Why I Am Not An Arminian

I’ve often told people that I am not an Arminian, but that is not because I dislike Arminians; nor is it because we disagree over that many issues.  In fact, Traditional Southern Baptists, like myself, agree with much of what many good Arminian brothers teach. But, there are several differences I have with my Arminian friends that should be noted. For instance, some classical Arminians believe one can be genuinely reborn and later lose their salvation by apostasy.  I explain why I reject this view HERE.

Also, some Arminians teach the “foresight faith view” in order to explain God’s eternal plan of election. When I was a young Calvinist, I had been lead to believe the only real alternative to Calvinism was this seemingly strange concept of God “looking through the corridors of time to elect those He foresees would choose Him.” Notable Calvinistic teachers almost always paint all non-Calvinistic scholars as holding to this perspective. Once I realized other scholarly views were available, I became more open to consider them objectively.

I found a much more robust and theologically sound systematic in what is called “The Corporate View of Election,” which so happened to be the most popular view among the biblical scholars of my own denomination (Southern Baptists). Therefore, I have come to affirm the unified declaration of the author’s in the book titled Whosoever Will:

“We are neither Calvinists nor Arminians; we are Baptists!”

Even among Traditional Baptists, there exists various nuances over the nature of fallen humanity in response to God’s revelation. However, the Traditional statement, signed by many notable Traditional scholars, clearly denounces the concept of “Total Inability,” a view maintained by most classical Arminian scholars.

“Total Inability” is the belief that all humanity is born incapable of willingly coming to Christ for salvation even in light of the Holy Spirit wrought truth of the Gospel, unless God graciously works to empower the will of lost man (effectually by way of regeneration for the Calvinist, and sufficiently by way of “prevenient grace” for the Arminian). Traditionalists simply do not accept the presumption that the libertarian freedom of man’s will was lost due to the Fall. As article two of the Traditional statement says,

“We deny that Adam’s sin resulted in the incapacitation of any person’s free will or rendered any person guilty before he has personally sinned.”

Notable Arminian scholar, Roger Olson, critiqued the Southern Baptist Traditional statement by calling it “Semi-Pelagian” (which I addressed HERE). Recently, another Arminian brother and friend, William Birch, has posted a critique of my perspective on this matter.

In the past, William has posted links to my articles on his feed and I’ve re-blogged his articles here, so we agree on many (if not most) theological matters. He is a kind, intelligent brother with a far greater gift in writing than I could ever hope to possess.  I prefer a personal discussion over dueling blog articles any day. Nevertheless, this is my response to his well crafted critique of my views on the subject of Total Inability.

For the sake of brevity, I will only respond to the most pertinent issues, as I see them.  I welcome William (or other readers) to point out any issue that I fail to address which is germane to our disagreement. I will put William’s quotes in red, not because his teachings are to be compared to Christ’s ;-), but because I firmly believe that Christ’s words are at least as believable upon their reading as are his words.

Traditionally, there are a host of scriptural passages referencing an inherent inability within the depraved individual, relegating the individual as naturally deficient in properly responding to the grace of God.

One must wonder what is meant by the term “naturally deficient” in a world where all that is “natural” is ultimately of God’s permission or design? When a Christian theist speaks of what is “natural” are they not, in some way, referencing what is of God’s design or permission? Allow me to explain further…

“What do you have that you did not receive?” was the apostle’s question to the Corinthian believers (1 Cor. 4:7). My next breath is at God’s pleasure (Is. 42:5). My abilities to reason, or think, or make choices are all from God, my Maker (Is. 1:18). As AW Tozer is famously quoted for saying:

“God sovereignly decreed that man should be free to exercise moral choice…the eternal decree decided not which choice the man should make but that he should be free to make it.”[Link]

Why would this be any different with regard to my “natural ability” to respond willingly to God’s own word? It is not as if I (or any Traditionalist who agrees with me on this point) attempts to say that mankind’s ability to respond to the Holy Spirit wrought gospel is of my own making (like I went out into my tool shed and built a nature that was capable of willingly responding to God). Instead, it is a common ability built in us by our Maker, who created in His own image (this image, though marred, was graciously preserved even through the Fall…at least there is no biblical reason to think it was lost, as far as I can see). God was not required to create within us this ability, nor is He obligated to exercise His patience with us in waiting for us to exercise that ability (2 Pet. 3:9).  He could have justly allowed each of us to suffer the immediate life-terminating consequences of our first sin.

