Why I Am Not An Arminian | Part Two

March 16, 2016

Leighton Flowers | Professor of Theology
Dallas, TX

**This article was previously posted by Leighton Flowers on his website www.soteriology101.com and is used by permission.

Leighton is: teaching pastor in his local church, an adjunct Professor of Theology, and the Youth Evangelism Director for Texas Baptists.

Learn more about Leighton, HERE.
Follow @soteriology101 on Twitter HERE.
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Click HERE for Part One.

The question is not if Adam/Eve could physically hear God (we all affirm that). The question is whether or not Adam and Eve had the moral/spiritual ability to heed and respond willingly to God’s audible voice. Clearly they did, as they put on the clothes He provided to them (Gen. 3). We also see the responses of Cain and Able to the voice of God; followed by the subsequent rewards and punishments (Gen. 4). Thus, the question is why do some believe mankind is able to respond willingly to God’s audible word, but not His inspired word?  Both are made abundantly clear (able to be physically heard/read).  I can find no clear distinctions drawn in the text between mankind’s moral/spiritual ability to heed God’ word if revealed by different means (audible vs inspiration).

Most, even those who deny the doctrine of Total Inability, as outlined in the Reformed views of Total Depravity, will not deny that the Fall has affected the inward nature of the fallen mortal. What they deny is that the Holy Spirit must perform a special work of grace — some might suggest a separate work of grace (in the freeing of the individual from his bondage to sin in order to induce a freed-will response) — in order for the depraved individual to receive Christ in the Gospel.

William is right to point out that we do affirm the doctrine of Depravity while not going so far as to affirm the doctrine of “Total Inability.”  We believe that the Gospel is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit, and thus is sufficient to accomplish it’s given purpose… “so that you might believe and have life in His name…” (John 20:31).

Scott Ross posted this question under William’s article:

I’ve always understood, regarding prevenient grace, that the Holy Spirit worked through the faithful preaching of the Gospel to free a sinner from bondage and empower them to respond. Romans 10:14-17 is an example of Scripture that indicates this idea. So to be clear, I believe the Holy Spirit must free us from bondage and enable us to respond to the Gospel as you have outlined, but I’ve always thought that the faithful preaching of the Gospel was one mechanism the Holy Spirit uses to do that. Would you say that is accurate?

To which William replied:

Yes, Scott, you are a classical Arminian at heart and in doctrine! Both Arminius and the Remonstrants insist that the Gospel must be preached for the Holy Spirit to grant enabling grace. This is not to suggest that the Holy Spirit cannot use prior means of bringing someone to the Gospel and, thus, to Christ; but that the Gospel will always be the instrumental means by which a person is enabled by the Spirit to freely respond.

The problem is that Scott’s question doesn’t draw the right distinction, and thus William’s response fails to hit our actual point of contention.  For clarity, I would affirm “that the Holy Spirit worked through the faithful preaching of the Gospel to…empower them to respond.” And I would affirm “that the faithful preaching of the Gospel was one mechanism the Holy Spirit uses.” Whereas I wouldn’t affirm that “the Holy Spirit must free us from bondage and enable us to respond to the Gospel.” Confused? I admit, it can become quite confounding if one isn’t paying close attention to the nuances.

Notice the subtle difference between the Holy Spirit using the means of the gospel to empower the hearer to respond willingly, versus the Holy Spirit empowering the hearer through some other unknown hidden inward means (a “prevenient grace,” never expounded upon in the Bible) so that the means of the Gospel would become sufficient to enable a willing response of an otherwise incapacitated fallen person.  Do you see the difference?  The Arminian insists on the Holy Spirit’s use of two separate means of grace (the gospel and this so-called “prevenient grace”), whereas I contend the Bible only speaks of one (the gospel). Why? The Arminian assumes (without biblical warrant IMO) that the fallen person has become incapacitated to respond willingly to God Himself.

Some insist the Gospel, preached by Spirit-filled believers, performs an inner work within the sinner. Hence, the individual is in no need to be “freed from her bondage to sin” in order for the individual to then freely believe in Christ.

The author of Hebrews appears to be one of those people who insists the Gospel, God’s inspired word, does work inwardly within the sinner:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

This penetrating work into the “soul and spirit” sounds like the work of “prevenient grace” described by William, yet the author simply refers to “the word of God” as accomplishing this work, not some extra working of grace that aids the otherwise incapacitated nature of fallen man.

Here are two other passages that seem to teach that the scriptures, God’s inspired word, are sufficient even even for the lost:

“…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

And

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

The Early Church Fathers likewise seemed to agree with this understanding:

Irenaeus, (130-202) wrote, “We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith,” (Adv. H. 3:1)

Athanasius wrote, “The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth.”

