Loving Moon, Despising Calvin : 2007-04-17
Comments: 27  |  Permalink  |  View all rants
Jerry Falwell loves Sun Myung Moon's cash, but anyone who believes in historical Reformed theology gets branded a heretic by the rotund founder of Liberty University.

Of course, Rev. Falwell makes no attempt to explain how he can swipe substitutionary atonement from Reformed theology without becoming tainted by it. See the video at James White's aomin.org.



27 comments for Loving Moon, Despising Calvin

1. Matt Email Web 2007-04-22  7:31am

Randy, I am not a fan of Jerry Falwell for many reasons, but I am curious about your mention of him swiping substitutionary atonement from Calvinism. Do yo believe one has to be a Calvinist to believe in substitionary atonement? I would not considier myself to be a true blue Calvinist, yet I am adamant about substitionary atonement. Why would one have to classify this as a Reformed doctrine? Arminians would agree that the application of the atonement is only for those who will freely put their faith in Christ (the elect if you like), but Scripture seems abundantly clear that Christ died for the sins of all, and that His death was in fact penal substitution for the sins of all who believe.


2. Randy Brandt Email Web 2007-04-26  10:00am

Hi Matt, I've been out of town and have zero time for a few days, but the brief answer is yes, I believe that a consistent penal substitution view of salvation only makes sense from a Reformed perspective (although I myself held to the view long before becoming Reformed). I'll expand on that later.


3. Randy Brandt Email Web 2007-04-29  10:22pm

Much has been written on this topic of PSA (Penal Substitutionary Atonement), but I'm happy to throw my two cents worth in. I know you're not an open theist, Matt, so we can assume divine knowledge. God knows the future perfectly. I also know that you are not a universalist, so we agree that not everyone will be saved. So what does atonement mean in that light? Interestingly, in the NIV it appears in 100 Old Testament verses, but only three verses in the New Testament. Depending on the version, a couple of different Greek words are translated as "atonement."

The word katallage means reconciliation:

KJV Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

NIV Romans 5:11 Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

When we are reconciled, we are in right standing with God. 2 Corinthians 5:19 says God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them.

Only those in the Spirit can be in right standing with God. Unbelievers, or those in the flesh, are never portrayed as being in right standing with God. While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us, but that reconciliation brought us out of our sin and into the Kingdom. Advocates of PSA believe then that God punished Christ on the cross, appeasing His wrath toward us for our sins, placing that judgement on Christ so that we bear it no more. Well, unless of course if you're not Reformed. Then you can still go to hell for your sins, bearing them yet again, unless you join in Christ's work by believing. He only made salvation theoretically possible, rather than securing it as Reformed people believe. The only other alternative, the Dave Hunt approach, is to say that all our sins are paid, atoned for and covered, but we can go to hell for unbelief anyway. Apparently the hymn is altered slightly: What can wash away the blood of Jesus? Nothing but my sin of unbelief.

A second Greek word translated as "atonement" is "hilasterion" or "hilasmos," and it means propitiation, atonement or reconciliation:

KJV 1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

NIV 1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 John 4 is specifically addressed to believers. Nothing is said about Christ substituting for unbelievers. That issue is generally raised by 1 John 2:2:

KJV 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

NIV 1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Does this mean that 1) Christ has atoned for the sins of every individual, resulting in universalism? Does it mean that 2) He atones for everyone, placing them in right standing with God, yet they somehow get out of that state as mentioned earlier? Or does it mean 3) "The sins of the whole world" means something other than atonement for every single individual?

We agree that 1) is out of the question. Choosing 2) as most evangelicals do raises numerous problems. If you're in right standing with God, how can you simultaneously be under His judgement? Remember 2 Corinthians 5:19. Being atoned for (reconciled) means our sins are not counted against us. How then does my sin still show through to bring about judgement? Obviously that can't happen, so the reconciliation has to be conditional on my belief, even though I'm already in right standing with God. I don't believe the cross merely offered theoretical salvation. I believe that when Jesus said, "It is finished" (paid in full), He had secured the eternal salvation of His people. The non-Reformed view should be called CPSA: Conditional Penal Substitutionary Atonement.

Revelation 5:9 says, And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

How then do we view 1 John 2:2? There are other examples in the Bible in which "world" means all kinds of people (Jews and Gentiles) rather than every individual. What about that old favorite, John 3:16?

16 "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

If we substitute "every single individual" for "world," we're stuck with universalism when we read verse 17. However, if we take a cue from Revelation 5:9 and substitute "men from every tribe and language and people and nation" for "world" it still makes perfect sense and fits with the rest of Scripture.

Jesus claims a 100% success rate in John 6. There's no hint of a merely theoretical salvation, an atonement that fails to atone without the addition of man's faith:

John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away. 38 For I have come down from heaven not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day.

Amen!


4. Matt Email Web 2007-05-01  2:33pm

Randy, thank you for your response. Before I reply, let me say that I did actually see your rendition of the classic hymn in a United Methodist hymnal. It was right beside "Faith of our Transgendered Pomo Egalitarian Parents" (notice how close "pomo" looks to "por-no" when typed out? I guess they are not unrelated).

Your arguments do reflect a typical Reformed theology. And while I disagree with the Calvinistic denial of meaningful free will, I will say that I do respect those who do hold this view as good, conservative, evangelical brothers in Christ. So be sure, I'm not an antagonist taking potshots from the sidelines (I'm a huge fan of Piper, Grudem, MacArthur, Swindoll, etc.) I'm an honest Christian who wants to be faithful to Scripture. And at this point in my Christian walk, much of Reformed theology (ie - TULIP) seems to be theologism and eisogesis rather than proper exegesis. I would love to be proven wrong, however, so that I would have more in common with many Spiritual leaders that I respect deeply.

Anyhow, the disagreement can once again be distilled down to free will. Does it exist in a meaningful way? If the T in TULIP (as you would define it) is true, then the rest of the acronym becomes internally consistent, and free will does in fact not exist. However, is depravity so total that it destroys my free will and therefore my moral responsibility? Why not live a life of antinomianism - after all, doesn't God determine this if he has not coerced me to love Him against my will? If we can only choose evil because of our fallen nature, thenn what caused Adam to sin? Isn't it because of his sin that our depravity is total? Either something else caused him to be totally depraved, or he willingly chose evil through his free agency? What about Lucifer? How did he rebel against God except that 1) God caused him to in His sovereignty, or 2) Lucifer freely chose to rebel against God. Seeing as we would agree that God is a free being (not in the sense of voluntarism), and that we are created in His image, does it not follow that He could allow for our free will within His sovereignty? Seeing as well that so much of the NT is an *invitation*, it would seem inconsistent that we have no ability to reject that invitation (irresistable grace) or to accept it (total depravity). Any invitation that cannot be accepted or rejected is meaningless. Human freedom becomes annihilated, and with it moral responsibility MUST be destroyed.

As far as Jesus securing our salvation, I agree that through His divine foreknowledge He does factually secure those who will through their free agency believe in Him (the elect if you wish). Our ability to reject or accept His sacrifice is still meaningful, however, since we do not know what He divinely foreknows. What is foreknown by God will surely come about, since He is omnniscient. However, it does not follow that foreknowledge must be *preceded* by predetermination. Does it not actually limit God's omniscience to imply that he can only foreknow what He determines? Why can God not foreknow will happen through human free agency?

Another problem I see is the fact that God is "not willing that any should perish". If He wills all to be saved, and we agree that not all are saved, then either 1) God is not powerful enough to bring His will to fruition, or 2) it is within His will for humans to use their moral responsibility to make meaningful free choices.

If even the faith to believe (Eph. 2:8,9) is a gift from God (as opposed to salvation being a gift that is accepted *through* faith) then God is not omnibenevolent and is in fact not God at all. If God hand-picks the elect and secures their salvation no matter what, even against their will and nature, and some are passed over, then God does not love all people, He is willing that some should perish. Conversely, if God is both the source and the agency of salvation, and if He is in fact omnibenevolent, then universalism must be true, but we know it isn't. At the end of the day, the Calvinist must either deny God's omnibenevolence or His omnipotence. If he will not do so explicitly, he must do so implicitly, for his arguments require one or the other to be destroyed.

So, PSA is theoretically available to all, but will only be applied to those who, through faith, accept its life-giving power.

John 3:16 does not read:

"For God so loved His elect, that He sent His only begotten Son, that the elect who are irresistably forced against their will and their human nature to believe in Him, shall not perish (unlike those who God created to hate and determined to have no chance to go to heaven but are forced into hell), but have everlasting life".

Completely unrelated - how Reformed are you? Just curious. Are you a dispensationalist or a covenant theology guy? Credo or paedobaptism? Reformed charismatic or cessationist? What denomination do you call home (I'm assuming not PCUSA or the presbyterian wing of the United Church of Canada). Just curious. Anticipating your thoughts, especially on the nature of Adam and Lucifer's rebellion.

I hope you're predestined to have a great afternoon. Me, I am freely choossing to conclude this post and finish some other work (c;

Matt


5. Randy Email Web 2007-05-01  9:06pm

I did actually see your rendition of the classic hymn in a United Methodist hymnal. It was right beside "Faith of our Transgendered Pomo Egalitarian Parents"

Truly a classic--one of the beloved hymns of the faith.

Your arguments do reflect a typical Reformed theology.

Guilty as charged. I'm glad you love and respect us despite our denial of God as God. :-)

I'm an honest Christian who wants to be faithful to Scripture. And at this point in my Christian walk, much of Reformed theology (ie - TULIP) seems to be theologism and eisogesis rather than proper exegesis. I would love to be proven wrong, however, so that I would have more in common with many Spiritual leaders that I respect deeply.

There's plenty of time. It took me until I was a decade older than you to figure it out. ;-) I made the switch precisely because I wanted to avoid eisgesis, and I am convinced that proper exegesis will always move one to a Reformed position.

is depravity so total that it destroys my free will and therefore my moral responsibility?

I don't believe in free will for anyone but God, as I would shudder to give myself something I deny to my Creator. If we always have the option to do other than what we choose (libertarian free will), then God does not have the same privilege, as our will trumps His. I cannot accept that. I believe God's will is supreme, and our choices are always subservient to His sovereignty. My God reigns.

Moral responsibility still exists, because we act according to our desires. The philosophical term is "compatibilism." We must distinguish between primary and secondary causes. Fallen man is not a robot, but he is dead in sin, as Colossians 2:13 says: And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,

Why not live a life of antinomianism

Exactly. Unless of course God takes out our heart of stone and gives us a heart of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19)

- after all, doesn't God determine this if he has not coerced me to love Him against my will?

God does not coerce anyone to love Him against their will. He raises dead sinners to spiritual life so they are able to love him. Remember, Romans 8:7 tells us that the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Exegete that one! :-)

what caused Adam to sin?

Our fallen nature is part of being children of Adam. His federal headship means we do not have the same choices he had. We always reject God unless we're given a heart of flesh.

Human freedom becomes annihilated

Human freedom is overrated. God's freedom is more important.

As far as Jesus securing our salvation, I agree that through His divine foreknowledge He does factually secure those who will through their free agency believe in Him (the elect if you wish)

Except that's not what Scripture teaches. Verse after verse is about what God does. Take Ephesians 1 and 2, for example. Not much about what man does--lots about what God does.

Another problem I see is the fact that God is "not willing that any should perish".

This is where exegesis is vital. Read 2 Peter 3:1. Peter is writing to "the beloved" and refers to two groups of people, the other being the scoffers. You chopped off the first key part of the verse:

2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

Nothing is said about God being patient to the others, to the scoffers. Rather, God is patient toward "you," His sheep that He is gathering into His kingdom as Jesus Himself proclaimed in John 10:27: My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.

The "all that should reach repentance" do so, as Jesus promised in John 6:37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out... 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.

Passage after passage teaches that God saves His people perfectly.

If even the faith to believe (Eph. 2:8,9) is a gift from God (as opposed to salvation being a gift that is accepted *through* faith) then God is not omnibenevolent and is in fact not God at all.

Complain to St. Paul and the Holy Spirit, not to me, for the Greek neuter form of touto (that) makes it unambiguous that faith is included as part of the gift. English loses that force, but the Greek clarifies what is being referred to; Paul could have used the gender form to match "saved," but he tells us that the faith is a gift as well as the salvation.

If by "omnibenevolent" you mean that God must treat all men the same, then there is no basis for judgement, hell, and justice. If perfect goodness includes justice, then sinners must be punished for their sins, even if He chooses to show mercy to His sheep. Not only is He still God, His Godly attributes and sovereignty are magnified when man does not have the upper hand.