At this point, the differences between William’s position and my own seem to be inconsequential. He argues that God supernaturally intervenes (by a work of “prevenient grace”) to grant all of fallen humanity an ability they supposedly lost in the Fall of Adam (something never explicitly or implicitly suggested in scripture as far as I can tell). Whereas, I believe God graciously preserved our human responsibility (the ability to respond) to God’s graciously revealed truth by letting us live, even though He had every right to simply destroy us.

In other words, the hair being split is God’s “common grace” in preserving man’s life and thus his God-given ability to respond willingly to His own word–versus God’s “prevenient grace” in supernaturally restoring man’s lost ability to respond willingly to His own word. I hardly see why any scholar would make the conscience effort to label one of these perspectives a “heresy” (Semi-Pelagian) in defense of the other.

In such a confession, however, we are not referring to an inability to hear the audible voice of God, as with Adam and Eve in the Garden after the Fall (Gen. 3:8, 9), or, obviously, the audible voice of Jesus while on earth. The Fall does not render a person physically deaf but spiritually deaf.

The question is not if Adam/Eve could physically hear God (we all affirm that). The question is whether or not Adam and Eve had the moral/spiritual ability to heed and respond willingly to God’s audible voice. Clearly they did, as they put on the clothes He provided to them (Gen. 3). We also see the responses of Cain and Able to the voice of God; followed by the subsequent rewards and punishments (Gen. 4). Thus, the question is why do some believe mankind is able to respond willingly to God’s audible word, but not His inspired word?  Both are made abundantly clear (able to be physically heard/read).  I can find no clear distinctions drawn in the text between mankind’s moral/spiritual ability to heed God’ word if revealed by different means (audible vs inspiration).

Most, even those who deny the doctrine of Total Inability, as outlined in the Reformed views of Total Depravity, will not deny that the Fall has affected the inward nature of the fallen mortal. What they deny is that the Holy Spirit must perform a special work of grace — some might suggest a separate work of grace (in the freeing of the individual from his bondage to sin in order to induce a freed-will response) — in order for the depraved individual to receive Christ in the Gospel.

William is right to point out that we do affirm the doctrine of Depravity while not going so far as to affirm the doctrine of “Total Inability.”  We believe that the Gospel is a gracious work of the Holy Spirit, and thus is sufficient to accomplish it’s given purpose… “so that you might believe and have life in His name…” (John 20:31).

Scott Ross posted this question under William’s article:

I’ve always understood, regarding prevenient grace, that the Holy Spirit worked through the faithful preaching of the Gospel to free a sinner from bondage and empower them to respond. Romans 10:14-17 is an example of Scripture that indicates this idea. So to be clear, I believe the Holy Spirit must free us from bondage and enable us to respond to the Gospel as you have outlined, but I’ve always thought that the faithful preaching of the Gospel was one mechanism the Holy Spirit uses to do that. Would you say that is accurate?

To which William replied:

Yes, Scott, you are a classical Arminian at heart and in doctrine! Both Arminius and the Remonstrants insist that the Gospel must be preached for the Holy Spirit to grant enabling grace. This is not to suggest that the Holy Spirit cannot use prior means of bringing someone to the Gospel and, thus, to Christ; but that the Gospel will always be the instrumental means by which a person is enabled by the Spirit to freely respond.

The problem is that Scott’s question doesn’t draw the right distinction, and thus William’s response fails to hit our actual point of contention.  For clarity, I would affirm “that the Holy Spirit worked through the faithful preaching of the Gospel to…empower them to respond.” And I would affirm “that the faithful preaching of the Gospel was one mechanism the Holy Spirit uses.” Whereas I wouldn’t affirm that “the Holy Spirit must free us from bondage and enable us to respond to the Gospel.” Confused? I admit, it can become quite confounding if one isn’t paying close attention to the nuances.

