When describing the “totally depraved” condition of man resulting from the Fall, a Calvinist will often qualify the view by saying mankind is “not as bad as they could be.” However, Calvinists apparently presume, without clear biblical support, that mankind is as totally unable to respond to God’s own revelation as they could be. Here is how the Calvinist explains their concept of “Total Inability:”
“Man, by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.” (Particular Baptist Confession of 1689)
The key point in this statement is the sentence that reads, “…and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.”
- “dead in sin:” Are we born dead like Lazarus, a corpse rotting in the tomb (a link scripture never draws), or are we dead like the Prodigal, a loved one living in rebellion? Scripture seems to support the latter, not the former (Luke 15:32).
- “is not able by his own strength:” Given that we cannot draw our next breath if not by the gracious good pleasure of our Sovereign Lord, I’m not sure how this qualification helps clarify our point of contention. God gives us all we have, including our ability to make choices. In other words, we all affirm that God must enable choice. We do not all agree that such enabling will dictate which choice will be made. As AW Tozer argues, “…the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.”
- “to convert himself:” In response to a doctor’s diagnosis, is recognizing your need for a heart transplant and submitting to the doctor’s will to perform the surgery equal with preforming the surgery yourself? Of course not. An Ethiopian cannot change his own skin, nor can a leopard change his own spots (Jer. 13:23), but that does not even imply that they cannot recognize and submit to this needed change when confronted by the only one who is able to bring about such change.
- “or prepare himself thereunto:” Can the powerful, spirit wrought truth of God’s inspired Word prepare him thereunto? Does one’s ability to resist such preparation and enabling work somehow negate that the work is sufficient to accomplish its given purpose?
Here is a brief rebuttal of the most common proof texts used by Calvinists to support their teaching on “Total Inability.” Much more could be and has been written on each of these texts from the non-Calvinistic perspective, but for the sake of brevity here is a summary of the rebuttals:
Genesis 6:5: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Nothing at all is stated about man’s inability to respond to God’s own revelation. Please read all of Genesis chapter 6 and make a case as to how that supports the Calvinistic premise. Here is just a taste of the context:
“The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.”
As one Calvinist on a recent podcast inquired in response to this passage, “Why didn’t God just elect more people instead of becoming ‘deeply troubled?’”
Romans 3:10-11: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.”
No one is righteous according to the works of the law. No one is able to attain righteousness by law through works. But how does that prove no one is able to attain righteousness by grace through faith? In verse 21 of this same chapter Paul introduces the means for man to attain righteousness, which is separate from the law. Calvinists seem to think that proof of our inability to earn righteousness through our own works likewise proves our inability to trust in the imputed righteousness of Christ.
KEY POINT: Proving that the lost cannot seek God does not prove that they are unable to respond to a God who is actively seeking to save the lost.
Romans 8:7-9: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.”
Mankind’s inability to submit to God’s law does not prove their inability to trust in Christ who fulfilled the law for mankind. Mankind’s inability to please God while acting in the flesh does not prove mankind’s inability to respond to the spiritual appeal of God so as to receive his spirit.
If I warn my rebellious son saying, “You cannot please me by acting selfishly,” does that suggest the child is unable to heed my warning, humble himself and repent of acting selfishly? Of course not. It only suggests that as long as my child continues to rebel and act according to his pride that he will not please me. This verse says nothing of man’s inability to respond to God’s powerful truth and appeal to humble ourselves. Each individual has the choice to remain in their flesh and pride or respond to the spirit’s call to humble themselves. If you choose the former YOU CANNOT PLEASE GOD.
KEY POINT: Neither side is suggesting that man can please God apart from His enabling grace. So, the question is whether or not the grace is enabling (as John 6:65 teaches), or does this grace irresistibly cause which choice the individual will make (as Calvinism presumes)?
1 Corinthians 2:14: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.”
So, the lost man needs someone to spiritually discern the “deep things of God” (vs. 10), right? What are the means God uses to discern spiritual truths to mankind? Is not the very epistle that Paul is writing to the carnal believers in Corinth a means of “spiritual discernment?” And since the “brethren” in the Corinthian church are “not able to receive” these same “deep things of God” (1 Cor. 3:1-3) one would be hard pressed to suggest that Paul was intending to teach that no one is able to understand the simple gospel appeal to be reconciled unless they are first reconciled.
Again, this text never suggests that mankind is born unable to respond to God’s clearly discerned gospel appeal. It only affirms that that mystery of the gospel must be discerned for us, which it has been. As Paul states, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.” Eph. 3:4
KEY POINT: Neither side is suggesting that lost men can understand the deep spiritual truths of God apart from the means God has chosen to discern these mysteries. So, the question is whether God’s means of discernment through the apostles is a sufficient work of discernment that enables those who hear it to respond?
John 6:44a: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.
We all agree with this statement. But what are the means that God draws men to Himself?
In Romans 10:14-15 Paul says, “How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent?” (emphasis added)
Follow the order:
(1) God Sends: Who does He send? His apostles, the remnant reserved from Israel. The rest of the Israelites are being judicially hardened in their rebellion temporarily while Christ is on earth (Rom. 11). Jesus speaks to them in parables so that they cannot understand and repent (Mark 4:11-12). He does this to ensure the crucifixion that He has predetermined will come to pass (Acts 2:23). It is not until after Christ is lifted up that he sends out his spirit filled messengers to preach the gospel to all peoples (Acts 1:8) in order to draw all men to himself (John 12:32).
