I read with interest an article sent to me entitled, Two Views of Regeneration, by John Hendrxy that compares:
- Monergism – the doctrine that the human will possesses no inclination toward holiness (until regenerated) and therefore cannot cooperate in regeneration.
- Synergism – the doctrine that the human will and the divine Spirit cooperate in regeneration.
An attached link pointed me to this site: www.monergism.com.
My NIV Topical Bible states that regeneration, in essence the act of being born again, results in salvation.
Monergism vs. Synergism. Sounds like a lawsuit, doesn’t it? This discussion has been around since before the flood. Well, it is probably more accurate to state that this topic has been around since the days of John Calvin and Jacobus Arminius. In any event, John Hendrxy states, [the] “unscriptural view (of synergism in general and of prevenient grace in particular) is the greatest threat to a true understanding of salvation in the Church today.”
The arguments and evidence presented by Mr. Hendrxy are, to say the least, compelling. However, it doesn’t take much internet searching to find (to me, anyway) strong Biblical evidence to support the doctrine of synergism and the concepts of Arminianism. Is one obviously right and the other obviously wrong? Is there some middle-point wherein there is truth in both Calvinism and Arminianism?
I cannot help but think that this discussion is a microcosm of many different thoughts, ideas, perceptions, and understandings of various Christian thought and I find it disconcerting that so many Christians can have so many different and divergent thoughts as to:
- The nature and character of God.
- The life of Christ.
- The manifestation of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.
- Does God “control” everything or does He grant freedom?
- Does God foreknow everything in the future or is there some openness?
- The Genesis debate re old-earth versus young-earth.
- Divergent opinions regarding women in ministry.
- Speaking in tongues.
- The Tribulation.
With regard to the Calvinists verses the Arminians, I am more comfortable with the Arminian arguments. Perhaps Colleen with her Greek lexicon and thoughtful arguments will persuade me otherwise.
There’s a lot of varied opinion within Christian circles about a whole host of issues and there is a lot of biblical substance to each of the arguments. A most interesting book, Across the Spectrum, argues from both sides of many significant on-going theological issues within the Evangelical Christian community. So, in backing away from the specifics of any particular arguments – at least in this post, I am asking:
- Can we acknowledge that there are significant arguments for both Calvinism and Arminianism?
- Conversely, can we acknowledge that there are significant objections to both Calvinism and Arminianism?
I like salt on my food and grace in my arguments as it tends to make both more palatable and more interesting. As always, I welcome thoughts and opinions.
13 thoughts on “Please Pass the Salt & Grace”
Putting aside the lexicon for the sake of this post, I’d like to quote a few passages from the book I am currently reading (yes, my friend, you have “spurred me on”!) entitled The Sovereignty of God by A. W. Pink.
In Ephesians 2:3 we are told we are all by nature “children of wrath.” Here’s what A.W. Pink says:
“It (the passage) teaches us that the ultimate destiny of every individual is decided by the will of God, and blessed it is that such be the case; if it were left to our wills, the ultimate destination of us all would be the Lake of Fire…
“We readily acknowledge that it is very humbling to the proud heart of the creature to behold all mankind in the hand of God as the clay is in the potter’s hand (Romans 9:21-23), yet this is precisely how the Scriptures of Truth represent the case. In this day of human boasting, intellectual pride and deification of man, it needs to be insisted upon that the potter forms his vessels for himself. Let man strive with his Maker as he will, the fact remains that he is nothing more than clay in the Heavenly Potter’s hands, and while we know that God will deal justly with His creatures, that the Judge of all the earth will do right, nevertheless, He shapes His vessels for His own purpose and according to His own pleasure. God claims the indisputable right to do as He wills with His own…”
Pink digs further into this truth using Acts 13:48, (“As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”) He states:
“Here we learn four things: First, that believing is the consequence and not the cause of God’s decree. Second, that a limited number only are “ordained to eternal life,” for if all men without exception were thus ordained by God, then the words “as many as” are a meaningless qualification. Third, that this “ordination” of God is not to mere external privileges but to “eternal life,” not to service but to salvation itself. Fourth, that all–“as many as,” not one less–who are thus ordained by God to eternal life will most certainly believe.”
C. H. Spurgeon comments on this passage:
“Attempts have been made to prove that these words to not teach predestination, but these attempts so clearly do violence to language that I shall not waste time in answering them. I read ‘As many as were ordained to eternal life believed’, and I shall not twist the text but shall glorify the grace of God by ascribing to that grace the faith of every man. It it not God who gives the disposition to believe? If men are disposed to have eternal life, does not He–in every case–dispose them? Is it wrong for God to give grace? If it be right for Him to give it, is it wrong for Him to purpose to give it? Would you have Him give it be accident? If it is right for Him to purpose to give grace today, it was right for Him to purpose it before today–and, since He changes not–from eternity.”
