever makes a free choice to accept or reject Jesus through repentance and belief in Jesus. How and when that conviction occurs is up to the Holy Spirit.

Steve Lemke

Granted, Bob, that without the disease there would be no need of a cure. But given the nearly universal nature of the disease, isn’t it great that “as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name” (John 1:12)?

Chris Roberts

“Most Calvinists who hold to compatibilistic free will maintain that determinism eliminates real options but determinism does coexist with a free will.”

It is not determinism that limits real options, it is sin that limits real options. Sin keeps sinners from desiring a savior. Mankind has the freedom to accept or reject Christ. All are free to make that choice. But because of sin, none will accept him unless God first does a work of grace, turning a dead heart into a heart of faith.

Every human being on the planet has the real option of choosing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But left to themselves, no human being on the planet would ever choose Christ because every human being is a sinner with hearts and minds and wills corrupted by sin, void of faith, and desiring only fallen things.

Obviously, God’s choice then becomes crucial for if God does not choose to impose his will on human fallen will, then no one would be saved.

The article goes on to describe the Calvinist view as essentially defined by determinism – that Calvinists believe in “the determining force of a totally depraved will”. The problem with this explanation is it implies the determining force something external, as though sin were something beyond me now acting on me. But this does not hold.

First, with Adam as federal head, what happened in Adam happens in us. His fall was not something external to us, it is something very much part of what we as humans have done – in Adam – to ourselves. Thus the effects of original sin are not imposed upon us from some external force absolutely beyond are control but were imposed upon ourselves through Adam.

Second, beyond Adam, we have our own sinfulness. Even if we were not corrupt in Adam, we have nonetheless done a good job of corrupting ourselves. Whether the source of our corruption is in Adam or in our own committed sins, we are corrupt, depraved, fallen, sinful, wicked, desiring evil, turning from good, acting from selfishness rather than faith, etc etc.

Third, Scripture itself tells us, several times, that our every desire is sinful, our every thought wicked, our every action rebellion. As has been noted again and again, Romans 3:9-20 should settle this issue. No one seeks for God. No one will call out to him. No one does good. Any argument from libertarian freedom will have to explain how we get from Romans 3:11 to saying anyone can seek God if he so chooses.

Fourth, we have brought this condition on ourselves, through Adam’s sin and through our own. Because of our condition, our every desire is sin and the words of Genesis 6:5 – pre-flood words repeated after the flood in Genesis 8:21 as a universal indictment – continue to be true of us today: every intention of the heart is only evil continually. A heart which only ever has intentions of evil will never choose good (which we saw in Romans 3:12). We are free to choose good in that God does not prevent anyone from doing good, but we hinder ourselves by the wickedness of our hearts. The only remedy is a work of God’s grace, a work that we see him carry out in individuals but not for humanity as a whole. Thus our only hope to ever be able to make a free will choice for God is if God first changes our wills, removing hearts of stone and giving us hearts that beat for him.

Ron Hale

Thank you Dr. Manning for pointing out the definitional defference between LFW and CFW! I lean toward LFW, meaning that I had the freedom to do otherwise. I see this before the Fall of Adam and afterwards since he could hear the voice of God and was free to make a choice.

Blessings!

    Manning Garrett

    RON, I think this is an important point. I think that you mean that Adam could not only understand the instruction of God but that his heart could attend to it. If not, why would God seek to communicate with him in order to restore him. I take it that communication from God to us is for the purpose of moving us to do His will.

Steve Lemke

Chris,
Allow me to share a different perspective on some of your points. Regarding your first point, Adam is “in” us in the sense that we eat a slice of pizza. What was outside of us come into us. But it is distinguishable from us. (And, you are presupposing a traducianist rather than a creationist view of the soul, which you have not defended). But even if one affirms traducianism, that which was external to us has come into us.

Regarding your second point, I agree.

Regarding your third point, you seem to be confusing the affirmation of libertarian free will with various forms of Pelagianism. Even in the Arminian tradition, while they affirm libertarian free will, there is no way you can be saved without the Spirit convincing and convicting us. So I think you’re sort of constructing a paper tiger. I would encourage you to talk about views that people actually hold. And though I really don’t care to argue this further point, if you’ll look in a concordance (or in my article in Whosoever Will, you’ll see numerous Scriptures that command us or instruct us to seek God, so to utilize Calvin’s principle of Scripture interpreting Scripture, you’ll have to explain how this one Rom. 3:11 text is qualified by all these numerous other texts, in order to have a sound hermeneutical approach. It may mean that we have the responsibility to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit.

I don’t disagree with your fourth point, except that it is clear in Scripture that God holds us responsible to act on the new heart He gives us — He doesn’t force it on us irresistibly. In fact, we all experience the sort of inner struggle that Paul talks about in Romans 7. The analogy I use is the reception of miracles. Naaman’s dipping seven times in the Jordan did absolutely nothing to heal his leprosy — it was the work of God. On the other hand, had Naaman refused to dip in the Jordan, he would not have been healed. So, though our part in it makes no real difference, God does require a willing response to His initiative. As Dr. Garrett’s article points out, without this we would have no personal moral accountability.