Notice the subtle difference between the Holy Spirit using the means of the gospel to empower the hearer to respond willingly, versus the Holy Spirit empowering the hearer through some other unknown hidden inward means (a “prevenient grace,” never expounded upon in the Bible) so that the means of the Gospel would become sufficient to enable a willing response of an otherwise incapacitated fallen person.  Do you see the difference?  The Arminian insists on the Holy Spirit’s use of two separate means of grace (the gospel and this so-called “prevenient grace”), whereas I contend the Bible only speaks of one (the gospel). Why? The Arminian assumes (without biblical warrant IMO) that the fallen person has become incapacitated to respond willingly to God Himself.

Some insist the Gospel, preached by Spirit-filled believers, performs an inner work within the sinner. Hence, the individual is in no need to be “freed from her bondage to sin” in order for the individual to then freely believe in Christ.

 The author of Hebrews appears to be one of those people who insists the Gospel, God’s inspired word, does work inwardly within the sinner:

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).

This penetrating work into the “soul and spirit” sounds like the work of “prevenient grace” described by William, yet the author simply refers to “the word of God” as accomplishing this work, not some extra working of grace that aids the otherwise incapacitated nature of fallen man.

Here are two other passages that seem to teach that the scriptures, God’s inspired word, are sufficient even even for the lost:

“…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16).

And

“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17).

The Early Church Fathers likewise seemed to agree with this understanding:

Irenaeus, (130-202) wrote, “We have known the method of our salvation by no other means than those by whom the gospel came to us; which gospel they truly preached; but afterward, by the will of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures, to be for the future the foundation and pillar of our faith,” (Adv. H. 3:1)

Athanasius wrote, “The Holy Scriptures, given by inspiration of God, are of themselves sufficient toward the discovery of truth.”

It seems incumbent on William, and those who agree with him, to provide evidence that the Holy Spirit inspired scriptures, apart from an extra inner work of grace, are insufficient to enable the lost to respond willingly.

Hence, the individual is in no need to be “freed from her bondage to sin” in order for the individual to then freely believe in Christ.

Given that not everyone repents and is saved once ‘freed’ on William’s view, would he have us believe there may be a lost person who is “freed from her bondage to sin,” but still remains in sin’s bondage? I’m not sure how one could rightly speak of those under the wrath of God in sin as being “freed from sin” in any sense.  It appears to me that those spoken of in scripture as being “freed from sin’s bondage” are specifically those who have already believed and been reborn.

This is the same issue I have with the Calvinistic believers who insist in pre-faith regeneration, but they don’t have the same problem that William has here. For the Calvinist those who are regenerate will certainly come to faith and be saved, so at least the Calvinist can argue that God simultaneously brings someone to faith at the time of their regeneration. But William would have to argue that God frees all people from the bondage of sin (at some undisclosed time and in some mysterious way never revealed by the text), while only some individuals actually repent of sin—leaving the rest under sins curse while still “freed from sin’s bondage.” I find this view untenable.

Our view is far less complex. Mankind is freed from the bondage of sin by confessing that they are in bondage (admitting their inability to save themselves) and in faith trusting God to free them. Upon confession, Christ graciously steps in to provide freedom and salvation. It seems like William gets the cart before the horse to suggest that one has to be “set free from sin’s bondage” in order to even humbly admit they are enslaved by sin’s bondage.

William’s mistake (like that of the Calvinist) is assuming that the biblical reference to mankind’s being “bound in sin” equals mankind’s inability to see and confess they are in that condition even in light of God’s clear revelation.  In short, acknowledging that someone is trapped in a jail cell does not mean that the one trapped cannot see that he is trapped and admit his need for help in order to gain freedom.

Let us address, briefly, passages which refer to this inability to freely embrace the Gospel. Two statements from Christ most obviously bespeaks to this position: “No one can [i.e., does not have the innate capability to] come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me.” (John 6:44, emphases added; cf. John 6:65) If a fallen sinner is able to freely respond to the Gospel, when such is presented, then Christ must be mistaken — we actually can come to Him without a special inner “drawing” work wrought by the Father (through, no doubt, the work of the Holy Spirit). Also, St John refers “coming to” Jesus to “believing in” Jesus (John 6:35, 37, 40). Hence, no one is capable of coming to and, thus, believing in Jesus unless drawn and granted such (John 6:44, 65). 

