Archive for June, 2013


“Enabled to Believe?”

I need help understanding a concept I have encountered quite a few times lately. It is the idea that all sinners are given the ability to believe. No one seems to know exactly when this enabling occurred or occurs for all sinners. No one seems to be able to point to a Scripture verse that indicates that such an enabling occurs. Even if one should concede that John 12:32 refers to the drawing to every individual without exception to Christ, which, of course, I do not, there are still several unanswered questions that render this an untenable position. One would assume, since this drawing is mentioned in connection with Jesus’ crucifixion, that it would be related in some way to the news of that crucifixion. The problem with that idea is that not everyone has heard the gospel. How can a person be drawn to a Savior about whom he has never heard? One could argue that the drawing about which Jesus spoke occurs whenever the gospel is proclaimed, but that would make it less than universal. Additionally, Jesus had already made it clear that it is the Father who draws, and that EVERYONE who thus hears and learns from the Father comes to him [Jesus] (Jn. 6:45).

If this “enablement to believe” occurs when sinners are born, why do the biblical writers consistently describe sinners universally as recalcitrantly entrenched in their resolve to continue in their hostility against God? Where in Scripture do we find an example of a person who clearly has been enabled to believe the gospel, but continues in his rebellion against God and in his unbelief? If such an enablement is a reality, why do we not find it described in any theological passage in the New Testament Scriptures?

Perhaps I have misunderstood what these folks are saying, but it appears to me that “enablement to believe” would involve the removal of all the obstacles that keep sinners from saving faith. If this enablement is universal, then all the obstacles to saving faith must be removed from everyone without exception. What are the obstacles that must be [or must have been] removed from the life of every sinner?

1. Sinners don’t seek after God (Psa. 14:2-3). Like our first parents, we run and hide from God rather than running to him and seeking his mercy, we run from him. One would assume that “enablement to believe” would reverse this pattern and cause all without exception to seek God diligently.

2. Sinners suppress God’s truth wherever we are confronted with it (Rom. 1:18). We love darkness rather than the light. We hate the light and will not come to the light (see-John 3:19-20). One would assume that “enablement to believe” would have to reverse this prevalent tendency among sinners so that all would love truth and light wherever we encountered it and hate error and darkness wherever it presented itself.

3. Sinners don’t want to come to Jesus that we might have life (See- John 5:40). In this chapter Jesus presented four barricades to faith. People don’t believe because they don’t have God’s love remaining in them [sinners don’t love God] (v. 42), People prefer the honor that comes from other people more than they value God’s approval (v. 44), People don’t believe the Scriptures (vv. 46-47). The ultimate reality is that sinners don’t believe because they don’t want to believe.
When Jesus and the biblical writers tell us that sinners cannot come to Jesus, they do not mean that sinners have somehow been mentally, emotionally and volitionally incapacitated so that they cannot reason, feel, or choose. Sinners are not stocks and stones who have no will at all. They make decisions every day. Instead, they mean sinners cannot come to Jesus simply because they have no desire to do so. They cannot come because they will not come. A person cannot choose that for which he has absolutely no desire and to which he is absolutely averse.
One would have to assume that “enablement to believe” would have to involve the complete reversal of the sinner’s desires. Such a sinner would have to become a lover of God, seek his approval above all others, believe his Word, and desire to come to Jesus that he might have life.

4. Sinners in a state of nature regard the gospel as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18) and do not welcome the things of the Spirit of God (1 Cor. 2:14). This is a great barrier to faith. “Enablement to believe” would have to involve a change in this attitude. Everyone who is thus enabled would have to begin to regard the gospel as God’s wisdom and begin to welcome the truths received by God’s Spirit.

5. Sinners in a state of nature are spiritually dead toward God (Eph. 2:1), and having their understanding darkened are alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them. They are described as being past feeling (See Eph. 4:17-19).

One would assume that “enablement to believe” would have to involve resurrection from this spiritual death and a reversal of the entire condition Paul describes in this passage.

6. Sinners are hostile toward God (Rom. 8:7). “Enablement to believe” would have to involve a radical reversal of this hostility.

I could continue, but I think the reader probably gets the picture by now. My question is where do the biblical writers give the slightest indication that God enables every sinner to believe by accomplishing such reversals in them? The obvious answer to anyone who has an ear to hear and a heart to understand is that God does effect such a reversal in the hearts of those who are effectually called by the gospel. There are several metaphors that biblical writers employ to describe the enablement we are discussing. For example, this change [usually referred to as “regeneration”] is called “new birth”[birth from above], “circumcision of the heart,” “resurrection,” “creation, “ “baptism,” “deliverance from the prison,” “heart transplant” etc. In not one of these is the subject active. He is always acted on.

John clearly tells us that “those who received him” (John 1:12) were “born of God.” Being born of God was clearly the cause of faith.

Finally, consider the term born/begotten of God in John’s first Epistle. It is unclear whether John intended to represent God’s work of grace in the sinner’s heart as begetting this new life or giving birth to it. In either case, it is clear John intended his readers to understand this work of God as initiating all that is righteous and holy in the believer’s life. He uses the term in the following verses; 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:1, 4, 18. In each case, He uses the perfect tense of the verb, a tense whose action occurred in the past with results continuing into the present. In each case, John represents this act of begetting/birthing as causing present actions or characteristics in the believer’s life. In none of these cases would it be reasonable to conclude the present actions or characteristics in the believer’s life in any way caused this begetting or birthing experience. Consider the following chart that shows these tenses in terms of cause and effect. In each case the cause is that these are “born of God.” In every case the effect follows being born of God. Those who are born of God–

2:29 practice righteousness
3:9 do not practice sin cannot go on sinning
4:7 love
5:4 overcome the world
5:18 keep themselves and the wicked one does not touch them.

There is one verse we did not list in this cause/effect chart. I deliberately omitted it because I want you first to consider the relationship between having been born of God and the effects of God’s work carefully. Is there any question in your mind that in all these effects, being “born of God” was the preceding cause? Now I want you to consider the identical grammatical construction in 1 John 5:1. John wrote, “Everyone who is believing that Jesus is the Christ, has been born of God. . . .” Based on the pattern we observed in the above chart, can anyone reasonably argue that faith is an act that moves God to regenerate a sinner? Is it not clear instead that being born of God is the antecedent cause of a believer’s faith?

In the absence of biblical texts that give the slightest indication that God enables all sinners to believe, the proponents of this view often retreat to the “mystery” defense. “We don’t have a shred of Scripture to support our view because it is a ‘mystery.” Of course, this is true but not in the sense they mean it. It is true in the sense that we would never have known it apart from divine revelation. But, the answer to the question, “Why do some believe while others remain obdurate?” is clearly revealed in the Scriptures. Consider just one passage that gives us the answer to this “mystery.”

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:6). The same God who spoke and the universe came into being, speaks again through the gospel and brings the new creation into being. There is no evidence whatsoever that God produces this new creation in every sinner. When he enables sinners to believe, they believe.


Response to “free graceful”

I want to offer my sincerest apologies to any who may have come to this blog expecting to find my response to freegracefull’s “answers” to a series of questions I asked him. In my opinion, his responses are so lame as not to merit an argument against them. He seems to base much of his argument on his abysmal misinterpretation of Romans 1. I have written sufficiently here to rebut any argument he has made. I will be happy to entertain any questions or objections you wish to pose, but please follow the rules for commenting. For example, don’t accuse me as he did of believing in “double predestination.”

I usually have difficulty knowing to whom I am responding since some of these folks seem a bit hesitant to truly identify themselves. The quote below to which I will respond is from a person who calls himself “drew” which I believe is short for “Andrew.” At any rate, since his comment, at a couple of points, seems to be virtually the same as that of “Freegracefull,” I thought it might be appropriate to comment on it here. The following is his statement and my response to it.

Men left in ther dead state are unable in themselves to come to repentance and believe the Gospel. I will agree with this. How does this prove regeneration before faith though? What is it in Total Depravity that PROVES regeneration before faith?