    Manning Garrett

    TO STEVE: i appreciate your comment in regard to Chris’ third point. I think it added much to the discussion. We simply must balance scripture with scripture. Perhaps it would be worthwhile to explore the issue of moral responsibility. What did Jesus mean when he told the Jerusalemites that he wanted to gather them to Himself but they would not. Was he not expressing both remorse over their rejection while still holding them responsible because He thought that they had the real option to receive Him (your verse earlier Steve is helpful—“as many as received Him”) yet they refused. What sense are we to make of Jesus lamenting their rejection of Him unless they could have received Him and would not. Did not Jesus know that they could not receive Him unless the Father (to borrow Chris’ earlier thought) turned their dead hearts to do God’s will?? Was not Jesus’ will consistent with the Father’s will—in John 4 he said “my will is to do the will of Him who sent me”. So, i think you are ‘on the mark’ Steve to remind us that hermaneutics requires a balancing or interpreting scripture with scripture. When Jesus told Nicodemus that whosever believes in Him is not condemned did Nicodemus have some understanding of what that meant? Furthermore, did not Nicodemus have the real option to put his trust in Jesus at that point in time?

    Ron Hale

    Dr. Lemke … I enjoyed your comments on p. 151 of “Whosover Will” on compatibilist freedom …….”it is voluntary but not free — that is, just being willing to do something does not mean that a person is free. If someone is pointing a gun at you, you might be willing to hand over your wallet to him, but that does not mean that you do so freely. You give him the wallet because you are under compulsion and have no real choice. To truly be free, there must be a choice between at least two alternatives (even if the only alternatives are “yes” or “no”).”

Manning Garrett

REPLY TO RON: yes, i tried to simplifiy the issue of free will to these two views. I had hoped that the article would generate some discussion of whether or not these two views are part of the reason that Southern Baptists are divided over Calvinism. Perhaps it is not as important issue as I think. However, it has generated some good questions relative to the doctrine of salvation and depravity that you and Lemke have posted topics that have allowed those issues to be discussed by able and informed participants.
REPLY TO CHRIS: Wow what a thought provoking substantive response. I’ll try to hit on some of your points and also move the discussion along with some questions. FIRST, i did not mean to imply that ‘the will’ is an external force. My point was that a depraved will (on the strong Calvinist view) eliminates a real option to accept Jesus. As Lemke stated earlier this is not compatible with libertarian free will because of the determining force (influence, inclination, corruption—choose the term you like) of the depraved will. Am I missing your point??—In what sense does one have the ‘real option’ to choose Jesus on the strong Calvinist perspective.?
SECOND, your point on Romans 3:10-12 is one interpretation. However, why can one not simply read this to mean that “no one consistently seeks God enough to merit salvation”. Is it not the case that even after the new birth, we do not consistently seek God. Would that not include ‘no one–elect and nonelect alike’.
THIRD, you say lost people ‘do no good’–‘they never choose good’. ‘Good’ is a value term: good, better, best. Is not the decision of a lost person to embrace ‘theism’ better than the decision of a second lost person to embrace ‘atheism’? If so, has not the first lost person chosen good in the sense of a better choice? After all, scripture says that the “fool has said in his heart there is no God”. What about Prolife lost people is this a good choice or the choice to help the poor. I know that you you are acquainted with these distinctions so clearly you did not mean literally that no lost person can make a good choice or cannot do good in any sense. That is why i applied the Romans passage above to ‘do good enough to merit salvation’—none do that. Chris, i hope i’ve addressed your concerns. I do appreciate the time you devoted to it. Do you have any thoughts about Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him.

    Chris Roberts

    Dr. Garrett,

    Almost missed your earlier response as I must have been commenting right when you posted it, but glad I just saw it!

    “My point was that a depraved will (on the strong Calvinist view) eliminates a real option to accept Jesus.”

    Sort of. Because of our depraved will, we would never respond to the offer of the gospel. But that does not mean the option does not exist. Our ability to respond to the offer is removed due to something we have done to ourselves. I once saw a picture of a little girl from Nigeria who as a toddler was caught in ethnic conflict and had both of her arms cut off. I thought how heartbreaking for someone so young, someone who had nothing to do with the conflict, someone with no ability to defend herself, but be injured so terribly. There are many real options now eliminated because of the loss of her arms. Some try to present the Calvinistic view of the will as though humanity were like that little girl, hindered through no fault of our own. But we are more like the guy who ignores the warning labels on his power tools and cuts off his own arms. Tragic, absolutely, but also his responsibility. We, in Adam, made the free will choice to ignore the warnings and play with the power tools and the consequences are lasting.

    I believe there have been/are four stages to human will and corruption:
    1. Original innocence in which Adam and Eve had uncorrupt free will, the freedom to do good or evil and the ability to desire good or evil.

    2. Mankind after the fall, when the will has been corrupted so that while mankind still has the freedom to do good, we no longer ever have the desire to do good.

    3. Mankind in Christ in which we have the freedom to both do good and desire good, but with additional factors: the flesh to draw us toward sin and the Spirit to grow us in righteousness.

