Theological Vocabulary Thursday
Libertarian Free Will: Jesus’ Reaction to Jerusalem’s Rejection Reflects the Father’s Reaction

July 7, 2011

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

Regarding last week’s article, “Two Versions of Free Will in Southern Baptist Life,” there were several comments pertaining to my reference to Jesus’ reaction to Jerusalem’s rejection of Him in Matthew 23: 37-39 and Luke 13:34-35. One respondent observed that it is not clear why nonCalvinists think this episode in Jesus’ life counts against Calvinism. I will show why I think this text supports the idea that Jesus believed that the Jerusalemites had libertarian free will — they rejected Him but could have accepted Him.

Calvinist compatibilists will argue that the Jerusalemites are responsible for rejecting Jesus because they were acting on their deepest desire: they wanted to reject Jesus. Further they will argue that the Jerusalemites “could not have accepted Jesus,” while libertarians claim that the Jerusalemites had the real option to accept Jesus but chose to reject Him. NonCalvinist libertarians and Calvinist compatibilists differ with respect to whether or not the Jerusalemites had the real option “to desire to accept Jesus.”

The following is Matthew’s account of this incident (Matthew 23:37, KJV):

O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!

Before laying out several reasons from the text why I think Jesus’ reaction best fits libertarian free will rather than compatibilism, let me support an assumption with which I think most everyone agree: as my title indicates, “Jesus’ reaction reflects the Father’s reaction. It is this reaction by Jesus—pointing toward libertarian free will—that reflects an identical view of free will held by the Father.

The following points show that Jesus and the Father are in agreement on the things Jesus did, the things He taught, and—I would think by extension—the way he reacted to situations. We know from John 1:1 that Jesus is the Word, and is God. Further, Jesus taught that He is the only Way to the Father (John 14:6). In John 8:16, Jesus claimed that the Father was His Witness agreeing that Jesus’ testimony is true. Jesus claimed that his words (teaching) came from the Father who sent Him. His teaching was not His own; they belong to the Father. We know that he did many wonderful miraculous deeds. About these acts, Jesus claimed that he was doing these works because the Father was doing these things through Him (John 14:10). In other places in John’s Gospel, Jesus claimed that He was only doing what the Father does and what the Father approves. Finally, and perhaps closest to the Jerusalemites’ rejection of Jesus, we know that Jesus’ will is to do the will of the Father who sent Him (John 4:14).  These Scriptures support the fact that Jesus’ reaction to the Jerusalemites’ rejection of Him will not be inconsistent with the Father’s reaction regarding the Jerusalemites.

I turn now to making the case that Jesus believed that the Jerusalemites had libertarian free will. This belief will be consistent with the Father’s judgement about the type of free will the Jerusalemites had.

FIRST, Jesus holds the Jerusalemites responsible for rejecting Him. He said “You would not.” Both Calvinist compatibilists and nonCalvinist libertarians recognize that Jesus placed the blame for rejecting Him on the desire or “want to” of the Jerusalemites. Part of the reason for last week’s article was to show that both Calvinists and nonCalvinists maintain that the person who rejects Jesus is accountable (responsible) for rejecting Jesus. NonCalvinists hold that the Jerusalemites “could have accepted Jesus,” and Calvinist compatibilists maintain that the Jerusalemites “could not have accepted Jesus”—could not have even wanted to accept Jesus due to total depravity. On the Calvinist compatibilistic view they “were totally unable” to want to accept Jesus.

SECOND, Jesus’ action was a repeated action: He said “how often I would have gathered you to Myself.” Since He compared His action to a mother hen gathering her chicks, we see that He loved them and came to them on numerous occasions and deeply desired to gather them to Himself. Though they would reject Him on more than one occasion, still Jesus wanted them to accept Him. Jesus appears to express a genuine desire that the Jerusalemites want to be gathered to Him even though, on the Calvinist account they were unable to even want to be gathered to Him. Nonetheless, Jesus clearly states that He wants them to come to Him which would involve repentance. This reminds us of God’s desire that none should perish and that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). It seems that Jesus has made genuine and repeated offers to the Jerusalemites to accept Him. His offers were genuine reflections of Jesus’ will—“I wanted to gather you to myself.” If His will is consistent will the Father’s will (established above), then it follows that the Father also wanted the Jerusalemites to accept Jesus.

So, why did the Father not change the will of the Jerusalemites so they would accept Jesus given that Jesus and the Father have an identical will? Did Jesus have one desire and the Father another? I don’t think this is an attractive interpretation for either Calvinists or nonCalvinists. The nonCalvinist libertarian has a good explanation for why Jesus and the Father did not change their will. Jesus was giving them free choice in the sense of choosing to be gathered to Him. They “could have” willed to come to Him but chose not to will to come to Him. I am not sure how the compatibilist view explains Jesus’ plain statement that “you would not” come to me. Clearly, they did not want to do so. Surely Jesus would know that they could not even will to come to Him. Why then did He want them to choose to want to do something He must have known they could not do? Did Jesus and the Father genuinely want them to want to come to Jesus and to come to Jesus? If so, then why did the Father not change their will given they could not even want to come to Jesus?

FINALLY, Jesus’ reaction is interesting and makes perfect sense on the libertarian view. His reaction is twofold. First, as stated above, He is holding them responsible. This is a serious matter because a sustained rejection of Jesus leads to “eternal punishment.” Jesus told Nicodemus that “he that believeth not in Me is condemned already” (John 3:18). It is true the Jerusalemites sinned and deserved condemnation. However, for a Calvinist compatibilist, in what sense are the Jerusalemites responsible for doing that which they were unable to avoid — not wanting to accept Jesus? This inability led to their rejection and also led them into sin. The point here is important: Jesus is holding them responsible for not wanting to accept Him—not just for their sins. I am not downplaying their sins and their rejection of Him; however, Jesus focused on their “want to”—“you would not.” If they could not will to accept Jesus, why is He blaming them? So, the first part of his reaction is blame. I think the second part is equally as important.

Second, Jesus’ reaction was one of regret. Some commentaries say He was outside of Jerusalem “weeping over the city.” Why was He broken hearted? He tells us, “you would not,” meaning “you would not will to accept Me and then accept Me.” As stated earlier, Jesus’ reaction and the Father’s reaction are identical. So, we may conclude that the Father also was broken hearted over Jerusalem’s rejection of Jesus — both had deep regret because the people of Jerusalem refused to want to accept Jesus.

Regret with respect to human choice is not like regretting that Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans or regretting that cancer killed my mother or regretting the death of my grandson two years ago by some “undetectable” cause at birth. There can be tears of regret over determining acts of nature. But there is no regret because, given the antecedent conditions, the outcome could not have been different. One may wish that the antecedent conditions were different so that the determined result would have been different, but there is no holding the hurricane or the cancer cell morally responsible for the determined results.

It seems that Jesus’ tears are due a deliberate choice made by the Jerusalemites; they chose to reject Him, and time and again He offered to “gather them to Himself” but they “would not.” For this, Jesus regrets their decision. The text indicates Jesus’ sorrow was because they chose to reject Him. He was heartbroken over that decision. A libertarian interpretation of free will has more explanatory power regarding Jesus’ reaction than does the Calvinist compatibilist explanation, at least for me. Jesus is sorrowful because He wanted them to do something they could do: want to accept Him. This seems like the most natural explanation for His sorrow. I am at a loss to explain Jesus’ sorrow and the failure of the Father to do what Jesus and the Father willed—change their “want to” so that the Jerusalemites would accept Jesus. I freely choose to go with the libertarian option though compatibilists may offer a different interpretation. The interpreter must choose the option that seems best.

In closing, I do not claim that Calvinist compatiblists do not have an explanation for why the Father did not change their “want to.” Jesus held them responsible for making the wrong decision, and expressed genuine tears over their decision to do the only thing they could do. Notice Jesus did not say “you could not.” He said “you would not” do that which I want you to do—accept Me. By extension we can also say that the Father wanted them to accept Jesus.

If God wants “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4) and “all should come repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), and if Hell is a place Jesus labored to teach us is to be avoided at all costs (loss of hand, eye, metaphorically speaking), and if Hell is described in the most hideous, hopeless metaphors: eternal fire, utter darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm never dies and the smoke of their torment rises forever, then which interpretation of free will best reflects Jesus’ reaction and the Father’s view?

What is the impact of this for Southern Baptists? One respondent to my article last week stated that she felt the purpose of the article was “kick the Calvinists out of the SBC.” I am not among those who want to do that. I do think we can coexist. However, for the good of the SBC, I think that honest dialogue must take place so that churches do not continue to be hurt. We have honest differences on free will and other matters. Do most Southern Baptists know of these differences? Is it best to not discuss these things? What do you think?

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Mark

I have some thoughts on this. Actually, I had some follow-up for the last post because you missed a few key areas of my points to you, but I will just leave that alone and comment here.

First, I really would like to ask what you mean by some of the statements in your last paragraph. You claim you don’t want Calvinists out of the SBC yet start the last paragraph with “What is the impact of this for Southern Baptists?

What do you mean by this question? Then, you go on to say, “However, for the good of the SBC, I think that honest dialogue must take place so that churches do not continue to be hurt.

The good of the SBC? Churches getting hurt? I recently wrote The Southern Baptist Phantom Menace that addressed accusatory statements toward “somebodies” that nobody knows. So who is being hurt? By whom? How wide spread is this problem? And is it only those who hold to your version of free-will that may be for the good of the SBC?

Do most Southern Baptists know of these differences?

I’m not convinced the average Southern Baptist in the pew knows these differences nor understands their SBC history including a somewhat broad theological spectrum. For example, a rabid anti-Calvinist Southern Baptist family I know of who based their understanding of Calvinism on George Bryson’s view left for another church merely because the pastor would not condemn the theology though he was not a Calvinist. The irony is that this couple carried a John MacArthur study Bible to church every Sunday.

Is it best to not discuss these things? What do you think?

It can be helpful to discuss such things, but when you lay the good of the SBC and churches being hurt as an issue for the Calvinist view it becomes an unhealthy exercise with a seemingly underlying agenda.

Steve Lemke

Excellent article, Manning. You really brought out some excellent points about Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem — the unity of the will of the Father and Son, that Jesus held the people of Jerusalem responsible, that it addressed a repeated action (that was a new insight for me), that Jesus’ disappointment was focused on their “want to” more than the sin, and that Jesus’ regret was not that they “could not” but that they “would not” (another new insight for me).

I would quibble with the wording of one statement you made — “Both Calvinist compatibilists and nonCalvinist libertarians recognize that Jesus placed the blame for rejecting Him on the desire or “want to” of the Jerusalemites.” I would rather word it this way — “The Calvinist compatibilists identify the problem as being based upon the desire or “want to” of the Jerusalemites, whereas the nonCalvinist libertarians locate the problem in the choice of the Jerusalemites to reject the conviction of the Holy Spirit.”