There are, however, many verses/examples that plainly teach faith before regeneration and God drawing a sinner to Himself before regeneration. If you want I will supply more, but here are a few:
The story of Cornelius: Acts 10, where Cornelius and his household were very obviously NOT regenerated until the end of the chapter. If anyone claims otherwise I would like to hear how they come to such a ridiculous conclusion. Again, a PLAIN SENSE reading of Scripture leaves no other conclusion.
Galatians 3:2 “This only would I learn of you, did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?”

The obvious biblical answer to Paul’s query is indeed: “we received the Spirit by faith”. I do not see how anyone can argue otherwise from a plain sense reading of this verse.
So if Galatians 3:2 is true (and it must be if we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture) then it is a pretty good blow to the doctrine of regeneration before faith. How can the Spirit regenerate us to have faith if we receive the Spirit through faith in the first place?

I know you will curl your lip and sneer at this, but from the above I conclude that a dead sinner is actually enabled by God to have faith to be regenerated. How this happens is a mystery and a work of the Holy Spirit, yes, even in the heart of a dead sinner.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:19-20).

The above is referring to a TOTALLY DEPRAVED SINNER. Who is without excuse because even the very invisible attributes of God are clearly perceived by unregenerate man in the natural order of things. If unregenerate man is without excuse, this implies a work in his heart outside of regeneration that draws him to God/Christ.
What a precious gift that God would enable us through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and power of the Holy Spirit even before we are regenerated. This makes salvation a WILLFUL, VOLITIONAL ACCEPTANCE of Christ and a ONE TIME event. This is where your Total Depravity (the way Calvinists describe it) falls flat. God will hold everyone accountable for the decision they made for Christ.
We can get into every point of TULIP if you want. But since you brought up the Canons of Dort I thought I would respond to this one.


You make an interesting argument you make. You have stated that God enables the sinner to have faith to be regenerated. I assume you mean God gives this ability to all dead sinners. You have clearly covered your backside by stating that this is a mystery. It is a mystery indeed since the Word of God which you seem to accept as your authority never says a single word about it.

The burden of proof is yours to show that the indwelling of the Spirit and regeneration are the same. As far as I know, these two works are never equated in the NT Scriptures. In fact, Paul clearly states that no man can say that Jesus is Lord apart from the Spirit. I am sure you know the term regeneration only occurs once in the NT in a way that even approximates the Systematic Theological term that corresponds to it. It seems that occurrence has reference to the Old Testament promise that God will replace the stony heart with a heart of flesh, put a new spirit [disposition] within AND put his Spirit within. The granting of a new disposition and the indwelling of the Spirit are stated as separate and distinct blessings. It seems to me the order is, calling/regeneration, faith, indwelling of the Spirit.

The real discussion we should be having concerns the Father’s work of calling by which he unites believers with Christ. The apostle Paul gives us to understand that everyone who is thus called will be justified. If the call in view refers merely to an invitation of the gospel, then everyone who hears the gospel message will be justified. I don’t think you will be willing to accept that conclusion. If you reject that, the only alternative is to believe that God’s internal call effects justification every single time he issues it.
None but those called in this way will be justified and only those thus called will be justified. There is no question but that every person must choose and that God will judge him for his choices. The question still remains as to why some make the right choice and others make the wrong choice. If God raises all up to a neutral state, how is it that some believe the gospel and others do not? The only answer I can think of is that though all are equal, some are more equal than others.

If God enables all sinners to have faith, that would imply that no sinner continues in his hostility toward God and no sinner continues to have his understanding darkened being alienated to the life of God through the ignorance that is in him. Would it not indicate that no sinner is past feeling and no sinner has given himself over to unbridled lusts? Every sinner is now in a state of neutrality toward God. There is no longer any negative influence persuading the sinner to reject the gospel.

I would be interested in seeing one verse of Scripture that indicates that such is the case. Paul indicates that the Jews go on considering the gospel a stumbling block and the Greeks go on considering it foolishness, but to those who are called, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. It doesn’t appear to me that God had enabled either Jews or Greeks to have faith apart from the divine call.
So, in what sense does God enable sinners to have faith if they continue in their hostility toward him, continue in their love of sinning, persist in their opinion that the gospel is foolishness? Can you give me one verse that gives the slightest hint that all sinners are now in a state of neutrality toward God?
Perhaps I have misunderstood what you mean by being enabled to have faith. Does it mean that God has removed the sinner’s hostility toward him? Does it mean that sinners are ambivalent about sin? Who are the biblical writers describing when they talk about recalcitrant sinners who are bent on sinning? Who are those who are dead in trespasses and sins? Who are those who walk according to the course of this world and obey the wicked one? One wonders what these people would have been like if God hadn’t enabled them to have faith.

Re: Romans one, there is no disagreement that fallen sinners continue to have the physical ability to see what God has made and to reason from design to designer and from effect to cause etc. Sinners know God exists and that they must give an account to him. Additionally, sinners know the difference between right and wrong and actually choose to do certain things contained in the Law even if they are not under the Law covenant.

The issue is what sinners invariably do with this God given revelation. Romans 1:18 teaches us that God’s wrath is is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Wherever sinners find a revelation of God’s truth, whether it be in creation, conscience, commandments or Christ’s gospel, the sinner’s reaction will always be the same. Left to ourselves, we will always suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
I want to make one final comment on the following statement:

“This makes salvation a WILLFUL, VOLITIONAL ACCEPTANCE of Christ and a ONE TIME event. This is where your Total Depravity (the way Calvinists describe it) falls flat. God will hold everyone accountable for the decision they made for Christ.”

Aside from the fact that I don’t know the difference between “willful” and “volitional,” I am not sure what the significance of this statement is contra the Calvinists’ position. If he means that justification before God only occurs once and that it comes through faith alone which is not only an act of the intellect and emotions but also a volitional decision, we would agree wholeheartedly. If he means that faith is a one time proposition and that once we get it behind us we can move on to other things, I would, of course, disagree. If he thinks Calvinsts don’t believe God will hold everyone accountable for any decisions we have made, perhaps he should write less and study more.


How Meat Eaters Live

5:13-14–for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

In these verses our writer further distinguishes those who live on milk from those who digest solid food in relation to their ability to handle properly the Word of God which he calls “the word of righteousness.” I understand the “word of righteousness” to mean that revelation of the divine will that defines for us what righteousness is and instructs and motivates us to walk in righteous paths.

It seems the immature are always in crisis; always running from one counselor to another, searching for answers in the latest self-help book, but always confused about what they should believe and how they should act. Often the reason they fail to discover the proper path is they have been shown the proper paths before but each time rejected them. Thus, they have developed patterns of behavior that have incapacitated them for right thinking and acting. Thus, they are unskillful in the word of righteousness.

The mature, on the other hand, know the paths of right thinking and acting without having to scurry about frantically searching for a Bible verse to fit their latest crisis. Their powers of discernment have been trained by constant practice. They have practiced obeying the Word of God so consistently that knowledge of the right paths and willingness to follow them has almost become second nature to them.

Years ago when I was in Seminary a young Oriental woman who was studying in the same Seminary approached me one Friday morning and suggested that since we both lived in the same general neighborhood and both lived quite a distance from the Seminary we might want to consider car-pooling. I agreed and we decided she would pick me up at my apartment the following Monday morning. As I was fastening my seatbelt, she announced to me that she and her husband had purchased the car she was driving and she had spent the entire weekend learning to drive the five speed transmission vehicle. Mind you we were making our way toward the seminary at the peak of rush hour traffic, through a northern suburb of Washington, D.C. I noticed that every time she needed to change gears, she would take her eyes off the road and look at the shift knob to be sure she was moving it to the right position. I was relieved when we reached the belt-way and she didn’t need to shift anymore. She did quite well until we reached our exit. Traveling at the rate of about 65 miles per hour, she depressed the clutch but did not gear down or gently use the break to decrease our speed. Then suddenly, realizing that we were traveling much too fast to make the curve, she released the clutch pedal and slammed on the break. This sent us into a spin. In the kind Providence of God we were able to avoid crashing into either another vehicle or the guardrail, and I volunteered to do all the driving for the rest of the semester.