    4. Glorified humanity, when we will have the freedom to do good or evil but will only ever desire good. We will continue sinless, perfect, without the flesh, without the stain of sin.

    I don’t see in Scripture anything proposing a kind of mediate state between #2 and #3 in which we are elevated out of deadness but not fully raised to life.

    “why can one not simply read this to mean that ‘no one consistently seeks God enough to merit salvation’”

    Because that is not what the text says, there or in any other passage that deals with human intent and action. There isn’t any indication of insufficiency of goodness; there is every indication of constancy of wickedness. And those in Christ do continue to struggle, as I noted in stage 3 above, but the difference for the believer is found in 1 John – those in Christ do not continue in sin. The pattern of our lives becomes less sin and more faith as we grow in Christ. But for the unbeliever, there is ever only sin. Thus Isaiah 64:6 tells us that our most righteous deeds are filthy rags. Thus Paul says in Romans 7:18 that nothing good dwells in the flesh (brief addition: I believe Romans 7 is describing the struggle of Paul the believer, so many of the struggles he describes cannot be applied to unbelievers, but what he says about the flesh does apply to unbelievers as they remain in the flesh). Thus Romans 8:8 says those in the flesh cannot please God, and the only ones not in the flesh are those who have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. In the flesh – which is the condition of all fallen humanity and the struggle of saved humanity – it is impossible to please God.

    “‘Good’ is a value term: good, better, best.”

    That is not the way I mean the word good. It is bad of my neighbor to knock over my trash can. It is good of my neighbor to leave my trash can alone. It is better of my neighbor to move my trash can to the road for me if he sees I forgot to put it out. Those are value conditions, but that is not what we speak of if we are talking about moral goodness. Then there are only two categories: good or evil. A person does good, or they do evil. They commit acts of sin or acts of righteousness. There is no middle ground. Thus I don’t think it is better to be a theist than an atheist. Can we really say, “Well, you’re a Muslim, but at least you’re not an atheist!” Their sin remains upon them no matter whether or not the ‘a’ is present. The fool has said in his heart there is no God (which, note, he shortly after adds that there is no one who does good, that God looks down from Heaven and sees no one who seeks him; the original words for Romans 3), but do you think the indictment is really better on those who pursue false gods? Did Elijah say to the priests of Baal, “Well, at least you are not atheists!” or did he treat them as the fools in Proverbs 1:7, those who despise wisdom and instruction?

    When a lost person pursues actions that promote the good of society, we can commend them and praise God for his common grace to mankind, but that does not make their actions pleasing in the sight of the Lord. For then again Isaiah 64:6 comes into play – however righteous their deeds may appear to us, to him they are as filthy rags. Or again Romans 14:23, if it is not of faith, then it is sin. If they are not seeking God’s glory, if they are not serving God, if they are not motivated by a heart for God, then their actions – however glad we may be that they do those things – are still sin in the sight of God. If we are not doing what we do out of service to Christ, then what we do is sin. There is no middle ground.

    “Do you have any thoughts about Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem’s rejection of Him.”

    I often wonder why non-Calvinists think Matthew 23:37 is a challenge to Calvinists. My response to this is the same as it is to any other place where God calls for human response, or where God is grieved over human choices. God hates sin. God is grieved by sin. There is no doubt about that. Also, God calls for people to choose him, to pursue him, to seek him, to follow him, to obey him. God is grieved when people reject his universal call. But God’s call does not imply man’s ability to respond – or to desire obedience. In Matthew 6:33 Jesus says to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, but then in Romans 3:11 we are told no one seeks God. The instruction, the call is there, but the obedience is not.

    Some say (and this was a big point in Whosoever Will) that God does not make a fair offer if he instructs mankind to do something he knows we are unable to do. But we see this exact thing spelled out for us when it comes to the law. What does Paul say about the law in Romans 7:7-12? We know it is impossible to be righteous through the law, because the law is not given to make men righteous but to reveal man’s sin. But what is the law except a description of God’s will for his people? In the law, we receive the commands of God and we would assume that God expects us to walk by them and live according to them and be perfect in our obedience. But Paul says that such obedience is impossible. Is the law then unfair? Is it an unjust offer? Is the law sin, when our obedience is not only impossible, but the law itself is given to rouse and reveal our sin? Absolutely not! Paul says (7:12), on the contrary, that the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

    So when Jesus laments the disobedience of Jerusalem, he is grieved by the sin and disobedience of a fallen people who, apart from the regenerating grace of the Spirit, will ever only reject the Son of God.

