Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Debating Calvinism: Hunt vs. White

I would like to commit to one new Blog post every Wednesday, and in it, I would like to focus on exploring key excerpts from books pertaining to Calvinism & Arminianism. I pledge, Lord willing, to do my best to remain available for questions and feedback during that day, starting with today.

To start off, I'd like to say that I'm a huge fan of the book, Debating Calvinism, between James White and Dave Hunt, primarily due to its format and liveliness, and in it, I came across an interesting exchange concerning Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. So consider the following exchange, and I will pose my question:

James White: "Just as Christ had the power and authority to raise Lazarus to life without obtaining his 'permission' to do so, He is able to raise His elect to spiritual life with just as certain a result." (p.197) Turning to the conversion of Paul, White adds: "Paul could no more stop this divine resurrection than Lazarus could have stopped the Messiah from commanding Him to come forth." (p.206)

Dave Hunt: "He continues to mistakenly equate spiritual death with physical death and reasons that because Lazarus didn't give 'permission' to Jesus to raise him from the dead, sinners don't have to believe the gospel to be sovereignly regenerated. ... White must rely on this false and unbiblical comparison...." (p.210)

White does not respond specifically to Hunt's objection concerning Lazarus, but instead appeals to the example of Lydia, as per Acts 16:14. (p.218)

So my question is this: Why is the raising of Lazarus so universally invoked by major Calvinist authors as a means to illustrate spiritual regeneration? To respond with "well, prove that it's not indicative of spiritual regeneration," really isn't a strong answer, because it is the Calvinist who is making the positive affirmation. So shouldn't there be something in the text, in order to warrant such universal application? (Additionally, why is it that Lazarus is cited by Calvinists, instead of some other person that Jesus raised from the dead?)

To put it another way, Arminians nearly universally insist that Calvary is analogous to the Serpent on a Standard, as per Numbers 21:6-9, on the grounds that this was Jesus' own analogy. Now, while the issue of which elements of that event have a correlation to Calvary, may be debated, it cannot be disputed that this event does have an overall basis for asserting a comparison to Calvary. So the point is, then, whether citing the raising of Lazarus for spiritual regeneration, shares any similarity of strength for reference purposes.

67 comments:

Luke said...

Good question. I have not found a Calvinist who would engage this either. The story of Lazarus is not about salvation but rather about the resurrection. It was to demonstrate that Jesus had power over death. Physical death. And He who has power over physical death also has the power to forgive sins. But Lazarus is NOT the picture of a dead in sins person but rather a physically dead, though having died in faith, being raised again person. John 11:25 makes that pretty clear.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Luke,

I need to request permission to quote you. I need to cite it at the writeup of Ephesians 2:1.

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Paul/Eph2_1.html

James White is even more forceful in his book, The Potter's Freedom, when states:

White: “On the level of spiritual capacity the unregenerate man is just like Lazarus: dead, bound, incapable of ‘self-resurrection.’ It would be patently absurd to demand that Jesus first ask Lazarus for ‘permission’ to raise him to spiritual life. Corpses are not known for engaging in a great deal of conversations. No, before Lazarus can respond to Christ’s command to come forth, something must happen. Corpses do not obey commands, corpses do not move. Jesus changed Lazarus’ condition first: Lazarus’ heart was made new; his mind revitalized. Blood began once again to course through his veins. What was once dead is now alive, and can heart the voice of his beloved Lord, ‘Come forth!’ The term ‘irresistible’ then must be understood as speaking to the inability of dead sinners to resist resurrection to new life.” (The Potter’s Freedom, pp.284-285, emphasis mine)

Luke said...

You've got permission to quote me or you can claim if for yourself.

So what were the other healing miracles? I know why they do not use them. Because those other people were merely sick and not dead. Many had the ability to approach Jesus on their own and one even touched Him without His permission. In other cases, then we can see where a person incapable of walking to Jesus could be carried by others and thus we would have to conclude that we, in some sense, are responsible for the salvation of others to which no Calvinist could affirm.

Also, in other miracles, sins were forgiven BEFORE there was a change in the physical and the only reason there was a change in the physical was to demonstrate that Jesus DID have the power to forgive sins.

I believe that the miracles of Jesus are an area of battle in which the case for Calvinism falls short. Especially in the case for Lazarus but you are right. Unless one demonstrates from the text why Lazarus is the case for justification rather than resurrection, then their point is drastically muted.

Luke said...

And the reason they don't like to use the prodigal son instead is because of Luke 15:17-18.

The Prodigal Son:
1. Came to himself(his senses)
2. Self determined(I will arise)
3. He arose(far from his father)

That would really do damage to Total Depravity/Total Inability.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Luke,

You make some really strong points, and I will incorporate them into a write-up right now. It seems like the Calvinists may be guilty of selective application of Scripture. I think that Calvinists should abandon the use of citing Lazarus as an example of spiritual regeneration, or else state a meaning for all of Jesus' other miracles too.

Lynne said...

Quite apart from the fact that Lazarus is not an example of salvation -- or rather not intrinsically a more fitting analogy than any other we choose to pluck out of the air (or from scripture) -- John's gospel, by my reading, is making it a sign of Jesus' identity, an encouragement to His disciples to believe in His resurrection power in the dark, days that lie just before them there is something else going on in the story. lazarus might not have asked for anything, but his sisters certainly did. Jesus is responding to their message and their prayers. And He is exhorting them to have faith, not magically giving it to them (eg verses 12, 26, 40 and 42)

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Lynne,

Great points, and I especially agree that this miracle further cemented the identity of Jesus as the Son of God.

This was a major miracle. In a prior miracle, Jesus had said that the person was merely sleeping. But here, there is no attempt at keeping anything a secret.

Another meaning to this event, is made explicit by Jesus: "...so that they may believe that You sent Me." (John 11:42)

Here is the rough draft of John 11:48. Obviously its going to keep growing with more and more quotes.

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Gospels/John11_48.html

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Just to add,

Calvinist, R.C. Sproul, explains: “We respond in a manner similar to that of Lazarus when, after being loosed, he stepped out of the tomb. In like manner we step out of our tombs of spiritual death.” (What is Reformed Theology?, p.186, emphasis mine)

I believe that the imagery of a man being called out of a tomb (dirty and stinky), is what also appeals to Sproul, as it relates to the doctrine of Total Depravity.

Luke said...

And again, taking that logic. When Lazarus stepped forward from the tomb, he was not loosed by Jesus but by mere men. Mortal men "UNBOUND" Lazarus. I just do not think they have thought this through all that well.

Good point Lynne.

Richard, thanks again for bringing this up. This is one area I am stronger in. At least in my mind if not my pen.

kangaroodort said...

And of course a corpse has no power to resist or reject anything either, and yet those in sin resist the Holy Spirit and reject the gospel. Try using the Lazarus analogy on that one.

What Can The Dead in Sin Do?

The biggest problem for White is that there is no necessary correlation between the raising of Lazarus and the raising of sinners to spiritual life and he has completely failed to demonstrate any correlation. He merely assumes it and then supposes he is proving something by his assertions. As a seasoned debater, he should know better.