I am suggesting this rewording for two reasons:
(a) For a libertarian, what I most desire may not be what I choose. Libertarians deny the “desire psychology” of compatibilists, which asserts that we always do our greatest desire (as Jonathan Edwards erroneously taught). Instead, sometimes we choose things we don’t desire. For example, occasionally someone will do an incredibly heroic act and selfless act like a soldier jumping on a grenade to save his comrades in arms. In no sense could it be said that he really wants or desires to do that in any meaningful way, but that his sacrificial choice overrode his desire. We hear echoes of this in Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane — “not as I will, but as You will” (Matt. 26:39, c.f. John 5:30), and in Paul’s struggle between what he wants to do and doesn’t want to do as the flesh and the spirit war against each other (Romans 7:15-21):

“For that which I do I allow not: for what I would , that do I not; but what I hate , that do I . If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me.”

So, it is possible to choose to do something that you find quite undesirable, and your spirit-aided will can override the fleshly desire.

(b) The second point is that I’m not quite comfortable with the choice being just an unaided human choice. You didn’t say it was, but you didn’t mention any other “player”, either. I believe we must have the prevenient grace which comes through the Holy Spirit’s convicting and convincing us to respond to Christ affirmatively. Yes, we assent to it, but we are being powerfully influenced and pulled by the Holy Spirit (just as Satan is pulling against it). So, without sounding like a Perettian here, I do think the spiritual warfare that is going on weighs in heavily on our choices, but not so as to remove our choice and our responsibility.

Again, great article with some great points!

    Chris Roberts

    “In no sense could it be said that he really wants or desires to do that in any meaningful way, but that his sacrificial choice overrode his desire.”

    This is in essence the two wills view that I keep drawing from Piper (and which I believe Edwards held) – on one level there is a desire, a will, for one thing. For the soldier, it is the desire to live and not feel pain. But on another level, there is an even greater desire or will – and I think we can speak of the soldier having this very real desire! It is the desire to protect his friends, his family, his nation. He does not want to die, but even more than his desire not to die is his desire that his friends not die. He is not acting against his own desire; rather, a greater desire is acting against a lesser desire.

    Manning Garrett

    TO STEVE and CHRIS, Steve, your comments were helpful and expanded the horizon of concern beyond my allotted space–thanks.
    Steve, just a word about your quibble with my focus on the Jerusalemites ‘want to’ and not ‘choice’. It seems to me that their choice to reject Jesus was because of their ‘want to’. THIS ALSO APPLIES TO CHRIS’ COMMENT BELOW. Chris also focuses upon their rejection (the action based on the choice which is based upon their ‘want to’. So my question for both of you is: could they have had a different ‘want to’ or was it detemined? CHRIS, your response below seems to indicate that their ‘would not’ (desire) was determined by their sinful lives previous to this encounter. So, at those previous times, before they actually sinned and set a pattern of sin in their lives, DID THEY HAVE THE REAL OPTION NOT TO SIN?
    I know of one Calvinist who believes that he did not have the real option to have faith in Jesus but believes that there are real options for most every other decision he makes—where to eat, what to do with leisure time, which book to read, which job to take, etc…
    In summary (i’m trying to keep my responses shorter than last week–this is my first time as a blogger)—TO BOTH OF YOU—I focused on the ‘want to–deepest desire’ of the Jerusalemites because this seemed to be the focus for Jesus—you would not (that is their want to or desire)–would not what ?(choose to)—to do what ?(this is the action)—not accept Him. If i am correct, then does it not appear that Jesus believed they could have (though Chris you are right He knew they would not) wanted to accept Him which could lead them to choose to accept Him which could lead them to act on that want to and that choice and perform the action of allowing themselves to be gathered to Him?? Did Jesus believe they had libertarian free will to want to accept Him and does that not explain his genuine sorrow and tears over the fact they ‘would not’ (this is want to or desire explaining their choice to reject Him) accept Him (this is their action of rejection).

      Chris Roberts

      “So, at those previous times, before they actually sinned and set a pattern of sin in their lives, DID THEY HAVE THE REAL OPTION NOT TO SIN?”

      What time would this be? When do you find a person who does not sin? Even if one does not hold infants and young children accountable for sins they commit, that does not make their actions sinless. How far back in a person’s life do you have to go to find the time when they have not actually sinned?

      But even if you could find such a time, we still have Adam. In Adam, we died to sin. In Adam, we have all been corrupted by sin. As I said in the previous discussion, he represents all humanity and in Adam all humanity has been corrupted by sin. I’ll try not to repeat all that I said before so I’ll just point back to my comments from last time on Adam and our sinfulness in him.

      “Did Jesus believe they had libertarian free will to want to accept Him”

      In the interest of following your brevity, I’ll answer briefly. :) No, Jesus did not believe they had libertarian free will.

Steve Lemke

By the way, for a devastating critique of compatibilism, see Jerry Walls (professor of philosophy at Notre Dame), “Why No Classical Theist, Let Alone Orthodox Christian, Should Ever Be a Compatibilist,” in the most recent issue of Philosophia Christi (vol. 13, no. 1).

    Chris Roberts

    I don’t suppose there’s a way for lowly folk like me to read the article, short of buying that issue of the journal? Unfortunately, no theological libraries are nearby.

Chris Roberts

On the first chunk of your post, I’m in complete agreement. The Son’s will reflects the Father’s will. There is no split in unity, purpose, or will between Father and Son. The Son is the reflection of the Father and to look upon Jesus is to know the Father.

I am curious if you stressed the unity of the will of Father and Son in response to my comments on two wills in God. The two wills view does not propose that the Father and Son had different wills. It proposes that it is possible for God to desire one thing at one level and something different at another level. I believe Piper is right that both Calvinists and non-Calvinists believe there are two wills in God, a universal desire for salvation but a greater desire – a greater will, greater plan – that keeps God from actually saving everyone. So I’ll just point again to Piper’s paper on two wills in God.

“This is a serious matter because a sustained rejection of Jesus leads to ‘eternal punishment.’”

Sort of. Sin leads to eternal punishment. Rejection of Jesus is sin. No one goes to Hell solely for rejecting Jesus (though that would be enough reason); people go to Hell because they are judged for their sins.

“Jesus told Nicodemus that ‘he that believeth not in Me is condemned already’ (John 3:18)”

Condemned already because their sins condemn them. Once their faith and trust is in Christ, their sins are wiped away and their faith is credited to them as righteousness.

“If they could not will to accept Jesus, why is He blaming them?”

Because they are responsible for their own inability to respond. They are responsible for the sin that killed their souls and corrupted their wills. They are not innocent victims of someone else’s actions; they have caused their own inability. Their would not is itself indicative of their sins.

“Jesus is sorrowful because He wanted them to do something they could do: want to accept Him.”

No – Jesus is sorrowful because he wanted them to do something that they did not do – accept him. His sorrow has nothing to do with possibility; it has to do with reality. He wanted their acceptance, they rejected.

Look at it from another angle. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, did he know what would happen? Before he was born in a manger, did he know where things would lead? Is not the cross the very reason for which he came? Does not Acts 2:23 speak of Jesus’ death as part of God’s definite plan? The way you present the events of Matthew 23:37, Jesus’ sorrow would only make sense if Jesus actually thought the people of Jerusalem might choose him. You say there must have been a real choice or his sorrow would make no sense. But whether or not there was a real choice, Jesus knew even before coming to Earth that the people of Jerusalem would reject him and crucify him. As he stands there looking over Jerusalem, he has already spoken repeatedly of his coming crucifixion. He knew well in advance that the people would not choose him. At that point, there was no possibility that things would change. There was no possibility of a different outcome. Jesus knew exactly what the people of Jerusalem would do. This very knowledge of future events is what leads open theists to reject future knowledge, for they say there is no such thing as libertarian free will if God knows the future. Jesus knew the people of Jerusalem would reject him; and yet he still grieved at their rejection. So his grieving had nothing to do with the possibility (or lack thereof) of their acceptance. It had everything to do with the fact that they did reject him.

“I am not among those who want to do that. I do think we can coexist. However, for the good of the SBC, I think that honest dialogue must take place so that churches do not continue to be hurt.”

These things ring hollow to me and many other Calvinists. There has been a sustained assault against Calvinist theology by many in the SBC, including this blog. It is no accident that almost every post dealing with theology has its sights set on Calvinism. It is clear that even those who claim to want to make room for Calvinism want to keep Calvinism relegated to certain corners of the SBC. Calvinists must out themselves and wear identifying marks so everyone can clearly see who they are. They can believe what they want, but they dare not share their views with others or they are labelled divisive and confrontational.

volfan007

What settles the matter for me is that…Jesus wept over this city…this people…He said that He WOULD HAVE….but THEY WOULD NOT…not that He would not, nor that He didnt will it….but, they would not….sounds like Jesus really, truly wanted these people to be saved(Ezekiel 33; 1 Timothy 2). But, the people had to choose.

Also, to Mark, I can tell you…from personal knowledge….of Church after Church after Church that’s been hurt by a 5 pt. Calvinist going into a church, and trying to convert it…..so, yes, there’s been a lot of hurt in the SBC…in the SBC churches….I’ve seen it…Also, I could tell you about my own experience, when I had some 5 pt. Calvinists trying to convert me, and all the things they said to me…and because I would not convert, they said some pretty hurtful things to me…things that I would call hurtful…

David

Debbie Kaufman

I’m just not buying that David. You guys make these accusations but I have yet to see proof of a Calvinist “destroying” a church. Anecdotes are not proof. And let’s see here, who so far has shoved out missionaries because of having a private prayer language? Who has shoved out a woman for teaching Hebrew? Who has shoved out a trustee for having a private prayer language? And the list goes on and on………

Debbie Kaufman

The fact is you are running out of people to shove out so you turn to Calvinists. We have been around for since the beginning of SBC, and now you are turning to shoving out Calvinists. And that can be proven. We want to cooperate with you, it’s you that do not want to cooperate.

    Chris Roberts

    While I think Calvinists have not gotten a fair shake, it must be recognized that there are many in Calvinist circles who have been less than helpful in their presentations of Calvinism. I don’t think it’s fair to say that Calvinists are usually the ones causing division in their churches, but plenty of Calvinists have done their part to sow discord. I think some of that stems from a good desire to help people see biblical truth, but that desire is at times seized by the flesh and turned into prideful declarations. The same thing is done by non-Calvinists, certainly (classic example: a youth minister I know whose Facebook profile listed as his religion: “Christian, NOT CALVINIST!”), but non-Calvinists do not have a monopoly on it.

      volfan007

      Chris,

      Maybe that Youth Pastor does that because he’s been called things like “Pelagian, or Semi-Pelagian” by 5 pt. Calvinists. Or, maybe he was told that he preaches a false Gospel by the 5 pointers….or, maybe he was told a host of other things, which caused him to have such a attitude about Calvinism.

      I know I became very upset and developed an attitude about extreme, 5 pt. Calvinists after being told these kinds of things….and more…worse….by 5 pt. Calvinists. You know, you tend to get an attitude after you’re told that you’re preaching a false Gospel and leading people to Hell….all because you dont believe the 5 points.

      David

        Mark

        Yep, David, that must be it. It must be a Calvinists fault that this youth minister has put that on his Facebook page. How very fair of you.

        Are there any church problems that aren’t the Calvinists’ fault? Reading how some SBC blogs so subtly (and not) go after Calvinism, you’d think that those in the 5-10% Calvinistic presence have some how orchestrated a hostile takeover and if it could just be stopped the SBC would be a place of sunshine lollipops & rainbows.

          volfan007

          Once again, we see a demonstration of why people might have an “attitude” about 5 pt. Calvinists.

