Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Irrelevance of the Total Depravity Argument

To summarize......the Total Depravity issue becomes a moot point IF God intervenes, and thus diverting the discussion to the following pivotal question: "To what degree does God intervene in the lives of depraved men?" Once you consider that God does intervene, that then must become the focal point of the discussion.

Consider the following quote from Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer: “Arminianism said man was sick; Calvinism said man was dead. If he is only sick, common grace might help him to recover by enabling him to make a right choice. But if he is spiritually dead, he needs the Give of Life to make the choice for him….” (The Doctrines That Divide, p.180)

1) What is this "Common Grace" that Lutzer refers too? Often, Calvinists will cite an example of "Common Grace" from the verse stating that God the Father provides rain for the just and the unjust, and hence is a grace that is supplied indiscriminately to all men.

2) Lutzer infers that Arminianism teaches that "Common Grace" might help a spiritually "sick" person to repent of their sins? However, Arminianism teaches that "Prevenient Grace" (which is a preceding grace), enables people to make a "one way or the other" decision.

It becomes apparent that the real nature of the debate becomes this: "When God intervenes, does He do so with 'Irresistible Grace' or with 'Prevenient Grace'?" You can talk about Total Depravity all you wish, but IF God intervenes with an enabling grace, then the logical result is that Total Depravity becomes a moot point.

Consider the example of Saul of Tarsus, to whom Jesus said that he was kicking against the goads, according to Acts 26:14: "'And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, "Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads."'" What was the goading and who is doing it? Was it something being done by the Holy Spirit? If so, then we would need to discuss the nature of this divine intervention. What about John 16:8, which states: "And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment." Again, this touches upon the nature of divine intervention. John 1:9 states: "There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man." Again, how so, and to what degree? These become the relevant questions.

To conclude, you can talk about Total Depravity all you wish, but until you discuss the nature of God's intervention, you will be missing the point. However, if you said, "It's the extent of Total Depravity that necesitates an Irresistible Grace, then you would be assuming a certain limit to God's intervention, insomuch as assuming that God's intervention could not overcome it. The real question is this: Could God intervene in the lives of men, in such a way, so as to enable them to make a "one way or another" decision, and would that overthrow God's sovereignty? To the Calvinist, it will be assumed that such would indeed overthrow His sovereignty because the Calvinist has declared a rigid monopoly on the definition of "sovereignty." Furthermore, the Calvinist is a dedicated Fatalist, thus making the entire discussion moot anyway. However, for those who are not Fatalists (i.e. Theistic Fatalism), then the nature of God's intervention must be brought to the forefront of the debate.

How does a Calvinist typically address this matter? By making the aforementioned assumption, while doing a bit of a Sleight-of-hand. In other words, the Calvinist will say, "Because man is so depraved, God must...." That's the slide-of-hand. The assumption made by the Calvinist has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with man's inability but God's inability to overcome it, apart from Preemptive Regeneration, insomuch that Calvinism alleges that God is required to make a man preemptively Born Again in order to repent, believe and become saved. Calvinists have thus assumed an artificial cap on God's power, which begs the following question: If the debate isn't about whether God is big or small enough in order to overcome Total Depravity apart from Preemptive New Birth, but is merely about the nature of God's chosen method of operations or aseity, is God big enough or powerful enough, so that if He had chosen, He could bring a depraved person to the point where they could receive His grace, apart from Preemptive New Birth? This question will definitively address my allegation against Calvinism, and if a Calvinist answers in the affirmative, then they have created a logical possibility for Arminianism.

30 comments:

Pizza Man said...

Great post, good distinctions.

Luke said...

Richard,
Okay. I'm a little slow this morning. In my defense, I've been studying a totally different issue.

Are you contending that God awakens the "dead" to the degree that they can then make a choice of life in Christ or death in self? In other words, just because the "dead" has been awakened from his spiritual slumber, it does not necessarily follow that he will not "die" again.

I think that you are arguing that this would in no way limit God's sovereignty.

