Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Salvation without faith?

Calvinist, James White, writes: "It becomes tiring to respond constantly to the repitition of such falsehoods as this one: 'Calvinism must hold the unbiblical view that Christ's death saves without faith.' No, God not only commands faith, but He mercifully enables us to believe by freeing us from our sin. The point is that faith is not the human 'capacity' that makes man's will the ultimate decision maker in salvation. Christ's substitutionary death in behalf of His people is a real and finished work: It is not dependent upon the human act of faith for success or failure." (Debating Calvinism, pp.190-191)

First, what is White saying is 'not dependent' upon faith?

Answer: The benefits of the atonement.

But if that's the case, then it would seem to me that Hunt's accusation is right on target. For if the benefit of the atonement is independent of faith, then salvation is independent of faith, and thus Hunt's perception of Calvinism as a theology whereby 'Christ's death saves without faith,' logically holds. It seems to me that White has contradicted himself. Feel free to jump in and help me understand why you do, or do not, feel that White has contradicted himself.

40 comments:

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

That would be true if one is coming from the Arminian presupposition that faith itself is not a benefit of the atonement, but something generated by an unregenerate heart, a presupposition Calvinists reject as unbiblical and eisegetically inferred.

Salvation is by grace through faith and that [salvation, grace, faith] is a gift of God, not works. See Eph 2:8-10.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

How is faith a "benefit of the atonement"? I know that hearing the Gospel generates faith, as per Romans 10:17, but I’ve never read where the ‘atonement’ generates faith.

Allow me to place a timeline on this, to help me understand the Calvinist perspective:

1) Christ’s death saved all of the elect 2000 years ago as a “past tense” completed, “finished work,” without faith, independent of any human action at all, at a time when the elect were yet unborn, unbelieving and unconscious.

2) Later in time, upon receiving the irresistible drawing, a person is made Born Again (though remaining unsaved), where the New Birth generates faith, with the result that the elect person is then deemed technically "saved." (Eph 2:8)

I know that this could be worded differently, but is there anything in this summary that a Calvinist would deem technically false?

a helmet said...

Christ's death in itself wouldn't save anybody without the resurrection. So it is not the death alone, but the death plus the resurrection that makes salvation possible. I can only suggest to calvinists to read "The meaning of Christ's sacrificial death" and "Whom did Christ die for?" on my blog "Meditations on the gospel of John".

Note as well, in John 12 Jesus urges the Jews to believe in the light so that (=in order to) you become children of the light. Becoming a child of the light is the same as becoming a child of God, and here you must provide an excellent exercise in eisegesis to find "regeneration before faith" supported! Regeneration is the same as "becoming a child of the light" and that requires faith at first.

Hunt is right in pointing out that White is making a grave logical error here concerning Sola Fide. Calvinists must sooner or later understand that faith is neither a work nor a mere gift!

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

Let's look at this statement again:

White: "Christ's substitutionary death in behalf of His people is a real and finished work: It is not dependent upon the human act of faith for success or failure." (Debating Calvinism, p.191)

I guess I’m having difficulty in understanding what the atonement, in Reformed Theology, actually accomplishes for the elect person, while the person yet remains an unbeliever. From my perspective, it remains a provision for a person’s salvation, and not salvation in and of itself. But according to Reformed Theology, it is something much more, and the much more is what I’m having difficulty apprehending. So you agree that there is no such thing as a “saved unbeliever,” but what about a “redeemed unbeliever”?

I’ve once stated on CARM that Christ’s blood saved no one, unless or until they believed in Him, and the result was an angry charge of blasphemy, not that Jesus was offended, but this particular person was definitely irate. Clearly, there is a disconnect on this point. To me, it would be simple for a Calvinist to say that it's a provision, but a provision that only "the elect" are regenerated to receive. At least that makes sense, but that doesn't seem to what is claimed by Reformed Theologians. Perhaps you can shed some light on it.

Thanks,
Richard

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Helmet,

That sounds like John 1:12: "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name."

You stated: "Christ's death in itself wouldn't save anybody without the resurrection."

I would add: Christ's death AND resurrection, in itself wouldn't save anybody, unless or until a person believes in Him. To me, it's a provision, like the analgous 'serpent on a standard' as per Jesus' connection between John 3:14 and Numbers 21:6-9.

a helmet said...