        Chris Roberts

        Semi-Pelagianism is, unfortunately, rampant in the SBC, so accusations of semi-Pelagianism are not without merit in many circles. It’s even popped up in some of the comments here in the last discussion or two.

        That said, some Calvinists have not done a good job of noting the distinction between Pelagianism/semi-Pelagianism and various forms of Arminianism. On a practical level, the distinction between Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism can be difficult to identify. Distinction can be found on theological points, but there is much similarity in the final conclusion that – one way or another – humans have the means to complete their salvation. Some capacity for good exists in human beings. And thus, as I and other Calvinists see it, Arminians (and others, including non-Calvinist Baptists) have a theology which in the end allows humans to claim some merit for their salvation.

        As for the attitude one gets when told they are preaching a doctrine that leads people to Hell, I daresay that accusation has been leveled against Calvinists _MUCH_ more often than the other way around. I’ve been told I preach the doctrine of Satan and have allied myself with demons, and such sentiments are frequently expressed against Calvinists. It doesn’t make it right for Calvinists to then say similar things about non-Calvinists, but I’m pointing out that both camps have been guilty of this error.

          Chris Roberts

          “Semi-Pelagianism is, unfortunately, rampant in the SBC, so accusations of semi-Pelagianism are not without merit in many circles.”

          Wanted to clarify myself on this. What I see popping up too often is the belief in the essential goodness of man, a view that tends heavily toward Pelagian thought. Many people reject the notion that we are born sinful with every action corrupted by sin and a nature that, left alone, produces only sin. The Arminian view of man essentially agrees with the Reformed view, but adds that God has nonetheless intervened to elevate the spiritual condition of mankind just enough that people are enabled to make a free-will decision for or against salvation. Because of this view of prevenient grace, Arminianism ends up in a place close to semi-Pelagianism – putting the ball in our court and saying we are capable of doing the good act of trusting God by faith. This is where it is easy to confuse Arminianism with semi-Pelagianism.

          But many people talk in ways that go all the way back to Pelagianism, claiming people retain essential goodness, the ability for unsaved people, even apart from a work of God’s grace, to please God. If there is a plus side, it is that many of these people would still say that the Spirit’s work is necessary in salvation, including in the call to be saved. Such people generally suffer more from theological conclusion than actual heresy. But this is one reason why I think it all the more important that we get our theology right and proclaim it clearly.

        Mark

        David, are you charging me with a specific attitude? I guess it must be wonderful for you to turn things around as if your the victim. That’s a liberal game and while playing it is often difficult to see your own attitude. You know: speck, log, eye.

        It seems the only valid personal experience is your own which you then export and turn into a sort of universal absolute. I say that because you gave an example of your negative experience with Calvinists; yet when Chris offers a negative experience with a non-Calvinist you turn that around and claim that Chris’ example is also probably a Calvinist’s fault.

        Can’t you see and understand how that may not come across as welcoming and balanced to Calvinists? Apparently, you carry bear some scars from past, personal interactions with Calvinists. I’m sorry, brother, but it’s time to forgive and let the bitterness go. And if nothing else, it’s time to stop applying your experiences to all Calvinists.

        What if the world did that to Christians? Humanly speaking we would hardly get the time of day to make friends and/or share the gospel with anyone.

        Finally, I agree that the pelagian/semi-pelagian charge can be unhelpfully thrown around. However, that does not mean that these two issues are not a problem. Even in this post and the last one on free will it was not clear what role God’s grace plays in man’s decisions. Also, Arminian Roger Olson has said for several years now that most American churches are either pelagian or semi-pelagian. This charge is not solely a Calvinist charge.

          volfan007

          Mark,

          I’m moving on, Bro. God bless you.

          David

volfan007

Debbie,

I can only tell you that I know of at least 10 Churches…right off the top of my head…that I know, personally, have been hurt by a 5 pt. Calvinist going in to convert them…So, I guess you’re calling me a liar…

You want the names of the Churches????

You want the names of the 5 pt. Calvinists, who tried to convert me? who said very hurtful things to me?

You either believe me, or you dont; Debbie. Because, I’m not gonna get on a public website and start naming names….and, for another thing, you probably wouldnt believe me, even if I did….so, what’s the point of argueing with someone like you?

David

    Chris Roberts

    I’m more curious as to what you call divisive. Were they telling people what they see in Scripture? Were they explaining what the Bible teaches? Were they opening eyes to a different interpretation of certain texts? Many in the SBC seem to imply that these activities are divisive, that Calvinists are splitting churches simply by sharing their theology. I have yet to see a church actually split because a Calvinist has been divisive, but I have seen fights in churches because someone didn’t like someone talking positively about Calvinism (disclaimer: I’ve yet to experience this myself, at least to my knowledge; somehow I’ve been fortunate that despite my pastoring a primarily non-Calvinist church, and speaking openly about Calvinism at times, we’ve managed to avoid theological slug fests). As I noted before, I think the only thing that would make some people satisfied with Calvinists in the SBC is if the Calvinists shut up and kept to themselves.

      volfan007

      Chris,

      They came into churches…which they knew where not believers in the Tulip theory….and tried to convert those churches to 5 pt. Calvinism. The ensuing division and strife that it caused did not deter them in the least from continuing this quest, until they were a) fired; b) caused a church split; or c) left to go to another church, leaving the church behind in all kinds of turmoil.

      I’ve seen this happen in churches in many, many towns near where I live. I can name the churches. My brother was in one of them. I’ve had friends, who were members of some of the other ones.

      David

    Debbie Kaufman

    David: There is no point to arguing with me. Let’s just say I’ve been around almost since the beginning and know the war tactics. It never changes. It’s just a little more subtle now. I and others predicted the going after Calvinists five years ago, and I also remember you and others denying that statement. Long drawn out comments were made as to why that wasn’t true. Now flash forward five years later…… who’s next David? You guys are running out of people to shove out but each other.

      volfan007

      What’s even sadder is that you really believe this.

Ron Hale

Dr. Garrett,

I appeciate both of your articles on Free Will, your scholarship is excellent. I also appreciate your kind spirit in the articles and in your comments. As you are already aware, showing the differences in how different camps view this issue of Free Will indicates that the dialogue needs to continue. Blessings!

    Manning Garrett

    I am grateful for the comments pertaining to the reason for my two articles. One of the best chapters I read documenting the fact that our denomination has a history of Calvinist (4 and 5 pointers) and NonCalvinists coexisting is by President David Dockery in an edited book on Calvinism and Southern Baptists (title may be incorrect- i borrowed the book and returned it). His chapter demonstrates that our churches, colleges, and seminaries have been comprised of both. I was encouraged that we could continue that tradition.
    Presently, as the various responses have indicated there are heart-felt, drawn from scripture convictions that lead to important differences.
    I did not write the article to draw out ‘blame game’ responses. Hopefully, as Christians we can believe each other and not question motives or truthfulness of reports whether anecdotal, personal experience, or the like.
    I don’t have an answer. I had hoped that from this discussion some concrete suggestions could emerge so that there could be a reduction of hurt and strife in our beloved convention.
    Does anyone have any suggestions as to how there can be a better matching of ministry staff with congregation beliefs so that hurt feelings and major division can be reduced or is this something that need not concern us. Perhaps I am ‘missing the mark’ and making a mountain out of a mole hill.
    MARK, i agree with you. The average church member in the pew does not know there is a difference of interpretation over matters like ‘free will’ . I asked my church: how many of you think that lost people have a ‘real option’ to accept of reject Jesus? Everyone (all 30 of them in my rural congregation) raised their hand. They did not know anyone interpreted free choice to accept or reject Jesus any other way. Is it important to let them know that not everyone believes that?
    On the other hand, i talked with a layman two weeks ago who is a 5-point Calvinist (as are other members of the church) and his pastor is not and the church has agreed that this would not be an issue in their church. Apparently they had already worked through the differences of interpretation and concluded that doing evangelism was key and that members needed to share their faith regardless of what they believed about the TULIP. So, I really do believe we can coexist but I feel that discussion at some level is necessary. BTW, I’ve not read it closely but I wonder if anyone has ever studied the versions of the Baptist Faith and Message to see if FREE WILL OR FREE CHOICE is ever stipulated as to whether it means ‘real options’ or ‘able to do what one deeply desires’. That might make for an interesting study. I’ve not done it but i’ve often wondered what the BFM says and means.

      Chris Roberts

      “Does anyone have any suggestions as to how there can be a better matching of ministry staff with congregation beliefs so that hurt feelings and major division can be reduced or is this something that need not concern us.”

      One of the things I stress with my people is this is among the things about which good and faithful Christians can disagree. I think robust discussion should be encouraged (which means don’t silence the Calvinists!) for such discussions help everyone grow in their theology and knowledge of God’s Word. And rather than trying to create niches within the SBC for this or that group, I think it much better if we can find ways to work and minister alongside each other.

      For myself, there are ways in which I know I would be much more comfortable – and times I would find much more enjoyable – if I were pastoring a church of Calvinists. But I don’t. In fact, our differences run beyond soteriology, into eschatology and some other areas. Creates some interesting moments. But we are a unified church nonetheless.

      Of course I think those who disagree with me are wrong (or else what is the value of personal belief?) and I want them to believe the truth, so I want to bring them around to my way of thinking, which I take to be the correct way. At the same time, I’m open to the possibility of being wrong, so I listen as they present their understanding. So far I’ve not changed many minds on these issues, and so far no one has changed mine. :) But I want to see the SBC encourage Calvinists and non-Calvinists to work together, not push Calvinists into their own ministry corners.

Bart Barber

I’ve always found the story of God’s interaction with Cain in Genesis 4 to be difficult to reconcile with a denial of libertarian free will.

    Manning Garrett

    TO BART, thanks for the scripture. Would you explain why you think this supports having real options and not only doing what one desires to do at the deepest level? Why is libertarian free will necessary?

      Bart Barber

      Gladly, Manning.

      To have a narrative of God Himself both presenting to a human being what, apart from real hermeneutical gymnastics, seems to be a choice (if you…then…but if you…then), to have God in clear advocacy of one of the options, and then to have Cain do the opposite—I think that it would require that I be deliberately obtuse for me not to see in this God’s indication that it is possible for Cain to choose to do rightly and to have his countenance lifted up.

volfan007

Debbie,

One last thing…do you think that Wade might ever ask me to come and preach at yall’s church in Oklahoma?

David

    Debbie Kaufman

    David: I have said this before, but we have both Calvinist and non-Calvinist in our church. We have co-existed with both views being taught, sometimes side by side since at least 1991, since I’ve been there with the same minister since 1991 till the present. There has been no power struggles, no fights, no splits. We do co-exist and one reason is that we do not misrepresent each others views. It may be done in certain circles, but I am speaking of the church as a whole. In Sunday School, we have those who teach Calvinist and those who do not. We are over 2300 people and growing constantly. We are a military town and so things do change as people transfer, but we get along great. It can be done. We also realize both views believe in the inerrancy and sufficiency of scripture and do not lie and say they don’t or we don’t.

      volfan007

      Debbie,

      I didnt ask all of that….I asked if I could come and preach at yall’s church some time.

      David

volfan007

Also, Manning, I guess I’m just a plain, ole hillbilly from TN. But, I just believe what the Bible says. I mean, when I see in the Scripture that Jesus wept over this city, and said that He would have….well, I’m just not smart enough to know all the secret code language that it takes to get what the 5 pt. Calvinists say that this means…you know, that Jesus didnt really want them….He was just saying that.