“…having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God who raised Him from the dead.” [NASB- emphasis mine]

While Paul mentions baptism, our baptism is nothing more than a public display of what God has already done in the heart. According to this passage, we are raised to life “through faith” in the “working [or power] of God”. The context also makes it clear that this spiritual resurrection is the result of being “in Christ” (verses 6-13), and we come to be in union with Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13).

And there are numerous other passages that demonstrate that faith precedes regeneration. Rather than submit to the plain teaching of Scripture on this, White needs to appeal to analogies which were never meant to convey the meaning he wishes to assign to them for the sake of defending his theological presuppositions.

Why don’t Calvinist go the metaphor of the Bread of Life in John 6 which Jesus used to explain how people come to have life in Him? For obvious reasons of course. One must eat His flesh and drink Hi blood [by faith] in order to have life (Jn. 6:51-58).

Great post and I am looking forward to the series. Don’t feel bad if you can’t keep up with it.

God Bless,
Ben

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Ben,

I just added your quote.

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/Gospels/John11_48.html

I'm just going to continue to build upon each write-up.

Sproul seems to acknowledge that comparing spiritual resurrection to physical resurrection is an "apples to oranges" comparison, and yet he seems to shrug it off anyway, simply because he feels that it's too good of a metaphor not to use, and for that reason, I believe that all of our biblically based objections will fall on deaf ears.

I'm stoked about the weekly editions. Next week's edition will focus on Sproul's book, "What is Reformed Theology?" which has two very interesting quotes. One pertains to his comment concerning God's Middle Knowledge, and another is his assertion that Arminianism is virtually indistinguishable from Pelagianism. I would like to dissect both quotes.

In the meantime, I would like to share an article about the New York Giants WR, David Tyree.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Luke,

You're welcome, and thank you for sharing your quotes, and I look forward to quoting you again and again. That's what really helps to add quality content to the write-ups. I've lost count of how many times I've quoted Adrian Rogers.

John Lofton, Recovering Republican said...

Pro-Calvin site TheAmericanView.com; visit/comment, please.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

John,

I did visit. Is there a specific article that you had in mind?

Stan said...

I think they use the example of Lazarus as ... an example. "In the same way ..." or, in Sproul's words, "in like manner." It isn't proof of the concept, but a clear illustration of the concept, just as Paul's Damascus road encounter is an illustration.

The Calvinist will tell you that the Arminian does not believe that a person is actually spiritually dead in sin because the Arminian does not believe that there is anything of significance that the person cannot do to be saved. They can see the truth, understand the Gospel, change their beliefs ("come to faith"), repent ... what else is required? What does "dead in sin" mean to an Arminian? It means, as in the movie Princess Bride, "mostly dead." The Calvinist would argue that "dead in sin" means actually dead in some sense, incapable of coming to Christ on his own (John 6:44), incapable of believing on his own (John 6:65), and not even capable of comprehending the Gospel on his own (1 Cor. 2:14).

That's what a Calvinist might tell you. And, if you were examining Calvinism rather than critiquing it, you might admit that there very well may be biblical foundations for such beliefs.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Thanks for the post Stan,

To answer your question, "dead in sin" to Arminian means "lost" and separated. Consider the words of the father of the prodigal son:

Luke 15:22-24: “‘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.”

To an Arminian, "dead in sin" means being lost, and separted from God. To an Arminian, man has no interest in God, or the things of God, until the Holy Spirit puts the fear of God in him, when the Holy Spirit comes to "convict the world of its sin." (John 16:8)

I want to agree with you that Calvinists merely cite Lazarus as an "example" rather than a "proof-text," but often times it does appear that it is used so dogmatically, that it is treated as a proof-text, and that's the purpose of the post.

Thanks for sharing, and I hope to see you next Wednesday for the next installment, which will highling a couple of quotes from R.C. Sproul.

God bless,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

To an Arminian, man has no interest in God, or the things of God, until the Holy Spirit puts the fear of God in him...

So the Holy Spirit must do something to the lost man that is not there to begin with? It is from this doing something to the lost man that he comes to faith? He can't really come to Christ without the Holy Spirit doing something first - the fear of God, the loveliness of Christ, etc., can he?

Can he come to a God in which he has no interest on his own ability? Or is there natural inability (this total lack of interest) to do so that takes a supernatural, let's say "gracious", work to accomplish the convication of sin, see the need for repentance, etc.? ;)

Just some questions you might want to examine that I found interesting from your own vocabulary.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello Kevin,

Classical Arminianism affirms the depravity of man, and the absolute necessity of God's intervening grace, that is, of a God who seeks and knocks.

Both Calvinism and Arminianism teach "Prevenient Grace," though the difference is that the former teaches it to be irresistible whereas the latter teaches that such grace is resistible. So both certainly agree that in order for anyone to be saved, God must act first. The difference is in how God intervenes.

Calvinists believe that man is so depraved, that God has absolutely no other option but to use an irresistible grace, while Arminians believe that God is able to bring an unregenerate person to the point where they are able to make a "one way or the other" decision, all through the power of the Gospel and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Godspeed,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

Calvinists believe that man is so depraved, that God has absolutely no other option but to use an irresistible grace, while Arminians believe that God is able to bring an unregenerate person to the point where they are able to make a "one way or the other" decision, all through the power of the Gospel and the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

So does an Arminian pray, "Lord, I want my friend saved. But don't violate his free will. I know you've done everything you're going to do by giving prevenient grace to everyone. But, I want my friend saved..."?

What exactly is the Arminian praying for when he seeks God for the salvation of another? In my own examination, I found that Arminians really don't need God at this point. He has gone as far to save someone as He's going to go - all for the sake of preserving free will.

That just seems contrary to John 6:37, 44, 65, Is. 53:10-11, etc.

Kevin Rhyne said...

I'm not trying to be cheeky here, but I think this points out a serious flaw in the Arminian system.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello Kevin,

I would never say, “Lord don’t violate their free will.” Rather, it’s my heart’s desire that He would violate their free will, even so much that God might put them into Hell for 5 minutes, and then bring them back out to reevaluate, just like how the “rich man” of Luke 16:19-31 had a heart change, when he desired to return to earth in order to evangelize his brothers (though he was not permitted). I would love it if the Lord would come down out of Heaven, and appear before my lost friends, just like He did with the apostle Paul on the road to Damascus. I wish that God would do as He did in the Old Testament, when He publicly accepted Elijah’s sacrifice, while spurning the servants of Baal. I want the Lord to shake up the lost, and that if there was such a thing as “irresistible grace,” then to give that to everyone. However, in terms of evangelism, that’s not how Jesus taught us to pray. Instead, He taught this: “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.” (Luke 10:2) The Arminian prayer is exactly this, that is, that the power of the Gospel would be let loose, so that a harvest of souls is not spoiled and perishes.

Hope that helps,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

The Arminian prayer is exactly this, that is, that the power of the Gospel would be let loose, so that a harvest of souls is not spoiled and perishes

Amen that the Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Amen that a harvest of souls be reaped for the kingdom of Christ to the glory of his grace.

How is that something an Arminian can really pray for when the Gospel may be powerful, but just not powerful enough for those who thwart God's desire that "all would be saved" by exercising their free will?

Why bother to pray when He's done all He can/will do given this high esteem of libertarian free will?