Am I anywhere near the park with this one? I have more to say but I am trying to make sure I'm understanding where the race is starting before I decide to jog with you for a while.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Thanks Pizza Man. This post is being debated on CARM right now. I hope that you are enjoying SEA.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

I see "dead" more in terms of how the father of the prodigal son described the situation of his son, that is, "dead" in terms of being "lost" or separated, moreso than in terms of Lazarus who was physically dead.

Nevertheless, the way that the debate is taking shape on CARM is acknowledgement that if God wished to use Prevenient Grace, in order to enable someone to receive His free offer of salvation, then God could (hypothetically), but that because man is so depraved, the only remedy is Irresistible Grace (as opposed to Prevenient Grace). However, it is like arguing that God can do "X" or "Y" (X being IG and Y being PG), but that because man is so depraved, God really cannot do "Y" and then is left with only the option of "X". To me, it's an argument that is logically conflicted.

Second, it was argued that because man has an overt "bias" towards sin, that such bias must be removed before man can truly contemplate repentence, and the removal of that bias is only accomplished through IG (Irresistible Regenerative Grace or otherwise known as preemptive New Birth). However, I don’t agree that “bias” must be removed, and I’ll provide the example of Agrippa. For instance, a person with a bias can become conflicted, and torn between two matters, especially when pressure from another direction is applied. In other words, a person may love sin, but when they come under conviction, induced by the Holy Spirit, through the power of the faith-producing Gospel, fear can bring them to the point of considering repentance. A great example was Paul’s message to Agrippa. Acts 26:28 states: “Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” On this basis, I do not agree that bias must be eliminated in order to bring a person to the point of consideration of repentance. Dod Agrippa become a Christian in a short while? Did the rich young ruler? We are not told. However, did they have the "power of contrary choice" as induced by outside pressure via divine intervention? Were they brought to the point where they really could have made a "one way or another" decision?

Thanks Luke,

Richard

Luke said...

Richard,
Thanks so much. Your first two paragraphs cleared it up for me completely. I see your point and now I am off to CARM to see how they handle your point. By the way, I think your point is credible and worthy of investigation. The very ones who claim "non" calvinists limit God may be the very ones limiting God themselves. Good catch.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

Here is a link to the CARM discussion:

http://www.christiandiscussionforums.org/v/showthread.php?p=2734623#poststop

The discussion ultimately concluded in a way that affirmed my initial suspicion, that is, that Calvinists will assume that since fallen-man is so depraved, that God could not effectively use Prevenient Grace in order to enable a lost person to be able to receive His offer of mercy. Here is how PaulT explains it: "Man cannot make a rational decision with his bias intact, simple as that. The concept of wooing a neutral party that is evaluating the evidence on a equal basis isn’t what is in play here." My contention was that God could utilize Prevenient Grace in such a way, so as to bring a person to the point of making a "one way or the other" decision, which is accomplished through the "living and active" power of the faith-producing Gospel. I asked, what power would the Gospel have, if it could not achieve this? My contention is that the real power, according to Calvinist thinking, would be in Irresistible Grace. I asked, what power would the Gospel have, if it is not accompanied by Irresistible Grace (i.e. Preemptive New Birth), and he answered that it would simply be "truth" preached to dead people. In my estimation, the Calvinist must artificially assume that man's problem is too great for God to remedy, apart from Irresistible Grace, which I feel discounts God Himself.

Those are my thoughts from the peanut gallery.

God bless,

Richard

Luke said...

Richard,
I went over to CARM and after taking a moment to figure out how to read the flow of thought, followed the back and forths.

To be honest, I do not think they really understand the point you are raising and the evidence of that is some of the rabbit trails that were chased. It would seem that some hold to the idea of God's Sovereignty as being decreetal only and I think that undermines the very value of a sovereign God. I think the part that rubs them most though is that man can either accept or reject Jesus. And your contention that God in His power can bring a spiritually dead person to the point of being able to accept/reject is still a viable option. Actually, it would be very close to what I believe. But as you have pointed out, should they open the door to this point of view, the rest of their dogma unravels and they just can't have that. To be honest, none of us would like having our theology unraveled in front of us and cyberspace but that is a sin of a different color(pride).

