Tuesday, April 3, 2007

What's wrong with an "Alter Call" or "Gospel Invitation"?

Do some Calvinists oppose "Alter Calls" and "Gospel Invitations" on the basis of doctrinal opposition to what is termed, "Decisional Regeneration"?

If someone hears the Gospel message, and then is invited to meet with a prayer counselor in order to repent of their sin, and publicly commit their life to Christ, what could be wrong with that? Answer: There is nothing wrong with that. Only Satan would oppose someone giving their heart to Christ. Therefore, is the policy of opposing "Alter Calls" and "Gospel Invitations" born in the heart of Satan? Is such a policy, Satanic?

One Calvinist explains: "I do not like alter calls because I understand them to be an emotional appeal which pressures people to do something that the Bible does not necessitate." (http://www.mdcbowen.org/cobb/archives/001559.html, emphasis mine)

In terms of emotion and pressure, Calvinist, Charles Spurgeon, states: “I further believe, although certain persons deny it, that the influence of fear is to be exercised over the minds of men, and that it ought to operate upon the mind of the preacher himself.” (How to Win Souls for Christ, emphasis mine)

I'm not saying that Spurgeon supported Alter Calls. I'm simply using Spurgeon to dispute whether emotion and pressure should be applied to the lost in evangelism, and apparently Spurgeon agrees.

Question: Where is the desire for "Alter Calls" and "Gospel Invitations" born?

Answer: It's born out of the heart of concern for the lost in a desire to see the lost saved?

Question: So where is the apathy toward "Alter Calls" and "Gospel Invitations" born?

Answer: It's born ouf of the heart of casual indifference concerning the salvation of the lost.

What's the point of presenting the Gospel, if you are unwilling to pray with someone to receive salvation, as salvation is described at Romans 10:9-10? What should we say, that Calvinists are willing to pray with the lost to receive Christ, but are just unwilling to advertise it? My former Calvinist Pastor, Chip, who opposed the practice of "Alter Calls" and "Gospel Invitations" would instead announce: "If you have any questions, you can see the Pastor afterward." Is that sad or what?

Besides the fact that an "Alter Call" or a "Gospel Invitation" invites someone to receive Christ in their heart, it also serves as a public profession of faith. Consider what Jesus states about public affirmations: "But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 10:33)


http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Complaints/ac_invitation.html

46 comments:

posttinebraelux said...

Good morrow dear brother. :) I happened upon your blog by chance and have enjoyed the rhetoric against Calvinists. :) This post, in particular, is interesting. I'm curious that you jump to the conclusion that someone's disdain for alter calls is born out of a heart "of casual indifference concerning the salvation of the lost." Is is possible, brother, that the disdain for alter calls may, in fact, be due to my belief regarding salvation and not that I am casual toward the lost? It seems that you've disregarded your own advice regarding civil interaction. I think it a bit presumptive to claim to know the motivations of others - especially that theirs is a casual attitude toward the lost. I cannot speak for other 'Calvinists', but my personal disdain for alter calls is that they are deceptive. They indicate to people that one must pray with a pastor (Catholicism?) in order to receive salvation. Rom. 10:9,10 says nothing at all about saying a prayer to receive salvation. It, rather, talks about confession and belief - which is reflective of a lifestyle and not praying with the pastor at the front of a church. I believe, also, that the passage in Mat. 10 is addressing primarily our lifestyle 'outside' church - not a point in time when we 'made a decision for Christ'.
So, then, the disdain for alter calls stems from the understanding that prayers don't save people, else we'd be saved by good works (i.e. a prayer) and we're not - we're saved by grace through faith. Also, does it not logically follow that if we believe: (1) God wants all men to be saved, (2) all men have the ability to choose to be saved at any given point in time, (3) that we, as Christians, should do whatever we can to make sure all people choose to be saved, and (4) that there are lost people in any given congregation (see Mat. 25), that we'd just lock the doors and beg and plead with everyone until they chose to be saved? It seems callous indeed that, if anyone can choose Christ at any time, I let them 'walk away without choosing Christ'. There seems to be a bit of a dichotomy here. For someone to believe that all people can choose Christ at any point in time - and then not to spend all their time trying to persuade the lost to choose Christ is, to a great extent, callous and uncaring, no?

Grace to you today brother,

PTL

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello,

You wrote: "For someone to believe that all people can choose Christ at any point in time - and then not to spend all their time trying to persuade the lost to choose Christ is, to a great extent, callous and uncaring, no?"

As Christians, like yourself, we are called to be a living sacrifice, so we never cease to persuade the lost to receive Christ. Adrian Rogers describes the person who ceases to evangelize as committing high treason against heaven's king. Now those are even stronger words than mine. Consider my writeup on Romans 9:3: http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Paul/Romans9_3.html

In that discussion, even Calvin admits that Paul does not sound like a Calvinist.

Question: Romans 10:13 speaks of calling upon the name of the Lord for salvation. Does that constitute "prayer"? If so, then what is wrong with inviting someone to meet with a prayer counselor to call upon the Lord for salvation?

Check this link on Alter Calls frm the Calvinist site, Old Truth.com:

http://www.oldtruth.com/calvinism/blog.cfm/id.2.pid.478

I'm stunned at what I read.

Here are some quotes:

"I don't know why church members tell sinners to say a prayer to be saved in the first place... NOT ONE PERSON IN THE ENTIRE NEW TESTAMENT EVER PRAYED FOR SALVATION !!! Posted by: dalton on Saturday, January 13, 2007"

"The dreadful practice of inviting a person to pray a sinners prayer for salvation is unbiblical and often provides a false sense of security - one is lost, yet thinks themselves to be saved. Posted by: AWOTS on Saturday, January 20, 2007"

Question: Do you have a lost family member? If you did, and I told you that they attended a sermon where the Pastor invited them to meet with a prayer counselor, and your family member came home to give you the good news that today they called upon the name of the Lord for salvation, as per Romans 10:13, would you tell them that that constitutes the false doctrine of "Decisional Regeneration" and now they have the false hope of salvation? Or, would you thak God for that Arminian pastor?