If God hand-picks the elect and secures their salvation no matter what, even against their will and nature

Of course that is not what Reformed theology teaches. God raises dead sinners to spiritual life and they willingly trust Him. No one is drawn to God against their will, except maybe C. S. Lewis, who said he was dragged into the Kingdom kicking and screaming.

He is willing that some should perish

Absolutely. He is unwilling that any of His sheep perish, and ensures that they do not. He is willing that the goats perish, and ensures that they do. The Bible describes His just judgement on sin in many places. Or do you think He goes against His own will when He casts rebellious sinners into hell? Was Jesus schizophrenic when He taught in Matthew 10:28, Don't fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul; rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell?

Of course not. The judgement of God is righteous and part of His perfect will. He is willing that the goats perish. There can be no other consistent conclusion unless one creates an impotent God.

Conversely, if God is both the source and the agency of salvation, and if He is in fact omnibenevolent, then universalism must be true, but we know it isn't. At the end of the day, the Calvinist must either deny God's omnibenevolence or His omnipotence. If he will not do so explicitly, he must do so implicitly, for his arguments require one or the other to be destroyed.

I'll deny omnibenevolence as you define it, but I will assert that God is still just and loving when He allows rebellious sinners to continue in their rebellion. Nothing forces Him to extend His electing mercy to all, and Scripture makes it clear that He does not do that. The potter is free. Non-Calvinists want the pot to be free instead. So do dopers, but that's a different story.

So, PSA is theoretically available to all, but will only be applied to those who, through faith, accept its life-giving power.

How is Christ a substitute if salvation is only theoretical? How could Christ say "It is finished" if no one was actually saved, and the process had only just begun, with the completion dependent on men dead in their trespasses and sins, consumed by their hatred of a holy God? What makes dead sinners who are in the flesh and can not please God move towards the cross if not irresistible grace? Innate goodness? Not Biblically.

John 3:16 does not read:

"For God so loved His elect, that He sent His only begotten Son, that the elect who are irresistably forced against their will and their human nature to believe in Him, shall not perish (unlike those who God created to hate and determined to have no chance to go to heaven but are forced into hell), but have everlasting life".


No, and I don't know any Reformed person who reads it like that. Remember no one is ever forced to believe against their will. Some are given a new heart, and some are left in their sins. As C. S. Lewis said, "there are those who say to God, 'they will be done,' and those to whom God says, 'thy will be done.' Reprobation is not parallel to election. Even so, there are vessels created for destruction, as Romans plainly teaches.

Here's my more textually accurate paraphrase of John 3:16-- "For God so loved the world, both Jew and Gentile, that he gave his only Son, that the believing ones should not perish but have eternal life."

The believing ones are those raised to spiritual life, called by the Father and given to the Son. They are the sheep, the elect, the bride, or whatever you want to call them.

Are you a dispensationalist or a covenant theology guy?

Unsure. I see arguments for both sides. If I had to pick one, I'd lean covenant, but I have plenty of respect for MacArthur and the other Reformed dispies.

Credo or paedobaptism?

Credo all the way, but I understand how some paedos tie that to the covenant parallel with circumcision. I don't agree with those who think it actually creates sheep.

Reformed charismatic or cessationist?

Mild cessationist. I think God can still use sign gifts if He chooses, but I think 99.99% of claimed North American charistmastic sign gifts are bogus. I'm more likely to buy into stories of sign gifts in Muslim countries where the Scriptures are not readily available.

What denomination do you call home

I don't. Our church is loosely affiliated with Southern Baptists, a denomination with both Reformed and anti-Reformed segments. Our head pastor is not Reformed, while our associate pastor is Reformed. Several of the Sunday School teachers are Reformed, but one or two are charismatic Arminians. We're an odd mix that won't work in the long run although we like each other. It's just too diverse, and it has to be confusing to sit in church and hear that Jesus is begging you to be his bride, hoping that you'll accept, and then go to Sunday School and hear a Scriptural soteriology based on John 6 and the 100% success rate Jesus claimed for Himself.

Anticipating your thoughts, especially on the nature of Adam and Lucifer's rebellion.

Great, I wrote the least on that precisely because of the uniqueness. I'm far more interested in us and what the Bible teaches about our condition. The bottom line is that we're not told much detail, but the situation was unique and not repeatable by us. I would say that Jesus was the lamb slain before the foundation of the earth, therefore the fall was clearly part of God's plan or He could have simply not created us at all.

I hope you're predestined to have a great afternoon. Me, I am freely choossing to conclude this post and finish some other work (c;

Always the comedian... :-)

Now to return briefly to the original topic, how do you make sense of a substitionary atonement in which the Father punishes the Son for the sins of those already in hell, as well as the sins of those not yet born who God knows will end up in hell? What does that accomplish? Does Christ atone perfectly for people who are not then interceded for, or does He ineffectually intercede for those in hell?

How do you deal with all of the passages that speak of dead sinners; not sick sinners or straying sinners, but dead sinners? Do me a favor and carefully read Romans 8 and Ephesians 1 & 2, looking for the actions of man and the actions of God. It should help you understand where I'm coming from, even if you don't buy it yourself.


6. Matt Email Web 2007-05-05  10:45am

Hi Randy, there's so many different trails we could potentially go down, but I'll try to stay reasonably focused on central issues here. Might be tough. (How do you get pasted comments to show up in italics? I'll trust you'll know where I'm quoting you)

If we always have the option to do other than what we choose (libertarian free will), then God does not have the same privilege, as our will trumps His.

Having the option to choose other than what we have chosen does NOT deny God's sovereignty, or make His will subservient to our own. IF God did in fact create us in His image with a certain amount of freedom, then it is within His sovereignty that we exercise that freedom. In fact it seems to limit God somewhat to say that He cannot foreknow something that He has not predetermined.

In Matthew 11:23, Jesus says: "And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. *For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day.*". Here Jesus seems to have contingent knowledge. That is, He seems to know the potential outcome of a situation that did not in fact exist, but could have existed. There are many other examples of God having contingent knowledge based on the choices He presents to His creation.

God's determination of things and His divine foreknowledge are certainly related to one another, but note the chronology of Romans 8:29 - foreknowledge > predestination > calling > justification > glorification. It seems here that God's predestination is either rooted in His perfect foreknowledge, or at the very least it works in conjunction with it. A good analogy might be if I am looking for an employee, and I find two candidates that would both be equally qualified. I know that one of them is looking for a new job, and one will not leave his current job no matter what. Who will I ask to work for me? The one who will choose to work for me. Notice, my election of the individual is based on my foreknowledge of the outcome of his *future free choice*. In this view of foreknowledge and election, both omniscience and perfect sovereignty, as well as meaningful free choice are preserved. There is no final conflict, as they say.

You also say that moral responsibility exists because we act according to our will. You know yourself that this is not always the case. Humans do not necessarily act according to their desire. I will go with Paul over Jonathan Edwards on this. In Romans 7:15 - "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate".

You say that God does not coerce. Yet, it is implicit in the TULIP principles. If unregenerate humans CANNOT come to grace through faith, and all they can do is sin and evil, then, by passing these people over, God forces them into Hell. Also, if election is 100% succesful, and it is through *irresistable* grace that election happens, then human will plays no part in the process, and you must say that God *forces* salvation upon those whom He elects. Since, prior to regeneration, these people are dead in sin and unable to choose anything that pleases God, then they are haters of God in their essence. Therefore, God forces them to become saved, even though it is against their ontological essence to love God or put faith in Him.

Romans 8:7,8 in the ESV (God's translation :-)) "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God". I agree that if you impose the Calvinist grid overtop this passage, it makes it appear as though these people need to be regenerated against their wills by God in order to no longer be "in the flesh". Only one problem - the text does *not* tell us how or through what agency these people turn from the flesh. It merely states that as long as they are in their unregenerated state, they are hostile to God. It is through faith in Christ Jesus that this person can be regenerated and saved in order that they may will to please God. Explicitly missing from this passage is the concept of humans not having free will or needing to be elected in order to be saved. In fact, the wording in v. 5 seems to imply that one's mindset is dependant upon the self, not on election.

As far as Eph. 2:8,9 is concerned, I will not try to give the impression that I am a scholar of the biblical languages. However, I have read several commentaries that make it clear that the gender form of the "it" makes a match with "salvation", not with "faith". In other words, salvation is the freely given gift that is accepted and applied through the agency of "faith". Faith is the part God demands of us - not what He forces upon us. In fact, in the TULIP understanding of monergism, God requires *nothing* of us. This is how moral responsibility is destroyed - God sovereignly elects against our will, and by inference, he elects some to hell. Human choice is moot. It is absolutely inescapable that unregenerate humans have *no* moral responsibility. While we would both agree that the unsaved are ontologically *as bad off* as they could be, we know and are thankful that they are not actually *as bad* as they could be. Even they are judged by the scepter of God's perfect justice. They are responsible for their willing rebellion. In a Calvinist view, they are really guilty of nothing except of being so unloved by God that He refuses to elect them. God cannot hold one accountable for something that person has no control over. And if a person has no control over his/her rebellion or faith, then they remain unaccountable to God.

Lastly, you can't play dodge when it comes to Adam or Lucifer's rebellion. To wiggle out because of Adam's federal headship is not consistent. Because of his federal headship, you would, as a Calvinist, impute his guilt upon all of us. Obviously, his condition plays a role in ours. Therefore, the nature of his rebellion IS significant. We are his heirs - in his image. So I ask again - what caused Adam to sin? He did not have guilt from the Fall imputed on him at the time of his rebellion - so we can't say he was "dead" in his trespasses. You can only say 1) God's sovereignty forced him to sin, in which case God is the author of evil, or 2) God created Adam in God's image (ie - with freedom) and Adam used that freedom in an evil manner. It is boiled down to that. Either God is the author of evil, or humans have freedom within God's sovereignty and perfect foreknowledge (including contingent knowledge). I think this is an important argument. Please at least think about it.

Okay, this is long enough for now. I apologize for not getting back until today - the workweek was mayhem. Even though I don't share your soteriology at this point, I will say again, that if I put on my Reformed glasses when reading the Bible, it is consistent and makes perfect sense within the Calvinist grid. My contention is that that grid itself denies the way God created humans, and seeks to castrate God's sovereignty by making sovereignty dependant on coercion and making people robots rather than on having the view of omniscience and foreknowledge that God tells us He has.

Have a great weekend, and go Sens go!

Matt


7. Randy Email Web 2007-05-05  7:27pm

How do you get pasted comments to show up in italics?

Just use the HTML codes. Start with "<" then "i" then ">" (no quotes). End the same way, but with a "/" in front of the "i".

Having the option to choose other than what we have chosen does NOT deny God's sovereignty, or make His will subservient to our own. IF God did in fact create us in His image with a certain amount of freedom, then it is within His sovereignty that we exercise that freedom.

Certain amount of freedom? Calvinists believe in that. It's the libertarian free will I deny. You can't have it both ways. In any given conflict of wills where only one will can triumph, the perpetual loser can not be said to have free will. If God can choose to thwart my will, He has free will and I do not. If I can choose to thwart His decreed will, I have free will and God does not. How can you uphold God's sovereignty even while saying that He may desire and decree that something must be so, and yet I triumph over Him? At the end of a battle, the winner has sovereignty, the loser does not. What meaningless definition of sovereignty and free will allows the one who supposedly possesses both to continually be defeated and thwarted, unable to rule or impose his will?

There's a mega-million dollar boxing match tonight between De La Hoya and Mayweather. The winner can be said to have imposed his will and to be sovereign over his opponent. The loser will not be hailed as the sovereign, and if there's a knockout, no one will say the loser had free will at the end after he has have been forced to lie on the canvas.

There are many other examples of God having contingent knowledge based on the choices He presents to His creation.

Sure. I have no problem with that, although I don't stray into Molinism. But if God's contingent knowledge is true, can we do other than what He knows we will do in those situations? We must be able to do otherwise if we have libertartian free will, but that would mean that God can not know the future perfectly, leading us right into the arms of open theism.

note the chronology of Romans 8:29 - foreknowledge > predestination > calling > justification > glorification

Greek is helpful here. The first term is proegno. It's a verb. God actively foreknows. "Choose beforehand" is a valid translation. It's not a passive uninvolved knowledge of the future. Verse after verse emphasizes God's choice in redemption, and this passage is no exception. In case we miss the point, Paul goes on in the very next chapter (Rom 9:16) to tell us that it does not depend on the man who wills, but on God.

In this view of foreknowledge and election, both omniscience and perfect sovereignty, as well as meaningful free choice are preserved.

However, it ignores the inability of fallen sinful man to make God-honoring choices.

You also say that moral responsibility exists because we act according to our will. You know yourself that this is not always the case. Humans do not necessarily act according to their desire. I will go with Paul over Jonathan Edwards on this. In Romans 7:15 - "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate".

