20
Oct
14

Arminianism, Calvinism, and Hyper-Calvinism

What do Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists Have in Common?

Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists have a great deal in common, in that they both make the same blunders contrary to the plain teaching of the Scriptures. I am thinking of at least two links between them:

  1. Both believe responsibility and ability are inseparably linked, and
  1. Both emphasize one set of Scriptures to the total exclusion of another set of Scriptures and then base their philosophical [not theological or biblical] conclusions on that set of verses.

Consider the first set of beliefs Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists share; the belief that responsibility and ability are inseparably linked. They, of course, arrive at different conclusions because of their application of this belief and their exclusive focus on different biblical texts.

The Arminian focuses on those texts in which sinners are called on to choose one course of action or another and in which they are being held responsible for their choices. Based on his presupposition that responsibility implies ability, he concludes that sinners must have the ability to choose correctly. If there is responsibility, there must be ability.

The Hyper-Calvinist focuses on those texts that talk about the sinner’s inability to respond properly to the call of the gospel that results from his sinful rebellion against God and concludes that God could not hold sinners responsible for their unbelief. If there is no ability, there is no responsibility.

They arrive at different conclusions based on the same faulty presupposition but focused on a completely different group of texts.

The same is true with respect to those texts that express alternately God’s immutable decree to save his elect people and his genuine compassion for sinners as sinners and his expressed desire that they come to repentance. The Arminian focuses almost exclusively on those texts that speak of God’s desire to save sinners. The Hyper-Calvinist focuses exclusively on those texts that speak of God’s unshakeable decree.

 God’s “Will” Understood in Two Different Senses

It should be a matter that is beyond dispute that God has not decreed everything he has desired or declared should happen. There is no need for me to try to reinvent the wheel. Others have written on this subject much more artfully than I ever could. I would direct your attention to an excellent article by John Piper. It is titled “Are there two wills in God.” You can find it at www.desiringgod.org.

Charnock  also wrote concerning these two wills,

God doth not will [sin] directly, and by an efficacious will. He doth not directly will it, because he hath prohibited it by his law, which is a discovery of his will; so that if he should directly will sin, and directly prohibit it, he would will good and evil in the same manner, and there would be contradictions in God’s will: to will sin absolutely, is to work it (Psalm 115:3): “God hath done whatsoever he pleased.” God cannot absolutely will it, because he cannot work it. God wills good by a positive decree, because he hath decreed to effect it. He wills evil by a private decree, because he hath decreed not to give that grace which would certainly prevent it. God doth not will sin simply, for that were to approve it, but he wills it, in order to that good his wisdom will bring forth from it. He wills not sin for itself, but for the event.

The following is a rather lengthy quotation from Piper’s article:

This seems right to me, and it can be illustrated again by reflecting directly on 1 Timothy 2:4 where Paul says that God wills all persons to be saved. What are we to say of the fact that God wills something that in fact does not happen. There are two possibilities as far as I can see. One is that there is a power in the universe greater than God’s which is frustrating him by overruling what he wills. Neither Calvinist nor Arminian affirms this.

The other possibility is that God wills not to save all, even though he is willing to save all, because there is something else that he wills more, which would be lost if he exerted his sovereign power to save all. This is the solution that I as a Calvinist affirm along with Arminians. In other words both Calvinists and Arminians affirm two wills in God when they ponder deeply over 1 Timothy 2:4. Both can say that God wills for all to be saved. But then when queried why all are not saved both Calvinist and Arminian answer that God is committed to something even more valuable than saving all.

The difference between Calvinists and Arminians lies not in whether there are two wills in God, but in what they say this higher commitment is. What does God will more than saving all? The answer given by Arminians is that human self-determination and the possible resulting love relationship with God are more valuable than saving all people by sovereign, efficacious grace. The answer given by Calvinists is that the greater value is the manifestation of the full range of God’s glory in wrath and mercy (Romans 9:22-23) and the humbling of man so that he enjoys giving all credit to God for his salvation (1 Corinthians 1:29).

This is utterly crucial to see, for what it implies is that 1 Timothy 2:4 does not settle the momentous issue of God’s higher commitment which restrains him from saving all. There is no mention here of free will. Nor is there mention of sovereign, prevenient, efficacious grace. If all we had was this text we could only guess what restrains God from saving all. When free will is found in this verse it is a philosophical, metaphysical assumption not an exegetical conclusion. The assumption is that if God wills in one sense for all to be saved, then he cannot in another sense will that only some be saved. That assumption is not in the text, nor is it demanded by logic, nor is it taught in the rest of Scripture. Therefore 1 Timothy 2:4 does not settle the issue; it creates it. Both Arminians and Calvinists must look elsewhere to answer whether the gift of human self-determination or the glory of divine sovereignty is the reality that restrains God’s will to save all people (Emphasis mine).

The same can be said for all those texts that speak of God’s desire for the salvation of sinners. Those texts argue neither for the autonomy of the human will nor the sovereignty of divine grace since neither is the concern of those texts. We must look elsewhere for the answers to those issues.

Prevenient Grace-Bible Truth or Philosophical Assumption?

If one rejects those texts that teach God’s sovereign control over his universe according to his decreed will and is left only with those texts that speak of God’s sincere compassion and desire for the salvation of sinners, he is left with only two choices. One of these, as Piper has stated, neither the Calvinist nor the Arminian affirms, “that there is a power in the universe greater than God’s which is frustrating him by overruling what he wills.” The other choice for him must be that God has determined to leave the sinner to the inviolability of the human will. Since he finds in Scripture ample evidence that sinners are born in a state of total depravity, he must posit that God has granted to every sinner the ability to choose one way or another.  He must argue that God has given all sinners prevenient grace enabling them to “choose Christ.” When pressed for biblical texts that actually teach this concept, they will retreat to those verses that state what the Calvinist believes as strongly as they do.

Alternately, they will bring up examples of people like Cornelius, the Eunuch of Ethiopia and Lydia who seemed to have some affinity for God and the gospel prior to actually coming to faith. They might also appeal to the rich young ruler who expressed a desire for eternal life, but who went away sorrowful because he loved his riches too much.