And Pink again (back to Ephesians 1:3-5 from our previous discussion):
“…we are told at what point in time–if time it could be called–when God made choice of those who were to be His children by Jesus Christ. It was not after Adam had fallen and plunged his race into sin and wretchedness, but long ere Adam saw the light, even before the world itself was founded, that God chose us in Christ. Here also we learn the purpose which God had before Him in connection with His own elect: it was that they “should be holy and without blame before Him;” it was “unto the adoption of children;” it was that they should “obtain an inheritance.” Here also we discover the motive which prompted Him. It was “in love that He predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself”–a statement which refutes the oft made and wicked charge that, for God to decide the eternal destiny of His creatures before they are born, is tyrannical and unjust. Finally, we are informed here, that in this matter He took counsel with none, but that we are “predestinated according to the good pleasure of His will…
“Instead of shrinking back in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word, discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else afforts, save the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself.”
Food for thought as our dialogue continues…
Again, I appreciate your response to my $0.02 worth and enjoy the opportunity to dig a little deeper with the help of your thoughts and comments. Looks like the drugs must be working and that the shoulder is feeling better.
I’m spurring you on? Oh dear – well, I’ll try to stay on the mane topic as best I can. In any event, it’s my sense is that you’re back in the saddle and on your “A” game. Please forgive me when I say that I’ll need a couple of days to respond. First, there’s a lot to digest within these quotes and references. And secondly, tonight is the home-run derby and tomorrow is the All Star game. Hey – what can I say? Priorities. As soon as I can, however, I’ll toss “the ball” back your way. Until then, take good care.
I’m not sure about being “on my A game”, but there is much, much more that God has been teaching me with respect to “THE WILL”. Let me know when you are ready to receive.
I’ve not previously heard of Arthur Washington Pink (1886-1952). I know Spurgeon is a “big hitter” in the “Christian league” but I’m not very familiar with his work. Many theologians argue from the Arminian perspective including John Wesley, Charles Finney, Walter Martin, and C. S. Lewis. Looks like both of us can field pretty-good all-star teams. It would seem, then, that my questions from an earlier post are relevant:
• Can we acknowledge that there are significant arguments for both Calvinism and Arminianism?
• Conversely, can we acknowledge that there are significant objections to both Calvinism and Arminianism?
Before getting too far, I have a question for you: if someone rejects Calvinism, can they be saved?
In your post there were references to three verses/passages regarding Mr. Pink’s comment, “The ultimate destiny of every individual is decided by the will of God.”
• Let me respond with Jn 3:16. Are there any exceptions or any hint that God is only referring to the elect? The language of this verse and of verses such as Tit 2:11, 1 Tim, 2:3, 2 Pet 3:9 Rev 3:20 seems clear.
• These verses could just as easily be talking about how we are to be holy – in Christ. I don’t think that this passage is talking about one’s pre-ordained eternal destiny. Rather, I think a key to this passage is Paul using the word “us”. I believe Paul is referring to believers in general and the Ephesians in particular. What is foreknown here by God is character, purpose, and plan. I don’t think Paul is discussing our salvation in Christ. I would agree that the Bible is teaching predestination – but not Calvinistic predestination. Instead, God has pre-determined the character of the saved and not the identity of the saved.
• There’s no indication of a “time-line” or any reason to assume that “all who were appointed” were appointed from the creation of the world. I would maintain that there’s just as much validity in saying that as soon as the Gentiles heard Paul’s message, those whom God knew would accept His free gift, did then and there accept the gift of salvation.
• Pink’s statement that God shapes vessels for His own pleasure ignores the summary Paul provides in verses 30-32 for this chapter in which the Gentiles have obtained righteousness through faith. However, Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained righteousness. To that end, I believe God is shaping a vessel based on the type of clay He has to work with – clay that has faith (which He can mold into something righteous) or clay that has no faith (with which He may harden).
Well, I don’t know if my responses adequately answer those comments of Pink and Spurgeon that you referenced. Feel free to blast away if you feel I am in error. Wouldn’t you know it – I’m being “spurred” on (by you!) to dig deeper to discover the truth in God’s word. Looks like you’re going to be the impetuous for writing some new blog posts. Stay tuned.