If you keep reading Romans 7 and 8, Paul makes it oh so clear that our fleshly natures want to do evil, the very things our spiritual natures hate. We are slaves who must be delivered, yet we are responsible for our actions because both aspects of our will are ours. Edwards is still correct--we always act according to our desires, but sometimes our old man triumphs, and other times our spiritual man triumphs. In either case, it's our desire that chooses. No one ever willingly does something they don't want to do. A mother who is terrified of heights normally does not want to crawl out on a high ledge, but she will do so to save her child. At that point, her love gives her the desire to crawl out, even though her natural desire would oppose that action. She's still acting according to her desire.

If unregenerate humans CANNOT come to grace through faith, and all they can do is sin and evil, then, by passing these people over, God forces them into Hell.

Non-Calvinists still have to explain how a God who perfectly knows the future can create people He knows will go to hell. How does that relieve Him of the same charge? A Calvinist can at least point to the freedom of the potter. A non-Calvinist who isn't an open theist has to believe that God created those people just to demonstrate the glory of free will, even while knowing they would reject Him and be judged.

Since, prior to regeneration, these people are dead in sin and unable to choose anything that pleases God, then they are haters of God in their essence. Therefore, God forces them to become saved, even though it is against their ontological essence to love God or put faith in Him.

I don't see raising someone from death to life as "forcing," but if you say Lazarus was "forced" to come out of the tomb, sure, I can live with that, filled with gratitude that God "forced" me to life while I was dead in sin--not of myself, it is the gift of God, lest I should boast.

Romans 8:7,8 in the ESV (God's translation :-))

Amen! Endorsed primarily by Calvinists like Wayne Grudem and John Piper! :-)

"For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God". I agree that if you impose the Calvinist grid overtop this passage, it makes it appear as though these people need to be regenerated against their wills by God in order to no longer be "in the flesh".

Calvinist grid? Looks like the plain reading of the text to me. How can someone who cannot please God somehow please God by moving towards Him? That's where grids are required.

the text does *not* tell us how or through what agency these people turn from the flesh...Explicitly missing from this passage is the concept of humans not having free will or needing to be elected in order to be saved. In fact, the wording in v. 5 seems to imply that one's mindset is dependant upon the self, not on election.

The whole chapter is solidly supportive of God's will and action taking precedence. The adoption metaphor is telling, as it's the parent who makes the choice to adopt, not the child who chooses a parent:

2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free
3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do
9 if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you
11 he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.
15 you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons
23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

27 the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

Notice whose will.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

Notice whose purpose. I read that chapter and I see nothing of man initiating his own salvation.

As far as Eph. 2:8,9 is concerned, I will not try to give the impression that I am a scholar of the biblical languages. However, I have read several commentaries that make it clear that the gender form of the "it" makes a match with "salvation", not with "faith".

Simply put, those commentaries blow it. James White makes it perfectly clear:


The same truth is brought out in probably the most famous passage on this subject, famous only due to the tremendous amount of errant commentary offered upon it. When Paul wrote to the Ephesians he spoke of God's work of gracious salvation:

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)



The relevance of Paul's testimony here is based on the meaning of "that" in the phrase "that not of yourselves." What, in the preceding clause, is not of ourselves, but is the gift of God? Again, careful exegesis shines the light upon both traditional readings as well as those offered on the basis of less-than-thorough study of the Greek language. It is obvious that one cannot simply say "faith is the gift" and leave it at that. As is quickly pointed out, the word "that" is a neuter gender in the Greek language, and "faith" is a feminine term. And while that is well and good, it is only part of the story. In fact, there is nothing in the first phrase that matches "that" in gender ("grace" is feminine, "have been saved" is a masculine participle). Instead, the neuter demonstrative pronoun "that" is functioning to wrap up the entirety of the preceding clause. There is nothing in the first clause of Ephesians 2:8 that finds its origin in man, and that includes faith.


In fact, in the TULIP understanding of monergism, God requires *nothing* of us.

False. He commands men everywhere to repent, but because of their spiritual deadness and hatred for God, they will not do so unless He raises them to spiritual life.

he elects some to hell

Misrepresentation. Election and reprobation are not equivalent. Election is God's saving action. Reprobation is man experiencing his "free will" and defying God. Remember, "elect" is a Biblical term, but it always applies to "sheep" only.

In a Calvinist view, they are really guilty of nothing except of being so unloved by God that He refuses to elect them. God cannot hold one accountable for something that person has no control over. And if a person has no control over his/her rebellion or faith, then they remain unaccountable to God.

No, they are guilty of everything--constant sin and rebellion against the God they hate. God has made all men accountable, but has graciously chosen to save some for His own glory.

Lastly, you can't play dodge when it comes to Adam or Lucifer's rebellion.

I'm not trying to dodge. It's just not as big a deal to me. I'm more concerned about the present situation.

Because of his federal headship, you would, as a Calvinist, impute his guilt upon all of us.

Yes. Would you deny original sin and say that potentially we can live in sinless perfection, that a human can live a life in no need of a Savior? No substitutionary atonement is needed for such a one.

You can only say 1) God's sovereignty forced him to sin, in which case God is the author of evil

I certainly can't say that.

or 2) God created Adam in God's image (ie - with freedom) and Adam used that freedom in an evil manner.

Yes, and at the moment of the Fall that freedom was lost forever. Everything changed. That's where we differ. Apparently you dont't see the same degree of damage caused by the fall of Adam.

Either God is the author of evil, or humans have freedom within God's sovereignty and perfect foreknowledge (including contingent knowledge).

That's not libertarian free will. Now you're describing my brand of freedom, not yours. If our will is "within" God's sovereignty, He has free will and we do not. I've probably used the dog analogy with you before, but here goes:

If I own a dog and put it in a securely fenced back yard, my dog can make choices to eat, sleep, play, etc., but he is not free. The fence was designed to limit his freedom and his choices, to bend his will to my sovereignty. If I put him on a leash he is even more restricted, but even with a large yard to roam, he can not always do other than what he wants because my will is sovereign over his. If he could defy my every wish, my will would not be free, because the dog could triumph over me every time he wanted. Only one will can remain free when two wills collide. I vote for God.

My contention is that that grid itself denies the way God created humans, and seeks to castrate God's sovereignty by making sovereignty dependent on coercion and making people robots rather than on having the view of omniscience and foreknowledge that God tells us He has.

The Calvinist "seeks to castrate God's sovereignty"? That's rather humorous. After all, we hold God's sovereignty in the highest esteem and argue in favor of His will reigning supreme. That charge seems odd coming from someone who apparently believes that in any situation of the will, he can defy God's sovereignty.

I would like responses to some of my specific concerns, like how we can be under God's judgment and reconciled simultaneously. How does John 6 play into your system?

We're in agreement on the Sens, and it looks like they're about to triumph over the Devils!

8. Matt Email Web 2007-05-07  2:08pm

Hi Randy,

I hope the italics works, or this will look like a dog's breakfast!

as far as sovereignty and freedom are concerned, first of all, let me apologize for my comment My contention is that that grid itself denies the way God created humans, and seeks to castrate God's sovereignty by making sovereignty dependant on coercion and making people robots rather than on having the view of omniscience and foreknowledge that God tells us He has. I know full well that the sincere desire of Calvinists is to respect God's sovereignty, even though I am not totally on board with how this is done. Whatever the case, I should not have used the word "seeks". Something like "inadvertantly" would have better reflected what I was trying to say.

Let me use an analogy here (even if it is somewhat watered down) - you are the man of your home. Let's even say you are "sovereign" in this domain. How do we view your "headship"? Does your headship/sovereignty mean that you do not give your children the option of choosing to respond to your love or to rebel against it? A Calvinist would say that if you actually allow your children to respond to your love and headship on their own volition, well, then you're not really the head of your home. I would argue that it does not diminish your authority (or God's sovereignty) one iota to allow those under your authority to make free choices, even if these free choices are made within the bounds of your authority. A Calvinist would object - "My children are so bound to their child-ness that they *cannot* freely respond to my will. Therefore, I, as their authority figure must irresistably coerce them into becoming more mature and loving me, even if it is against their will. Oh, and by the way, I don't really love my children A,G, or U, so I will not force them to become something they are not. Also, I will not even give these children the option of chosing to love me on their own power." Do you see how absurd this becomes? God's sovereignty and perfect omniscience are big enough to allow humans some degree of freedom in their choices. You know I'm not arguing for freedom in an absolute sense (I'm not an open theist), but rather simply for the humans ability to freely respond to God's grace.

Non-Calvinists still have to explain how a God who perfectly knows the future can create people He knows will go to hell.

This explanation is only difficult if we say that election *precedes* foreknowledge. If election is based in foreknowledge, or if the two happen silmultaneously, then there is no dilema here.

A Calvinist can at least point to the freedom of the potter.

If I didn't know already that you were a James White fan, I would now! But even the potter isn't free in an absolute sense. He works within His nature. For example, because God is logical, it is absurd to ask God if He is so powerful He can create a rock too heavy for Him to lift. Likewise, God cannot declare that rape is good, because that would be against His nature. So, if we agree that God works within the limitations of His nature, then we would also have to agree that even God Himself is not free in an absolute sense. Since we know that God shows no partiality, and since election by its very nature involves partiality, then it would seem that unconditional election (that is not related to free choice) is something that denies the unity of God.

I don't see raising someone from death to life as "forcing,"
How can you avoid this? Let's be clear - those God has not elected *cannot* even choose to respond to God's grace, and those who are elected are so elected through *irresistable* grace. Either way, man has nothing to say about his own salvation or demise. How can you possibly avoid the charge of coercion or force?

How can someone who cannot please God somehow please God by moving towards Him?

He cannot please God *as long as he remains in his fleshly state*. If He turns from this state and accepts salvation by grace *through* faith, then he is justified, and can move towards God. Remember, "whoever so wills may come."

False. He commands men everywhere to repent, but because of their spiritual deadness and hatred for God, they will not do so unless He raises them to spiritual life.

Ought implies "can". God cannot hold someone accountable for something they are not able to do. This is the cross! We cannot attain our own righteousness, so "God made Him to be sin, who knew no sin, to become sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God". God knows we cannot earn our own perfection and righteousness, so He provides a way for us. We are responsible for what we choose in regards to this plan of salvation. If we "ought" to receive salvation, that seems to imply that we actually can, by grace *through faith*, receive it.

Misrepresentation. Election and reprobation are not equivalent
How can this be avoided? Those who are not elected cannot turn on their own, therefore God has chosen their condemnation for them. I know most Calvinists deny double-predestination, but the logic is inescapable.

You admit that Adam did in fact have free will at one point, but that one of the effects of the Fall was that that free will was either damaged or annihilated. Notice what this means, though. You have just made the admission that actual free will existed as it pertains to obeying God. Does this mean that God was not actually sovereign at the time of the Fall? After all, if we always do what we desire, then sinning against God was Adam's desire. We agree that the desire can't have stemmed from God, and we also agree that there were no effects of the Fall in play before the Fall. We are left to say that Adam acted in a matter consistent with free will as I would define it. This begs the question, was the exercise of that free will within the Sovereignty of God (even though it was rebellion against God), or was God suspending His Sovereignty for a time? I suspect you'll affirm the former, not the latter, and if that's the case, you have to affirm that free will and sovereignty can co-exist.

I understand John 6 to be talking of God's perfect omniscience regarding those who are His. It is not difficult for me to accept this, if I understand foreknowledge and election to be working together, and to be closely related. See my analogy of hiring employees and my argument for contingent knowledge in the previous post. Just to be clear on one thing - if God foreknows something, and He is perfect, then His foreknowledge of a future event is perfect and not subject to change. In this sense, all future free actions are known by Him, and will not be other than that which they are. I affirm this. I, however, also affirm that this does not mean that said future choice is not free. It is a free choice, even though God knows with certainty what we will freely chose. Again, if election *precedes* foreknowledge, then omniscience to me isn't that impressive. If they are related to one another, then I see free choice, sovereignty, omniscience, and (gulp) election as all being able to co-exist. I would simply differ from a Calvinist in that I would say the "elect" are those whom God perfectly and certainly foreknows will *freely* accept the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Anyhow, lots of work to do. I should run. This has been challenging and fun for me. It's your blog, so I'll let you have the last word on this. Maybe we can pick up on this again sometime. I appreciate your arguments, and will continue to consider them. Carefully consider, however, the implications of your admission that Adam had freedom to obey or disobey God! Again, believe me that I don't despise Calvinists or Calvinism as many of my mentors share your soteriology. I just am not there at this point, and don't know how I will get there.

