Archive for February, 2013

28
Feb
13

Do we need regeneration after all?

Perhaps a ¨non-Calvinist¨ who is passing through could give me an answer to a question I have been pondering. Several times I have seen those who oppose the idea of predestination state that sinners have ¨free will.¨ According to their own statements, they mean by this that sinners possess equal ability to choose either good or evil. I assume by this they mean sinners not only have the ability to choose good but also to do good.

My question is this–If sinners are able to choose to trust Christ apart from the Spirit´s work of regeneration and are able to choose and practice good by virtue of their ¨free will,¨ why do we need to be regenerated? If by nature we are able to believe the gospel and obey the commands of God, why do we need the Holy Spirit?

Please read the rules for commenting before weighing in on this issue.

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28
Feb
13

“Decisional Regeneration” a “Straw Man” Argument?

The following is a copy of an e-mail I sent to the editor over at expreacherman.com. Since they will not post or respond to anything I send to them, I decided to post it here in hopes that some of their readers will find it.

You wrote:

The false idea and straw-man of decisional regeneration is built upon the error perpetrated by many Baptists (and other) religionists who preach that one can be saved or regenerated by coming forward to the altar, saying a sinners prayer or praying a prayer of commitment. They then presume the person is saved and regenerated. It must be clearly understood that regeneration does not occur because of an altar call, the sinner s prayer or a ‘commitment’.

I know you don’t have the courage to respond to this, but you need to at least be confronted with it. From what I read in the letter to which you referred, the person who wrote it did not say you teach “decisional regeneration” but that you are from the generation that gave us the idea. I was brought up in the tradition he/she[?] is talking about. I practiced what he/she is describing. It is not a straw man argument. I don’t think anyone intended to say walking the aisle or praying a prayer would regenerate a person, but that is what they said. First, they taught that sinners are “born again through faith.” Faith was viewed as a public profession of faith. People were invited to come forward and “be saved.” People in churches could tell you they saw a person “get saved,” by which they meant they saw them go forward to make a public profession.

I was taught to use the “sinner’s prayer.” Once a person “prayed to receive Jesus,” I was taught to welcome them into the kingdom of God, and assure them they were now a child of God. Further, I was told to warn them that if they ever doubted they were truly a child of God, they were calling God a liar because he had promised that if they would call on his name, they would be saved. All of this was based on a decision they had made. We have at least two generations who, based on that language, believe they are Christians because of that teaching. I repeat, it may not have been the intention of these teachers to convey the idea that sinners are regenerated by a decision, but that is clearly what they taught. If a person is born again through faith, and faith is a decision, then why would they not believe in “decisional regeneration?”

25
Feb
13

The Real Issue in “Lordship Preaching”

I have recently had the unfortunate experience of spending time reading articles at expreacherman.com. Every time I visit that blog I feel like weeping. There are at least two factors that contribute to my sadness. The first is that so many have misunderstood what the gospel is all about. The second is that those who believe in “Lordship salvation” have apparently done such a poor job of communicating our position. Communicating our view in such a way that we are not interpreted as teaching a works based salvation can be difficult. In an effort to guard the gospel from abuse, could we be guilty of failing to preach the doctrine of free justification in Christ as freely as we should?

The apostle Paul’s proclamation of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, exposed him to the false charge of “antinomianism.” I believe if we are faithful to the gospel, we will also be exposed to that charge. In fact, if we are not exposed to that Charge, we can not have been proclaiming God’s good news freely enough. I believe Paul’s answer to that charge gives us the key to understanding and proclaiming clearly the real issues involved in the gospel.

The real issue is not whether we are justified by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, or by adding a commitment to follow Christ, good works, etc., to the work of Christ as the ground of our justification. No one, at least no one from the Calvinist’s camp, believes that the basis of our justification is other than the finished work of Christ. On that issue, we all appear to agree.