God bless you as you press forward here.

I, on the other hand, have stepped into another arena entirely. SBC politics. I particularly do not care for them but to watch some of the things that are taking place without speaking up proved too much. Of course, sooner or later, this issue as well as others will be dealt with but I hope to offer a place where honest discussion can take place and those who are less militant can seek to find common ground, at least on which to disagree agreeably.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

Good summary, and I've been giving this further thought. Recalling PaulT's point that man's dilemma (sin bias) was so great (TD), that God "must" use IG. I asked that if God "must" be relegated to "only" the IG option, what does that say about God Himself? Is He incapable of using another option, such as PG? I tried to get the point across that by insisting that God can only use IG, he is consequently drawing a conclusion about God's inability, including that of the power of the Gospel itself. He responded that there are things that God cannot do, such as making a square circle, or building a rock so heavy that even He cannot lift. However, those are logical puzzles, rather than true inability. Additionally, God cannot sin. However, that may simply be due to preference, rather than inability. For instance, the Bible says that Jesus cannot sin, nor can be tempted to sin, though not for the sake that He is physically incapable, but rather does not give in to sin or tempation due to preference, or at least, that is how I perceive it. Point being, these examples are matters upon which God is unable to do something, for the sake of either one being a logical contradiction or the other being a matter of preference. However, the argument of PaulT is purely a matter of God's purported inability to effectively use PG, given the extent of man's bias. To summarize, I have a hard time putting the word "can't" in front of God, when it deals with things other than logical puzzles or preference. In other words, if I was to say that God "can't" because the obstacle is too great, then I cringe. This is why I am persuaded to believe that God "can", if He had so chosen, to effectively utilize PG (whether you view PG as the power of the Gospel, or the conviction of the Holy Spirit or both). My point is that Calvinists should conceded that if God wanted to use PG, then He is powerful enough to be able to make it work. I would rather that the Calvinist insist that using IG vs. PG be a matter strictly relating to preference. That, at least, I could buy as a credible argument.

By the way, I want to comment on your Blog about women in the Ministry. I liked it, and thought that it was well reasoned, and I wanted to highlight a similar issue that my Bible Study is wrestling with.

God bless,
Richard

J. Dale Weaver, M.Div. said...

This question strikes at the heart of the weakness of Calvinism. That weakness is their view of God's sovereignty.

Which God is the more powerful -- the one who "must" determine everything, decree everything, order everything, OR the God who by grace enables His creation (specifically humans)to choose, and yet STILL makes "all things work together for good..."?

The Calvinist system, as already pointed out, is Theistic Fatalism. It places God in a box so that He can "control" all things -- and so the Calvinist can understand all things.

That is not a Scriptural basis to understand God, His Sovereignty or the Salvation which He offers all men -- and yet, it is still ALL of His GRACE.

Blessings,

J. Dale Weaver, M. Div.
www.mygration.blogspot.com

Luke said...

dale,
I have used that argument before, unconvincingly, but agree with what you said. Which god is stronger, the one who can only control what he can decree or the one who can control not only what he decrees but what he allows as well? A king can be sovereign over his entire realm while allowing his people the choice of with which hand to hold their fork.

Having said that, the only thing I still scratch my head over is this. If God does not decree every event in life, and I believe He does not. AND If God knows all, and I believe He does. I believe that what comes to pass had to come to pass because He knew what would come to pass. That is, to me, much different in something coming to pass because it was decreed to come to pass.

Mark Heath said...

OK, so it seems I am the first of the Dark Side to come aboard here. But, I'm also the first of the enlightened side. A little humor.

Just a few qualms.
Firstly, Hello Luke, do you think it's a coincidence that we meet at another blog or is it sovereignty?
Really though, I think total depravity is more of an issue here than you give credit too, sir. You mention that God gives us enabling grace, implying that, without it, we would be unable. That sounds like total depravity to me.

Secondly, clarify something for me. I don't understand how we can have IG without a preemptive new birth. When God elects us, we get new birth. Is that what you were getting at?