In Him,
Matt


9. Randy Email Web 2007-05-07  8:01pm

let me apologize for my comment: My contention is that that grid itself denies the way God created humans, and seeks to castrate God's sovereignty by making sovereignty dependant on coercion and making people robots rather than on having the view of omniscience and foreknowledge that God tells us He has.

I know full well that the sincere desire of Calvinists is to respect God's sovereignty, even though I am not totally on board with how this is done. Whatever the case, I should not have used the word "seeks". Something like "inadvertantly" would have better reflected what I was trying to say.


Apology accepted. Charge of making people robots denied. Compatibilism says that we act on our desires even though God has ultimate control. There are both primary and secondary causes for actions.

Let me use an analogy here (even if it is somewhat watered down) - you are the man of your home. Let's even say you are "sovereign" in this domain. How do we view your "headship"? Does your headship/sovereignty mean that you do not give your children the option of choosing to respond to your love or to rebel against it? A Calvinist would say that if you actually allow your children to respond to your love and headship on their own volition, well, then you're not really the head of your home.

That's incorrect--I don't know a single Calvinist who would agree. Actually, I would say that if they could defy me with impunity, I'm not the head, even if I claim to be. Drawing your parallel to God, I would say that God raises dead sinners to life so they can love him, and they make choices in degree of obedience and love, but dead sinners are unable to make any positive spiritual choices.

I would argue that it does not diminish your authority (or God's sovereignty) one iota to allow those under your authority to make free choices, even if these free choices are made within the bounds of your authority.

Did you read my "dog in the yard" analogy? If so, I'm surprised you'd make that statement. Take out the word "free" and I agree 100%. I completely believe in choices within the bounds of authority, but I don't believe they can be called "free" precisely because there are bounds. The presence of boundaries eliminates libertarian free will, so I think you are waffling. You want free will for man and for God, but only one can truly have it. I say it belongs to God.

A Calvinist would object - "My children are so bound to their child-ness that they *cannot* freely respond to my will. Therefore, I, as their authority figure must irresistably coerce them into becoming more mature and loving me, even if it is against their will.

Yes, it's called discipline. Without that "force" against their will when necessary they won't get to the point of choosing to make good choices of their own will. If you let your children always have their free will and never impose your will, I would not want to live in your home, or even visit it.

Do you see how absurd this becomes?

I find the "man's powerful free will trumps God's lesser will" alternative to be far more absurd, which is why I changed my view.

God's sovereignty and perfect omniscience are big enough to allow humans some degree of freedom in their choices.

I agree 100%.

You know I'm not arguing for freedom in an absolute sense (I'm not an open theist), but rather simply for the humans ability to freely respond to God's grace.

Dead sinners responding? What brings them to life? Verse after verses uses terms like "not of yourselves," "when you were dead in trespasses and sins," etc.

>Non-Calvinists still have to explain how a God who perfectly knows the future can create people He knows will go to hell.

This explanation is only difficult if we say that election *precedes* foreknowledge. If election is based in foreknowledge, or if the two happen silmultaneously, then there is no dilema here.

How does that solve the dilemma? God is still allowing people to be born although He knows they will go to hell. Are you saying God doesn't actually know who will choose Him so He takes His chances?

Since we know that God shows no partiality, and since election by its very nature involves partiality, then it would seem that unconditional election (that is not related to free choice) is something that denies the unity of God.

I assume you're referring to Galatians 2:6. Time for exegesis. That chapter clearly deals with Jews and Gentiles, influential and the weak, and so on. God is impartial in that sense. He saves men from every people group. If you make an absolute claim of non-partiality you have to be a universalist, or God is being partial towards those He foreknows will choose Him, even if election is conditional. What is a condition if not an implementation of partiality?

How can you avoid this? Let's be clear - those God has not elected *cannot* even choose to respond to God's grace, and those who are elected are so elected through *irresistable* grace. Either way, man has nothing to say about his own salvation or demise. How can you possibly avoid the charge of coercion or force?

I'm not trying to avoid it. I just think "force" and "coercion" are strange terms to use in place of "resurrect." Sinners are dead in their sins. God raises some to spiritual life. You call that "force" and "coercion," but I don't know how you can force or coerce a dead man. The terms are inappropriate. Apparently you have a novel interpretation of Ephesians 2:1-5. The plain reading makes perfect sense to me.

He cannot please God *as long as he remains in his fleshly state*. If He turns from this state and accepts salvation by grace *through* faith, then he is justified, and can move towards God. Remember, "whoever so wills may come."

The problem is how one gets out of the fleshly state. Can a dead man raise himself to life and seek salvation without pleasing God? It seems that such an act would be pleasing to God, not to mention being a pretty amazing trick. It looks like the key is whether man is really dead in sin or not.

Ought implies "can". God cannot hold someone accountable for something they are not able to do.

Take it up with Him, not me! They are happy to rebel against Him, so they are acting according to their desires when they refuse to repent.

We are responsible for what we choose in regards to this plan of salvation. If we "ought" to receive salvation, that seems to imply that we actually can, by grace *through faith*, receive it.

Ephesians 2:1-5 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved

Where is man's initiative? Where is man turning from his nature as a child of wrath? It's not there! Even when we were dead, he made us alive by His glorious grace.

> Election and reprobation are not equivalent
How can this be avoided?

By examining Scripture. It never parallels the two. Election is God's active choice, but reprobation is never presented in the same terms because it is the default state of fallen humanity.

Those who are not elected cannot turn on their own, therefore God has chosen their condemnation for them. I know most Calvinists deny double-predestination, but the logic is inescapable.

Not if predestination is the active work of God. Has God not chosen condemnation for those who, in your system, don't choose Him when He knows who they are before the foundations of the world? He could have chosen not to create them if we're dealing with middle knowledge, so how does God escape the same charge in your system?

You admit that Adam did in fact have free will at one point, but that one of the effects of the Fall was that that free will was either damaged or annihilated.

I never used the term "free will," and don't believe he had libertarian free will. I agreed that he had freedom of some sort, but never of the type that could overcome God's free will. I believe he had more freedom than we have, but it was still limited.

Notice what this means, though. You have just made the admission that actual free will existed as it pertains to obeying God. Does this mean that God was not actually sovereign at the time of the Fall?

God has always been sovereign and could have stopped Adam had He chose to do so.

After all, if we always do what we desire, then sinning against God was Adam's desire. We agree that the desire can't have stemmed from God, and we also agree that there were no effects of the Fall in play before the Fall. We are left to say that Adam acted in a matter consistent with free will as I would define it.

If it means the ability to make bad choices, then sure, we all have that. It's the good choices that are the problem.

was the exercise of that free will within the Sovereignty of God (even though it was rebellion against God), or was God suspending His Sovereignty for a time? I suspect you'll affirm the former, not the latter, and if that's the case, you have to affirm that free will and sovereignty can co-exist.

The former, of course, but I won't allow that Adam had libertarian free will. God permitted Adam's sin but could have stopped it had He so desired because He has true free will.

I understand John 6 to be talking of God's perfect omniscience regarding those who are His.

Then how do you factor in John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day? Man has inability without the Father's drawing, and those who come are raised. If we say this is a univeral drawing, we have universal salvation (Jesus raises those drawn by the Father).

I would simply differ from a Calvinist in that I would say the "elect" are those whom God perfectly and certainly foreknows will *freely* accept the atonement of Jesus Christ.

Well, yes, that does differ from us! :-) I think it all boils down to the deadness of sinners as Ephesians 2 describes. That is the core of our disagreement. Are sinners actually spiritually dead, or as in The Princess Bride, only mostly dead?

I'd love to hear your response to Ephesians 2, but feel free to take a break.

Carefully consider, however, the implications of your admission that Adam had freedom to obey or disobey God!

It does depend on what exactly you mean. Adam had greater freedom than we do, but still did not have a truly free will because God has always been sovereign.

Again, believe me that I don't despise Calvinists or Calvinism as many of my mentors share your soteriology. I just am not there at this point, and don't know how I will get there.

God's grace. :-)


10. Matt Email Web 2007-05-10  9:32am

I completely believe in choices within the bounds of authority, but I don't believe they can be called "free" precisely because there are bounds. The presence of boundaries eliminates libertarian free will, so I think you are waffling. You want free will for man and for God, but only one can truly have it. I say it belongs to God.

Just to clarify - in a strict sense of the word "free", I agree that there can only be one truly "free" being in existence. If there were even two free beings in the universe, then eventually their wills would collide and one would be the victor. I've got no problems with that. When I say free-will, I mean "a self-determined action". Notice carefully that this does not preclude external forces. For example, I agree that it is through God's grace that we can be saved. I am not a Pelagianist. I would simply say, though, that even though external forces are acting upon people (God's grace and Satan's deceit), the individual is still ultimately responsible for what he choses to do. Self-determination is not mutually exclusive to external causes (ie - prevenient grace or strong temptation).

BTW, I would like to hear your thoughts on voluntarism, by the way. Can we even say that God is absolutely free, or does He work within the bounds of His character? Is God able to declare that child abuse is good, and if He so declared it, that it actually would be? Can God just arbitrarily say or do something and in so saying or doing it becomes good? Or does something have to conform to God's nature in order to be truly good (ie - truth, justice, mercy, holiness, righteousness, etc.)? If you affirm the latter, then we are agreed that God is not free to arbitrarily defy His own nature. And if it is in God's nature to be just and righteous, then we are agreed that no human can merit fellowship with God. Each and every one of us is deserving of hell. However, if God is merciful, then He has also provided a way for us to enjoy eternal fellowship with Him. And for Him to offer this gift without giving us the ability to respond to it appears to be arbitrary. It defies God's omnibenevolence and His justice. I agree that man is depraved without God, and that there is no works we can perform to please Him and so be saved. However, I would not categorize "accepting a gift" to be a work. A man who is drowning is unable to save himself, no matter how hard he tries. However, if somebody throws him a life-preserver and he hangs on, who has done the saving? Certainly not the one who is perishing. All he has done is accept the salvific act of a merciful person.

Dead sinners responding? What brings them to life? Verse after verses uses terms like "not of yourselves," "when you were dead in trespasses and sins," etc.

Man cannot initiate salvation (Rom. 3:11) or attain it (Rom.4:5), but he can and must receive it (John 1:12). There are no conditions in God offering salvation, but there is one condition for receiving it - saving faith. I know you'll say that even faith is a gift, for a dead person cannot even have faith.

What is the meaning of "death". Spiritual death refers to separation, not annihilation (eg. Isa.59:2). It means we are apart from God, not that our ability to respond has been destroyed (Matt.9:12). Paul says that even the spritually dead are able to percieve truth (Rom.1:20). Adam and Eve could still respond to God after the Fall (Gen. 3:10). Unsaved people are still made in God's image (Gen. 9:6) and this image is damaged, but not destroyed (James 3:9), so these people still have choices to make and can still respond.

Also, if a Calvinist think "death" in Ephesians 1 refers to destruction rather than separation, what is the "second death" in Rev. 20:10? Aren't people already dead? If people are already dead then the second death must be annihilation. I'm sure you are not an annihilationist or a big fan of Clark Pinnock, so "death" in Eph. 1 must mean something other than being destroyed.

How does that solve the dilemma? God is still allowing people to be born although He knows they will go to hell. Are you saying God doesn't actually know who will choose Him so He takes His chances?

No. I'm not an open theist, so I don't believe that God works with probablities, or that he rolls the dice. God does infallibly know who will choose Him. However, if the saved and the unsaved are in their condition through their own choice, then God is still working within His nature to reward and punish them. If they are in their fallen state because there is no way out for them because they have no say in the matter, then their condemnation rests in God rather than in themselves. All I was saying is that in my view, God is not responsible for evil and its punishment - people are because they make evil choices. I like what C.S. Lewis says about judgement day - some will say to God "Thy will be done" and will enter into heaven, and to some God will say "Thy will be done" and cast into eternal punishment. I'm responsible for myself. I can't say "the devil made me do it" or even "God made me do it". I choose the one I yield to. In my view, God still wants all to be saved, and offers salvation to all people (Matt.20:16, 23:37, 2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim 2:3-4, 2:6, Heb. 2:9, etc.)

If you make an absolute claim of non-partiality you have to be a universalist, or God is being partial towards those He foreknows will choose Him, even if election is conditional.What is a condition if not an implementation of partiality?

I'll go ahead and deny the charge of universalism. I don't see how non-partiality leads to universalism. God is not partial in His offer, but He puts one condition on His offer - our acceptance of it. If you offer to take all your kids to Disneyworld, and two of them say "I'd rather not", you are not showing any partiality to those you do take - for ultimately it was their choice how they responded to your offer. Putting a condition on the reception of salvation *on our part* does not demonstrate partiality on God's part.