      Manning Garrett

      CHRIS, again–a Herculean effort on your part in terms of the length of your response to my reply—and well stated—very clear.
      I will try to respond to some of your points. FIRST, your emphasis on Jesus’ sorrow over their sin and disobedience seems to miss the mark for the text. He is sorrowful over their refusal to ‘be gathered unto him’. I take it that means to receive him in the sense that Dr. Lemke’s earlier point referenced. You mention a universal call but a call to what–is it not the call for Jerusalem to accept Him (presumably as Messiah and as the Saviour) to forgive their sins. You are correct that he also lamented their sins but it was their refusal to come to Him for forgiveness that ‘broke his heart’. I think that you wrote earlier that ‘the lost person cannot even desire to come to Christ’ (or something to that effect–i don’t intend to misrepresent you). How can Jesus want them to do something that he surely knows they cannot even desire to do and why is he broken hearted when they do that for which they are only capable of doing—rejecting Him. Chris, it was pondering this question that led me out of 4-point Calvinism years ago. This point and the next.
      Secondly, Both Byronic and VolFan007 expressed that the Calvinist understanding of Jesus’ lamentation over Jerusalem left them with a ‘low view of the nature of God’. I appreciate James White (Calvinist) who in his debate with Dave Hunt pointed out that his Calvinist view did mean that “God does not love all lost people equally”. I think that this disturbs many people and I think both of the above respondents alluded to the view of God that remains when one has Jesus genuinely wanting something that apparently the Father does not want: to regenerate the Jerusalemites so that they will accept Jesus. THIRD,does this interpretation not hinder evangelism. Should we not be honest with the lost and tell them that ultimately God may not want every lost person to come to Christ? We have the mandidate to tell everyone about Jesus but on the Calvinist interpretation is it not the case that God does not really want to fix everyone’s ‘desire’ so that they will come to Christ? If that is the case, then once people figure that out, what kind of view of God does that promote for them. What does that leave us with in regard to “For God so loved the World, that He gave His only Son”. In our evangelism should we not be honest with unbelievers and tell them that “it is not the case that God wants all unbelievers to come to Him”.
      FINALLY, you are correct that the Muslim and the atheist are both falling short of the Glory of God and both have rejected Jesus. So, there is a sense in which both are in the same boat. Nonetheless, I rejoiced when I heard that one of my students had made a move toward God. When the Apologetics Class began he was agnostic. At the end of the class another person told me he announced that he had become a ‘theist’. In terms of Classical Apologetics methodology, I think that he is closer to becoming a Christian than before. So, his becoming a ‘theist’ is a better choice than agnoscism and atheism. Though, you rightly point out in the Proverbs text, there is none who do good. You and I differ on what is meant by the words. I continue to pray that the Holy Spirit will bring this young man and other atheists and agnostics I’ve taught to a place where they are convicted of their sins and realize that they must make a choice to accept or reject Jesus. Though we differ on how that occurs, I invite you to pray to this end also.
      **It is time to get back to packing boxes. I’ll revisit this later in the day. I’ve enjoyed all of the feedback as we seek the truth..

        Chris Roberts

        I think I’ve already answered most of your points in my previous comment. Jesus’ expression of sorrow and the Bible’s call for obedience do not imply that we have within ourselves, or have universally been given by God, the ability or desire to obey. Instead, the disobedience only heightens our sin when we see the sorrow of God over our rebellion.

        “…his Calvinist view did mean that ‘God does not love all lost people equally’.”

        I think we can speak of distinctions in the nature of God’s love. I would be careful about doing so, but at the very least we can say of God, Jacob he loved and Esau he hated. However one might interpret that passage in this or that direction, it is clear that there was a difference in God’s affection toward these men. It doesn’t matter if this “disturbs many people”, it only matters if this is what the Scriptures teach.

        “does this interpretation not hinder evangelism”

        This almost does not deserve response. The accusation that Calvinism hinders evangelism has been made and refuted time and again. There is a universal call to repentance and salvation. A universal desire on God’s part for all to be saved. A universal mandate on all believers to speak the good news of Jesus Christ. And it is clear from Scripture that while salvation is the work of God, part of that work is performed through human agents. He uses us in his plan of salvation. We must tell so that others might hear. If we neglect the work of evangelism, we are sinfully negligent.

        As for how people might respond to a Calvinist view of God, do you mean to say that a non-Calvinist gospel is not offensive, is not seen as foolish, is something the world will see as a reasonable and acceptable thing? The cross is offensive. The gospel is foolish. God is hated. Scripture makes these things clear. So it is not a proper evaluation of Calvinism to say, “Lost people won’t like that gospel!” – lost people don’t like the gospel! We are told that repeatedly in Scripture.

        As for the question people have on how God can on one hand desire the salvation of everyone while on the other hand only saving some, that problem exists no matter what your soteriology. He desires to save all, yet all are not saved. Either he is unable to save everyone, or he has reasons for choosing not to save everyone. I think we all agree God *could* save everyone if he wanted, though the non-Calvinists says God does not save everyone because he cherishes human choice. The Calvinist has a different answer, rooted in Romans 9 and the display of the glory of God. For more on this, there is nowhere better to go than John Piper’s paper on the two wills of God: http://tcnr.me/two-wills

