Saturday, March 17, 2007

Depravity, Judgment and Prevenient Grace

Classical Arminianism affirms that unregenerate man is morally depraved, and cannot meet the perfect standard of a holy God, and man therefore faces the judicial penalty of God's wrath against sin.

Jesus states: "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." (John 3:18)

"Judged already." Therefore, if any man is going to be saved, God must intervene. Man is not left to himself. Jesus states: "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost." (Luke 19:10)

Question: How is man, who is morally depraved, able to voluntarily repent, believe and be saved, when Jesus comes seeking after him? According to Calvinism, the answer is that man (that is, only those of the alleged, eternal flock of the Father), voluntarily accept Christ because they are preemptively made Born Again, through being preemptively placed in Christ, before he hears and believes in the Gospel and is sealed in Christ, as per Ephesians 1:13. In contrast, the Arminian answer is that man is NOT in Christ until he is first sealed in Christ, and that a man is not sealed in Christ until AFTER he first hears and believes in the Gospel. On that basis, the Arminian dismisses the Calvinist explanation of preemptive placement in Christ.

The Arminian next asks whether God is powerful enough to save an unregenerate man through man's own morally depraved will? The answer is Yes, and Adrian Rogers explains how God does this:

Adrian Rogers explains: “Spiritual blindness makes beggars of us all. ... The blind need more than light in order to see. ... I used to think, as a young preacher, that what you had to do to get people saved is just to tell them how to be saved. Just turn on the light. But it doesn’t matter how much light there is, or the person is blind because he cannot see it. It takes more than light, it takes sight. And a person who is blind cannot see the light, no matter how strong the light is or how pure the light is. It takes more than preaching to get people saved. That’s the reason I frequently say to you, I can preach truth, but only the Holy Spirit can impart truth. That is the reason why we must be a praying church. That’s the reason you must be a spirit filled soul winner. That is the reason that we must have the anointing, because we are dependent upon God to open blinded eyes to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It takes more than light, it takes takes sight. We need to understand that nobody can be argued into the kingdom of heaven. Nobody can be educated into the kingdom of heaven. I’m not against letting the light shine. You must let the let shine. You must preach. But remember, there is another dimension.” (Jesus is God’s Answer to Man’s Darkness: John 20:30, emphasis mine)

In order for a man to receive the light of the Gospel, he must receive sight from the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts the world of its sin (John 16:8), pricks the heart of the lost (Acts 26:14), pierces the heart of the lost (Acts 2:37) and opens the heart of the lost so that they can respond to the Gospel. (Acts 16:14) This is not what God does to the regenerate heart, but the unregenerate heart. It’s not the new birth either, which new birth is solely reserved for the redeemed in Christ. Rather, the Holy Spirit's Illumination of the unregenerate, who are condemned and already judged, is the spiritual sight given to the lost in order that the lost may see, and receive Jesus into their heart. Supernatural Sight is the working of the Holy Spirit, through the supernatural Light of the faith-producing Gospel (Romans 10:17), that enables a man to repent, believe and be saved. Adrian Rogers explains that this is why Christians need to pray for the lost, that God may touch their hearts in order to receive sight, that they might respond to the light. Though it is not irresistible, God, for His part, is willing that you become in Christ, and share in all that which God the Father has sovereignly bestowed in His Son, who stands knocking on the door of your heart. (Revelation 3:20)


Anonymous said...

can you expound further on your reasoning for interpreting "it is hard to kick against the goads" as equivalent to "the Holy Spirit is 'piercing' your heart to gently convict you of the truth?"

also, are there examples in scripture of God pricking or opening hearts only to have those people reject Him? BTW, matt 23:37 doesn't those who are unwilling (i.e. Jerusalem/the pharisees) are not the same as those He is trying to gather (i.e. the children.) i'm just saying...

as a calvinist, i partially agree with you on rom 10:17 - preaching and missions are the normative way to spread the gospel. (i do think it's funny that arminians aren't struck by the fact that paul rejected the gospel when preached by stephen and company - he killed them and put them in jail - but accepted it only when he heard it directly from God...and got knocked off his camel and blinded. there also seems to be very little "free choice" in his story...but i digress...)

it's interesting that arminians like billy graham and c.s. lewis(of whom i generally think very highly) both DENY romans 10:9-17. NOT that this is true of all arminians (i think it's still pretty rare, which is great) but i do believe it grows out of an effort to give "free choice" to those who have not been presented with Jesus as an option. so while i agree that calvinists who deny the need for missions are damaging the scriptures to defend a man-made philosophy, i would like to point out that arminians are not as safe as they might think.

graham: "They may not even know the name of Jesus but they know in their hearts that they need something that they don't have, and they turn to the only light that they have, and I think that they are saved, and that they're going to be with us in heaven."

c.s. lewis: "There are people in other religions who are being led by God’s secret influence to concentrate on those parts of their religion which are in agreement with Christianity, and who thus belong to Christ without knowing it."

Richard Coords said...

To Anonymous:

Graham's and Lewis' comment is shocking.

You wrote: "Are there examples in scripture of God pricking or opening hearts only to have those people reject Him?"

Paul heard the Gospel preached through Stephen and was convicted by the Holy Spirit, and Jesus told him that it was hard to kick against the goads, which I infer as the goading, piercing, pricking and conviction of the Holy Spirit, as per John 16:8, upon the "unregenerate" heart, which until Damascus, he had long been kicking and resisting.

King Agrippa confessed that he almost was persuaded to become a Christian. Obviously he felt some level of conviction by the Holy Spirit, through Paul's testimony.

Isaiah 65:2 also relays God's grace to Israel, in reaching out to them all day long, which they rejected.

In these examples, I think you have a sample of Prevenient Grace.