Can a dead man raise himself to life and seek salvation without pleasing God? It seems that such an act would be pleasing to God, not to mention being a pretty amazing trick. It looks like the key is whether man is really dead in sin or not.

See my comments about what "death" means in Eph.1 above.

Ephesians 2:1-5 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience-- 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved

Where is man's initiative? Where is man turning from his nature as a child of wrath? It's not there! Even when we were dead, he made us alive by His glorious grace.


There is no initiative on our part - only a choice to be made. God is the only one who takes the initiative. The turning happens in "faith". Here's what Geisler says about "faith" being a gift in Eph. 2:8,9:

"But even John Calvin said of this text that 'he does not mean that *faith* is the gift of God, but that *salvation* is given to us by God, or, that we obtain it by the gift of God'. In addition, however plausible this interpretation may seem in English, it is very clear from the Greek that Eph. 2:8,9 is not referring to faith as a gift from God. For the "that" (touto) is neuter in form and cannot refer to "faith" (pistis), which is feminine. The antecendant of "it is the gift of God" is the salvation by grace through faith (v.9). Commenting on this passate, the great New Testament Greek scholar A.T. Robertson noted: 'Grace is God's part, faith is ours. And that [it] (kai touto) is neuter, not feminine taute, and so refers not to pistis [faith] or to charis [grace] (feminine also), but to the act of being saved by grace conditioned on faith on our part."

Election is God's active choice, but reprobation is never presented in the same terms because it is the default state of fallen humanity.

By actively electing the saved, it is absolutely unavoidable that God, through His inaction damns the non-elect. I agree that humanity's default state is fallen, but that God allows us to have a say in whether we stay in that state or move out of it. There is biblical support that demonstrates that "faith" is not a gift for the elect, but rather that "faith" precedes "regeneration" (Rom.5:1, Luke 13:3, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16, Acts 16:31, John 3:6,7, Titus 3:5-7).

God has always been sovereign and could have stopped Adam had He chose to do so.

So why didn't He? If God always acts according to His character, then there must have been something in His character that allowed Adam to make an evil choice.

>After all, if we always do what we desire, then sinning against God was Adam's desire. We agree that the desire can't have stemmed from God, and we also agree that there were no effects of the Fall in play before the Fall. We are left to say that Adam acted in a matter consistent with free will as I would define it.

If it means the ability to make bad choices, then sure, we all have that. It's the good choices that are the problem.

Where did the ability to make bad choices come from *before* the Fall? Didn't God declare that His pre-Fall creation was "very good"? If Adam's state at the time of his rebellion was "very good", and he still rebelled against God, this means that either determinism is "very good" and God caused Adam to sin (which we both deny), or the ability to make good or bad choices is within the realm of "very good". God must have thought that the ability to make self-determined choices (good AND bad) is "very good". If God is free (not in the sense of voluntarism), and we are created in His image, then it is entirely plausible that we are free in the sense that we can make self-determined choices for good or for evil.

Then how do you factor in John 6:44, No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day? Man has inability without the Father's drawing, and those who come are raised. If we say this is a univeral drawing, we have universal salvation (Jesus raises those drawn by the Father).

I don't deny "prevenient grace" or external forces upon our self-determined free acts. God draws us, but we make the choice as to whether or not we respond to or reject that drawing. Those who come (on their choice) ARE raised - agreed. To say that a universal drawing exists does not imply universal salvation, because there is still the condition of our acceptance. And Jesus will 100% secure the salvation of those that DO come (ie - respond positively to God's drawing). Arminius himself never denied "prevenient grace".

I'd love to hear your response to Ephesians 2, but feel free to take a break.

I've attempted to clarify my understanding of what "deadness" in Ephesians 2 means above.

It does depend on what exactly you mean. Adam had greater freedom than we do, but still did not have a truly free will because God has always been sovereign.

God is sovereign - ALWAYS! No argument here. I'm just arguing that within that sovereignty, God allows free self-determined choice to be the condition *on our part* of good or evil choices, including the choice to be saved or not. Again, when I say "free will" I don't mean in an absolute sense (eg - I can't declare myself to be God, and have it actually become true through my declaration), but we are free enough to make self-determined choices of the will.

I said I'd take a break, but I guess this is just too much fun! I enjoy being able to discuss these kinds of things with a fellow conservative evangelical! It seems like most of my theological discussion has taken place with post-moderns, liberals, etc. This is fun, because it is both challenging, and done (on my part at least) of trying to hone and refine my views with Scripture with a person who shares my basic core values on the inerrancy of Scripture, an orthodox view of the Trinity, and who is also a classic theist! So thanks for that! BTW, this whole conversation has happened upon rationally delineated modernistic lines. Maybe I'll put up a video on YouTube of me doing a yoga position and interpretive dance that expresses my soteriology, and you can email me a scan of a finger-painting that expresses your soteriology, or maybe just tell me which scent of incense best desribes your position, so all our emergent friends can follow this conversation.

Out of curiosity, what do Calvinists as a whole think of non-Calvinists and Arminians? Are they Christians who are genuinely saved but have a differing view of soteriology? Or are they unregenerate if they deny the 5 points of Calvinism? Does one have to be Reformed to be saved in the Reformed view? I for one do not feel that way about this discussion. I am happy to affirm that most Calvinists are true Christians who want to be obedient to Scripture. For a large part, I think the differences are more theoretical than practical, because I know that responsible Calvinists will still say they don't know who the "elect" are, so we should still give opportunity to respond to the gospel and do evangelism.

In Him,
Matt


11. Randy Email Web 2007-05-13  1:55pm

When I say free-will, I mean "a self-determined action". Notice carefully that this does not preclude external forces.

You're a closet Calvinist! Read this article on libertarian free will. I will quote the definition of a compatiblist view from that article:


Free will is affected by human nature and man cannot choose contrary to his nature and desires. This view acknowledges man as a free moral agent who freely makes choices. But due to the effects of the fall, as contained in the doctrine of total depravity, man's nature is corrupted such that he cannot choose contrary to his fallen nature -- He cannot discern spiritual things or turn to God in faith apart from divine intervention.

It seems to me that you're a lot closer to that view than to the libertarian free will description.

even though external forces are acting upon people (God's grace and Satan's deceit), the individual is still ultimately responsible for what he choses to do.

Yes, I certainly agree, but I would say that without the work of the Holy Spirit, man will continue to choose against God, just as the undisciplined child in a home will continue to make wrong choices until an outside loving will is imposed for that child's good.

Do you see free will for man in Acts 4:27-28? For truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.

Sounds like God is interfering in the affairs of man and abrogating their free will.

I would like to hear your thoughts on voluntarism, by the way.

You can call me, but if you'll settle for reading my view... :-) If you mean Will Durant's use of the term meaning that the will is basic to all behavior, I think that fits well with what Jonathan Edwards taught: we act according to our desires.

Can we even say that God is absolutely free, or does He work within the bounds of His character? Is God able to declare that child abuse is good, and if He so declared it, that it actually would be? Can God just arbitrarily say or do something and in so saying or doing it becomes good? Or does something have to conform to God's nature in order to be truly good (ie - truth, justice, mercy, holiness, righteousness, etc.)?

God's nature is, by definition, part of who He is and He cannot deny Himself. There is no outside force or concept greater than God. Therefore God cannot arbitrarily call sin good, for sin is that which opposes His character. He is not free to lie, as the Bible tells us, because that would be denying Himself, but He does not desire to lie. He is free to act in conformity with His desires at any time, and we are not. God constrains evil men or this world would be much worse. God constrains Christians from making some stupid choices (although allowing plenty enough of them). God is the only being able to act according to His desires at all times, therefore His is the only truly free will in the universe.

If you affirm the latter, then we are agreed that God is not free to arbitrarily defy His own nature.

Exactly. He does not desire to do so.

And if it is in God's nature to be just and righteous, then we are agreed that no human can merit fellowship with God. Each and every one of us is deserving of hell.

Absolutely.

However, if God is merciful, then He has also provided a way for us to enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.

This is where we start to part company. I don't believe God "provided a way." I believe He purchased men for God by His shed blood (Rev 5:9). I believe He came down from heaven to to the will of the Father, which was to lose none of all that the Father gave Him (John 6:39). I believe that when He said "TETELESTAI" He truly meant that the work of redemption was finished, not that it was begun and now it would sure be nice if some humans would make the choice to take advantage of His offer, even though their fleshly minds were hostile to God and both unwilling and unable to submit to Him (Rom 8:7).

However, I would not categorize "accepting a gift" to be a work.

But is it not a choice that requires submitting to God and thereby it is pleasing to Him? How many preachers have you heard begging people to bow the knee to Christ, to repent, to turn from sin and to God? Of course, none of that is possible in the sinner's fleshly strength, since they hate God and refuse to submit to Him. The Spirit has to overcome that sinner's will first.

A man who is drowning is unable to save himself, no matter how hard he tries. However, if somebody throws him a life-preserver and he hangs on, who has done the saving? Certainly not the one who is perishing. All he has done is accept the salvific act of a merciful person.

A drowning criminal does not want to be saved by the sheriff and will gladly risk being swept away to avoid the arm of the law. But more significantly, already drowned men do not grab life-preservers. They are dragged from the water by their savior and given CPR to raise them up. They were resuscitated against their will, so to speak. The Bible calls us dead, not sick. It would have been easy for men like Paul to say we were ill in our trespasses, but he chooses "dead" for a reason.

Man cannot initiate salvation (Rom. 3:11) or attain it (Rom.4:5), but he can and must receive it (John 1:12).

Calvinists love John 1:12, because verse 13 is part of the same sentence: 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Nor of the will of flesh nor of the will of man! This Scripture is monergistic (salvation is a work of God alone), not synergistic (the view that salvation is God's work plus something from us). We were born of God. Babies don't choose to accept the gift of life and then get born. They get born first and then later they can be thankful for their new life. What does spiritual death and spiritual birth have in common? They both indicate inability. Dead people need help being raised to life. Newborn babies need help getting born and starting out in life.

I know you'll say that even faith is a gift, for a dead person cannot even have faith.

Yes, as we looked at Ephesians 2 before. I think James White makes an airtight case for the Greek meaning of the passage.

What is the meaning of "death". Spiritual death refers to separation, not annihilation (eg. Isa.59:2). It means we are apart from God

Yes, but more than just separation, it connotes inability. Sick people are separated from health, but they have a remaining ability to respond until they are dead. Then it takes a miracle.

Paul says that even the spritually dead are able to percieve truth (Rom.1:20).

Yes, please keep reading Romans. Lots of Romans, especially chapters 1 through 9. :-) Monergism, like rich cream, will rise to the top.

Unsaved people are still made in God's image (Gen. 9:6) and this image is damaged, but not destroyed (James 3:9), so these people still have choices to make and can still respond.

Yes, but they will not respond positively until regenerated. Their choices will be wrong until God removes their heart of stone and gives them a heart of flesh.

Also, if a Calvinist think "death" in Ephesians 1 refers to destruction rather than separation, what is the "second death" in Rev. 20:10? Aren't people already dead?

"Dead" in Ephesians equals inability, not destruction.

I'm sure you are. . .a big fan of Clark Pinnock

Those nasty little ellipses! Too bad he's Canadian.

All I was saying is that in my view, God is not responsible for evil and its punishment - people are because they make evil choices.

I agree totally. That's why people need a savior to be the author of their faith, to raise them to spiritual life. However, earlier you were arguing that people who make evil choices can overcome the flesh on their own and make the good choice to seek God. I say it takes a work of the Holy Spirit.

I like what C.S. Lewis says about judgement day - some will say to God "Thy will be done" and will enter into heaven, and to some God will say "Thy will be done" and cast into eternal punishment.

I've used that saying myself. I just believe that everyone who says "Thy will be done" is someone who was raised to spiritual life, consistent with Rom 8:7,8. Left to ourselves, we all want our will to be done. That's why free will is such a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

In my view, God still wants all to be saved, and offers salvation to all people (Matt.20:16, 23:37, 2 Pet. 3:9, 1 Tim 2:3-4, 2:6, Heb. 2:9, etc.)


I'd still like you to respond to my prior look at 2 Peter 3:9 in context. We can examine others as well, but since I responded, I'd like your reply before tackling new verses.

I'll go ahead and deny the charge of universalism. I don't see how non-partiality leads to universalism. God is not partial in His offer, but He puts one condition on His offer - our acceptance of it. If you offer to take all your kids to Disneyworld, and two of them say "I'd rather not", you are not showing any partiality to those you do take - for ultimately it was their choice how they responded to your offer. Putting a condition on the reception of salvation *on our part* does not demonstrate partiality on God's part.