It should be noted, the text William references to prove that the Gospel is an insufficient work of Grace to lead sinners to repentance does not even mention the Gospel (nor is it even written at a time when the gospel had been fulfilled and commissioned to go into all the world). As we have more fully developed in other articles, the fact that Jesus was purposefully hiding His identity from the Jewish leaders of that day and not entrusting Himself to most of Israel while “down from Heaven,” clearly indicates they were not privy to the appeal of the Gospel’s calling to repentance and faith in the death, burial and resurrection of the Messiah for the redemption of sin. This is a concept not even understood by His closest followers until after His resurrection (“when he is lifted up” – John 12:32).

After Christ is raised up, the message of the Gospel is complete and His messengers are commissioned to “go into all the world and preach” and in so doing, “drawing all people to Himself.” (John 12:32; Acts 1:8; Matt. 28:16-20).

St Paul argues: “Do you not realize that God’s kindness,” χρηστότητος, “divine kindness and Spirit-produced goodness” (link), “is meant to lead you to repentance?” (Rom. 2:4)

Romans 2:4 states, “Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”  Clearly, God’s kindness is in reference to His “forbearance and patience” with humanity (as seen also in 2 Peter 3:9). And patience, as discussed earlier, is God’s gracious means of allowing for mankind to live and thus have more time to respond to His provisions of Grace, the power of which is said to be in the Gospel itself (Rm. 1:18); never in some extra secondary means which supposedly makes the gospel sufficiently powerful and/or the human soul sufficiently able to respond freely (i.e. responsible).

“For he has graciously granted you,” ἐχαρίσθη, “to grace, bestow, favor,” “the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well.” (Phil. 1:29)

While this point could be conceded by simply appealing to the “common grace” referenced earlier, I believe the “granting” here is in reference to the sending of the Gospel first to the Jew and then to the Gentile. By sending the means of faith (the Gospel), God is “granting” each one (first the Jew and then the Gentile) the means by which they too may believe in Christ and subsequently suffer for Him as they continue to walk in that faith.

William also mentions 1 Cor 2, which I discuss in great detail HERE.

Yes, the Holy Spirit must convict sinners (John 16:8-11), as they are presented with the Gospel…

We all agree that the Holy Spirit must convict sinners. Our point of contention is over the means by which the Spirit brings conviction to sinners.  Let’s look at John 16:

“7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. 8 When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment: 9 about sin, because people do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father, where you can see me no longer; 11 and about judgment, because the prince of this world now stands condemned. 12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”

To whom is Christ speaking in John 16? Is He speaking to all of us, or is He addressing the inspired “holy apostles” given the “administration of God’s grace” and shown “the mystery…which was not made known to people in other generations but has now been revealed by the Spirit of God…so that you [the rest of us] will be able to understand…the mystery of Christ.” Let’s look at Eph. 3:1-11:

“2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, 3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. 4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, 5 which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. 6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus. 7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. 8 Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ, 9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. 10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.

The Spirit’s means of revelation was to graciously inspire “holy apostles” to proclaim and write God’s very word and in reading those words we may “be able to understand…insights into the mystery of Christ.” (cross reference: Acts 10:39-43)

I believe William, like many Calvinists, have imposed an “individualized Western hermeneutic” to these types of texts by applying it to us personally when the intention of the author was pointing his readers to the sacred means of divine inspiration of the “holy apostles” set apart for the noble purpose of inspired revelation.

To the credit of Flowers, we agree that there is power, δύναμις, in the Gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), but this “power,” strength or ability, regards the revelation of the righteousness of God and that the person who shall live with Him eternally are those who live by or in the faith of Christ (Rom. 1:17). Such are accounted righteous (Rom. 3:21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26). But Flowers rejects the notion that anyone must be “set free” from one’s bondage to sin in order to believe that Gospel: there is no condition from which one must be released from captivity (contra John 8:34; Gal. 5:1).