It seems incumbent on William, and those who agree with him, to provide evidence that the Holy Spirit inspired scriptures, apart from an extra inner work of grace, are insufficient to enable the lost to respond willingly.

Hence, the individual is in no need to be “freed from her bondage to sin” in order for the individual to then freely believe in Christ.

Given that not everyone repents and is saved once ‘freed’ on William’s view, would he have us believe there may be a lost person who is “freed from her bondage to sin,” but still remains in sin’s bondage? I’m not sure how one could rightly speak of those under the wrath of God in sin as being “freed from sin” in any sense.  It appears to me that those spoken of in scripture as being “freed from sin’s bondage” are specifically those who have already believed and been reborn.

This is the same issue I have with the Calvinistic believers who insist in pre-faith regeneration, but they don’t have the same problem that William has here. For the Calvinist those who are regenerate will certainly come to faith and be saved, so at least the Calvinist can argue that God simultaneously brings someone to faith at the time of their regeneration. But William would have to argue that God frees all people from the bondage of sin (at some undisclosed time and in some mysterious way never revealed by the text), while only some individuals actually repent of sin—leaving the rest under sins curse while still “freed from sin’s bondage.” I find this view untenable.

Our view is far less complex. Mankind is freed from the bondage of sin by confessing that they are in bondage (admitting their inability to save themselves) and in faith trusting God to free them. Upon confession, Christ graciously steps in to provide freedom and salvation. It seems like William gets the cart before the horse to suggest that one has to be “set free from sin’s bondage” in order to even humbly admit they are enslaved by sin’s bondage.

William’s mistake (like that of the Calvinist) is assuming that the biblical reference to mankind’s being “bound in sin” equals mankind’s inability to see and confess they are in that condition even in light of God’s clear revelation.  In short, acknowledging that someone is trapped in a jail cell does not mean that the one trapped cannot see that he is trapped and admit his need for help in order to gain freedom.

Let us address, briefly, passages which refer to this inability to freely embrace the Gospel. Two statements from Christ most obviously bespeaks to this position: “No one can [i.e., does not have the innate capability to] come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” (John 6:44, emphases added; cf. John 6:65) If a fallen sinner is able to freely respond to the Gospel, when such is presented, then Christ must be mistaken — we actually can come to Him without a special inner “drawing” work wrought by the Father (through, no doubt, the work of the Holy Spirit). Also, St John refers “coming to” Jesus to “believing in” Jesus (John 6:35, 37, 40). Hence, no one is capable of coming to and, thus, believing in Jesus unless drawn and granted such (John 6:44, 65). 

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Andy

I’m curious, Leighton; what would you say is the role of the Holy Spirit PRIOR to conversion? Since the Bible says he “convicts the world of sin,” and in fact many people will describe a time in their life in which the Gospel was heard by them, but had no effect. They rejected it out of hand, and felt no conviction…then at a later time in their life, they began to feel conviction, which subsequently led to their believing in Christ.

In such cases, would you say (a) that the Holy Spirit is simultaneously convicting all people in the same way, for their entire lives, and it is the person’s own responses of hardening their hearts that alters whether they “feel” that conviction at a certain time or not…OR…(b) that the holy spirit often will convict a person in a special way at some specific point in their lives, though still not irresistably so, and that He does this for ever person at some point(s) in their lives, such that all have both ability to believe, and drawing?

Or perhaps some third view?

Chris Johnson

Leighton: You seem to be implying that freedom is contingent upon a “created image”, whether in a jail cell or not. In other words, it appears that your teaching insists that God’s creation of an “image bearer” is “ the” reason, “the” why…. that freedom exists for mankind ( I don’t want to put words in your mouth though and I may still be missing your point). Yet, the Word of God teaches us that God appeals to us in a different way, while never excluding the power of the gospel. The Apostle Paul in his second letter to the Corinthians put it this way…..

“Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled faces reflecting the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another, which is from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

The Spirit must be present and involved (even using the analogy of the jail); reflecting the glory the Lord (He is the mover). The transforming and renewal is from the Lord…..and there is a change in the “image”. This may be where we see things slightly different…. Because it appears that is the nexus of this “freedom” (the transforming and renewal from the Lord)… is “for freedom, Christ has set us free” (Galatians 5). In other words….freedom is in no way, ever, detached from the work of God.