I suspect she became a fine driver after several additional months of practice. All she needed was to be trained by constant practice so that her responses to emergent situations would come naturally. I seldom if ever look at the gear shift knob or think about when to change from one gear to another or when to depress the clutch pedal. Why? Because I have been driving for many more years than I like to admit, and driving has become second nature to me.

This is the way mature believers live the Christian life. When we find ourselves careening into the slippery curves of life, we should not have to run to find our Bibles and frantically search for verses that tell us what to do and how to act in our crisis situation. We should be so accustomed to living according to the word of righteousness that discerning between good and evil is second nature to us.

The above is an except from a Commentary on Hebrews I have been writing. I eventually hope to publish it online on Kindle Books or in a similar venue. If any of you or any of your acquaintances can give me any instruction re: formatting for ebooks from Word, I would great appreciate your help.


Justification, Sanctification, Faith and Perseverance

I thought it might be helpful to state a series of propositions about justification, sanctification, faith and perseverance in an effort to clarify what we believe in relation to these doctrines and how they relate to one another. Although I have not provided texts of Scripture to support each of these statements, I believe each of them is supported by God’s revelation understood in its proper context. Please consider each of them in the light of the Scriptures. I am happy to entertain comments, questions, or objections to any of them.

1. Justification before God is a judicial declaration that occurs once for all through faith in God’s promise that whoever calls on the Lord’s name will be saved.
2. Justification imputes a God designed and therefore God approved righteousness [for this reason it is referred to as “the righteousness of God” or better “a God righteousness”] to sinners who deserve his wrath.
3. Justification has nothing to do with any personal righteousness that is produced by the Spirit in the believer’s life.
4. Jesus has fully satisfied all the demands of God’s law (obedience for a declaration of righteousness and death as the penalty for disobedience) and has therefore been declared righteous based on the strictest terms of the law. Paul told his readers “the doers of the Law will be justified.” The only doer of the law who ever lived was Jesus. By his perfect, continual and inward obedience to that Law, God declared him to be righteous in his sight. Because those in whose place he stood, as their head and representative, had broken the Law and were liable to its curses, he became a curse for us and thus exhausted the penal sanctions of the divine Law.
5. God accepts believers as righteous in his sight because we are united to him who is righteous in his sight. This standing in righteousness cannot progress any more than the spotless righteousness of Christ itself can increase. He bases his declaration on a righteousness that is totally outside us.
6. Sanctification, although completely distinct from justification, cannot be separated from it since both result from the believer’s union with Christ. The believer is justified because Jesus died for him; the believer is sanctified definitively because he died with Christ. Justification does not, in itself, produce sanctification, nor does sanctification produce justification. In that sense, these two works of God’s grace are completely distinct. They cannot be separated in that sense that there will never be a person whom God has justified whom he has not set free from sin’s dominion and in whom he is not carrying on his sanctifying work.
7. Both the declaration of righteousness and the ongoing work of sanctification are works of God’s grace. In justification, he is concerned to bestow on us a righteous standing; in sanctification he is concerned to work in us a practical holiness. Jesus’ redemptive accomplishments secured not only the believer’s justification but also his sanctification.
8. Though believers become partakers of both justification and sanctification through faith, sanctification is not a work that is accomplished through faith alone in the sense that the believer’s works of obedience are not involved. In response to the Spirit’s continuing work within believers, we are responsible to perfect holiness or sanctification in the fear of God.
9. Justification never increases or progresses. It is as complete as it will ever be the first moment a person believes the gospel. Sanctification progresses and will never be complete as long as we remain in the body. No matter how holy a person may become, his sanctification can never make him any more righteous in God’s presence than he was the first moment he believed.
10. Genuine faith results from God’s work of grace in the sinner’s heart. Not every experience of “faith” is genuine. Genuine and spurious “faiths” may appear so similar that the difference between them will be indiscernible. The only way to distinguish the genuine from the spurious is that genuine faith continues and produces the fruit of obedience.
11. The believer’s perseverance in faith adds nothing to his perfect standing. Persevering in faith is simply what true believer’s do. Those who turn back lose nothing they ever possessed. A faith that fails to persevere was not true faith at all. A person who began with a profession of faith in Christ but then turns back and begins to trust something or someone other than Christ, never genuinely trusted Christ to begin with and was never justified.
12. The apostles Paul and James did not contradict one another in their teaching. They were simply concerned with different questions. The question Paul was answering concerned what justifies before God, personal works of obedience to the Law or faith in Christ alone. His answer was that sinners are justified through faith alone, apart from the works of the Law. The question James was answering concerned the nature of that faith through which sinners are justified. Is justifying faith a dead faith or a faith that works and obeys? On this question, both apostles were in perfect agreement. Paul spoke of justifying faith as “faith that works by love.” Paul was concerned with what justifies; James was concerned with who are the justified. Are the justified those who “say they believe” or those whose faith gives evidence of itself by persevering obedience to Christ? The classic statement on this issue was that justification is through faith alone, but it is never through a faith that is alone.


Who is the Liar?

Warning: Please don’t read this unless you are interested in knowing the truth.

Paul Dohse Sr. posted the following accusations against Calvinsts on his blog yesterday. This is a serious matter since he has accused us of sinning against God in Lying about our actual beliefs. Why don’t you be the judge about who is misrepresenting the truth.

“The Dirty Dozen: 12 Things That the Lying Calvinists Want You to Assume,”

1.Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saintThs also.
2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.
3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?
4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.
5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?
6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this, “already-but not yet.” The promises of God are “conditional.”
7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.
8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.
9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.
10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”
11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.
12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”
If Calvinists want to deny this, have them explain to you what all of the aforementioned para-biblical expressions mean. If they don’t mean what is stated above, what do they mean? Perhaps there is a perfectly logical explanation for all 12.

1. Total Depravity pertains to the unregenerate only. No, they mean the saints also.
On this point, I would agree with Paul D. that some, e.g., Tullian Tchividjian, have written that believers are still totally depraved.

What Paul has failed to reveal is the context in which Pastor Tchividijan made this statement and the way in which he defined the term as he was using it.
In my view, Pastor Tchividijan should simply have used the term “remaining sin.” I have written about this matter on my blog. I believe he is correct in stating that every facet of the human personality continues to be affected by sin. If that is all a person means by the term “total depravity,” I would have to agree that believers continue to be totally depraved. If defined as I have done in the following definition, then it is inaccurate to refer to believers as “totally depraved.”
Perhaps I can best define what I mean by total depravity by first stating the negative.
By “total depravity” I do not mean:
1. Sinners act as badly as they are capable of acting.
2. Sinners are incapable of deeds that are good in the sight of other people.
3. Sinners are incapable of rational thought.
4. Sinners are incapable of recognizing the logical relationship between cause and effect and design and designer.
5. Sinners have no consciousness of the existence of God and their guilt before him.
6. Sinners have no ability to understand the facts of the gospel and give mental assent to it.
7. Sin has totally destroyed God’s image in the unregenerate.
8. Sinners are incapable of acting morally. Not every unregenerate sinner is perverted and degenerate.
By “total depravity” I mean:
1. The nature of every person, in Adam, has been radically affected by the fall so that every person is, at heart, equal to every other person in estrangement from God. If one sinner acts better than another it is due to God’s common, restraining grace alone.
2. Sinful nature has radically affected every facet of the sinner’s personality. The result is that he does not think rightly about God and the gospel; he does not feel right emotions toward God and the gospel; and he does not make right choices with reference to God and the gospel. Every facet of the sinner’s personality is controlled by his sinful nature.
3. Though sinners are capable of understanding the facts of the gospel, they regard it as foolish and weak. They may know truth but do not welcome it (1 Cor. 2:14). They do not receive the love of the truth that they might be saved (2 Thess. 2:10).
4. Sinners are hostile toward God and the gospel. Whenever they are confronted with God’s self-revelation their response will always be to suppress it and turn from it. Sinners love darkness rather than light because their deeds are evil and everyone who does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest their deeds should be exposed (John 3: 19-20). A person will never choose that for which he has no desire and to which he is totally averse.
To the best of my knowledge, this is the way Calvinists have consistently defined “total depravity.” Accordingly, most Calvinists would not refer to believers as “totally depraved.” What I would agree with is the idea that believers in a regenerate state have no ability to progress in sanctification independently. If God’s Spirit does not continue to prompt our desire to obey God and enable us to do so, we can do nothing.