Consider the words of Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, as he gives an "invitation" to his readers to be made born again:

Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, writes: “Our faith and our repentance are the work of God’s grace in our hearts. Our contribution is simply the sin for which Jesus Christ suffered and died. Would you be born anew? There has never been a person who sought for that who did not find it. Even the seeking is created by the Spirit of God. Would you know that new life? Are you tired of the emptiness and purposelessness of your life? Are you tired of the filthy rags of your own righteousness? Would you trust in someone else other than yourself? Then look to the cross of Christ. Place your trust in him. Ask him to come in and be born in you today. For Jesus came into the world from glory to give us second birth because we must--we MUST--be born again.” (Why I Believe, p.140, emphasis mine)

IS this not a plea for Romans 10:13? I discuss this quote in more detail in the link below:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/NT/1Jn5_1.html

I apologize for posting an encylopedia, but consider these links and thoughts, and let me know what you might take issue with, and we can begin a dialogue on it tomorrow evening.

Yours truly,
Richard Coords

posttinebraelux said...

Thanks so much for the reply Richard. I, too, agree (as I'd assume most Calvinists would as well) that we are to be living sacrifices - kind of self-defeating to disagree with Paul, no? :) I just see a significant difference in our responsibilities vis-a-vis the divergent Calvinist/Armenian perspectives. To wit, as a Calvinist, I'd say that we are charged with loving and serving all people - saved and lost - which is Christ's gospel (see Mat. 25) and allowing God to transform those whom He, in His good pleasure, decides to transform. The Armenian, as I see it, would bear some responsibility in the salvific decision of the lost as the lost person's decision would rest, at least in some part, on the persuasive abilities of the Armenian, no? And, if I (as the Armenian) understand that the lost can be saved by my persuasive abilities, then I would think that, if I TRULY loved the lost, I'd not rest a moment in trying to get them all saved. Do you see the difference?
To the question of what is wrong with inviting someone down to say a prayer with the pastor, I see two issues as follows: (1) I do not believe that the prayer saves - else we'd be saved by a good work as the prayer is a work of ours. I would think one would have a difficult time wrangling the 'prayer of salvation' into the context of salvific faith.
Do I think it necessary to call upon the Lord? Absolutely! But that is a result of the change that has already taken place, not the initiatory act for the change (as you'd guess, I believe in regeneration before repentance). The second issue I see with saying a prayer with the pastor is the illusion that prayers are more powerful if spoken with a pastor. That is Catholicism at it's finest. Especially in Baptist churches we have this idea that if we share our prayers with the pastor, then somehow those prayers get to go to the 'front of the prayer line.' If you are honest, don't you see that as an issue as well?
To the question of the lost family member, I'd certainly not tell them that their experience was to no avail. I'd tell them that, if they truly experienced salvation, then their prayer was one of their first 'good works' in response to the change that God wrought and that, if there was truly change, then they'd begin to truly desire the things of God and not the things of the world. Would that be an acceptable answer?
To the quote from D. James Kennedy, I would not presume to criticize his writings. I can only say that, for me, I would be reticent to encourage people to say a prayer to 'ask God/Christ to come into your heart'. That kind of prayer just doesn't stand up to Biblical mandate. I would, however, be more than willing to say, along with Christ, that one must be born again and that being born again involves being gifted with a faith in Christ's salvific work (Eph. 2:8,9) and calling all sinners to experience that life-changing - wait! - life CREATING - faith.
To the apology for the encyclopedia, no apology necessary. As you can tell, I tend to be a bit verbose as well.

May God bless you today brother,

PTL

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Just as an FYI, it’s Arminian, rather than Armenian. It’s not a big deal, but I just wanted to let you know. It’s derived from the name, Jacob Arminius.

You wrote: “The Armenian, as I see it, would bear some responsibility in the salvific decision of the lost as the lost person's decision would rest, at least in some part, on the persuasive abilities of the Armenian, no?”

Scripture holds us accountable to preach to the lost, but not their decision. The best verse in the Bible that illustrates that thought is Ezekiel 33:8:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/OT/Ezek33_8.html

You wrote: “And, if I (as the Armenian) understand that the lost can be saved by my persuasive abilities, then I would think that, if I TRULY loved the lost, I'd not rest a moment in trying to get them all saved. Do you see the difference?”

However, it’s not our persuasive abilities that gets people saved, but simply letting the Gospel do its thing (John 6:63), and “us” not committing dereliction of our Christian obligation, as per Ezek 33:8.

You wrote: “I do not believe that the prayer saves ... I can only say that, for me, I would be reticent to encourage people to say a prayer to 'ask God/Christ to come into your heart'. That kind of prayer just doesn't stand up to Biblical mandate.”

Question: Then what are you saying that calling upon the name of the Lord, according to Romans 10:13, accomplishes? “For whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

You wrote: “The second issue I see with saying a prayer with the pastor is the illusion that prayers are more powerful if spoken with a pastor. That is Catholicism at it's finest. Especially in Baptist churches we have this idea that if we share our prayers with the pastor, then somehow those prayers get to go to the 'front of the prayer line.' If you are honest, don't you see that as an issue as well?”

No, because often times in churches, such as mine, the person coming forward won’t even meet with a pastor, but merely with a prayer counselor, who will pray with them, in going before God in 1) repentance, 2) asking Jesus to come into their heart. The prayer counselor is not claiming special access to God, but will simply pray with them, and then point them to Scripture to begin their walk with Christ and believer’s baptism. So it’s not a matter of venerating pastors. They are simply praying with them, as per Rom 10:13.

Question: Do you have a quote from any major Calvinist author which states that prayer, as per Romans 10:13, does not save? Instead, I have what D. James Kennedy stated. I have quotes opposing “Decisional Regeneration” but nothing as straight-forward as what you presented, in that prayer doesn’t save anyone.

