Posts Tagged ‘irresistible Grace

31
Dec
16

Can Sinners Called by Grace Resist If They Want To?

We read in Mark 3:13, “Jesus went up into the hills and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him.” It should be clear to anyone who reads this text that coming to Jesus is an act that results from Jesus’ desire and not from theirs and that such a call is effectual in its nature. He called and they came.

Often, our non-Calvinists friends like to amuse themselves by asking whether sinners who are called by God’s grace are able to resist that call if they want to and remain in their sins. This is their banal and misguided attempt to derail the Calvinistic doctrine that has regrettably been called “Irresistible grace.”It seems the burden of their question is whether sinners are forced to act like preprogrammed robots who are unable to choose what we desire.

In reality, they are asking the wrong question. The issue is not whether sinners could resist grace if they wanted to; the issue is whether any sinner to whom God has manifested his glory [the sum of his glorious attributes] in the face of Jesus Christ, would desire to resist him. Those whose stony hearts have been made pliable by God’s grace are not forced against their wills to become followers of Christ. Instead, in effectual grace, God has graciously removed the sinner’s persistent and pervasive disposition to resist his offers of mercy in Christ. The issue is that those whom God calls no longer want to resist him.

20
Sep
15

YouTube Video–Salvation by Force?

14
Oct
14

Unanswered post

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

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

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

He commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of it is to be attributed to man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

03
Jan
14

Effectual Calling–Romans 8:28-30

There is no question but that there is a general and universal call of the gospel. It is a sincere and bona fide offer of salvation in Christ, and all who respond positively to this call in faith and repentance will assuredly be saved. It is this call Jesus spoke of in Matt. 22:14 when he said, “. . . .for many are called, but few are chosen.” The problem is, this call is always ineffectual unless it is accompanied by God’s internal and effectual call. We refer to this internal call as “effectual” because it effectively brings sinners into partnership (union) with Christ. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by whom you were called in to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”(1 Cor. 1:9). This is clearly not true of everyone who is invited by the gospel. In keeping with this, he wrote in verse thirty of the same chapter, “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus. . . .” In other words, the fact that we are in Christ is the result of God’s activity and not ours (see–1 Cor. 1:30).

“Drawing” in John’s Gospel

It seems likely “calling” in Pauline literature refers to the same work of God as “drawing” does in John’s gospel. In both calling and drawing, it is clear it is God, the Father who calls/draws. In both, the result is faith in Christ. Apart from calling or drawing, sinners cannot or will not come to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can (is able to) come to me unless the Father who has sent me should draw him, and I will raise him up again at the last day.” In this same context (v. 37), Jesus has told his hearers that all the Father is giving him (he uses the present tense to indicate action that is going on) will come to him and that he will never by any means reject those who come. This should be distinguished from what he teaches in verse thirty-nine where he speaks of those the Father has given him with the continuing result that he still has them. This was an action completed in the past. The latter donation speaks of God’s decree before the world was. In accordance with that decree, the Father is, by drawing them to Jesus, giving them to him. Jesus tells us that all he “draws” in this way will come to him. “Every person therefore having heard and having learned of the Father comes to me” (45b). In other words, this drawing is an effectual drawing. This teaching clearly accords with what the apostle Paul wrote about “calling.”

“Calling” in the New Testament Epistles

A careful examination of the New Testament Epistles will reveal there is not a single occurrence of the words, “called,” “call,” or “calling” in which it refers to the universal call of the gospel. The New Testament writers consistently used it to refer to that effectual call by which God the Father unites his chosen people to Christ. So much is this the case that at times they refer to believers as “the called ones,” for example, see Rom. 1:6 and 8:28. I would like you to consider two passages in which it is clear that “calling” cannot refer to the external call or invitation of the gospel. They are Romans 8:30 and 1 Cor. 1: 22-24.

