Posts Tagged ‘Arminianism vs. Calvinism

27
Oct
16

My Latest Book

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B01M8NHJAR/ref=cm_sw_r_fa_dp_t2_0Iveyb29EJV6B

 

12
Mar
16

Calvinistic Evangelism-CHAPTER 19–Conferring Assurance in Evangelism

 

It has been a common practice among some who call themselves “free grace” believers who teach the doctrine of OSAS [Once Saved Always Saved], to make the conferring of assurance on their evangelistic conquests a part of the evangelistic process. The purpose of this brief chapter is to examine not only that practice but also the biblical doctrine of assurance itself.

Let me say at the outset that I unequivocally believe the doctrine of OTSAS [Once truly saved, always saved]. Once a person is truly saved, that person is secure for eternity, but a person must be once saved to be always saved. The assumption among many evangelicals is that once a person confesses faith in Christ (They usually refer to this as “deciding for Christ,” “letting Jesus come into their hearts,” “praying to receive Jesus,” or some other utterly non-biblical expression), they are secure for eternity no matter what happens subsequently. The ones with whom I have corresponded have actually told me they believe once a person has made a decision to receive Christ, he is eternally secure even if he does not love God or continue to trust Christ to save him. He may convert to Islam or become an Atheist and still be saved.

This is not the first time controversy has arisen over the relationship between faith and assurance. In the early part of seventeenth century a controversy erupted in the Church of Scotland over a book entitled The Marrow of Modern Divinity. Those who were called the “Marrow Men” taught that assurance was of the essence of faith so that it was impossible to have faith without having assurance.

 

Different Levels of Assurance

We could perhaps obviate much of the disagreement that swirls around this issue by distinguishing between the different “assurances” about which the New Testament speaks. For a more extended treatment of this question, I would refer you to an excursus I wrote on assurance in my commentary on Hebrews. For our purposes here, suffice it to say that there is an assurance or a confidence (παρρησἰα; πληροφορἰα) that accompanies faith (see–Hebrews 10:22) and belongs to every true believer, and there is an assurance that comes only through diligent perseverance in well-doing (see–Heb. 6:11). Before we can have a meaningful discussion about assurance, it will be necessary to identify to which of these types of assurance we are referring when we use the term.

Like faith, one of these types of assurance focuses on God’s revealed truth. The focus is on God’s faithfulness. The believer simply trusts God’s promises that if he is truly resting solely on the merits of his Great Priest, his full acceptance in God’s presence is guaranteed. His task is to be certain he is clinging to Christ and trusting only in him.

Like hope, the other type of assurance focuses on the future inheritance. Since that inheritance is not yet seen, we must wait for it with patience/perseverance. The question we must ask here is not whether everyone who belongs to the household of faith will inherit the blessings God has promised. That question is settled in every believer’s mind. The question I must ask is whether I belong to the household of faith. I am convinced that if God is for me, no one can prevail against me. What I must establish in my mind is that God is indeed for me. This understanding is not necessarily mine because I have begun my journey well. The focus of the Scriptures is not on the beginning of the race but on its end. Since I have not yet finished the race, it is necessary for me to examine my walk from time to time to discern whether it is characterized by “the things that accompany salvation.” This kind of examination is especially necessary when a person’s walk is contrary to his profession. When a person is living in a way that is contrary to God’s revealed will, God uses exhortations to self- examination as a means to produce the needed correction in the believer’s life. The warning and exhortation passages of the New Testament Scriptures are not intended to settle questions about whether or not a true believer can loose his salvation. They are intended to be used as the necessary means to bring about the diligent perseverance in faith without which we will never see God’s face in peace.

 

The Full Assurance of Hope Requires Diligence

It is important to notice that in Hebrews 6:11-12, the “full assurance of hope” about which the writer speaks requires diligence. Faith requires no diligence at all. Why would the writer suggest that his readers need to be diligent if assurance is of the essence of faith? Instead, he expresses a strong desire that they will continue to be diligent in the path they have been following so that they might obtain the full assurance of hope, and he desires that they follow the path diligently to the end. If they are going to inherit the blessings God has promised they must imitate those who through faith and longsuffering inherit what God has promised.