White: "Christ's substitutionary death in behalf of His people is a real and finished work: It is not dependent upon the human act of faith for success or failure." (Debating Calvinism, p.191)

What shall we say? The gospel not necessary? As with the calvinism's conception of preemtive regeneration, they cannot explain what that is.....they do not know what they're talking about. What did Christ's death accomplish without faith? We're not told. And what does Sola Fide mean, if it is a gift from God, for those who have been saved anyway? Don't works flow as gifts to those who have already been saved as well? So what about "salvation by faith" ? I think after 25 years of defendig calvinism like a second hand car salesman, White is surely very ensnared in his once-for-all fixed doctrine that he can hardly see the truth and accept it without risking to lose his face.....Pretty sad!

a helmet said...

Just found on "www.reformedvoices.com"

The New Birth - Calvinism admits: concerning the new birth they do not know what they're talking about. "It is a miraculous happening that cannot be explained......."

My comment: whatever cannot be explained does not come from God.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Helmet,

I believe that James White was initially a 4-Pointer and then became persuaded by the 5-Point argument. I recall reading something about that in the "Debating Calvinism" book. I'll post the quote tonight after work.

In terms of mysteries, what is your take on John 3:3-8?

In terms of Regeneration, Arminians teach that a person answers to the knocking of Christ, and then Christ comes into his heart with the Indwelling, Regeneration, New Birth, ect., and is sealed in Christ. In contrast, Calvinism teaches that Regeneration is 'preemptive' and just happens at a foreordained time. This is perhaps the "mystery" that you quoted from the "reformedvoices." To me, Eph 1:13 lays out a simple, easily understandable, method of operations, in that one hears the Gospel, believes the Gospel, and then is sealed in Christ with the Holy Spirit. I'm persuaded by that simplistic methodology.

Let me know if you are interested in SEA. I think that you would like it a lot.

a helmet said...

In terms of mysteries, what is your take on John 3:3-8?

The passage is judicial in character and purpose. It is meant not to be understood, just like the parables.
The clear text follows right after that passage, with the mentioning of Mose, the serpent, God's love for the world and the message to believe in the only begotten son (3:16). "Believe in the son of God" is clear. The talk about the "new birth" that precedes the proclamation of the gospel, is not. And if anyone is a child of the light (John 12:?), he is also "born again" and a child of God. In order to become a child of the light one must believe in the light. So I agree, that like Eph. 1:13 this is quite simple. No esoterics here.

SEA? What is that?

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Helmet,

SEA stands for "Society of Evangelical Arminians" which has the website:
http://www.evangelicalarminians.com/

The members post articles to the site, and eventually, the website will contain a verse by verse commentary, and currently has a private google-group of around 50 or so members who daily correspond to events and discussions involving Calvinist/Arminian theology. It's quite good. Let me know if you're interested. I think that you would really enjoy it.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

I'm still searching for the quote from James White, in terms of what initially swayed him from the 4-Point to 5-Point view. However, in the process, I found this quote:

"The difference, then, between Hunt's view and the Reformed view of the atonement is simply this: Did Christ actually save anyone at the cross, or did He simply make people savable?" (Debating Calvinism, p.171)

How could someone be saved 2000 years ago? Wouldn't the result be a "saved unbeliever"? To me, "make savable" is a crude, yet somewhat accurate representation of the Arminian "provisional view" of the atonement, having mande the provision for salvation for all men, exactly in the manner of Numbers 21:6-9. It would make more sense, in my opinion, if Calvinists taught that the atonement makes 'savable,' as a provision, with the qualification that only certain ones (Calvinism's elect) are the only ones who are regenerated in such a way, so as to receive it. To me, at least that has logic to it, but is not at all what Reformed Theology teaches, and hence the nature of my confusion over the matter.

Stephen Garrett said...

Brothers,

I do not agree with White that regeneration is always viewed in scripture as preceding faith and repentance. I believe, as I have written, that the scriptures do not follow a strict "ordo salutis," where faith is always before regeneration/birth or where it is always put after.

The truth of the matter is that the saved state is one that includes a believing and penitent heart. No faith and repentance, then no life and birth. And vice versa, no life and birth, no faith and repentance.

In my view it is the decree of election that guarantees the atonement, and it is the atonement that assures of salvation, and it is salvation that assures of faith and repentance.

Without the atonement, there could be no faith. Without faith, there can be no enjoyment of the atonement.

But, which produces which? Surely the election has obtained it. Romans 11: 6.

God bless

Stephen

Stephen Garrett said...

One other thought:

Your view of election is - "God chooses those who first choose him."

But, I find the reverse to be the case. "We choose him because he first chose us."

We are clearly told that we "love him because he first loved us" (I John 4: 19)

Love necessarily involves a showing favor or a choosing. Therefore, he chose us before we chose him.