Romans 8:30

In the first of these we encounter what some of the old writers referred as “God’s golden chain of redemption.” This chain began to be forged by God in eternity past and stretches into eternity future. It should be clear that every link of this chain has reference to the same people. Those who are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ are the same as those who are glorified. The first link of this “golden chain” is God’s predetermination of the elects’ full conformity to the image of his Son. He determined to restore his image in his redeemed people even before that image was lost in the early days of human existence. Then, Paul informs us that those, only those, but all of those he thus predestined, he also called. It is important that we understand the identification of the ones called with those he predestined. If God’s predestinating activity means anything, it assures us that all he has planned will certainly occur. Every one of those God predestined will be glorified or conformed to Christ’s image. Each link of this chain concerns the same group of people. He does not write, “Some of those he predestined, he also called” or “some of those he called, he also justified,” or “some of those he justified, he also glorified.” The entire purpose of this argument, which he began to pursue in chapter five, is that those whom God has justified, may “rejoice in hope [the confident and settled assurance] of the glory of God [again becoming reflectors of his glory by bearing his image, i.e., glorification]. His specific argument in this immediate context is that God’s eternal purpose guarantees the believer’s glorification. Since this is true, it is impossible that “calling” in this verse refers to the universal call, i.e., invitation, of the gospel. If that were the case, everyone invited by the gospel would be included in those God predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son–“whom he predestined THEM he also called.” Additionally, we would have to argue that everyone who has been invited by the gospel is also justified–“whom he called, THEM he also justified.” This clearly cannot be the case. We must conclude that “called” in this verse refers to God’s activity that effects faith in those who are outwardly invited by the gospel. Otherwise, apart from faith, they could not be justified.

1 Cor. 1: 22-24

In 1 Cor. 1: 22-24, Paul describes the prevailing attitude and recalcitrant rebellion of those to whom he preaches the gospel. He informs us that the Jews to whom he preaches go on requiring a sign and the Greeks to whom he preaches go on seeking wisdom or philosophy. Instead of tickling their ears or trying to produce signs to authenticate his message, he goes on proclaiming to them the naked, unvarnished truth that God’s anointed one has been crucified on a Roman cross and now stands as the crucified one. Then he describes the reaction of both Jews and Greeks to this message. As far as the Jews are concerned this is an offensive message. The idea that their expected Messiah would die as a vile criminal by crucifixion was more than they could tolerate. Left to themselves, they routinely rejected this message. To the Greeks, this message was moronic. They, too, roundly rejected it. When we read these words, one of our assumptions in the case of both Jews and Greeks must be that they had heard the gospel. They could not regard it as an offense and foolishness if they had not heard it, could they? To state the matter differently, both the Jews and Greeks to whom Paul proclaimed the message of Christ had been CALLED, i.e., invited by the outward call of the gospel. But, in contrast to those who persistently rejected this outward call Paul wrote, “BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. What effected such a change? How is it that Christ and the message of his crucifixion which before was offensive and foolish is now power and wisdom? The answer can only be God’s internal and effectual call. If we insist that the call must refer to the external invitation of the gospel, we would have to believe the passage teaches something like the following: Both Jews and Greeks persistently reject the gospel invitation every time they hear it, but to those who are invited by the gospel, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is now God’s power and wisdom. That is pure nonsense.

30
Mar
13

Straw Man Arguments of A Major Southern Baptist Pastor

I just finished reading a sermon about “Reformed Theology” by a “great Southern Baptist Preacher.” I must confess I was amazed to see how theologically ignorant one of the most revered pastors in the Convention could be. I have omitted the name of this pastor because this is not an issue of personalities but of doctrine.

I read this message because the President of Louisiana College, (a Southern Baptist college) Dr. Joe Aguillard, cited it as representing his position on these issues. Apparently, LC is axing Calvinistic professors because “they are teaching contrary to the Baptist Faith and Message.” Now, I want to confess up front that I have heard none of these professors teach. Perhaps they are teaching that we should not preach the gospel freely to all sinners, but only to awakened sinners. Maybe they are teaching we do not need to proclaim the gospel at all. If this is their teaching, it is not an issue of Calvinism contra Arminianism, but of hyper-Calvinism or fatalism contra Calvinism. Please be clear. Five point Calvinism is not hyper-Calvinism. The original Calvinists formulated five points. To be a hyper [above] Calvinist, one would have to go above or beyond a belief in five points. The sad thing would be if these people are being dismissed based on a complete misrepresentation of Calvinists’ beliefs.