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
So do you believe that people can, at any point in time, 'choose' to be saved? If so, doesn't it logically follow that one should be able to persuade another to choose?
To your question about Rom. 10:13, if we put it in context with Eph. 2:8,9, then you are forced to adhere to the belief that the prayer of salvation is equal to the grace that is the gift of God, yes? And I just don't see how we can force those two things into the same thing.
Regarding quotes from major Calvinist thinkers, I don't know of any off hand, I'd be happy to research for you, but I do know that Sproul believes adamantly in 'regeneration before repentance' which would, of necessity, demand that it is not the prayer that saves.

Grace brother,

PTL

posttinebraelux said...

PS,
If it's all right with you, I've also linked your blog to mine. Always good to have a balanced perspective, no? :)

PTL

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

PTL,

Thanks, and you're linked now.

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/contact_us.html

I also frequently visit Peter Lumpkins site.

You wrote: "So do you believe that people can, at any point in time, 'choose' to be saved?"

No. Classical Arminianism affirms the doctrine of Total Depravity, and offers Prevenient Grace as the alternative to Irresistible Grace. So it wouldn't be a matter of simply seeking Christ, because no one seeks Christ, so Christ must seek man. It wouldn't be a matter of man persuading man, but of God making his entreaty through us, when the Gospel is preached.

You wrote: "To your question about Rom. 10:13, if we put it in context with Eph. 2:8,9, then you are forced to adhere to the belief that the prayer of salvation is equal to the grace that is the gift of God, yes?"

At Eph 2:8, which "grace" is Paul referring to? Calvinism teaches Elective Grace, Regenerate Grace (irresistible, effectual, ect.), Atoning Grace and Persevering Grace. Some Calvinists infer that the "grace" spoken of at Eph 2:8 is "Elective Grace." Arminians have typically understood it as "Atoning Grace," and pictured John 3:14-15 as it relates to Numbers 21:6-9, as the backdrop of Eph 2:8. In other words, for by the grace of the cross of Calvary, whom we look upon in faith, we are saved. This salvation is not of us, but is of God, being His gift. For the next Blog post, I'd be glad to discuss Eph 2:8, because there are differences of opinons as to what "not of yourselves" refers to. There are even Calvinists who argue it different ways, so that might make for a good Blog post. Arminians treat it as "[salvation] not of yourselves, it is the gift of God," while most Calvinists understand it as "[faith] not of yoruselves, it is the gift of God."

My website is almost 6 months old, and it needs a lot of editting. Some of the objections from Calvinists have been instrumental in helping to develop the material, especially John 6:37, 44. Even 1st John 5:1 has recently undergone revisions. In fact, I think that everyone should have something just like what I have. As you study God's word, you will build your own commentary, which is shaped by probing questions from others. One thing that my Dad had pointed out was that the material often would not seem to "jump out at him," so I added dialogue boxes to address the essential questions. Sometimes in our research, we (and especially myself) can get carried away in the passion of the argument. One such site is Sovereign Grace Church in PA, which really seems to get carried away. It is an interesting diaglogue, nonetheless, to study:

http://www.sgc-gettysburg.org/writings/argument2.asp

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

When I referred to a commentary that each Christian can develop on their own, here is the one that I started 6 months ago:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/Gospels.html

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/Pauline_Epistles.html

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/General_Epistles.html

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/Old_Testament.html

I think each Christian ought to have their own commentary site for verses on the Resurrection, the Deity of Christ, Justification by Faith, ect. And it can start out simple and grow in complexity, and it would be a tool for the family to use.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

PTL,

In terms of the first point, I want to give you a story of a preacher who wanted to see how his voice carries in church, so he was repeating the verse, "Behold the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) What the preacher didn't realize is that there was a man in the balcony who was working, who kept hearing the verse over and over, and it had such a profound effect on him, that that Sunday he went forward during an Alter Call and gave his testimony. Now it wasn't necessarily the preacher's persuasive skill, but God making his entreaty through His own Word which is "living and active" (Heb 4:12) and is "spirit and life." (John 6:63)

One example that I sometimes give, is that when you preach the Gospel, the lost may hear your voice with their ears, but in their heart, they feel Jesus knocking.

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
I agree - it would be incumbent for all of us to distill our various 'notes' regarding our studies. I've got about 30 pages of notes in about 3 different Bibles, two commentaries, an Interlinear, and not a few individual books. At some point, it would make sense to organize all that material - but the mountain seems so big! :)
Regarding Eph. 2:8,9, I have come to the conclusion that it doesn't really matter whether Paul is saying that the free gift is grace or faith, the result is the same - it is something outside of us that initiates the change. I think the Hebrews writer refers to it as 'giving us a heart of flesh in place of our heart of stone.'
I'm not sure how you make the leap to the free gift being salvation; I'll need help understanding that. :) It seems that, based on syntactical logic, the 'that' that Paul refers back to would have to either be grace or faith, would it not?
Regarding Christ seeking man, does Christ seek everyone? And, if so, why do some respond and others not? It would seem that, if Christ sought you, you'd be found, no?
PS - I come from a VERY Arminian (notice the correct spelling) background. I wasn't exposed to 'doctrines of grace' until I was in my early 30's. If you'd asked me about not having an invitation 15 years ago, I'd have thought you loony indeed. :)

Have a peaceful evening,

PTL

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

PTL,

In terms of Eph 2:8-9, I've seen commentary all over the map. Some say that salvation is what's in focus, which is by grace through faith, and that it (the whole package of salvation by grace through faith) is not of yourselves, "it" is the gift of God.

The idea with that thinking is this:

salvation is by grace
salvation is through faith
salvation is not of yourself
salvation is a gift

Feel free to share your commentary on it.

Question: (though this is an argument from silence) Can you find one reference in all of Scripture where it is said, "Not by faith, that it might be of grace alone"? Some say that faith in Christ gives man a reason to boast before God, when yet Romans 3:27 seems to suggest the opposite, in that boasting is excluded by a law of faith. In other words, you cannot claim credit for yourself by saying that you are trusting in someone else. The praise would revert to the one in whom you are placing your trust.

