Posts Tagged ‘Prevenient Grace

12
May
17

Desire and Ability

An ability to believe the gospel would have to include a desire to believe the gospel since the sinner’s inability results from his unwillingness. If all sinners possess, in a state of sinful nature, the ability to believe the gospel or if through prevenient grace all are at some point given that ability, would it not be correct to assume that all sinners also have a desire to believe the gospel including all that repentance and faith entail?

It follows, then, that if not all sinners desire to believe, and they obviously do not, then not all sinners have the ability.

14
Feb
15

I AM THE TRUE VINE

Continue reading ‘I AM THE TRUE VINE’

30
Jan
15

Prevenient Grace

Many have posited what they call the doctrine of prevenient grace which, according to their view, grants the power of “libertarian free will” universally. Most seem clueless about how they are using that term. The more intelligent of them will actually attempt to define what they mean by free will. They define it as “a person’s ability to choose other than he has chosen.” If I choose to eat chicken, I have equal ability to choose to eat steak. I have no issue with the idea that God has granted people the freedom of choice. Even the vilest sinner is free to choose to leave his sins and follow Christ if he wishes. If he should choose that option, he would do so because he had chosen to do so freely and apart from external constraint. By that, I do not mean that the human will is autonomous and acts apart from any influence whatsoever. We chose what we wish because we are what we are. God sets life and death before sinners and calls on them to choose between these two options. The question of the sinner’s ability to choose anything he wants is not at issue here. Everyone agrees on that point. What is at issue is whether a sinner possesses either the innate ability or the ability granted by prevenient but ineffectual grace to choose that for which he absolutely no desire and to which everything in his being is absolutely averse. If I am able to choose to eat steak, does that mean I have equal ability to choose to dine at the local sewage treatment plant? I am free to choose it, but I am not free to want it. The issue is not whether we are free to choose what we want. The issue is whether we have the ability to desire what we ought to desire. Can we choose what we abhor?

Those who tout prevenient grace are quick to resort to “mystery” when anyone begins to press them on the particulars of that doctrine. For example, if we should ask them why the Scriptures never say a word about an ineffectual preceding grace, they will tell us it must be drawn from inference. Apparently they reason that if God has expressed his sincere desire for the salvation of sinners, he must give everyone a chance. How and when all this happens is a “mystery.” That is their way of saying they do not have a clue and we should be ashamed of ourselves for being so bold as to actually ask them to defend their indefensible view. With the understanding that those who believe in salvific monergism also believe in prevenient grace, I would like to pose a few “philosophical” questions about their position though I am not arguing for philosophical determinism versus free will. Since their position is a philosophical and not a biblical one, I should be permitted to ask what they call “philosophical questions.”

1. If the will is free to choose other than it has chosen, would that not suggest that it is as inclined to choose what it does not want as it is to choose what it does want? Would that not suggest that, according to this view, the sinner is in a state of absolute neutrality?

2. Unless some sinners have virtues others lack, if God grants prevenient grace equally and universally, what is it that for some tips the scale toward God and leaves others in their state of neutrality? If sinners are all born in the same state of depravity and prevenient grace elevates all of them to the same state of neutrality or “libertarian free will,” it seems to me there are only two choices: 1. Some sinners must naturally possess a virtue or purpose of heart that others do not possess, or 2. There must be some external influence in addition to prevenient grace that tips the scale one way or the other. Clearly such an influence could not come from God without violating the sanctity of the human will.

2. Since those who believe in ineffectual* prevenient grace, affirm with the monergists that sinners are born in a state of sinful depravity or inability, when, in their view, is this power of free will granted?

3. If prevenient grace is granted at birth, why are the wicked described as going astray as soon as they are born? If you should answer that this passage is not speaking about every person but only about “the wicked,” are you not arguing that some are born in a state of total depravity and others are born in a less depraved state or that some receive a greater measure of prevenient grace than others? Or perhaps you are arguing that as soon as they are born they consciously choose to be wicked.

If prevenient grace is granted in God’s universal revelation of himself as he is clearly seen in his works of creation, why is it that the apostle Paul does not say, “some sinners suppress the truth about God they see in creation, while others freely receive it, rejoice in it, thank God for it, and glorify him because of it?”