Also, when Jesus says that He would…but THEY would NOT….well, once again, I just dont have the smarts to figure out that secret meaning behind the words thing that the 5 pt. Calvinists know….I just see: “Jesus would….they would not.” And, I’m thinking…in my simple mind…that Jesus really did want them, and He would have saved them….but they would not surrender their hearts in faith to Him…that they rejected Him….rejected His offer.

But, then again, like I said, I’m just not smart enough to figure all that other stuff out.

David

:)

    Chris Roberts

    Nothing secret or hidden about it. Jesus would; they would not. Because they rejected, he grieved over them.

      Manning Garrett

      CHRIS, I know that the Piper two wills figures in here. So, see if i understand your interpretation.
      At one level Jesus really does want to save all people (from I Tim which i think you agreed in some sense applies–from last week). So, at one level Jesus and the Father both will that the Jerusalemites will want to accept Him and will in fact accept Him. So, it is a genuine offer for salvation. In addition both Jesus and the Father know that they don’t have the real option to want to accept Jesus nor to really accept Him.—-am I OK so far—I’m really trying to understand your view.
      However at the deeper level (the primary level) both Jesus and the Father determine not to change the will of the Jerusalemites (like the deeper level in your soldier example). So, the fundamental level of will is that for some unknown reason, it pleases the Father and Jesus not to do the necessary ‘desire change’ so that the Jerusalemites will want to accept Jesus and will irresistably accept Him.
      Would it be correct to say that God’s deepest desire is not to save the Jerusalemites but at another will God wants to save the Jerusalemites? I have tried not to caricure or misrepresent your view. Do I have it right?
      If i’m close, then what in the text shows the reader which level of will is operative in Jesus’ sorrow over their rejection?
      If He is making a genuine offer of salvation and if he is genuinely grieved over their rejection, why are they to blame for something they could not do anything about at any level–at the level of sin earlier (your points about ‘how early shall we go back’ were good) or at the fine moments the genuine offers had been made? Do you see my concerns and why I think that libertarian free will (as David wrote earlier) seems to be the best explanation of this text?
      I’m pleased to read that you are a pastor and your church has found coexistence is a reality. Do you think that it would be a good thing for congregations to talk about these matters relative to free will? If so, do you think that it will reduce problems down the road?

        Manning Garrett

        CHRIS, sorry i missed your earlier response to how we can promote coexistence.

        Chris Roberts

        “Would it be correct to say that God’s deepest desire is not to save the Jerusalemites but at another will God wants to save the Jerusalemites? I have tried not to caricure or misrepresent your view. Do I have it right?”

        Roughly correct, but I wouldn’t phrase it that way. Drawing from Dr. Lemke’s brief example earlier, a soldier desires to live, but he desires even more to protect his friends. At no point does he particularly desire his death, but his death is a consequence of protecting his friends.

        I would not say that God desires not to save the Jerusalemites; his desire is to save them. But his greater desire is the promotion of his glory (you said, “for some unknown reason” but we do have glimpses of the reason, and I think this is one of the purposes for Romans 9 – God chooses not to save some because God’s greatest desire is the promotion of his glory. Non-Calvinists would say that God chooses not to impose his will because greater than his desire to save all is his desire that people make free choices for him.).

        “In addition both Jesus and the Father know that they don’t have the real option to want to accept Jesus nor to really accept Him.”

        Tweaking again, I would say God knows that those presented the offer of salvation will never accept that offer unless God does something to change their hearts, their wills.

        “If i’m close, then what in the text shows the reader which level of will is operative in Jesus’ sorrow over their rejection?”

        I’m not altogether sure what you mean by which level of God’s will. I earlier said that in this text Jesus does not indicate a belief in libertarian free will. I was being semi-snarky, but I don’t think the text tells us anything about the ability of people to respond. We draw that from other passages. Since other passages indicate the human deadness to sin, then I cannot expect Jesus believes something that contradicts that.

        In terms of call, the fact that Jesus desires, yet they do not respond, shows me that the universal call is in focus. Jesus has called all people to repent and come to him. And truly, any who respond to that call will not be cast aside. But no one responds to the universal call. So God goes further with some to offer the effectual call, the call behind irresistible grace, to actually save the elect. He is truly grieved that people reject the free offer of the gospel. It should be the most precious thing in our sight, and yet people continue to reject it.

        “If He is making a genuine offer of salvation and if he is genuinely grieved over their rejection, why are they to blame for something they could not do anything about at any level–at the level of sin earlier… or at the fine moments the genuine offers had been made?”

        Just repeating what I’ve said before, because we remain responsible even for our inability. We cut off our own arms and are the cause for our inability to obey.

          Manning Garrett

          CHRIS, your last statement refers back to your power tool example does it not? If so, then in the example, it is assumed that the person had the real option to use the power equipment correctly and chose not to do do–right? It is true that the consequence of that free choice left the person powerless to use his/her limbs. What in the example is analagous to the real option not to misuse the power tools? I thought it was previous decisions to sin or not to sin. However, if i follow you there is no real option not to sin, no real option ‘to want to’ accept Jesus, and no real option to accept Jesus. So, to what does the real option to use the power tools correspond in the comparison?
          TO DEBRA, It appears that your church has found a way to coexist. Since you have shared that you have followed various controversies over the years, what suggestion do you have for churches who lean heavily one way or the other regarding one interpretation of free will and total depravity? Should those churches make this an issue in seeking staff members and furthermore, should prospective staff ministers,who are aware of the real difference in interpretation, state their views?
          Do you think, based on the harmony in your church, that raising these matters will cause dissension rather than unity?
          So that you won’t think I’m out to kick out the Calvinists OR promoting a hidden agenda, I’ll say upfront that i think talking about these things upfront will tend to promote unity within the local body. As your church has proven ‘unity’ does not mean that everyone has to agree but i would think that ‘not discussing’ important matters will lead to disunity within the body. I could be wrong. What do you think?

          Chris Roberts

          “in the example, it is assumed that the person had the real option to use the power equipment correctly and chose not to do do–right? It is true that the consequence of that free choice left the person powerless to use his/her limbs. What in the example is analagous to the real option not to misuse the power tools? I thought it was previous decisions to sin or not to sin. However, if i follow you there is no real option not to sin”

          Yes, it’s the power tools example, and it points back to Adam. Adam and Eve had uncorrupted wills and were capable of desiring both good and evil. They were capable of obedience, of avoiding sin, and yet they chose sin and as a result introduced corruption. And as I’ve argued, Adam stood in a unique place – representative of all humanity. There have only been two such cosmic representatives – Adam and Christ. Because Adam represents all humanity, we can speak in a real sense that what he did, we did. Thus we chopped off our arms, created our own inability, and since Adam have only ever desired sin unless God first does a work in our hearts.

          (I think Arminians et al would agree with what I just said, but would disagree about the nature and scope of the work God does on our hearts.)

          Debbie Kaufman

          Manning: The only criteria should be the belief in Christ as the only way to salvation, the inerrancy of scripture, the virgin birth, etc. and knowing the importance of getting the Gospel out to every creation. That is something both sides can agree on without hesitation. The rest is secondary, in my opinion. I also believe this type of discussion is important unless as has already been brought out there is an agenda.

          As I said in my comment, we have the teaching of both views. We don’t hide the fact that someone is Calvinist or non-Calvinist. It just works. I can’t believe it myself sometimes when I read so many discussions, but we do get along beautifully. Jokes abound from either side? Oh yea, but then laughter is good medicine right?

Steve Lemke

I saw the movie “The Adjustment Bureau” this evening, and the entire story line is along the line of this discussion. The Adjustment Bureau is in charge of seeing to it that people’s Fate overwhelms their choices, run by “the Director” who has mysterious reasons that nobody understands for sure. The Adjustment Bureau sees to it that everybody’s lives are scripted by what was “supposed” to happen. People might think they did things freely, but in fact they were doing what fate meant for them.

Against this huge organization are the hero and heroine, who fall in love and want to reject what “the Director” has determined for them to do. The Adjustment Bureau, while supernatural, is not as totally controlling as the Calvinist notion of God (in which His meticulous providence extends to determining the amount of milk coming out of each cow, as Calvin said), so the hero and heroine are able to escape their fate and be in love. (The Director was impressed that they were willing to risk everything to share their love, so he allowed it). The takeaway line is, “You’ll never know how to use freewill unless you fight for it.” Likewise, there is rejoicing in heaven everytime someone turns from the life Satan scripted for Adam’s lineage, and comes through repentance and faith to be in love with the Savior . . .

Steve Lemke

A long way back, Chris said, “It is no accident that almost every post dealing with theology has its sights set on Calvinism.” And Mark said, “Reading how some SBC blogs so subtly (and not) go after Calvinism, you’d think that those in the 5-10% Calvinistic presence have some how orchestrated a hostile takeover and if it could just be stopped the SBC would be a place of sunshine lollipops & rainbows.”

In fact, Calvinists have about three or four times the number of blogs of non-Calvinists. I have the list. So, the point is, although non-Calvinists are the overwhelming majority in the SBC, they are a distinctive minority in blogs, and tend to get creamed with a log of emotional ad hominem language by multiple blogs. (You might guess that I have experienced this personally). So, some of the frustration that centrist Baptists experience in blogging is that they get creamed by a swarm of Calvinist blogs (“swarming” is a blogging technique, intentionally or unintentionally, whereby one blog links or tweets to another link that links to another link, so if anybody looks up the discussion in a search engine they are taken to one of these blogs, and just one side of the issue is seen).

So, I’m just smiling about your comments about being a minority in the bloggerworld. Welcome to our world!

    Chris Roberts

    But how many of those blogs claim some sort of representational status? While granted that (probably) none of the bloggers here would claim to speak on behalf of the SBC, the title of the blog remains SBC Today and the About page says much about creating a diverse forum for SBC life, where “diversity” seems to mean “various points of view in opposition to Calvinism”.

Steve Lemke

Chris said earlier, “For the soldier, it is the desire to live and not feel pain. But on another level, there is an even greater desire or will – and I think we can speak of the soldier having this very real desire! It is the desire to protect his friends, his family, his nation. He does not want to die, but even more than his desire not to die is his desire that his friends not die. He is not acting against his own desire; rather, a greater desire is acting against a lesser desire.”

This is simply to deny freedom of choice, or to confuse desire with choice. I can desire many things but choose not to do them. I don’t choose to do them because I desire them more (contra Garrett), but because I choose to do so. I don’t think the soldier who jumps on the grenade to save his comrades would say that he “desired” to do so in any normal sense of the word “desire.” You can redefine desire to mean “doing things that you don’t desire to do,” but that seems like a very strange use of language. In the normal use of language, we “desire” pleasant outcomes and we sometimes “choose” things that we find very undesirable.

    Chris Roberts

    It depends on where you attach the word desire. The soldier does not desire death. The soldier does not desire pain. The soldier does desire to preserve his life and avoid pain. But an even greater desire is to protect his family and friends, to act nobly, to defend his country. Choice is not isolated from desire. No one’s actions come solely through mental activity. The emotions play a strong role in everything we do, including influencing our choices. The soldier who gives his life did so because his greatest desire is to protect others and the way to protect others was by jumping on the grenade.