What is brought forth in the dividing line between Calvanism and Arminianism (and in earlier times Augustinianism and Pelagianism), reduced to simple terms, is the affirmation or denial of the total depravity of man. The Calvanist view is that man is totally depraved, meaning that the entrance of sin into the human soul has affected every part of his being. Total depravity means that man is, in spirit, soul and body, the slave of sin and the captive of the devil. The Arminian view is that man is not totally depraved, has freedom of the will and can realize his own aspirations and decide things for himself. The Scriptures resoundingly affirm the former view to the latter view. (But we will move into this later!)
Let us first define the will. I propose that the will is the faculty of choice, the immediate cause of all action. (Mr. Webster will back me up on this one!) Choice necessarily implies the refusal of one thing and the acceptance of another. In every act of the will there is a preference—the desiring of one thing rather than another. To will means to choose, and to choose is to decide between two (or more) alternatives. But there must be something that INFLUENCES the choice, something that DETERMINES the decision. The will cannot be sovereign because it is the servant of that something. The will cannot be both cause and effect. It is not causative because something causes it to choose.
So what is it that determines the will? What causes it to choose? I think you would agree that whatever exerts the greatest influence upon the person is what impels the will to act. In other words, the action of the will is determined by that condition of the mind (which might be logic, the conscience, emotion, the devil or the power of the Holy Spirit) that excites us to act. So the mind is what controls the will. Agreed? If the will is controlled, it is not free at all, is it? The will is the servant of the mind.
Human philosophy (i.e., the Arminian viewpoint) would insist that it is the will that governs the man. I believe the Scriptures teach that it is the heart that dominates the center of our being (Proverbs 4:23, Mark 7:21, Matthew 15:8 to name just a couple). The word “heart” is found in the Bible three times more frequently than the word “will”—and nearly half of those references to “will” refer to God’s will!
This idea of the heart rather than the will governing us is very important! Consider a person before whom two alternatives are placed. Which will he choose? I would answer (and I think you would agree) that he would choose the alternative that is most agreeable to himself and the innermost core of his being (i.e., his heart). Before the sinner is set a life of virtue or sinfulness. Which will he choose? He will follow sinfulness. Why? Because this is his choice you would rightly say. But does that prove freedom of the will? Not at all. Go back from effect to cause. Why does the sinner choose a sinful life? Because he prefers it. He prefers it because his heart is sinful. Thus I would submit to you that “free will” is a misnomer because the sinner’s will is biased toward evil and is, therefore, “free” in one direction only. The sinner’s will is enslaved because it is in bondage to and is the servant of a depraved heart. The sinner is not a free agent because he is a slave of sin.
Sadly, the evangelical pulpits today convey the impression that it lies wholly in the power of the sinner whether or not they will be saved. I’ve heard it said, “God has done His part, now you must do your part.” But I ask you, what can a LIFELESS man do–we are DEAD in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
In order for me, a sinner, to have been saved, three things were needed: God the Father had to PURPOSE my salvation; God the Son had to PURCHASE that salvation; and God the Holy Spirit had to APPLY it. Were God only to “invite” me or “propose” it to me, I would be lost because I would never choose Him of my own accord–my will is in bondage to sin!
I have much more to say, but rather than slinging verses and context and Greek/Hebrew meanings around just yet, let us come to an agreement on this basic point of defining the will. We can proceed from there, eh my friend?
My dear friend,
You have once again set your mind to task. Or, perhaps it is more accurate to say that you are taking me to task. That’s fine. Questions regarding the nature of God’s will in the life of the believer and the doctrines (if that’s the right word) of Calvinist vs. Arminian thought can certainly bring about passionate arguments.
I would hope that our discussion would be more of a “conversation” – a give and take of thoughts, ideas, verses we find to support our respective positions. You’ve put forth your thoughts and comments and I’ve tried to respond. Feel free to critique anything I say.
I’m curious to know what books, web sites, etc., if any, that you’re referencing.
To date, the best definitions I’ve seen for Calvinism and Arminianism come from The Five Points of Calvinism – Defined, Defended, Documented by David Steele and Curtis Thomas:
According to Arminianism:
• Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who must respond) with man’s response being the determining factor. God has provided salvation for everyone, but His provision becomes effective only for those who, of their own free will, “choose” to cooperate with Him and accept His offer of grace. At the crucial point, man’s will plays a decisive role. Thus man, not God, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.
According to Calvinism:
• Salvation is accomplished by the almighty power of the Triune God. The Father chose a people, the Son died for them; the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the gospel. The entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of God and is by grace alone. Thus God, not man, determines who will be the recipients of the gift of salvation.
As you could guess, I reject the notion that Scriptures “resoundingly affirm” the Calvinist view. In previous posts I’ve provided you with my thoughts and understanding of verses such as Eph 2:3, Eph 1:4-5, Acts 13:48, Rom 9:21-23 and Jn 9:1-3 which you’ve used to support your arguments as to God determining the elect. I’d welcome your “feedback”.