There are several important observations we need to make here:

 

  1. In neither of these passages is the issue one of trusting our works, our obedience, or our perseverance as the basis of our right standing before God.
  2. Nowhere in the New Testament Scriptures are we forbidden to pursue works of obedience to Christ. In fact, we are commanded to diligently pursue such a course of obedience. It is not doing good works but trusting those works to any extent to save us that the Scriptures forbid.
  3. The bases of the assurance of faith and the assurance of hope are different. The basis of the assurance of faith is God’s faithfulness (Heb. 10:23). Our full assurance of faith and our confident confession of our hope are firmly founded in God’s work for us and have nothing to do with our obedience to him. Our full assurance of hope rests on the confidence that we belong to God’s true people because he continues to work in us to will and work for his good pleasure. That we continue to pursue diligently the manifestation of his glory in our lives is the evidence [the things that accompany salvation] that we are among that blessed company who can say, “God is for us.
  4. One of the characteristics of the faith of God’s elect is that it continues. It is though faith and longsuffering [patience] that we are to receive what God has promised. To say that it does not matter what occurs after one has made an initial confession of faith one must deny, or ignore a mountain of biblical passages like this one.
  5. The assurance of hope is not intended for and will not be granted to those who are deliberately walking in disobedience to God.

 

Before we begin a discussion about assurance, it is important that we specify what kind of assurance is in view. Is the child of God assured that Jesus is able to completely save all who come to God by him? Absolutely!  May he (and should he if he acting disobediently) from time to time question whether he actually belongs to the company of those who have come to God through Jesus’ priestly work? I believe the Scripture answer with an unequivocal “yes!” John Brown wrote,

. . .though the perseverance of the saints is certain, let us recollect that it is the perseverance of the saints that is thus certain. Many who seem to others to be saints, who seem to themselves to be saints, do “fall away.” and let us recollect that the perseverance of the saints referred to, is their perseverance not only in a safe but also in a holy course of disposition and conduct; and no saint behaving like a sinner can legitimately enjoy the comfort which the doctrine of perseverance is fitted and intended to communicate to every saint acting like a saint . . . (Brown, 1970, 296).

If assurance were of the essence of faith, John would not have written to those who were believing in Jesus’ name they they might know that they have eternal life (see 1 John 5:13).  Would they not have known already? Additionally, we need to understand that “these things” refer not merely to the immediately preceding verses, but to the entire epistle. Again John Brown wrote,

It is as believers of the truth that we are secured of eternal life; and it is by holding fast this faith of the truth, and showing that we do so, that we can alone enjoy the comfort of this security. ‘The purpose of God according to election must stand,’ and all His chosen will assuredly be saved; but they cannot know their election—they cannot enjoy any absolute assurance of their salvation—independent of their continuance in the faith, love and obedience of the Gospel (Brown, 1970).

As we saw when we discussed the biblical doctrine of repentance, a denial that we should expect a behavioral change in those who have truly been converted betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of God’s saving work.

 

Is the Granting of Assurance the Evangelist’s Taks?

Now, let us return to the question, Is the conferring of assurance part of the evangelist’s work? There are several considerations that would cause us to answer this question negatively.

 

  1. The most obvious reason is that there is no evidence of such a practice in early New Testament evangelism. If they did not assure those who confessed faith in Christ that they were eternally secure because they had responded positively to the gospel call, why should we?

 

  1. It is impossible to know infallibly that another person’s faith is genuine. The New Testaments bears sad testimony to the fact that all who began well did not finish well. We must not assume that all professed faith is genuine faith.

 

  1. Though God may grant an assurance of hope to true believers themselves, he will not give us such an assurance about another person.

 

  1. It is the work of God’s Spirit to bear witness with our spirits that we are sons of God, and he does so in conjunction with the God-pleasing works of obedience he produces in our hearts.

We have every reason to assure those who have confessed faith in Christ that if they are truly and fully resting on him and his merits, they have been declared righteous and have been granted full access to the Father’s throne, but that is altogether different from assuming that their faith is real and conferring on them an assurance that is never to be questioned no matter what happens subsequent to their confession.

Consider just a few examples of the way in which biblical writers couched their statements concerning the salvation of their readers. “. . .and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:2). “And we are his house[hold] if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope” (Heb. 3:6). “For we have come to share in Christ, if we hold our original confidence firm to the end” (Heb. 3:14).