Thirdly, you mention Agrippa, and you mention that we don't know whether he came to faith or not. However, it is precisely the "almost" that Calvinists are concerned with here. It seems that people can ALMOST get to the point of faith. However, that means that they have gone from being lost to, being lost. In actuality, nowhere. A person who is near faith is no closer to Heaven than someone who is a pagan. They are both dead.

Fourthly, you do seem to use the two meanings of dead here interchangeably. You mention early that dead would in this sense mean "lost or separated". However, later you mention that dead people can become alive to the point of making their own decision for salvation. This doesn't make sense, it seems that we can become alive, only to die again if we don't come to faith. I'm sure this is not what yo mean so please clarify. It seems that once we receive life, we are alive, and no longer dead. This is what we see in Ephesians. Paul says that we are spiritually dead, not sick like Lutzer explained. If that is true, than we need some special intervention.

Lastly, the Calvinist viewpoint (and all others I would hope) on God's ability is not centered on around His preference, but His character/nature. It is not that God CANNOT sin, but that He WOULD NOT sin. He does not give IG over PG because of a preference, but because it is part of His nature to do so.
Also, our inability to do good deeds and come to faith necessitates IG, it does not cause it.

I appreciate the dialogue fellas. I think we can do this in an edifying way.Please, as I told the Rev. Leonard (arminianbaptist on blogspot), we can't let this stuff divide us. I need your help and you need mine.

Mark Heath said...

Now, for Mr. Weaver, so that you might understand who you are dealing with, you shouldn't talk bad about Calvinists because we have a special connection with God, and at any time now I could give the signal and He could strike you down with lightning, or flaming hail if you like.

I'd say that the Calvinist view of God's power/sovereignty is more glorifying to God, because he doesn't place any weight on our tiny little shoulders. I think the weakness of the Arminian viewpoint is that they give man more credit than I think he deserves. IF, and a big if for me, if we are not totaly depraved and can choose to accept the Gospel apart from grace beyond PG, then I think we have a lot of pressure on our shoulders that I don't see as Biblical.

Mark Heath said...

One more thing Luke, the king analogy isn't that great a one because on your view, God gives us more important of a choice than what hand to eat with. And also, God's foreknowledge is not causal, which you have said you subscribe to. It is simply foreknowledge.

Luke said...

Mark,
I believe you meant to address your first comment to Richard. This is his website and he wrote the original post. I would love to be able to speak for him but I will refrain until he has unleashed his saber upon you. Just a little humor.

But, you did rightly address me about the king issue. Okay, I'll raise the stakes. A person in the kingdom of the king has an option, serve the king or leave his kingdom. The king may tell them that they are to be a knight, or a blacksmith or a farmer but it is still their choice to respond to the kings commands, EVEN upon penalty of death or expulsion for refusal to submit to his demands. But we do know that kings do not dictate everything to their servants just as Paul pointed out in Galatians, there are some freedoms I may enjoy that you do not. As is true for all earthly analogies of spiritual truths, I am ready to confess that eventually on some level they may break down and that every earthly analogy does not have to account for every incidental. It would appear that way with Jesus' use of earthly analogies as well.

You said that "God gives us more important of a choice..." I was unaware, heath, that you had the right to choose. If you are a servant to death and sin, you must sin. If you are a servant to Christ, you must choose life as I understand your suppositions. To use then a phrase that we are given a choice would imply that we can either accept or reject. This is not true with IG. You are made WILLING to choose life. With PG, I would argue you are made ABLE to choose life.

Your last assertion will have to be elaborated upon for one statement about my musings does not invalidate my musings. Thus, you'll have to contend with my "IFs". And so I ask you, Does God DECREE everything that comes to pass? Does God know everything, even the "what ifs"?

I do hope you respond a little faster than my prior engagements with you would lead me to believe.

Luke said...