The assumption is that these people who believed the gospel, were baptized by the Spirit, and received the Word that was taught were recipients of prevenient grace and exercised their free wills to become believers.  Another assumption is that these people were as yet unregenerate unbelievers prior to the events recorded for us in the book of Acts. Who can say all of them were not proselyte Jews who had come to faith prior to the establishment of the new covenant?  Does prevenient grace grant access to unbelievers into God’s presence apart from the work of Christ and faith in him? One gets the impression that God accepted Cornelius’ prayers and alms.  Are we to believe that God accepts and approves the prayers of unbelievers apart from Christ? I believe the Scriptures clearly teach that he will not do so.  If that assumption is correct, Cornelius must have had more than an ineffectual “prevenient grace” that enabled him to exercise his free will and make a proper choice.

The issue in Acts 10 was not the personal conversion of Cornelius to Christ.  The issue was God’s acceptance of Gentiles into the gospel chruch  as Gentiles and not as proselyte Jews.

In addition to all of this, all the people in these examples either were believers at the time or became believers.  I suspect no Calvinist would deny that God grants pre-conversion grace to his elect. The question is where is an example of a person who has received pre-conversion grace so that he is clearly as inclined to receive Christ as he is to reject him and who finally rejects him?

Some have appealed to the example of the rich young ruler to show that a person can be given prevenient grace and yet perish in sin. Here was a young man who actually enquired about obtaining eternal life but having learned about God’s terms, went away sorrowful and unbelieving.  Certainly this proves a person can have a desire to know and love God and yet perish in his sins. In reality, it proves nothing relative to prevenient grace and free will. There are several reasons I would reject this example as any kind of evidence of prevenient grace that fell short of true conversion:

  1. We do not know if he became a believer later or not. All we know is that Jesus dealt faithfully with him so that he went away having come to understand the issues.
  2. Nothing in the text tells us he desired salvation on God’s terms. The text tells us he wanted to know how to obtain eternal life, but who doesn’t want eternal life if he can have it on his own terms?
  3. The text gives us no indication that he was as inclined to receive salvation on God’s terms as he was to reject it.

There are too many unknown factors in these examples for anyone to use them as the basis of any system of doctrine.  Still, one fact is certain. These texts teach nothing about “free will” or “prevenient grace.” As in the case of those verses that speak of God’s sincere desire to receive repenting sinners, these examples tell us nothing about whether faith was the result of free will or free grace. We must look elsewhere for the answers to those issues.

Faulty Philosophical Assumptions with No Biblical Foundation

Assumption one: The Power of Autonomous Self Determination

I have found it is usually futile to try to have an intelligent and meaningful discussion with an Arminian. The reason it is so frustrating is they tend to assume their unfounded presuppositions are actually stated in the Scriptures. Yet, their assumptions are philosophical and not drawn from biblical texts at all. For example, they insist that God, in his sovereignty, has determined that he will not violate the sinner’s free will, but where is such an idea stated in the Bible? If all they meant by “free will” is that people choose what they wish apart from external constraint, I would certainly agree that people have free will.

Calvin wrote,

In this way, then, man is said to have free will, not because he has a free choice of good and evil, but because he acts voluntarily, and not by compulsion. This is perfectly true: but why should so small a matter have been dignified with so proud a title? An admirable freedom! that man is not forced to be the servant of sin, while he is, however, (a voluntary slave); his will being bound by the fetters of sin.

But, their idea of free will goes beyond a person’s ability to choose freely and intelligently what he or she wishes. It means sinners are equally as able to choose righteousness as they are to choose sin. They are equally as able to choose to believe in Christ as they are to reject him.  Not only do the Scriptures not teach such an idea, they teach precisely the opposite.

Assumption Two: A Divinely Caused Choice is Not A Valid Choice

In their view, if God enabled or caused a person to believe [They like the term “to choose.”] such a faith would not be genuine. When asked if obedience would be genuine if God caused it, they simply decline to answer. In Ezekiel 36:27, God plainly promises that he will “cause people to walk in his statutes and obey his laws.” That certainly implies they would not do so otherwise and that God’s work it the enabling cause of their work. If these people were left to their own wills, unchanged by divine intervention, their choices would continue to be determined by their hearts of stone. There is not slightest hint that obedience resulting from the divine activity described in verses 25-26 of this chapter would be anything less than genuine, heart-felt obedience.

Now, if the obedience God causes people to render to his laws is true obedience, why would anyone assume that if God caused obedience to the gospel it would be anything other than genuine faith?

Assumption Three: Grace Must be Resistible to be True Grace

For some reason, these people seem to be hung up on the term “irresistible grace.” It seems they imagine that Calvinists believe God takes sinners by the hair and drags them forcibly into the kingdom against their loud protestations. This, of course, is not the Calvinistic doctrine at all.  J.I. Packer was on target when he wrote, “Grace proves irresistible just because it destroys the disposition to resist.”

The apostle Paul describes the sinner in an unregenerate state as being without the light of the good news of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God (see-2 Cor. 4:4). In doing so, he would have his readers to understand that salvation is to be understood as seeing Christ’s glory. It is in gazing on his glory that we are transformed gradually into his likeness. Just as it was in God’s original act of creation, so it is in his act of regeneration. When God commanded the light to shine out of darkness (“and God said, ‘let there be light.’”), there was light. The apostle would have us to understand God’s act of regeneration as an act of creation. God speaks and there is light.  It should not escape our notice that he does not describe faith as a “decision” or a “choice.” I am not suggesting that in faith and repentance the sinner does not make a conscious decision to leave his idols and serve the living God. Clearly, such a response is the result of regeneration. My point is that Paul’s focus is not on the sinner’s decision or choice but on God’s regenerating activity. He does not say God has commanded the light to shine into our hearts so that we are enabled to decide whether we want to see or not. The issue is that God has commanded light to shine into our hearts and has thus thwarted Satan’s design to conceal Christ’s glory from us. The obvious question one should ask is “Who that has received the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ would wish to resist him?”

Jesus described eternal life in terms of the knowledge of God.  He prayed, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent (John 17:3). The question is how such knowledge is received. Does God give this knowledge to all by prevenient grace and leave them to them to the power of “free will”? If that were the case, why are there any that are described as not knowing God? (1 Thess. 4:5; 2 Thess. 1:8). It is not that they know him and simply have to decide if they are going to become believers or not. In reality, such knowledge is a matter of God making himself known to us. Jesus said, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Matt. 11:27).