In terms of Christ seeking, Luke 19:10 says records Jesus stating that He has come to seek and to save that which is lost. Which "lost" is that? Is it all men, such as at John 12:32? Who is Luke 19:10 suggesting that Jesus seeks? Notice that it uses the indiscriminate term "lost." Now if you suppose that 100% of all whom He seeks will be found, and given that He seeks the lost, then would not such logic require that 100% of the lost be found? Wouldn't that be Universalism? Therefore, you can either adjust the scope of the "lost," or adjust the meaning of seeking & saving, rendering it conditional to whosoever will, empowered by prevenient grace.

As far as your notes goes, it sounds like you have to weigh whether the time investment will make it worth it.

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
In regard to the passage in Luke 19:10, I've never really dealt with that passage (to be honest). My first thoughts, however, are that it would pose a greater problem for those who believe in choice salvation. In other words, if the 'lost' is universal (which I'd think the Arminian would have to believe), then you're right - the passage would imply Universalism. If, however, the 'lost' were the elect, then that would easily fall into my economy of things soteriological. As a possibly parallel point, my take on the parables of the lost sheep/coin is that the items which were lost at one time belonged to the person who lost them (as evidenced by the following parable of the prodigal son). And I know you'll disagree with me on my understanding of foreknowledge, but if foreknowledge has to do with a relationship, then Christ has come to restore that relationship with His elect (or lost).
In answer to your question, I think we both know that there is no such passage. :) John 1:13, however, does say that our 'new birth' comes not from the will of man (choice), but of God, which implies to me that, whether we attribute grace, faith, or salvation to 'that' in Eph. 2:8, we must attribute that grace, faith, or salvation to God and not to man's choice to demonstrate it.
Question: does God give every person the 'free gift' of salvation (or grace or faith)? If so, isn't that Universalism? If not, isn't that Calvinism?

Enjoy God's day brother,

PTL

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

PTL,

I'm going to do a write-up on Luke 19:10. I've got a really good quote from James White and Adrian Rogers on that verse. That will be my next Blog post. I should have it done by tonight. Unfortunately, there is this thing called "work" that just gets in the way of all of my plans :)

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Two quick thoughts in between handling insurance claims:

In terms of what you said about foreknowledge & relationship, Lutzer cites Romans 8:29, treating "foreknown" as "foreloved." So that's something to take a look at.

In terms of the offer of salvation, here is what Calvin commented at Romans 5:15:

John Calvin comments: “Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive Him.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.117-118, emphasis mine)

Luke 19:10 will have to be put off until tomororw since I have a certification class to study for tonight. Talk to you tomorrow.

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
Godspeed on your certification. I'm still not quite clear on the Arminian position regarding God's calling. You believe, I think, that no one can come to the Father unless the Son draws him/her, so do you also believe that Christ draws everyone? If so, why is it that some respond and some do not? It seems to me that if the Creator of all that is drew someone - they'd respond. I know the classical position is called irresistible grace, but the practical position creates a kunumdrum for Arminians, does it not? If it is Christ who draws us, and Christ who affords us the grace or faith or whatever to respond, then there must be a difference in what is afforded to the ones who do not respond, else we'd all respond, no?

PTL

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

PTL,

I find out this weekend if I passed.

In terms of whether or not everyone whom Jesus seeks & draws irresistibly comes, runs into the verses, Isaiah 65:2 and Matthew 23:37. How would you explain what you said in light of those two verses?

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
I'm sure this is probably not the correct meaning of the passage, but we are certainly aware that, at least at times, Christ's desires were different than His Father's (nevertheless, not my will but Yours be done) and maybe this was an exclamation of His 'human' desires?
At any rate, I appreciate the questions for thought, but I feel that you are not trying to answer mine - just posing new ones for me. Again, I'm still not quite clear on the Arminian position regarding God's calling. You believe, I think, that no one can come to the Father unless the Son draws him/her, so do you also believe that Christ draws everyone? If so, why is it that some respond and some do not? It seems to me that if the Creator of all that is drew someone - they'd respond. I know the classical position is called irresistible grace, but the practical position creates a kunumdrum for Arminians, does it not? If it is Christ who draws us, and Christ who affords us the grace or faith or whatever to respond, then there must be a difference in what is afforded to the ones who do not respond, else we'd all respond, no?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

PTL,

My mistake. I thought that you were speaking rhetorically because you correctly distinguished between the two belief systems.

You had written: "If it is Christ who draws us, and Christ who affords us the grace or faith or whatever to respond, then there must be a difference in what is afforded to the ones who do not respond, else we'd all respond, no?"

Calvinism states that the reason why some are saved and others are not is because of God's choice, whereas Arminianism states that the reason why some are saved and others are not is because of a person's own free choice, in that Christ initiates the "offer" of salvation, and then it is up to the individual to decide whether or not to receive the offer.

In terms of the offer, let me quote John Calvin:

Calvin states: “Paul makes grace common to all men, not because it in fact extends to all, but because it is offered to all. Although Christ suffered for the sins of the world, and is offered by the goodness of God without distinction to all men, yet not all receive Him.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Romans and Thessalonians, pp.117-118, emphasis mine)

In terms of whether or not God's "offer" is deterministic, I asked to consider that relative to Isaiah 65:2 and Matthew 23:37.

What do you think?

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
I believe there has to be a difference in the ability to receive what is offered from a realistic standpoint, else, if everyone is equally able to understand/receive the things of God, and God is really seeking everyone, they'd choose Him. But I don't think that there is equal understanding and ability to receive the things of God based on I Cor. 2:15 and John 12:40.
Question, can someone 'choose' to be blind in a physical sense?
IMO, they can choose not to see, but they cannot choose to be blind. Even so, in the spiritual realm, one can not 'choose' to be blind. They are blind because they are made that way.

Greg Reynolds

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Greg,

You wrote: "If everyone is equally able to understand/receive the things of God, and God is really seeking everyone, they'd choose Him."

You also wrote: "Question, can someone 'choose' to be blind in a physical sense?"

First, the natural man (as per 1Cor 2:14) is spiritually blind, just as you indicated. In some cases, people are even actively hardened and blinded (as per John 12 as it relates to Isaiah 6:9-10, which you pointed out).

Arminianism explains this from the standpoint two concepts: Illumination and Regeneration.