Lynne said...

just curious -- why do you find that more difficult than a Calvinist praying for someone's salvation when they may not be one of the elect? After all, if they are one of the elect, won't they get saved anyway, and if they're not, all the prayers in the world won't help ...

Kevin Rhyne said...

Lynne,

That’s a great question. I would first start with examining what is the purpose of prayer? Is it to change God’s mind, or is it to glorify Him?

The assumption in your question is this: For prayer to be possible at all, man must have the power of self-determination. That is, all man’s decisions must ultimately belong to himself, not God. Otherwise man is determined by God and all his decisions are really fixed in God’s eternal counsel.

In keeping with the theme of this blog, let’s examine the reasonableness of this argument.

Those in need of conversion are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1); they are “enslaved to sin” (Romans 6:17; John 8:34); “the god of this world has blinded [their minds] that [they] might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ” (II Corinthians. 4:4); their heart is hardened against God (Ephesians 4:18) so that they are hostile to God and in rebellion against God’s will (Romans 8:7).

Let’s flip the question back on the Arminian: If you insist that the person you are praying for must have the power of ultimate self-determination, what is the point of praying for him? What do you want God to do for Him?

You can’t ask that God overcome the man’s rebellion, that’s exactly what the man is now choosing, so that would mean God overcame his choice and took away his power of self-determination. But how can God save this man unless he acts so as to change the man’s heart from hard hostility to tender trust?

What about praying that God enlighten his mind so that he truly see the beauty of Christ and believe? Don’t most Christians pray like this? Isn’t that what the owner of this blog essentially prayed? “[T]hat the power of the Gospel would be let loose, so that a harvest of souls is not spoiled and perishes,” I believe is how he stated he would pray for a lost neighbor. Power of the Gospel let loose so that a harvest would come. ” When you have the so that in there, you recognize that the Word of God is indeed powerful unto salvation and that it indeed will accomplish what it is intended to do. (Is. 55:11)

But, if you pray this, you are in effect asking God no longer to leave the determination of the man’s will in his own power. You are asking God to do something within the man’s mind (or heart) so that he will certainly and surely see and believe. That is, you are conceding that the ultimate determination of the man’s decision to trust Christ is God’s, not merely his.

Do you see that it is not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty which thwarts prayer for the conversion of sinners?

On the contrary, it is the unbiblical notion of self-determination which would consistently put an end to all prayers for the lost. Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God.

If you insist that he retain his self-determination, then you are insisting that he remain without Christ. For “no one can come to Christ unless it is given him from the Father” (John 6:65, 44).
Only the person who rejects human self-determination can consistently pray for God to save the lost.

Our prayer for unbelievers should be that God will do for them what He did for Lydia: He opened her heart so that she gave heed to what Paul said (Acts 16:14). We should pray that God, who once said, “Let there be light!”, will by that same creative power “shine in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” (II Corinthians 4:6).

We should pray that He will “take out their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). We should pray that they be born not of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man but of God (John 1:13). And with all our praying we must try to “be kind and to teach and correct with gentleness and patience, if perhaps God may grant them repentance and freedom from Satan’s snare” (II Timothy 2:24-26).

In short, in believing that God is sovereign we are not asking God to sit back and wait for our neighbors to decide to change. We don’t suggest to God that He keep his distance lest his beauty become irresistible and violate my neighbor’s power of self-determination. No! We pray that he overwhelm our unbelieving neighbors with his beauty, that he unshackle the enslaved will, that he make the dead alive and that he overcomes any resistance to stop him lest my neighbor perish.

Now, how does Scripture say that faith comes? By hearing, right? Hearing by the Word of God? (Rom. 10:14f) So Paul, who wrote Romans 9 with those incredible statements concerning the sovereignty of God in election, also wrote Romans 10, showing the means by which God would accomplish His goal of saving the elect: Human agents preaching the Gospel.

Why pray if you are a Calvinist? The answer is that prayer has a function like that of preaching. Belief in Christ is a gift of God (John 6:65; II Timothy 2:25; Ephesians 2:8), but God has ordained that the means by which men believe on Jesus is through the preaching of men.

How silly it would be to say that if no one spread the gospel all those predestined to be sons of God (Ephesians 1:5) would be converted anyway. The reason this is silly is because it overlooks the fact that the preaching of the gospel is just as predestined as is the believing of the gospel: Paul was set apart for his preaching ministry before he was born (Galatians 1:15), as was Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:5).

Therefore, to ask, “If we don’t evangelize, will the elect be saved?” is like asking, “If there is no predestination, will the predestined be saved?” God knows those who are his and he will raise up messengers to win them. If someone refuses to be a part of that plan, because he dislikes the idea of being tampered with before he was born, then he will be the loser, not God and not the elect.

John Piper makes this point: “You will certainly carry out God’s purpose however you act but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.”

Prayer is like preaching in that it is a human act also. It is a human act that God has ordained and which he delights in because it reflects the dependence of his creatures upon Him.

He has promised to respond to prayer, and his response is just as contingent upon our prayer as our prayer is in accordance with his will. “And this is the confidence which we have before Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us” (I John 5:14). When we don’t know how to pray according to God’s will but desire it earnestly, “the Spirit of God intercedes for us according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).

In other words, just as God will see to it that His Word is proclaimed as a means to saving the elect, so He will see to it that all those prayers are prayed which He has promised to respond to.

Paul’s words in Romans 15:18 would apply equally well to his preaching and his praying ministry: “I will not presume to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me, resulting in the obedience of the Gentiles.” Even our prayers are a gift from the one who “works in us that which is pleasing in his sight” (Hebrews 13:21).

Sorry for the long comment, but it was a good question and deserved a thorough response.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Sorry, Kevin, I was busy at work today. Let me address the question that you put to me.

You asked: “Why bother to pray when He's done all He can/will do given this high esteem of libertarian free will?

While many non-Calvinists, such as Geisler and Hunt, do believe that God does all that He “can,” I prefer to say that God does all that He “will.” Obviously, God could apply sufficient force upon anyone and make them crack. I believe that it was Al Capone who once said that “with a blow torch and a pair of pliers, I can make any man talk.” So I, personally, do not believe that it’s a matter of God being too weak to do more, but rather preference. God does all that He deems necessary, by His prerogative, and that’s why we go to God in intercessory prayer. That’s why we ask that God continue to work on a person’s heart. If God wishes to apply an “irresistible grace,” then wonderful! But God doesn’t seem to do this. A great example is Isaiah 5:3. If you have a second, check this out:

http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/files/OT/Is5_3.html

In a future post, I really would like to examine the question of: Does God do all that He "can" or all that He "will"?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

I think there may be some misunderstanding with you and your readers concerning what a Calvinist means when he talks about "irresistable grace." I am getting that you folks think that we Calvinists think that God can never be resisted, or that He never permits Himself to be resisted.

Well, here it is, common ground so get ready. Calvinists believe that the call of the Gospel can be and is more often than not resisted. There, I said it. It must be true, it's on the internet.

The difference really lies in the question - is there a point in which He stops permitting the resistance? Is there a point when He says, "Enough of this resistance."