We must never forget that Jesus’ promise “. . .and I give to them eternal life, and they shall never perish,” was not made to goats. It was made to his sheep whom he described as those who “hear his voice and follow him.” We should never think this promise belongs to those who persist in their rebellion against God and ignore his voice speaking in the Word. “High degrees of true assurance cannot be enjoyed by those who persist in low levels of obedience.”  (Sinclair Ferguson).

15
Aug
15

Understanding “Whosoever.”

I just read an article I found in my inbox from Faith Gateway Today. The article was an excerpt from a book by Pastor Kyle Idleman titled Not a Fan, published by Zondervan. Though I would agree with the basic premise of the article that Jesus does not merely call sinners to “believe” on him but to follow him, I found that the article illustrated much of what is wrong with modern biblical “interpretation.”

Arguing that “anyone means everyone” this young man began by stating what he perceived to be the meaning of John 3:16 and freely read into the text ideas that John never intended.  Concerning that verse he wrote, “In that one verse we read that God loves us, Jesus died for us, and that we can have eternal life through Him.” This has been assumed to be true for so long that anyone who questions it is perceived to be a heretic, but is that what John was really teaching?

One of the principles of interpretation that is regularly ignored in our day is that we must seek to understand the questions the biblical writers were answering and not assume they were concerned to answer our questions. Just yesterday, I read a passage in Acts 26 in which Paul was making his defense before King Agrippa. This is how he began his defense– “I consider myself fortunate, King Agrippa, that I am about to make my defense before you today; especially because you are an expert in all customs and questions among the Jews. . .” (Acts 26:2-3).  Paul was happy to give answers because Agrippa understood the questions. Too often we are mistaken about the meaning of biblical passages because we fail to take into account the questions they were intended to answer.

Do you think John [or Jesus, assuming his conversation with Nicodemus extended this far in the text] intended this beloved verse to teach the universality of God’s love in the sense that he loves every individual on earth equally and in the same way? Do you think he was concerned with the question of the extent of Jesus’ redemptive work? Was he really teaching us that Jesus died for every sinner whether he will believe the gospel or not?

How often we have heard that “whosoever” means everyone or as this young pastor has postulated “anyone means everyone.” But, is that true?  I would challenge you to do a study of the word translated “world” (κοσμος) in the New Testament Scriptures. You will find that it seldom if ever means everyone without exception.  The question the Jews of Jesus’ and John’s day were asking was not for how many people did Jesus die. The question was whether his work was for people of every nation or for the Jews only.  Were Gentiles to be admitted to the gospel assembly as Gentiles, or must they first be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses?  Did the Messiah come to save Israel and condemn the world (Gentiles)? It was to these question John was speaking when he wrote what we now know as John 3:16. In my view, it is just as wrong to say that “world” in that verse really means “the elect” as it is to say it means everyone without exception because that would also ignore the issue John/Jesus was addressing.

Please notice that words such as “whoever,” “whosoever,” “everyone,” and “anyone” are always accompanied by other words such as “believes,” “calls,” “wills or wishes” and are not used alone.  In John 3:16, John did not write “That whosoever (supposedly meaning everyone on the face of the planet) might not perish.” He  did not write “that everyone might not perish.” “Whosoever” does not mean “everyone.” He did not intend for us to understand that God gave his Son so that no one would perish. If he had intended that, he would have written that.  What he wrote literally was “in order that all the ones believing should not perish.” God gave his Son to infallibly secure the eternal redemption of everyone who believes on him whether he be a Jew or a Gentile. It was not his intent in this verse to identify those who believe as God’s chosen ones.  We must find that teaching in other verses, and it is easy to do so.

“Everyone who believes” does not equal everyone without exception. “Anyone who comes” does not mean everyone. It means anyone who comes.

As long as the “Evangelical church” continues to play fast and loose with biblical texts, it will continue to teach a watered down version of God’s gospel that is completely different from the message the biblical writers intended.

25
Feb
15

Questions About “Free Will”

As I have stated, I believe in free will in the sense that every person is free to choose what he desires. It is not the inability to choose that I deny but the inability to desire. To put it another way, I have no ability to choose what I do not desire. I agree with the statement John Calvin made about free will,

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

The proponents of libertarian free will argue that if God must regenerate a sinner before he/she will be able to believe, that sinner’s free choice to trust God’s promise cannot be a real and meaningful choice. The choice would only be meaningful if the sinner had equal ability at that point to choose to  remain in his sins. According to their view, at some unspecified point God has granted “free will’ to every individual through prevenient grace. Apparently, this grace [enabling] cancels the effects of Adam’s fall into sin.