2. Sola Fide (faith alone) only pertains to Justification. No, it pertains to sanctification also.
As I indicated in response to the first accusation, believers do not act independently in the process of sanctification. In reality, sanctification must be by faith since its goal is to please God. Hebrews 11: 6 informs us that, “without faith, it is impossible to please Him [God]. . . .” In fact, the entire chapter that has come to be known as “the faith chapter” deals with the obedience of Old Testament believers who, subsequent to believing God for justification, acted in obedience to God through faith.

How is it that believers are to account themselves truly dead to sin and alive to God if not by faith (Rom. 6:11)? How is it that believers are to feast on Christ, the true bread that came down from heaven, if not by faith (John 6:53-58)? Here, Jesus uses the present tense that indicates continuing action. The believer in Christ doesn’t eat once and then move on to his own efforts. He continues to feast on Christ as long as he lives. How are we to behold the Lord’s glory as in a mirror if not by faith (2 Cor. 3:18)? How are we to rest on God’s promises, and as a result prefect holiness in the fear of God, if not by faith (2 Cor. 7:1)? How are we to walk by the Spirit, if not by faith (Gal. 5:16)? Paul wrote, “For we walk [live our lives habitually] by faith not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7). How are we to take up and put on the whole armor of God if not by faith (Eph. 6:11)? How can a person “joyfully accept the plundering of his goods, knowing that he has a better and enduring possession for himself in heaven,” if not by faith (Heb. 10:34)?

If the issue is whether believers are called, in the process of sanctification, actively to obey Christ, then, without controversy, sanctification is not by faith alone since it draws within its scope the believer’s acts obedience. What I would deny is that these acts of obedience can be rightly performed apart from faith. It is only through faith that we can produce the kind of obedience that pleases God. This is the clear teaching of Hebrews 11, the so called faith chapter.

3. Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) means “alone” and not other “subordinate” truth that also has authority though “subordinate.” No, creeds and confessions also have authority; it is not Scripture “alone.” What does “alone” mean?

I am willing to concede that there are those of the Reformed persuasion who seem to follow their creeds in preference to the Scriptures. For example, the New Testament Scriptures reveal absolutely nothing about the practice of infant “baptism.” There is neither a command for nor an example of such a practice in the Scriptures; it is practiced because of “good and necessary consequences.”

Confessions have some “authority” in the sense that they inform us concerning the doctrines the Church has consistently held through-out the centuries. If someone has gathered wood for a campfire, it makes no sense to scatter the firewood and then try to collect it again. Believers throughout Church history have thought through critical issues and have left their findings on record for our instruction and edification. It makes no sense to ignore those conclusions. In a multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Still, if the doctrines set forth in those creeds and confessions cannot be drawn out of the Scriptures by sound exegetical methods, we must reject them. Our final authority in all matters of faith and practice must be the Scriptures.

4. Solus Christus (Christ alone) only regards the way to the Father. Not so, Christ is the only way to understanding all of reality. This was the crux of Luther’s Theology of the Cross.

Perhaps it will come as a shock to Paul, but Luther was not a Calvinist. That said, it is important to understand what Paul D. is talking about. In order to have that understanding, one would have to have a quotation from a Calvinistic confession that stated such a doctrine. It is not enough to show that some Calvinists teach this; he needs to show that this has been the historic view held by Calvinists.

I must confess I have difficulty addressing this accusation since I am not sure what Paul or the Calvinists he is citing mean by it. Nuclear physics is a reality. Do Paul and the Calvinists he cites mean Calvinists believe Christ is the only way to understand the mechanics of the material universe? If they do, I think they would have difficulty demonstrating that contention. There are many intelligent scientists who are ignorant of Christ yet understand the reality of the facts they deal with every day quite well.

It is a reality that if I turn the ignition key to my car, the engine will start. Must I know Christ to understand that reality? Obviously not!

If, on the other hand, by reality they refer to the reality behind the reality, that is a different issue. Neither the material universe nor the “natural” laws that govern it would have come into existence or continue d to exist apart from Christ. Though God has granted unconverted people the intelligence to understand how natural laws work and how elements of the created universe interact with one another, apart from Christ, there can be no clear understanding of the reality behind the reality. Paul wrote,

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent (Col. 1:16-18).

Everything was created through him and for him. Everything coheres because of him. If he did not exist, none of the natural occurrences we have come to take for granted would continue. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that he bears the universe along by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3).

Additionally, the Word of God would be enigmatic apart from him. Prior to his incarnation, every type and promise of the Old Testament pointed forward to his first coming. By that, I do not mean that every verse of the Old Testament was about him. It is just silly to make such a claim. What I do mean is that the entire flow of history has been moving toward him and finds its fulfillment in him. His coming introduced the “end [goal] of the ages.” Everything prior to his coming looks forward to him. Everything after his coming looks back to his accomplishments. Every command of the New Testament finds its basis in his redeeming work. We are to do what we do because he did what he did. Every time we partake of the Lord’s Table, we look back to his death and forward to his second coming.

I want to make comment about the charge that we deny the Trinity by understanding Christ’s centrality. We believe “there are three persons in the godhead, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; these three are one God, the same in substance, equal in power and glory.” (WSC). Please note especially that these three persons are EQUAL in power and glory. We would never suggest that one person of the godhead deserves more honor than another or deny that any person of the godhead was a lesser Deity than another.

What is clear in Scripture is that in the economy of redemption at times it is the function of one or more persons of the Trinity to focus attention on and bring glory to one person of the Trinity above another. For example, during the period we call Jesus’ humiliation, it was his clear mission to focus attention on and bring glory to his Father. He summed up his mission in these words, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. He has expounded the Father to us.

Since the giving of the Spirit on the day of Pentecost it has been the ministry of the Holy Spirit to bear witness to Christ and to exalt him. It is significant that Peter did not preach about the Holy Spirit on that occasion [Pentecost]. Instead, prompted by the Holy Spirit, his message centered on Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, ascension and session at the Father’s right hand. It is his work to prompt us to confess that Jesus is Lord. We center on Christ in obedience to the Holy Spirit’s ministry.

5. Progressive sanctification sanctifies us and is separate from justification. No, they say, “never separate” but “distinct.” Then why not call it “progressive justification”? Why not clearly say that we are sanctified by justification?

The main reason we would not call progressive sanctification “progressive justification” is that these are two entirely separate matters. Apart from motivating our obedience, justification is completely distinct from sanctification. The only reason we say they cannot be separated is that they both result from the believer’s union with Christ. As a result of that union, all those for whose justification Jesus died, died with him to the dominion of sin and death. All whom he justifies, he also sanctifies. “Progressive justification” would involve a person being sanctified as the basis of his justification.

6. Election predetermines our eternity. No, the elect have to persevere. The perseverance of the saints is not a characteristic of the saved, it is something that the saints have to add to their faith to complete their justification. They call this, “already-but not yet.”
This statement poses an unnecessary either/or scenario. It would be like asking whether election makes our eternal destination certain OR must sinners believe the gospel. Of course the answer to such questions is “YES!” Justification is God’s judicial declaration about believers, all the conditions of which Jesus has satisfied. The saints can add nothing to his work to complete their justification. Jesus paid it all. We do not call this the “already/not yet.” An example of the already/not yet would be “In Christ we are ALREADY glorified because we are united to him who is glorified, but we are NOT YET glorified in our experience as we will be when he returns.”

7. Proponents of synergistic sanctification are mistaken. No, Calvinists think they are lost and promote a false gospel.

This would, of course, depend on the definition of “synergistic sanctification.” If, by this term, we understand the biblical truth that both the Spirit and the saint are involved in the process of sanctification, we don’t even believe it is errant, much less that those who propound it are promoting a false gospel. John Murray would be considered by most to be a Calvinist. This is what he wrote about what would generally be referred to as “synergistic sanctification.”