Assumption Four: The Effects of Depravity Have Been Cancelled

I recently had an online conversation with an Arminian who contended that in prevenient grace God has removed the effects of total depravity [I am not suggesting that all Arminians would be so bold as to make such an assertion]. I am still waiting for him to answer what, in his view, those effects are and why the Scriptures continue to describe unbelievers as hostile rebels against God. If the effects of total depravity have been universally removed, why do those effects remain?  Paul described unbelieving Gentiles as follows:

“They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity” (Eph. 4: 18-19).  Notice Paul does not attribute “the ignorance that is in them” to the failure of Christians to bring them the message. Instead, he tells us their ignorance is due to the “hardness of their hearts.” Surely, this hardness of heart must be one of the effects of total depravity. Additionally, if the God removes all the effects of total depravity by granting prevenient grace, why is regeneration necessary?  All of the above are philosophical assumptions that have no biblical foundation. These assumptions are necessary to the system of those who deny God’s will of decree and either deny or ignore the biblical texts that that teach that God governs according to that decree.

Our duty is to believe the Bible in its entirety even though we find ourselves at a loss to understand the intricacies of the divine mind. A while ago I heard about a leader among the Southern Baptists who was questioned as to why the pastors under his leadership did not preach about God’s sovereign grace in the salvation of sinners. His answer was telling and disturbing.  He did not say, “They do not teach it because they do not find it in the Scriptures.” Instead he answered, “They do not preach it because our people don’t like it very much.” Such are false shepherds and blind guides who have no business standing in a pulpit. Biblical statements regarding God’s sovereign control over all things are abundant and unequivocal. Failure to acknowledge these texts can only result from biblical ignorance, ministerial malpractice or both. I am reminded of the text in Jeremiah’s prophecy that reads,“An appalling and horrible thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and  My people love to have it so” (Jeremiah 5:30-31). On the other side of the coin, if we feel we cannot freely offer Christ to any sinner, not as an elect sinner or a sinner for whom Jesus died in particular but as a guilty sinner who is in need of God’s forgiveness, we have slipped into Hyper-Calvinism. True Calvinists affirm both God’s sovereign decree to secure the salvation of his chosen people and his published desire that sinners turn from the evil of their ways and live.  What we do not believe is that his desire to save sinners is an ineffectual wish that sinners by their libertarian free will, will somehow make the right decision. One of my favorite hymns is an invitation to sinners to come to Christ. It begins,

 “Come ye sinners poor and wretched,

Weak and wounded sick and sore.

Jesus ready stands to save you,

Full of pity, joined with power.

He is able, he is willing, doubt no more.

I have often though it expressed the proper biblical balance between Arminianism on the one hand and Calvinism on the other. The Arminian proclaims a Savior who is full of pity but one who, if he has the power to save, would never exert that power lest he violate the sinner’s autonomy.  The Hyper-Calvinist proclaims a Savior who has copious power to save but precious little compassion and pity for sinners. The Calvinists proclaims a Savior who is “full of pity” that is  “joined with power.”  He is both able and willing to save. Hallelujah! What a Savior!

14
Oct
14

Unanswered post

I have posted this response here because, for some reason I do not yet understand, I could not respond to the comments themselves in the comment section.  It illustrates the violation of the rule that one should only raise one issue at at time. Everyone who visits this blog needs to understand that commenting here is not your right; it is a privilege.  Generally, I will not post the comments of those who fail to follow the rules.  The gentleman who posted these comments was at least courteous and for that reason I have overlooked his failure to follow the rules.

It is usually a good idea to study issues before commenting.  I don’t suffer fools gladly.  I don’t have time to correct all the misconceptions people might have about Calvinistic doctrine. I have taken the time to do so here because the person commenting seems to have articulated many of the misconceptions so common among those who have not taken the time actually to understand our doctrine.

I have posted his comments and interspersed my comments in italics.

He commented:

I thought I had posted a comment here a few days ago but perhaps I did not or it may not have gone through for some reason. If you have read my post and thought it irrelevant to place on your blog, I apologize for taking your time. However, if my comments have some value, however small, I would like to comment in the hopes that I have not done so already.

I am not a scholar, so please be patient as I engage some of your statements.

I answered your comments in an email when you posted them.  Perhaps the email was lost somewhere.  I am answering you again in spite of the fact that you have ignored the rules for commenting.  Before you post again, please read and follow the rules.

The first thing I’ve noticed, and please correct me if I have misunderstood you here, is that you begin your blog with what seems to be an implied insult that those who did not hold to Calvinistic theology (as you or others) do not have “their heads screwed on properly.” I see this many time reading James White’s articles online and, while I do respect him as an apologist, these implied insults, unnecessary to the argument, chips away on some of that respect.

This is not an implied insult.  It is a clear statement of my belief that most Southern Baptists have been so busy trying to count decisions so it would look good on the associational report they haven’t taken time to study the issues.  Simply stated, I believe they are in grave error. That is not intended as an insult. It is simply a statement of fact.  This is a deficiency they can remove by diligent study.

I would first like to ask, if you would know the answer, why do Calvinist seem to resort to character bashing, to one degree or another, in one way or another, their opponents first and then comment apologetically afterwards?

If what you have mentioned above is what you consider “character bashing” I would see no need to apologize for it. To say a person is wrong is not character bashing. It is a statement about his ignorance.

My issue with these people is not that they disagree with me. It is that they seem to be blissfully ignorant. They simply don’t seem to care that they can’t produce any biblical evidence for their views. We must simply believe it because they say it is true.

You say that, “There are a number of mysteries that surround this teaching [of prevenient grace] that no one seems to wish to address.”

The most glaring mystery is why anyone would believe a doctrine that is nowhere mentioned in the Bible.

It seems to me that Calvinists base the validity of their whole theology on “mystery”. Ask a Calvinist why God choose this or that one for salvation and this or that person he left alone for damnation and they will answer (repeatedly, I may add), “Who are you, O man, who answers back to God?” Afterwards, they will demand that such divine choices are divine mystery.

We base our theology on the clear statements of the Bible.  We don’t pick and choose which verses we want to believe and ignore the rest because we don’t think it will feel good to people to hear the truth. Perhaps I need to remind you that it was the Apostle Paul, writing under divine inspiration, who wrote, “Who are you O man, who answers back to God?” There are indeed certain aspects of God’s salvation about which we have no revelation. Those are the secret things that belong to him for which we have no responsibility.  I don’t need to know why God decided what he decided. That is his business. My responsibility is to believe and obey what God has revealed.