It took a couple of readings but I think I follow the logic of “the will”. Is my summary correct?
• “The will” is the servant of the mind and whatever exerts the greatest influence upon the person is what impels “the will” to act. Therefore, “the will” is not free to choose.
The logic makes sense but I believe it leads to an inaccurate conclusion. I certainly agree that whatever exerts the greatest influence will correspondingly cause “the will” to act in a certain way – but not always. Your mention of Prov 4:23, how we are to guard our heart because it is the wellspring of life, is interesting. However, notice what comes immediately after the command to guard our heart:
• Vs 24 – Put away perversity from your mouth.
• Vs 25 – Let your eyes look straight ahead.
• Vs 26 – Make level paths for your feet.
• Vs 27 – Do not swerve to the right or the left.
It seems to me that even with my sin nature, I still have to choose – in this case, against something that is quite likely exerting a greater influence. I like the Klondike Bar commercial where an attractive woman walks toward a man who’s at a table with his wife and the man “chooses” to keep his focus and attention on the wife as the woman walks past. I think this is a good example of choosing against something exerting a greater influence.
Well, sorry Colleen, but I’m not sure I can agree to your definition of “the will”. I’m not sure that I have an alternative definition to toss back at you. But let me think on it and perhaps some dormant synapses will start firing. As you can see, it’s getting rather late.
Also, you mentioned that the word “heart” is found in the Bible three times more frequently than the word “will” and that nearly half of those references to “will” refer to God’s will. Do you mean the sovereign will of God, the moral will of God, or the specific will of God? I’ve written a couple of posts on the will of God. Please feel free to look at and comment on those if you wish:
• Comments re John Piper’s Sermon: What is the Will of God and How Do We Know It?
• A Specific Will for Each Believer
If I could figure out how to ‘link’, I would. Sorry, but click on the “Will of God” category and you’ll find them.
Lastly, you asked in reference to Eph 2:1, what can a lifeless man who is dead in his trespasses and sins do? I have always thought that this verse ties in with Jn 10:10 where Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly. In fact, Eph 2:5, in which God made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions does not, in my opinion, allow Calvinists to claim election. Rather, because of God’s mercy, where I was dead in my sin, I am now alive – for it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me (Gal 2:20).
Well, I think I covered most of the points you brought up. It’s late and I’m tired. Tomorrow I’ll look this over and maybe add something. Take care and I look forward to a meaningful and fruitful conversation.
Best regards – I hope the shoulder is doing well.
Just read your post. I have been moving along here thinking we WERE having a “conversation”. Am I misinterpreting our dialogue? The purpose of my last post was to lay a foundation as to where I stand—i.e., securely in the sovereignty of God.
I liked your chosen definitions of Arminianism and Calvanism. I found the wording on the Arminianism definition very, very interesting. “Salvation is accomplished through the combined efforts of God (who takes the initiative) and man (who MUST respond). If man MUST respond, why MUST he? I would commend to you the idea that the will of the Father bids him (irresistibly) to respond as He wishes.
Another interesting point that you brought up was the notion that even in our sin nature we still have to choose. I agree to a degree. I would submit that there is a MEETING POINT between God’s sovereignty and our RESPONSIBILITY. We have a natural ability to choose to love God, to believe in the atoning death of Christ, to trust that He was raised from the dead, etc. We are naturally capable of distinguishing between right and wrong because we have a conscience that is able to weigh moral issues. But I believe the Scriptures draw a sharp distinction between this natural ability and the moral/spiritual inability to choose.
The Calvanist view is that though we have a natural ability to choose, we have a moral inability to make the right choice. Note in 2 Peter 2:14 a certain class of wicked men “having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin.” Here is the moral inability. Why is it that these men “cannot cease from sin”? Because their eyes were full of adultery. So, too, in Romans 8:8, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Why is it that they cannot please God? Because they are in the flesh. I would proffer that this moral inability of the sinner exists due to the lack of moral power so as to actually perform. “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him” (John 6:44). Why is it that the sinner cannot come to Christ unless he is “drawn”? Because his wicked heart loves sin and hates Christ.
But this depravity of the human heart does not destroy our accountability to God. Why not? Because we DO have a natural human ability to choose right over wrong. I believe wholeheartedly that God does not produce the sinfulness of His creatures, though He does RESTRAIN and DIRECT them TO THE ACCOMPLISHING OF HIS OWN PURPOSES.