Leighton, the scriptures seem to teach that “belief” is receiving Christ, a meeting, administrated by God the Father through Jesus Christ His Son, maintained by the Holy Spirit. God is the mover; God’s children respond and embrace. God’s children throughout history have been the receivers of God’s great grace and will continue to be gathered by the Son into the future. The reception of Jesus Christ is a real act; an embrace, a “freedom” not possible without God’s grace, His moving. God gives all His children to the Son. The Holy Spirit draws and maintains the plan of God. The Son has made the way and continues to move toward those He came to save. God’s children receive, embrace, and believe upon the acts of God, not upon the desires of the flesh. God (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) demands all Glory because of His love; and that is true freedom.

    Leighton Flowers

    Chris,

    I assumed that most would agree that Adam and Eve (prior to the fall) had the God given ability to respond to God’s words. I can’t think of any reason that would be a bad assumption, can you? I also can’t find any biblical reason to presume mankind lost that ability after the fall.

      Chris Johnson

      Leighton: Excellent point about Adam and Eve. They did speak freely with God until they sinned…then they hid. The amazing thing is that God spoke. It appears they were not very good at getting out of the jamb with their ability to respond. God punished them and changed both their and our life and world. God still spoke first,…and He continues to speak first and through His gospel as well. How we have ears to hear still remains God’s work, because we have the ability to respond to God’s words.

      Robert

      Leighton,

      “I also can’t find any biblical reason to presume mankind lost that ability after the fall.”

      Perhaps you have not understood my point. I am not suggesting that people do not have the capacity to believe the gospel (people have the capacity to choose to believe anything, and that includes some very bizarre, strange, ridiculous, false, off the wall, crazy, things).

      The issue with the nonbeliever is not that he does not have the inherent ability to believe, the issue is that as 2 Cor. 4:4 makes clear Satan has blinded them, deceived them regarding the gospel. This “blinding” and deception takes the form of false theologies, false philosophies, ideas, false prophets, gurus, all aimed to get people away from the true God, the true Jesus, the true gospel. People who are blinded in this way need to be unblinded.

      So the inability to believe the gospel is due to circumstances which is why I have said you could call it a “circumstantial inability”.

      And the Holy Spirit is the one who unblinds people by convicting them of their sin, revealing the true Jesus to them (1 Cor. 12:3), revealing they can only be saved by faith in Christ, etc. (all the preconversion work of the Spirit which could be called prevenient grace as it is a grace that comes before conversion and enables faith).

      Leighton you have to look at the biblical statements and ask “If this does not happen can the person be saved? And the answer is no, they ARE NOT ABLE TO BE SAVED absence these things. And what are these things? They have to be drawn (cf. Jn. 6;44). Jesus says if they are not drawn then they cannot come to him. They have to be convicted of their sin by the Spirit. If that does not happen they cannot be saved. They have to have the true Jesus revealed to them by the Spirit. If that does not happen they cannot be saved. Put simply, if the Spirit does not do these things in the hearts and minds of people they cannot be saved (if they cannot be saved apart from the work of the Spirit then inability is present).

      Adrian Rodgers recognized that and it is clear from his words that I quoted. I think Rodgers would be alarmed by your position and that of others who deny this inability,that deny the absolute necessity of the work of the Spirit to overcome this inability.

        Chris Johnson

        Robert: I think you are correct to bring up the logical problems that Leighton has failed to assail. God (the Holy Spirit) is not some innocent bystander in the revealing of the Son and His gospel. I continue to try imagine a way that any of the persons; God the Father, Jesus Christ the Son, or the Holy Spirit are waiting on some human trigger to identify the bride. This is not a blind date scenario.

        It does appear to me this area that is being carved out as “traditional”, now Baptist, is dancing around some of the same old concepts of Pelagius, only with greater articulation and some new words. I don’t think the center cut for Baptist is near that of Pelagius at all. I hope she (the SBC) is not somehow being coaxed into that direction of theological framework. That would be unfortunate.

        Don’t get me wrong though…I am not accusing Leighton of that….only trying to understand where he thinks God’s position and authority is in the system he is trying to explain.

          Lydia

          Chris, maybe the problem is you, like many in your movement, can only perceive of a God that is always exercising His “authority”. You guys are totally immersed in authoritarianism and control. You are eaten up with it.

            Chris Johnson

            Lydia: nice jab….seems like control may not be my issue after all.

        Scott Shaver

        I don’t think Adrian Rogers is “alarmed” at this moment by any human theology. Especially that of Leighton Flowers.

        I do think his positions (like all of ours in the presence of God) may have been substantially modified or clarified upon his home-coming. You can’t prove they were not.

phillip

Leighton,

John 4:39-42 (NKJV)……
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF THE WOMAN who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed BECAUSE OF HIS OWN WORD. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

The spoken word was sufficient; both directly (His own word) and indirectly (the word of the woman). And then there is the following….

Acts 14:1 (NIV)…
At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There THEY SPOKE SO EFFECTIVELY that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.