          Manning Garrett

          CHRIS, a couple of quick replies are in order:
          FIRST, you missed my point on “hinderance for evangelism”. My choice of words may have led you to think that I meant that Calvinists do not believe in telling others the gospel. With you I think this is a misrepresentation of the Calvinists I know. That was not my point. You may be reacting to what others have said in criticism of Calvinists.
          SECOND, my point concerned an assumption that I thought you would make on the Timothy passage that David cited. I thought you would hold that God does not desire for all people without expception to be saved. It is a popular interpretation to hold that God wants all classes of people (without distinction) to be saved but not every human being (without exception). You surprised me by affirming “God wants all people universally to be saved”. I’ve not read John Piper on the two wills of God.
          THIRD,My point really concerned a kind of double talk in evangelism by those who do not believe that God wants to save everyone. The problem then becomes a kind of double talk when they tell every lost person that Jesus died for the sins of the world and invites each lost person to be saved while also knowing that God does not intend (DOES NOT WANT) to save every lost person. It is the way that we present God’s intention to the lost. There is a double talk going on—-saying one thing while we know that such is not really the case. **Again, i assumed that you do not think that God really wants everyone saved. You have disabused me of that assumption.
          However, there is still the problem of understanding what it means to say “God wants everyone to be saved and God is in complete control of whether people want to be saved”. So, why if it all up to God (no ‘cherished’ free will as you say)—why are any lost. Is not the answer simply because God chose not to save everyone simply because He willed for some people to go to hell. If this follows, then I think that ‘what the lost think of God’ does matter. Jesus seemed very concerned that our good works shine before men that the Father would be glorified. You are right the Cross offends. That does not give us a license to not be concerned about the concept of God that we portray to others.
          FINALLY, i appreciate your commitment to scripture and whatever it teaches settles the matter. But is that not the commitment all of us have? Aren’t all inerrantists committed to that? Our disagreement is over ‘what sayeth the scripture as the whole counsel of God’.
          ALL, have a good fourth and a worship day on the third. God bless you….

          Chris Roberts

          “So, why if it all up to God (no ‘cherished’ free will as you say)—why are any lost. Is not the answer simply because God chose not to save everyone simply because He willed for some people to go to hell.”

          I wouldn’t use the word simply for it, but an explanation (from me!) would be as long as Piper’s paper. :) So I’ll defer to the link from Piper.

          “Aren’t all inerrantists committed to that? ”

          I believe so, yes. I believe – as I think you mentioned before – that this is a debate between people who uphold the Bible and the sovereignty of God but disagree as to what the Bible says or what God’s sovereignty means for life. But one (or both!) side must be wrong about what the Bible says, so that means the other side – however much they believe they are upholding the Bible’s teachings – are not upholding the Bible’s teachings. I think this could be said of all of us on some point or another, no one is 100% correct on every issue. So we continue working and studying and reading and praying and butting heads and praying for growth. So I value discussions like these which provide good opportunities for sharpening.

        Mark

        Manning,

        There often seems to be a few things about God that are overlooked when the argument is used against Calvinism concerning why Jesus is sorrowful over the lack of repentance for those without the ability to do so. A critic might ask any Christian how an omnipotent and omniscient God can ever weep over what He knows certain people will never do.

        If we simply take your objections above and place them in this new context it is no longer simply a Calvinist “problem”.
        How can Jesus want them to do something that he surely knows by his omniscience and omnipotence that they will not even desire to do and why is he broken hearted when they do that for which he knows they will do—reject Him.

        We might ask why Jesus wept at all over Lazarus after explaining to the Apostles that Lazarus was dead and that it was for God’s glory knowing he was going to raise Lazarus. Does this imply that Jesus really didn’t know what was to come for Lazarus? Did Jesus really not know he was dead until arriving? IOW, to say that “because Jesus wept it must mean he did not really know Lazarus was dead” is similar to inferring that “because Jesus wept over the lack of repentance over Jerusalem’s children means her children could have repented”. Which inference is invalid and why?

        Also, as Chris already mentioned, God gave us a Law that would could not follow.

          Manning Garrett

          TO MARK: these are interesting observations. I had not thought about your Lazarus example so i’ll give you my first reaction. I appreciate the example. I see your point. I’ll address Lazarus last.
          FIRST, regarding Jesus’ weeping over Jerusalem. Clearly omniscience is involved. He did know they would reject him. However, his foreknowledge or even present knowledge did not cause them to reject Jesus.
          The issue is not omniscience. Rather it is the power of God. Since they ‘could not want to accept Jesus’ without the omnipotent action of God, one wonders why Jesus would want something that apparently the Father did not want: he wanted them to accept Him but the power of God was withheld. He was not weeping because the Father did not change their hearts. He said he was weeping because they would not receive HIM. So, there is no inconsistency in Jesus wanting something that he knew the people would ‘freely’ reject. Omniscience does not determine. It does not have causal force. The issue is over ‘power’ not ‘knowledge’.
          SECOND: LAZARUS—I think that Jesus wept because he felt sorrow for the family. Again, the options are not that EITHER Jesus can’t weep OR he cannot know Lazarus is dead. The issue is not about ‘what Jesus knew’. Lazarus was raised by the power of God. What if Jesus chose not to exercise the power of God so Lazarus would be raised? Would it make any sense to say that Jesus was weeping because Lazarus would not raise himself and he (Jesus) had decided not to raise Lazarus.
          I think Jesus wept for the family knowing: Lazarus was dead and that he was about the raise him from the dead. I don’t see that this parallels the case of Jerusalem’s rejection of Jesus. Apparently the power of God to cause them to accept Jesus was being withheld. Did Jesus want something for the Jerusalemites that the Father determined not to provide: His power that would change their want to.
          MARK, i saw your reply just as i signed off with my reply to Chris. I wanted to at least attend to it. Again, your Lazarus example was interesting. Have a good fourth.