I think there is. Look at John 6:37. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. (John 6:37)

How 'bout this one: No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. (John 6:44)

If we are talking about the Father's design for salvation, that seems pretty clear to me. You ain't coming unless you've been given to Christ and He draws you. And Christ will not cast out those who come and will raise those drawn on the last day. I don't see any dropping out of the middle of the clauses in those verses because of their free will.

Will the self-determining will of man thwart a gift that the Father gives to the Son? Tim Keller does a great job, I think, in explaining this stuff in fairly digestible terms.

http://www.streamload.com/rpcsermons/QandA/What%20is%20the%20doctrine%20of%20Election.mp3

As to Lazarus, I write about that analogy here and following in that series. If you are truly desiring to examine Calvinism, I would humbly suggest that you deal with what typical Calvinists believe rather than what Geisler and Hunt tell you they believe.

Kevin Rhyne said...

As to Is. 5:3, I stand by Micah's comment in this post. Well said, Micah.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

Thanks for the links. I'm slammed at work, but I'll check them out when I get home tonight, and comment. Just quickly, I do not know what Hunt or Geisler teach about the Calvinist understanding of Irresistible Grace. I can look it up, but I'd rather tell you what I think it means. I'll post back tonight.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

I'd rather hear your unadulterated thoughts anyway... ;)

Look forward to your comments.

Kevin

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Ok, I’m back,

There are two types of “Irresistible Grace” taught by Calvinists. I’ll start with the less common definition, and then proceed with what is traditionally deemed the “Reformed” understanding. My brother in Law is a Calvinist, and he subscribes to definition #1.

1) It is the belief that God gives faith to His “elect,” but not that people are born again, preemptively. It is the belief that God simply gives faith to His “elect,” who in turn believe and are saved, and made Born Again by God. Again, this is not the traditional Reformed doctrine on Irresistible Grace.

2) Traditionally, “Irresistible Grace” was meant to signify “regeneration,” which is the idea that those whom God “regenerates,” unfailingly come to Him. So what is “regeneration”? Traditionally, the Calvinist understanding of regeneration was meant to signify something taught in Ezekiel 36:26, in terms of God removing the “heart of stone” and implanting a “heart of flesh.” Compare with 2nd Corinthians 5:17 which states: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” When you put all of the pieces of the regeneration puzzle together, regeneration comes with being “in Christ.”

James White writes: “When the time comes in God’s sovereign providence to bring to spiritual life each of those for whom Christ died, the Spirit of God will not only effectively accomplish that work of regeneration but that new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ (‘all that the Father gives Me will come to Me’). Hence, we are not saved ‘without’ faith, but at the same time, Christ’s atonement is not rendered useless and vain without the addition of libertarian free will.” (Debating Calvinism, p.191, emphasis mine)

If you picked up the part about how the “new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ,” then you have the full picture of the meaning behind the term, “Irresistible Grace.” In other words, it is something given to those who are “in Christ.” Now that raises another important question: When do people become “in Christ”? James White is teaching that one is preemptively placed in Christ, or preemptively birthed in Christ, and as this new creature with a new heart and a new spirit, one irresistibly and unfailingly comes to Christ, and White cites John 6:37, 44 in support. This essentially is the Calvinist teaching of Irresistible Grace.

However, the Arminian objection has traditionally objected to the Calvinist teaching on when a person becomes “in Christ.” The Arminian objection is two-fold:

1) Ephesians 1:13 states that one hears the Gospel, believes in the Gospel, and then is sealed in Christ, rather than being sealed in Christ, hearing and then believing. John Calvin was aware of this dilemma, and responded by explaining a two-fold meaning to being sealed in Christ. (You may wish to inspect your commentary on the interpretations and implications of Ephesians 1:13.)

2) The Calvinist teaching on preemptive regeneration comes with the requirement that unbelievers be in Christ, as James White states, and that the “elect” unbeliever (who is “in Christ”) will unfailingly then come to Christ. The problem is that you cannot have an unbeliever “in Christ” period, and the reason why is because anyone “in Christ” is free of condemnation (Romans 8:1, 33), while the unbeliever remains condemned. (John 3:18) Dave Hunt also pointed out John 3:18 to James White, and White did not respond to that point.

So that’s food for thought. I would have posted this sooner, but I had interruptions.

Hope this helps,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

If you picked up the part about how the “new creature in Christ will, unfailingly, believe in Jesus Christ,” then you have the full picture of the meaning behind the term, “Irresistible Grace.” In other words, it is something given to those who are “in Christ.” Now that raises another important question: When do people become “in Christ”? James White is teaching that one is preemptively placed in Christ, or preemptively birthed in Christ, and as this new creature with a new heart and a new spirit, one irresistibly and unfailingly comes to Christ, and White cites John 6:37, 44 in support. This essentially is the Calvinist teaching of Irresistible Grace.

I don’t know what you mean by “preemptively birthed”. However, you know you have a baby when you hear the cry.

When the Holy Spirit changes the heart, the new nature responds with faith and repentance. That’s how we by nature relate to God from day one.

Election saves no one. Trust in Christ saves the sinner. However, those who are the elect of God, an innumerable group of people according to Scripture, will infallibly come to Christ willingly. Ps. 110:3; Rev. 5:9.

You reference Eph. 1:13 as evidence for believing the Word before being sealed in Christ. I don’t disagree with your interpretation of that verse as far as it goes. You must believe/trust in the work of Christ on the cross in your place before you are “in Christ” and sealed by His Spirit. Ok.

But, why do you believe? What makes you different than your unsaved neighbor, brother, or father? Are you more spiritual? Smarter? Fell on the right side of Pascal’s wager? Who made you to differ? 1 Cor. 4:7

When I read Eph 1:13 I look at the rest of the chapter for the whole picture. I know I’m no better than any other sinner out there. But for God’s grace and the regenerating power of His Holy Spirit I’d still be wallowing in my hell-deserving sin and loving it while shaking my fist in the air in rebellion against God. That’s the picture Paul paints in Romans 3. That’s also the picture he paints just a few verses later in Eph. 2:1-10.

But why did I choose Christ? Cast your eyes above verse 13 to verses 11-12 and move a little further back to verses 3-6. I must trust in Christ to be in Christ. But why did I trust Him in the first place?

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. [Notice that those in Christ were chosen to be holy and blameless. Their sanctification is as sure as their choosing]. In love [This is why this doctrine is not fatalism. It’s personal. Fate isn’t personal.] he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, [we obtain the inheritance because we’ve been predestined to do so by the will of God which will not be thwarted] so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12)

The whole passage puts the emphasis where it needs to be: the glory of God, not the pride or boasting of man [“I chose God because I’m smarter than the next guy.”] Although an Arminian may not explicitly state that he’s better, implicitly that’s exactly what he’s saying, “Something in me made me better than my neighbor so I chose Christ.” Most Christians recognize deep down that it was a work of God’s sovereign grace that brought them to faith.

I certainly don’t have it all figured out. Anyone who says they do is a fool.

But when I see that that my willingness was because of His power, that He sought me and bought me with His redeeming blood [sound familiar?] what a humbling thing to receive such undeserved mercy. I encourage you to prayerfully trust the Text and try to read it objectively, letting it hit you just as it’s written and not pigeon-holing it in traditions. God’s Word challenges our traditions.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

You wrote: “I don’t know what you mean by ‘preemptively birthed’.”