Acts 28:23a-24 (NIV)….
…from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets (the written word of God) he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced BY WHAT HE SAID, but others would not believe.

Biblical example after biblical example of the preaching of the inspired word sufficient to save.

Blessings.

    Robert

    Phillip quotes some scriptures, and Phillip seems to think that people can hear the gospel and just believe on their own without any help from God (specifically the Holy Spirit in His preconversion work where he convicts people of sin (Jn.16:8), reveals Jesus to them (1 Cor. 12:3), etc. etc.)

    and then Phillip concludes with:

    “Biblical example after biblical example of the preaching of the inspired word sufficient to save.”

    And all of this is refuted by a truth that Phillip seems to have forgotten or is not keeping in mind when making his claims: the truth is this, scripture teaches that the gospel is veiled from people because Satan has blinded them”

    “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor. 4:4).

    Scripture says that it is not just that the gospel goes out into the world, it goes out into a world in which the devil deceives people about the gospel so that it is veiled from them, so they cannot understand it on their own. If they are blinded to the gospel then the gospel alone WITHOUT THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT is insufficient to save.

    Phillip seems to think the work of the Spirit is not needed for a person to be saved.

    They cannot understand it unless the Holy Spirit unblinds them.

    Can a person blinded in this way, unblind themselves????

    And how many unbelievers are part of this world system?

    ““We that that we are of God,, and THE WHOLE WORLD LIES IN THE POWER OF THE EVIL ONE” 1 Jn. 5:19).

    So the nonbeliever is not neutral as Phillip seems to think: they are blind!

    Satan’s blinding them makes them unable to believe the gospel unless unblinded first. And who does this unblinding? The Spirit does as he convicts people of their sin (cf. Jn.16:8) and reveals the true Jesus to them (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).

    Phillip can quote scripture about the power of gospel presentation, but we are also to compare scripture with scripture (see what other texts on the same subject say about a matter). There are clear texts about the power of the gospel (e.g. Romans 1:16), there are also texts just as clear that Satan blinds people concerning the gospel so that it becomes veiled from their understanding. They may have the capacity to believe, but the false theologies, false philosophies, false gospels, false Christs, false religions, false ideas present in this world deceive them about the truth of Christianity. They have been deceived and conned by the god of this world so that on their own they cannot believe the gospel. This deception, this blindness, this veiling of the gospel can only be overcome by the preconversion work of the Spirit.

    Unless the Spirit works in the hearts and minds of these deceived people they cannot believe the true gospel.

    Leighton Flowers

    Thanks Phillip,

    I’m adding these to my list… :-)

      Robert

      Perhaps as you add these to your list, you should seriously consider how 2 Cor. 4:4 fits with your “list”. I was taught in seminary and I taught this before I went and have done so after attending, that we are to compare scripture with scripture (i.e. on a topic consider what all the verses say on a particular subject). The subject is the power of the gospel and its effects on people. If that is the subject then you also need to consider how the blinding of people concerning the gospel by Satan fits these other verses. To ignore verse like 2 Cor. 4:4 is to be irresponsible in your exegesis and will result in avoidable errors.

        Don Johnson

        Robert,

        I’m sure Leighton is familiar with 2 Cor. 4:4. Though it preaches well, the Bible never states the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the spiritually blind. That commission was given to man (Acts 26:18).

          Robert

          Don,
          I am quite aware that we are responsible to preach the gospel (i.e. carry out the Great Commission): that is why I have been evangelizing from the very beginning of my Christian walk. I find it interesting that you say “the Bible never states the Holy Spirit opens the eyes of the spiritually blind.” One of the things the Spirit does before a person is converted is that He convicts a person of sin. Sin by its nature according to scripture is very deceptive. We are told in the Bible that the three “opponents” are the “world, the flesh, and the devil.” The “World” refers to the world system that is run by Satan. He works by deception so his standard operating procedure is to deceive people. And there are lots of deceptions. A common one is that we are saved by being a “good person” or doing enough good works or by being “religious”. 2 Cor. 4:4 says the devil has blinded people not in general but specifically in reference to the gospel. Now I don’t know what your personal experience of evangelism is. But I can tell you mine. I started as a new believer in counter cult ministry. So I saw people under the deception of all sorts of false theologies (e.g. Mormonism, Bahaiis), philosophies (e.g. new age), gurus (Maharishi), organizations (e.g. the Watchtower), ideas (pluralism = all religions lead to God). etc. etc. Having seen this blindness firsthand, and also having seen how the Holy Spirit revealed things to people and unblinded them: I just cannot ignore this experience. I have also seen that there is real spiritual warfare going on in regards to these deceptions and you cannot just reason people out of these things. It takes prayer and the Spirit’s work for people to be released and unblinded. I then see folks writing posts as if there is no blindness, no deception, no world system out to deceive people, no devil blinding and deceiving people. As if we don’t need the work of the Spirit, as if nonbelievers are just neutral persons who objectively and carefully and without any bias consider the gospel. Sorry, that is not reality at all. I quoted Adrian Rodgers on this in the other thread because clearly according to his words he understood all of this, knew it to be real and says that the work of the Spirit is absolutely necessary in evangelism. I think if you talk to pastors who do a lot of evangelism they will confirm this as well. You don’t have to agree with Calvinists that nonbelievers are like zombies who are incapable of understanding spiritual things unless they are regenerated first. But you have to acknowledge reality, people are blinded by all sorts of false ideas in this world. And they cannot unblind themselves, only the Spirit can unblind these folks.