If you are demanding the Arminian to give answer to their “mystery”, it seems only legitimate to demand you provide a sound answer to this mystery of divine election and reprobation or predestination.

What I am demanding of the Arminian are clear biblical texts that give some vague hint that anything he believes is true. The divine mystery for Calvinists is not whether God chose and predestined but what motivated him to choose and predestine some to be conformed to the image of his Son and not others. Perhaps the greater mystery is why he would have chosen any of us. We remain silent about that mystery because the Scriptures are silent about it.  If the Arminian doctrine of “prevenient grace” is a mystery, they should keep quiet about it.

I can explain to you the biblical teaching concerning  election, effectual calling, regeneration, justification, etc. because these doctrines are revealed.  If the doctrine of “Prevenient grace” is revealed in Scripture, why can’t they find biblical material to support it? That is the mystery.

It also seems as if you are attempting to suggest that the burden of proof lies on the Arminian side rather than the Calvinist side. I don’t think that is the case. The Scriptures are clear in many areas, which Calvinists contradict by imposing definitions and word meanings alien to the texts and the context inherent in the verses they seek to exegete for purposes of harmonizing them with their particular brand of doctrines. Just one example is John 3:16, where it reads that God loved the world. Calvinists complain that the word “kosmos” does not mean or refer to all men but only to “the elect” (see for example:http://atdcross.blogspot.com/2012/10/swordfight-kosmos-in-john-316.html andhttp://atdcross.blogspot.com/2012/07/swordfight-1-timothy-24.html). The burden of proof lies with the Calvinists to soundly explain how the “world” can mean or refer to “the elect”; it does not lie with the Arminian to prove otherwise.

Perhaps you are right that some Calvinist understand the word “kosmos” to mean “the elect.” Well informed Calvinist do not. I cannot be held responsible for what ignorant Calvinists may say. If you are going to make accusations, it would be best if you got your facts straight before doing so. I won’t take the time to explain what we believe here since I have done so in detail on this blog. The short answer concerning the word “kosmos” is that the word very rarely if ever is used to refer to every individual on the face of the planet. The burden of the Arminian is to show that the word is used consistently in the NT Scriptures to refer to all people without exception. 

You have stated, “The Scriptures are clear in many areas, which Calvinists contradict by imposing definitions and word meanings alien to the texts and the context inherent in the verses they seek to exegete for purposes of harmonizing them with their particular brand of doctrines.”

You have accused Calvinists of insulting Arminians and engaging in “character bashing,” and yet you have the temerity to make a statement like that. Do you not understand that you have accused Calvinists of being dishonest people who willingly twist and distort biblical texts simply to support their doctrine? If that isn’t character bashing, I am not sure what it is. Physician heal thyself! I would be quite interested in seeing your evidence for such a charge. Show me a place where I have “imposed definitions and word meanings [I am not sure about the fine nuance of difference between definitions and word meanings] alien to the texts and the context. . .for the purpose of harmonizing them with my particular brand of doctrines.” I find your accusation particularly offensive since you are posing as the character bashing police.

In other words, the Calvinists are on the defensive here, not the Arminian. It is the Arminian who demands the answer. It is the Calvinist whose burden it is to respond with a sound answer, which they fail to do.

Read my blog.
You ask, “How do TSB’s define ‘free will’? Do they merely mean that sinners act freely in making their choices, or to they mean a person is able to choose that for which he has absolutely no desire and to which he is thoroughly averse? Do they mean a person’s nature has no bearing on his choices? If a will is to be truly free, it cannot be affected by anything, even nature.”

It seems your questions here (irrespective of too whom they are directed) have reference to, not the fact of free will but, the how – regarding the metaphysical nature – of free will, that is, the mechanics of how it works. Unless I have missed something, the Bible does not explain the metaphysical mechanics of how free will works, especially alongside God’s sovereignty; but only demonstrates as fact that men have free will, if not explicitly then by clear implications.

I am not asking anyone to explain mysterious working of the Spirit.  I am not asking anyone to explain how a clearly revealed work of God functions. I am asking for someone to provide a shred of biblical evidence that a preceding grace that removes the effects of total depravity even exists for those who will ultimately perish in their unbelief. There is simply no passage that teaches this doctrine.  I can show you clear biblical texts that talk about calling, drawing, regeneration and their effects in the life of God’s elect.  All I am asking for are references to a “grace” that removes the effects of total depravity but leaves men to perish in their sins because they don’t use their “free will”  as wisely as others.

There is no “FACT” of free will.  Neither the term nor the concept can be found in the Scriptures apart from a “free will offering” which was voluntary and not constrained by commandment.  Again, it would be a good idea for you to read and understand before you comment. That people choose freely does not mean they have a free will. People simply will not choose what they don’t want. I have spoken to many who coughed every two seconds between their puffs on their cigarette who told me they could quit smoking anytime they wanted to. I could not agree more with that statement. The problem is that the don’t want to.  An unregenerate can come to Jesus anytime he wants to. The problem is that if he really understands the issues of the gospel, he does not want to come.  In so called irresistible grace, God simply removes his resistance.

For example, see Joshua 24:15 and John 7:17. In both Joshua there is the command given that clearly calls men to freely exercise choice (“choose for yourselves”, NASB), and Jesus’ teaching in John clearly assumes the possession of freedom to choose (“if any man is willing”, NASB). In both cases such freedom is attributed to nothing or no one else but the selfsame persons doing the choosing. There is nothing to indicate even by a hint that God – and I agree Calvinist do not teach that God forces someone to choose – is somehow effectively orchestrating the mind or powers of choice upon the person to the point where he will inevitably and irresisistibly choose God or that God will impose no grace, thus “allowing” one to necessarily choose to reject God.

You are confusing free choice with free will. No one argues that sinners are forced into choosing something they don’t want. Packer was right when he stated that grace proves irresistible because it removes the disposition to resist. In Ezekiel 36:25-27 God promised to do precisely what you are claiming he does not do. He says “I will put an new spirit (disposition) within you, and I will put my Spirit within you AND CAUSE YOU to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my laws.”  There is no question that these people who have been the recipients of a heart transplant will FREELY CHOOSE to obey God. The issue is why they will do so.  The answer is because HE WILL CAUSE THEM TO. You have argued that if God causes a person to choose Christ [as if he is running for public office I suppose] his choice could not be a real choice because God caused him to choose rightly. Would you also argue that the obedience spoken of in these verses cannot be real obedience because God caused it?