But is it true that a confidence in God’s promises is meaningless if it is God who has effected it by grace?

1. It has been my assumption that in the glorified state in the eternal kingdom every believer will be confirmed in holiness. That glorified state will be one in which God’s people are secure and from which we cannot fall. There will be no rebellion or defection from that kingdom. In that state it will be impossible for us to sin. It would seem that once we are glorified there are certain options we cannot choose. That would seem to follow from the biblical description of those believers who have died. Their spirits are referred to as “the spirits of just men made perfect.” The Westminster Shorter Catechism states, “the souls of believers are at their death made perfect in holiness and do immediately pass into glory. . . .” (Q. 37). One would assume we would not be less perfect once we glorified.

Perhaps there will be some who will disagree with those statement and who would like to show biblical proof that my assumptions are errant.

2. It has often been alleged by those who argue for libertarian free will that faith cannot be meaningful if God must call sinners effectually and regenerate them before they can believe. If once they are called they will certainly believe, faith cannot be a real choice. Only faith that flows from our free choice [By this they mean a libertarian free will choice not a choice made freely] can be meaningful. It must be our choice to obey by the power of free will that has been granted us in prevenient grace. Apparently for them, a choice that is made freely from a heart that is set free by regenerating grace cannot be meaningful. I must be able to choose to remain in my sins for my choice to be a real and meaningful choice.

It would seem to follow that if God must give us the desire to obey him and if he must enable us to obey him, praise him, worship him, glorify him, etc., that obedience, praise, worship and glorification cannot be genuine and meaningful either.

It should not escape our attention that in Ezek. 36:25-27 God promises to replace the sinner’s heart of stone with a heart of flesh. He promises to give the sinner a new spirit [disposition]. He promises to put his Spirit within and cause  him to walk in his statutes and keep his rules.  Should we assume that obedience is not “meaningful” since God caused it?

When the apostle tells the Philippians that God works in them both to will [i.e., cause them to desire to obey God] and do [give them the ability to obey God] for his good pleasure, should we assume their obedience was meaningless since God enabled it?

3. It appears that God is pleased with the worship of heavenly beings and of redeemed sinners who have been perfected in holiness and who have no inclination to sin whatsoever. Elect angels are confirmed in holiness so that they cannot choose to rebel. Since they are created beings they must be dependent beings. Yet, their choice to depend on God and to praise, worship, and glorify him is the only choice they can make.

4. Must we believe that our joyful obedience, our delightful dependence on God, our exultant praise, and our grateful glorification of God will be meaningless for all eternity since all of this will spring from hearts that have been bound to God by grace?

My conclusions are these:

1. Glorified beings  in the eternal state will not have free will in the sense that we will be free to sin and rebel against God.

2. If those who posit libertarian free will are correct in saying faith, obedience etc. are not meaningful unless we have a free will choice, all we do in the eternal state will be meaningless since our hearts will have been bound back to God by grace.

3. We have every indication that God will be pleased for eternity with our grateful expressions of praise and with our obedience in dependence on him.

4. It is a faulty assumption that faith is only meaningful if it is not enabled by free grace.

27
Aug
13

How to Argue Against the Wicked Heresy of Calvinism

HOW TO ARGUE AGAINST THE WICKED HERESY OF CALVINISM

1. Misrepresent its teachings so badly that no Calvinist would recognize them.

2. Quote a handful of proof-texts, out of context, that have nothing at all to do with the issues.

3. Never exegete and try to explain biblical texts that actually teach that God is the sovereign Lord over his own universe. Ignore all texts that explain that if sinners ever make proper and God glorifying choices, they do so through divine enabling.

4. State a part of the truth as if it were the whole truth, and then pretend these wretched Calvinists don’t believe in the part you have stated. For example, cite verses that show God invites sinners to choose life and reject death as proof that God has nothing to do with that choice. Then boldly assert that Calvinists don’t believe sinners have a will.

5 Find areas in which most Calvinists would disagree with Calvin, and make those issues the most salient points in the discussion.