There are two observations I would like to make about this situation. The first is it is obvious some of these people are too theologically inept to understand their own confession. The second is, it is time for those who believe the historic “Doctrines of Grace” to abandon the acrostic, TULIP.

First, I want to examine the issue of the “Baptist Faith and Message.” Is the BFM a document that, if properly understood, Calvinists cannot sign or a document so called “Traditionalists” cannot sign? Admittedly, the BFM is a rather watered down document that is deliberately ambiguous so as to include everyone in the big tent. If you don’t want to be offensive to anyone, it is a good idea to mumble a great deal. If no one understands what you are saying, how could anyone possibly be offended? The BFM is to some extent a “mumbling” document.

There are at least four statements in the BFM that so called Traditionalists could not sign if they understood the theological underpinning of those statements. Let me list them and comment on them briefly.

Under the heading IV. Salvation, the BFM states,

“Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer.”

A “non-Calvinist” could not agree to that statement because non-Calvinists do not believe Jesus “by his own blood” OBTAINED eternal redemption for anyone. In their view, Jesus died equally and in the same way for every sinner. Only Calvinists believe Jesus obtained eternal redemption for sinners who will believe.

If Jesus died equally and in the same way for every sinner and some of those for whom he died perish in their sins, then he could not have, by his blood, “obtained” the salvation of anyone. Conversely, if, based on their presupposition, he “by his blood” OBTAINED the salvation of anyone, then he obtained the salvation of everyone.

I want to expand on this thought a bit in regard to the other issue I raised and the letter “L” in TULIP. My point here is merely that there is nothing in this statement to which the Calvinists cannot agree. If properly understood, it is a statement to which the non-Calvinists cannot agree.

The second statement, under the same heading is this:

A. Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God’s grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.

The so-called Traditionalists are loud in their protest against the idea of “regeneration before faith, but consider what the statement says. The key word in the statement is the word “responds.” The question in this issue is who responds to whom? Does God respond to the sinner’s faith and repentance by regenerating him, or does the sinner respond to God’s work of regeneration by believing and repenting? The statement is quite clear on this point. “It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, TO WHICH THE SINNER RESPONDS in repentance toward God and faith in The Lord Jesus Christ.” If a person responds to a stimulus, which occurred first, the response or the stimulus? If a person responds [in faith] to regeneration, which came first, the response or the regeneration?

The third statement occurs under the heading V. God’s Purpose of Grace–It simply says, “Election is God’s gracious purpose. . . .”

The key word here is “gracious.” Everyone who believes the Bible believes in election. The issue is not whether God has elected some and passed over others, but the basis on which he made that choice. Was that choice made based on faith or some other foreseen action performed by the sinner, or was it a “gracious” choice? The Scriptures make it clear that God’s electing purpose was a “gracious” purpose in the sense that it was not only unmerited but contrary to merit. In Romans 11:5-6, the apostle Paul speaks of the “election of grace.” By this he clearly meant that God’s choice of some sinners from the fallen mass of humanity was not based on some positive virtue in them moving him to act in that way. His purpose was a gracious purpose.

The final statement concerns the “perseverance of the saints” under the same heading: The BFM simply, but profoundly states, “All true believers endure to the end.” This is a Calvinistic doctrine. How often have I heard non-Calvinists refer to those who have fallen by the wayside so that they no longer claim to believe the gospel, as “carnal
Christians.” This is not the Calvinistic doctrine.