I disagree. If God the Father punished His Son for the sins of every person, remitting their sins through the shed blood of a perfect sacrifice, and then saves some of those people while punishing others in hell despite that atonement, He is showing partiality. If the atonement is equally applied, yet the results are different (even though based on the choices of humans), there is partiality. I see no way around that. What is the judgment seat of Christ if not the ultimate display of partiality if the result is solely dependent on human choice?

As for the Disneyland/heaven analogy, a more accurate depiction would be every child spitting in your face as they curse you. There's nothing polite about man's rebellion against God.

There is no initiative on our part - only a choice to be made. God is the only one who takes the initiative.

A choice to rise from death to life? A choice to be born? People don't make those kinds of choices. They are beyond our power, and are imposed on us or they don't happen at all. Why is birth such a common Biblical metaphor? Why did Jesus tell Nicodemus that the wind blows where it wishes, speaking of the Holy Spirit as he discussed the new birth? The will is God's, not man's.

Here's what Geisler says about "faith" being a gift in Eph. 2:8,9

Yes, I've read Geisler. Why are Geisler and Dave Hunt both afraid to debate James White on Calvinism? Because White uses Scripture to make his points and does not let people off the hook in cross-examination. Both men bravely attack Calvinism with distortions of history, fact and Scripture when writing books, yet neither one has the courage of his convictions to meet in public debate despite being challenged to do so. Interesting.

Have you read The Potter's Freedom? White answers Geisler well enough from Scripture that after reading that book I became a full-blown Calvinist.

By actively electing the saved, it is absolutely unavoidable that God, through His inaction damns the non-elect.

Yes, but with just cause. They are rebellious sinners. Grace and mercy means He gives other rebellious sinners salvation despite the fact that they don't deserve it.

I agree that humanity's default state is fallen, but that God allows us to have a say in whether we stay in that state or move out of it.

Actually you promote much more than just "a say" since your view gives man all of the say. Jesus atones for all equally, leaving the say up to man. Only God does not have a say in that view.

There is biblical support that demonstrates that "faith" is not a gift for the elect, but rather that "faith" precedes "regeneration" (Rom.5:1, Luke 13:3, 2 Peter 3:9, John 3:16, Acts 16:31, John 3:6,7, Titus 3:5-7).

So unregenerate man, given over to the flesh, dead in trespasses and sins, can possess saving faith?

Your verse selection surprises me, as overall they seem to make a case for Calvinism rather than against it. Luke 13:3, John 3:16 and Acts 16:31 fit in my view just fine. Who repents? Who are the believing ones? Those raised to spiritual life. None of those verses make any claims that regeneration is preceded by faith.

2 Peter 3:9 doesn't address the ordo salutis (order of salvation) at all; it merely points out that God is patient with His elect.

John 3:6,7 fits Calvinism much better. The spirit blows where it wills, and birth is never the choice of the baby. This passage definitely favors regeneration preceding faith, placing the emphasis on God's will over man's.

Likewise, the reference to Titus 3:5-7 baffles me, as it is so Calvinistic:

5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
That's totally about what God does, and has nothing of man's will in it. That seems like a passage for a synergist to avoid rather than cite.

The one verse that makes some sense to me for your case is Romans 5:1--Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Of course, that one raises the question of our faith's origins. If you look within, it helps your case. However, if I look to Hebrews 12:2, it says we are "looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith," or as King Jimmy puts it, "Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith."

That looks like regeneration preceding faith to me. I am not the author or founder of my faith. The Reformed view is supported by Titus 3:7, "being justified by his grace." Our faith is by His grace; not of ourselves, it is the gift of God.

How about Acts 13:48? And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

If they were appointed, did not God's plan override their wills? Did they originate faith on their own, or did they recieve it as a gift from God?

>After all, if we always do what we desire, then sinning against God was Adam's desire. We agree that the desire can't have stemmed from God, and we also agree that there were no effects of the Fall in play before the Fall. We are left to say that Adam acted in a matter consistent with free will as I would define it.

If it means the ability to make bad choices, then sure, we all have that. It's the good choices that are the problem.

God must have thought that the ability to make self-determined choices (good AND bad) is "very good". If God is free (not in the sense of voluntarism), and we are created in His image, then it is entirely plausible that we are free in the sense that we can make self-determined choices for good or for evil.

Yes, we are always making choices. However, God is sovereign and can override any of our choices at any time, therefore we do not have free will by my definition. God has free will, and sometimes He permits us to experience the consequences of our choices. Other times, He steps in and imposes His will. Our will, such as it is, exists at God's pleasure and is therefore not truly free.

Those who come (on their choice) ARE raised - agreed.

But Jesus tells us in John 6 that those who make the choice to come are those the Father has given the Son, and that none can come unless the Father gives them. He is the primary cause of their coming; once He has changed their desires, they freely choose to come to Him, but they would not come if He had not interfered. He claims 100% in saving all that the Father gives Him.

we are free enough to make self-determined choices of the will.

The fundamental question is, Can God in your view of sovereignty override those choices or not? If so, we're on the same page and you don't really believe in libertarian free will and have moved much closer to the Reformed camp. If not, just what does sovereignty mean to you, and how does an omnipotent God consistently come in second in the battle of wills and still somehow claim sovereignty?

I said I'd take a break, but I guess this is just too much fun! I enjoy being able to discuss these kinds of things with a fellow conservative evangelical!

Yes, civilized brotherly debate should be enjoyable!

BTW, this whole conversation has happened upon rationally delineated modernistic lines. Maybe I'll put up a video on YouTube of me doing a yoga position and interpretive dance that expresses my soteriology, and you can email me a scan of a finger-painting that expresses your soteriology, or maybe just tell me which scent of incense best desribes your position, so all our emergent friends can follow this conversation.

The fingerpainting will, of course, be a large abstract tulip, painted with sweeping strokes illustrating how God's sovereignty covers the canvas of life.

Out of curiosity, what do Calvinists as a whole think of non-Calvinists and Arminians? Are they Christians who are genuinely saved but have a differing view of soteriology? Or are they unregenerate if they deny the 5 points of Calvinism? Does one have to be Reformed to be saved in the Reformed view?

Not at all. I didn't begin to follow Christ at 38 or so when I became Reformed. I was continuing a journey that began three decades earlier. I find that many non-Reformed people who advocate free will tend to pray like the Reformed, asking God to intervene in lives (oops, what happened to free will?) and so on. That's why I don't think we're all that far apart on many issues, but I think God will graciously welcome all the free will folks into heaven and then point out that He was the one who raised them to life so they could believe in Him. When they look at Him, puzzlement writ large on their beatific faces, He will hold up the original Greek manuscript of Ephesians 2, and all will be clear to them at that point.

I know that responsible Calvinists will still say they don't know who the "elect" are, so we should still give opportunity to respond to the gospel and do evangelism.

I think that statement itself shows a misunderstanding of Calvinism, when you write "still" as though that would not be normal or expected. Many, many great evangelists and missionaries have been Calvinistic, not despite their Calvinism, but because of it. Spurgeon, Whitefield, Edwards, Brainard, Carey, Taylor, Newton...the list goes on and on.

As John Piper said, because we trust in God to save His people from among every people group, we can persevere even when fruit is slow to appear. He gave the example of a couple from their church who had served faithfully for seven years without a single convert, but they remained confident in God's ability to raise spiritually dead sinners to life in His timing and so they continued to share the Gospel in that region.

12. Rick Brandt Email Web 2007-05-13  11:36pm

Interesting discussion. Both of you are pretty good at presenting your arguments. Judging from what Randy's said, I wonder why he periodically expresses frustration with "emergents." It seems he'd have to assume it is God's will and plan that they believe what they do, so why get annoyed? In fact, why dispute anything with anyone? The missionary question has yet to be satisfactorily answered. You say, "Well, Calvinists have been missionaries." Why? The missionaries Piper mentions in the previous post could have packed up and gone home after a week, and nobody's eternal destiny would have been affected, according to their theology. Their perseverance was meaningless. It makes me think that Calvinists have been missionaries in spite of their theology. I think it was Taylor or Carey who was told by his Calvinist minister not to bother being a missionary: "God can save the heathen without your help." Randy, I know that it is your contention that God is not irrational, and therefore does not give meaningless or contradictory commands. If we are to seek to persuade people to come to God, doesn't that imply that they have a choice? If not, why bother?
Another note: I find it very interesting that although both of you have been discussing soteriology, neither of you have mentioned the resurrection even once, even though Paul says that without it, we are dead in our sins. This is the problem with making substitutionary atonement the entire work of Christ. It makes the resurrection irrelevant, but "If the dead are not raised, you are still in your sins." Btw, when Christ said, "It is finished" you are assuming He meant the entire work of salvation. Why? Perhaps I am overlooking a verse which says so. I'd like to know. I think it meant He was ready to die. I'd like to keep writing, but it's bedtime.


13. Arnold Anderson Email Web 2007-05-14  11:01am

God has not only ordained the outcome but also the means, and that allows us to have the awesome opportunity to be a part of the great plan of God. Sure, God can do what he wants without us, but He gives us the privilege of playing a vital role in the salvation of his elect. Which, to me, is another reason to praise Him!


14. Randy Email Web 2007-05-14  5:35pm

Arnold, thanks for the comment. I agree totally!

Rick, you seem to have that deterministic view of Calvinism that thinks we believe everyone is just a robot. I thought I discussed compatibilism enough to make it clear that I believe we make choices, acting according to our desires, and are responsible for those choices. I just don't believe we have free will, because God has the right to intervene in His creation at any moment.

Emergents, if they are true believers, have the capacity for turning to right doctrine or flawed doctrine, and are responsible for their choices.

Arnold addressed the missionary issue. The bottom line is that we are to be obedient to the one who raised us to life for good works which He prepared in advance for us to do. Calvinists are missionaries out of obedience to God, and from the joy they get to share in by spreading the Gospel message and seeing God call His own to Himself. That's plenty good enough for me. Missionary perseverance is never meaningless. Do you really think faithfulness to God has no point to it?

I think it was Taylor or Carey who was told by his Calvinist minister not to bother being a missionary

Big distortion. The Calvinist Carey was told by a hyper-Calvinist that God could save the heathen without his help. All true Calvinists oppose hyper-Calvinism just as much as they oppose Arminianism. Hyper-Calvinism is false teaching and must be opposed as such.

The resurrection hasn't been an issue in this discussion, not because of some flaw in substitutionary atonement, but because we both agree 100% on the significance of the bodily physical resurrection of Christ. "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless, and so is your faith," as Paul wrote. We're discussing our differences, although we find some common ground. The physical bodily resurrection has always been a given.

I'm stunned to see you think that substitutionary atonement makes the resurrection irrelevant. That's utterly false. The atoning work on the cross depends on the resurrection for validation. They are intertwined, neither one ultimately meaningful without the other.

Who ever said evangelicals make the atonement the entire work of Christ? His life, death and resurrection comprise his complete work.

when Christ said, "It is finished" you are assuming He meant the entire work of salvation. Why? Perhaps I am overlooking a verse which says so. I'd like to know. I think it meant He was ready to die.

Why was Christ ready to die? Because He had finished His work. I don't see a conflict there. However, if that's all He meant, it seems His choice of words was odd. I look to John 19:30 and the use of TETELESTAI. As Burton's book on moods explains, "In its most frequent use the Perfect Indicative represents an action as standing at the time of speaking complete. The reference of the tense is thus double; it implies a past action and affirms an existing result."

What is the past action and existing result if Christ just meant He was ready to die? I've also heard many times that TETELESTAI was used to indicate "Paid in full" on debts, although I can't prove that.If that's the case, the implications are enormous.


15. Matt Email Web 2007-05-14  7:43pm

Hi all,

I hope to pick up on Randy's last post later in the week as time permits. As to Rick's point about the resurrection, I affirm what Randy has said that it has not been a point of difference in this discussion. We've been discussing the nature of the application of the atonement, not over the mode of the atonement as such.

I agree with Randy that no evangelical theologian has made the cross the whole of the atonement (without the resurrection). However, I think Rick makes a relevant point. If I think of my own thinking on this topic, I've often thought of atonement strictly in terms of "my guilt is imputed onto Jesus" and that's been about it. However, if that's all there is, then I'm morally neutral in front of God, and still not fit for heaven. However, 2 Cor. 5:21 teaches not only that our guilt is imputed onto Jesus, but that His perfect righteousness is also imputed onto us - we are the righteousness of God! Only once we are perfectly righteous are we fit for heaven. That's an incredible thought! The only criteria for entry to heaven is 100% perfect righteousness - think about that for a while, it's incredible.