            Don Johnson

            Robert,

            I agree Satan blinds and I agree the Holy Spirit convicts one of sins. However, the mission of opening eyes was given to man (Acts 26:18). In fact no one has ever become saved without the aid of someone else in one form or the other. If Calvinism were true (I know you’re not a Calvinist) God wouldn’t need man for people to get saved. He would just zap them with “irresistible grace” and give them faith and presto they become Christians. Opening the eyes of the lost was a mission Paul took seriously. That’s why he said “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22). He realized he needed to open eyes in order for the Spirit to convict. If the Holy Spirit was the one opening eyes, Paul wouldn’t need to be all things to all men, because just as many would be saved whether he did or he didn’t. I will say Paul was probably filled with the Spirit much of time, which certainly was a great help.I know this not politically correct to be writing this, but until one can show from Scripture otherwise, I’ll continue to believe what these Scriptures state.

              Robert

              Don,

              “I agree Satan blinds and I agree the Holy Spirit convicts one of sins.”

              Nice to see we agree here: that is something very important that we agree on.

              “However, the mission of opening eyes was given to man (Acts 26:18).”

              I am not sure that I would go as far as you do with this verse. Here is why. The verse is not talking about ***humanity in general*** saying that ***humanity has been given the mission of opening eyes***. In the context, Acts 26 is the APOSTLE Paul’s personal testimony to King Agrippa. Paul says that HE is supposed to be used by God to open eyes, but Paul is not speaking for or about all of us.

              It’s nice to think that we are all involved in opening eyes and to a certain extent that is true, I am just not comfortable taking from Paul’s personal testimony and saying that what he says there applies equally to all of us.

              “If Calvinism were true (I know you’re not a Calvinist) God wouldn’t need man for people to get saved. He would just zap them with “irresistible grace” and give them faith and presto they become Christians.”

              True, but our witnessing to others is not the same as the Holy Spirit opening people’s eyes, at least not on the same level! :-)

              “Opening the eyes of the lost was a mission Paul took seriously.”

              Again Acts 26 is Paul’s personal testimony, it is not the personal testimony of all Christians.

              “That’s why he said “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some (1 Cor. 9:22)”

              I don’t think that Paul is talking about removing people’s blindness by his statement in 1 Cor. 9:22. He is saying that he will adjust culturally to where people are at so that he can more effectively communicate with them: but that is not the same as saying he is removing their blindness by adjusting to different situations.

              “He realized he needed to open eyes in order for the Spirit to convict.”

              Not sure that is accurate as the Spirit convicting people of their sin is not dependent on what we do, it is a supernatural action by the Spirit isn’t it?

              “If the Holy Spirit was the one opening eyes, Paul wouldn’t need to be all things to all men, because just as many would be saved whether he did or he didn’t.”

              I think you may be misinterpreting the 1 Cor. 9:22 passage in your statement here. I have friends who are cross cultural missionaries and this is an important verse for them, they must be willing (within limits, within conscience, without violating scripture) to make differing accommodations for different cultures.

              “I will say Paul was probably filled with the Spirit much of time, which certainly was a great help.I know this not politically correct to be writing this, but until one can show from Scripture otherwise, I’ll continue to believe what these Scriptures state.”

              Well you should believe “what these Scriptures state” but you need to be careful and not generalize something which may be unique to someone’s experience (e.g. Paul’s testimony in Acts 26) and then apply everything that he says there, to your own experience. Paul speaks of his heavenly vision in Acts 26, does that mean you and I have also received the same heavenly vision? Paul had Jesus speak to him directly with an audible voice, have we heard the same audible voice saying the same things? Paul experienced a blinding light, have we had this same experience?