Now to the second issue. I believe it is time for those who believe the historic “Doctrines of Grace” to distance ourselves from the acrostic, TULIP. In the sermon I mentioned above, the well-known pastor, a man who during his lifetime rose to iconic status in the SBC told why he did not believe in TULIP which he equated with hyper-Calvinism. As I read the message, I concluded that one of three things [perhaps all three] must have been true of this man: 1. He deliberately set out to distort the position he claimed to be arguing against in order to deceive his audience, 2. He was guilty of a failure to exercise “due diligence” in researching the subject he was addressing. In other words, he was to lazy to study the subject before he began to bloviate about it. Proverbs 18:13 tells us that it is a folly and a shame to answer a matter before one hears it. I believe that clearly applies to answering a person’s theological arguments and commenting on another’s theological views. I should be able to state a theological opponent’s position to his satisfaction before attempting to comment on it. This pastor clearly failed in that regard. 3. He was so theologically inept that he was unaware that most of what he said was absolute nonsense.

Now, the reason I have suggested that we distance ourselves from TULIP is not that we do not believe the truths represented by those five letters, but because the words associated with them are so easily misunderstood and misrepresented. I could write pages upon pages critiquing and correcting, but anyone except for the most biblically illiterate should be able to recognize the fallaciousness of his argumentation. Instead, I want to consider three examples of how the TULIP can be and has been misinterpreted.

I have answered most of his other arguments in a series of articles entitled “Arminian Presuppositions Refuted.” I would invite you to read and interact with those articles at http://www.truthunchanging.wordpress.com.

For now, I want to consider his statements about Total Depravity, Limited Atonement, and Irresistible Grace. I am not suggesting that by changing the way we package our doctrine we will cause people to like it any more [or perhaps I should say hate it any less]. What I am suggesting is that perhaps we could at least begin addressing the real issues instead of the “straw man” arguments.

T–the following is what he said about Total Depravity: “T stands for “total depravity.” That means we are just about as bad as we can get. TOTAL DEPRAVITY (to be depraved means to be evil).” I have cut and pasted this from his sermon to be sure not to misrepresent him in any way.

In this dear man’s defense, would that not be the impression this term would leave apart from any kind of investigation of what is truly meant by the term? Leaving aside the obvious fact that he really did no investigation, if depraved means evil and that evil is “total” one might conclude that “total depravity” means “we are just about as bad as we can get.” But, is that what Calvinists mean by the doctrine? It is true we believe that all sinners are equally sinful at heart. Left to ourselves we could all act as badly or even worse than the vilest sinners who have ever lived. I found it interesting that before this preacher began to deny total depravity, he stated something pretty close to what we believe about it. This is what he said, “. I believe a man is a sinner. I believe he’s a sinner by birth…a sinner by choice…a sinner by nature…a sinner under condemnation…a sinner deserving hell – totally depraved.” The problem is, he soon began to deny what he had just affirmed. He spent a great deal of time supposedly arguing with Calvinists about whether sinners who are dead in sins are so dead they cannot see or hear. The reality is, no one argues that sinners, dead in sins, cannot see or hear physically. Of course they can. He cited Romans one as his proof-text to show that sinners universally have seen that which God has made known of himself. What he failed to point out in the context is that Paul has described these sinners as those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness ” (v.18). Their culpability lies in their rejection of all God’s self-revelation. Sinners, in a state of sinful nature, reject everything they see and hear of God. Their inability lies in the spiritual realm. They cannot hear and see spiritually because they do not want to see or hear. When Paul tells us we were all “dead” in trespasses and sins, he means we were spiritually separated from the life of God, that we were insensitive to our condition in sin, and we were unable, because unwilling, to do anything to deliver ourselves or to be delivered from such a state. He did not mean we were passive. Though we were dead toward God, we were very much alive toward sin.

I couldn’t help thinking about one of my favorite Spurgeon quotes as I was reading his message. Spurgeon said, “What a wonderful deed has been done by some men in burning figures of their own stuffing. . . .How earnestly do they set themselves to confute what no one defends.”

When we use the term “total depravity” what we are saying is that the crookedness and perversity that has resulted from Adam’s fall has extended to every facet of the sinner’s being. The will has not escaped the corruption of sinful nature. Though sinners act freely, we are not free from our natures. We are free to choose anything we wish, but we are not free to choose that for which we have absolutely no desire and to which we are completely averse. John stated it this way, “. . . .men loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil, and every one that does evil hates the light and does not come to the light lest his deeds should be exposed.” It is not that sinners cannot see the light or hear and understand the gospel. It is that sinners invariably turn from the light and refuse to welcome the gospel. Could any and every sinner embrace Jesus by faith if he wanted to? Of course! It is the “if he wanted to,” that is the issue.