(2) Apostles Preach: What do they preach? The powerful gospel appeal (Rom 1:16; 2 Cor. 5:20), which is alive, active and able to cut through to the soul of man (Heb. 4:12). Remember this is the powerful gospel that is being hidden in parables from most of Israel while Christ is on earth in order to prevent them from repenting before the right time (Matt. 16:20; Matt. 13:11). Proof that God used persuasive means to convince chosen messengers from Israel to go and proclaim His message is not proof that God uses inward irresistible means to convince preselected hearers to believe their message (John 20:30-31).
(3) Hearers Hear: Who are the hearers? Anyone who is not being judicially hardened, like Israel was at that time. Only those who are being blinded from seeing the light are unable to see the light and that blinding (judicially hardening) is not a condition from birth, but a condition unique to Israel at that time. For clarity one should consider what Paul said in Acts 28:27-28:
“For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ ‘Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!’” (emphasis added)
Notice that they BECOME calloused, they are not born as such. Notice their abilities OTHERWISE? They might see, hear, understand and turn. Notice the contrast with the nation of Israel and the rest of the world? “They will listen!” Why does the apostle draw this contrast if indeed all mankind is born unable to see, hear, understand and turn? This is a question Calvinists must be willing to address.
(4) Hearing is “how they can believe”: As Paul states in the follow verses, “faith comes from hearing the message,” which parallels what John taught in John 20:31: “…these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”
The ONLY reason that a hearer would not be enabled to respond to the life giving truth of God’s appeal is if they are being prevented from seeing, hearing or understanding the message, a condition of someone being judicially hardened by God (not a condition of everyone from birth as Calvinists presume). By believing, mankind may have life! (John 20:31)
(5) Believing is “how they can call” : One who has heard the powerful gospel appeal calling us to repentance and faith is able to believe. The believer is able to call on Christ in repentance in order to find forgiveness and life. Mankind must repent in order to live! (Ezek. 18:32)
KEY POINT: The historical context of John 6 must be in view to understand the author’s intention. Jesus is purposefully blinding most Israelites from the truth to prevent their repentance for a time. All the while, He is drawing His preselected apostles from Israel, by means of signs and wonders, to be the foundation for His church. In other words, in Christ’s audience there are some who are being judicially hardened from Israel and others who are being drawn from Israel (convinced through signs) in order to ensure God’s purpose in electing Israel would be fulfilled.
Here is a list of podcasts on the subject of Total Depravity/Inability:
Common Proof Texts Calvinists use to Support Total Inability
Preaching in a Graveyard with John Piper
62 thoughts on “The Walking Dead: Man’s Fallen Condition”
Pastor Flowers writes, “When describing the “totally depraved” condition of man resulting from the Fall, a Calvinist will often qualify the view by saying mankind is “not as bad as they could be.”
I don’t see that this “qualifies” Total Depravity. Calvinists recognize that God restrains corrupt people such that a man does not display his corruptness to the extent that he would if he could. An example of God’s restraint: “…Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; …And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time.For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way.” Similarly, God restrains people from doing all the evil they desire.
Anyway, the comment seemed extraneous to the discussion that followed. I did not understand why you included it.
The point was to say that while Calvinists recognize that mankind is not a corrupt as they could be they do not appear to recognize that mankind is not as totally unable to respond to God Himself as they could be… In other words, they aren’t as corrupts as they could be by God’s design, so why couldn’t they likewise be response-able to God’s revelation by God’s design as well? No passage seems to suggest otherwise IMO
As you explain later, “…we all affirm that God must enable choice.” No person can respond to the gospel until enabled by God to do so.
Pastor Flowers writes, “…we all affirm that God must enable choice.”
Did you really mean to say this? If God must enable choice, then how is Total Depravity not an accurate description of man before God enables choice and that which necessitates that God enable choice? There must be a reason why God must enable choice. If not Total Depravity, then what do you propose as a substitute explanation?
My article attempted to explain this. The GOSPEL is the chosen means to graciously enable the fallen to be reconciled. The confusion comes when we theological systematize the means to make them appear separate from the gracious work of the spirit. The gospel IS God’s spiritual and gracious means. Faith comes by hearing!
Pastor Flowers writes, “The GOSPEL is the chosen means to graciously enable the fallen to be reconciled. The confusion comes when we theological systematize the means to make them appear separate from the gracious work of the spirit. The gospel IS God’s spiritual and gracious means. Faith comes by hearing!”
Your key point is ” “The GOSPEL…enable(s) the fallen to be reconciled.” It does not reconcile but “enables” reconciliation. This “enablement” sounds the same as the Calvinist claim of regeneration to enable a person to be reconciled. After this enablement, a person then “hears” the gospel and thereby can respond in faith.
So, is there a difference between the “enablement” of the gospel by the gospel as you descibe and the regeneration of the Calvinist – necessarily preceding the faith response of the person enabled?
Given that all people who come under the preaching of the gospel do not respond in faith leading us to conclude that they were not enabled, does this mean that those not responding were judicially hardened by God so that they could not respond – thus, non-elect?
rhutchin You speak about enablement being the “same as the Calvinist claim of regeneration to enable a person to be reconciled. After this enablement (you claim), a person then ‘hears’ the gospel and thereby can respond in faith.”
What you’re pretending is that enablement is the same as compulsion. Calvinists would have it that God decided from before the world began that those that respond in faith have already been chosen to do so and therefore what you call ‘enablement’ really means compulsion.