              You can take principles from Paul’s testimony, e.g. that God calls a person to their ministry, that God sometimes speaks in an audible voice to someone, that our conversion may involve supernatural elements, etc. But be careful about taking his exact experience and generalizing it to yourself. This is something that we need to be careful of especially when interpreting Acts with all of its historical narratives. Is the narrative presenting something that is or ought to be true of all Christians or is it presenting a historical event that did in fact occur but will not necessarily occur in our own experience?

                Don Johnson

                Robert,

                If you could show me where it states we are to preach a different message than what Paul preached, I’d be inclined to agree with you.

                You stated you have friends who are cross cultural missionaries which take 1 Cor:22 to heart. What else can it possibly mean other then trying to have a means of opening eyes? Don’t they do it feeling they will get a better response to the Gospel? Do they make cultural changes before they witness, or do they wait until they think God opened someone’s eyes? The answer of course is before. Why, because they believe it will help (open eyes) them in more effectively communicating the Gospel.

                  Robert

                  Don,

                  “If you could show me where it states we are to preach a different message than what Paul preached, I’d be inclined to agree with you.”

                  I am not suggesting we preach a different message than what Paul preached (in fact if we did preach another message it would be another gospel, and Paul had some clear things to say on that, see Gal. 1:6-9).

                  I am saying that in Acts 26 Paul is sharing his personal testimony to King Agrippa and that we need to be careful about generalizing everything from Paul’s experience to our own (just because he experienced a blinding light does not mean we will or that we have to, just because he was chosen to be an apostle does not mean we will or that we have to, just because he was spoken to by an audible voice does not mean that we will or that we have to hear an audible voice, etc. etc.). Acts presents historical narratives of what happened, but we cannot always generalize those things to things we have to experience.

                  “You stated you have friends who are cross cultural missionaries which take 1 Cor:22 to heart. What else can it possibly mean other then trying to have a means of opening eyes? Don’t they do it feeling they will get a better response to the Gospel? Do they make cultural changes before they witness, or do they wait until they think God opened someone’s eyes? The answer of course is before. Why, because they believe it will help (open eyes) them in more effectively communicating the Gospel.”

                  Actually, the things they do “to be all things to all people” are cultural practices (such as the clothing they wear, the food they eat, etc. etc.) that they do so that they can have an opportunity to share the gospel. Paul had the same mentality, he would adjust to cultural practices so that in doing so this would give him opportunities to share the gospel with people.

                  Wearing these clothes, eating this food is **not** what opens people eyes. Cross cultural missionaries such as Paul, do these things just to fit into the culture so they are not presenting unnecessary stumbling blocks by the things they do.

                  But it is not these cultural practices that open people’s eyes, it is the work of the Spirit who opens their eyes.

                  Other people who are natives to these cultures are already wearing these clothes, eating this food, etc., so these cultural practices are not what opens eyes. It is gospel preaching and the work of the Spirit that opens eyes.

                    Don Johnson

                    Robert,

                    Acts 26:18 is not about what happened to Paul. It’s about what Paul was commission to do. What are things in the verse you don’t believe Paul actually did? What in the verse could Paul do that we are not able to do? Where in the Bible does it state the Holy Spirit open eyes of lost people? Don’t say John 16:8. Conviction of sins happens only to those who already have opened eyes.

            Scott Shaver

            I would submit going to seed on Calvinism as one of the “errors” you are seeking to avoid there Robert;)

          phillip

          Don,

          Robert is a staunch Arminian and I believe him to be a card carrying member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA). Robert’s goal is to convince Traditionalists that they are in reality Arminians, so he finds this whole “Why I Am Not An Arminian” as repulsive.

          To tell brother Leighton that he is being “irresponsible” is so typical of someone who believes he has a better overall understanding of scripture. Sadly, this is a consistent trait of those of the Calvinist/Arminian persuasion.

          God bless.

            Robert

            Phillip has said repeatedly that he does not read my posts, glad to see that he is now. :-)

            I have made myself very clear here and in the other thread. I hold beliefs that “Traditionalists” hold (believer baptism, congregational church leadership, age of accountability, rejection of Calvinism, rejection of infant baptism, church/state separation, salvation through faith alone in Jesus, corporate election, etc.) AND I ALSO hold beliefs that “Arminians” hold (depravity, denial of unconditional election, that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, denial of irresistible grace, affirmation of free will philosophically termed libertarian free will, etc.).

            I also know the beliefs of these two groups well enough to know there is a lot of overlap between these two groups (the denial of Calvinism, affirmation of universal atonement, affirmation of libertarian free will, that a person is saved by faith in Jesus and this faith is not forced upon people but freely chosen). Phillip however because he has this hatred of Arminians and Arminian theology wants to make me **exclusively** an “Arminian”.