          Manning Garrett

          TO CHRIS: this question is not a trap. I just wonder what your view is.
          I agree that all inerrantists hold the Bible as authority and yet we have different interpretations. We both can’t be right.
          MY QUESTION: do the elect who differ on interpretations have libertarian free will to decide on ‘which interpretation’ to think is correct OR is this totally dependent upon the Holy Spirit?
          I’ll come at it another way. If you are sincere and I am sincere why are we both not determined by God to agree on the ‘right’ interpretation IF IT IS ALL UP TO THE HOLY SPIRIT TO ILLUMINE OUR MINDS TO THE TRUTH.
          Is our growth in the truth of God’s Word and also the living of the Christian life to overcome the battle Paul referenced in Romans 7 (i agree with you this is for the Christian and not the preChristian Paul), is it a cooperative effort between the Christian and the Holy Spirit.
          Is sanctification of each Christian totally left up to God or do I have to exercise free will to want to grow and then to make adjustment so as to present my body a living sacrifice and to allow my mind to be renewed?
          I think my question pertains to your number 3 category listed earlier. Does the Christian have the real option (libertarian freedom) to decide how to interpret the Bible and to decide to be led by the Holy Spirit in the sanctification process?
          I think these are important concerns. Sorry i’ve not had a chance to consult the Piper link. I’m grateful you supplied it. Things are a bit hectic in our life presently so some good things don’t get done.

          Chris Roberts

          “If you are sincere and I am sincere why are we both not determined by God to agree on the ‘right’ interpretation IF IT IS ALL UP TO THE HOLY SPIRIT TO ILLUMINE OUR MINDS TO THE TRUTH.”

          There is a rather large difference between soteriology and epistemology… Unbelievers can get biblical theology right and still have no spiritual movement. The question of why we believe as we do or what explains the difference is separate from the question of whether or not people can make a libertarian, free will choice to receive Christ.

          “Is sanctification of each Christian totally left up to God or do I have to exercise free will to want to grow and then to make adjustment so as to present my body a living sacrifice and to allow my mind to be renewed?”

          That opens up a whole new can of worms which, though not as far from soteriology as epistemology, is still a new discussion from the one we have been having. In brief, Galatians 3:3 and Philippians 2:12-13 offer a decent start to answering the question.

Chris Roberts

“And, you are presupposing a traducianist rather than a creationist view of the soul, which you have not defended”

The distinction is not one I’m particularly familiar with, so I spoke without considering the origin of the soul. But having looked a little at the distinction, I don’t think what I said presupposes either view. As Bavinck says, “Traducianism neither explains the origin of the soul nor the hereditary transmission of sin… As for the second difficulty, traducianism cannot help resolve it because sin is not material, not a substance, but a moral quality, moral guilt, and moral corruption.” Being under the headship of Adam, where he stands as representative for the entire species and what he did, we do, does not then imply that our souls originated in or before Adam and have been passed down from him. Adam is external in that he was a different person, but he was not external in that he, like we, is a human being, and he occupied the unique position of representing all humanity.

“Regarding your third point, you seem to be confusing the affirmation of libertarian free will with various forms of Pelagianism.”

In a sense. As I see it, the fundamental difference in the conclusions of Pelagianism and various forms of Arminianism is prevenient grace. The Pelagian believes we are free to will good or evil. The Arminian believes we are free to will good or evil. The Pelagian believes we were born that way. The Arminian believes prevenient grace enables us to do good or evil. So while Arminians disagree with Pelagians about the original state of man or man’s ability to save himself through his own goodness, Arminians agree with Pelagians about our ability now to do good, though we only have that ability because of God’s prevenient grace. My charge, not mentioned in my previous comment (though I’ve mentioned it before), is that while Scripture tells us again and again about the sinfulness of man, it does not tell us that God elevates all mankind to a point where we are not yet regenerated but are nonetheless enabled to desire good, to seek God, to pursue a savior. So the only thing that keeps the Arminian view of the will or the libertarian view of the will from being Pelagian, is not found in Scripture.

“So, though our part in it makes no real difference, God does require a willing response to His initiative.”

Agreed! A response, however, that we would never make unless he first awakens us with regeneration and fills us with faith.