    To use a more mundane illustration – I like to eat. I really like to eat. I love food. And yet I also want to be healthy. To get healthy requires me doing things I don’t like to do – abstain from eating, exercise, focus on healthy foods, etc. I don’t like these actions but my greater desire necessitates them. An athlete does not necessarily enjoy the daily rigors he must endure in order to excel at his sport. A teenager doesn’t necessarily want to get the summer job but he does want the things the money from the job provides. The list of examples can go on and on. Every day we have instances where we sacrifice lesser desires on behalf of greater desires (and every day we have instances where we act the other way around; we usually call that foolishness).

    And in Scripture we see two things: God desires that everyone be saved, but not everyone is saved. So either God is unable to ensure everyone is saved, or he has another desire even greater than his desire that everyone be saved and he acts on behalf of the greater desire. Substitute the word desire for will and you have the two wills view.

Randy Davis

This is probably not the best text for Calvinists and non Calvinists to fight over. Jesus came to his own people. This is the elect of God, Israel, this the holy city, the home of the temple, Jerusalem. These are God’s people, not lost gentiles and he is not making an appeal to their salvation, but to their obedience. Israel had always had a problem with obedience, a reading of the prophets shows this. Jesus said their fathers killed the prophets.

Jesus is weeping over their rebellion. Like their ancestors before them, they should be able to say no to sin. But they chose to rebel against God and reject his Messiah. It is a recurring cycle, even to this day, that God’s people reject the things of God and God brings judgment on them. We have not learned the lesson any better than ancient Israel.

My point in all of this, if you are going to argue over Calvinism, it would do well to make sure the text matches the debate. This one does not match the debate.

    Manning Garrett

    RANDY, you make a valid point regarding the fact that ‘some of the Jerusalemites’ did accept Him. It was be the ‘fallacy of division’ to apply what was said of the group (as a whole) to each individual Jerusalemite. I don’t think Jesus meant that every Jerusalemite rejected Him.
    Your reminder that he was calling them to accept Him eventually as Messiah is also good. I do disagree with you when you say that this text is not about our debate. I think it fits perfectly. In rejecting Jesus were they not rejecting salvation? Was not some notion of free will in place and was not Jesus’ reaction a key to the mind of God regarding those who do reject? Again, I think it fits perfectly and I think that my on-going interchange with Chris shows that the text is quite relevant.
    Just one question–what is your view. Do people today have the ‘real option’ to accept or reject Jesus? Do you think we can only desire to reject Jesus?

Jeremy W

1. I think I will side with Edwards, and his protege Piper, on the issue of humans choosing what they “really” desire at the moment of choice.
2. It would be good to unpack the various levels of God’s will found within the theology. R.C. Sproul has done a good job of differentiating this distinction. Check out his work “Essentials of Faith” to get the ball rolling.
3. We should make clear that some Jerusalemites did in fact come to faith! Jesus is weeping over the entire nation but there were a handful of His people that did come to faith. Of course this points out that Israel was made up of God’s covenant people as a whole but only the true remnant actually believed. Just as our churches are full of bodies but only some of those people are truly regenerate (Calvin makes this distinction – the visible and invisible church).
4. In light of my point 2 – God’s various wills – one should be aware that their is truly a sovereign, decretive will that is pretty hard to get around if you examine the whole corpus of Scripture. Although I appreciate a healthy dialogue on these topics there must be a point at which we recognize that we cannot fully understand how God works within our world and us (Isaiah 55:8). How I choose and how God has His plan unfolding is a mystery to me.
5. I think it would be good to actually define the term free will. The average Christian would probably say that they are free to choose whatever they want. My response to them is usually something like, “well, then climb on top of that building and jump off and show me you can fly.” They laugh and I laugh. There are certain limitations to our so called free will (see Edward’s “Freedom of the Will and Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”). The Bible is relatively clear, I would say certainly clear, that sin has caused a major shift in our choosing. My choices are now tainted, corrupted and black with sin. In fact, my friend the Apostle Paul says that I am “dead in my trespasses and sins” – Eph 2. Yikes! So I am spiritually dead.

Sorry for rambling so much.

volfan007

Well, I just believe that God means what he says. When He says that He desires all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth…I just believe that He really, sincerely means that. It’s not just some whimsical, philosophical wish…

God desires all men to be saved….all men dont get saved…..why? Because men must choose….whether to submit to the calling of the Spirit…or not….But, it’s not because God didnt really desire for them to be saved….the Bible says that He did.

Does this make God weak? or, unable to do what He wants to do? or, bases what He does on man? No….of course not. It just means that God will heal all those who will look to the snake on the pole…and He will save all those who will look to the cross in faith…..in response to His calling….His convicting….those that didnt look to the pole, died….those who choose to not look to the cross in faith, die eternally.

How can we understand God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility and choice? Well, salvation is all of God….but, man must also make that choice….if you choose to be saved, it’s because God saved you….if you refuse, or reject, then it’s because you rejected….God chose us…planned to save us….calls us…gives us salvation…and yet, man must respond, or choose…a real choice….can really, truly be saved…beyond that gets into the area of pure speculation…..

David

jeremy w

The very best chapter written on human,freedom and divine sovereignty is by d.a. carson in his book, “a call to spiritual reformation.” It is hands down the most succinct and clear demonstration of that issue.

    Manning Garrett

    JEREMY, You may not have read my article last week where I tried to present two versions of free will in Southern Baptist life. Check it out. It is the precursor for this discussion.
    I appreciate your comment about the average Christian’s view of free will. Of course your example shows that in order to have free will one must have the ability to do the action–which we don’t have as humans to fly unassisted. Thus the ‘real option’ is not present to fly.
    Our debate is over whether at some point in the life of the lost person, does that person have the real option (and yes Dr. Lemke you are quite right that this comes about by the work of the Holy Spirit who brings us to a point of conviction of sin) to accept or reject Jesus. If not, i agree with you that God does not want to reprogram all of us so that we repent and accept Jesus. I’m with David on that point.
    It still seems to me as it did years ago when i wrestled with this as a Calvinist that I could not get to sides of the same coin together: one side-from Timothy “God desires all people to be saved” and other side-from Peter “God is not willing that any perish but that all come to repentance”.
    Universal salvation is avoided by libertarian free will where God gives people the opportunity ‘not to be programmed to love Him’ but rather to choose to love Him. How can both sides fit with Jesus’ reaction to the Jerusalemites (see my comment to Randy on the point you and he rightly raise about some of them in Jerusalem accepting Jesus) rejection of Jesus?
    It seems, and i think Chris comes to this, God’s greatest desire (overridding desire) is that though He wants all to be saved, and any who are saved are strictly saved because God changes their desire and gives them the faith, He chooses not to do the one necessary condition that will bring all of them to repentance–reprogram them to want Jesus. So, in a real sense, God does not desire that all come to repentance. Is this not why some Calvinists apply the Peter passage to ‘God wants all of the elect everywhere to come to repentance’? I don’t mean to imply that they make that move without offering exegesis on the passage and the context. In fact, I commend my Calvinist brethren who attend seriously to the scripture and their tenacity to hold to the interpretation of scripture that seems right to them. That is commendable. Our debate is really about ‘interpreting scripture’. I am of the opionion that in the end each exegete must freely choose how he/she thinks the Holy Spirit is leading in this important exercise and before God we will be accountable to the Lord for our free choice.
    Chris has eloquently argued ‘no we don’t have the real option to respond to God except as Adam represented us’. I wonder in what sense Adam had libertarian free will to choose. Why not just say that he was determined by his strongest desire?
    In other words, why feel the need to ascribe libertarian free will to Adam (prefall) if he can be held morally accountable on a compatibilist account. After the fall did Adam lose the real option to choose ‘just relative to God and the things of God’ or did he also lose real options in all decisions of life. Why not be a consistent compatibilist before and after the fall if libertarian free will is not necessary for responsiblity?

      Chris Roberts

      Though I would say that we have the real option insofar as God has extended salvation to all people. The offer has been made. The door is open. The invitation is given to all. And we were created with the ability to serve God and the intention that we would serve and follow with faith. God has already done everything necessary to make this option available to all people. Nothing external prevents us from accepting. What prevents us is something within us, something self-inflicted. And what God has done is come back to some, changing them and saving them despite their own inability.

      “In other words, why feel the need to ascribe libertarian free will to Adam (prefall) if he can be held morally accountable on a compatibilist account. ”

      I don’t quite understand the question. What I say is that before the fall, Adam had an uncorrupted will. He had not yet sinned, so his sin was not yet blinding him to the truth. Sin is what now limits our will. Before the fall, there was no sin so there was no limit. I am willing to call this libertarian free will since it seems to more or less fit your description. (One limit that has not yet been discussed at all is that fact that every will, every choice, every decision is still guided by the plan and will of God, but that’s an entirely different can of worms!)

volfan007

Don’t use a big word when a singularly unloquacious and dimunitive linguistic expression will satisfactorily accomplish the contemporary necessity.

I feel like that’s what goes on a lot whenever theologians start talking!!!! lol

David

PS. Again, in the area of speculation makes fun talk…until it takes on the area of dogma…and some people think that they have it all figured out….they make the doctrines of the Bible fit into their nice, little, theological box…and it makes them feel very smart and satisfied that they have the answer……But, all we can truly hold onto is what God has told us clearly in His Word….He chose to save us, planned to save us, calls us, and saves us….but, the other side of the truth is also equally true…God desires to save all men, everywhere….man must decide….God really, truly wants to save everyone….and man must make a real choice….how do we reconcile these things? Only God knows. All we can know is that someone both are true.

    volfan007

    that last sentence should read….”all we can know is that SOMEHOW both are true…”

    I really believe the strife and division starts when someone thinks that they can completely figure out the unclear, gray areas of Scripture…..and they try to make the Scripture fit into their system.

    David

Randy Davis

Manning, the mission of Jesus was first to his people. To argue that some of them were lost or saved misses the point. Those Jews of the day of Jesus were rejecting God in exactly the same way as their ancestors. Their salvation came in exactly the same way, by faith. This text is not speaking to the issue of salvation and there is nothing in it to suggest that it is. John pointed out that the Word came to his own and his own received him not. It is hard to call them his own and at the same time suggest they were are lost, in my humble opinion.

I think Scripture indicates that believers can choose to rebel against God. Believers in both the OT and NT are exhorted to be faithful to God. When we sin, as believers, we choose to sin when we could have chosen not to sin. The believer’s position has changed because of the work of Christ and we are supposed to be new creatures which includes our hearts where efforts of the will take place. And while we still sin, we are declared to no longer to be sinners by nature, rather we are declared because the blood of Christ has justified us.

You want me to declare myself. I really don’t like labels if I can avoid them but like everyone I use them. I do not believe in libertarian free will. It does not exist and it is inevitably open to the charge of Pelagianism. It was, in fact argued by Pelagius that libertarian free will was necessary for man to make moral choices. He believed that man had that ability. In my opinion the term libertarian free will should be discarded, it is factually wrong and it is not helpful.