6 Never, ever quote a Calvinist in the context in which his remarks actually occurred. You must always take his comments out of context so that it will appear he is saying something completely different from what he said or wrote.

7. When all else fails, resort to name calling.

27
Jun
13

“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.

31
Jul
12

Points of disagreement with “A southern baptist understanding of God’s plan of Salvation.”

Yesterday, I identified areas in which I would agree with the Southern Baptists who wrote the statement about SB’s understanding of God’s plan of salvation. Now, I want to identify those points on which there can be no agreement.

The first major area in which we disagree concerns Article Two: The Sinfulness of Man. Though I would affirm everything they affirm apart from the word “alone.” Their denial that Adam’s guilt is imputed to all his posterity is absolutely contrary to the clear teaching of Scripture. I would like to follow this up with an exposition of Romans 5:12 ff, but for now, suffice it to say that if the good news that Christ’s righteousness is put to our account is to stand, we must embrace the truth that God has imputed Adam’s guilt to all who are in him.

The second area of irreconcilable difference concerns the design of Christ’s death. Their statement is “We deny that Christ died only for the sins of those who will be saved.” My question would be, What did Christ intend to accomplish by his death for those who will perish for eternity? If he died to redeem them, why aren’t they redeemed? If he died to make all people savable, why would he do so if it was never the purpose of the Father to apply his death to them? Was his death sufficient to save the entire race if that had been the purpose of the Father? Absolutely! Did he intend to save people who were already perishing when he died? Did he intend to save people he knew would never believe? That would seem to imply that God is out of touch with reality.

The third area of disagreement concerns the nature of God’s work of grace in the human soul. I suspect that part of the problem here is the unfortunate phrasing that has been applied to effectual calling. The term “irresistible grace” may give the impression that sinners never resist the gospel or the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Acts 7:51 is the lone proof-text used to show that grace is not irresistible. What that text proves is that, by nature, sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit. The question is, if sinners ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit, how is it that anyone ever comes to believe the gospel? The verse says nothing about the ability of God’s grace to overcome the sinner’s natural aversion to God and the gospel. It says volumes about the sinner’s rebellion against God and his recalcitrant refusal to submit to the demands of the gospel. Only effectual grace can overcome the natural depravity of the sinner’s heart.

A fourth area of disagreement is the order of regeneration and faith. Are we regenerated because we believe, or do we believe because we have been regenerated? This discussion leads us to the issue of depravity. Is it total, i.e., affecting the sinner in every part of his personality, or partial, affecting only certain aspects of the sinner’s personality but leaving his will unaffected?
Arminians have historically believed that sinners are totally depraved, but that God has granted
“Prevenient [or preceding] grace” to every person, thus restoring the ability to choose Christ and the gospel. The problem for them is that there is not a shred of biblical evidence for such a doctrine. We believe sinners cannot believe the gospel unless and until God gives us a new spirit, a heart of flesh, and puts his Spirit in us. In close connection with this issue is the issue of calling. Are these guys right when they state that there is no such thing as “effectual calling” and that “calling” in Scripture always refers to the outward preaching of the gospel? If they truly believe that, they must also believe that everyone who hears the gospel call is justified. The apostle Paul wrote, “. . .whom he called, them he also justified. . . .”

A fifth area of disagreement, if disagreement it can be called is the framer’s complete failure to deal with the many clear statements of Scripture that use the terms, “election,” “elect,” “chosen,” etc. They don’t even suggest, as do real Arminians, that God’s choice was based on what he foresaw the sinner would choose. They just seem to ignore the concept altogether. These terms have a meaning. When the Bible declares that God has chosen us believers it can’t just mean God chose a plan. The Bible says God chose people. These guys need to deal with that.

Finally, we need to discuss what we mean by “free will.” Do we mean by that term that sinners are able to choose something to which they are totally and absolutely averse? Perhaps we can come to agreement concerning this term if all we mean by it is that human beings have the ability to make choices and that we are responsible for the choices we make. This is what we mean by “free agency.” God does not force us to make the decisions we make; we make them freely and are completely responsible for them. The issue concerns whether the sinner possesses the ability to choose that which is contrary to the deepest desire of his heart and soul.

In the posts that follow, I want to consider these differences in greater detail and set forth the biblical teaching on these issues. Please feel free to comment.