ER, uh, second paragraph, Galatians should actually be Colossians.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Dale,

Thanks for your link. I’ve added you to my contact page, and I look forward to visiting your Blog soon. Regarding the sovereignty question, to me, one expression of God’s sovereignty is that God gets the last word, notably when every knee shall bow, as per Philippians 2:10-11. However, I seem to get the impression that the mindset of Calvinism is that unless God has rigorously predetermined all events, God might not get the last word after all, and who knows what outcome the future might hold. That idea is also expressed by R.C. Sproul in his “one rogue molecule” argument. It seems to me that Calvinists do not have any confidence in a God who does not predetermine all events like an author writing a book. Consider the following examples:

Calvinist, Alan Kurschner, writes: “God desires that his sheep are saved. God desires that his people are saved. He does not desire that every single individual who has ever lived, live in glory with him forever. If that were the case, we have an incompetent, unhappy, and impotent God.” (The Calvinist Gadfly, emphasis mine)

Calvinist, Matthew McMahon, writes: “I reject anything which makes God a cosmic bell-hop tending to the commands and demands of sinful men as another gospel. I reject anything which removes God’s sovereignty to place man as the Sovereign as another gospel. I reject anything which denies the sovereign decrees of God and His electing grace to put salvation into the hands of sinful men as another gospel. I reject anything which denies man’s total depravity and exalts his fictitious free will as another gospel. I reject anything which places the perseverance of man to glory in the incapable hands of a sinful man as another gospel. I reject anything which endeavors to treat God as the great Grandfather in the sky beckoning and pleading with man to be saved as changing the true God into a pitiable wimp.” (Why I am a Calvinist, emphasis mine)

It’s often stated that Calvinism simply let’s God be God, and yet I ask, after reading those two comments: Does it really? What if God should desire to condescend to His creation? Now He’s a pitiable wimp?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

On a similar note, one of the concerns of Arminians is when the concept of Middle Knowledge is pressed so far that the result is virtually indistinguishable from Determinism. This concern is pointed out in the book, “Why I am Not a Calvinist.” The thought goes: If God knows all contingencies (i.e. Matthew 11:20-24), such that God does what He does under the guidance of exhaustive Middle Knowledge, then the future that unfolds is one that could have occurred differently, but didn’t because of God’s preference. In other words, if God knows us inside and out, to the degree of how we will behave in any given situation, then God could choose the situation that will make us more receptible to Him than another. God, theoretically, could therefore chose the situation that would make us most likely to take the “way of escape” vs. another, as per 1st Corinthians 10:13.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Mark,

One thing that I wanted to clarify, is that in affirming the depravity of unregenerate fallen-man, both Arminianism and Calvinism agree that the intervention of God’s grace is absolutely essential. However, the disagreement is over whether God intervenes with IG or PG?

Consider this quote:

Calvinist, Erwin Lutzer, writes: “The corruption of sin extends to his mind as well as his will; consequently, no one seeks God. Because man is dead in trespasses and sins, God must regenerate him and even grant him the faith to believe.” (The Doctrines That Divide, pp.179-180, emphasis mine)

The part that I take issue with is “God must.” If we say that “God must,” then we have limited God’s ability to do otherwise, such as using PG. Let’s start with that principle. Why do we want to limit God that way? I would prefer that Calvinists would say, “God COULD use PG, but has elected (preference) to withhold an effective dose of PG in favor of IG so that God could (as a Calvinist would state), get more glory.” I have a problem with the "more glory" argument (Rom 3:27), but setting it aside for now, I want to at least acknowledge that both Calvinism and Arminianism are logically plausible, though only one is biblical. I didn't leave Calvinism because it was illogical.

I didn’t understand your 2nd point because IG = Preemptive New Birth.