To answer, let me quote R.C. Sproul:

R.C. Sproul: “The Reformed view of predestination teaches that before a person can choose Christ his heart must be changed. He must be born again.” (Chosen By God, p.72)

Sproul adds: “A cardinal point of Reformed theology is the maxim: ‘Regeneration precedes faith.’ Our nature is so corrupt, the power of sin so great, that unless God does a supernatural work in our souls we will never choose Christ.” (Chosen By God, pp.72-73)

Thus, according to Reformed Theology, one must be preemptively made Born Again (preemptively birthed, if you will) in order to irresistibly believe, which directly ties into your next point, in which you raise the issue of “Regeneration.”

You wrote: “But for God’s grace and the regenerating power of His Holy Spirit I’d still be wallowing in my hell-deserving sin….”

Both Calvinism and Arminianism agree that God’s grace is essential for anyone to be saved, though Arminians reject that a person is preemptively “regenerated,” on the mutually agreed grounds that regeneration (being Born Again) is reserved “in Christ,” which is why James White insisted that people ARE preemptively placed in Christ, in order to be able to irresistibly believe. However, consider the following two quotes from D. James Kennedy and Charles Spurgeon:

D. James Kennedy: “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)

Spurgeon contradicted himself on “regeneration,” but here he states: “If I am to preach faith in Christ to a man who is regenerated, then the man, being regenerated, is saved already, and it is an unnecessary and ridiculous thing for me to preach Christ to him, and bid him to believe in order to be saved when he is saved already, being regenerate. But you will tell me that I ought to preach it only to those who repent of their sins. Very well; but since true repentance of sin is the work of the Spirit, any man who has repentance is most certainly saved, because evangelical repentance never can exist in an unrenewed soul. Where there is repentance there is faith already, for they never can be separated. So, then, I am only to preach faith to those who have it. Absurd, indeed! Is not this waiting till the man is cured and then bringing him the medicine? This is preaching Christ to the righteous and not to sinners.” (The Warrant of Faith)

Regeneration: It is exclusively reserved for the redeemed in Christ. When we are sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 1:13), we receive a new heart and a new spirit and are made into a new creature. (2nd Corinthians 5:17). The purpose of the new birth of regeneration, which is in Christ, is to implant a new nature that instills faith and gives us the desire to want to serve God.

Illumination: Otherwise known as Prevenient Grace, this is not the full blown regeneration of New Birth that is alone reserved for the redeemed in Christ, who have been sealed in Christ. Prevenient Grace is for the unregenerate whereby Jesus knocks upon the heart’s door of the unregenerate (Revelation 3:20), seeks (Luke 19:10) and draws the lost (John 12:32), while the Holy Spirit convicts (John 16:8), pricks (Acts 26:14), pierces (Acts 2:37) and opens hearts to respond to the Gospel. (Acts 16:14)

You wrote: “But, why do you believe? What makes you different than your unsaved neighbor, brother, or father? Are you more spiritual? Smarter? Fell on the right side of Pascal’s wager? Who made you to differ? 1 Cor. 4:7 … The whole passage puts the emphasis where it needs to be: the glory of God, not the pride or boasting of man [“I chose God because I’m smarter than the next guy.”] Although an Arminian may not explicitly state that he’s better, implicitly that’s exactly what he’s saying, “‘Something in me made me better than my neighbor so I chose Christ.’”

How do you explain Romans 3:27: “Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith.”

Arminians agree with John Calvin on this point:

John Calvin writes: “Now it may be asked how men receive the salvation offered to them by the hand of God? I reply, by faith. Hence he concludes that here is nothing of our own. If, on the part of God, it is grace alone, and if we bring nothing but faith, which strips us of all praise, it follows that salvation is not of us. … When, on man’s side, he places the only way of receiving salvation in faith alone, he rejects all other means on which men are accustomed to rely. Faith, then, brings a man empty to God, that he may be filled with the blessings of Christ.” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, p.144, emphasis mine)

You wrote: “The whole passage puts the emphasis where it needs to be: the glory of God….”

To be more specific, the whole passage puts the emphasis on what is “in Christ.” In the first 13 verses of Ephesians chapter one, you have 11 references to combinations of “in Christ.” The whole passage is focused on what is in Christ. Look at Ephesians 1:3-4. Who does it say that we are chosen in? Then skip down to v.13 and ask yourself, “How do we become in Christ”?

You wrote: "God’s Word challenges our traditions."

Rather than "tradition," the better expression is "presuppositions," and yes, we all have them, even Calvinists too.

Have a great weekend,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

A quick point: one fallacy of these kinds of arguments is actually trying to separate in logical order what happens instantaneously. I think in your quotes from Calvin and Spurgeon, they are trying to make that issue clear. Spurgeon assumes that someone who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit immediately places their faith in Christ. Hence, his statement. I have not read “The Warrant of Faith”, but it would seem to me that he is arguing against hyper-calvinism (no need for missions, etc.), not orthodox calvinism (which embraces the need for the means of grace, namely preaching of the Word in which the Spirit works to regenerate the sinner). No garden variety Calvinist would argue that regeneration happens and then someone is obedient in faith and repentance months later.

The issue of faith and repentance is one of causality. Where’d the faith come from? (Eph 2:8) You have not answered that question. Is it from us? (I have more faith than my neighbor because I’m better) Or is it from God?

John answered, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. (John 3:27)

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, (Philippians 1:29)

Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ: (2 Peter 1:1)

One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. (Acts 16:14)

And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, (Acts 18:27)

You are right: we all have presuppositions. We must all prayerfully approach the Scriptures such that it transforms us rather than we transform it in our minds.

Have a great weekend. I won’t look for a response until Monday.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hello Kevin,

You asked "where faith comes from"?

Romans 10:17: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ."

Therefore, according to Paul, a person can receive "faith" by hearing the Gospel. Which person? An "elect" person only?, or anyone who hears the Gospel? If you agree that it means anyone, then you will ask, "well why doesn't everyone rightly use the faith produced by the Gospel and be saved? But then I will ask: Why did Adam & Eve chose as they did?, given that they were not totally depraved? The bottom line argument from Arminians such as myself is that we reject that God has "Total Inability" to bring an unregenerate person to the point where they can make a free will decision. In fact, we argue that it is part of His sovereign will to do so.

You wrote: "One fallacy of these kinds of arguments is actually trying to separate in logical order what happens instantaneously."

Reformed Theology generally dismisses such a view because it too has an "order of operations," whereby one is made preemptively Born Again or Regenerated (Step A), then hears the Gospel (Step B) and then Believes (Step C) and then is "saved." (Step D) To the Reformed Calvinist, this may be "instantaneous," but does not nullify an actual sequence of events. The Arminian agrees that there is a sequence of events, but based it upon Eph 1:13 instead.

As always, have a great day,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

Putting aside some of the other issues your comment addresses (such as the complete misrepresentation of “total inability” being on God’s part and not man’s), you agree then, that faith comes at the very least by something outside of us. By hearing the Word of God. It is a gift of God, lest anyone should boast. (Eph 2:8-10; A few verses later from 1:13)

If man’s will is morally neutral at the point he is confronted with his “decision”, for what is he to be morally commended if he chooses Christ, since he really preferred neither option but chose Christ by sheer chance?