Illumination is what Arminianism teaches that the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit does to open eyes (John 1:9) and open hearts (Acts 16:14) so that the natural man may see, in order to be brought to a point where they may make a positive decision to the offer of salvation.

Regeneration is what Arminianism teaches that the Holy Spirit does in the new birth of being made born again, being made a new creature (2Cor 5:17) when He seals the believer in Christ (Eph 1:13) so that they become "one spirit" with God (1Cor 6:17-19), with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (1Cor 3:16).

Arminianism teaches that such Illumination is Prevenient Grace and that Regeneration is the ordination to eternal life in the second birth.

That's how Arminianism explains 1Cor 2:14, which you brought up.

The deeper issue, in your first statement, involves free will. Assuming the Arminian paradigm for argument's sake: If two people are equally enlightened by the power of the Gospel and by the power of the Holy Spirit, and if the one receives Christ while the other rejects Christ, what can be attributed to this difference? The Arminian answer is from the heart of the person, as empowered by the aforementioned Prevenient Grace, and God warned, harden not your heart. (Psalm 95:8) Therefore, the Arminian explanation is in an easy position to explain Matthew 23:37 and Isaiah 65:2, and even Jeremiah 18:1-13, while Calvinism is left with a secret will explanation, or at least that's how John Calvin explained Matthew 23:27 from the perspective of a secret will. I do not presume to know how Greg might interptet it.

About six months ago, I did an article on Free Will. Feel free to consider it, in which I address the question of "why aren't all saved."

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Articles/ac_freewill.html

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
That is a very thoughtful examination. A couple of questions, though.
(1) does God harden hearts or do people harden their own hearts? And, if (as I expect) you answer that both take place, how do we know whether it was God that hardened someone's heart or whether it was the person who hardened his own heart? And, if God hardens hearts at all, does that not make Him discriminatory - at least toward those whom He hardens? In which case, He truly doesn't want 'everyone' to be saved, no?
(2) If Christ, before the foundation of the world, was the redeemer, then there MUST have been a plan for sin, else there'd be no need of a redeemer. So, then, if God's eternal plan was to redeem man, could Adam and Eve 'not' have sinned? I see it as looking at a coin from two sides - on the one, Adam and Eve 'chose' to sin, but on the other, God's eternal plan was for them to sin, so, in a sense, they really didn't have a choice.
Which raises the issue of who 'created' sin, to which I'm not sure what other Calvinists would say, but I have to say that everything that is created (principalities, powers, etc.) is created by God and that sin is part of the created cosmos, thus sin has to have been created by God. If Adam and Eve were created 'good' and there was a change from that 'good' state to a state where they could sin, God had to initiate that change. Adam & Eve couldn't have 'changed' themselves and the only other choice would be Satan, who is merely a pawn to carry out the decrees of Almighty (see Job).
Hence, I am left with the same conclusion - the reason some 'choose' God and other don't is because God hardens some and others he gives 'a heart of flesh in place of their hearts of stone'.

Have a blessed week brother,

GR

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

You wrote: “how do we know whether it was God that hardened someone's heart or whether it was the person who hardened his own heart?”

Classical Arminianism teaches that man hardens his own heart first, and cites Pharaoh as an example. If you read a commentary by an Arminian or non-Calvinist on Romans 9:17, you will almost always see something along the lines of stating that Pharaoh hardened his own heart first, and then God hardened his heart. In terms of Israel, you see God reaching out to Israel, as per Isaiah 65:2, and then hardening it for the sake of its rebellion. (Jeremiah 18:1-13)

You wrote: “And, if God hardens hearts at all, does that not make Him discriminatory?”

What if there is a basis to the hardening? For instance, at Jeremiah 18:1-13, God declares that if a nation repents, He will relent, but if a nation turns from its righteousness, He will think better of the good with which He had planned to bless it, and bring calamity upon it. No doubt that God hardens, but is there a basis to it? As a former Calvinist, I used to believe that God created Goliath for no other purpose than to have him serve as an instrument to the spiritual development of David. I don’t believe that way any more.

You wrote: “In which case, He truly doesn't want 'everyone' to be saved, no?”

I wouldn’t say that, but I would say that God’s patience has its limits. I would say that there is a point at which God turns persistent disbelievers, who have spurned His grace, over to a reprobate heart. An example is the hardening of Isaiah 6:9-10. However, when considering that verse, it is also important to keep in mind Matthew 23:37 in which Jesus declared that He had a better plan for them, but that His own had received Him not. (John 1:11)

You wrote: “If Christ, before the foundation of the world, was the redeemer, then there MUST have been a plan for sin, else there'd be no need of a redeemer. So, then, if God's eternal plan was to redeem man, could Adam and Eve 'not' have sinned?”

The first verse an Arminian such as myself will bring up is Acts 2:23, and then plead that Foreknowledge is not Determinism.

You wrote: “Which raises the issue of who 'created' sin?”

Consider Jeremiah 32:35 which states: “They built the high places of Baal that are in the valley of Ben-hinnom to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I had not commanded them nor had it entered My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.”

God is not discussing what had never entered His mind that they “would do” (as if He was denying His omniscience) but rather He is denying that it ever entered His mind that they “should do” this abomination, insomuch as He is not denying His omniscience, but rather He is denying responsibility for sin. That’s a big verse for Arminians. What are your thoughts on what that verse is telling us about who is the true author of sin?

You wrote: "...because God hardens some and others he gives 'a heart of flesh in place of their hearts of stone'."

Arminians teach that the verse you've quoted, Ezekiel 36:26, has direct fulfillment at 2Cor 5:17, in terms of the New Covenant redeemed "in Christ." In other words, Arminianism teaches that you do not receive the new heart and the new spirit of the new birth until after you believe in Christ. Where do you get that faith? The Gospel. Why do some make better use of the faith derived from the Gospel than others, as per Luke chapter 8 of the parable of the seed & the sower? Free Will. And why does one person use his free choice to surrender to Christ and not another? The Arminian road leads you to the end that the difference lies in the person's own freedom, and the events and choices in his life that have formed the character of who he is. Calvinism admittedly has a much cleaner answer by saying that the answer lies with God, gracing some and passing by others, but Arminians always answer with what seems to be, strong scriptural support. You can raise the issue of the Potter at Romans 9, which the Arminian will then trace straight back to Jeremiah 18:1-13's explanation of the Potter and its explanation of a conditional molding. So this debate carries on and on, but ultimately its our presuppositions that drive our interpretations. I'll be the first to admit that I filter everything through John 3:16, which is typical of an Arminian. Sorry to be so verbose.