While we are constantly dependent upon the supernatural agency of the Holy Spirit, we must also take into account of the fact that sanctification is a process that draws within its scope the conscious life of the believer. The sanctified are not passive or quiescent in this process. Nothing shows this more clearly than the exhortation of the apostle: “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Phil. 2: 12, 13). . .God’s working in us is not suspended because we work, nor our working suspended because God works. Neither is the relation strictly one of co-operation as if God did his part and we did ours so that the conjugation or coordination of both produced the required result. God works in us and we also work. But the relation is that because God works we work. All working out of salvation on our part is the effect of God’s working in us, not the willing to the exclusion of the doing and not the doing to the exclusion of the willing, but both the willing and the doing. And this working of God is directed to the end of enabling us to will and to do that which is well pleasing to him. . . .The more persistently active we are in working, the more persuaded we may be that all the energizing grace and power is of God.

8. Spiritual growth is about change. Absolutely not. Calvinists believe we experience manifestations of Christ as we live by faith alone.

There is no question that the Westminster Confession of Faith is a Calvinistic confession. In answering this accusation, I can do no better than to simply quote its statement on sanctification. The Westminster Theologians wrote:

1. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by his Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
2. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence ariseth a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
3. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part doth overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

I don’t know about you, but that sounds a great deal like growth and change to me.

9. The imputation of Christ’s righteousness is only imputed for our justification. No, they believe it is imputed to our sanctification as well.

The best way to answer this accusation is simply to say that it reveals Paul’s lack of understanding of justification and sanctification. Imputation belongs to a judicial realm and is only appropriate to justification. The concern of sanctification has nothing to do with imputation. Instead, it is concerned with the elimination of internal and external sin from the believer’s life. Justification is concerned with righteousness; sanctification is concerned with purity of heart and life. Justification is a legal declaration about the believer. God’s work in justification is totally outside the believer. God’s work of sanctification [progressive] is totally within the believer.

10. We should learn what the Bible teaches and apply it to our lives. No, they believe we should look for the cross in every verse which results in Christ manifestations in the Spirit realm. They call this, “the imperative command is grounded in the indicative event.”

Wrong again. Of course we believe in applying what the Bible teaches to our lives. It is only that we believe the Bible is more about what Jesus has done than it is about what we are doing. Our application of biblical injunctions is based on the reality that we have, by Jesus’ redemptive work, been set free from our bondage to sin. This is what we mean by imperative command being grounded in the indicative event. Indicative–You have been freed from your slavery—Imperative–Stop living like slaves.

11. Calvinists don’t believe in absolution. Not so. Calvin believed Christians need a perpetual forgiveness of sins that can only be found in the church. Augustine and Luther propagated this as well.

Of course, Calvinists believe in absolution as do Arminians and Semi-pelagians . Absolution simply means “an absolving , or setting free from guilt, sin, or penalty; forgiveness of an offense. What we don’t believe is that such absolution can be conferred by anyone but God.

As to Calvin’s teachings, one must understand that Calvinists are no more followers of Calvin than Arminians are followers of Arminius. Most Calvinists have greater disagreement with Calvin that agreement. For example, very few if any modern Calvinists would advocate burning heretics or witches. I know of few Calvinists who would advocate the wedding of Church and State [there are some Theonomists who would come close. Since our views of ecclesiology would radically differ from his, some of his statements concerning forgiveness in the church etc. sound strange to our ears. Remember that in Calvin’s construct, being outside the Church was to be an unbelieving heretic. Everyone who was a citizen of the city was also a member of the Church. The only kind of person who was outside the church had been excommunicated as an unbeliever. Thus, for him, forgiveness was to be found in the Church. For him, that would be the same as saying forgiveness belongs to believers [and in his case, probably to their covenant children].
Additionally, we always need to keep in mind the context in which Calvin wrote. His controversies and his opponents were not ours. Often his remarks, taken out of their historical context can sound strange to our ears.
The quotation to which Paul D. makes reference here is from Calvin’s Commentary on 1 John 1. It is as follows:

Secondly, this passage shews that the gratuitous pardon of sins is given us not only once, but that it is a benefit perpetually residing in the Church, and daily offered to the faithful. For the Apostle here addresses the faithful; as doubtless no man has ever been, nor ever will be, who can otherwise please God, since all are guilty before him; for however strong a desire there may be in us of acting rightly, we always go haltingly to God. Yet what is half done obtains no approval with God. In the meantime, by new sins we continually separate ourselves, as far as we can, from the grace of God. Thus it is, that all the saints have need of the daily forgiveness of sins; for this alone keeps us in the family of God.
By saying, from all sin, he intimates that we are, on many accounts, guilty before God; so that doubtless there is no one who has not many vices. But he shews that no sins prevent the godly, and those who fear God, from obtaining his favor. He also points out the manner of obtaining pardon, and the cause of our cleansing, even because Christ expiated our sins by his blood; but he affirms that all the godly are undoubtedly partakers of this cleansing.
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.
The sum of what is said, then, is, that the faithful know of a certainty, that they are accepted by God, because he has been reconciled to them through the sacrifice of the death of Christ. And sacrifice includes cleansing and satisfaction. Hence the power and efficiency of these belong to the blood of Christ alone.
Please notice what he is arguing against. It is not that justification is a once for all declaration of the believer’s righteousness on the basis of Christ redeeming works. He is arguing against the sophists–
The whole of his doctrine has been wickedly perverted by the sophists; for they imagine that pardon of sins is given us, as it were, in baptism. They maintain that there only the blood of Christ avails; and they teach, that after baptism, God is not otherwise reconciled than by satisfactions. They, indeed, leave some part to the blood of Christ; but when they assign merit to works, even in the least degree, they wholly subvert what John teaches here, as to the way of expiating sins, and of being reconciled to God. For these two things can never harmonize together, to be cleansed by the blood of Christ, and to be cleansed by works: for John assigns not the half, but the whole, to the blood of Christ.

He is arguing not that believers must be justified every day, but that our justification is based not on the blood of Christ and our works, but on the blood of Christ alone.

We Calvinists believe in a perpetual forgiveness, not a repetitive justification. We do not believe we must be justified again every time we sin. We do believe that Jesus, in his intercessory ministry presents the efficacy of his once for all sacrifice before the throne of God’s grace for our perpetual forgiveness.

12. Christ works within us. Only BY faith, and faith only exists in the object that it is placed in. Calvinists believe that when the work of Christ moves from outside of us to inside of us that it makes “sanctification the ground of our justification.” The contemporary doctrinal term for Calvinism is “the centrality of the objective gospel outside of us.”

I will give Paul the benefit of the doubt here. I could accuse him of deliberately misquoting but perhaps he is just being sloppy. Perhaps I am mistake, but I believe the quotation to which he is alluding is from John Piper. Piper wrote, “When the ground of justification moves from Christ outside of us to the work of Christ inside of us, the gospel (and the human soul) is imperiled. It is an upside down gospel.”
Please note that Piper is talking about the GROUND or BASIS of justification. He is not discussing whether God works in believers. The issue is whether we are declared righteous because we are righteous, or because another’s righteousness is imputed to us. To suggest that God justifies us because we are righteous is to return to Rome. To use this quote to suggest that Piper believes God does not work in believers is disingenuous as best.
In our day there are many voices teaching many confusing and contradictory doctrines. How are we do discern what is truth and what is error? Let me close by making a few suggestions.

1. Examine everything in the light of Scripture.
2. Don’t trust anyone who refuses to define his terms.
3. Don’t trust anyone who is unwilling to provide quotations of his opponent’s position in context.
4. Read what is actually being said, not what someone tells you is being said.
5. If you are dealing with a confessional group like Calvinists, go to their confessions. Although confessions are not authoritative in the higher sense of that term, they can give you an accurate statement of their beliefs.
6. Don’t trust anyone who wants to tell you what you believe. If a person can’t state your position to your satisfaction before commenting on it, reject them.
7. Don’t trust anyone else’s research. Always search matters for yourself.