Manning Garrett

TO DEL AND JEFF: I think both of you express a common concern: I have failed to recognize the Bible (Word of God) as the authority. Let me emphatically state that this is not the case. I assume that the Calvinists and the NonCalvinists in the Southern Baptist Convention affirm that scripture is our authority. Nonetheless, we differ in our interpretation of what the inspired text means. Furthermore, when we interpret it and pull scripture together for a ‘systematic’ interpretation on what it states or implies regarding a key doctrine that is where the difficulty comes into play. Both sides think that scripture in its entireity lead to either a compatibilist free will or a libertarian free will. So, with both of you, I think scripture is our ultimate authority. This is the reason that I introduced other scriptural examples that I think are difficult (perhaps impossible) to interpret from a compatibilist vantage point. In contrast these examples easily lend themselves to a libertarian free will interpretation. I’m glad you raised this point because it allowed me to say something about my basic presupposition.

volfan007

Besides the passage that you mentioned about Jesus weeping over Jerusalem, there are many others that kept me from becoming a 5 point Calvinist. I seriously thought about becoming one…due to the crusading of some people I know….but I just could not get past the passage you mentioned, and many others. I’ve heard how they try to explain these verses, but it just doesnt fit.

Another passage that really kicks 5 point Calvinism is 1 Timothy 2:1-4…”1First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The context here is clearly all men…including govt. leaders… of which many never get saved….but it’s still God’s desire to save them…but they obviously dont get saved.

Also, Ezekiel 33:11… ” 11Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” It’s just hard to see God not earnestly desiring for all people to be saved from this verse. It sure does look as if God takes no PLEASURE in the death of the lost, wicked. It sure does look like God truly wants to save everyone…if…if…they will respond to His calling.

Thanks for the great post, BTW.

David

    Manning Garrett

    REPLY TO DAVID: thanks for these scriptures. This plugs back into my comment to Chris about evangelism. The Calvinist response does not allow that God really wants ‘all men everywhere to be saved’. In the end the exegete ends up ‘choosing’ which interpretation of the verses seems to fit best. We do so in terms of which seems to fit best with the context and the overall teaching of scripture on the subject of salvation. Like you, i prefer the straight forward meaning of the text. However, there is the real option to interpret the text differently. Both interpretations cannot be correct but both or one can be correct. After prayer, study, and consulting Biblical exegetes I must choose the interpretation that seems best and of course I will held accountable before God for having taught that interpretation. To paraphrase the atheist Sartre “we must choose” how we think the Holy Spirit is leading us to interpret the text. To avoid choosing is itself a free choice.

Debbie Kaufman

I personally don’t even know where to begin, this post is so full of misconceptions on Calvinism. I see it more as a long, drawn out campaign to oust Calvinists from the SBC(which wasn’t even a issue this year). All of this was predicted to come to ousting Calvinists several years ago by those of us who saw the pattern developing when the IMB policies came about. It’s a predictable pattern, so it wasn’t something that involved prophecy, it was just common sense. I am not going to be fighting for what I believe for several years. All one has to do is comb the internet to find out what Calvinists really believe concerning evangelism(short story, we absolutely believe in it, practice it, and long for people to be saved, yes all people), and other misconceptions that have been around since the time of John Calvin and before. Life is too short, and the fighting will always exist. Come on guys give it a rest. It’s a lose/lose situation.

Sorry I am blunt, but I like to cut to the chase.

    Manning Garrett

    TO DEBBIE: i am very grateful for your “blunt” response. You alone have responded to the reason for my article.
    Several times i have asked for responses to my last paragraph regarding “time to talk about free will” so as to prevent further hurt and division from happening in our churches.
    I am sorry that you think i am trying to kick the Calvinists out. I know there are those who think that is the answer. I AM NOT ONE OF THESE. I THINK WE CAN COEXIST ONLY IF HONEST DISCUSSIONS TAKE PLACE.
    I am sure you are aware that there are churches who are deeply hurt when they find out their pastor does not believe that the lost can freely accept or reject Jesus—i mean in the libertarian sense of free will i described in the article. There are of course other parts of the TULIP that are not embraced by a fair number (modest statement) of Southern Baptists. Good Calvinist pastors and staff and good lay persons have been hurt and congregations have been hurt deeply.
    The purpose of my article was not to ‘trash’ Calvinists nor to misrepresent Calvinists on evangelism (see my response to Chris’ reply). The purpose of the article was to get the views of readers regarding whether the issue of ‘free will’ is something that ought to be discussed so that ‘mismatches’ can be reduced.
    I think our discussion of these doctrinal matters has shown that there is an honest difference of opinion regarding what the scriptures teach about whether or not the lost has free will to respond to the gospel. While the discussion has been interesting and engaging, the purpose of the article was not to discuss which view of free will is correct–if either are. In fact, that is why I tried to explicate the two views and not interject my own view in the article proper.
    What are your thoughts about how we can reduce the ‘mismatches’? Do you think that honest dialogue would be helpful at least at the local church level and in the interview process between the candidate and the Pastor Search Committee? Would this not be a ‘win/win’ endeavor?

Jimmy Millikin

My question is: How consistent are you with free-will. Does this imply that a person can use his free will to reject Jesus after receiving Him? Freewill Baptists and General Baptists are consistent in their view of free will by believing in “falling from grace.” Most Southern Baptists believe that it is impossible for a person who is saved to lose that salvation. So the question I ask all “libertarian” Southern Baptists: Can a person who uses his will to get into salvation use his will to get out of salvation?