The issue is what we mean by being “saved.” Paul explains that believers cannot continue in sin because we have died to its reigning power. The gospel is not merely about forgiving grace but about liberating grace. Jesus died not merely to release us from our guilt because of sin, but to liberate us from our sins. Jesus’ death not only cancels our guilt, it also renders sin’s tyrannical reign over us inoperative. A person who wishes to be released from his guilt, but resolves to continue in his hostility toward God does not wish to be saved. Look at the way Peter described the purpose of Jesus’ death, “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls” (1 Peter 2:24-25). Jesus’ purpose in dying is clearly stated, “that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” It does not matter how much we may insist that our sins have been forgiven, if we have not been returned to the Shepherd, we have never been “saved.” Being returned to the Shepherd is what salvation is all about.

God doesn’t save us because we promise to get rid of our sins and follow Jesus. God saves us when we bring our sins to Jesus and confess that we are helpless to break the fetters that have bound us. If he does not break our fetters, we are doomed to a life of bondage in sin. No one who rightly comes to Jesus for salvation would say, “I want to be forgiven, but I love my sins too much to leave them.” The issue in salvation is not heaven or hell; the issue in salvation is sin and righteousness. The purpose of Jesus’ death was not merely to take us to heaven when we die. His purpose was to restore God’s holy image in us.

“Lordship” preachers must guard against giving the impression that we must add something to Jesus’ finished work as the ground of our justification. Those who oppose “Lordship Salvation” need to give up the “straw man” argument that Lordship preachers teach some ground of justification before God other than the finished work of Christ.

24
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #6

Today’s prize goes to a woman who calls herself “trust4himonly.” Her comment occurred over at expreacherman.com. The nifty think about their blog is they can tell all the prodigious lies they wish, but don’t allow comments that disagree with their slanderous statements. Her comments are basically a mindless regurgitation of Paul Dohse’s enigmatic pronouncements. He has little idea what he is talking about and his followers are even more clueless. Even after being told numerous times that he is misrepresenting the Calvinistic position, he continues to spew his vitriolic comments. Since he has been told so often that he is misrepresenting our position, I can only conclude his persistence in doing so is a deliberate and malicious act. I only say this to warn you about him, much like I would warn you about a mad dog in the street. He cannot be taken seriously by anyone who understands what we really believe, but for those who depend on him to tell them the truth, his comments can be extremely damaging. The following is what she wrote:

Calvinists look at Christ being outside the picture of the believer then [rather than?] being inside of the believer (this is the reason you do not hear of the Holy Spirit being in taught in the context of molding and shaping within the believer). Everything is in the context of the “Christian” not being fully saved until they have persevered in the faith- which means this is an oxymoron because they contradict themselves continually by saying that only one can rely on Christ for that salvation. Calvinists are really no different then [from] the Arminianist [Arminian] (even though they would aggressively disagree) because they view a work that must be done instead a ONE TIME justification based on Christs death and ressurrection. The Calvinist believes that Jesus Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience and [is] STILL obeying for us so that we could be saved.

I have written quite a lot on this blog that answers many of the issues she has raised. I would simply refer you to my posts about “progressive justification,” “the gospel,” and “the imputation of Christ’s righteousness,” to learn what I believe. I believe my views on these issues are consistent with the classic Calvinistic position.

The Westminster Confession of Faith States

Those whom God effectually calleth, he also freely justifieth: not by infusing righteousness into them, but by pardoning their sins, and by accounting and accepting their persons as righteous; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, but for Christ’s sake alone; nor by imputing faith itself, the act of believing, or any other evangelical obedience to them, as their righteousness; but by imputing the obedience and satisfaction of Christ unto them, they receiving and resting on him and his righteousness, by faith; which faith they have not of themselves, it is the gift of God.

Let me simply list the issues I believe she is raising and then briefly comment on them.