Real Issues In Justification and Sanctification Distinguished From Paul Dohse’s Straw Man Arguments

I wrote the following to Paul Dohse Sr. in response to an “Open Letter” he had written to Frank S. Page, President of the Southern Baptist Convention. Apparently, Paul, in his delusional state, believes these people really care what he thinks and will actually read his “open letters.”

That aside, Paul actually referred to Calvinistic doctrine regarding justification as “perpetual justification” instead of “progressive justification.” I wrote him the following email regarding that characterization of our position.


It seems you have finally stated our position accurately. I would go
to the stake to defend the doctrine of “perpetual” justification.
Perpetual means “Neverceasing; continuing forever or for an unlimited time;
unfailing; everlasting; continuous.” Once God has declared believers
to be righteous in his sight, we cannot and need not do anything to
perpetuate that standing. “Through whom [Christ] we have an access
into this grace in which we stand and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” This bears no resemblance to “progressive justification.”

Paul–It’s perpetual only as long as one lives by faith alone in sanctification.

GRR–Your statement makes no sense whatsoever.

Paul–Why is that Randy? What’s so hard about the concept of keeping yourself saved by not obeying the law in “your own efforts” in sanctification because a perfect obedience is needed to maintain justification. What is so hard for you to understand about that concept?

GRR–There is nothing difficult about it except that no one believes it. You are clearly confusing concepts and statements and putting them together in a statement that is sheer nonsense.

Our correspondence has continued, but, thus far, nothing substantive has been added.

I have been trying to get into Paul’s mind for some time now, but so far I have found it to be a vast theological wasteland. Still, I believe I might have some insight into his thought processes. I could be totally wrong in my assessment, but these ideas seem to be clear from his statements:

1. Paul’s associations seem to be with the Southern Baptist Convention. Having been reared in that tradition and having had exposure to INDEPENDENT Baptists, I have some insight into the way they think. Along with other Evangelicals, those in these traditions have been trained to think of faith as a decision. It is an experience one can have and look back on fondly for the rest of one’s life. Once a person can be brought to sufficient faith for God to declare him righteous, he is set for eternity. Popular in the SBC is the idea that if a person who has made such a decision shows no evidence that he has passed from death to life, he should be considered a “carnal Christian.” He ought to be obedient to Christ, but if he isn’t, he is still considered to be a true believer. [If you would like to interact with people who believe this, you can find a ton of them at]. This “theology” was made popular by Dr. Lewis S. Chaffer, Founder and First President of Dallas Theological Seminary, and by the Scofield Reference Bible. Although I don’t have the exact quotation in front of me, as I recall Chaffer defined a “Carnal Christian” as one who had come to faith in Christ but was in every way exactly like the natural man (Chaffer, He That Is Spiritual).

The issue he and I are discussing is not truly the nature of justification, but the nature of justifying faith. For him, it appears that faith is a decision one makes to get his ticket for heaven punched. Once he has that behind him [“justification is a done deal”], he has a responsibility to be obedient to a Law that was never given to Gentiles, so that he might be sanctified. It seems clear that Paul D. believes that justification is God’s work [He even believes it occurred before the foundation of the world and obviously apart from faith]. It also seems obvious that he believes sanctification is the believer’s work. Of course, he believes once we are underway with the sanctification process, God will pitch in and give us a bit of assistance. He seems to have difficulty with the idea that both justification and sanctification are God’s work and both result from the same work of Christ. For him, the idea that justification and sanctification are always found in the same persons and flow from the same work of Christ is a conflation of these two works of God.

The issue is this—Is the faith that unites believers to Christ something that happened back there in the distant past, or is it the ongoing experience of every true child of God. Should faith be represented as a snap-shot or as a video?

The New Testament Scriptures leave no question that faith is enduring. A person who confesses faith in Christ and then begins to trust anything or anyone else, never truly trusted Christ at all. Faith that doesn’t endure isn’t faith.

It seems impossible for Paul D. to understand this idea because of his concept of faith as a one-time decision. We believers trust Jesus every day for our salvation. It is not that Jesus must be crucified over and over again or that we need to be justified any more than we were justified the first moment we believed. It is rather that the same Jesus, whose death first justified us, continues to present the efficacy of that death before his Father’s throne. He is able to save us completely and forever because he ever lives to intercede for us.

2. For some reason I have been unable to discern, Paul believes we Calvinists think it is possible for a truly justified person to lose his just standing before God. He seems to think we believe if a truly justified person makes an effort to please God in the process of sanctification, he will forfeit justification. He seems to believe this because he has confused statements Calvinists have made about justification and sanctification. Let me reproduce similar statements here and explain what we mean by them.

A. If a person professes faith in Christ but subsequently abandons that “trust” and turns from it to trust something or someone else, that person will lose both justification and sanctification.
B. Sanctification, no less than justification, must occur through faith.
C. Justification has nothing to do with an infusion of “grace” to the believer. It is based on Christ objective redemptive accomplishments and is God’s objective judicial declaration about us. In itself, it makes no internal change in the believer whatsoever.
D. Justification and sanctification cannot be separated. Both occur in the same persons. Both result from the same redemptive work of Christ.
E. The gospel is more concerned with what God has accomplished in Christ than it is about what God is doing in us.
F. It is the believer’s continuing awareness that he stands completely justified in the presence of our holy God that provides the impetus for his free approach and loving, joyful obedience to God. Knowledge of what God has accomplished in Jesus’ redemptive work does not obviate the need for the believer’s obedience subsequent to conversion. On the contrary, an increasing understanding of those accomplishments is the fuel that powers obedience.

These and similar statements have led Paul to charge the following:

A. Calvinists think if a believer makes any effort to please God in the process of sanctification, that person will lose his just standing before God.

Paul wrote, “How peculiar that Calvinism is associated with predestination, yet many of the Reformed tradition believe that we can lose our salvation.” To authenticate this claim he quoted Michael Horton from his book Christless Christianity (p. 62). Horton wrote,

Where we land on these issues is perhaps the most significant factor in how we approach our own faith and practice and communicate it to the world. If not only the unregenerate but the regenerate are always dependent at every moment on the free grace of God disclosed in the gospel, then nothing can raise those who are spiritually dead or continually give life to Christ’s flock but the Spirit working through the gospel. When this happens (not just once, but every time we encounter the gospel afresh), the Spirit progressively transforms us into Christ’s image. Start with Christ (that is, the gospel) and you get sanctification in the bargain; begin with Christ and move on to something else, and you lose both.

Anyone with one eye and half sense should be able to see that Horton meant a professed believer who does not continue to trust Christ alone for salvation [both justification and sanctification] has never come to true and saving faith in the first place. Think of the Galatian problem. These were people who had begun well, but Paul was afraid for them and for their eternal salvation because they were in danger of trusting in something other than Christ for justification. A person who turns from Christ, however noble his beginnings may have been, will never see God’s face in peace.

B. Calvinists believe the active obedience of Christ is imputed to believers for sanctification so that the believer doesn’t need to obey the commands of Scripture. He wrote,

It [gospel sanctification] makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it. It makes obedience in the sanctification process synonymous with works salvation. Therefore, it redefines Christ as a Lord that does not require obedience, and in fact, rejects it.

He also wrote, “Some call this belief monergistic substitutionary sanctification. Christ was not only a substitute for the penalty of sin; but was also, and presently is, a substitution for all our works in sanctification as well” (PPT, Apr 27, 2012).

C. Calvinists conflate justification and sanctification. They believe a person will not know if he has been truly justified until the judgment. Only then will he know if he has persevered well enough in sanctification to merit justification. He bases his view on statements like “Justification and sanctification cannot be separated, but they must be distinguished.”

He wrote,

The Reformed doctrine of our day turns truth completely upside down. It posits a final justification that is yet future; it posits the idea that Christians are not recreated into new creatures; it denies sanctification as separate from justification—making justification progressive; it teaches that the obedience of Christ replaces our obedience in sanctification; it replaces our present goal of pleasing God with a striving for a final justification; it turns study for life application into gospel contemplationism; it replaces exegesis with eisegesis; it replaces assurance through obedience with assurance through contemplationism ( Paul’s passing thoughts, Jan 14, 2003).