16. Rick Brandt Email Web 2007-05-15  12:03pm

My point about the work of Christ is that it wasn't finished before the resurrection. Randy, you said that Christ's work encompasses His life, death, and resurrection, but later in the post said His work was finished with His death. I'm a little confused. Let me put it this way, if Christ had died for us, but had only His spirit rise to heaven, would we still be saved? It seems to me (obviously I hope to be corrected) that in your soteriology we would be. The resurrection was validation, not the means of the our salvation, in your reasoning. Orthodox theology says that we are saved through Christ's resurrection, because through union with Him, we also will be resurrected to newness of life and live in the Heavenly Kingdom. If the dead are not raised, we have no renewal and are therefore not able to have full union with HIm at the marriage supper. Matt hinted at this. This is why we say that we will be fully saved when we enter heaven. Our salvation is not from God's punishment of hell only, but from sin itself. As long as you and I are subject to sin, we can't yet say we've been fully saved. To break it down: we have been saved (freed from Satan's bondage) we are being saved (growing in greater freedom from sin: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling") and we will be saved (at the Last Judgement, after which we will sin no more). I just think it is a mistake to focus salvation completely on a legal-type statement, namely substituionary atonement. It is part of it, but not the whole picture. You don't need a personal relationship with a judge to be found worthy or condemned, but knowing God is essential to our salvation. In conclusion, my point is that the resurrection is absolutely central, and no Orthodox discussion of salvation would be had without it.
BTW, I wasn't knocking perseverance for God's sake. It's admirable, even if we don't know why. Glad to see the rejection of that form of Calvinism. I just wanted clarity. I'm still having difficulty seeing how someone can make a meaningful choice for or against God, but I have much to learn about Calvinism. We Orthodox see the Old Testament as giving us our means of understanding God and His works. God chose Israel, they did not choose Him. God saved Israel, through the Red Sea (image of baptism). Israel was the elect, but often rebelled against God. God required that they be faithful. Those who were not were not true Israel, according to the prophets. What I'm getting at is that God chooses us, but the prophets constantly exhorted the people that they had to decide to also choose Him. God expresses anger, sadness, grief, and jealousy through the prophets. This doesn't make Him helpless or diminish His sovereignty, it just shows that God, in some ways, chooses to limit Himself, because He gave us free will and "knocks at the door", not breaking it down and entering by force. Our will is respected by God. How can God respect our will and still be sovereign and move history? This is a mystery that is beyond human understanding. No amount of debate and quoting various verses on one side or the other will settle this. Both His election and our need to make a meaningful choice for or against the Life He offers are obviously in Scripture. There are some things that are beyond us, yet a simple, even uneducated Christian knows that (by the Spirit) that you can pray for God's moving in someone to make the right choice, and still know that they have the ultimate choice to make concerning their salvation. It's a paradox to us, but somehow not to God, for the wisdom of God is greater than our foolishness.
And a comment on free will: we only have free will to the degree that our will is submitted to Christ. Sounds like another paradox, but we need to remember that our will is not libertarian but is in bondage to sin, our desires, and the devil. Here is an example of the process of salvation. As Christians, we grow into freedom of the will, for "Who the son sets free is free indeed!" If that freedom were instantly attained, we would no longer sin, but we are in the process of having sin's grip be lessened in our lives and of growing into greater union with God. This is truly, right now, experiencing salvation from sin. The more our will is God's will, the freer we will be to use it as it was created to be used. This is true freedom of the will, to be in union with the will of God.


17. Matt Email Web 2007-05-15  7:23pm

Hi again, all - I'm back.

I suppose that seeing as this post started with a mention of Jerry Falwell, it is only fitting to acknowledge the fact that he passed away today. It will be interesting to see how history treats him.

Speaking of history - Randy, do you know the difference between God and historians? God doesn't change the past!

That's a good enough segue into the discussion on God's knowledge of the future as we've been discussing it. This will most likely be a somewhat briefer post than I've previously made. I also suspect that I actually mean it this time when I say I'll be bowing out after this one, and will keep my word when I say I'll give Randy the last word as it's his blog. Things are too busy around here with a big farmyard to clean up and maintain, with work, and with my wonderful family to use too many free moments on blogging, as much as this is enjoyable.

Randy, I will grant that your explaination of several of the verses mentioned in this thread do make sense *in the Calvinist framework*. No questions asked. Once we accept "total depravity" in the sense that we are unable to make meaningful choices, then the rest of the pieces do fall in place. I, however, remain unconvinced that depravity is as total as Calvinists make it out to be.

I have yet to hear a Calvinist satisfactorily explain how Lucifer and Adam could have rebelled against God in a world free from the curse of the Fall. I am not satisfied as yet by your explaination. Let me restate this again as clearly as I can. If we *always* act according to our desire, then it was Adam's desire to sin. From where did this desire come? It was *not* the fact that he was a dead sinner. Seeing as we both agree that God did not cause him to sin, then we have to say that it was a choice of his will. God called creation "very good". Adam rebelled through free agency before the Fall (it was the cause of the Fall). That means that at the precise moment Adam exercised his freedom to rebel, what he was doing was "very good". This must mean either 1) his rebellion was very good, or 2) the freedom that God gave Adam was very good. Let's not go on the tangent saying that "that was then, this is now, for now we're all dead sinners after the Fall...". Your objection to human choice is that it does violence to God's sovereignty. My point in appealing to Adam and Lucifer is to demonstrate that human freedom does *not* do violence to God's sovereignty. Additionally, if we are so corrupted that we are not free enough to respond to grace, then it would seem contrary to God's call on people to believe (John 3:16, Acts 16:31, 17:30, etc.) and to statements that unbelievers have the ability to respond (Matt. 23:27, John 7:17, Rom. 7:18, 1 Cor. 9:17, Philemon 14, 1 Peter 5:2, etc.)

Secondly, I do not accept that we always act according to our desires. Always doing what we want to do seems more like the torment of hell than the reality of earth. We know from experience and Scripture that we don't always do what we desire (Rom. 7:15-16). To rebut this by saying "if we act against our desire, then we have actually acted according to a stronger desire" that is rebuttal by shifting definitions rather than demonstration.

Just to be clear, it is possible to preserve God's sovereignty and free will at the same time. God infallibly knows the future, so from God's viewpoint, all future events are "fixed" in the sense that He knows the future with perfect certainty, even though the option existed in for us to choose other than what we do choose. However, we do not know the future with certainty, and as time progresses we reach milestones where we must make choices. This is reconciled by saying that God predetermines in relation to foreknowledge of future free, self-determined actions. We are agreed that God has contingent knowledge, meaning that God knows what the outcome would have been of choices that we never made. For you to make that admission is to say that predetermination *must* be related to foreknowledge (ie - predetermination does not come chronologically before foreknowledge).

I will continue to affirm God's perfect and absolute sovereignty AND man's moral responsibility and freedom to respond to God.

Thanks for this - it's been fun.


18. Matt Email Web 2007-05-15  7:38pm

One thing I forgot to mention had to do with prayer. Randy, you mentioned that non-Calvinists pray like Reformed folks asking God to intervene. I do not see how this is inconsistent with the view I have presented here of predetermination and forknowledge working together or with external forces working on our will (prevenient grace etc.). In fact I've often found it ironic to hear Calvinists pray for the salvation of their children. After all, if their children are elect God will surely save them without the prayer of their parents and if the children are not elect then those prayers avail nothing. In fact, why pray at all. The same holds true for the entire missionary agency and evangelism, doesn't it?

Okay, now I'm really done. (Is that "The Last Word, And the Word After That"?)


19. Randy Email Web 2007-05-15  8:42pm

Rick, paragraphs are legal. :-)

My point about the work of Christ is that it wasn't finished before the resurrection. Randy, you said that Christ's work encompasses His life, death, and resurrection, but later in the post said His work was finished with His death.

I believe the overall work of Christ is on-going, as He still intercedes for us. However, the work of atonement was completed on the cross. Still, the resurrection was a necessity because it validated the cross, proving Him to be the God-man. He had to be the first-born of many brethren, so in that sense the resurrection is our salvation. Likewise, His sinless life was a necessary pre-cursor.

if Christ had died for us, but had only His spirit rise to heaven, would we still be saved?

I have to answer negatively. Otherwise there would have been no point for Paul to say what he did in 1 Corinthians. The lack of a resurrection would have meant that Christ's death on the cross was one of many ordinary executions and without salvific power.

Orthodox theology says that we are saved through Christ's resurrection, because through union with Him, we also will be resurrected to newness of life and live in the Heavenly Kingdom. If the dead are not raised, we have no renewal and are therefore not able to have full union with HIm at the marriage supper. Matt hinted at this. This is why we say that we will be fully saved when we enter heaven.

In a sanctification sense, yes. In a justification sense, we are already perfected. As Hebrews teaches, "By one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy."

Our salvation is not from God's punishment of hell only, but from sin itself. As long as you and I are subject to sin, we can't yet say we've been fully saved.

If you mean "the now but not yet" as some theologians put it, I agree. See my prior paragraph. If you mean that we are only partial sheep or partially adopted into the family, then I disagree vehemently. I believe Jesus is a perfect Savior. Hebrews 7:25 ...he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

To break it down: we have been saved (freed from Satan's bondage) we are being saved (growing in greater freedom from sin: "Work out your salvation with fear and trembling") and we will be saved (at the Last Judgement, after which we will sin no more).

I agree with that as I read it literally, but to my understanding, the Orthodox don't believe that those who have been saved and are being saved will necessarily be saved.

I just think it is a mistake to focus salvation completely on a legal-type statement, namely substituionary atonement. It is part of it, but not the whole picture.

Most, if not all, evangelical theologians agree. What led you to believe we thought substitutionary atonement was the be-all and end-all of salvation? Yes, it is significant, but not the totality.

BTW, I wasn't knocking perseverance for God's sake. It's admirable, even if we don't know why. Glad to see the rejection of that form of Calvinism.

I missed something there. I'm not sure what you mean about perseverance.

I'm still having difficulty seeing how someone can make a meaningful choice for or against God, but I have much to learn about Calvinism.

Compatibilism is the key term, as it distinguishes between primary and secondary causes. God is ultimately sovereign over every choice, yet we act according to our desires and are morally responsible for those actions.

Reformed folks love the OT imagery and metaphors as well.

He gave us free will and "knocks at the door", not breaking it down and entering by force.

Sure, although it's not clear that this passage is talking about salvation. Dead people don't open doors. First He raises those dead in their sins to spiritual life. If that's force, so be it.

a simple, even uneducated Christian knows that (by the Spirit) that you can pray for God's moving in someone to make the right choice, and still know that they have the ultimate choice to make concerning their salvation. It's a paradox to us, but somehow not to God, for the wisdom of God is greater than our foolishness.

It's not an issue of paradox to me, because I don't see Scripture teaching that we have the ultimate choice to raise ourselves from death to life.

we only have free will to the degree that our will is submitted to Christ. Sounds like another paradox

No, that actually sounds like Calvinism. I don't see how you reconcile that with your prior assertion that we have the ultimate choice to make concerning our salvation prior to that very will being submitted to Christ. You just said that we have free will to choose our salvation, and followed that by saying free will is totally dependent on submission to Christ. Which is it?

but we need to remember that our will is not libertarian

Amen!

"Who the son sets free is free indeed!"

Exactly. No freedom without the sovereign work of God. Spoken like a good Calvinist. :-)

This is true freedom of the will, to be in union with the will of God.

I agree 100%.


20. Arnold Anderson Email Web 2007-05-16  7:00am

Let me just say this is a great discussion and it allows each participant to clarify in their own mind what it is that they are thinking. At least that's the way I see it.

When I read Rick's post I had a very similar reaction to Randy. Alot of it does sound remarkably Reformed. (I like using the term Reformed as sometimes Calvinism is associated too much with the man and not the theology)

I also think that sometimes we make the mistake of saying that because one thing is pre-determined all things are pre-determined in the same way. That is an all or nothing fallacy. I believe that salvation is, as Randy explains, entirely the work of God and best exemplified by John 6. I came to be convinced of the Reformed view because it seems to me that is what the Bible teaches from beginning to end. I can really relate to what both Matt and Rick are saying as I used to think exactly along those lines. In fact I still struggle with some of it. But, after reading, and doing some hard work exegeting Bible texts that are addressing salvation, I became convinced that the Reformed view best explains what the Scripture is teaching.

Now, I am no theologian and as I said I have my wrestling matches with some of the text but I can no longer accept libertarian free will as is expressed in so much of evangelicalism today.