L–L stands for “Limited Atonement.” He states, “this is the idea that Jesus died only for some people.” He employs the usual proof-texts to disprove the doctrine as he understands it. Any person who has not studied the issue would, based on the term “limited atonement,” arrive at the same conclusion. But, is that really the issue? The reality is that everyone but the universalist must admit that there is a limitation in the work of Christ. This preacher used the text in 1 John 2:2 as evidence that Jesus is the propitiation for the whole world. What we must acknowledge is that something must be limited in this verse. Our concept of “whole world” must be limited to sinners from every nation who actually come to faith in Christ, or we must admit a limitation in the nature of propitiation. Neither in this passage nor in any other NT passage do we ever find the accomplishments of Christ’s death described as a mere provision. It is always presented as an accomplishment. The text does not say, “he is the potential propitiation. . . .” If his death actually satisfied the wrath of God, did it do so for every sinner whether he will believe or not, or did it do so for the most vile and guilt sinner who will actually come to faith? The real issue is not “for how many sinners did Jesus die?” The issue is what was the nature of that death. What did he do for those for whom he died?

The Calvinist believes the redemptive work of Christ was two-thirds unlimited and one third limited. It was unlimited in its sufficiency, unlimited in its offer, but limited in its design. Jesus left no doubt about the reason for his mission. He said, ” For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.” Whether we believe election was unconditional or based on foreseen faith, it should be clear that God the Father did not intend to save anyone but those he had chosen. Jesus made it crystal clear that his mission was not contrary to the will of the Father and that it was the Father’s will that he should lose none of those the Father had given him.

No sinner will ever perish because Jesus didn’t die for him. The worst non-elect sinner who ever lived would be saved by the work of Christ if he believed. Every saint in glory will enjoy eternal bliss because Jesus sealed his pardon on the cross not because he decided to make that work effectual by believing. Perhaps it would be helpful to quote the original formulation of the so-called doctrine of “Limited Atonement.” I will cite three statements from the Canons of Dort–one concerning the sufficiency of Christ death, one concerning the free offer of Christ’s death and the third concerning the design and accomplishment for his death.

OF SUFFICIENT VALUE

SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 4. This death is of such infinite value and dignity because the person who submitted to it was not only really man, and perfectly holy, but also the only begotten Son of God, of the same eternal and infinite essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit, which qualifications were necessary to constitute Him a Savior for us; and, moreover, because it was attended with a sense of the wrath and curse of God due to us for sin.

UNIVERSAL OFFER

SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 5. Moreover, the promise of the gospel is that whosoever believes in Christ crucified shall not perish, but have eternal life. This promise, together with the command to repent and believe, ought to be declared and published to all nations, and to all persons promiscuously and without distinction, to whom God out of His good pleasure sends the gospel.

SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 6. And, whereas many who are called by the gospel do not repent nor believe in Christ, but perish in unbelief, this is not owing to any defect or insufficiency in the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the cross, but is wholly to be imputed to themselves.

SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 7. But as many as truly believe, and are delivered and saved from sin and destruction through the death of Christ, are indebted for this benefit solely to the grace of God given them in Christ from everlasting, and not to any merit of their own.

DESIGN AND EFFECTUAL ACCOMPLISHMENT

SECOND HEAD: ARTICLE 8. For this was the sovereign counsel and most gracious will and purpose of God the Father that the quickening and saving efficacy of the most precious death of His Son should extend to all the elect, for bestowing upon them alone the gift of justifying faith, thereby to bring them infallibly to salvation; that is, it was the will of God that Christ by the blood of the cross, whereby He confirmed the new covenant, should effectually redeem out of every people, tribe, nation, and language, all those, and those only, who were from eternity chosen to salvation and given to Him by the Father; that He should confer upon them faith, which, together with all the other saving gifts of the Holy Spirit, He purchased for them by His death; should purge them from all sin, both original and actual, whether committed before or after believing; and having faithfully preserved them even to the end, should at last bring them, free from every spot and blemish, to the enjoyment of glory in His own presence forever.