I believe in free will. But free will is not absolute, it constrained by a number of forces. Free will is limited by the physical, social, cultural, and spiritual dimensions of our lives. We are free to choose within those limitations. We choose according to our likes and dislikes. circumstances may force us to choose something we dislike but then that is no longer a free choice and cannot be said to be free will. In the spiritual sense we choose according to our nature. We choose what we like and and what we love, we refuse to choose what we like and hate. It is never a matter that we cannot choose God or his salvation. But as long as a person is constitutionally made in the likeness of Adam’s sin nature, we will always hate God and reject him.

I cannot see a way around this. Dr. Lemke appealed to prevenient grace, defined as the Holy Spirit convicting us of our sins. Yes, it is part of the Spirit’s role to convicts us of our sins but convection is not the same as changing our nature. Most sinners are aware they are sinners, even those who reject the idea of God. If we are as Paul says, spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses, and if we are helpless as Paul says, then I see no other way for our wants and desires to be changed outside of God regenerating the human heart.

Twenty plus years ago, when I did my ThD in Systematic Theology at NOBTS, we never discussed theology in terms of Calvinism or Arminian. We read Calvin and others. But our main concern was to be biblical, not loyal to one scheme or the other. One professor was Arminian by his own admission privately, the other, I suspect, was far more Calvinistic. But that was not how we learned theology. I am very must bothered that today people learn theology first (Calvinism or Arminianism) the Bible second. Theology should always arise out of our study of Scripture, not the other way around.

    Manning Garrett

    RANDY, i think i must misunderstand your point on “it is hard to call them his own and suggest they are lost”. In the next verse or so John will write “as many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name”. I take it that if they did not believe in Jesus they would not be considered His sons.
    Clearly, i must have misunderstood you. I know you don’t mean that the Jews were righteous just because they were Jews, His people by physical birth. This seemed to be part of the problem Paul had to address in Romans 1-4.
    Thanks for clearing up your view on free will—libertarian free will does not exist at any level. So, i take it that as long as one is doing what one desires to do (even if it is wrong and one cannot do otherwise) one is responsible.
    That is one definition of free will. Applied to the issue of the lost receiving Jesus, they can be held responsible for rejecting Jesus despite the fact (on the compatiblilist Calvinist view) they cannot even want to accept Jesus.

Luther

How did God not know that they would NOT choose Him? Even if they had ” libertarian free will ” and God knows their choices, He being God has both the ability and the right to change those choices. Their choices are not genuinely free in the libertarian sense and never will be.

If God is merely a Notary putting His stamp upon the choices of men then He is not God. If God does not orchestrate/ordain/cause events then Open Theism is quite possibly true as God must by default wait upon the free choice of the creature before acting.

We are by nature sinners deserving of Hell. We are dead in our sins and trespasses, without hope, and separated from God. It is God who saves us, quickens us, and calls us. If we add anything of our own merit then it is no longer of grace and we will get paid our wages.

All Israel is not true Israel. John the Baptist told the Pharisees and scribes that God could raise up children to Abraham from the rocks. God told Elijah that not all had bowed to Baal but that HE had preserved those who hadn’t. Paul says not all Israel is true Israel. So even among national Israel there were unbelievers-those not saved by faith and the Grace of God -who at that time and historically had rejected Him.

We have no problem saying that Israel is God’s elect-the Apple of His eye-while He left the rest of the nations in their sins, but we seem to have a problem believing that God would save individuals out of Israel and the nations for His glory.

Jeremy W

Adam had a will that was unaffected by sin. That seems to me a pretty clear understanding of creation and the garden. WHY did he sin? No one, no matter how clever they may be, can answer that. All I can say is that without the fall there is no need for the cross. I hope you can appreciate a little teleological sprinkling there!

After Adam – his entire progeny is replete with a slanted, corrupted and sinful disposition. Thus, every single human being after Adam sins. Why? Because that is their nature. They are born in sin.

God looks down upon the entirety of humanity and decides that out of the mass of people who are “dead in their trespasses and sins” deserve to be thrown into an eternal hell because of their first father, Adam, who is their federal head.

So, as Paul argues in Romans, through one man all have sinned and through one man all will be made alive! All in Adam must die. All in Christ will live. If you are in-Adam then you have no reason to choose Christ. Jesus is someone you disdain, represents goodness and righteousness and is therefore deplorable to the sinner. It is only when the power of God moves in your heart that you can see the glory, splendor and wonder of our great and mighty Savior. It is then, when God moves in your spirit, that you are transformed into a believer.

It is hard to get around the first chapter of Ephesians without recognizing that God has ordained and decreed a plan. And part of that plan is to save some before the foundation of the world. “we are predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

Just some random musings

    Ron Hale

    Jeremy W,
    You are correct that “all in Adam must die.”

    I also believe that the first chapter of Ephesians shares God’s ordained plan of salvation. Let’s see if we agree as I continue.

    Dr. Herschel Hobbs taught that many incorrectly interpret the English word “predestination” rather than the Greek word “proorisas”.

    Hobbs says the basic verb is “horizo” and it means to set a boundary. Our English word “horizon” comes from it and it is the limit or boundary of your vision from where you see or stand.

    The prefix “pro” means beforehand. Therefore, predestination means to set a boundary beforehand. Dr. Hobbs illustrates this boundary as that of a landowner building a fence around a piece of property. When it comes to salvation, the fence (or boundary) is Christ. The phrase “in Christ” or its equivalent is used eleven (11) times in Eph. 1:1-13.

    This spiritual reality points to the fact that those who are “in Christ” are saved, and those outside of Christ are lost.

    Paul is not referring to individual believers in Eph. 1, he is speaking of His Body, the Church. God chose or decided before the foundation of the world to set a boundary or mark out beforehand that all those who are “in Christ” are His children.

    The Good News is the very moment you repent and believe the Gospel you are “in Christ.” To say it another way based on the meaning of the word, you are predestined the moment you are born again.

    Dr. Frank Page said in his book, “Please remember He [God] predestined the how, not the who!”

    Blessings!

Randy Davis

Manning, I think we have a problem with terminology. No one is righteous, not the Jews, not the gentiles, not us. God’s people are declared righteous, we have no innate righteousness in us. So, to question do “I think that the Jews of Jerusalem are righteous” is not the point. The point is that these are God’s people.

As far as the Jews being saved by birth. As far as I know, God elected the whole nation of Israel, not individuals. I don’t recall where salvation is by individual response in the OT. It was by election of the entire nation. And individual gentiles who wanted God’s salvation had to become a part of the nation of Israel through ritual. And judgment was always against the entire nation, even when it was one individual who sinned. This is why some Arminians claim that the Church is the elect, not the individual. The individual has to “decide” to become a part of the elect.

As far as John is concerned, those who receive him most likely refers to the gentiles.

    Manning Garrett

    RANDY, What makes you think that in John 1:13 this refers to Gentiles while in verse 12 I thought you applied it to Jews? Why not to anyone who believes Jew or Gentile?
    Clearly God chose Israel to be His people. Was not the call to be the race through whom the Messiah would come? There are those who preach today that all Jews are saved simply because of God’s special calling on them. They can reject Jesus as Messiah, the cross and resurrection, the incarnation and still be saved because of the special revelation, special calling, special hope that they have. I am not implying this is your position by any means. Nonetheless, did not Paul dispute this claim to special salvific position some of the Jews in his time claimed. Did he not address this appeal to ‘specialness’ in Romans 1-4? I know that this is chasing a rabbit that may not be germane to the free will discussion but i wanted to at least respond to your reply.

Jeremy W

Ron, that is just one chapter and I am sorry but I think we can all agree that predestination in Eph is referring to individuals. Romans 9 – “Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.” And God does this BEFORE either were born.

Randy, wow man. Just wow. I am not sure who you sat under that taught you about the OT and how people were saved in it but man they were off by a long shot. You might want to check out Romans 4 and see how Abraham, an individual was saved – “by faith.” You might want to also check out the entire book of Ephesians and see how Paul argues against your idea. He talks about being saved by faith in Christ alone. Not because he is a Jew by birth!

There is always the entire nation who were the covenant people of God – by blood related to Abraham. But, within that entire nation were a remnant – those who really believed and were truly saved by faith in God. Yes, when God judged the entire nation the elect were also punished. But God also spared them multiple times due to the elect (the remnant).

    Debbie Kaufman

    Jeremy: Scripture interprets scripture. All scripture is God inspired. So….you are going to have to reconcile Galatians with Romans and Ephesians and Colossians etc. You cannot simply take a chapter on it’s own when it appears to contradict another part of scripture such as Romans. All the Bible is one book. So when you can reconcile all of these books and chapters, you will have interpreted scripture properly.

Jeremy W

I meant to say – check out the entire book of Galatians!

    Manning Garrett

    JEREMY, Amen to your reply to Randy!!! I saw it after my brief response to his point.

    Debbie Kaufman

    And again, scripture interprets scripture. Reconcile Romans, Galatians etc. then you have proper interpretation. All work as one.

Steve Lemke

Manning, Chris, Randy, Ron, Jeremy, and everyone else,
Thanks for a courteous and careful discussion of an important issue! In this way, it has achieved Manning’s goal in both articles for beginning useful discussions on this crucial doctrine.

Randy Davis

Jeremy, I have already stated that Salvation in the OT was by faith, so don’t get so worked up. But election was of the nation, not the individual unless you view election solely as that of Abraham0–then I think you have greater problems. There is no clarity at all how the nation of Israel comes to faith and even with the statements of the NT, it is still not clear. All that one can say in the OT is that salvation was of the Lord and that Abraham believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness, and those who are in the likeness of Abraham are the true sons of God. This is actually a very hot topic in some evangelical circles as to how we are to understand justification and sanctification as it might apply to OT saints or if it should apply at all since these doctrines are not discussed in the OT. Contrast that with the New Testament, election seems to be applied to the individual. And I assume that faith is the response to God’s gracious election.

My point, one cannot and should automatically assume that the audience of Jesus in Mat 23 were lost. We don’t know that. What we do know is that Jesus came to his own, Jerusalem is the City of God, the City of David, the home of the temple and he compared his listeners to their rebellious ancestors who killed the prophets. And like their ancestors, judgment was coming and the city would be destroyed. Thus, it is not a good verse to promote, or defend libertarian free will or any other kind of free will exercised by the unregenerate because we do not know their state of being, we assume it. The rest of it is just convoluted and unclear thinking on my part–at least not making myself clear.

Jeremy W

Paul elucidates for us on how Abraham was saved in Romans 4. That, therefore, goes to everyone in the OT era. They are saved by faith in God. Paul goes on to argue that he “passed over their sins” until the Cross.

    Debbie Kaufman

    And again scripture interprets scripture. Reconcile all of Romans with this chapter. The story of Christ raising Lazarus from the grave is a portrait of what happens in salvation. There is a reason and purpose for everything written in scripture. Every word that is used, every story that is told.

      volfan007

      Is there an echo in here?

Jeremy W

Here is the best solution to the issue of free will that I have come to. It is by no means new but makes the most logical, rational and bibilical sense in my mind and heart:

All of humanity has a will that is influenced, corrupted and subject to one’s sinful nature. “All in Adam must die” – why does Paul say this? Because Adam was our federal head. He represents ALL of humanity in his trial in the garden. Some may object that it isn’t fair for one man to represent us all. Well, Paul also says that “all in Christ will live.” So you can’t have it both ways. The Apostle delineates this in black in white (Romans 5).