No one questions whether called sinners freely choose Christ.  Clearly we do. The question is why we choose him. The answer is not that we have improved on the prevenient grace we have received and made a wise choice by our imagined “free will.” It is because God has granted us a new disposition.  He has “called us according to his purpose.”

Again, you continue asking, “If ‘prevenient [preceding, preventing] grace’ cancels the effects of inherited depravity, does it essentially place the sinner in a state of neutrality? If so, are the recipient’s desire’s equally balanced between an affinity toward sin and hostility toward God and an affinity toward righteousness and love toward God? If so, what tips the balance? How can one ever make a decisive choice if his desires are absolutely contradictory but equally balanced?”

Again, your question regards the metaphysical mechanics of prevenient grace and not whether or not it is a fact that the Bible teaches what Arminians view as prevenient grace. The same question can be demanded of the Calvinist to give an answer regarding irresistible grace or the notion of regeneration preceding faith (both ideas not Biblically affirmed).

Of course they are biblically affirmed. Read my blog and grapple with the issues. There is abundant evidence that regeneration precedes faith and that calling is effectual.  If you don’t know that, you should spend time studying and not commenting.

  For example, once can ask, regarding irresistible grace, “How much is the elect’s turning to God to be attributed to God and how much to man?

None of it is to be attributed to man.

If all is God’s work and not man’s at all, does God encompass the will so as to do the willing for the one elected for salvation?

Study what we believe. Of course God does not do the willing for the elect. The will along with the other aspects of the human personality is controlled by the person’s nature. In the case of the depraved sinner, that nature is represented as a “heart of stone.” The work of changing that nature is called “regeneration” in Scripture.  It is represented metaphorically by such terms as birth, circumcision, baptism, creation, deliverance from the prison house, and restored sight. These are not acts a person performs for himself, but the one who performs them does not also perform the subsequent actions such as walking, seeing, and breathing.

Is the elect’s will and personality subsumed by God’s will and personality? How can the choice be the elect’s if God, by his sovereign free choice, makes him willing? Is he creating a new will for those chosen to salvation”

No one believes God creates a new will any more than he creates a new intellect. If a person is a dullard before regeneration, he is likely to be a dullard after regeneration. He creates a new nature and that alters the desires and choices a person makes. That God makes him willing doesn’t mean God decides for him. It is a new nature God gives, not a new personality.

Regarding regeneration preceding faith, one may ask, “Is the person to whom God decrees to save, ‘born again’ – in essence, saved – before he believes? By divine regeneration before the act of believing, does that mean the elect are essentially spirit-filled with the fullness of God’s Spirit before he actually believes?”

If by “saved before he believes” you mean justified before he believes, “no”.  If you mean regenerated before he believes the answer is “yes”. Whether a person is Spirit filled prior faith  would depend on what you mean by being “Spirit filled.” As I understand Paul’s use of those words they refer to the believer’s responsibility to be continually being controlled by the Spirit.  It really has little, if anything, to do with the issue at hand.

There are possibly more metaphysical questions that can equally be demanded of the Calvinist to validate his position if one demands metaphysical answers in order to validate the Arminian position.

I have not responded directly to your challenge to answer the questions nor have I discussed all of them because they seem to require more of a metaphysical or philosophical explanation of how God works – which may tend more to speculation – rather than to the fact that God works in certain ways declared in the Bible. However, the Bible says nothing regarding the metaphysical mechanics of grace, prevenient or otherwise, in the same way it does not tell us the mechanics of regeneration. The Bible just lays down as fact that “You must be born-again and that it is accomplished by the Spirit on condition of faith. That is, all the Bible does is declare, “By grace are you saved through faith…” And, again, “of his grace we have all received” and, further, that we “have access into this grace by faith.”

That is not all the Bible declares. If you believe it is, you need a great deal more study. These are not metaphysical questions.  What I am asking for is some indication that there is a shred of proof for the imagined doctrine of a prevenient grace that removes the effects of total depravity but potentially allows all sinners to perish because they refused to cooperate with it.  What I am asking is proof that sinners are enabled to act autonomously. I don’t need to know how PG works. All I am asking for are texts that indicate that a person can receive grace that removes the effects of total depravity but leaves him to perish in his sins. Explain to me why such sinners need regeneration at all if the effects of total depravity have been removed. That is the work of regeneration. Am I to believe that sinners have all had the effects of total depravity removed and are yet described as being hostile toward God, dead in trespasses and sins, children of wrath just like the rest, callous toward God, etc? Am I to believe that PG has removed the effects of total depravity so that I can believe and then once I believe God regenerates me again to remove the effects of total depravity?  That would be redundant.

Perhaps I have misunderstood you in your reference to “of his grace [the text says fullness] we have all received”, and “we have access into this grace by faith.” If you are citing such texts with the idea that they teach that God’s grace has been given universally, you seriously need a few lessons in biblical interpretation.

I have been patient with you this time, but don’t ever post on my blog again unless you have read the rules first and closely adhere to them.

 

 

24
Sep
14

Test Your Knowledge of Calvinistic Doctrine.