The enablement that the non-Calvinist speaks about really does carry the meaning of being able because of free-will, while the word is forced into an entirely different meaning by you, such that man has no real choice. Therefore ‘enablement’ according to you carries a completely different meaning .
Dr Flowers. Always appreciate your insight. Can I ask:
Even though men seek God it seems that the final act of salvation is granted by God and therefore election seems to champion again. Even the seeking itself could be something of a grace given to some men and not others. In terms of the actual gift and moment of salvation, men seem to be at the mercy of a miracle that only God can do regardless of their seeking Him.
Extending this idea more generally it would seem that men like Cornelius sought God only because they were given a special ability to do so that other men were not. Therefore, it seems that the reason Cornelius sought and believed God was because God gave him a special ability to do so; a seeking ability He does not give to all men. Cornelius sought Him and believed in Him but actually it was God who granted him this ability to seek Him. He thus allows some to seek Him unto salvation and others he does not allow to seek Him OR allows to seek Him but never grants salvation.
SO – are all men sincerely able to seek God unto salvation or are those who seek God doing so only because He has granted them a special grace to do so?
Are we able to seek God simply on the basis of our being made in His image OR does He grant a special prior grace for some to seek Him and others not? Would so appreciate your input.
Greg, you will probably find more success getting a response from Leighton by befriending him on FB and trying to get him to interact there when you see him interacting. He doesn’t interact too much here.
Also, I thought I gave you the Scriptural evidence of how everyone does sufficiently hear from God, enabling them to seek, and requiring that they at least make a feel freewill response to the light God gave them to seek Him and His mercy.
Thanks Brian will give fb a try – yes you did and it was helpful just really like to get various views on what people think but you did answer the question – thanks Brian
I’m sorry to s ay – Dr.Flowers due to his schedule – is hardly ever here to interact.
A few years ago – he was.
But his schedule pulled him into too many other duties
Thank you Brother Flowers for a good discussion on another aspect of Calvinism’s misinterpretation of Scripture’s teaching, that is, their teaching concerning man’s lost condition and their rejection of God’s gracious interaction with it to give every man an opportunity to personally accept or reject the gospel and the Savior that will save his soul! As you have pointed out, their misinterpretation of the meaning of death is a big one. Instead of the modern medical idea of ceasing to function, which the Calvinist tries to draw upon, the biblical idea for death is one primarily separation, sentenced under God’s wrath, but still with an active spirit that can respond positively or negatively to God’s gracious initiatives.
If I may add to your discussion on – How shall they hear without a preacher? – Praise God that He is out there preaching to everyman (Rom 10:18) at some point in their lives through creation and conscience at least (cf. Rom 1 & 2) and drawing them to an opportunity of salvation. I also like Paul’s use of ἀσθενης in Romans 5:6 to describe the lost condition. Apart from the poor Calvinist translation of “without strength” in the KJV, this word is normally used by Paul to mean weakness (and in the Gospels, sickness). IMO I see each lost man as spiritually sick with a terminal disease, unable to heal himself or even send for the doctor. But the doctor comes anyway and offers him that which will raise him up from his condition. He can trust the doctor and open his mouth to receive the cure, or He can distrust the doctor and close tight his lips. The reasons for trusting or distrusting are his to weigh and decide. But he is response-able the moment the doctor makes the offer! And as you know, from previous posts of mine, I think he is only able while the doctor tarries by his bedside. The doctor will leave and may never return!
“Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart!” (Heb. 3:7-8) is God’s call to the lost… It cannot be His call to an elect person according to Calvinistic thinking, for in their thinking an elect person cannot harden their heart against God’s call. Also in their faulty thinking a lost person cannot hear His voice. This verse is an excellent example of God’s gracious initiative for all to be saved!
brianwagner writes, ““Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart!” (Heb. 3:7-8) is God’s call to the lost… It cannot be His call to [just] an elect person according to Calvinistic thinking, for in their thinking an elect person [would] not harden their heart against God’s call. Also in their faulty thinking a lost person [will] not hear His voice. This verse is an excellent example of God’s gracious initiative for all to be saved!”
brianwagner argues against Pastor Flowers statement that “…we all affirm that God must enable choice.” If God must enable choice, then God is in control and becomes the cause of some becoming saved and some not. Thus, brianwagner’s solution is that it is the gospel that enables choice, which Pastor Flowers also seems to say. Pastor Flowers needs to drop the idea that “God must enable choice,” and maintain that each and every person is enabled by the preaching of the gospel to accept the gospel with the exceptions of those whom God judicially hardens or allows to be blinded to the gospel.
brianwagner relies on the preaching of the gospel to draw the person to Christ without the need for God to enable the person to be drawn. The difficulty here is to explain how some hear the gospel and are drawn to it and some are not. If some accept it, how can any reject it – unless, as Pastor Flowers explains it, God prevents them from accepting it?
Pastor Flowers is countering the Calvinist claim that God enables the elect to accept the gospel with his claim that God disables the reprobate from accepting the gospel.
Rhutchin, you can be very exasperating! First you adequately quote from my contribution, with some additions in brackets that are fine, but then you do not even deal with the reasoning of that quote. Next you state that I am arguing against Brother Flowers concerning God’s enablement, but without giving any proof, and then you turn around and say “Pastor Flowers also seems to say” the same thing as I am saying about God’s enablement. Then you ignore my very clear illustration of how everyone could have a number of reasons for trusting or distrusting God when the presentation of the gospel is made, but that they are still enabled at that moment by God to accept or reject. And finally, your last statement is not even germane to the main idea of this blog.