D. Calvinists don’t believe God accomplishes anything in the believer. The entire work of salvation is outside the believer. They teach this because they believe matter is inherently evil and therefore righteousness cannot dwell in an evil vessel. He wrote,

All righteousness , Christ, grace, etc., must remain outside of us. Nothing of grace be within. So, we have no righteousness that is our own….for sanctification. Like….for justification, it must remain outside of us. In fact, Reformed theologians believe that if grace, Christ, or any kind of valid righteousness is inside of us, that is infusing grace into us while in sanctification. And if we do that, we are making sanctification the ground of our justification (Paul’s Passing Thoughts, July 17,2012).

Let me first simply state areas in which I agree with Paul Dohse Sr. regarding the issues under discussion.
1. God expects believers to be obedient to his revealed will and is pleased with us when we obey.
2. Once a person is truly justified, nothing he can do or fail to do will affect his righteous standing before God.
3. Justification is complete the first moment we believe. It is in no sense progressive.
4. We must never confuse justification and sanctification. These are two separate and distinct works of God [I am not sure Paul believes sanctification is God’s work, though he admits God offers us “help” in the process.
5. Not only has God worked a radical change in believers in regeneration, but he continues to infuse grace to believers enabling us desire to do his will and giving us the ability to be obedient [The aspect of this with which I think Paul would agree is that God works internally in believers and not only outside of us].
6. Believers possess a righteousness that is our own. Of course, our position is that even this righteousness is produced in believers by the grace of God, through the work of the Holy Spirit.
7. Christ’s obedience does not replace our obedience in progressive sanctification.
8. Believers may enjoy and are commanded to enjoy an assurance of our acceptance before God prior to the final judgment. We don’t need to wait until the judgment to discover whether we were truly justified.
9. Sanctification is in no sense the ground or basis of our justification.
10. After conversion, believers need to move on from the most basic facts of the gospel.

I am sure there are other issues I could mention, but these seem to be the most salient. The fact is, I don’t know of any other Calvinist living or dead would disagree with any of these propositions. Now, if that is true, Paul D. must be wrong about what Calvinists believe.
I am sure Paul D. would just call what I have written “Calvinistic doublespeak,” but these are the most unambiguous and straightforward statements I can give concerning what we believe. Frankly, I am convinced that Paul doesn’t care if he is misrepresenting our position as long as he continues to have the approbation and admiration of his fawning followers. As long as he can deceive them into believing he sees things no one else can see, he will continue to distribute his bovine manure.
Now, I will list areas in which Paul and Calvinists radically disagree: [In reality, it would probably require a tome to deal with all our differences].
1. Paul believes we need the gospel to be saved [justified] but after that we don’t need the gospel anymore. I believe the good news of the believer’s standing before God, in Christ, is the soil in which he grows in grace and flourishes in sanctification. It is only when we recall that we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens into the very presence of God that we are able to approach the throne of grace boldly to find grace to meet our exigent needs.

If we should define “gospel” as what many in Baptist circles think of as “simple gospel messages,” I would have to agree that we not only need to move away from it, but I would contend it should never be proclaimed in the first place. For too many, the simple gospel message is “You are as sinner. You will go to hell if you don’t make a decision for Christ. Jesus died for you. If you will open your heart and let him come in, you can go to heaven when you die.” The reality is, that isn’t the gospel at all. Perhaps some have been converted through that message in spite of its theological inaccuracy and lack of biblical precedence, but that doesn’t qualify it as the biblical gospel.

The issue, then, is not whether we should move away from “simple evangelistic messages” to deeper truths. Few, if any, Calvinists doubt that we should. The issue is whether we should ever move away from the gospel and the experiencing of basking in the light of God’s full revelation of his gracious purposes in Christ. If God intends for believers to move away from the gospel, why would the writer to the Hebrews have told his readers to “fix their minds on Jesus, our apostle and high priest?” Why would the apostle Paul have written about gazing, with unveiled faces, on the glory of God that has been revealed in the face of Jesus Christ (see 2 Cor. 3 & 4)? Jesus spoke of the believer’s experience of grazing on him as an ongoing and never-ending experience. In fact, he stated that a person who does not enjoy such an experience has no life in him (see John 6:52-59).
2. Paul believes righteousness is defined as believing in God. He wrote,

Hence, a proper definition of righteousness is, believing in God, not perfect obedience to the law. The law has no stake at all in righteousness that justifies. It informs our righteousness, but it does not affect it: Hence, a proper definition of righteousness is, believing in God, not perfect obedience to the Law. The law has no stake at all in righteousness that justifies. It informs our righteousness, but it does not affect it: (PPT,March 18, 2013).