If prevenient grace that grants “free will” to sinners is conferred in God’s universal grants of benevolence to his creatures, why did Paul describe the hearts of those who had received the benefits of God’s goodness as “hard and impenitent?” (see Rom. 2: 5). That doesn’t quite sound like neutrality does it?

Perhaps you would argue that prevenient grace is universally granted through the preaching of the gospel. Would that not mean that those who do not hear the gospel do not receive this grace? Additionally, why is it that even those who have been confronted with the clear light of the gospel are not neutral about it. John tells us in regard to the clearest revelation God has ever given of himself, “This is the condemnation that light has come into the world, but people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. And everyone who does wicked things hates the light, and does not come to the light lest his works should be exposed”(John 3:19-20). That some come to the light is not at issue here. Of course some come to the light and embrace Christ in faith. The question is not if some believe but why some believe. The New Testament Scriptures make it clear that those who have heard the gospel clearly and faithfully proclaimed in its fullness continue to regard that message as foolishness (1 Cor. 1:18). It doesn’t appear that gospel preaching is in and of itself accompanied by prevenient grace?

Perhaps you will suggest that God grants prevenient grace in Holy Spirit “conviction.” The problem is that the reproving work of the Spirit seems to be integrally related to the preaching of the gospel. It is not that he presses on sinners who have never heard the gospel, the sin of rejecting Christ as he is offered in the gospel and only in the gospel. If that is true, prevenient grace could not be granted universally in the Spirit’s work of reproof unless the gospel is proclaimed universally. If the gospel is not preached to every individual on earth, the prevenient grace of the Spirit’s reproof could not be universal. Additionally, their proof-text in Acts 7:51 does not merely tell us that sinners resist [the word means to fall against or to hurl oneself against] the Holy Spirit as he presses the evidence of the gospel against them. It tells us they ALWAYS resist.

Wesley wrote concerning prevenient grace,

Yet this is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker, by saying, ‘It is God only that must quicken us; for we cannot quicken our own souls.’ For allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called natural conscience. But this is not natural; It is more properly termed, preventing grace.”(Wesley, 1986, 6:512) He continues saying, “Every one has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world. And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron, feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience. So that no man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath. Therefore, inasmuch as God works in you, you are now able to work out your own salvation. (Wesley. 1986, 6:512).

There are several insights we can gain from Wesley’s statement. First, it is clear that he is concerned that no one blame his sin on the fact that God has not granted him enabling grace. This grows out of the classic Arminian presupposition that responsibility implies ability. It is the belief that God cannot hold a person responsible unless he also gives that person ability. We can show this to be false by appealing to Romans 8:7. God clearly holds sinners responsible for obeying his law, but Paul tells us that those who are in the flesh CANNOT do so. Wesley tries to answer his inability/responsibility dilemna by saying that every man has some measure of the grace of God. The monergist would argue that every sinner is responsible for his own sin whether he has been given grace or not. That God who gives grace is to be praised when he restrains us from sin, relieves us of none of the blame if he does not restrain us. The sin is ours alone.

Second, what Wesley called “prevenient grace,” we would call “common grace,” which at times is restraining grace. It seems another difference between our beliefs is that he used the word “grace” more in the sense of enabling whereas we would use the term more in the sense of “unmerited favor to those who merited God wrath.” The consistent witness of Scripture is that in spite of God’s common grace and restraining mercy, sinners continue to presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead them to repentance. But in spite of all this kindness, the hearts of sinners remain hard and impenitent. All God’s patience apart from his effectual grace does nothing to soften his hard heart and produce repentance.

Third, even he did not seem to see this “prevenient grace” as having been granted equally to all since he wrote, “. . .which sooner or later, more or less (italics mine) enlightens every man that cometh into the world.” Additionally, he apparently believed some sinners had escaped the benefits of prevenient grace since he wrote, “And every one, unless he be one of the small number whose conscience is seared as with a hot iron (Italics mine), feels more or less uneasy when he acts contrary to the light of his own conscience.” One would have thought that prevenient grace would have granted free will to these as well.