I really believe you need to read more closely the things that you want to critique and also read more closely your responses before posting them. I assume that you truly wish to defend Calvinism against what you must feel is harmful teaching being presented on this site, but you are actually probably frustrating Calvinists who read your often disconnected and often irrelevant attempts.
I truly would like to know your response to the statement of mine explaining Heb. 3:7-8. Would you like to make another attempt? Who are these verses addressing in your view? Or how could they be addressing someone who is elect in your view in light of your view of irresistible grace? Give those specific questions a try. Ok? Thanks.
You asked, “Given that all people who come under the preaching of the gospel do not respond in faith leading us to conclude that they were not enabled, does this mean that those not responding were judicially hardened by God so that they could not respond – thus, non-elect?”
No. I am arguing that the only reason the Israelites were unable to respond freely was because they were being judicially hardened in their rebellion. Thus the only reason someone is unable to hear, see, or understand the gospel is if God has hardened them. And according to Scripture the only reason God might Harden a rebellious person is to accomplish a greater redemptive purpose through them. There is no reason to think God is actively hardening people today in the same wayhe hardened the Israelites. If someone rejects the Gospel today they do so freely and are fully responsible for that choice. They do not have the excuse that God made them that way or rejected them.
Additionally, it must be noticed that those in Israel who were hardened by God still had hope of being saved if provoked by envy. See Romans 11:14
Pastor Flowers writes, “If someone rejects the Gospel today they do so freely and are fully responsible for that choice.”
I think this depends on your concept of “freely.” I take this to mean that the person is not coerced to reject the gospel, but not that he had free will. A person with free will always accepts the gospel.
Regardless, are you saying that judicial hardening was something that happened in the Bible in very specific instances and has nothing to do with anything happening today?
When I say “freely” I do mean “Contra-Causally free” (the ability to refrain or not refrain from any given moral action). Or the basic meaning of the word “choice” (to select between two AVAILABLE options).
I do not believe repentance is AVAILABLE to the non-elect reprobate of Calvinism, thus one cannot rightly call that a “choice.”
Also, I’m saying that God’s active work of judicial hardening in scripture is ALWAYS:
1. Done to those who have already grown self-hardened/calloused by their own FREE choice. In other words, they reject because the cc freely chose to, not because God rejected them.
2. To accomplish a greater redemptive good for all. And in the case of Israel even those hardened were ultimately benefitted by God’s action to blind them. Redemption was accomplished so that they too might be saved.
Can God still judicially harden men in their calloused rebellion today? Sure. But I see no reason to ASSUME that, do you?
Pastor Flowers writes, “When I say “freely” I do mean “Contra-Causally free” (the ability to refrain or not refrain from any given moral action). Or the basic meaning of the word “choice” (to select between two AVAILABLE options).”
The idea behind contra-causal freedom is the ability to choose otherwise. The only decision that really makes a difference is the salvation decision. If a person has contra-causal freedom, then he, (1) is aware of the choices before him – eternal life and eternal death, (2) has a sense of the relative values of those choices and the benefits to him, and (3) is able to make rational decisions. A person with contra-causal freedom will always choose salvation – thus, Calvinism says that God takes the person who is Totally Depraved having no contra causal freedom, regenerates the person enabling contra-causal freedom and then, on hearing the gospel, the person readily accepts salvation. A person who chooses eternal death makes a highly irrational decision and cannot be said to have contra-causal freedom – he must still be in a state of totally depravity.
The problem for the non-Calvinist is to explain how a person with contra-causal freedom (sometimes called true of genuine free will) can make the choice of eternal death that entails such extreme negative benefits and call that a rational (contra-causal) choice.
Pastor Flowers writes, “Can God still judicially harden men in their calloused rebellion today? Sure. But I see no reason to ASSUME that, do you?”
If people are only self-hardened and retain contra-causal freedom, then the preaching of the gospel will result in their salvation. Those who are lost would be those who never hear the gospel preached. That is why we both want to send missionaries all over the world. I, being a Calvinist, would expect God to use that preaching to save His elect. We can conclude that those who hear the gospel and are not saved would have been judicially hardened (in Calvinist lingo, are Totally Depraved).
You wrote: “If people are only self-hardened and retain contra-causal freedom, then the preaching of the gospel will result in their salvation. ”
That is your point to prove…the bible says “so that they may believe” not “so that they will certainly do so.”
Pastor Flowers writes, “That is your point to prove…the bible says “so that they may believe” not “so that they will certainly do so.”
Each time the phrase “that you/they/the world may believe” is found, the context is one of something being done to provide information to a person that would be so compelling as to cause the person to believe.
John 11 – “Jesus [said] unto them plainly, Lazarus is dead. And I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, to the intent you may believe; nevertheless let us go unto him.”
“Then they took away the stone from the place where the dead was laid. And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank you that you heard me. And I knew that you hear me always: but because of the people which stand by I said it, that they may believe that you sent me. And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth.”
John 13 – “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eats bread with me has lifted up his heel against me. Now I tell you before it come, that, when it is come to pass, you may believe that I am he.”
John 17 – “Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that you sent me.”