In your 3rd point, I agree that Agrippa (Acts 26:28) and Felix (Acts 24:25) were “almosts,” but I would argue that the Jailor was also an “almost” (Acts 16:29-30), but who took the plunge into Christianity when all had seemed lost, and was about to commit suicide, thinking that the prisoners had escaped. Each of the three were motivated by degrees of fear (especially Felix, verse cited above). Each had heard the Gospel preached, and the Gospel is said to produce faith. (Romans 10:17) The Gospel is also said to be “living and active.” (Hebrews 4:12) So when you add the intervening element of Christ who knocks (Rev 3:20) and the Holy Spirit who convicts (John 16:8), you have what Arminians view as an enablement. My gripe is that if the dynamite of the Gospel has no impact upon the unregenerate, in order by fear to convict them to the core and shake them up, then where's the beef? I was told (by PaulT on CARM) that to the unregenerate, the dynamite power of the Gospel would simply be “truth” preached to the lost. However, again, where's the beef? Where's dynamite in that? It seems to me (and here it comes), that according to Calvinism, the only real dynamite would be in the preceding IG, and that is a common objection made by Arminians against Calvinism. Arminians feel that Calvinism renders the Gospel as “dead and inactive” in the absence of IG, and I feel that it’s a legitimate objection.

In your 4th point about dead people coming alive, I’m not sure which comment of mine that you were referring to. My argument was that spiritual death is intended to convey the meaning of spiritual separation, rather than cessation of life. For instance, the father of the prodigal son had referred to his son as “dead,” on the basis that he had been lost and separated from his family, rather than being lifeless, like a corpse. Luke 15:22-24 states: “‘Quickly bring out the best robe and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand and sandals on his feet; and bring the fattened calf, kill it, and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate.” That's the understanding of spiritual deadness that I infer at Eph 2:1 --> Eph 2:12: "separate from Christ."

In your 5th point, you wrote: “He does not give IG over PG because of a preference, but because it is part of His nature to do so. Also, our inability to do good deeds and come to faith necessitates IG, it does not cause it.” I did not understand the first sentence, but as for the 2nd sentence, if our problem necessitates God’s use of IG, then it simultaneously speaks of God’s inability to do otherwise, which gets back to my central point. In other words, by saying that “God must,” places an artificial and self-imagined limit to God. In my discussion on CARM, I could not get PaulT to acknowledge that.

Mark Heath said...

Luke, forgive me for my slow responses. This week has been busy for me because of a missions conference happening on my campus.

Luke said...

Richard,
I would rather be stuck with complexities of the middle knowledge position rather than the complexities of open theism, which, as I understand it does not perpetuate the concept that God knows the future. I have heard it explained that God does not know the future until it happens. To me, this destroys the concept of prophecy. And this in turn causes me to mumble something under my breath about whether all prophecy is decreed or if some prophecy is just the future fore-told. And I continue to mumble to myself about if God's Word comes to pass because He said it, or does it come to pass because He knew what would happen and recorded it for our sakes. I certainly see errors in the second but none-the-less, my mind is not static and does not hold to a theology just because it is what I was taught in college or seminary. Our understanding of foreknowledge and predestination are indeed foundational to even this discussion.

On another thought, it would seem that Paul's argument of conscience and creation would be of none effect if we adopt the idea of death as Heath as here stated. Indeed a corpse would be totally unaware of creation or conscience if spiritual death was the same as physical death. I like your concept of spiritual death as separation. There is much to learn from that thought. I also look at the idea of death as effecting one to the point that he is unable to remedy himself. As a dead corpse is unable to heal himself, a spiritually dead person is unable to remedy himself. A physically alive person can be completely aware of his spiritually dead condition and yet he is still unable to create the righteousness needed to overcome his spiritual death. That death is only overcome by grace through faith.

As I have contended before, if we are going to use the miracles of Jesus as illustrations of salvation, there are many points that would need to be made. There were many who were sick, but not dead, who approached Jesus on their own for healing ie the woman with the issue of blood. There were others who were sick, not dead, who were incapable of walking and were brought to Jesus by friends, ie the 4 who lowered their friend through the roof, and it is apparent that their faith had much to do with the fact that the man was healed. I could give more but I think the idea is clear, we are to understand the power of God through these miracles and parables, yet, push every miracle too far and every parable too far and we'll be inventing ideas and concepts that go beyond what was intended.

FINALLY, I do not see Lazarus' being raised from the dead so much a picture of salvation but rather of the future resurrection. For if Lazarus was spiritually dead, then he came back from hell to eventually get to go to heaven.