Besides, the word "before" seems to be ignored by you in your interpretation. Before denotes which is first. God chose us "before the foundation of the world" and therefore his choice of us is first and ours second.

God bless

Stephen

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Stephen,

Actually, my view of Election is slightly different from that, as I sometimes point to the example of Mephibosheth. I don't believe that his example encompasses the totality of Election, but does provide an example of "adoption through identification," which is the essence of Arminian election. Here is the link:

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

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

whatever cannot be explained does not come from God.

Please explain to me how God can be Three in Person and One in Essence. Please explain to me how Jesus Christ can be fully human and fully Divine.

I assume you are a Trinitarian. I assume you believe in the hypostatic union of Christ. Are these not taught in Scripture? Are they not from God?

Explain to me how Christ can be a fetus in the womb of Mary, yet uphold the universe. These, of course, are miraculous things, just like the new birth is a miraculous thing. Be careful not to overstate your criticism of Calvinism. Applying your logic to other doctrines of the faith gets you into heretical hot water.

Richard,

You raise some interesting questions that I want to give full thought to and post on. My initial thought is of World War II. After the success of the D-Day invasion, it was known that the war against Germany was inevitably won. However, there were still many battles to be fought before V-E day.

Likewise, the infinitely successful accomplishment of Christ at the Cross inevitably won the war against Sin and Death. What kind of victory would there be if it were a mere potential salvation that could net Christ nothing? But Isaiah tells us that he would see His "offspring" and rejoice. Is. 53:10-12.

www.examiningcalvinism.com said...

Hey Kevin,

I'm running late for a 10:00 am Bible study, but I just wanted to point out that while Christ was on the cross, Abraham's Bosom was already filled with the OT Saints, so even if no one else besides they and His disciples had believed, Calvary would have at least netted their entrance into Heaven. Back in a little while.

a helmet said...

Kevin,

Please explain to me how God can be Three in Person and One in Essence.

This is not explained in a few sentences. Lord willing, I'll be writing something comprehensive on my blogs soon.

However, there is something in the blog article "The meaning of Christ's sacrificial death", which already explains this quite a bit. Ironically, the trinity is what makes God knowable instead of unknowable. Yes, a unitarian God like Allah is indeed unknowable.

Concerning your following questions: while I hold that God is knowable that is not to say that I have all answers. Surely I do not know how God made the world either. But when it comes to salvation, the knowability of God is absolutely crucial. The key verse is JOhn 17:3 this is eternal life that they may know You, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

Eternal life ist the knowledge of God.

And here is the point where Calvinist's quit their fray with God. They do not challenge God to reveal Himself to them. They are quite confortable in their lack of knowledge.


John 6:45 is another key verse: "And they shall all be taught by God."

This teaching from God, that is the drawing to conversion, is accountable, expressible.

That is crucial!
All truth from God is pronounced, communicated by the logos (John 1:1) The logos communicates ALL truth from God in clarity (logos = word, reason => where "logics" comes from). The logos is Christ, the word of God. If someone says he has "heard and learned from the father" (John 6:45) and cannot communicate what this teaching actually is, what the drawing (John 6:44) actually IS, then that person does not have the logos in Himself. and is found a liar.

So here, the knowable God is the savior, not the mysterious God.

a helmet said...

Addition: I am not saying that Calvinists are liars or that they are "not saved". But they are ensnared in grave falsehoods and must cut thorns in order to let the clear sun light shine into them so that they may grow and produce fruit. Calvinists do not struggle with God. They are morecomfortable with the unknowability of God, like Allahists. They do not enter the fray with God, like David, struggling for God's blessings. Calvinists don't do that.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helemet,

Eternal life is the knowledge of God.

Demons believe attributes about God. Do they have eternal life? James 2:9.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

What Calvinists have you been talking to? Don't struggle with God? Don't wrestle with the Word?

I think anyone who has honestly read mainstream Calvinists would easily disagree with that assessment. I suppose Jonathan Edwards was a light-weight? Have you read the Institutes? Calvin really didn't explore much in those two volumes or in the 22 volumes of commentary on the verse by verse exposition of the Bible, I guess. That is a statement that just does not stand up to the vast evidence of history and betrays a severe lack of knowledge on your behalf.

I don't mean to be unkind, but that is a ludicrous sentiment.

a helmet said...

Demons believe attributes about God. Do they have eternal life? James 2:9.

I think also demons believe in the unknowability of God. Whatever is unknown or even unknowable causes fear. That is why the demons tremble. And so do Muslims. And Calvinists get close to this attitude. They don't believe that God removed the mystery about Himself.