In the final analysis, I believe that those who espouse the view of Lemke and others have a very hard time with one issue – fairness. In their mind, God should give EVERYONE a chance (whosoever) to believe because that seems just, right, good. Now, if everyone was morally neutral then I would agree. However, no one is righteous, not one. We all have gone astray. Our sins are like filthy rags before a holy God.

So what should God do with a rebellious race of image bearers? He should do just what He does to many of them – send them to an eternal hell – separated from Him by their sin forever.

But, in the midst of God’s exercise of justice and judgment on this sinful lot – He, in His great mercy, grace and goodness decides to save some from that everlasting torment. He opens their eyes to the glory of who He is and they are forever changed by grace through faith into something marvelous!

So the issue can never be fairness – if God were to be fair we would all be in hell (or headed there). Instead, He is benevolent to those whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world. Why? Paul can only say, in Ephesians 1, it is “according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will.”

For me, it all hangs on Paul’s arguments in Romans 5 and the doctrine of total depravity/inability.

The vast majority of Christians may disagree with this assessment and conclusion. That is OK. I just want to make sure it is written clearly and not mottled with weird stuff that comes out of many young Calvinist’s mouths. A Calvinist should say nothing for the first 10 years of their new found belief. :)

    Debbie Kaufman

    That is nonsense. In fact I am going out on a limb and say that by the time one embraces Calvinism they do so because they have studied long and hard the beliefs of Calvinism and put it next to scripture. Calvinism is not come to lightly by any Calvinist.

    Also, if that is true, then a non-Calvinist should not say anything until 10 years after their new found belief. Can we stick to talking theology without silly statements like this? Good grief.

    Manning Garrett

    TO JEREMY: the summary of your view was helpful. It appears that you embrace double predestination: God determines that some go to heaven and others to go to hell. It is all up to God because all deserve hell.
    I think your point about ‘fairness’ is valid but not just for the reason you cite. You claim that “Lemke and others” seem to think that if God does not give everyone a chance to be saved that would not be fair”. The reason we think God gives everyone a chance to be saved is because scripture teaches that God’s desire is that all be saved and that all come to repentance. The fact that this seems fair is secondary–but still important.
    TO RANDY: In fairness to you, you did state in your first comment that the OT saints were saved by faith and that is consistent with the New Testament. I still think the Matt 23:37 is relevant. For argument’s sake, i can leave the issue of salvation out and my point still stands. Jesus was making an offer for them to accept Him as Messiah (ever how much or little He had revealed them about that). It was a genuine offer. He was deeply disappointed over their rejection of Him. My point is that the fact he blamed them for the rejection and was driven to tears over it is best explained because He thought they had the real option to accept Him. I still think salvation is involved but for argument’s sake, I can forego that in order to let the real concern shine forth–Jesus’ reaction supports libertarian free will.
    TO DEBBIE: i think you have a good point to make regarding putting scripture with scripture—all of us agree on that. So, could you provide a summary of “what will get cleared up and which teachings of scripture will clear up whatever the problem is”? I may be the only one that missed your point and you introduced it twice. Feel free to provide some detail so that your point won’t go unnoticed.
    TO ANY WHO WANT TO COMMENT: I think it would be interesting to hear opinions on the sense in which PreFall Adam had ‘libertarian free will’. I think both Jeremy and Chris made a good point that Adam did not have an uncorrupted will and thus a libertarian free will. I’ll step out of my role as an advocate of libertarian free will and play the role of the compatibilist. Following Randy, I’ll deny libertarian free will exists at all. So, I’ll say that also includes Adam. Adam, for some reason, when tempted was determined by the desire to disobey God. In fact, this desire must be seen as a determining desire because Adam’s will was uncorrupted. Since it was uncorrupted, it was always inclined to desire to please God. Therefore, Adam had to be determined by a stronger desire to disobey God. All decisions are determined by the strongest desire; therefore not even Adam had libertarian free will. LFW is an illusion and it is an illusion to think that Adam had LFW. **This is not my view but I could see a compatiblist making an argument against Adam having libertarian free will. SO WHY SHOULD WE THINK ADAM HAD LFW RATHER THAN DETERMINED BY THE STRONGEST DESIRE.??

      Debbie Kaufman

      In answering your question about scripture interpreting scripture, let me give one example. Let’s take 1 Corinthians 15:29. Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

      This passage has been used by some cults to make a case for baptism of the dead. But we know that cannot be true? But scripturally how do we know? Well…Hebrews 9:27 for one that tells us judgment comes after death. Scripture interpreting scripture. We can rule out that 1 Cor. 15:29 is talking about baptism of the dead.

      Scripture interpreting scripture also means that all scripture agrees and does not contradict itself. If we have a passage(such as the one above) that seemingly contradicts another passage of scripture. It is not contradiciting, but the interpretation is faulty. A interpretation must be reached that reconciles all of scripture. This being just one example of many I could give.

      Chris Roberts

      “I think both Jeremy and Chris made a good point that Adam did not have an uncorrupted will and thus a libertarian free will.”

      Typo? Adam did have an uncorrupted will. His will was not corrupted. He was capable of desiring either good or evil.

      “SO WHY SHOULD WE THINK ADAM HAD LFW RATHER THAN DETERMINED BY THE STRONGEST DESIRE.??”

      A little curious by this question. What is free will except the ability to make a choice without a choice being imposed from outside? If my own desire leads me in one direction and I go that direction, have I not acted on my free will? By desire I don’t just mean fleeting feelings of emotion; intellect, reason factors in as well. But at the end of any decision we can point to some sort of desire coming into play.

        Manning Garrett

        TO CHRIS, thanks for pointing out my ‘typo’. I meant to say that Adam had an ‘uncorrupted will’. It was a mistake of adding a ‘not’ unintentionally.
        It appears you are justifying Adam’s liberarian free will by saying “he was capable of desiring good or evil”. What makes you think this supports ‘libertarian free will’ rather than the compatibilism that would say–‘he was determined by his evil desire and did not have the real option to choose to do good’. What in the text indicates that Adam had LFW rather than CFW? I agree that Adam had LFW and my justification is that God told him ‘not to eat of the forbidden fruit’. To me , that assumes that Adam had the real option to either ‘eat it or not to eat it’ despite the fact that he was strongly inclined to please God due to an ‘uncorrupted will’. God’s command assumes LFW just like in the offer of Jesus to the Jerusalemites to ‘allow themselves to be gathered to Himself’.

Debbie Kaufman

“For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” – Phi. 2:13

    volfan007

    Debbie,

    No one doubts this Scripture….we all believe it.

      Debbie Kaufman

      David: Quit being defensive, I am simply giving what I believe supports the view I hold. Listen David or this discussion is going to be pretty much over.

        volfan007

        Debbie,

        The point is that we non 5 pointers believe that Scripture every bit as much as a 5 pt. Calvinist does. So, what’s your point about quoting a Scripture like this?

        David

Jeremy W

Debbie, the problem with writing words on a blog is you miss about 95% of what it means to communicate. If you could of seen my body language and heard my tone, inflection and sarcasm, then you would understand. It was a joke of sorts. On the other hand, there are far too many “young” Calvinist that begin to embrace the doctrines of grace and then for some reason switch into hyper-proud, pushy, zero-tolerance for any other position mode. It amazes me how often Calvinist have their noses in the air and look down upon everyone else. Talk about irony! They believe that there is nothing other than God’s mercy, grace and choice for them to be a Christian and then act like that. They should be the most humble, thankful and gracious group around!

By the way, I have been a Calvinist since 1995.

    volfan007

    Jeremy,

    Also, Brother, I dont think the issue is fairness with most of the non Calvinists talking in here….it’s about what the Bible teaches….what is true….

      Debbie Kaufman

      Which we both believe David. Come on now….. I have read several of your comments, and we both believe scripture, which it seems you are saying is not true. Sit and learn how much Calvinists value scripture. Scripture is the only authority.

        volfan007

        Debbie,

        I was answering Jeremy’s statement about fairness. So, I’m not sure about your statement….I know that Calvinists value Scripture…just as I do…I never said different….so, again, I’m not sure about your statement…also, I have studied Calvinism…a lot…and I do believe that Scripture is our only authority…so, again, I have no idea why you said what you said to me… in fact, I believe that we should hold to what the Scripture clearly teaches, and Calvinism and Arminianism are systems which must be learned from what men think about the Scriptures…they are man made systems of theological belief….I personally beleive that both of them fall way, way, way short of what’s actually taught in the Scriptures.

        David

          Debbie Kaufman

          David: Every time you say things like “I just believe what the Bible says”…that is the same as saying those who disagree with you don’t believe what the Bible says.

    Debbie Kaufman

    Jeremy: Take this as you will, but many call themselves Calvinists in order to dis Calvinists. It’s as old a tactic as the beginning of time, I can’t say you aren’t, I have to take your word for it but if I am simply going by what you have written it would seem you are far removed from what Calvinists believe.

    There are Calvinists who are pushy, but as RC Sproul has said, there is nothing more obnoxious than a Arminian(or non-Calvinist) who has discovered and embraced Calvinism(paraphrased by me). They are excited, they are anxious to share what they believe in this area because it is very exciting. In time they calm down and get more centered. It’s kind of like a new born again Christian, especially one who used to drink heavily or any other vice or sin you can think of and their thinking and habits have radically changed. They are obnoxious, but with time, growth and maturity in the Holy Spirit, they are calmer in their sharing of the Gospel. I don’t think it’s that big of deal. It’s normal as is any life changing event, and it’s a process.

    Debbie Kaufman

    A joke of sorts Jeremy? That tells me I read correctly and responded correctly.

    Debbie Kaufman

    I guess where you and I disagree Jeremy is the accusations you make against Calvinists. I just don’t see them to be true. For example, Calvinists don’t have their nose up in the air and I have hardly seen this nor heard this from any speaker, minister, or Calvinist out there. I just don’t get this accusation. For the most part they are grateful. For the most part Calvinists do know what they believe and why. This isn’t arrogance. To say this against the very people who believe as you do is what gets me puzzled. It’s simply an untrue accusation.

Randy Davis

Manning, I do not think that libertarian free will does not exist because desire is greater than will. I think it does not exist because we are limited creatures. Adam had free will as far as we know. he was given choices and told which one not to choose. I don\’t know what his desire was but I suspect that it was to be equal to God. Thus, Adam wanted to usurp the sovereignty of God. His choices were to obey or disobey God. Of course he chose to disobey. Is that what God intended, I can\’t answer that because God has not revealed it to us. It certainly did not catch him off guard or without his permission.

We do not have the choices of Adam. A fundamental change was made in the nature of humanity. Though still made in the image of God, Adam ( and us as well) were corrupted, broken, become a sinner. The consequence of this was such that God in his mercy, removed Adam from Eden, a perfect place meant for a perfect humanity or at least an unfallen humanity.

We cannot choose to not be a sinner (double negatives, I know). We cannot choose to change the discrete components of our soul and become a non sinner. We cannot claim to be good because every part of us is fallen. We cannot do good as a means of pleasing God with our holiness. We can restrain our behavior, but behavior is not the same as being a sinner, though behavior will reflect our nature. Thus we have the law. The law makes the punishment of our sin greater than the pleasure it may give us. But keeping the law does not change our nature.