            Here is his latest:

            “Robert is a staunch Arminian and I believe him to be a card carrying member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA).”

            Regarding being a “card carrying member of SEA” there is no card but I am a member of the group as the group holds sound theological beliefs including inerrancy, denial of open theism, denial of Calvinism, salvation through faith alone in Jesus, etc.). It is a good group with some outstanding theologians and exegetes in it.

            As a Baptist I disagree with some “Arminians” in that they believe you can lose your salvation and I believe you cannot (but this is not an Arminian distinctive as some Arminians affirm eternal security such as myself and others do not).

            What is puzzling to me and this really needs to be dealt with and corrected is that people whose beliefs overlap for the most part want to distance themselves from the others **as if** they hold completely different beliefs when in fact they do not. This is not a case of everyone becoming Arminians or everyone becoming Traditionalists, as it is a case of being clear in your beliefs and clear about what differing groups believe. A Baptist who says “I am not Arminian” as if they are completely different from “Arminians” in their beliefs, misses the fact that they hold a lot of Arminian beliefs.

            Phillip completely misrepresents how I feel about things when writes:

            “Robert’s goal is to convince Traditionalists that they are in reality Arminians, so he finds this whole “Why I Am Not An Arminian” as repulsive.”

            First, I do not find this series by Leighton to be repulsive at all. I believe it is very helpful to know your beliefs, to talk about your beliefs, contrast them with other beliefs (especially false beliefs), so what Leighton is trying to do is a good thing.

            Second, my goal is not to convince Traditionalists “that they are in reality Arminians”. My concern is that as I am knowledgeable in the area of theology (my two degrees from seminary are in Systematic Theology, my early Christian experience was in counter cult ministry): I believe people need to understand differing beliefs and not misrepresent the beliefs of others. It seems to me that as I hold to Baptist, Arminian and Traditionalist beliefs at the same time, I am in a unique position to speak on these three groups.

            “To tell brother Leighton that he is being “irresponsible” is so typical of someone who believes he has a better overall understanding of scripture. Sadly, this is a consistent trait of those of the Calvinist/Arminian persuasion.”

            This comment is unintentionally humorous.

            **Anyone** who is convinced of their position believes that he/she has a better overall understanding of scripture than others do ( Traditionalists believe they have a better understanding than the Calvinist do, and this goes for whatever group you care to name).

            In fact it gets more comical as I have no doubt that Phillip believes he has a better understanding of scripture than I do (and the feeling is mutual! :-). So believing your understanding is better than some other group is a “consistent trait” of all who are persuaded of their beliefs.

Jim P

A long time ago I read in Reader’s Digest that the Mafia was so pervasive in the United States to the point they had ligament enterprises to conceal their real business and a person could have worked their entire life not knowing they were working for the Mafia.

The entire world was in that position, not knowing their true master, until Christ’s work revealed who the world and even the Jews true master was.

Apart from God’s work man in helpless.

    Scott Shaver

    So the dealings of God can compared to those of a Mafia Don?

    Weak, weak analogy IMO.

      Lydia

      “So the dealings of God can compared to those of a Mafia Don?”

      I don’t know why not. According to 9 Marx Jonathan Leeman, Jesus is like the old Soviet Union. The land of gulags, censorship, totalitarianism, etc.

      That movement has serious problems. It freaks me out how many buy into this sort of bilge thinking. Everything about thei r God is a bait and switch. A ruse to trick people. Creepy.

        Andrew Barker

        Lydia: I suspect that what we have here is a mix-up between God the Father and the Godfather? ;-)

          Lydia

          Andrew, I suspect you are right!

          Some of Leemans illustrations of Jesus Christ and church are bizarre. I cannot for the life of me figure out why 9 Marx has any credibility except our culture is fast sliding right into authoritarianism and it is the new normal with the young. They tend to admire power and control of others, perhaps?

          Check this out and pay attention to Leemans comment on the article:

          http://teaminfocus.com.au/when-church-discipline-is-sin/

          Scott Shaver

          “It was Barzinni all along, working with Tessio and Frankie “Five Angels”, Andrew???

            Andrew Barker

            Scott: Now you’re taking me into uncharted territory since I don’t think I’ve watched any of the films the whole way through! All I know is to watch out for stray horses’ heads and be wary of anyone referred to as Don! ;-) Maybe I should watch them (films that is), but their not exactly on my ‘bucket list’. :-)

Robert Vaughn

“…it can become quite confounding if one isn’t paying close attention to the nuances.” The “nuances” are part of the problem. The Bible makes simple statements, then theologians come along and try to build logical systems on them. We wind up with Arminianism, Calvinism and all points in between, each trying to make sense out of their systems, usually giving more weight to some area of the Bible while ignoring or downplaying another. It’s certainly not wrong to try to make sense of our understanding of the Bible, neither wrong to try to explain that understanding to others. But beyond that we are often found dividing on what we don’t really understand rather than uniting on what we should be able to agree on — salvation is of the Lord, by grace through faith, that we are to preach the gospel to every creature, and that those who believe are born of God and kept by the power of God unto salvation. I think I could work with any Baptists who have a practical working knowledge of these truths, regardless of their systematic persuasion.