If someone is a Christian, then Christ is in him, and the father is in him. He can then do some work of the father, like Jesus did the works of the father. Christians can draw people according to John 6:44. But Calvinists deny that Christians can draw others exactly as they themselves were drawn. Why do Calvinists never explain the mystery of conversion? Calvin wrote a lot of things. But he did not answer the mystery of John 6:45, which is this: what does the father teach there? and neither did he solve the problem of the preceding verse 44: what does God do there?

However, these questions are the key to understanding the mystery of conversion and "irresitible grace". If Calvinists would only teach other persons what they have "heard and learned" from God, then they would thereby publish the access data to heaven and do the works of the father. Unfortunately Calvinists don't do that and only say something like: "I have my faith, Lord willing, God will enlighten you by His grace as well".

Sadly, Calvinists do not seem to have the father in them.

Calvin did not become God's co-savior. He left the christian community with a mysterious God - like Allah.

a helmet said...

examining,

I've already seen that site. And yes, I am interested.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Helmet,

Are you saying that Christians are co-saviors with God?

a helmet said...

Kevin,

Most assuredly, Christians are co-saviors with God. Or what do you think does it mean to put your light on a lampstand so that people coming in can see the light ?

I don't have a bible at hand right now, but in John 17:6;22 (if I remember the verses right) Jesus says something like "the glory that You have given me, I have given to them"

The glory is the light Christians receive from God. They can and shall let this light radiate, putting it on a lampstand, thereby doing the saving work of the father.

Didn't Jesus do the works of the father and say "the father is in me"? And inasmuch as the father is in you, you become God's co-savior.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

Is Helmet's position that we are co-saviors with Christ consistent with the Arminian system?

Examining Calvinism said...

Hey Kevin,

I just posted an analogy from an Arminian book which answers the question. See the last quote, specifically.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

So I'm thinking that Helmet's position is not exactly typical of Arminian thinking? Specifically, you would disagree with his assessment of the believer as a "co-savior" with Christ, I take it.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

As to Abraham's bosom, what do you make of Rev. 13:8. In the KJV, it refers to the Lamb Who was "slain from the foundation of the world." In the ESV, it is translated as those whose names were "written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain." Either way you go on translating it into English, you get the sense that this was all planned way before any OT saints were in Abraham's bosom.

I maintain: the Cross was not Plan B.

Richard Coords said...

Hey Kevin,

Focusing on the first point, there is a big difference between something that is "from" the foundation of the world vs. something that is from "before" the foundation of the world. Take Luke 11:49-51 for instance: “‘For this reason also the wisdom of God said, “I will send to them prophets and apostles, and some of them they will kill and some they will persecute, so that the blood of all the prophets, shed since the foundation of the world, may be charged against this generation, from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the house of God; yes, I tell you, it shall be charged against this generation.”’” So if you similarly inserted “before” [Greek: pro] then wouldn't you be forced to conclude that the prophets were martyred before they were born?

In other words, "since or from the foundation of the world," implies something from Genesis to present, while "from before the foundation of the world," implies something pre-Genesis. My advice is to check the original greek in order to see if the greek word for "before" is found at Revelation 13:9.

By the way, on Ben Stein's post, I wasn't trying to take a pot-shot at Calvinists, but only trying to take a sober look at the history of intolerance and persecution within the Protestant community, in order to identify warning signs that may pop up in modern settings. Calvinist churches of today, are just as capable of a "Gestapo" mentality as Arminian or non-Calvinist churches. I've seen it first hand.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

By the way, on Ben Stein's post, I wasn't trying to take a pot-shot at Calvinists, but only trying to take a sober look at the history of intolerance and persecution within the Protestant community, in order to identify warning signs that may pop up in modern settings. Calvinist churches of today, are just as capable of a "Gestapo" mentality as Arminian or non-Calvinist churches. I've seen it first hand.

I am unfamiliar with your local and personal experiences with Calvinists, but I would happily compare the grace and patience with an opponent on the doctrines of grace by a John Piper, John MacArthur or anyone else on the Calvinist Conference Circuit with the Caners Grim and others.

I have, at least, appreciated the tone of our discussion.

Kevin Rhyne said...

Richard,

I think the core issue on this "saved without faith" objection is the determination of the timing of salvation. To say that someone will infallibly come to faith because Christ has purchased them, does not make them saved before they exist or even before they repent and believe.

Salvation is contingent on faith and repentance of the sinner. Calvinists believe that Scripture teaches Christ purchased the faith and repentance necessary to meet the contingency for those given to Him by the Father. They must believe to be saved and willingly believe. I think Ps. 110, especially v. 3 speaks beautifully to this.