Matt, I offer the same argument concerning prayer as I did for the support of missions in the Reformed view. God ordains the means as well as the outcome. It is not outside of the Reformed theology to say that without the prayers of God's people certain individuals would not be saved. If that individual is ultimately going to be saved, God has, or will, give them a heart of flesh (change their nature... regenerate) in place of their heart of stone. And they will come to Christ and be saved. But, at the same time, God also ordained that someone somewhere will be praying for that persons salvation. Without the two parts that individual would not be saved.

I think this is where Rick calls it a paradox and Randy explains it via the term compatibilism. The primary cause is God the Father choosing that individual to salvation from eternity past, giving that individual to Christ, and Christ bringing that individual into fellowship with the Father without failure. The secondary cause is the prayer for that individual. Without both occurring, salvation would not have happened.

I hope I haven't confused the issue with my words above but I believe that is what Scripture teaches from beginning to end. I believe that is partly why the Bible says that the gospel is offensive. It seems offensive to our human sensibilities as it feels like our will is being violated, however, our debt of sin is owed to God and we can do nothing about it. If He decides to cancel that debt that is completely up to Him. When He does it is as Rick said above, we have been given true freedom!


21. Randy Email Web 2007-05-22  7:58pm

Okay, Matt, I'm finally responding to your closing comments.

Randy, I will grant that your explaination of several of the verses mentioned in this thread do make sense *in the Calvinist framework*. No questions asked. Once we accept "total depravity" in the sense that we are unable to make meaningful choices

Was that distortion deliberate, or an oversight? Perhaps I'll never know, but I've made it clear time and time again that Reformed theology teaches that man makes meaningful choices, acting according to his desires. Just because God is sovereign doesn't make our choices meaningless. However, you are correct that total depravity is the linchpin. Are we dead in our trespasses and sins, or are we just ill? I'll stick with Paul:
Ephesians 2:4-5 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.

I, however, remain unconvinced that depravity is as total as Calvinists make it out to be.

I think the burden is on you to find Biblical support for sickness rather than the death we see mentioned so often. Spiritual death is a sign of inability. How could it be otherwise?

I have yet to hear a Calvinist satisfactorily explain how Lucifer and Adam could have rebelled against God in a world free from the curse of the Fall. I am not satisfied as yet by your explaination. Let me restate this again as clearly as I can. If we *always* act according to our desire, then it was Adam's desire to sin.

Of course. You have to believe that in your view as well so it does nothing to separate us in this discussion.

From where did this desire come? It was *not* the fact that he was a dead sinner. Seeing as we both agree that God did not cause him to sin, then we have to say that it was a choice of his will.

Okay. But I don't believe Adam had true free will, because I believe God could have intervened at any moment during the Garden of Eve drama. If you want to insist man had free will, I'd say man forever lost it because of Adam's federal headship over humanity.

This must mean either 1) his rebellion was very good, or 2) the freedom that God gave Adam was very good.

Can't choose 1), so you leave me 2). Okay, the freedom was good, but it wasn't libertarian free will anyway.

Let's not go on the tangent saying that "that was then, this is now, for now we're all dead sinners after the Fall...". Your objection to human choice is that it does violence to God's sovereignty.

You're either being subtly clever or careless. I've never objected to human choice. I deny human free will. My objection is that it's logically impossible for two independent conflicting wills to both be free. Since I have to pick one, I vote for God.

My point in appealing to Adam and Lucifer is to demonstrate that human freedom does *not* do violence to God's sovereignty.

So God had no ability to intervene and stop Eve from listening to the serpent or Adam from taking the fruit? I can't accept that, and I'm baffled how you can believe that yet claim to champion God's sovereignty.

Additionally, if we are so corrupted that we are not free enough to respond to grace, then it would seem contrary to God's call on people to believe (John 3:16, Acts 16:31, 17:30, etc.) and to statements that unbelievers have the ability to respond (Matt. 23:27, John 7:17, Rom. 7:18, 1 Cor. 9:17, Philemon 14, 1 Peter 5:2, etc.)

I think I've addressed most of those verses already, but if someone wants to single out a couple, I'll be happy to dig in again.

I'll toss in TWO of my own:
Acts 13:48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.

Ephesians 1:4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.

I do not accept that we always act according to our desires.
That shocks me. When have you ever in your life not acted according to your desires? When has anyone you have ever known not done so? I think the very concept of acting contrary to our desires is an absurdity.
We know from experience and Scripture that we don't always do what we desire (Rom. 7:15-16).

To rebut this by saying "if we act against our desire, then we have actually acted according to a stronger desire" that is rebuttal by shifting definitions rather than demonstration.

Not at all. That's the logical response. For example, let's say that a man is tempted by lust to cheat on his wife. That can be a very powerful desire. Yet, his desire to remain true to his wife can be stronger. If he cheats, he has acted on his overwhelming lustful desire. If he remains faithful, he has overcome the lustful desire with a stronger desire for faithfulness and purity. Whichever desire is strongest will determine his action. Even if he dislikes his wife but remains faithful because he worries about how his neighbors will react if they find out, the strongest desire has won out in the end. It has to. Our very response proves which desire is strongest within us. If the man cheats on his wife and then claims that really his greatest desire was to be faithful, we won't believe him for a second. It would be absurd.

it is possible to preserve God's sovereignty and free will at the same time. God infallibly knows the future, so from God's viewpoint, all future events are "fixed" in the sense that He knows the future with perfect certainty, even though the option existed in for us to choose other than what we do choose. However, we do not know the future with certainty, and as time progresses we reach milestones where we must make choices. This is reconciled by saying that God predetermines in relation to foreknowledge of future free, self-determined actions.

Yes, that is a popular view. I believe it is wrong. Paul used foreknow as a verb in Romans. God is the active agent in the golden chain of redemption at the end of Romans 8. As Ephesians 1:4 tells us, "For he chose us in him before the creation of the world." There is no hint that He loves us because He knew we would first love Him. Quite the opposite.

We are agreed that God has contingent knowledge, meaning that God knows what the outcome would have been of choices that we never made. For you to make that admission is to say that predetermination *must* be related to foreknowledge (ie - predetermination does not come chronologically before foreknowledge).

Related, sure. Dependent on, no. God had to raise us to spiritual life before any of this mattered, and He chose to do that before the creation of the world "in conformity with the purpose of his will," (Eph 1:11) not according to our will.

I will continue to affirm God's perfect and absolute sovereignty AND man's moral responsibility and freedom to respond to God.

I agree completely. The difference is that I believe man responds negatively until God takes out his heart of stone and gives him a heart of flesh that can respond positively. You insist that fallen mankind can make positive moves towards God despite Romans 8:7,8--the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

Randy, you mentioned that non-Calvinists pray like Reformed folks asking God to intervene. I do not see how this is inconsistent with the view I have presented here

It's inconsistent because if the almighty free will of man is so inviolable, God has no right to intervene. God's intervention immediately negates free will and you're in my camp, in which we make choices but God is truly sovereign, able to override any decision of ours. You can't claim man has free will and then turn around and say God has free will to override man's will--only one is free.

In fact I've often found it ironic to hear Calvinists pray for the salvation of their children. After all, if their children are elect God will surely save them without the prayer of their parents and if the children are not lect then those prayers avail nothing. In fact, why pray at all. The same holds true for the entire missionary agency and evangelism, doesn't it?

First, let me say I'm glad to hear you're listening to Calvinists praying. :-) I'm sorry I haven't explained things better to avoid these sorts of misconceptions. Arnold did a nice job addressing this so I won't be redundant. I will add that we must distinguish between primary and secondary causes. We pray precisely because we know our God can override the fallen will of our children, raise them to spiritual life and give them to the Son. The same holds for evangelism. Free willers can pray, hoping that someone the people will make the change. I have a lot more faith in God's power and will than in mine, or any other human's.

Thanks for interacting, Matt. I just hope you wrestle more with all of the passages that clearly teach God's activity in salvation and man's inability. I don't think you've successfully counterred any of the texts that speak of our deadness in sin.

Okay, now I'm really done. (Is that "The Last Word, And the Word After That"?)
Scary, Matt McLaren. (If that doesn't make sense, read this.


22. Matt Email Web 2008-01-14  3:56pm

PWND!

(I hope you speak 1337, Randy!)


23. Randy Brandt Email Web 2008-01-14  6:11pm

I believe "Leet" will be a puzzle to most readers, but thank you. If you wish to elaborate for other less hackerish readers, be my guest!


24. Matt Email Web 2008-01-14  6:52pm

PWND is of course, a comical and intentional misspelling of "owned".

In other words, I am now admitting that since this exchange I have become Reformed to the point where I would actively say that I am *not* an Arminian, and am also ready to say that if clearly enough defined (not redefined) that I accept all 5 solas and all 5 components of TULIP.

While James White was the one who finally put the puck in the net, it was Randy who set up the play and gets credited with an assist.


25. Henry Friesen Email Web 2008-04-24  8:13pm

KJV 1 John 2:2 And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.

NIV 1 John 2:2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.

Does this mean that 1) Christ has atoned for the sins of every individual, resulting in universalism? Does it mean that 2) He atones for everyone, placing them in right standing with God, yet they somehow get out of that state as mentioned earlier? Or does it mean 3) "The sins of the whole world" means something other than atonement for every single individual?

We agree that 1) is out of the question.


Fascinating end to a journey that began with two individuals who hold so fervently to the perspicuity of scripture agreeing that the plain meaning of scripture is simply out of the question.


26. Randy Brandt Email Web 2008-04-25  7:36am

Henry, that depends on how you define "plain meaning." It's very plain that "world" does not mean "each and every individual" in numerous places throughout Scripture (John 7:7, 12:19, 17:9, etc), therefore to assign that definition to "world" and to then call it the "plain meaning" is being disingenuous. Any honest Scripture interpreter has to choose between the second and third options. I think the weight of evidence clearly indicates that He is the propitiation for people from the whole world--Jewish or Gentile. That fits perfectly with Rev 5:9 "...you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation."


27. Henry Friesen Email Web 2008-04-25  9:40am

Hi Randy,
Any honest Scripture interpreter has to choose between the second and third options.
I agree completely, which is why the perspicuity of scripture thing becomes tiresome. That choice has to be made frequently, and it will be made with reference to other passages that say things so differently as to be at odds with this passage, and that choice will be made in the context of commitments to frameworks which compel one to choose one interpretation over another.
In this case you make the choice you do, and you select the text you do because you have a Reformed theology that guides your reading of scripture. I would rather that such pre-existing commitment was acknowledged, than to say that this is the only way to read scripture (exegesis/eisogesis is not so simple. Every exegesis is an eisogesis). It's fine for this to be the best reading from your perspective at this time, but I think it imperative to give equal respect to others who read it differently. This does not mean that every reading is equal.
In this case I think you make the wrong choice. If you compare this passage to eg. Romans 5:12-21 there is good grounds to say that indeed the atonement is for all people of all time, which you yourself seem to acknowledge as the plainest meaning of this text. When I attended a good Calvinist evangelical Bible college I was taught in hermeneutics class that the first rule of hermeneutics is to take the simplest interpretation as the best interpretation. Then I went to theology class and was absolutely flummoxed by how complicated the exegesis of simple passages like this became. However, the implications of this reading would demand that you revise much of your Reformed soteriology and theology of sovereignty. I can appreciate that would be difficult.
Your argument regarding the definition of "world" seems to rely on the hermeneutical principle that presupposes an artificial stability in the meaning of words. While I concur with the earlier simplicity principle, I have reservations about this one. Immediate context is the best indication of what a word means. Other uses of a word are a valid consideration but should not be used as a limit of denotation. Would you apply the same limits to "world" in John 3:16? In John 1:10 the word is used three times in the same verse and it would be awkward to apply precisely the same denotation to all three uses.
I will now insert a hopelessly optimistic estimate of my IQ and submit this comment.


Comment on Loving Moon, Despising Calvin










You must enter a seven (this reduces automated comment spam):

Welcome!
Register
Scamway - Merchants of Deception: Rant
AMWAY (UK) LIMITED ST ANNES HOUSE CALDECOTTE LAKE DRIVE CALDECOTTE BUSINESS PARK CALDECOTTE MILTON...
by Steve  2012-09-30  1:24pm
Franklin Graham Disappoints Again: Rant
What kind of sicko follows preachers around? Stalker maniac.
by Graham Cracker  2012-03-10  12:30pm
The Courage to Be Protestant: Non-Fiction
Here is another review by someone who shares your insistence on inerrancy and penal substitution. Can you say...
by Henry  2008-06-11  6:05pm
Pick The Brighter Tulip: Fiction
Alger fitch is my great grandfather, and i love ALL of his books. shame on you for creating such hatred over a book....
by Garrett Baker  2010-10-15  11:38am
Unless otherwise noted, all contents Copyright 2001-2014 Randy Brandt