I know, I've been all over the board but it is Friday and your post has prompted me to consider much.

Heath,
I understand that we get busy and figured as much. I just have a hard time understanding why someone will drop a comment though when they know they will not be able to come back and explain it or defend it if they know they will not be around to do so. Some do tell in their comments that they will not be around for whatever reason, but as far as blogs are concerned, I would think that communication would require timely responses or at least, a response that indicates you are not gone and have not forgotten and will be returning soon. Something to consider on your way through blogdom.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

In terms of spiritually dead being inferred as separation, what are your thoughts regarding Eph 2:12, in terms of being formerly "separate from Christ" and cut off from the commonwealth of Israel. I figured that this is what Paul had in mind, concerning "dead in trespasses and sins."

However, that is not to say that man is not also spiritually dead in the sense that alienates unregenerate man from the will of God, as evident from 1 Cor 2:14. http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Paul/1Cor2_14.html

What bugs me is why Calvinists so often cite Lazarus as an example of spiritual death, such as James White, when yet Jesus never made that the point in His miracle.

Another thing that bugs me is that too often, Calvinists must infer that because someone made a positive response to Christ (such as the woman with the issue of blood), that she must have been secretly regenerated, without the text saying so, or inferred with the Jailer as well. Also, Calvinists frequently cite Acts 16:14 for support of IG, in terms of Lydia and her heart being opened to respond to the Gospel, when yet it was merely something that enabled her "to respond." One Calvinist pointed out that such an opening is always effectual, and yet there is no support from the text in which to draw that conclusion.

So anyway, sorry to vent. The CARM discussion is still fresh in my mind.

In terms of Open Theism, I absolutely agree with you there as well. I had this discussion with Roger Olson on the SEA google group. Open Theism renders prophecy as divine guesswork. To say tha there are the "settled things" and the "unsettled things" and that God knows the settled things, while remaining unaware of the rest is a conflict with logic. For instance, proponents will say that God cannot know the future decision of someone with the "power of contrary choice," ore else they do not possess such power. This assumption plays right into the hands of the Determinist who thinks that foreknowledge is causal. I pointed out Rev chapter 20, in terms of the residents of Gog & Magog, in terms of how God could accurately know what their future decision will be, and I received no answer. If OT is true, then God's prophetic knowledge of their future free choice, remains uncertain, and perhaps they will instead storm God's holy city with songs of praise instead of with bows and arrows. The point is that OT is incapatible with the prophecy revealed in Scripture as you well point out.

Hopefully Mark can join back in soon.

Tonight I'm going with my church group to see "Expelled." Ever heard of it?

I'll send you a link to John Bevere. I can even mail you the CD he produced.

Luke said...

Richard,
Asking me to respond to Ephesians 2:12 is akin to asking for Gill to write on any passage. There is a whole lot here but I'll try to be brief.

All peoples are without excuse because they are all descendants of Noah who had the "light" of the knowledge of truth. They drifted, walked away, rebelled, ran from the Truth, all the while growing spiritually darker and darker. That little truth they did retain they perverted and attempted to form into a humanly acceptable form of religion and relating to God. There was a time when Israel was not. God, made a nation from which there was none and it was intended that this nation be a blessing to the whole earth according to God's words to Abraham. Through Israel would come the Messiah(Christ). Messiah was their hope. The Messiah is the fulfillment of God's word to Eve that her seed would crush the Serpent's head. This is a reference to Messiah. But the only way to live in the "common wealth" of this hope(I borrow that from JFB) was to join that Nation of hope as did Rahab and her family. Otherwise, to be outside of the covenant community(Israel) left one without a way to approach God. Outside of the expression of faith, evidenced by one's attachment to Israel, there was no hope for man was left to his own devices which do not achieve the righteousness of Messiah(Christ). As such, Gentiles then were without hope being cutoff/alienated.