Perhaps it would be better to call “Limited Atonement” “Effectual Redemption.”

I–I stands for “Irresistible Grace.” This is what he said about irresistible grace.

And then the I stands for “irresistible grace.” If God is going to save you, there’s nothing you can do about it. His Holy Spirit is going to zap you and you’re a goner, because that is irresistible. There’s no way that you could resist the Holy Spirit of God. So, if you’re one of the elect, you’re going to be saved and there’s nothing you can do about it. And if you’re not one of the elect, there’s nothing you can do about that either….you’re going to get saved, no matter what…God’s gonna catch you…God’s gonna zap you, and you’re going to be saved. You cannot resist the Holy Spirit of God.

The reality is, Calvinists believe sinners, ALWAYS resist the Holy Spirit. That is not a statement of the sinner’s ability but of the sinners depravity and rebellion. The issue is how God overcomes this resistance and rebellion. Calvinists do not believe “you are going to get saved, no matter what.” We believe sinners are going to be declared righteous in God’s sight only if they believe the gospel. We do not believe “what will be, will be.” We believe what God has willed will be, that he will bring to pass whatsoever he has willed, but he does not drag unwilling sinners into the kingdom kicking and screaming. He makes us willing by the operation of his grace in our hearts.

The term “irresistible grace” leaves the impression that God forces sinners to be saved against their wills. This is not our doctrine at all, so why continue to use the term? There are going to be thousands who are going to neglect their “due diligence” and merely take someone else’s word for what Calvinists teach. Why should we continue to use terms that make it easy for them to misrepresent us?

I have written this in an effort to bring unity among those who currently disagree on these issues. It will be sufficiently difficult to have unity when we begin to discuss real issues. It will be impossible to have unity as long as people harbor their “straw man” arguments. True unity exists only on the basis of truth. I once heard a wise man say, “You can tie together the tails of a cat and a dog who don’t like each other very much. The result will be union but not unity.” It is not mere union we need but unity based on careful, contextual, exegesis of pertinent biblical passages.

15
Jan
13

Arminian Presuppostion #8 Refuted

8. The terms “called” and “calling” refer to the general and universal invitation of the gospel.

There is no question but that there is a general and universal call of the gospel. It is a sincere and bonafide offer of salvation in Christ and all who respond positively to this call in faith and repentance will assuredly be saved. It is this call Jesus spoke of in Matt. 22:14 when he said, “. . . .for many are called, but few are chosen.” The problem is, this call is always ineffectual unless it is accompanied by God’s internal and effectual call. We refer to this call as “effectual” because it effectively brings sinners into union with Christ. Paul wrote, “God is faithful, by whom you were called in to the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord”(1 Cor. 1:9). Believers have been called into partnership with Jesus Christ. This is clearly not true of everyone who is invited by the gospel. In keeping with this, he wrote in verse thirty of the same chapter, “Because of him [God] you are in Christ Jesus. . . .” In other words, the fact that we are in Christ is the result of God’s activity and not ours.

It seems likely “calling” in Pauline literature refers to the same work of God as “drawing” does in John’s gospel. In both calling and drawing, it is clear it is God, the Father who calls/draws. In both, the result is faith in Christ. Apart from calling or drawing, sinners cannot or will not come to Christ. Jesus said, “No one can(is able to) come to me unless the Father who has sent me should draw him, and I will raise him up again at the last day.” In this same context (v. 37), Jesus has told his hearers that all the Father is giving him (he uses the present tense to indicate action that is going on) will come to him and that he will never by any means reject those who come. This should be distinguished from what he teaches in verse thirty-nine where he speaks of those the Father has given him with the continuing result that he still has them. This was an action completed in the past. The latter donation speaks of God’s decree before the world was. In accordance with that decree, the Father is, by drawing them to Jesus, giving them to him. Jesus tells us that all he “draws” in this way will come to him. “Every person therefore having heard and having learned of the Father comes to me” (45b). In other words, this drawing is an effectual drawing.