A summation by A. W. Pink (I’ve finished the book, by the way): “The fact of man’s responsibility rests upon his natural ability, is witnessed to by conscience and is insisted on throughout the Scriptures. The ground of man’s responsibility is that he is a rational creature capable of weighing eternal issues and that he possesses a written Revelation from God in which his relationship with and duty toward his Creator is plainly defined. The measure of responsibility varies in different individuals, being determined by the degree of light each has enjoyed from God.”
I would close this post by asking you a simple question. Why would you WANT to take upon yourself the choice of salvation? It would completely defeat me to think that the fickleness of the wills belonging to those with whom I share the gospel would be the deciding factor. God’s sovereign election is a merciful provision. How much more soul-sustaining is the assurance of Christ in John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice.” Not “they ought to hear My voice”, not “they may hear My voice”, not “they will hear my voice if they are willing.” There is no “if”, no “perhaps”, no uncertainty whatsoever about it. ‘THEY SHALL HEAR MY VOICE” is Christ’s promise.
I take great comfort in that fact that it is God’s business to seek and save the lost. It is my business to obey Christ and preach the gospel to every creature—to emphasize the “whosoever believes” and leave the sovereign operations of the Holy Spirit to apply the Word in quickening power to whom He wills.
By the way, I would covet your prayers for my appointment with the shoulder surgeon on Wednesday afternoon. At this point, the joint is mostly frozen. I have about a 120 degrees range of motion up and down and less than 90 degrees to the side. Not the outcome I would have preferred. But hey, GOD IS IN CONTROL!!!
Thanks, again, for writing. I value the input that you have provided – fodder for helping me think deeper about a subject that, for me anyway, goes to what I believe to be the very nature and character of God. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hung up on this subject – and maybe that indicates something fundamental about my own faith (or lack thereof). Still, I very much appreciate your willingness to engage in a discussion regarding Calvinism vs Arminianism.
My comment about having a “conversation” stems from having tried as best as I can to respond to the various points that you have made as well as the supporting verses that you’ve used. Perhaps it is a bit of pride within me, but I haven’t sensed a “response” from you to various comments I’ve made to your arguments. A radio talk-show host I enjoy, Dennis Prager, often mentions during an interview how he prefers clarity in one’s position over agreement. Along that line, I guess I would appreciate some “feedback” to the points I make.
I’m so sorry to hear about the limited range-of-motion on the shoulder. I know how frustrating, how painful, and how debilitating that can be. I hope that there won’t be a need for another surgery. And hopefully, too, the doctor won’t deem it necessary to prescribe Percoset and a visit to Ivaughnta Hurthue (the new PT at the clinic). I freely admit that I am not much of a prayer. But I will pray for you, Colleen.
I regret that a have things going on for the next two or three evenings so I probably won’t be able to respond to your most recent post until later in the week. So, until then, you take care of yourself. Good luck with the Dr on Wednesday. Please post as to how it goes. Seeing the blog-stats slowly going up, I suspect that there are some “lurkers”. Perhaps they would be kind enough to pray for you as well.
Greetings From the Study Closet!
I stand convicted that I should respond to a few of your questions to me. You and Dennis Prager are right in desiring clear answers to questions proffered. So here goes…for as long as my shoulder permits.
Can we acknowledge that there are significant arguments for both Calvinism and Arminianism?
My answer would be thus: No. I cannot (and will not) embrace an ideology that wishes to set aside the divine sovereignty of God in order to advance the autocracy of the human will. The Arminian view assumes that the serious intentions of God may in some cases be defeated by man and that man (who is not only a creature but a SINFUL creature at that) can exercise veto power over the plans of the Almighty. I believe this view is in striking contrast to the doctrines contained in the Bible. You may argue the Arminian viewpoint with some plausibility when dealing with single Biblical passages or particular classes of passages—but you do so keeping out of view (or throwing into the background) the general mass of scripture evidence from Genesis to Revelation that bears upon the whole subject.
Conversely, can we acknowledge that there are significant objections to both Calvinism and Arminianism?
My answer: That Arminians find the doctrines of Calvanism distasteful, I will not argue. But in the words of Dr. Charles Hodge (a Calvanist through-and-through), “The question of which of these systems is true is not to be decided by ascertaining which is the more agreeable to our feelings or the more plausible to our understanding, but which is consistent with the doctrines of the Bible and the facts of experience. It is the duty of every theologian to subordinate his theories to the Bible, and teach not what seems to him to be true or reasonable, but simply what the Bible teaches. There would be no end of controversy, and no security for any truth whatever, if the strong personal convictions of individual minds be allowed to determine what is, or what is not true, what the Bible may, and what it may not be allowed to teach.” I believe the scriptures uphold the Calvanistic system as one that adequately treats God as God and man as man.