1 “Calvinists look at Christ being outside the picture of the believer then [rather than?] being inside of the believer.”
This erroneous statement is likely based on Mr Dohse’s misinterpretation of Calvinistic statements about the basis of the believer’s justification. That believers are not justified based infused grace or internal righteousness, but on a righteousness that is not theirs being imputed to their account does not mean God does nothing in believers or that “Christ is outside the believer.” Salvation involves more than justification. To say that the judicial declaration the Scriptures refer to as justification as a declaration outside of us, does not mean every work of God is outside of us.

2. “this is the reason you do not hear of the Holy Spirit being in taught in the context of molding and shaping within the believer.”

I am not sure what brand of Calvinism she has been exposed to, but most Calvinist pastors I know are committed to expository preaching. Typically, such pastors deal with whatever text is before them. If the passage concerns the ministry of the Spirit, the message will expound the ministry of the Spirit. If the passage deals with the redemptive work of Christ, the message will concern his work etc. Calvinists have no aversion to teaching about the Holy Spirit.

3. “Everything is in the context of the “Christian” not being fully saved until they have persevered in the faith-”

Here, of course, whether this is a straw man argument depends on what she means by ” fully saved.” Typically, such people use “saved” and “justified” synonymously. If that is the sense in which she is using the word “saved,” her statement has no validity whatsoever. We believe sinners are as righteous in the sight of God the moment they first believe as they will ever be. In that sense, be believe the newest believer is “full saved.”

There is another sense in which she is right. We do not think believers are “fully saved” simply because we have been declared completely righteous. Paul speaks of our salvation being “nearer than when we believed” (See Romans 13:11). Also, in more than one passage he uses the present tense to describe our salvation. The present tense in Greek is intended to express continuing action. A good translation would be “being saved” (see 1 Cor. 1:18; 15:2). We have been saved from sin’s penalty; we have been saved from sin’s reigning power; but we have yet to be saved from remaining sin in us, and from the presence of sin around us. We have yet to be conformed to Christ’s glorious image. When we stand in his presence at last, wholly conformed to his image, we will stand there as those who are “more than conquerors, through him who loved us.”

4. “they view [justification as ?]a work that must be done instead a ONE TIME justification based on Christs death and ressurrection.

I would probably be willing to offer a huge reward to anyone who could show me a Calvinist who believes our justification is based on anything other than the redemptive work of Christ. If you have any doubt about what we believe on this subject, please refer to the Westminster Confession above.

5. “The Calvinist believes that Jesus Christ had to live a life of perfect obedience and [is] STILL obeying for us so that we could be saved.”

Though we do believe Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience to the Law and, thus, provided for those united to him by faith a perfect righteousness, we do not believe he is STILL obeying for us. The period of his obedience is over. The period of his sojourn under the Law has come to an end. His current ministry is one of intercession in which he applies his finished work to his people.

20
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw man argument #5

Tracking down “straw man” stuffers and burners is a target-rich environment. I have seldom seen such vitriol spewed by those who claim to be fellow believers in Christ as I have found on several of the blog sites I have visited. My suspicion is that not one of them has ever read anything a Calvinist has written. One almost gets the impression they haven’t studied the Scriptures very much either. I have not yet seen one of them offer an exegetically sound argument to prove their positions. It appears they are content to gather around their bonfire and toss their straw men into the fire. In our search for such “straw man burners, today’s prize goes to—
Kenneth Groenewald | February 11, 2013 at 8:41 am |

(Posted at http://www.expreacherman.com)

He wrote,

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. 2 Cor4:4. The Calvinists would have us believe that it is God who blinds the minds of the unbelievers and not Satan. The Calvinists have created an Ogre for their God who blinds the minds of the unbelievers so that He prevents them from ever being saved. Sick.

On the page where I found this comment, I left a request for some kind of substantiating citation from a real Calvinist, but, of course, my comment wasn’t posted. I don’t think it is too much to ask to request a real quotation of a person’s actual remarks. Who is the phantom Calvinist who makes all these wild statements that no other Calvinists seem to believe? If only we could get recorded statements or excerpts from his writings, perhaps we could show him the error of his ways.