John 8:32 says, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Truth, once known and accepted, will set you free.  One is not set free so as to respond freely to truth, as William presupposes. Again, it would be difficult to defend a belief that sinners who remain in unbelief and under sin’s bondage all their lives can ever be described as “freed from sin’s bondage” in any meaningful sense.

So, then, Flowers, and those who agree with him, have created their own theological niche: they deny Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism, Arminianism and Calvinism. The view they are espousing is termed Traditionalism. They appeal to the early Church fathers regarding free will, that such has not been so affected by the Fall that a person cannot freely respond to the Gospel, but can freely respond to that Gospel because the Holy Spirit “works” within the heart through the Spirit-inspired Gospel. Again, from my perspective, I fail to see why the Holy Spirit needs to “work” within a person who is inherently capable of freely responding to the Gospel.  

What William seems to miss is that on our view the work of the Holy Spirit, by means of the gospel’s arrival, is for the first time revealing a mystery that has been hidden for generations (1 Cor. 2:7-8; Eph. 3:1-11) thus making it accessible to all. So, the work of the Holy Spirit, on our view, is not to “aid an innate disability due to the Fall,” but to reveal truth that could not have been known or understood by any other means except the divine revelation through supernatural inspiration of “holy apostles.”

One would be hard pressed to find where Pelagius taught this fully or even partially, so I’m not sure what the labels really accomplish (if not the nefarious intent I’ve described in “The Calvinist’s Boogie Man” article). I’m beginning not to care too much about such labels given there abuse in modern times. Nevertheless, no label will simply make the clear biblical arguments I have presented disappear. William’s article is a well written defense of his perspective, no doubt, but will he engage me over the passages in dispute?

For instance, can he demonstrate that the Israelite audience of Jesus in John 6 were incapable of coming to Him while he was “down from heaven” because of an innate disability imputed to all humanity as a natural consequence of Adam’s sin, rather than a calloused condition of Israel due to their own libertarianly free choices (which God is judicially giving them over to, so as to accomplish a greater redemptive purpose; Acts 28:27-28; John 12:39-41; Mark 4:11-13; Rom. 11)?


 

An analogy for consideration:

I’ve said before, the gospel is to the Holy Spirit what the hammer is to the carpenter. Every analogy falls short, but the only point of this one is to reveal that the Holy Spirit (the carpenter) uses a tool (the Gospel) to enable a response (drive the nail). Whereas, the classical Arminian position insists that the carpenter (the Holy Spirit) must secretly put some mysterious oil on the nail (prevenient grace) that supposedly enables it to be driven into wood  while still maintaining that the carpenter (the Holy Spirit) used the hammer (the Gospel) to drive the nail (enable a response).  This presupposes the nail NEEDED the oil in order to be driven by the hammer and creates confusion as to the sufficient power of the carpenter’s hammer (the Gospel).

Now, if the “Authoritative Carpenter’s Manual” clearly indicates that nails cannot be driven by the hammer apart from the application of oil, then by all means, I would concede this point. But if the manual never even mentions anything about oil at all, but over and over again points the hammer as the sole means of power and sufficiency for driving nails, then why add the additional oily means? (Of course I understand that William, and other scholars, do interpret certain texts to mean that the “oil is necessary” whereas I simply do not see it.)

 

160 thoughts on “Why I Am Not An Arminian

  1. It’s funny, before discovering this website, I always believed in “Radical Depravity” but I believed in the fact that the word is enough to convince someone that he is a sinner and it is enough to make him believe in the Gospel and be saved. I used to believe in the doctrine of total Inability, (since I was a 7-point Calvinist, much like Piper), but one by one, the pillars have been crumbling.

    I’ve been reading on your commentary on Romans 8-9 and it’s been very interesting. I have always seen it in one way, but I appreciate seeing another way of reading it.

    But really the biggest contribution in your articles, including this one, is the fact that it is true that a hard Calvinist theology makes God the “author of sin” and someone that doesn’t love everybody and doesn’t want to extend his grace to everybody.