For example, if a cripple witnesses a woman being mugged and is simply unable to assist her even though he wants to do so, he would not be morally condemned for that. But, if he, whether cripple or not, has no desire to assist the victim, he would be judged morally corrupt.

If he is neutral and by sheer chance chooses one way or the other, how could any judgment come upon him? Such a construction of the will is absurd, of course, and yet this is exactly the construct of Arminian “prevenient grace”. It has no effectual power, but merely pulls the sinner to supposed moral neutrality from where he makes his ultimate “decision”. The Bible mentions nothing of this. It is something tradition brings to the text.

Getting back to the point you have not yet answered, if you, not being Adam or Eve, argue that the ultimate decision lies within man, or man’s will is sovereign over God’s in salvation, then what makes you better that you would use your “prevenient grace” given faith to embrace Christ and another worse that they would reject him from their supposedly equal status of moral neutrality?

Additionally, if I were going to just pick out a verse to support your side, Ephesians 1:13 seems like a pretty good one. However, in context it is devastating to your position.

You have yet to address 1:4, 5 and 1:11-12 from this standpoint: do we put ourselves in Christ, or were we chosen by God “before the foundation of the world”?

Speaking of logical order, what logical order do the two verses before 1:13 put on our receiving an inheritance? Does it not say, “In him we have obtained an inheritance, [why?] having been predestined according to the purpose of him [is that you or me, or God?] who works all things [doesn’t all mean all here?] according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be [purpose of the inheritance and the means by which we obtain it - free will or God’s glory?] to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12)

Does not v. 13 say, “In him you also...” which would indicate that all of the above applies to the verse? Never read just one Bible verse. Again, I do not deny the means of grace (namely prayer and proclamation of the Word; Romans 10); I just also recognize the motive and the existence of a Master plan (Romans 9, Ephesians 1-2).

If you have some time, I’d also like to know the answer to this question: if your salvation is ultimately up to you, is it yours to lose? If you say yes, I’m going to use Ephesians 1:13, I promise.

Enjoying the dialog. Look forward to your response.

Kevin

P.S. I did not realize that Arminians had a better answer than Calvinists for the fall of Adam and Eve. Does it involve a neutral will?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

1..At Eph 2:8, I infer that the free gift is “salvation” (Romans 6:23), and which is received “through faith.” So I disagree that the point of Ephesians 2:8 is that faith is a gift. I believe that salvation is the gift in focus, which is received through faith.

2..In terms of Prevenient Grace, do you believe that God is able (if He wished to do so), to enable an unregenerate person to receive His grace? I’m very interested in getting your opinion about that. Remember, to say that “since man is so depraved that God must…,” inevitably concludes that God has total inability to overcome the unregenerate nature of man, except by another alternative (namely Irresistible Grace). I posted this on CARM.org, and am very curious to see how you address that.

3..You wrote: “if you, not being Adam or Eve, argue that the ultimate decision lies within man, or man’s will is sovereign over God’s in salvation, then what makes you better….” Nothing makes you “better” since Romans 3:27 says that faith gives no grounds for boasting. What is your opinion about that verse?

4..You wrote: “You have yet to address 1:4, 5 and 1:11-12 from this standpoint: do we put ourselves in Christ, or were we chosen by God “before the foundation of the world”?” That’s actually a misquote of Ephesians 1:3-4. We were chosen “in Christ” before the foundation of the world. In other words, that is God’s predestined place of grace, and when I hear the Gospel, and believe in the Gospel, I am sealed in Christ, and then predestined to receive all that which comes with being in Christ. Does that explain it?

5..I’m not sure what your point is, regarding Eph 1:11, since yes, I do believe “all” means all there, and yes, “in Christ” is the predestined place of grace. You’ll have to elaborate on that point. I do understand the meaning of “also” but I don’t know what point you are trying to make.

6..In terms of your last question, no, I don’t believe that it would be up to me to lose. I believe that salvation is a “free gift.” (Romans 6:23) What kind of “eternal life” would you have, if you could lose it? At best, it would be “temporal life.”

7..In terms of Adam & Eve, I’m not sure what you mean by “neutral.” I would simply say that they were simply free to do as they wish.

God bless,
Richard

Matt said...

I am obviously very late on this conversation, but I find it very interesting that you are critiquing Calvinism for misusing the Lazarus story while at the same you are completely abusing the PARABLE of the Prodigal Son.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Matt,

In what aspect am I abusing the parable of the prodigal son?

Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

I don’t want to get into a situation where it appears that you’ve got two-on-one here. Like a gang of mean Calvinists who have invaded your meta. ;) For what it’s worth, here are my attempts to answer your questions/comments.

1..At Eph 2:8, I infer that the free gift is “salvation” (Romans 6:23), and which is received “through faith.” So I disagree that the point of Ephesians 2:8 is that faith is a gift. I believe that salvation is the gift in focus, which is received through faith.

I hate to pull out the Greek on you, but in the original the construction indicates that all of it is a gift: the faith, the grace, the salvation…all of it. So, I humbly recommend you rethink Eph 2:8.

2..In terms of Prevenient Grace, do you believe that God is able (if He wished to do so), to enable an unregenerate person to receive His grace? I’m very interested in getting your opinion about that. Remember, to say that “since man is so depraved that God must…,” inevitably concludes that God has total inability to overcome the unregenerate nature of man, except by another alternative (namely Irresistible Grace). I posted this on CARM.org, and am very curious to see how you address that.

I’m not really certain what you are getting at here. But, I’ll take a stab at an answer. I absolutely believe that God is able to capture any heart He wants to. I think your conclusion is backwards: Since man is so totally unable to re-create himself (birth himself/resurrect himself), God must enable, or re-create the heart, and give man a new nature that operates in faith and repentance. Only God can enable which makes Him even more glorious, powerful and sovereign than if He were wringing His hands in Heaven over mere possibilities that some people somewhere would “accept” His gift.

3..You wrote: “if you, not being Adam or Eve, argue that the ultimate decision lies within man, or man’s will is sovereign over God’s in salvation, then what makes you better….” Nothing makes you “better” since Romans 3:27 says that faith gives no grounds for boasting. What is your opinion about that verse?

What is my opinion of Romans 3:27? I love it. It points to the gracious gift that faith is. If it were my own, generated out of my sinful heart, I could boast, “Look, God! This is my gift to you even though I had no desire for You!” In effect, I would be telling God to be thankful to me because of my gift to Him. But, Paul, in 1 Corinthians clearly points out, “What do you have that you did not receive [from God]? [Answer: nothing, including faith] If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” 1 Cor. 4:7.

4..You wrote: “You have yet to address 1:4, 5 and 1:11-12 from this standpoint: do we put ourselves in Christ, or were we chosen by God “before the foundation of the world”?” That’s actually a misquote of Ephesians 1:3-4. We were chosen “in Christ” before the foundation of the world. In other words, that is God’s predestined place of grace, and when I hear the Gospel, and believe in the Gospel, I am sealed in Christ, and then predestined to receive all that which comes with being in Christ. Does that explain it?