1 John 5 – “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may believe on the name of the Son of God.”
In each case above, “may believe” suggests the certainty of belief because of that which is to happen that will provide the basis for belief. To this language, the non-Calvinist adds that the people in view have contra-causal freedom (i.e., true or genuine free will), so we should expect no other outcome than that they would believe. It is contra-causal freedom that takes “may believe” and turns it into “will certainly believe” and this is the expected outcome. For someone not to believe in the situations described above, we must conclude that something is terribly wrong – those who should believe don’t because they do not have contra-causal freedom.
Since when does “contra-causal” freedom force us to “expect no other outcome that that they would believe”? You have, Rhutchin, I assume, “contra-causal” freedom, but I don’t expect you to always obey God’s will for your life, even though He provides to you the grace to do so! If you are able to disobey, even with contra-causal freedom, then it is normal to read the above passages as being given to unbelievers who also have contra-causal freedom but “may” choose to disobey God’s call to receive His grace. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart” is that same gracious kind of call to unbelievers unto salvation, which proves they are response-able!
brianwagner writes, “Since when does “contra-causal” freedom force us to “expect no other outcome that that they would believe”?”
First, you need to describe what you mean by contra-causal freedom with reference to a salvation decision. Let me get you started.
1. Contra-causal freedom says that a person is able to “choose”. That tells us that the person is aware of the options available to him – eternal life and eternal death – from which he chooses one.
2. “choose otherwise” tells us that the person can see that the options are different and the person can distinguish between the options with one having enormous benefit and the other enormous cost.
3. As the person is created in God’s image, he is able to think rationally and the choices he makes will be consistent with the distinctions between the options.
The rational decision made by a person with contra-causal freedom is to choose eternal life (salvation). You may now argue against this.
If a person chooses eternal death, the irrationality of that decision leads us to conclude that his contra-causal freedom has been compromised – he does not have free will. The Scriptures describe people without contra-causal freedom as fools whose reasoning is foolish. The fool says in his heart, There is no God. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge aright: but the mouth of fools pours out foolishness. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness.
The challenge for you is to conceive a way for a person who has contra-causal freedom (often referred to as genuine or true free will) to reject salvation and choose eternal death. The Calvinist concluded that such could not happen unless the person be totally depraved.
Rhutcin, the choice is not between everlasting life and everlasting death but between a rational offer of how to have everlasting life and avoid everlasting death. A person may be convinced the offer is rational and even feels convicted that he should take it, but may choose for other selfish reasons or false assumptions to reject that offer for the moment… because a better one may come along, or the offer has temporal implications they do not want to face, or ultimately they do not want to stop trusting themselves and completely trust in the God who makes the clear offer.
They are response-able at that moment by the enlightenment and conviction of God, just like you are after regeneration. But you can reject or accept, even though you have even more clarity of God’s will. So too they can accept and reject God’s will because they have enough clarity and conviction of it from God also. That is why they are warned – Today if you hear His voice do not harden your heart! They may never have that clarity and conviction given to them again.
brianwagner writes, “Rhutcin, the choice is not between everlasting life and everlasting death but between a rational offer of how to have everlasting life and avoid everlasting death. A person may be convinced the offer is rational and even feels convicted that he should take it, but may choose for other selfish reasons or false assumptions to reject that offer for the moment… because a better one may come along, or the offer has temporal implications they do not want to face, or ultimately they do not want to stop trusting themselves and completely trust in the God who makes the clear offer. ”
Yep. That’s what irrationality is all about. Selfishness (that old sin nature) and false assumptions (even lies) destroy free will.
Rhutchin, don’t dance around the point, deal with it! Do you have a freewill that resists but still can accept God’s will even after regeneration? Then why is it too hard to believe that God can free-up man’s will to accept but still be able to resist God’s will before regeneration? It’s only hard for you to believe because you would rather trust a man-made theological system than the plain teaching of Scripture. Please think about it!
brianwagner writes, “Do you have a freewill that resists but still can accept God’s will even after regeneration?
Why argue with non seguiturs?? Have you never read the Scriptures.
Do you still not know what the Scriptures say about those whom God saves? Jesus said, “If you continue in my word, then you are my disciples indeed; And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” God has given us His word and it is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” We use that freedom we gain from our study of the Scriptures to do God’s will.
Thus Paul says, “Study to shew yourself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings:” and then, “be not conformed to this world: but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”
Why do we study the Scriptures if not to replace the trash we learn from the world with God’s wisdom and thereby free ourselves from sinful passions.
That which precedes this is that first decision – regarding salvation. It was God who “delivered us from the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son:” Also, “God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, has shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” It is because of God’s work to remove a person from darkness that rationality returns and the person accepts salvation – there can be no other outcome.
But Paul reminds us, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwells in me. I find then a law, that, when I would do good, evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” So, the disciple of Christ finds that he has not shed his old nature but must renew his mind replacing the filth of the world with the word of God and thereby, over time, gain his freedom from sin.
Don’t confuse the decision on salvation with decisions in the Christian life.
I guess, Rhutchin, we will have to let the reader decide if my argument follows reasonably! Just your saying it doesn’t follow, doesn’t make it true. You are saying a regenerated person still is able to resist God’s will in spite of God’s enabling grace. I am just saying that the Scripture says the same thing for the unregenerate person, that God’s enabling grace can still be resisted. The logic follows the clear Scripture’s teaching. “Today if you hear His voice, harden not your heart,” is a clear warning that one who is enabled by God’s grace, though not yet regenerate, can accept or resist. I hope you will believe the Bible and not your theological system on this! You can have the last word if you wish.
brianwagner writes, ” I am just saying that the Scripture says the same thing for the unregenerate person, that God’s enabling grace can still be resisted.”