The truth is, no such Calvinist exists. No Calvinist “would have us believe that it is God who blinds the minds of unbelievers.” No Calvinist would have us believe “God. . .prevents them [sinners] from ever being saved.” We believe sinners are blind by sinful nature. Through Satan’s (the god of this age) temptation, Adam, the representative of all in him, fell into sin, and thus all his offspring became bind in unbelief. In this way, the god of this age has blinded those who believe not. It would be unnecessary for God to blind anyone, even if he wished to do so. Sinners are blind already. It is the work of God’s Anointed One to open the eyes of the blind, not to close them (See Isa. 35:5; 42:7). God never prevents anyone being saved who wishes to be saved. He delights in showing mercy to sinners (See Micah 7:18).

It is true, God blinds sinners as an act of judgment (See Isa. 6:9-10) and John 12:39-40), but he does so in the sense that he judicially determines to leave them in their blindness due to their persistent unbelief in the face of abundant revelation (cf. John 12:37). Still, this is not a belief that is exclusively Calvinistic, but the belief of anyone who believes the teaching of Scripture.

11
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #4

The following question was asked in response to a statement made by a Calvinist regarding the relationship between the sinner’s choice and God’s choice.

“We are free to choose the flavor of ice cream we want, color of socks that we are going to wear today, and what we want for breakfast, but not God?”

This question is obviously based on the straw man argument that Calvinists don’t believe sinners are able to make active and free choices but, like puppets or robots, are controlled by God apart from conscious and culpable decisions they make.

In answer to this argument I would invite you to read my post “Arminian Presupposition #s 11 & 12.”

The answer is, sinners are as free to choose God and Christ if they want to as you are to choose the flavor of ice cream you wish, the sock color you wish, or what you wish for breakfast. No one believes sinners can’t choose what they wish. What Calvinist believe is that sinners are unable to choose what they hate.

11
Feb
13

The Bonfire–Straw Man Argument #3

Straw Man Argument #3 Calvinists don’t believe in assurance of salvation.

Last week on another blog, the comments of a Calvinist were posted in response to a specific question about why Calvinists preach the gospel to people even though they may not be among the elect. His answer was that we cannot know who the elect are until the final judgment. For that reason, we proclaim the good news to people indiscriminately. The blog owner took from that answer that this man does not believe it is possible for believers to enjoy assurance of salvation. It did not seem to matter to anyone commenting on that post that the question he was answering had nothing whatsoever to do with the assurance of salvation. They were all convinced that Calvinists don’t believe assurance of salvation is possible. One of them wrote on another blog, as if he were stating the Calvinist’s position, “You see, no one can know if they are truly elect or not until they stand before God and He pronounces His arbitrary and subjective judgment upon them.” This is clearly a straw man argument. Though we do not believe that assurance is of the essence of faith, we believe assurance is possible and desirable. I would refer you not only to my article on this blog re: the assurance of salvation but to the two Calvinistic statements below. Please observe that the standard of judgment is anything but “arbitrary” and “subjective.” The first statement is from the original formulation of the doctrine we call Calvinism, “The Canons of Dort”– 1619. The second is from “The Westminster Confession of Faith,” universally acknowledged to be a Calvinistic confession.

Canons of Dort
FIRST HEAD: ARTICLE 12. The elect in due time, though in various degrees and in different measures, attain the assurance of this their eternal and unchangeable election, not by inquisitively prying into the secret and deep things of God, but by observing in themselves with a spiritual joy and holy pleasure the infallible fruits of election pointed out in the Word of God – such as, a true faith in Christ, filial fear, a godly sorrow for sin, a hungering and thirsting after righteousness, etc.