True or False
1. That Calvinists believe in limited atonement means they believe there are people in the world whom God would not justify based on the death of Christ even if they accounted God faithful to fulfil his promise to save all who call on him. That is, even if they believed the gospel, God would not save them.
2. Since Calvinists believe in limited atonement, it is disingenuous for them to tell sinners God will save them if they believe.
3. The Apostles and other gospel preachers whose messages are recorded in the New Testament Scriptures all told their audiences, “Jesus died for you,” when they preached the gospel.
4. If Calvinists are right, there is no need to proclaim the gospel since all God’s elect will be saved whether they hear the gospel or not.
5. That Calvinists believe in irresistible grace means that sinners have no choice in the matter of salvation. God simply forces some people to believe whether they want to or not.
6. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means all sinners act as sinfully as they are capable of acting.
7. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means they don’t believe sinners have any awareness of God or any conscience concerning right or wrong.
8. That Calvinists believe in total depravity means they don’t believe sinners in a state of sinful nature are able to perform acts that most everyone would consider good and helpful to their fellow man.
9. That Calvinists believe in election means they believe there are some people who truly want to be saved but God won’t let them because he hasn’t chosen them.
10. That Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints means they believe once a person makes a profession of faith, he is saved for eternity even if he should later stop believing.
11. That Calvinists believe in the perseverance of the saints means a person can’t know if he/she is saved until the judgment.
12. The Calvinist’s doctrine of election does not mean a believer has been chosen to eternal life. It simply means he has been chosen to run the race. His eternal status depends completely on his faithfulness in running the race. They think if a believer is unfaithful in running the race he will be lost.
13. Calvinist doctrine so closely parallels the doctrine of the Gnostics that Calvinists could rightly be called Gnostics.
14. Calvinists deny the doctrine of the Trinity since they teach that Jesus Christ is the full expression of the good, true, and beautiful while representing the other members of the Trinity as lesser forms.
15. Calvinists believe that justification is progressive.
16. Since Calvinists believe all justifying righteousness is outside a believer, it is clear they don’t think God produces any righteousness in believers in the works of regeneration and sanctification.
17. Calvinists confuse and conflate God’s works of justification and sanctification.
18. Calvinists believe sinners are like stocks and stones that have no will and cannot make choices freely.
19. The real issue in whether Jesus’ redeeming work was limited or not concerns its sufficiency to save all sinners.
20. A real Calvinist is a person who believes everything Calvin ever wrote. They actually place Calvin’s writings above the Scriptures.

Scroll down to find the answers.
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There is not a single statement that is true. The answer to every one should be FALSE. It is interesting that I copied and pasted many of the statements from blogs dedicated to the overthrow of Calvinism. If the above statements were true, I would join them in the fight to rid the world of these teachings. I would be delighted to discuss in detail any of the above statements you might think are true and show you why, according to Calvinistic doctrine, they are not.

Please read the rules for commenting before you opine.

Remember, to those who lack the will to know the truth, nothing is as mysterious as the obvious.

21
Sep
14

Trials

In times of trial God’s trusting child may say,

First, He brought me here, it is by His will I am in this strait place: in that fact I will rest.

Next, He will keep me here in His love, and give me grace to behave as His child.

Then, He will make the trial a blessing, teaching me the lessons He intends me to learn, and working in me the grace He means to bestow.

Last, in His good time He can bring me out again – how and when He knows.

Let me say I am here,

(1) By God’s appointment,
(2) In His keeping,
(3) Under His training,
(4) For His time.

Andrew Murray

19
Sep
14

A Deterministic God

From time to time, people who believe in the almighty “free will” of the fallen sinner have accused me of believing in a “deterministic God.” I want to go on record here and confess that I indeed hold to such a belief. By that I do not mean that God causes and is responsible for all my actions. God is not the great puppeteer, and I am not a sock puppet. He does not need to cause me to sin since I continue to do such a good job of sinning by myself, but in his infinite wisdom he has taken even my rebellion into account and governs it so that it will ultimately bring glory to him and eternal and spiritual good to me.

The wise man wrote in Proverbs 21:1 “The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will.” This verse does not mean God causes all the evil machinations of the king. Like water, the evil designs of wicked men seek their own level. The wicked act freely, deliberately and culpably in perpetrating their evil designs, but not one of their acts falls outside God’s control. Surely Nebuchadnezzar was right when, having had his reason restored to him, he spoke these words,

Then I praised the Most High; I honored and glorified him who lives forever. His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. All the peoples of the earth are regarded as nothing. He does as he pleases with the powers of heaven and the peoples of the earth. No one can hold back his hand or say to him: “What have you done” (Dan. 4:34-35)?

In the following chapter, Daniel reminds Belshazzar, whose knees were knocking together because he had seen the handwriting on the wall, of what had happened to his father, Nebuchadnezzar, because of the arrogance of his heart. He does not tell him that his father had simply lost his throne and his reason while God looked on passively. God dethroned him and left him in a miserable state until he was sufficiently humbled. In Daniel’s words,

. . . until he knew that the Most High God rules the kingdom of mankind and sets over it whom he will. And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this, but you have lifted up yourself against the Lord of heaven. And the vessels of his house have been brought in before you, and you and your lords, your wives, and your concubines have drunk wine from them. And you have praised the gods of silver and gold, of bronze, iron, wood, and stone, which do not see or hear or know, but the God in whose hand is your breath, and whose are all your ways, you have not honored (Dan. 5:21-23).

After Joseph’s brothers had perpetrated their wickedness in faking his death and selling him into Egyptian slavery, God, in his sovereign providence, raised him to a place of prominence and power in the Egyptian government. The day came when they stood before him begging for food. They feared that he would hate them and seek revenge. Instead, we read these words,

But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today” (Gen. 50:19-20). He did not say God merely permitted your evil actions, but “God meant it [the evil you intended to do to me]” for good.

You intended evil and you are guilty. God will judge you for your intentions and your actions, but he intended and is bringing to pass something different from what you had in mind.

Hear Job’s words. After having experienced what was perhaps the worst day of his life, looking past all the second causes such as Satan, the Sabeans, the fire, the Chaldeans, and the great wind, he said, “‘The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.’ In all this, Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (Job 1:21-22). Though God employed second causes to accomplish his will for his servant, it was he who was the prime mover. Job acknowledges that God was the giver of all these blessings and that he had the right to take them away.

It should be clear, even to a casual observer, that these men believed God was no passive observer who occasionally intervenes to change the course of history. Jesus said, “not even a sparrow falls to the ground apart from your Father” (see Matt. 10:29). God’s providence extends to the minutest details.

In Romans 9:20-24, Paul has described God as the sovereign potter who has the right to dispose of his creatures as he will. Just as the potter has the right to make of a lump of clay anything he wishes, so God has the right to do with us as he wills.

In Romans 11:36 Paul writes, “For from him, and through him, and to him are all things. To him be glory forever.”
These passages are only a small sampling of those we could have cited to show that “the LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all” (Psalms 103:19).

CREEDAL STATEMENTS

Though creedal statements are not authoritative, it might be helpful to read what some who have gone before us have written on this subject.