Fine. Now get the Scriptures to say the same things. For this, you can start by reconciling Hebrews 3 with 1 Corinthians 1.
“Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:”
“we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;”
You really do not see how those verses fit together, Rhutchin? Really? The professing Jewish believers in Hebrews 3 are being warned not to be like some of the Jews in the wilderness who heard the voice of God but refused to believe. They were able to believe, but they hardened their heart. They heard the OT gospel but they did not put their trust in it.
Paul is saying in 1Cor. 1 that the Jews as a whole normally see the NT gospel as a stumbling block, and that the Gentiles as a whole normally see the gospel as foolishness. But thankfully God is speaking to all of them as individuals as some point, enlightening them and convicting them (John 1:12, 16:7-8), so the warning mentioned in Heb. 3 is appropriate for anyone, who is not yet saved – “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.” I hope this helps you see the connection.
brianwagner writes, “Paul is saying in 1Cor. 1 that the Jews as a whole normally see the NT gospel as a stumbling block, and that the Gentiles as a whole normally see the gospel as foolishness.”
This explains that the normal outcome is that none come to salvation.
brianwagner writes, “But thankfully God is speaking to all of them as individuals as some point, enlightening them and convicting them (John 1:12, 16:7-8), so the warning mentioned in Heb. 3 is appropriate for anyone, who is not yet saved – “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your heart.”
Here, the requirement that God must intervene else none could, or would, be saved. None come to salvation unless God first enlighten and convict them. To that, all seem to agree.
brianwagner writes, “I hope this helps you see the connection.”
So, we are agreeing that the reason why some are saved and others not saved is to be attributed to God’s actions to enlighten and convict. Thus, God’s actions result in some coming to salvation but not others. Had God wanted to save all, He could have and would have. The conclusion: God saved those He wanted to save; His elect.
We are saying the same thing that salvation is of the Lord. But we are also saying two entirely different things that speak to how loving and gracious we feel God has decided to be with those who bear His image.
We can let the reader decide if God’s grace and love is more glorified by the unbiblical teaching that He chose a few to be saved against their will (forcibly changing their will against their will) and then damned all the rest created in His image. OR… He graciously enables, according to His Word, that everyone can freely accept, though not irresistibly, His salvation.
I am praying that you would not keep rejecting this clear teaching of scripture for your loyalty to a manmade theology. You can have the last word if you wish.
brianwagenr writes, “We are saying the same thing that salvation is of the Lord.”
Salvation is of the Lord. Whether a person is brought to salvation or not is of the Lord. That salvation is of the Lord explains why some come to salvation and some do not.
God is certainly loving and gracious to His elect because He brings them to salvation and His elect rejoice in this.
Would those whom God does not bring to salvation agree with you that God was equally loving and gracious to them in not bringing them to salvation? Could not God have done more for them?
You conveniently left out “No one does good” when you quoted Romans. That is the proof that no one responds to the gospel in a good way. For to do so would mean that a person did good. We see the same idea in Jeremiah 17:9. Evil is in the natural man’s DNA. For him to do anything good, even to hear and respond correctly to the gospel, it would be like changing the leopard’s DNA so that it doesn’t have spots or changing the black man’s DNA so that his skin color isn’t black.
How do you define “good”? Scripture speaks of good works as that which merits ones salvation. We do not believe a decision to repent or confess ones inability to earn their own righteousness is a good work that earns their own righteousness. Admitting you can’t earn righteousness doesn’t earn righteousness. Christ’s righteousness is imputed to whosoever believes because God is gracious. Belief and repentance do not earn or merit grace as if they are victorious works (ie good).
Pastor Flowers writes, “How do you define “good”?’
My understanding is that those things done for the glory of God would be “good” in God’s eyes, and those things done for the glory of man would be “good” in man’s eyes but not in God’s eyes.
Ephesians 2 says, “[God’s elect/believers] are [God’s] workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” The only “good” done by man are the “good works” that come following salvation.
Sorry, the verse is Jeremiah 13:23, not Jeremiah 17:9.
I’d define good as anything that pleases God. Does faith in the gospel please God? Yes it does. Therefore saving faith must be good.
There is the problem. Goodness otherwise referred to as righteousness only comes from God because only he is good/righteous. No decision or belief or any thing else we can do or are enabled (effectually or freely) to do by God earns or merits righteousness. It is Christ’s righteousness alone and it is imputed to us by grace through faith. Faith itself is not righteous.
Which means it is not good in the biblical sense of the word.
Even Calvinists affirm we are saved by grace through faith. If you attempt to call Faith a good work then you create a problem for yourself as well because we would be saved by grace through a good work. That simply is not true. Faith is not meritous work of righteousness even if it’s brought about effectually.
Pastor Flowers writes, “If you attempt to call Faith a good work then you create a problem for yourself as well because we would be saved by grace through a good work.”
While faith is “good” it is not a “good work” and from it flow good works – “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before ordained that we should walk in them,” and necessarily so – “A good man (a believer) out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth that which is good; and an evil man (the reprobate) out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Your previous exposure to Calvinism serves you well here.
Dr. Flowers writes:
“When I say “freely” I do mean “Contra-Causally free” (the ability to refrain or not refrain from any given moral action). Or the basic meaning of the word “choice” (to select between two AVAILABLE options).