One would think that if God loves every sinner equally and in the same way, he would have granted this grace equally to all. It seems likely that John, in 1:9 of his gospel, had in mind the enlightenment of people from every nation through the proclamation of the gospel of Christ as opposed to the enlightenment of every individual who has ever been born whether he has heard the gospel or not. Whatever the meaning of that verse, there is not the slightest hint that John had in mind that this enlightenment restored free will to the sinner. That concept must be read into the text; it cannot be drawn out of it. It is important to remember that sinners need more than light; we must have sight. This God’s common grace does not grant. What Wesley called “prevenient grace” only gives light. What monergists call prevenient grace gives both light and sight.

Fourth, this statement of Wesley’s implies that God has given to every sinner sufficient grace to enable him to avoid sin. He offers this as the reason why there “is no excuse for those who continue in sin, and lay the blame upon their Maker.” His clear implication is that if God had not granted this prevenient grace to all, his creatures could rightly blame him if they continued in sin. One wonders why one needs the grace of regeneration if prevenient grace has enabled all to put away their sins and rest on Christ. It would seem logical if sinners have been enabled by prevenient grace to obey one command of God, they should be able by prevenient grace to obey every command of God. Where is the evidence that all the universal blessings of God’s common grace put together have caused one sinner to put away his hostility toward God and rest on God’s promise of mercy? The effect of a mind controlled by the flesh is hostility toward God (see Romans 8:7), and our minds continue to be controlled by the flesh until he by his free grace replaces our stony hearts with hearts of flesh.

4. It is biblically impossible to argue that God has granted equal revelation of himself to all. Even common sense should tell us that that a blind man does not enjoy the same revelation of God’s glory in the night sky as a sighted individual does. Some are born into Christian homes and hear the gospel taught regularly; others are born into an environment of pagan darkness. It seems incontrovertible that he grants greater grace and privilege to some than he does to others (see for example Matt. 11:20-24). If God loves everyone equally and in the same way, why does he not grant to everyone the same light and opportunity? Is this inequality in God’s dealings with different individuals a random occurrence or has he previously determined to grant greater light to some than he does to others? We are often told that God would be unfair if he called and enabled some to believe according to his purpose and not others. Why does this charge not equally apply to the fact that he has granted greater revelation and privilege to some than to others?

5. It is often suggested as a proof of ineffectual prevenient grace that there are those in the Gospels and in the book of Acts who showed evidence of a desire to know God in a saving way prior to coming to faith in Christ. If only they had improved on this grace and used their freed will properly. We do not deny that there are those who show interest in the kingdom and may even come to a temporary faith and receive the gospel with joy, but this is no evidence of any more than a self-serving desire to enjoy God’s blessings in one’s own way. Those who showed evidence of a desire to be right with God on his terms and not on theirs ultimately came to genuine and lasting faith in Christ. We do not deny that God’s Spirit awakens sinners to their need and to the glories of the gospel prior to the consummating act of effectual calling. He may woo some for an extended period of time before he at last converts them. Additionally, we do not deny that some may feel their guilt and fear their condemnation as the Spirit presses the evidence of their sin and doom on them. These may or may not come to conversion. Still, this is no evidence that prevenient grace has granted them the power of free will.

*[I use the term ineffectual prevenient grace to distinguish it from that preceding grace that actually unites sinners to Christ].

John Wesley, Wesley’s Works, Working Out Our Own Salvation (Peabody MA:Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.) 1986.

20
Oct
14

Arminianism, Calvinism, and Hyper-Calvinism

What do Arminians and Hyper-Calvinists Have in Common?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 God’s “Will” Understood in Two Different Senses

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

Charnock  also wrote concerning these two wills,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prevenient Grace-Bible Truth or Philosophical Assumption?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faulty Philosophical Assumptions with No Biblical Foundation

Assumption one: The Power of Autonomous Self Determination

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

Calvin wrote,

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

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

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

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

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

Assumption Three: Grace Must be Resistible to be True Grace

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

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

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

Assumption Four: The Effects of Depravity Have Been Cancelled

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

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

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

 “Come ye sinners poor and wretched,

Weak and wounded sick and sore.

Jesus ready stands to save you,

Full of pity, joined with power.

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

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

14
Oct
14

Unanswered post

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

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

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

He commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

None of it is to be attributed to man.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

08
Sep
14

Where Have All The Thinkers Gone?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.