If someone rejects Calvanism, can they be saved?
My answer: Yes. I find no scripture evidence to support the idea that being a five-point Calvanist is a requirement for salvation. Having said that, I will stand on 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” If anyone, Arminian, Unitarian, Christian Scientist, Mormon, Muslim (or any other doctrine you can name) claims to have had the final say in their salvation, I do not believe it is a true conversion.
The word WORLD here is used as a nonspecific term for humanity in a general sense. The statement in verse 17, “that the world might be saved through him” proves that it does not mean everyone who has ever lived, since all will not be saved. This verse clearly cannot be teaching universal salvation, since the context promises that unbelievers will perish in eternal judgment. What God is saying here is that for all in the world there is only one Savior, but only those who are regenerated by the Spirit and who believe in His gospel will receive salvation and eternal life through Him. (My source: John MacArthur’s Commentary on John 1-11)
Your cross references of Titus 2:11 and 1 Timothy 2:3 are completely consistent with God’s eternal saving purpose. The “all people” and “all men” referred to in Titus 2:11 and 1 Timothy 2:3, respectively, refers again to all types of people (regardless of gender, age or social class) Of course God desires the people to be saved. He states very clearly that He does not desire that the wicked should perish, but that they would truly repent (see Ezekiel 33:11). No true Biblical theology can teach that God takes pleasure in the damnation of the wicked. Yet though it does not please Him, He will receive glory even in the damnation of unbelievers (we’re back to Romans 9:22-23 again!).
My small group just finished a study on 1 and 2 Peter, so I’m fairly familiar with 2 Peter 3:9. The context here clearly indicates that ANY and ALL are limited to the elect; namely, ALL those whom the Lord has chosen and will call to Himself. By using the term YOU (a reference to Peter’s believing readers), the apostle limits ANY and ALL to the realm of elect human beings.
The Revelation 3:20 verse is also consistent with the character of God offering salvation—but note verse 19 before it: “THOSE WHOM I LOVE, I REPROVE AND DISCIPLINE, SO BE ZEALOUS AND REPENT.” This is speaking about a form of punishment. It is not wrong to treat this verse as referring to unbelievers. Those whom God loves He will convict. This is a convicting work which leads to salvation in some cases and eternal damnation in others.
There, now I feel better about having addressed some of your questions to me. Again, Bob, I was not dodging or hedging you, but felt that laying a foundation for the Truth would be advantageous. Take your time in responding. In my next post I will address some of the other passages you brought up—I must study them first!
As always, your friend,
My dear gentle warrior,
I trust you know I mean that statement as a compliment. I’ll have to do a google search for gentle warrior – wonder what comes up?
Thank-you for the candid responses to my previous thoughts and questions. I look forward to tossing some “balls” back in your court. I freely admit that I am more comfortable with Arminian thought if for no other reason than Arminian thought seems to resonate better with how I understand the nature and character of God. I know that feelings and emotions don’t make something right. Hence, one of the purposes of this blog is to come to a point of knowing what are the foundational truths about God and how He interacts with all of His creation.
As I mentioned before, I won’t be able to respond for another day or two. I appreciate your patience and understanding. I wish I could devote more time – but – well, sometimes life just gets in the way.
Well, good luck with the orthopedic Dr tomorrow. Know that I’m pull’n for ya. I suspect strongly that others are, too. Take care.
First things first – how’s the shoulder? I hope that the doctor appointment last Wednesday wasn’t discouraging. I hope that there won’t be any addition surgery required.
I apologize for the delay in answering your last letter. Too much “stuff” going on. Also, I wanted to respond to the letter my son-in-law sent regarding his perspective that Jn 3:16 only refers to the elect. Anyway, a quick summary of the significant points in your letter include:
• We have an ability to choose to love God.
• We have an ability to believe in the atoning death of Christ.
• We have an ability to distinguish between right and wrong because we have a conscience.
• We are accountable to God for our actions because we have an ability to choose right over wrong.
However, you say that even though we can weigh moral issues, Scriptures draw a sharp distinction between this natural ability and the moral/spiritual inability to choose. In essence, Calvinists believe that man has a moral inability to make the right choice because our hearts love sin and hate Christ.
You also indicated that salvation (from the Armininian perspective) is accomplished through the combined efforts of God and man and asked the question – if man must respond, why must he? I take your question to mean, why doesn’t God just do it all and save everyone? I suppose He could. But He doesn’t. Nevertheless, God desires that none perish (2 Pet 3:9) and God has taken the initiative to provide a way of salvation (through Christ) for us. So, if one doesn’t respond and accept the offer salvation, one can’t inherit eternal life (Jn 3:16). Nor will they be able to have the abundant life Jesus promises (Jn 10:10).