On a different subject, does anyone think the “word of God” in Hebrews 4:12 could be a reference to Jesus rather than the Bible? I grew up being taught it was the Bible, but had a professor (who was traditional and anti-Calvinistic soteriologically) steer me in the other different direction.

    Leighton Flowers

    Robert,

    Well said, I agree.

    Regarding Heb. 4:12… I’m fine with that interpretation but it would just lead me to ask why anyone might assume Jesus would be any more or less effective than the words He inspired and commissioned to be sent to all creatures? After all, according to John 12:48, we all will be judged by those words one day.

      Lydia

      “Regarding Heb. 4:12… I’m fine with that interpretation but it would just lead me to ask why anyone might assume Jesus would be any more or less effective than the words He inspired and commissioned to be sent to all creatures? After all, according to John 12:48, we all will be judged by those words one day.”

      I have had concerns about this studying history. We can start with the majority being illiterate for most of Christian history. We see the history of canon formation. The fact that only a few were allowed to read and interpret with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. (even during the Reformation! The average pew sitter in Calvins reign was severely punished for such). The Puritans banished Anne Hutchinson for holding unauthorized bible studies in her home …..the list is long for scripture being denied to the average person for a millennia.

    Lydia

    Robert V, my non seminary educated understanding is that the scripture is referred to as scripture in scripture. :o) The “word “is God even harkening back to Genesis. The word became flesh. What this tells us seems to hinge on variations of belief in inerrancy and inspiration, Did God force David to write that he wanted the babies of his enemies dashed against rocks? Or was David lamenting to God in poetry? Are we allowed to take ancient literary devices into consideration like hyperbole in the OT, Chiasms in the Greek NT?

    One interesting passage on this topic is John 5:

    “. 39 You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me to have life.”

    Sound familiar?

Chris Johnson

Leighton: I don’t mean to be too slow here…but how is what you are trying to say here any different than semi-pelagianism; essentially teaching that humanity is tainted by sin (bondage), but not to the extent that we cannot cooperate with God’s grace on our own (and confessing in faith trusting God). In the case you make above, the gospel would be God’s grace.

“Mankind is freed from the bondage of sin by confessing that they are in bondage (admitting their inability to save themselves) and in faith trusting God to free them. Upon confession, Christ graciously steps in to provide freedom and salvation.”

Robert

Don,

“Acts 26:18 is not about what happened to Paul.”

Don, was Acts 26:18 about what happened to you or I?

Actually it is about what happened to Paul because in Acts 26 Paul is sharing his testimony about how he came to Christ. Since he is talking abut his own conversion experience it most definitely is about what happened to him!

“It’s about what Paul was commission to do.”

Yes, and he was commissioned to be an apostle, are we?

“What are things in the verse you don’t believe Paul actually did?”

Everything Paul said he did and experienced I believe he did and experienced. That is not the issue. The issue is what of his experiences can we expect to occur in our own lives? He experienced the blinding light, does that mean everyone experiences that in their conversion experience? No. He was called to be an apostle, does that mean all of us are called to be apostles?

I don’t think we can go much further here. If you believe that whatever happened to Paul also happens to us in an identical way, I cannot agree with you. We cannot proof text from someone else’s unique experience and claim we will have the exact same experiences.

“Where in the Bible does it state the Holy Spirit open eyes of lost people? Don’t say John 16:8. Conviction of sins happens only to those who already have opened eyes.”

Sorry Don that statement is not true at all. Now speaking from my own experience I experienced the work of the Spirit before I became a Christian. My eyes were not opened first, and THEN I experienced conviction for my sin. Experiencing conviction for my sin is part of what opened my eyes about the truth of Christianity. Prior to the Spirit working in me I thought I was a good guy and already acceptable to God. The Spirit had to convict me of sin and show me that I was not a “good guy” according to God standards. I was a sinner in rebellion to God. Convicting me of my sin is part of what opened my eyes about the truth of Christianity and that it was the only way to be saved. Once I was convicted of sin, then I knew I needed to be saved. I was convicted of sin first, then later with further work by the Spirit realized that I had to trust in Christ alone to be saved.

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