This teaching clearly accords with what the apostle Paul wrote about “calling.” A careful examination of the New Testament Epistles will reveal there is not a single occurrence of the words, “called,” “call,” or “calling” in which it refers to the universal call of the gospel. The New Testament writers consistently used it to refer to that effectual call by which God the Father unites his chosen people to Christ. So much is this the case that at times they refer to believers as “the called ones,” for example, see Rom. 1:6 and 8:28.

I would like you to consider two passages in which it is clear that “calling” cannot refer to the external call or invitation of the gospel. They are Romans 8:30 and 1 Cor. 1: 22-24.

In the first of these we encounter what some of the old writers referred as “God’s golden chain of redemption.” This chain began to be forged by God in eternity past and stretches into eternity future. It should be clear that every link of this chain has reference to the same people. Those who are predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ are the same as those who are glorified.

The first link of this “golden chain” is God’s predetermination of the elects’ full conformity to the image of his Son. He determined to restore his image in his redeemed people even before that image was lost in the early days of human existence. Then, Paul informs us that those, only those, but all of those he thus predestined, he also called. It is important that we understand the identification of the ones called with those he predestined. If God’s predestinating activity means anything, it assures us that all he has planned will certainly occur. Everyone of those God predestined will be glorified or conformed to Christ’s image. Each link of this chain concerns the same group of people. He does not write, “Some of those he predestined, he also called” or “some of those he called, he also justified,” or “some of those he justified, he also glorified.” The entire purpose of this argument, which he began to pursue in chapter five, is that those whom God has justified, may “rejoice in hope [the confident and settled assurance] of the glory of God [again becoming reflectors of his glory by bearing his image, i.e., glorification]. His specific argument in this immediate context is that God’s eternal purpose guarantees the believer’s glorification.

Since this is true, it is impossible that “calling” in this verse refers to the universal call, i.e., invitation, of the gospel. If that were the case, everyone invited by the gospel would be included in those God predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son–“whom he predestined THEM he also called.” Additionally, we would have to argue that everyone who has been invited by the gospel is also justified–“whom he called, THEM he also justified.” This clearly cannot be the case. We must conclude that “called” in this verse refers to God’s activity that effects faith in those who are outwardly invited by the gospel. Otherwise, they could not be justified.

In 1 Cor. 1: 22-24, Paul describes the prevailing attitude and recalcitrant rebellion of those to whom he preaches the gospel. He informs us that the Jews to whom he preaches go on requiring a sign and the Greeks to whom he preaches go on seeking wisdom or philosophy. Instead of tickling their ears or trying to produce signs to authenticate his message, he goes on proclaiming to them the naked, unvarnished truth that God’s anointed one has been crucified on a Roman cross and now stands as the crucified one. Then he describes the reaction of both Jews and Greeks to this message. As far as the Jews are concerned this is an offensive message. The idea that their expected Messiah would die as a vile criminal by crucifixion was more than they could tolerate. Left to themselves, they routinely rejected this message. To the Greeks, this message was moronic. They, too, roundly rejected it.

When we read these words, one of our assumptions in the case of both Jews and Greeks must be that they had heard the gospel. They could not regard it as an offense and foolishness if they had not heard it, could they? To state the matter differently, both the Jews and Greeks to whom Paul proclaimed the message of Christ had been CALLED, i.e., invited, by the outward call of the gospel. But, in contrast to those who persistently rejected this outward call Paul wrote, “BUT TO THOSE WHO ARE CALLED, BOTH JEWS AND GREEKS, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. What effected such a change? How is it that Christ and the message of his crucifixion which before was offensive and foolish is now power and wisdom? The answer can only be God’s internal and effectual call.

If we insist that the call must refer to the external invitation of the gospel, we would have to believe the passage teaches something like the following: Both Jews and Greeks persistently reject the gospel invitation every time they hear it, but to those who are invited by the gospel, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is now God’s power and wisdom. That is pure nonsense!

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.