As such now, men still cannot approach God through their own schemes or devices. He must and can only be approached through Messiah(Christ) Jesus. Our Blessed Hope. The Church being given the command/charge to take the Gospel to the ends of the world which Israel should have been doing ie the book of Jonah. AND, anyone outside of Christ is dead in their trespasses and sin. So, dead can be seen to be uniquely associated with "without hope" as you have pointed out. Anyone in the OT, outside of the camp of Israel, was without hope(dead in their trespasses and sin). With Christ there is hope. Apart from Him, there is none.

Okay, I'm getting a little wordy but I wonder if this is enough to answer your question.

Luke said...

oops,
I forgot to answer the rest. I have heard of Expelled and would like to know what you think of it after you have seen it. I would like to go see it as well but will probably wait a week or two.

And I too hope Mark can continue with the conversation. We all get spread thin but I hope the time can be found to continue the discussion.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

Right after the movie, I'll post feedback.

By the way, thanks for the explanation of Eph 2:12. One of the main problems that I have had with Calvinism for awhile is the notion that one must already be (what I call) "in the Father" or in the commonwealth of Calvinism's elect in order to be able to come to Christ, and as such, they are secretly and eternally mediated to God, who in time, gives these to His same. The objection is that it turns Calvary into mere pagaentry. It is asked, if this is so, why Jesus? Why did Jesus have to sufer and die upon a Cross for those who are already, eternally in the good graces of the Father?

I'll post back tonight.

God bless,
Richard

Mark Heath said...

Luke, thanks for the word. I'll keep that in mind about my responses. I am a full time student and should participate accordingly.
On the phrase about "God giving us a choice", I was simply putting into words that you would understand given your viewpoint. I do not believe God lays things out for us as you do. I was simply saying that the relevance of the DECISIONS being compared were very different. God cares more about our decisions upon salvation than he does our decisions of how we hold our spoons.

Secondly, I do not subscribe to what is known as molinism. I.e., I don't subscribe to the line of thinking that God knows counterfactuals and such. I have not studied it in depth, yet. I do not believe that God knows all possible 'if's'.
As far as God's decrees, at this time, I can't say my theology is developed enough to discuss it.

Luke said...

Mark,
I mean this with every fiber of my being, I hope that you and myself, Richard too, remain full-time students for our life times respectively. May none of us ever get to the point that we cannot learn from God's Holy Word.

As to the rest of your comments, I say, Fair Enough. May God enrich your mind as you study His Word.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Mark,

I concur with Luke.

Picking up the discussion of my assertion that God knows contingencies (i.e. the what-ifs, Molinism, Middle Knowledge), tell me what you think of Matthew 11:20-24. It seems to me that Jesus is saying that "if" something had happened (which never did), then something else would result (which didn't). That's my understanding of a contingency relationship. An atheist on CARM.org told me that Jesus could not know what He said to have known, because it is entirely illogical to say that Jesus could absolutely know that which is unsettled. Yet, if Jesus didn't absolutely know it, then His knowledge, and Sodom's use of it, would have to be thrown out as "divine hearsay" on Judgment Day, instead of being admissable evidence. Read that passage, and share your thoughts, as it pertains to Middle Knowledge. (Also, there is a parallel passage at Luke 10:13.) If you like, here is a link to a write-up I did on that passage:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Gospels/Matthew11_21.html

Mark Heath said...

Luke, thanks. That's an encouragement. I look forward to more conversations with fellas like you all. I sure could learn a thing or two despite our differences.

Mark Heath said...

Richard, may I just say it feels kind of awkward calling ya'll by your first names. You may now know much about me but I'm sure I'm a good bit younger than you and, being reared in The South, it's not appropriate to call our elders by their first names. At any rate, I guess it's ok here.
That seems to be a convincing basis for middle knowledge. However I can't convert because of one passage. I haven't heard that scripture used in support for molinism before. Do you think it's possible that there was something Christ was trying to portray and the only we could understand it would be to put it into those words?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Mark,

One thing to remember is that if Jesus was just speculating about what they "might" have done, rather than what they "would" have done, then Tyre & Sidon couldn't use that on Judgment Day against Chorazin and Bethsaida, because it would just be inadmissable hearsay, rather than factual evidence.