Westminster Confession of Faith (Chapter 18)

CHAPTER 18
Of the Assurance of Grace and Salvation

1. Although hypocrites and other unregenerate men may vainly deceive themselves with false hopes and carnal presumptions of being in the favor of God, and estate of salvation(a) (which hope of theirs shall perish(b): yet such as truly believe in the Lord Jesus, and love him in sincerity, endeavoring to walk in all good conscience before him, may, in this life, be certainly assured that they are in the state of grace,(c) and may rejoice in the hope of the glory of God, which hope shall never make them ashamed.(d)

(a) Mic 3:11; Deut 29:19; John 8:41
(b) Amos 9:10; Matt 7:22-23
(c) 1 John 5:13; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14,18-19,21,24
(d) Rom 5:2,5

2. This certainty is not a bare conjectural and probable persuasion grounded upon a fallible hope;(e) but an infallible assurance of faith founded upon the divine truth of the promises of salvation,(f) the inward evidence of those graces unto which these promises are made,(g) the testimony of the Spirit of adoption witnessing with our spirits that we are the children of God,(h) which Spirit is the earnest of our inheritance, whereby we are sealed to the day of redemption.(i)
(e) Heb 6:11,19
(f) Heb 6:17-18
(g) 2 Pet 1:4-11; 1 John 2:3; 1 John 3:14; 2 Cor 1:12
(h) Rom 8:15-16
(i) Eph 1:13-14; Eph 4:30; 2 Cor 1:21-22

3. This infallible assurance doth not so belong to the essence of faith, but that a true believer may wait long, and conflict with many difficulties, before he be partaker of it(k) yet, being enabled by the Spirit to know the things which are freely given him of God, he may, without extraordinary revelation, in the right use of ordinary means, attain thereunto.(l) And therefore it is the duty of everyone to give all diligence to make his calling and election sure,(m) that thereby his heart may be enlarged in peace and joy in the Holy Ghost, in love and thankfulness to God, and in strength and cheerfulness in the duties of obedience, the proper fruits of this assurance;(n) so far is it from inclining men to looseness.(o)
(k) 1 John 5:13
(l) 1 Cor 2:12; 1 John 4:13; Heb 6:11-12; Eph 3:17-18
(m) 2 Pet 1:10
(n) Rom 5:1-2,5; Rom 14:17; Rom 15:13; Eph 1:3-4; Ps 4:6-7; Ps 119:32
(o) 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 6:1-2; Titus 2:11-12,14; 2 Cor 7:1; Rom 8:1,12; 1 John 3:2-3; Ps 130:4; 1 John 1:6-7

4. True believers may have the assurance of their salvation divers ways shaken, diminished, and intermitted; as, by negligence in preserving of it, by falling into some special sin which woundeth the conscience and grieveth the Spirit; by some sudden or vehement temptation, by God’s withdrawing the light of his countenance, and suffering even such as fear him to walk in darkness and to have no light:(p) yet are they never utterly destitute of that seed of God, and life of faith, that love of Christ and the brethren, that sincerity of heart, and conscience of duty, out of which, by the operation of the Spirit, this assurance may, in due time, be revived;(q) and by the which, in the meantime, they are supported from utter despair.(r)

(p) Ps 51:8,12,14; Eph 4:30-31; Ps 77:1-10; Ps 31:22; Matt 26:69-72; Luke 22:31-34
(q) 1 John 3:9; Luke 22:32; Ps 51:8,12; Ps 73:15
(r) Mic 7:7-9; Jer 32:40; Isa 54:7-14; 2 Cor 4:8-10

I don’t think language could be plainer. It is true we don’t believe a person can be assured of eternal salvation simply by virtue of a public profession of faith he has made. John wrote his first epistle to professed believers so that they might know they know God. In other words, he wrote to them that they might obtain assurance of salvation. If every believer possessed assurance, John’s epistle would have been unnecessary. Still, this epistle along with other biblical passages makes it clear that assurance of salvation is possible for the child of God.