Belgic Confession-Article 13

We believe that this good God, after he created all things, did not abandon them to chance or fortune but leads and governs them according to his holy will, in such a way that nothing happens in this world without his orderly arrangement.
Yet God is not the author of, nor can he be charged with, the sin that occurs. For his power and goodness are so great and incomprehensible that he arranges and does his work very well and justly even when the devils and wicked men act unjustly.
We do not wish to inquire with undue curiosity into what he does that surpasses human understanding and is beyond our ability to comprehend. But in all humility and reverence we adore the just judgments of God, which are hidden from us, being content to be Christ’s disciples, so as to learn only what he shows us in his Word, without going beyond those limits.
This doctrine gives us unspeakable comfort since it teaches us that nothing can happen to us by chance but only by the arrangement of our gracious heavenly Father. He watches over us with fatherly care, keeping all creatures under his control, so that not one of the hairs on our heads (for they are all numbered) nor even a little bird can fall to the ground20 without the will of our Father.
In this thought we rest, knowing that he holds in check the devils and all our enemies, who cannot hurt us without his permission and will.

For that reason we reject the damnable error of the Epicureans, who say that God involves himself in nothing and leaves everything to chance.

Philadelphia Confession of Faith

Chapter 3 Of God’s Decree

1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken way, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.
(Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15, 18; James 1:13; 1 John 1:5; Acts 4:27, 28; John 19:11; Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5)
2. Although God knoweth whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

Chapter 5–of God’s Providence

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.
(Heb. 1:3; Job 38:11; Isa. 46:10, 11; Ps. 135:6; Matt. 10:29-31; Eph. 1;11)

2. Although in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God, the first cause, all things come to pass immutably and infallibly; so that there is not anything befalls any by chance, or without his providence; yet by the same providence he ordereth them to fall out according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or contingently.
(Acts 2:23; Prov. 16:33; Gen. 8:22)

3. God, in his ordinary providence maketh use of means, yet is free to work without, above, and against them at his pleasure.
(Acts 27:31, 44; Isa. 55:10, 11; Hosea 1:7; Rom. 4:19-21; Dan. 3:27)

4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God, so far manifest themselves in his providence, that his determinate counsel extendeth itself even to the first fall, and all other sinful actions both of angels and men; and that not by a bare permission, which also he most wisely and powerfully boundeth, and otherwise ordereth and governeth, in a manifold dispensation to his most holy ends; yet so, as the sinfulness of their acts proceedeth only from the creatures, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.

London Baptist Confession 1644

III. That God hath decreed in himself from everlasting touching all things, effectually to work and dispose them according to the counsel of his own will, to the glory of his Name; in which decree appeareth his wisdom, constancy, truth, and faithfulness; Wisdom is that whereby he contrives all things; Constancy is that whereby the decree of God remains always immutable; Truth is that whereby he declares that alone which he hath decreed, and though his sayings may seem to sound sometimes another thing, yet the sense of them doth always agree with the decree; Faithfulness is that whereby he effects that he hath decreed, as he hath decreed. And touching his creature man, God had in Christ before the foundation of the world, according to the good pleasure of his will, foreordained some men to eternal life through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of his grace, leaving the rest in their sin to their just condemnation, to the praise of his Justice.

God’s Sovereignty or Human Autonomy

God’s sovereignty and human free agency are not incompatible. There is no dispute about the fact that people are able to freely choose what they wish. The issue of free will is another matter. I recently heard a well-known Pastor say, “Most of the time when people talk about free will, what they really mean is human autonomy.” I believe he was right.
To deny the doctrine of God’s sovereign control over all his creatures in favor of human automomy is not only a serious theological error but an act of arrogant treason against the king.

A.W. Pink wrote,

. . .there is no doctrine more hated by worldings, no truth of which they have made such a football, as the great, stupendous, but yet most certain doctrine of the Sovereignty of the infinite Jehovah. Men will allow God to be everywhere except on this throne. They will allow Him to be in His workshop to fashion worlds and make stars. They will allow him to be in his almonry to dispense his alms and bestow his bounties. They will allow him to sustain the earth and bear up the pillars thereof, or light the lamps of heaven, or rule the waves of the ever-moving ocean; but when God ascends his throne, His creatures gnash their teeth, . . .for God on His throne is not the God they love (Pink, The Attributes of God, p. 33).

James wrote,

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin (James 4:13-17).

The attitude James describes here is an arrogant insistence on human autonomy. It describes intentions that are honorable in themselves. Hard work with a profit motive is not a bad thing. The problem is a failure to acknowledge that whether we live or die, succeed or fail is dependent on God’s will, not ours. “The LORD makes poor and makes rich; he brings low and he exalts” (1 Sam. 2:7).

We cannot even guarantee that we will live until tomorrow, much less continue a year. We should say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live.” Our lives are like a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes. If memory serves, it was Matthew Henry who wrote, “Man proposes; God disposes.” There is nothing wrong with making plans, but we must be ever aware that our plans are subject to God’s plan. We should say, “If the Lord wills, we shall. . .do this or that.”

James tells us that failure to acknowledge God’s sovereign control in all things is arrogant boasting and all such boasting is evil. If we know to thus acknowledge him as the sovereign potter but do not do it, for us it is sin.

As I have read these verses in James about this arrogant denial of God’s control over all things, it has brought to mind the famous poem by Wm. Henley titled “Invictus (Unconquerable).” Perhaps motivated by his bitterness over having lost a leg due to tuberculosis, he wrote the following,

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Early in the 20th century, a little known poet named Dorothea Day, wrote a poem titled, “Conquered.” This is the confession that should be echoed by every child of God.

Out of the light that dazzles me,
Bright as the sun from pole to pole,
I thank the God I know to be,
For Christ – the Conqueror of my soul.

Since His the sway of circumstance,
I would not wince nor cry aloud.
Under the rule which men call chance,
My head, with joy, is humbly bowed.

Beyond this place of sin and tears,
That Life with Him and His the Aid,
That, spite the menace of the years,
Keeps, and will keep me unafraid.

I have no fear though straight the gate:
He cleared from punishment the scroll.
Christ is the Master of my fate!
Christ is the Captain of my soul!

09
Sep
14

Free Choice vs. “Free Will”

Regrettably, it has been necessary for me to delete one of the comments of a person who visits my blog from time to time. Not only does he fail to follow the rules; he has stated that he does not intend to do so. I will not allow any comments that are demeaning and degrading.

I will comment on the issue he addressed since it is an important one. It concerns the comment Born4battle made yesterday concerning the distinction between free choice and free will. The commenter has accused us of making a distinction where no difference exists.