If I understand correctly, total depravity (the ‘T’ in TULIP) teaches that man has no free will to choose God because man is dead in his transgressions. Therefore, according to Calvinism, God predestines those whom He chooses to save. On the other hand, those who aren’t chosen have no ability to be saved. However, is this true? I tried to find instances where it appears the people have a free will choice to make. As far as I can tell (at least within these passages) God is not picking and choosing who will “get it” and who won’t.
• In Matt 23:37, Jesus says, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling.” Jesus seems to indicate that people have a free will choice: Jesus said they were “unwilling” to come. This, to me, indicates that they had a free will. If a person has the ability to be unwilling, it would be my sense that they also have the ability to be willing.
• In John 16:7-15, Jesus taught that the Holy Spirit would come and testify about Him. However, the verse doesn’t say, “The Holy Spirit would force people to believe.” I believe this indicates that if we’re unwilling to come to Christ and resist the Holy Spirit, then we must have a free will.
• In Jn 5:39-40 39, Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” Jesus told them these things “so that they may be saved”, which I can only assume means that Jesus wanted to save them. However, Jesus said they were “unwilling to come to Him”, which indicates that they had free will in the matter of salvation. This would seem to demonstrate that man has the ability to choose or reject God’s offer of salvation. My conclusion, then, is that man can’t be totally depraved as Calvinist claim because the Bible seems to show that man does have the ability to respond as he chooses.
• Ezra 8:21-22 (Great anger is against all who choose to forsake God.)
• 1 King 21:25-29 (King Ahab chose to humble himself before God.)
The summation of A.W. Pink that an individual’s measure of responsibility varies and is determined by the degree of light each has enjoyed from God does not seem consistent with the above listed passages. Implying that God gives different people a different amount of “light” seems to further muddy up Calvinist thought regarding God’s choosing to save some but not others.
Mk 16:16 seems rather blunt – “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” There’s no nuance involved. There’s no indication of a sharp distinction between man’s natural ability to discern right from wrong or good from evil and a moral/spiritual inability to choose. Also, didn’t Jesus experience life as we are – fully human and born with a sin nature? Wasn’t Jesus subjected to the same temptations and the same choices that we are? To that end, the Calvinistic contention that we have a moral inability to make the right choice seems not to be true given the fact that Jesus was (as a man) able to make moral distinctions and spiritual choices.
Here’s my $0.02 worth on the verses you referenced to support your contention of man’s inability to make the right choice:
You referenced 2 Peter 2:14 as an example that we have a moral inability to make the right choice – in this case men who can’t cease from sinning because their eyes were full of adultery. If I read further to verse 19, I see that “they themselves are slaves of depravity – for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. In this case, these guys are slaves to porn. They could just as easily be slaves to drugs, alcohol, depression, or any number of other things. And, even though there may be a “physical addiction”, I don’t doubt for a moment that people don’t understand the error of their way (or behavior).
You also referenced Romans 8:8, which says, “They that are in the flesh cannot please God.” Obviously one who is in the flesh cannot please God. And I don’t doubt that there is a moral power lacking in such people. But who among us was not at one time “in the flesh”? And who among us that is now in spirit doesn’t struggle with moral things?
You also referenced Jn 6:44, which says, “No man can come to Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him”. I admit that this is a verse that makes me go, “Hmmm.” However, if I look back to verse 40, I see that it is God’s will that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life.” To that end, “everyone”, it would seem, has to make a decision to look to the Son. I don’t see the verse saying that God chooses some to “look at the Son and some to look away from the Son.” Further on, in verse 47 is the emphatic statement, “he who believes has everlasting life.” Again, the verse has no indication as to God choosing to give some the “belief” and not others. I guess I need to think further about Jn 6:44.
You also referenced John 10:16, “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice.” I’ll admit that this is another verse that makes me go, “Hmmm” and will require further thinking and study before I can comment on it.
And that’s probably the story of my life – a lot of stuff (i.e. Calvinism) I just don’t get. Some things I just can’t make “heads or tails” of – that is, I don’t understand it. But even if there are some points that you’ve made for which I can’t easily answer, the totality of my study on this issue seems to point me away from Calvinistic thought being true and ordained by God. Anyway, I would welcome the chance to continue our discussion and look forward to further correspondence from you. Please do advise of the shoulder and I look forward to hearing from you son.