I believe it is impossible to define the righteousness God requires apart from divine law. I would depart from many in the Reformed camp at this point in that they believe the covenant God established with Israel at Mt. Sinai is his universal standard of righteousness for all time. If sin is defined as lawlessness, then righteousness can only be defined as obedience to law.
3. Paul believes righteousness is apart from the Law. [See his statement above.] By that, he does not merely mean that justification is apart from the sinner’s personal obedience to the law, but that justification has no relation to the law and its fulfillment whatsoever. He bases this view on a faulty understanding of Romans 3:21. Understanding “the righteousness of God” to refer to justification and following the AV translation “the righteousness of God apart from the law” instead of connecting “revealed” to apart from the law, he bases his entire view on the idea that justification is totally apart from the law, i.e., that the law could not in any way be related to justification. The problem is that if his view on righteousness and Law, the lynchpin of his entire position on this issue, is errant, his entire system falls to the ground.
This is a strange view since justification is a forensic act which, by definition, means it must be related to law. God does not declare sinners holy; he declares us righteous. That is a legal declaration. As I have stated, my view is that righteousness can only be defined in terms of law. When God revealed that he requires that people “do justice” (Micah 6:8), how would the readers of that phrase have understood that requirement? Would they not have understood that requirement in terms of conformity to God’s revealed will in the Law he had given them? If Paul D. is right, would it not seem extremely strange that Paul would have written, “. . .for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law will be justified” (Rom. 2:13)?
The Scriptures do not teach us that the Law cannot justify; it teaches us the Law cannot justify SINNERS. Any person who entered this world with a perfectly clean slate, obeyed the Law perfectly, continually and inwardly from the womb to the tomb would stand justified before God’s holy throne.
It seems to me, a better explanation of Romans 3:21, is that God’s righteousness has been revealed apart from the Law, not that God’s righteousness is apart from the Law. But, what does the apostle mean by “the righteousness of God?” This term has been the subject of much discussion. It occurs eight times in this epistle, and has been defined in ways that are not mutually exclusive. The following are some of the ways in which interpreters have understood the term: 1. God’s attribute of righteousness, 2. God’s faithfulness in keeping his covenant promises, 3. God’s method of putting sinners right with himself, 4. The bestowal of the gift of that righteousness which God approves.
I would define “the righteousness of God” as God’s method of putting sinners right with himself, in fulfillment of his covenant promises, that is in perfect accord with his righteous character. The issue the apostle is treating concerns the revelation of this righteousness, not righteousness itself. Where is this divine method fully revealed, under Law or under grace? Paul’s answer is that though the Old Testament Scriptures bear testimony to this message in types, shadows, and promises, this righteousness of God is, through faith in Jesus Christ is only fully revealed in the gospel.
4. Paul D. believes to state that “though justification and sanctification are inseparable, they are distinct” is a conflation or a fusion of justification and sanctification. In his view, such a statement must mean that a person must either obey perfectly or have a perfect obedience imputed to him in the process of sanctification, so that he will be declared righteous in the final judgment. Additionally, he believes that if there will be such a declaration of righteousness in the final judgment, a believer cannot know if he is justified until that judgment comes.
It seems strange that Paul D. would concentrate on the first part of that statement and ignore the second part of the statement, “they are distinct.” If they are distinct, how can they be conflated? I want to affirm my full agreement with the statement in question and attempt to explain what we mean by it.
Why do we believe justification and sanctification are inseparable and what are the implications of both affirming and denying that statement?
When we state that justification and sanctification are inseparable, we simply mean that both are the result of the believer’s union with Christ. If a person professes that Jesus died for him, it follows that he died with Jesus. Paul wrote, “. . .hereby we judge that if one died for all, then all died. . . .” The point of union between these two works of God is union with Christ. All we are saying is that a justified person does not exist in whom the divine work of sanctification is not occurring, and a person who is being sanctified does not exist who has not previously been justified. Since justification precedes sanctification, works that a person who is not a true believer performs in obedience to the commands of Scripture, have nothing to do with sanctification at all. Such “obedience” is mere works religion. Additionally, a person who has been truly justified can add nothing whatsoever to his right standing before God by his works of obedience in sanctification. Such works, if genuine, merely give evidence that a person is righteous, through justification, just as Jesus is righteous.
Another point of contact between justification and sanctification is that both are God’s work and both flow from God’s grace. The believer is totally dependent on God’s grace, not only for justification but also for sanctification.
One clear and important implication of affirming the statement that justification and sanctification are inseparable is that believers can come to an assurance of our acceptance before God by discerning that, though God’s works in us is still incomplete, that process is moving steadily toward the goal.
Conversely, a person who makes no progress in sanctification should never be deceived into thinking that his standing before God is secure. Such a monster as the “Carnal Christian” does not exist. Paul wrote, “Sin shall not [he did not write “should not”] have dominion over you, because you are not under Law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
Justification and sanctification have no causal effect on one another. Justification does not cause us to be sanctified, though knowledge that we stand justified in God’s presence provides the impetus for us to love, boldly approach and obey God. Sanctification does not cause us to be justified. That is to say, the believer’s works of obedience in sanctification form no part of the basis of justification. These are totally distinct works of God.
5. Paul D. states that Calvinists believe it is possible for a justified person to forfeit his right standing before God.
What we truly believe is that a genuine believer in Christ will be a life-long believer in Christ. The key phrases in our statements are “true believers,” genuine believers” etc. Is every “believer” safe for eternity? The answer to that question, of course, depends on how we define “believer.” Is a believer one who has walked the aisle of a church building and made an open profession of faith in Christ? Our answer is “Only God knows.” Is a believer one who has repeated a prayer in response to the urging of a “soul-winner?” Again we answer, “Only God knows.” We cannot know for sure if such confessions are genuine or not. Sometimes true believers act like unbelievers and sometimes false believers act like true believers. It is impossible for us to have an absolute assurance of another’s justification. What we can be certain of is that if a person turns from a profession that he trusts in Jesus Christ alone to deliver him from the guilt and pollution of sin and begins to trust in anything or anyone else either in place of faith in Christ or in addition to Christ, such a person loses justification [not that he had it and lost it, but in that he forfeits any hope of it as long as he persists in his infidelity] and sanctification in that “sanctification” is not sanctification in a non-justified person. It is merely the practice of dead works.
True believers don’t lose their justification before God, but true believers never forsake their confidence in Jesus Christ as the only Savior of sinners.
There are many other areas on which I could comment, but these seem to be the most prominent in our ongoing discussion. Ultimately, it all comes back to a basic difference in the nature of salvation and God’s work in bringing it about. Unfortunately, much of the disagreement stems from Paul’s inability to understand plain theological statements and his willingness to draw unwarranted conclusions about what others believe, and then state those conclusions dogmatically without a shred of real evidence that those conclusions are accurate. He seldom produces quotations to authenticate his claims. Even when he does, he completely ignores the context in which those statements are made. For example, Paul regularly refers to a passage in Calvin’s Institutes, that is titled, “Justification—in What Sense Progressive?” From that title, Paul has concluded Calvin must have believed in progressive justification. He utterly fails to recognize that Calvin was arguing against the “Schoolmen” whose position it was that the works of the faithful subsequent to conversion contribute to our merit before God. Calvin is arguing that our best works, even as believers , cannot contribute to the merit necessary for justification. When Calvin talks about the believer’s inability to please God, he is speaking not about whether his children can please him by their obedience. Instead, he is talking about whether the Schoolmen were right in their contention that our post baptismal works may please God FOR JUSTIFICATION.
I am always happy to discuss legitimate doctrinal differences with other believers. If you have questions about or objections to anything I have written here, I would be delighted to entertain a discussion of those issues here. I am most happy to continue a discussion with Paul D. regarding actual points of difference we have regarding these or any other issues. What I cannot do is defend doctrinal beliefs I do not hold.
If you wish to comment on this or any other post on this blog, please be aware of the rules before doing so.


We Believe, Therefore We Speak

Lately, I have been musing on a baffling question that concerns the concealment of truth. The question is why would anyone conceal what he truly believes? The apostle Paul, echoing the words of the inspired psalmist, wrote “we believe, therefore we speak.” This would lead one to think that a person would have no difficulty verbalizing his heart-felt beliefs.

Now, I can understand a person’s hesitance to own theological labels. Over the years, the standard answer I have given to the question, “are you a Calvinist?” has been, “What do you mean by that?” I gave that answer not to conceal my true, heart-felt convictions, but to avoid errant conclusions on the part of the inquisitor. For example, if one means by that question, do you believe God is the cause of all the sin that occurs in the world and that sinners have no responsibility to obey him, then I am not a Calvinist. It is impossible to have a meaningful discussion of such issues apart from accurate definition. Such is the case with the issue of “free will.” When that subject comes up in conversation, I always ask what the person means by it. Whether I believe it or not depends on how one defines it.

I have had discussions this week with Paul Dohse Sr. about a possible debate on the issue of “Progressive justification.” Specifically, the issue was to have been whether Calvinists believe in progressive justification. Only an idiot could read the literature available on the subject of justification and conclude that Calvinists believe such a doctrine. For example, Louis Berkhof, in distinguishing between God’s work of justification and sanctification, wrote in his Systematic Theology,

Justification takes place once for all. It is not repeated, neither is it a process; it is complete at once and for all time. There is no more or less in justification; man is either fully justified, or he is not justified at all. In distinction from it sanctification is a continuous process, which is never completed in this life.

How could a person read that statement and conclude that Calvinists believe in progressive justification, and why would a Calvinist deny he believed in progressive justification if that were truly his view?

Reformed theology has spoken as with one voice concerning this matter. It has consistently stood against the Roman Catholic doctrine of progressive justification. The matter that baffles me is why Paul D. would think we Calvinists would wish to deny that we believe such a doctrine if that is truly what we teach. Should we attempt to explain that we believe the exact opposite of that damnable doctrine, Paul and his ilk will be quick to accuse us of “doublespeak.” Doublespeak is any language that pretends to communicate but actually does not. Now, I ask you, is there anything about Berkhof’s statement above that fails to communicate the precise doctrine of justification that we believe? No! He encapsulates in his brief statement exactly what we believe. I can only conclude that one of two things must be true. Either he and his merry band of men and women are abysmally ignorant of the literature available on this issue, or they are being deliberately dishonest in their campaign to smear and sully those doctrines they despise.

I offered the following as rules for a proposed debate. They were rejected out of hand. What baffles me is why anyone would object to such guidelines.

1. The Scriptures are solely authoritative.
2. Each participant must be able to state his opponent’s position to his satisfaction before being able to comment on it.
3. Every assertion must be supported by direct quotations, in context, that indicate the veracity of the assertion. (For example, you may not assert that Calvinists believe that matter is inherently evil, or that justification is progressive unless you can quote a Calvinist who explicitly states such a belief. A title from Calvin’s institutes will not be sufficient to establish that he taught what is stated in the title).
4. Each participant must define the terms he is using according to some accepted standard.
5. Though not a rule, the debate needs to center as much as possible on presuppositions, not on conclusions, since faulty conclusions are based on faulty presuppositions

I can only conclude that a person would refuse such rules if he intended to be dishonest and disingenuous in his presentation.

I invite you to explain to me why any honest person would object to such rules.