God bless you too,
Richard Coords

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
It is good to discuss matters with one who recognizes that we all (myself included) bring our paradigmatic views to the table when we wrangle with things soteriological. Of course the parable in Luke 8 could be used as evidence that the seed really has no control over where it grows or how it grows - it grows simply as God desires it to grow, much how I see people.
My thoughts on Jer. 32:35 is that it is, much as Ge. 6:6, an anthropomorphism. These two passages (Jer. 32:35 & Gen. 6:6) can easily lead to an 'open theism' type of belief if relied on too heavily for any kind of doctrinal position (Arminian or Calvinism). It is impossible for me to understand how God 'didn't see something coming', don't you agree?
Regarding Acts 2:23, I would appeal to the 'predetermined plan' as being the key factor where you would appeal to 'foreknowledge' as being the key factor. If Christ's sacrificial atonement was God's perdetermined plan, then that implies that God had, since before the foundation of the world, planned for Christ to be the redeemer, thus the need for sin.

PS - no apologies necessary for verboseness - the dialogue is intriguing. And, you're one of the few people I've met who've gone from Calvinism to Arminianism. ALL the other people I know who've 'switched camps' (myself included) have switched from Arminianism to Calvinism. You're an anomoly my friend. :)

God's grace to you today,

GR

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Greg,

Thank you Sir and Grace to you too.

Luke 8: True. That parable tells us a lot about why some become Christians while others do not. I can certainly see your argument from the "good soil" point of view in that they received the seed with an honest and good heart. I realize the implications, though I do not believe that "good-hearted" people receive the Gospel (since none are good but God alone), but rather focus on the good way (sincere and genuine) way in which they received the Gospel.

Jer. 32:35: While I can see how Open Theists might use Gen 6:6, I do not, however, see how they can claim support from Jer 32:35.

You wrote: "It is impossible for me to understand how God 'didn't see something coming', don't you agree?"

I agree 100% with you about God's omniscience. However, I don't think that Jer 32:35 is telling us that God didn't see it coming, but rather what never crossed His mind to "cause." (Jer 32:35) I don't think that He's denying knowledge, but rather denying responsibility. If you think that it does in fact appear to deny knowledge, then please clear it up for me, because I'm not seeing that.

Acts 2:23: Fair enough. Foreknowledge is about as difficult trying to comprehend as how God can be eternal. Calvinism, admittedly, has a simple and clear answer: God determined everything, and thus His foreknowledge springs from an eternally foreordained script of Life. The concept of Middle Knowledge is foundational to my understanding of God's providence, in that God knows all of the "what if's in every case of every one." I do not think that Open Theism is a viable theology. In fact, I think that the polar opposite of Open Theism is Middle Knowledge, because while the one says that God's does not the future, the other extreme of Middle Knowledge says that God not only knows everything that comes about, but also all of the what-ifs too.

I agree that most people become Calvinists, rather than going from Calvinism to Arminianism. I was a non-Calvinist Baptist with the SBC who joined a Calvinist church (Changed By Grace) without understanding Calvinism, and then as I grew in my understanding of Calvinism, I began to question some things, and that got me in rather hot water with a fellowingship of some radical young Calvinists, who were also new converts to Calvinism. I was a 4-Point Double Predestinationist/Supralapsarian. Adrian Rogers was very influential on me. I bought many of his sermon tapes, and was stunned at how often he comments on the subject of Calvinism.

Grace to you too,
Richard

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
Your testimony is interesting. I'm sure you did find yourself in a bit of a pickle with your new Calvinist friends. :) I'll tell you what I've noticed about the two different camps. I've noticed that many Calvinists seem to me to be rather pompous about their 'knowledge' as if they've got it figured out and, as soon as others either (1) get smart enough, or (2) get enough wisdom, then they'll figure it out too. On the other hand, (present company excluded) I've noticed that many in the Arminian 'camp' seem to be very defensive of their beliefs and unwilling to even have an open and questioning mind toward the passages of monergistic nature. I belong to an SB church where most of the people in the church are heavily Arminian in their theology - in fact, out of about 225, I can only count 5 that I'd say were strongly Calvinistic. And, with the exception of the 5 or so, it's like the others stuff cotton in their ears when they see me coming for fear that I'm going to proclaim more heresy. As a side note, my wife and I are in the process of trying to break from this church to seek God's will with either Reformed Baptist churches or Presbyterian churches (PCA, of course).
It is always edifying to be able to 'see' how Scripture has come alive for those who have honestly searched the Scripture and have drawn different conclusions than I. The ones I get frustrated with are the ones who (a) really have no basis for their beliefs and (b) completely disregard Scripture that may cause them to have to ponder more deeply.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Greg,