I do not believe repentance is AVAILABLE to the non-elect reprobate of Calvinism, thus one cannot rightly call that a “choice.”
My question for you Dr. Flowers:
If it could be proven from scripture itself that a non-contra-causally free scenario was considered a choice by scripture itself would you bring your philosophy of choice in line with scripture?
So suppose I found a passage where a Biblical author told a group of people to choose between two options: A and B. What if the author then told the group, “You can’t choose A.” Would you reject scripture’s teaching on the subject or would you bring your understanding of choice in line with scripture?
Hey McLeod, I’ll bite! 🙂 I love being surprised by being shown passages “chosen” (pun intended) to help prove Calvinism that I have not seen yet! And I certainly believe every Scripture should be adequately explained as to how it “fits” any comprehensive theological system. But I have personally found that when it comes to the meaning that is extrapolated from proof texts versus the tenor of Scripture, Calvinism’s proof texts fail.
Just present the text and your point please. I do not believe every action is free and I do believe God determines somethings so I’d need to see the passage your referencing.
The point I am trying to make is that maybe choices can be non-contra-causally free. And if scripture says so, then maybe our philosophy of choice and free will should be brought into subjection to that Biblical truth.
The passage in question is Joshua 24, a passage often quoted by Arminians. Arminians usually quote Joshua 24:15 as an out of context proof text showing that free will actually exists, but if you read the context, specially all of Joshua 24:14-28, it is clear that this choice is not a contra-causally free choice. For Joshua tells the Israelites in verse 19 that they can’t serve The Lord. Yet in verse 15 Joshua still calls it a choice.
So Biblically speaking, it isn’t right to say that an action isn’t a choice because it isn’t contra-causally free. In fact this passage seems to destroy the entire philosophical presupposition that ability is a prerequisite for responsibility.
Thanks for the verse discussion from Joshua, McLeod! It would be hard to read the context and think – “Joshua really doesn’t want any in the crowd to choose to serve God or that Joshua believes none in the crowd are able to choose to serve God unless God causes them to; enable maybe, but not cause!”
The context certainly has Joshua placing a choice before the Israelites as well as a warning. In verse 19, his statement – “He will not forgive your transgressions or your sins” is NOT a categorical promise, but a conditional warning, likewise, Joshua’s statement – “You are not able to serve the LORD” is NOT a categorical statement but part of the same conditional warning. The condition is given clearly in the next verse (20), “If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods.”
Joshua is saying they are not able to serve the LORD and foreign gods at the same time. They have to make a choice! And of course, he could also have been inferring that they are “not able to serve the LORD” in their own strength. But there is a difference between enablement and causation. The passage does not prove causation! Joshua got his desired effect from his speech and the crowd made a group commitment to serve the LORD.
The interchange is interesting.
24:2 begins, “Thus saith the LORD God of Israel,…” and continues down to v13. Joshua then seems to intervene and says:
14 Now therefore fear the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in truth: and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the LORD.
15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua gives the people two choices (of false gads), (1) the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood; and (2) the gods of the Amorites.
The Joshua declares, “as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
To this the people declare, “God forbid that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods;”
Interesting way to confront the people. They had to reject the choices put before them and intentionally choose to side with Joshua and serve the Lord.
What was the effect of this: “Israel served the LORD all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the LORD, that he had done for Israel.”
And then another verse I’d love to see an explanation of is John 10:26 where Jesus tells the Pharisees that their unbelief is not contra-causally free, that there is in fact a reason and a cause for their unbelief. And that cause, according to our Lord is not judicial hardening. The cause of their unbelief is “you are not of my sheep.” So the cause of unbelief according to our Lord is being a goat.
There is also John 5:18, “…the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.”
One characteristic of those who are not Christ’s sheep is that they do not believe that He is God.
I don’t think this position necessarily precludes judicial hardening. It might be argued that everyone was judicially hardened by God as a consequence of Adam’s sin determining their attitude toward Christ. Thus, the doctrine of Original Sin could include the judicial hardening of all mankind because of Adam’s sin. If all are judicially hardened as a consequence of Adam’s sin, then those who are Christ’s sheep would be those afterwards given to Christ by God per John 6.
Hi McLeod! For John 10:26, Jesus is not discussing how to become a sheep, He is exposing the truth that they were not one of His sheep by the evidence that they were not having a continuing faith (present tense) that He was the Christ (cf. vss. 24-25). If Jesus wanted to emphasize how to become a sheep, one would expect the Greek Aorist tense, to emphasize the start of faith or act of commitment to Jesus Himself.
Many in that crowd had rejected the invitation of John the Baptist and were now being judicially hardened to aid in the divine redemption plan. They would receive another opportunity to accept salvation by faith after Christ’s resurrection, especially at Pentecost.
“A person may be convinced the offer is rational and even feels convicted that he should take it, but may choose for other selfish reasons or false assumptions to reject that offer for the moment… because a better one may come along, or the offer has temporal implications they do not want to face, or ultimately they do not want to stop trusting themselves and completely trust in the God who makes the clear offer.” –Brian Wagner
Brian says this man has been “enabled” by hearing the gospel with his ears. But this person obviously is not enabled, for he remains dead in his sin, a slave to sin, which is proved by his desire to remain in it. This is not “freedom of will.” This proves his inability. This proves the extent of his depravity.