So, now, our choices are even more limited. And I would think that our desires are severely limited as well. And even when we desire what appears to be good things, it is not for the right reason. There is always selfishness in our desiring. Our lack of choices are due to our limitations, not because God does not allow us to make choices.

The question to me is why choice at all? Why was Adam allowed to make a choice? With out choice making, how could one call the world good, or understand the goodness of God. Your choice would be God or God. This would not be a creature made in the image of God, not a free creature who is able to love God by his personal will instead of just the command of God.

So, in my mind the choices of Adam were necessary if he is a creature made in the image of God. Since that time we have wanted to make those same choice but it is impossible and it is desired with the wrong motives.

Randy Davis

I am sure that most people want to carefully examine Scripture in order to properly understand it. Scripture interpreting Scripture is all fine and good, as long as it is done correctly. You first have to understand the first text in his historical and biblical context. This is particularly true with the Old Testament. If you do not first work with the text and try to understand it as it was intended, you will most likely fill it with made up meaning if you simply decide to interpret with New Testament texts. Thus, ignoring the the text and using creative means such as allegory and typology, people have read back into the OT all sorts of things. Some see Jesus under every leaf and behind every twig.

Good hermenutical principle tries to understand the text in its context with all the historical and and literary tools available and then move on to the larger biblical context.

Randy Davis

Just one more. Someone mentioned that the Greek proorizo, was defined by Hobbs as to mean “to set boundaries.” I am not sure where Hobbs got this but the lexicons do not agree. “The Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, Third Edition” (BDAG) says the word means, “to decide upon beforehand, predetermine.”

The “Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament” contains the following:

The ellipsis means I left out some Greek that I do not think will show up correctly in the message.

Randy Davis

Messed up the html. Here is what was left out.

Divine predestination aims at the concrete historical revelation of what was previously hidden and is thus spoken of by Paul in statements regarding salvation, i.e., doxologically; this is the case in reference to the predestination of the chosen to be conformed to the image of God’s Son, i.e., to the eschatological destiny of suffering and glorification

Jeremy W

If you think what I wrote is not from a Calvinist perspective then you haven’t studied very well.

On another note – I think it is important to remember that just because I espouse a more Reformed (and I think biblical stance) view does not in anyway diminish the necessary cause of Evangelism. In the end, we all preach the same Gospel. However, what God is doing behind the scenes is vastly different depending on your view of the will of man.

Gracias!

    Debbie Kaufman

    Jeremy: You are right. I do see where you are coming from after reading all your comments in succession. I apologize.

      Debbie Kaufman

      I think where I wondered if you were Calvinist or not were the accusations you made against Calvinists. First of all they are very broad brushing and I just don’t see where the accusations are true.

Ron Hale

This thread has come too far to not make it to the 100 mark!

Ron Hale

Who will be the 100th?

Jeremy W

Volfan – just remember, EVERY theological system is man-made. So what system is best in your mind? Also, every system falls short because sinful people largely put them together. There are really only a handful out there worth their weight in salt: Anglican, Arminian, Baptist, Dispensational, Lutheran, Reformed, Catholic and Renewal just to name the big ones.

The Reformed view just holds the most water out of all the sinking systems. There are less holes to fill and therefore is the most buoyant.

I started with the Baptist but in the end they are just a mismatch of a few of the others. Then I dabbled in the Dispy waters but soon saw a more distant light. I took a dip in with the Pentecostals but it doesn\’t take long to see they are more about emotions than intellect. I did go to a Catholic private school for two years but if you study church history you will find ALL sorts of false doctrines created by them. Back to the distant light – it was the Reformed group. They slowed down long enough for me to hitch a ride and I haven\’t been disappointed yet!

volfan007

Jeremy,

First a story…

The other night at the 1st Church of Possum Lick, TN; Bubba asked Brother Elrod if he could pray for his hearing. Elrod put one finger in each of Bubba’s ears and prayed out loud for several minutes. After he was done, he asked Bubba, “How is your hearing now?” Bubba said, “I don’t know. It’s not til next Thursday morning.”

Honestly, Brother, I just try to let the Bible say what it says….and, I dont mean that in a condescending way…nor in a “I believe the Bible, and you dont” kind of way. I just try to let the Bible say what it says. I find that a lot of the problems come when we’re trying to read between the lines, and trying to understand what the Scripture does not clearly say and explain.

David

Jeremy W

Volfan, I appreciate what your saying. I adhere to what your saying in some ways. I always take a 3 fold approach to understanding the Word of God: first, I go to the Bible myself and ask the Holy Spirit to guide, illumine and teach me. Secondly, I try to figure out what the contemporary church is saying about the particular passage I am working through. It helps me to have others who are also pursuing truth to enlighten me and the passage. Lastly, I look over church history and try to understand how the Holy Spirit has guided the body of Christ over the last 2000 years. That keeps me from erring too far off the track and staying close to orthodoxy.

One of the biggest miscues of the contemporary church is the idea that you and the Bible are enough. That never works out. Just ask all the members of the David Koresh clan! 1 person and the Bible = trouble. You need other Christians and church history to help you not get off course.

Example 1: Benny Hinn said on TV that Adam must have been able to fly. Why? Because how else could he have named all the birds. I am not kidding. Hinn, by himself, with the Word of God is dangerous. May God have mercy on his soul.

Example 2: Joel Osteen and others of his ilk. Just sit and listen to them. There is pretty much no regard for the contemporary orthodox understanding of the church today. Also, there is no regard for the past 2000 years. If you attend the local Kiwanis Club then you get as much spiritual nutrition as you wood at Osteen’s place.

Debbie Kaufman

David: One question. If Libertarian Free Will is true and Biblical why is the Holy Spirit even needed in the conviction of salvation?

    volfan007

    Jeremy,

    I never said that I dont study fro what other people have learned. When studying for a sermon, I use several Greek helps….including Dr. A. T. Robertson’s Word Pics…….I read commentaries like Dr. J. Vernon McGee, Dr. Ironside, Dr. John McArthur, The ICC, etc.

    But, what I’m talking about is sticking to the clear teachings of the Scriptures. A lot of what’s being talked about with Arminians andCalvinists, and with other areas delves into the realm of speculation…..

    David

    volfan007

    Debbie,

    The Holy Spirit must call and convict….or else man cannot, and will not, be saved…..no one comes to the Father unless the Spirit draws them.

    David

      Debbie Kaufman

      I do agree with you. So then how does the Holy Spirit draw and convict?

        volfan007

        the Holy Spirit convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment. He draws men to God….to repent and put their faith in Jesus….He uses the light of nature, the conscience, and the Gospel to draw men…and when Jesus is lifted up, then He draws men to Jesus….

        That’s what the Bible teaches us.

        David

          Manning Garrett

          FROM MANNING TO ALL: Time and circumstances forbid me from replying anymore. I want to thank all of you for your helpful comments. I learned some things and as Dr. Lemke intimated earlier: good civil discussion can emerge from Xians who have different and deep convictions about what the Bible teaches (i did embellish your statement Dr. Lemke but i think you agree with my paraphrase). RON, i’m glad we made your 100 entries. God bless all of you…L.Manning Garrett III, I Peter 3:15……..

Dr. James Willingham

One of the things that is always notoriously absent from discussions of calvinism or sovereign grace (my preferred term as Paul said grace reigns in Roms.5) is the fact that it is the primary theology of the origins of Southern Baptist. It is interesting to observe, for example, that for approximately 40-50 years the FBC of Charleston was pastored by two Separate Baptist pastors (Richard Furman and Basil Manly, Sr.), both of whom were committed believers in sovereign grace. Manly as clerk of Sandy Creek Assn. in 1816 served on the committee to draw up the Confession of Faith adopted that year. In his funeral message for Manly in 1867 Dr James Petigru Bocye stated that Manly was a calvinist, evidently a very committed one and yet one who would only use persuasion to advance the cause of sovereign grace – not manipulation. Manly led the effort to establish Southern Serminary, suggesting it in 1835 and serving as president of the educational conventions of Southern Baptists in 1857,58, and 59 which established that institution. He also suggested the founding of New Orleans at some future date. Here are committed Sovereign Grace ministers and believers, leading in the work of establishing our primary educational institution. Manly in 1816 also took part with the Sandy Creek Association in responding to Luther Rice’s wonderful effort to launch the Great Century of Missions. Interestingly enough, a church organized in 1814 had just joined Sandy Creek Assn. , and its articles of faith knew only of Jesus dying for the church. From that church with that doctrine would come forth the first missionary of Southern Baptists to go to China, Matthew Tyson Yates.

If we go back any earlier, we find the union of Separates and Regulars in Virginia involving this agreement, “that the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man shall be no bar to communion.”(that is from memory, but I think it is fairly close to the original statement). There were a few among the Separates who preached from Hebs.2:9 and who had suffered for the faith. It was due to their suffering that the stricter brethren were willing to accept them and allow for the differing. However, it is obvious that the dominant view was that Christ died for the elect only. As to preaching it, our Lord Himself said to a woman who was not a Jew, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel>” Then He made the issue even more difficult by saying, “It is not meet to take the children’s bread and cast it to dogs.” the woman treated it as candy, She said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” That sounds like He used a therapeutic paradox with her, intending to bring out the reality of her fallen condition and the greatness of His grace which same is exalted in John Newton’s hymn, Amazing Grace in these words: “that saved a wretch like me.” Having been an atheist before my conversion and having Jesus knock at my heart’s door and having fled and yet having Him open my heart’s door for me (Rev.3:20; Acts 16:14) spells out for me the undeserved nature of His saving of my soul from sin.

You gentlemen who rail against Sovereign Grace or Calvinism ought to know that the liberal position allowing for such differences developed with the strong calvinists of the Regular and Separate Baptists. They were likely aware of what had happened between Whitefield and Wesley. Has it ever occurred to you folks that prayer has been made for many years (38 in one instance and over 50 in another) for a Third Great Awakening, and, since the theology that produced the first two was Sovereign Grace and one needs the same truth to bring about the same results, that may be the reason for the resurgence of Sovereign Grace? Personally, I have been praying for years for such a visitation, a revival that will reach every soul in one generation, beginning with this one, and continuing for a 1000 generations in order to have enough souls in Heaven for the Lord to be able to speak of “a number which no one can number”(Rev.7:9)(cf. I Chron.16:15). And from the old limited atonement theologian himself, Dr. John Owen, I draw the thought of the possibility that we might well have the converts from a thousand worlds (cf. his Death of Death in the Death of Christ.) in the spread of man to the stars. Wouldn’t that be great?

Think how helpful it would be, if we had teachers in our seminaries who really knew Sovereign Grace Evangelism and how it is the most soul winning theology and message in the world. I once told a friend of mine named Spurgeon (of all names!) that grace was irresistible (after all draw in John 6:44,65 is the same root workd for drawing a sword and for dragging Paul and Silas through the streets). Shortly, my friend went out on soul-winning visitation and lead a young lady to Christ. She responded so readily, he asked her why. She answered, “O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” He said as soon as she said that, what I said popped into his mind. I asked him, if he had changed his mind. He said, “No, but I am think about it.” That was in 1965-66. about 2001-2003 I contacted him and found out he was still thinking about it. Then in 2007 he told me he had changed his mind. What is even more humorous about the matter is that he also found out according a family researcher that he is kin to C.H. Spurgeon.

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