Speaking of pickle, the Pastor said, "And some people believe in whosoever will!" To which, I immediately blurted out, Amen!. The Pastor followed with, "But no!, we were chosen!" That was followed by a thunderous round of Amen's. So, yes, I did find myself feeling a bit isolated. So I can really relate to what you are going through. If you feel that other Christians are treating you like a spiritual leper, then perhaps its time for you to find a different church. Not all Calvinist churches are alike. So are very legalistic. The one that I attended, was very militant. The Pastor's attitude was that if you disagreed with him, he would immediately invite you to never return. My Calvinist brother in Law was disfellowshiped from that church, Changed By Grace, because he refused to quit his job in Talahassee and return to Jacksonville. The Pastor told his wife to remain in J'ville and not to go with him in Tallahassee, in order to use her as leverage to get him to return. The thing was that it was a temporary assignment, and every weekend, he was commuting back to Jacksonville to be with his family and attend services, and run the accounting dept at the church. They didn't like it that he was missing the Monday evening Elder's meetings. When they made their ultimatum, and he refused, and my sister left Jville to Tally to be with him, they felt defied and kicked him out, and even prayed for the destruction of their flesh. Meanwhile, God incredibly blessed him. His next assignment was clearly God's hand, because he was sent to Ft. Lauderdale where he was able to attend the services of D. James Kennedy. He had the opportunity to privately meet with Dr. Kennedy, and discussed the situation, and Dr. Kennedy shared his own experiences with some legalistic churches and horrific stories. Today, we are all back in Jville and God is blessing us. Darrell was attending Sovereign Grace Church, which is a wonderful Calvinist church. But, the Pastor believes in small fellowships, and Darrell wanted his family to be a part of a larger fellowship, so now he attends FBC in downtown Jville where he teaches a class. Darrell would certainly like for the church to become "Reformed." Last Saturday morning, Darrell and I discussed the issue of Alter Calls and Gospel Invitations in our Bible study. The next day, the Pastor says, "And some churches do not believe in Alter Calls, but I can tell you that with my last breath, we will have Alter Calls in THIS church." I thought that that was funny. This Sunday night, Darrell will be speaking on whether babies that die in infanthood, will go to heaven. He will be primarily giving the viewpoint of MacArthur, "Safe in the Arms of God."

That's a snapshop of a little of our lives.

posttinebraelux said...

Richard,
My brother is a professor at SEBTS - a 3.5 pointer at best. :) You and he would probably find agreement. At any rate, he's a wonderful guy to discourse with because he, like you and I, understand that it is God, through His Spirit, that 'leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake' (notice it's not for our own knowledge). I cannot change your mind any more than I can change a chair into an alligator - and vice-versa. When we get to that point - the point of allowing God to work in others' lives as He sees fit, this type of interaction becomes very edifying and gainful as we are (1) forced into God's word in serious and honest study, and (2) we gain new friends in the pursuit of Truth - as I believe I've done with you. I, too, have experienced the militancy of monergistic churches and that is something that I, at all costs, want to avoid. In fact, I'm probably a bit of an anomoly in the 'sovereign grace' realm myself. Have you heard of the emerging church 'conversation'? I think I'm pretty well on board with it's basic thrust which is, to the best of my understanding, (1) to engage those around us, not expecting them to come to us but rather going to them with a true servant's heart, and (2) be able to discern the difference between 'true' sin and expression of culture. In other words, use the church as the 'body' of Christ which ministers to a lost and hurting world instead of using heaven and hell as scare tactics to force others into an adherance to our 'way of life' (i.e. teaching as doctrine the commandments of men). At any rate, I'm not sure I'll find a church which is (1) strongly Calvinistic, (2) servants of our communities oriented, and (3) non-legalistic with regard to 'conviction' areas of behaviour. I'm sure going to look, though. :)

GR

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

What do you think about D. James Kennedy? Do you think that you would fit in, in his church?

My brother in law, who teaches a class at FBC downtown J'ville, feels a lot like you do. While he personally does not endorse Alter Calls, a couple of non-Calvinist friends of his gave him some ribbing at church when they had a Gospel Invitation. What they meant to be harmless, has a real effect on Darrell. He is struggling to find a church, too.

posttinebraelux said...

Don't know that much about D. James Kennedy. At your prompting, though, I think I'll check him out. I'll keep you posted - also, tell your brother-in-law he's not alone in his search. :)

Grace to you brother,

GR

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

I certainly will tell him.

D. James Kennedy is the real deal.

By the way, Darrell will be visiting here soon because he is interested in investigating the "contradictions" quote made by MacArthur that Turretinfan and I have been discussing.

Reformedfreak said...

I have been to Dr Kennedy's church and guess what, he does not have an alter call. Leading someone in a prayer of salvation is not an alter call. An alter call is a play on emotions, or an attempt to control salvation. I.E. if you want to be saved you need to walk the aisle. Never a more base lie has been told. If someone hears a message, and recieves Christ as their Savior, no Aisle is needed, they will make int known concerning this matter. But churches these days are driven by #'s and the aisle walk is an easy way to count. I pray brother that you trust in God to do the saving and not in the cunning words of your pastor.

Anonymous said...

The use of the alter call is not a Calvinist vs Armian argument, it is a Trust in God vs Trust in the pastor argument. Where do you put your faith?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

You wrote: "Where do you put your faith?"

In Christ. The purpose of the prayer counselor is to lead the lost person in a prayer of repentance and a prayer to receive Jesus in their heart. I was 4 years old when a Sunday School teacher told me about Jesus, and how He would be my Shephard if I would ask Him to come into my heart. And then she asked, Would you like to ask Jesus to come into your heart so that He would become your Shephard? What do you think happened next? Romans 10:13 states: "Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved." I fully agree that you can call upon Him and be saved from the front, back or middle of the church. It doesn't matter where. The purpose of an Alter Call is to invite a lost person to receive Jesus. It reminds me of John 1:45-51, when Philip invited Nathanael to come meet Jesus. We don't merely present the Gospel. We also invite people to receive it. You can call that "controlling salvation" or a "play on emotions," if you wish, but we don't just say, "Well if they are elect, they'll come." No. That's Hyper Calvinism. Rather, as Christians, we invite people to receive Christ.

Let me quote Adrian Rogers: “You have been called to minister. You have been called to bring souls bound in the golden chains of the Gospel and lay them at Jesus’ feet. Don’t you boast about your salvation; don’t you boast about your piety; don’t you boast about your spirit-fullness, don’t you tell me about your spiritual gifts if you are not endeavoring to bring souls to Jesus Christ. What right do you have to call yourself a follower of Jesus Christ if your business is not His business? And what is His business? The Son of God has come to seek and to save that which is lost. ...Would you pray, oh pray it, mean it, mean it, don’t just say it, ‘Lord, lay some soul upon my heart, and win that soul through me.’ If you can’t win an adult, win a child. If you can’t win your neighbor, win somebody else’s neighbor. If you can’t win somebody in your family, win somebody in somebody else’s family. If you can’t bring a soul to Jesus, help somebody else to bring a soul to Jesus.” (Saved To Serve: Romans 15-16)

You wrote: “churches these days are driven by #'s and the aisle walk is an easy way to count.”