    Manning Garrett

    TO JIMMY: This is a fair and good question.
    With you I affirm that the believer will persevere to the end. a multitide of scriptures support once saved always saved.
    You are concerned about the possibility of a Christian “freely choosing” to leave Christ. At one level the person has the free will to do so. However, and thankfully this will never happen according to Scripture.
    If need be, God will override our free will in order to keep us safe and not lose us ‘out of’ grace. I suspect this is rare but it is not inconsistent with libertarian free will before justification. Again, great question

Justin

@ Steve Lemke June 30, 2011 at 12:24 pm

Your statement here seems to beg the question against the compatibilist. Perhaps free will simply means that one performs the action that one desires to perform:

Free Will =df A person p freely performs an action a if and only if p desires to do a.

This seems like a much more reasonable definition of free will than the one you suggested. Even staunch defenders of libertarian free will concede that there are few cases in which we could have done otherwise.

    Manning Garrett

    TO JUSTIN FROM MANNING: i just noticed your reply. I was not able to detect if you are responding to Manning’s representation of free will OR Steve’s representation.
    If mine, then i tried to acknowledge the formal definition that your provided. I think that this accurately represents one version (compatibilism) of free will both in Southern Baptist life and in philosophy in general.
    I thought my representation fits your definition nicely. Did i miss it?

Bob Hadley

Manning,

Your post and comments are indeed gracious and well intended and you do make a point that I believe MUST be addressed within the SBC. In my opinion it is not so much the co-existing of Calvinists and non-Calvinists that concerns me as it is the degree of influence that Calvinism is garnering in the seminaries and the institutions of the SBC. Like it or not, the SBC TODAY is decidedly non-Calvinist in an overwhelming majority. I maintain that a vast majority of the people in the pew in SB churches could not tell you the difference in a tulip and a rose, except that they are different colors. With 1 out of 3 coming out of SBC seminaries supported by the people in the pew, this is alarming and if THEY understood the ramifications of this, I believe they would immediately see that something was done about it.

As far as I am concerned, the convention is in the same situation it was in back in the late 70’s with respect to liberalism in the SBC and its rise in influence with every intention of furthering that influence. Calvinists have always been at the table and they have every right to stay there and every right to foster that influence but so does the majority TODAY have the right and I believe the responsibility to say “NO”.

Another issue with respect to this thread has to do with Calvinist pastors going to serve non-Calvinist churches KNOWING that there is a decidedly different theological divide between the pulpit and the pew. The divide is not the issue. The issue is that the prospective pastor is not willing to make his position clear UP FRONT because he intends to correct the issue AFTER he is hopefully able to establish himself in the new position. While is may be admirable to seek to “correct the theological position of the people in the pew, which hopefully we all work to do on a daily basis, it is not fair to seek to do that without prior warning. This intentional deceptive move needs to stop!

If a prospective pastor holds a position that he is not willing to properly disclose before he becomes a pastor of a church, for whatever reason, he ought to recuse himself before going any further. Reformed churches will not make this mistake and non-Reformed churches would not do so either IF they knew that this issue was as problematic as it is.

With respect to this issue of free will, everybody dances around that term and so it “seems” to the casual observer that we are all saying pretty much the same thing. However, the issue is not so much free will as it is how “regeneration” fits into free will. The Calvinist process clearly requires “regeneration” before or at least during the exercise of saving faith and repentance; for without regeneration saving faith and repentance are not possible and not even an option for the non-elect. This means that God and not man is solely and singularly responsible for those who go to heaven and those who do not make it. PERIOD.

I am convinced that it is revelation and reconciliation that are responsible for saving faith and repentance that lead to regeneration. The Calvinist is correct in saying that a lost person cannot on his own and by his on choice come to Christ. His sinful nature will not allow that to happen and Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross is proof that it is not even possible in the first place, from God’s perspective, which is the only one that counts. To say that man is dead and incapable of choosing God unless and until God gives him a new nature which allows him to do what he could not do before sounds like a plausible argument.

Here is the problem with that, as I see it. Calvinism really smacks against its own theological foundation related to the sovereignty of God in that they contend that God cannot reveal Himself to man, who He created, unless He first regenerates him first. the whole purpose of revelation is to elicit a response! Paul’s clear responsibility in sharing in the process of God’s reconciliatory efforts is clearly laid out in 2 Corinthians 2 and Colossians 1. The whole purpose of preaching is to reveal God’s Word and lay a foundation for the reconciling work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of lost men so that they MIGHT believe and in faith and repentance turn to Christ for salvation.

I join Paul when he wrote, “18 Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” 2 Cor 5:18-21 NKJV

Grateful to be in His Grip,

><>

    Bob Hadley

    I wrote, “With 1 out of 3 coming out of SBC seminaries supported by the people in the pew, this is alarming and if THEY understood the ramifications of this, I believe they would immediately see that something was done about it.”

    I am sure everyone will realize that the 1 out of 3 is a reference to seminary graduates holding to a confessed 5-point Calvinism position… fingers were not keeping up with mind… !

    >’ Bob

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