So you believe we put ourselves in the “place of grace”? Here’s the exact quote of those verses.

even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, (Ephesians 1:4-5)

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1:11-12)

I’m sorry. I just don’t see the predestined to the place [location] of grace here. He’s talking about persons being predestined, not a place being predestined. He’s also talking about salvation, not only benefits after salvation. Verse 5 talks about adoption. That’s another way of saying salvation. Romans speaks in those terms concerning salvation.

5..I’m not sure what your point is, regarding Eph 1:11, since yes, I do believe “all” means all there, and yes, “in Christ” is the predestined place of grace. You’ll have to elaborate on that point. I do understand the meaning of “also” but I don’t know what point you are trying to make.

Ephesians 1:13 cannot be taken in isolation from the rest of the passage, or even the book for that matter. That’s my essential point here.

6..In terms of your last question, no, I don’t believe that it would be up to me to lose. I believe that salvation is a “free gift.” (Romans 6:23) What kind of “eternal life” would you have, if you could lose it? At best, it would be “temporal life.”

What if you no longer wanted to serve Christ? What if you no longer wanted to be with His people or live a holy life? Can you “jump out of His hand?”

7..In terms of Adam & Eve, I’m not sure what you mean by “neutral.” I would simply say that they were simply free to do as they wish.

I really don’t want to dwell on Adam and Eve because I have yet to find a completely satisfactory answer on that one from either side. Suffice it to say, I adopt the position that we should overlay Gen. 50:50 onto Gen 3 and leave the rest to God’s own counsel. Deut. 29:29.

I think we would both agree that whatever status of will Adam and Eve had, we’re not there today. We’re fallen. The question is: What work does God do in the unregenerate heart today?

“they were simply free to do as they wish” – that’s my definition of free will. We do just what we wish, and we wish to rebel against our Creator all the time until the new birth. Eph. 2:1-3, etc.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

1..In terms of Eph 2:8, here is how Arminians, such as myself, interpret it: “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that [salvation] is not of yourselves, [salvation] is the gift of God.” In support, I offer Romans 6:23 which offers a similar thought: “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life [salvation] in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

2..My point is that if one says “man is so depraved, that God must…”, it inevitably concludes that God’s hand is being forced. However, if it’s a matter of preference, then that’s one thing, but if God has total inability to enable a unregenerate person to receive His grace, without regenerating Him, then it inevitably becomes a statement about God’s power, or lack thereof.

3..As for Romans 3:27, where does it say anything about faith being a gift? To an Arminian, it means that faith excludes boasting on any and all accounts. Why? Because good deeds are an act of self-righteousness, whereas faith in Christ is an act of imputed righteousness, that is, Christ’s righteousness being imputed to the believer. In any case, we may have to agree to disagree on both Eph 2:8 and Romans 3:27.

4... You wrote: “So you believe we put ourselves in the “place of grace”? Actually, the Holy Spirit puts us in the place of grace, i.e. sealed in Christ, when we hear and believe in the Gospel, as per Eph 1:13, but I’d like to focus on the next thing that you stated: “I just don’t see the predestined to the place [location] of grace here.” What about Eph 1:6: “…which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” To the Arminian, in the Beloved, or in Christ, is the predestined place of grace.

5...point taken. However, I do not see how my understanding of Eph 1:13 conflicts with Eph 1:11-12. That’s why I’m saying that you need to develop that point in black & white.

6.. You wrote: “What if you no longer wanted to serve Christ?” Then that person would need their “wanter” fixed. They would need to be Born Again (for the first time). In other words, it would indicate that that person was never Born Again in the first place.

7...You wrote: “What work does God do in the unregenerate heart today?” God convicts consciences. (John 16:8) God pricks consciences. (Acts 2:37) God opens hearts. (Acts 16:14) God enlightens. (John 1:9) God kicks. (Acts 26:14) God seeks. (Luke 19:10) God knocks. (Revelation 3:20) Now is it fair to presume that this is what God does toward the unregenerate heart? Well, I do not see where in any of these passages, we are told that this is what God does for the regenerate heart, and I especially cannot imagine that Saul’s heart was regenerate when he was kicking against the goads, so that then gives me a strong indication that these are all things that God does toward the unregenerate heart.

Have a good night,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

I woke up this morning to your response to my rather late comment. I had to chuckle because it seems like I am dealing with a fellow night-owl.

I will post a response tonight. I am especially interested to explore how our inability would somehow make God less powerful.

Also, we can disagree on Eph. 2:8, but I think you are bringing something to the text there. I'll post a more thorough explanation of my point on the blog. Comments tend to get lengthy.

I hope this exchange is as edifying to you as it is to me, and not just two guys talking past each other. It might be a good idea to devote one day a week where we each post point/counter-point on our respective blogs. Interested?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

Yes, I'm very interested. I've already linked your Blog from my main website. I would also like to encourage you to set aside one day a week, or every other week, whichever fits your schedule, to do a review of an exchange in a Calvinist/Arminian book that you find interesting, and then discuss it. I like the format. I also like your suggestion about sticking to specific points. I've always felt that posting thesis' back and forth cannot generate a meaningful dialogue. I was actually going to suggest doing a new post on just a specific point, rather than 1-7 points. Let me know what you have in mind.

Thanks,
Richard

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

I think it would be helpful to both of us, and possibly our readers, to spend four posts each (a month, approximately) just looking at each point. We could engage books if you want, but I like the interaction. We tend to stay in our little fox-holes and build up caricatures.

Speaking of caricatures, this one was pretty funny...

Matt said...

Richard,
The same way you accuse Calvinists of abusing the the story of Lazarus. The parable of the Prodigal Son is not about man's role in salvation, but the Father's love. In the context of Luke 15, those three parables (lost sheep, lost coin, lost son) all go together, and the point is not that the sheep or the coin or the son does or does not have anything to do with salvation. The point is that God "seeks and saves that which is lost."

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Kevin,

TBNN had a funny one on single verse conferences. My Calvinist brother in law liked the "Romans 9:11 Conference."

I prefer the point-counterpoint approach, but often times, a lot of points spring from the intial point, and then results in trading thesis'. If I could start off, I would begin with what Arminians mean by Election being in Christ. I would liek to use the example of Mephibosheth.(2nd Samuel 4:4; 9:1-13) I'll post it tomorrow, and let me know if I've achieved what you had in mind.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Matt,

I agree with you that the Prodigal Son is not about man's role in salvation. I might have mistated elsewhere, but my point was to suggest that when Paul said that we were "dead" in sin (Eph 2:1), that he may have had the concept of being "lost" and separated in mind. (Compare with Eph 2:12-13)

"...for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’” (Luke 15:24)

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Actually Kevin, let me hold off on Mephibosheth for a later post.

You had mentioned that you wished for me to elaborate on what I was inferring about God having total inability to reach the unregenerate without having to regenerate them. That may be a better starting point. I'll do a post on that instead.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Ok, the post is up. The central question is this: Why can't Calvinists defer to preference, in the matter of Preemptive Regeneration, rather than to suggest that it is the only possible avenue available to God?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

I just posted on your Blog. As an alternative, you may wish to commit to one Blog post a week, and then I can plan on visiting that day for a discussion.

Thoughts?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

That may work better with my schedule...

a helmet said...

"can a dead man understand?" Folks, why bother about questions that no one, at least God, has asked.