Imagine walking into heaven and saying, “Lord, look at all of those Pastors down there on earth who are having Alter Calls. They are not doing it for You. They are doing it purely for themselves in order to build up their numbers base.” Do you realize who that would sound like? Turn to the book of Job.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

By the way, I thought you were stopping by to give an encouraging word to Greg?

P.S. "Cunning words" are not what brought you to Christ. "Cunning words" are what brought you to Calvinism :D

Anonymous said...

incorrect, the Word of God brought me to the doctrines of grace.

Anonymous said...

Under your notion it is alright to ge a homosexual pastor as long as you preach the gospel. Would you support a Lesbian minister, she is after all asking people to pray and recieve Christ? Does this make me a friend of Satan because I oppose these people?

Anonymous said...

Let me also ask, before the 1820's there were no alter calls, so was everyone before that time a friend of Satan's too. All of the great men of God were led astray by the cunning work of the devil. I'm suprised that anyone got saved at all before the 1820's.

Anonymous said...

By the way, hi Greg!!!!!!

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Darrell,

Those who "oppose" the Alter Call and Gospel Invitation, are servants of Satan. I think that you've made it clear that you do not "oppose" the Alter Call and Gospel Invitation, but are just "lukewarm" and "neutral" towards it (I think that's the word that you used), not directly in opposition to it, correct?

All I'm saying is that as Christians were are not merely to present the Gospel, but also to be like Philip towards Nathanael and invite people to receive it. Whether or not you think that people are using suspect motives for an Alter Call (which of course is merely your opinion), the fact is that they are giving an invitation to receive Christ, and I cannot believe that anyone who is a real Christian would "oppose" that, and I would hope that you would agree.

Anonymous said...

Once again, I would like to point out that the issue that I have is with the alter call itself. Note that it was nowhere to be found until the 1820's. This shows me that it was not important in salvation for over 90% of the life of Christianity. The invitation to recieve Christ is Biblical, the Alter call is not, so if someone opposes the Alter call, they are not a freind of Satan, they are just sticking with what they find the scriptures to say. All that I am saying is that if I were the head of a church, we would not have alter calls, and I hope you know my heart for the lost.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Darrell,

Allow me to back up a second and just ask some basic questions.

Are you:

A) In favor of Alter Calls,
B) Neutral to Alter Calls or
C) In Opposition to Alter Calls?

It was my understanding that your answer was "B," but now it seems like it's "C." Please pick a letter.

You asked whether I knew your heart for the lost. Here is what I think. I think that you believe that if they are elect, they will come, period. Therefore, my understanding of you is that Alter Calls and Gospel Invitations make absolutely no net change, or no net difference, in who becomes saved. Therefore, who needs it? However, as you know, I renounced Calvinism. I believe that "whosoever will" can call upon the name of the Lord and be saved, through the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the power of the Gospel. Therefore, I believe that having an Alter Call & a Gospel Invitation can make an eternal difference in whether someone spends eternity in Heaven or Hell. As you well know, my Dad rededicated his life to the Lord and made it public when he responded to an Alter Call at a Billy Graham Conference. I myself received Christ when I was 4 years old when the Sunday School teacher invited her class to receive Christ in our heart, and prayed with us to receive Him as our "Shephard."

Question: Does God like what that Sunday School teacher did, in my case? Does God like what Billy Graham did, in my Dad's case? Therefore, are you saying that if you had your way, this would all cease? (Yes/No?)

Anonymous said...

Your lettering system is misleading, I would be a "c", but not to the point of calling it heresy, I just believe that it is umbiblical, and unhistorical. It is a modern practice. God is not saddened by you accepting Jesus, Just like God is not saddened by people recieving Jesus thru the teaching of Benny Hinn. And I am not a hypercalvinist, as a matter of fact I prefer to be called "reformed" or "Doctrines of Grace" because of what the layperson knows of Calvinism. I have no problem with leading someone in the prayer of salvation as this can be backed Biblically. I just want to attempt to believe what the Bible teaches and follow the outline that the Bible gives us.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Thanks for the clarification.

Previously you said "B" but now it's "C." So be it.

You wrote: "God is not saddened by you accepting Jesus...."

That wasn't my question. Allow me to ask it again with emphasis: "Does God like what that Sunday School teacher did, in my case? Does God like what Billy Graham did, in my Dad's case? Therefore, are you saying that if you had your way, this would all cease? (Yes/No?)"

You wrote: "I have no problem with leading someone in the prayer of salvation as this can be backed Biblically."

Ok, so what if a Pastor invites people forward to meet with a prayer counselor to do this very thing? Now, suddenly, there's a problem with that being "controlling salvation"? That's what I dn't understand. It doesn't make any sense to me.

Anonymous said...

Once again I state God is never saddened by someone accepting Jesus, but the ends don't always justify the means, Just as I said before, I don't believe that God is a supporter or Benny Hinn, but he does not mourn if someone comes to Christ thru his ministry. And for your A,B,C thing, the reason that you think I changed is that there are more answers than A,B,C. I oppose aisle walking, but do not consider it heresy, some people do, All I am saying is that I would not have it in a church that I ran. And do we realy need a prayer counselor, when the Holy Spirit should be leading us in prayers. I guess that is for another topic.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

You wrote: "Once again I state God is never saddened by someone accepting Jesus."

Yes, but that's never been an issue of dispute. All that is, is changing the subject. The question was whether God is saddened by the Sunday School Teacher giving an Invitation or Billy Graham giving an Alter Call. That's the question, which you really haven't answered yet.

We agreed that praying with some to receive Christ can be backed biblically. We agree there. However, my question is whether a Pastor inviting the lost to meet with a prayer counsellor to do that EXACT thing, is just as Scriptural?

Anonymous said...

The Bible does not speak to this issue and where the Bible is silent, we must be silent. I just prefer to do things the way that the Bible lays out to do things.