Hi Darren, Would you be willing to consider that when you, now enabled to do God’s will, but when you still sometimes reject it, it does not prove by your desire to remain out of the Lord’s will that you do not have freedom of will or inability? God’s enlightenment and conviction for salvation is enabling in the same way.
brianwagner writes, “Would you be willing to consider that when you, now enabled to do God’s will, but when you still sometimes reject it, it does not prove by your desire to remain out of the Lord’s will that you do not have freedom of will or inability? God’s enlightenment and conviction for salvation is enabling in the same way.”
I don’t think think this is necessarily true. If God has enlightened/convicted/enabled a person unto salvation, we should expect the person to believe God for salvation. For a person to do otherwise allows that God has not enlightened/convicted/enabled them. The only real proof that God actually did enlighten/convict/enable the person is their positive reaction to the gospel. Otherwise we can reasonably conclude that the god of this world still blinds them or they still view the gospel as foolishness – conditions indicating that God has not enlightened/convicted/enabled them. After all a salvation decision is a no-brainer.
When it comes to living by faith, Romans 7 supports the conclusion that sin continues to plague the believer so that no one lives a perfect life free of sin. Thus, we find much encouragement in the NT for believers to resist temptation and not sin. However, what “sins” are we dealing with? Believers do not seem to be dealing with murder, rape, bank robbery, or the like. Instead, it seems that believers are dealing with issues arising from their prior lives – bad habits of the flesh, so to speak – for which temptations appeal to the flesh. These may involve temptations to do things generally approved by society. Paul chastises the Corinthians because they tolerate a man who has (I take it to mean married) his father’s wife – something not condemned in Corinthian society. Today, we find believers being given contradictory advice on issues of dating unbelievers, divorcing a spouse, use of alcohol, sex outside marriage, abortion, and other things of which society approves. Additionally, people can have problems with anger and resentment, pornography, lust/coveting, and such which the gospel writers seem to have recognized. God does not seem to want to deliver believers from these temptations. By contrast, God’s enlightenment/conviction/enabling of a person preparing them for salvation does tear down all the barriers to a person coming to salvation – the final decision between eternal life and eternal death then being relatively easy to make.
Hi Darren, Roger Hutchinson says “God does not seem to want to deliver believers” from temptations to sins like pornography! He infers that God has not enabled through enlightenment and conviction believers to endure and escape these temptations. His view, of course, denies the truth of 1Cor 10:13. Are you ok with that? The point still remains that if God can and does enable a believer to do His will, and yet the believer is free to resist, it follows that God can, and Scripture supports that He does, enable a non-believer to do His will and yet the non-believer is free to resist. Faithfulness to man-made theological systems many times has caused unfaithfulness to the normal reading of Scripture! Roger has just illustrated that observation.
brianwagner writes, “‘God does not seem to want to deliver believers’ from temptations to sins like pornography! He infers that God has not enabled through enlightenment and conviction believers to endure and escape these temptations.”
This is what you should have written to accurately state my position – “‘God does not deliver believers from temptations like pornography!”
Believers are subject to such temptations, some more than others. Even you are not so foolish as to deny this. 1 Corinthians 10:13 provides assurance to believers who face these temptations that they can escape these temptations.
Believers are “free” to resist temptation but let’s remember Romans 7 where Paul writes, “I delight in the law of God after the inward man: But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.” To this Paul offers this encouragement, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” Our conclusion from all this is that not even believers live lives completely free of sin. Again, even you are not so foolish as to deny this.
What about non-believers? Does God enable them to accept salvation and can they resist? Do you have a way to determine that this scenario actually happens? Do we have testimonies from people who state that they understand the difference between eternal life and eternal death and they choose eternal death? I haven’t heard any. What I hear is people say that they don’t believe that foolishness. Wander over to the internet infidels website and read the stuff they write. I don’t see evidence of God’s enlightenment or enabling there.
Let us strive to be faithful to the Scriptures and to accurately state the positions of others on those Scriptures. You could do a better job there.
Here is Roger’s exact quote –
“Additionally, people can have problems with anger and resentment, pornography, lust/coveting, and such which the gospel writers seem to have recognized. God does not seem to want to deliver believers from these temptations.”
Here is my restatement with quotations around his own words –
Roger Hutchinson says “God does not seem to want to deliver believers” from temptations to sins like pornography!
There is no inaccuracy in stating his position! That is why I prefer not addressing Roger directly. He cannot even honestly and reasonably deal with his own words, let alone the Scriptures. The God of the Scripture DOES “seem to want to deliver believers from these temptations”! That is why He provides enablement to bear and escape them (1Cor. 10:13).
OK. Poor writing. God allows believers to face temptations – so, God does not seem to want to deliver them from temptations. Temptation is a part of the life of the believer. If God delivered believers from temptations – that is before the believer could be tempted – then believers would not be tempted and would not sin.
On the other hand, God does provide an escape for believers form temptations. That escape does not require God’s direct intervention to deliver the believer from the temptation. So, I would distinguish God delivering a person from temptation to be one thing and God providing an escape from temptation to be another. It’s the first cause – secondary cause distinction. Sorry for the confusion.
“As you explain later, “…we all affirm that God must enable choice. No person can respond to the gospel until enabled by God to do so.”
God enables the person through the Gospel…..Rom 10:17 So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. But the person must still make the choice to believe….there is no robot salvation by osmosis. As Jesus said….Mar 23:37…how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! The I in TULIP has zero support from Scripture. The real question is why would anyone teach such an unBiblical doctrine?