In a sense, you could say that Calvinists believe in an "unlimited" atonement as to its effect for those for whom it was designed; whereas Arminians believe in a limited atonement as to effect - it gets everyone equally to the potential of salvation.

Richard Coords said...

Hey Kevin.

Honestly, I really wasn’t trying to make an accusation against the integrity of Calvinists. Piper and MacArthur are fine Christians. I’m simply trying to say that what we see in the Scientific community had also plagued the Protestant community back in the 1600’s, and therefore all of us as Christians, Calvinist and Arminian alike, need to have a watchful eye. Yes, I did come from a Calvinist Church that was very intolerant, and which also kicked out my Calvinist brother in Law, for reasons that border on cultic. But by God’s grace, he was able to share his experience with another Calvinist, D. James Kennedy, and my brother in law shared with me their conversation, where Kennedy discussed similar intolerances that he also experienced. It’s a long story, but the point is to be on guard.

You wrote: “To say that someone will infallibly come to faith because Christ has purchased them, does not make them saved before they exist or even before they repent and believe.”

Fair enough, but I reiterate White’s quote: “The difference, then, between Hunt's view and the Reformed view of the atonement is simply this: Did Christ actually save anyone at the cross, or did He simply make people savable?" (Debating Calvinism, p.171) So White seems to indicate that the atonement “save” them. But if he meant that the atonement “saves” by providing faith, then that’s understandable, but my question is where in Scripture are we told that the atonement generates faith?

a helmet said...

The atonement does not save anyone without the resurrection. Paul says "If Christ has not risen, then you have believed in vain, and are still in your sins (Somewhere 1 Cor. 15)

So the death of Chirst does not accomplish any forgiveness alone

Richard Coords said...

That's a good point, as that verse clearly states, and the fact that one must then believe in the resurrection in order to be "saved," as per Romans 10:9-10.

a helmet said...

Richard,
as to what the death of Christ actually accomplished, you might read also:

http://meditationonthegospelofjohn.blogspot.com/2008/07/whom-did-christ-die-for.html

a helmet said...

An important key verse to the question about faith and the preceding regeneration might be John 12:36:

In order to become a child of the light, one must believe in the light. So if one is a child of the light one is "born again." And this is AFTER beleiving.

Reading the concept of preemptive regeneration into that verse is sheer eisegesis

Richard Coords said...

Hey Helmet,

On the basis of Eph 1:13, I agree.

Have you had a chance to contact SEA yet? Here is the contact information:

http://www.evangelicalarminians.com/contact

I'll check out that Blog article tonight and comment in that post.

a helmet said...

Yes, I contacted it.

a helmet said...

Addition:

35Then Jesus told them, "You are going to have the light just a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, before darkness overtakes you. The man who walks in the dark does not know where he is going. 36Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light." When he had finished speaking, Jesus left and hid himself from them.

So, one shall believe in the light so that one becomes a son of light. A "son of light" is someone who is in the light = "can see" = have knowledge of the truth.
When did he become a son of light? Answer: While the light was there he could see and thereby receive the light=life (John 1:4). "So that" means "in order to". One gets into the light (son of light) because the light is there. No one believes in the light because he is somehow already a "son of light". Such is utter eisegesis and a violation of the text.

And a "son of light" is a "son of God" is "born of God".

Gary said...

How many steps did you complete to receive the "free gift" of Salvation?

Is this a "free" gift?

I tell my child that I have an incredible gift for him. However, in order for the gift to be his, he must:

1. apologize for his bad behavior and sincerely mean it.
2. he must commit to change his ways and follow MY ways for the rest of his life.
3. he must make a decision that he WANTS my gift.
4. he must then approach me, hold out his hands, ask me for the gift, and cooperate with me, as I place the gift into his hands.

If he does all this, he will receive his gift. But...if he chooses to reject my gift, I will damn him to HELL!

Now is this "gift" really a gift...or a REWARD for making the right decision?

No, that is NOT a gift.
.
This is a gift: "Dear Son, I have a gift for you. Here it is. I love you more than words can describe", and then I place the gift in my son's lap. No strings attached. The gift is his. He did nothing to receive it. I did everything.

THAT is a gift!

So what is God's free gift? It is the whole salvation package: faith, belief, repentence, forgiveness of sins, atonement, and eternal life. It is ALL free... to those whom God has predestined, before the world existed, for reasons we do not know, to be his children.

http://www.lutherwasnotbornagain.com/2013/07/how-many-steps-did-you-complete-to.html