If all he means by “free will” is that people have the ability to make choices, we would be in full agreement with him. We believe people choose freely apart from external constraint. A person who bows to Christ’s sovereign Lordship does so because he truly wants to. A person who chooses to reject Christ and the gospel does so because he truly wants to. God does not drag anyone into the kingdom kicking and screaming and rebelling against the gospel. Instead, he, by sovereign grace, makes sinners willing to do his will. This idea is expressed well in the promises of Ezek. 26:25-27

I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.

This describes what theologically speaking is called “regeneration.” This work of God does not force people to obey contrary to their desires. If God causes people to walk in his statutes, does this not indicate they would not do so otherwise? Yet, those who obey God’s rules do so because they genuinely choose to do so.

Every person who comes to genuine faith in Christ does so because he freely chooses to do so. Every person who chooses to reject Christ and continue in his sins does so because he genuinely desires and freely chooses to do so.
The issue in the discussion of “free will” is completely different. It concerns whether the will, unlike the other elements of human personality, is autonomous [self-governing] or not. Does the will act independently of nature or does the nature of a person determine his choices. In a sense, the discussion brings us back to a very basic question. Are we sinners because we sin, or do we sin because we are sinners? This question expresses the decisive difference between Pelagianism and Calvinism. We Calvinists believe we think what we think, feel what we feel, choose what we choose, because we are what we are. If this is not the case, it doesn’t matter whether regeneration causes faith or faith causes regeneration. Such a work of God would be superfluous. If sinners are able to obey any command of God [the command to repent and believe], we are able to obey every command of God and don’t need God tinkering around with our hearts.

The biblical writers represent sinners as hostile toward God, his law, and his gospel. Additionally, they assign the reason for this recalcitrance and obduracy to sinful nature. People don’t come to Christ because they don’t want to come to Christ. All we are saying is that a person in a state of sinful nature will not and therefore cannot choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is absolutely averse. His will is held captive by his nature.

08
Sep
14

Where Have All The Thinkers Gone?

I have known a few Southern Baptist pastors who have had their heads screwed on properly in regard to sound theology. Thanks to the efforts of Ernie Reisinger, Tom Ascol et.al. their tribe is increasing. Still, there are those in the SBC who call themselves “traditionalists” who imagine they have found a middle road between Calvinism and Arminianism, semi-Pelagianism, or Pelagianism.

According to their own statement, if they are not actually Pelagians, they would at least fall on the Pelagian side of Arminianism. Even the original Arminians did not believe sinners are born with a “free will.” They agreed with the Calvinists that sinners are born in a state of total depravity. They did believe God gives prevenient grace to all without exception, enabling all to accept Christ or reject him. I have yet to hear anyone venture a guess as to when God grants this supposed ability. There are a number of mysteries that surround this teaching that no one seems to wish to address. I would like to pose several questions that need to be answered before the discussion between Calvinists and Traditionals (hereafter referred to as TSB’s) can progress to a meaningful conclusion. The following are a few of them:

1. How do TSB’s define “free will?” Do they merely mean that sinners act freely in making their choices, or to they mean a person is able to choose that for which he has absolutely no desire and to which he is thoroughly averse? Do they mean a person’s nature has no bearing on his choices? If a will is to be truly free, it cannot be affected by anything, even nature.

2. If “prevenient [preceding] grace” cancels the effects of inherited depravity, does it essentially place the sinner in a state of neutrality? If so, are the recipient’s desire’s equally balanced between an affinity toward sin and hostility toward God and an affinity toward righteousness and love toward God? If so, what tips the balance? How can one ever make a decisive choice if his desires are absolutely contradictory but equally balanced?

3. In receiving this divine favor, has the sinner already received all the enabling God intends to give him? If he is left in such a state, could his condition be described as anything other than a dissociative disorder?

4. These people believe “Fallen man inherits a sinful nature.” This is part of the “O” in their acrostic “POINSETTIA.” When does that nature cease to be sinful and begin to be neutral? At what point is “free will” granted to the sinner? If it is granted at birth, why do biblical writers describe the unregenerate as rebels against God? If it is granted when a person hears the gospel, how can it be universal since all do not hear the gospel?

5. If God is not totally without control in his universe, could he not have caused that all would hear the gospel? In Acts 16:6-10, we learn that Paul and his companions tried to go into Bithynia to preach the gospel, but the Spirit did not allow them to go, sending them to Macedonia instead. Given the assumptions of the TBS’s, one would have to assume a God of love would see to it that every creature under heaven would hear the gospel? If he could have assured a universal proclamation of the gospel and didn’t, is he not being unfair? I speak as a fool.

6. If a sinner has the ability to love God, choose to obey his commandments, believe the gospel etc., why does he need to be regenerated at all?

The TSB’s have made a list of statements they with which they seem to assume Calvinists would disagree. Indeed, we would disagree with many of them, but much of their propensity to get their panties in a wad is based on their misunderstanding or misrepresentation of our beliefs.

Such people as Norman Geisler should be intelligent enough and careful enough to avoid the making brain dead statements. Yet, much of what he and others say in regard to this controversy has little to do with the real issues. He states that Jesus died for all sinners. Does he mean Jesus death is of sufficient value to save any and all who will believe? Does he mean we are warranted to proclaim the good news that Jesus died for sinners to every sinner with which we come in contact? Does he mean it was God’s intention in sending his Son to save sinners who had already perished in unbelief before Jesus died? He should be informed well enough to understand that the issue in the controversy over the atonement is not whether any sinner who believed would be saved by Christ’s death. It is whether Jesus’ death was effective in redeeming all God had intended to save.

The truth is that his problem is not with limited atonement, but with the sovereignty of God in salvation. The issue is whether salvation is all of God and all of grace or a cooperative effort between God and the sinner.

All he says is a misrepresentation of our beliefs. For him to claim Calvinists do not believe in the eternal security of the believer betrays one of two things about him. Either his scholarship is not to be trusted since he clearly has not investigated our beliefs adequately, or after having investigated our views, he has deliberately misrepresented what we believe.

Of course, we believe in the eternal security of the true believer in Christ. What we do not believe is the eternal security of everyone who has made a profession of faith. We believe “once saved, always saved,” but one must be once saved to be always saved.

I challenge some of these people to engage in a discussion of these issues. Please attempt an answer to some of these questions? Learn the real issues, and then confront them. Don’t spend your time burning straw men.




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