Calvinism is a salvation-by-works religion and that's enough do reject it. Beware!
Salvation is by faith alone!!!

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

Salvation by works?! Where do you get that?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Hey Helmet,

God does ask this question:

“Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil.” (Jeremiah 13:23)

It is impossible for us to “do good” when our nature is corrupt. Just as impossible for an Ethiopian to change his skin or a leopard his spots.

With man, such a change is impossible. But, with God all things are possible.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Or, Helmet, how ‘bout this question:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jeremiah 17:9)

a helmet said...

kevin,

Why does Calvinism mean salvation by works? Well, in a "classical" works-based religion (like Allahism, Mormonism, etc) it's like this:
faith + works => justification

In Calvinism it's like this
justification => faith + sanctification

sanctification => works

or
justification => faith + works

Easy to see, both boil down to the absolute necessity of works. Without works, no sanctification, and then no justification in the first place.
In neither way is there any salvation without works. No works, no salvation.
The difference between classical works-systems and Calvinism is simply this: the attitute towards works. The Allahist and the Mormon may boast, the Calvinist simply may not boast, nevertheless he must work.

The only difference between the believer who works FOR his salvation and the beliver who works BECAUSE of his salvation is the boasting issue. Calvinists, must do good works and still cannot boast. That's the only difference.

Salvation by works, simply with a different conception of works.

a helmet said...

Luke,

After all Lazarus was resurrected to natural life again, he wasn't resurrected never to die again.
This was no resurrection unto eternal life.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

I take it then that you would cut out the books of James and 1 John, for example, that would point to judging true conversion by the person's fruit. Classic Protestant theology says we are justified by faith, not works, but by a faith THAT works.

Saying you believe in Christ with no evidence of a changed life is nonsense, biblically speaking. Even the demons believe in God, and tremble. Many so-called Christians don't even tremble.

Compare your little formula to James and 1 John or the Sermon on the Mount and see how it measures up to Scripture. Sanctification is work, but not of us. It is a work of the Holy Spirit. Philippians 2:12-13. We work because He is working.

I don't think your beef is with caricatures of Calvinism as much as it is with Scripture. There are plenty of Arminians who would reject the "no-lordship" model you seem to be promoting.

a helmet said...

kevin,

okay, faith that works is equal to faith plus works. If there are no works, then the faith is not working. If the faith is not working, it`s false faith, a delusion. So in the final analysis "working faith = faith + works".
The difference that leads to Sola Fide is the point of view. You say to yourself, the grace of God is working in you, resulting in good works. So you cannot boast of your works. Okay. But that is simply another attitude towards works, another interpretation of what works are - a result rather than the cause. But that is only a mental affirmation, the result is the same. No works, no salvation. That`s salvation by works. Why did Calvinists introduce the concept of "genuine" faith in opposition to "false" faith? Genuine faith is the same as faith plus works, isn`t it? I mean, why not believe in fait+works, but then Sola Fide really makes no sense. It`s just a word game. The result is the same.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

Those tricky words. God should have revealed Himself in a picture book...right?

This is not a word game to me. It is rightly discerning the Word of Truth. If we can't agree that words mean something, then I am confident that we would only be talking past each other.

I would challenge you to study the passages dealing with God's judgment of mankind. In every passage, that judgment is based on their works. The evidence of good works validates the possession of authentic faith.

I don't understand why this is such a hard concept for some people. Look at all the analogies that the New Testament uses for regeneration: new birth, new creation, resurrection...these are showing a radical transformation of a creature that entails living differently because of a new nature. If that's not there, then there has been no transformation and no new birth.

To take it to a personal level: if you are claiming to be a Christian because of a walk down the aisle or a baptism, but are still living like the world, you should be examining your heart to see if you are even in the faith. 2 Cor. 13:5-6. We are not saved by good works, but UNTO good works. Eph. 1:4; Eph. 2:10, for example.

a helmet said...

My point is, the confession Sola Fide = By Faith Alone is meaningless in Calvinism.

You suggest examining one's heart.

Now the calvinist interprets this as detecting God's working in him. He asks "is God working in me?" - but he might as well ask "Am I good enough?"

And that is the real difference between a "classical works religion" and Calvinism: The meaning of works.
The Mormon ask "Am I good enough?" The Calvinist asks "Is God aktive in my life?"

The result is the same: it boils down to works. Because who must really do the Calvinist's works? He himself! No works, no salvation.

That's why I said Calvinism is works-righteousness.

What's the difference? The boasting issue! The calvinist must work and yet may not boast. That's the only difference.

Now I am not saying you shall not work. I am saying Sola Fide, as understood in Calvinism, doesn't make any sense at all!!

Beware!

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

Define for me sola fide.

Kevin Rhyne said...

While you are working on your definition, take a gander at how Jesus defines true faith.

By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. These things I command you, so that you will love one another. (John 15:8-17)

If you have no fruit, you are not a disciple. Simple as that.

a helmet said...

kevin,
Sola Fide means justification by faith alone. However, this is important: I really mean it!

There are no attachments.
What you see is what you get.

I do not say Sola Fide and end up in works righteousness, Paul Washer sermons, and introspection.

As to your next posting, how would you identify fruit? What's that?

Folks, salvation is by faith alone!
Faith that works is the same as faith plus works.

Beware!

a helmet said...

I'm going to explain all this very thoroughly soon on a new site or blog.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

Sola Fide means justification by faith alone. However, this is important: I really mean it!

Faith in what? or in Whom?

Well...now that I know you really mean it...how can I argue with that? ;)

What you see is what you get.

Boy, I hope not. I came to Christ because I was convicted of my sin. He is holy and I am not. I want to be conformed to His image. If I am not changing, what's the point of the Cross? To give us a pass to remain sinful?

As to your next posting, how would you identify fruit? What's that?

A good place to start is Galatians 5:16-6:5. As to the necessity for fruit, Matt. 3:10; 7:17-19; 12:33; Luke 3:9; Luke 6:43-44; and Luke 13:6-7, just for starters. That's some of the stuff in the red letters.

Faith that works is the same as faith plus works.

Has James 2 been cut out of your Bible? James 2:14-26 would be a good read for you, Helmet. I promise.

a helmet said...

kevin,

My question was meant a litte different. How do you identify other people's fruit? "You will know them by their fruit". That's the point. How do you identify a tree by its fruit?

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

That’s a good question and deserves a full post rather than a summary in the comments. Nevertheless, I think it is not as difficult as one might think to see the fruit of conversion.

Can we agree that someone who professes faith in Christ and then never darkens the door of a church afterward was probably not a true Christian in the first place? That would be an example of judging the fruit.

If someone is living in persistent sin and unrepentant of their life, without being the final arbiter of their salvation, I think we can safely treat them as an unbeliever. Matthew 18.

Now, I hear the caution in your question and I agree with you. These kind of judgments can be abused and set up a legalistic oligarchy in a church. Nevertheless, we are commanded to rightly discern the spiritual condition of those with whom we are in covenant, namely church membership. This is a topic well beyond the subject of the original post, but an important topic, nonetheless.

Your original objection, I am assuming (maybe wrongly) from a Lutheran perspective, was that Calvinism was salvation by works. My response was Luther’s response: We are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that is alone.

Grace and peace,

Kevin