All the very best,
Hello My Friend,
No news could be good news…regarding my shoulder, the surgeon said that things have healed to the point where I must push through “the frozen tundra” as I call it. I am to work my shoulder to the point of sobbing if I have to, but he will not entertain another MRI until I have some range of motion. For the past week I’ve been sitting outside in the back yard, Bible on my lap, and lifting my arm to the heavens like a good old baptist girl. I’ve increase my range of motion by about 40 degrees! I see the surgeon again in mid-August.
Now to the more weighty matters…You mistook my question, “If man must respond, why must he?” to mean something that I did not mean. I never meant for that question to mean, “Why doesn’t God just do it all and save everyone?” The response I was hoping to provoke in you was, “What is it that makes a man respond to the gospel?” I believe it is the Holy Spirit, in the process of regeneration, that makes a man willing to be willing.
With respect to your comments on Total Depravity, I would refer you to my “butting in” post to your dialogue with Mike. God does, indeed, pick and choose in all aspects of our lives. Why would you think Him undeserving to choose whom He wishes to choose to join Him in eternal life? You cannot both affirm and deny God’s sovereignty, Bob. He either IS sovereign or He ISN’T. That is not to say God’s sovereignty is abstract. He does not exercise His sovereignty in an arbitrary way; rather, He exercises it in harmony with His other attributes—particularly His JUSTICE, HOLINESS and WISDOM.
I would challenge you to take a new look at how Adam actually fell. Adam was not tempted by Satan in a direct way. It was Eve who was tempted by Satan. Being deceived, she fell. But Adam was not deceived at all (see 1 Timothy 2:14). In full consciousness of what he was doing, and with a perfect realization of the dire consequences that were involved, HE DELIBERATELY CHOSE to follow his wife in her act of disobedience. If Adam had been attacked by Satan and forced to yield to some overwhelming power being brought against him, we might try to find some excuse for his fall. But Adam, with eyes wide open and with his mind perfectly conscious and fully aware of his act, used his “free will” to defy his Creator. He rebelliously transferred his allegiance from God to Satan. God’s withholding of His grace from the non-elect is merely the negative cause of their perishing—just as the absence of a physician from the sick man is the occasion, not the efficient cause of his death.
You only need to look at the daily news events to see that man is sinful, lost from God, indeed fleeing from His very presence. You must explain to me the foundation for your belief that God creates those whom He foresees will lead sinful lives, reject the gospel, die impenitent and suffer eternally in hell. This is quite a problem for your Arminian stance, isn’t it? From the Calvanist’s perspective, the ones whom God creates, knowing that they will be lost, are the non-elect who VOLUNTARILY choose sin and in whose merited punishment God designs to manifest His justice. You argue from two opposite positions, Bob. Why would God deliberately create such poor, miserable creatures that would, without serving any good purpose, bring destruction upon themselves and eternal damnation in hell when you also argue that God Himself earnestly wishes to save them all? Doesn’t this two-way argument present God as acting stupidly in bringing upon Himself such dissatisfaction and upon His creatures such misery when He could at least have refrained from creating those whom He foresaw would be lost??? If, in Christ, there is salvation, how do you explain away the fact that multitudes die without ever having heard of Christ or the gospel?
I would also state that none of us has the right to judge ourselves. Final and ultimate disobedience cannot be truly discovered until death. So no unconverted person in this life knows for certain that God will not yet convert him and save him. We have no right to number ourselves among the non-elect.
Now about your selected verses:
Matthew 23:37 – No argument here. Israel was (and continues to be) unwilling to acknowledge Christ as the Messiah.
John 16:7-15 – My version (ESV) states that the Holy Spirit will come and “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment”. This is probably not a reference to conviction that leads to repentance and salvation, but to the exposure of humanity’s inexcusable guilt. Again, nobody is saying anything about being “forced” to believe. But the Holy Spirit, in regeneration, makes us willing to be willing.
John 5:39 – Jesus is here speaking to the Pharisees, who were fanatical in their preoccupation with scripture, studying every line, every word, and even the Hebrew letters (jots and tittles) in their effort to understand the truth. The Bible cannot be properly understood apart from the Holy Spirit’s illumination or a transformed mind. The Jews’ zeal for the scripture was commendable, but they were unwilling to give up their superficial system of self-righteousness by works. Self-righteousness saves no one. It is further proof of man’s depravity.
Back to Romans 8:8 – We are all “of the flesh”. We are all depraved. That is why we need a Savior.
John 6:44 – The word “draw” here in the Greek is translated as “dragged, kicking and screaming”. We are enemies of God and will never choose Him of our own volition. He chose us first, out of our depravity.
Well, friend, I’m tired. This is certainly an amazing dialogue. I am learning much as I search the scriptures and pray for the Spirit’s wisdom. I look forward, as always, to your next post!