    I am living in Quebec (French Province of Canada) and I am preparing myself to teach in a province that is really Calvinist. I am reshaping my theology and I want to thank you for giving me some things to think about! 🙂

    Samuel

    P.S: Sorry for my English, since French is my first language I could be not aware of my basics mistakes! 😉

  2. Leighton,

    Thank you for this well-thought-out response. I remain your loyal friend and brother in Christ. So that I do not perpetually repeat myself, over and over again, I am satisfied with your response here, do not intend to respond formally, and think that the two of us have sufficiently outlined and defined our respective positions. I also think that this has been an important dialogue, if for no other reason than to grant on-lookers a proper perspective of the views in question, thus allowing them to better align their own thoughts on this topic.

    God bless you, as always!

    Wm.

  3. I consider myself an Arminian. Yet, see, reading this post did not really persuade me that you aren’t. However, it also may be the case that I am wrong about the specific edges of Arminianism.

    Regarding the first few paragraphs, I do agree that a born again believer will never fall away to the point of being unborn, getting unsaved, or otherwise losing the promise God gave him that he WILL BE saved, not just from hell but also from the tyranny of self. I believe that Arminianism includes both positions regarding whether a person can lose their salvation. I am one of the few Arminians who hold to individual election, but the majority of my Arminian friends hold to corporate election like you do.

    Then of course, the meat of this post is about prevenient grace. You say that you do not hold to it. To me, though, it seems very simple. Here is a litmus test about grace:

    We all affirm this verse:

    “No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:44

    Question is: Does the Father draw all, or are some not able to come to Christ?

    If you answer “the Father draws all” you affirm prevenient grace; if you answer “some are not able to come to Christ at all” you affirm a Calvinist view; and if you answer “the Father need not draw, for you to come” then we have wandered into Pelagian territory.

    Now, it seems like you, William, and I all would affirm that all are drawn. That it, it seems that we all affirm prevenient grace, but disagree on perhaps the specifics of what grace that is, what it looks like, and what counts as it. I read your analogy, and think, “well, we all agree that the nail isn’t going to pound itself into the wood! The progress of the nail will not happen with the helpful intervention of the Carpenter to push in the nails, and we may agree or disagree on what techniques He uses, whether just the hammer or the hammer and oil.”

    Therefore, to me, it is not clear why you do not consider yourself an Arminian.

    Personally I think that I lean towards Will’s view that the gospel does not operate in a vacuum. We read that it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Does not the hearing of gospel produce no results apart from the conviction that truth brings? (The Holy Spirit convicts, and God IS truth, and God is never without the Holy Spirit)

  4. I don’t really have a dog in this fight (I think it’s far too nuanced to be profitable) but I do have a question. Are you positing a “Spirit-less” Gospel? Or a “Spirit-less” Word? Certainly ink on paper is not supernatural. The Word of God is supernatural because it is infused with His power. To say, “I can respond to the Gospel WITHOUT the Holy Spirit” is to me formulating a hypothetical world where the gospel can be separated from it’s divine nature and origin. That world doesn’t exist.

    1. Is this message a “Scott-less” message? If it is then I can’t respond to you because there is no one for whom I may reply, as apparently Scott doesn’t exit and he didn’t produce these words. If however, you (Scott) sent this message then you would be there to reply to my response to it, wouldn’t you?

      We shouldn’t over complicate this. God sent a message and its our responsibility to respond to it…

    2. Scott,

      You make a good point here that Leighton misses. When Arminians speak of prevenient grace being necessary for a person to come to faith in Christ: you need to ask what do they mean something is required in addition to the preaching of the gospel? And that goes to how you define prevenient grace. It means a grace that goes before. Before what? Before the person is able to have a faith response to the gospel. So what ***is*** this grace that must come before a person is able to have a faith response? It is the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. He must work in the heart and mind of the person to enable them to have a faith response to the presentation of the gospel. It is this work of the Spirit that comes before a person is converted is what I mean by prevenient grace. Without it no one can come to faith. The same Spirit who formed scripture must also give understanding of that same scripure to people for them to trust in it. Put another way, we could illustrate this with a thought experiment: imagine a world where the Spirit does not work in people’s minds and hearts before they come to faith in Christ, could they come to faith in Christ in such a world? A person who affirms inability says NO, withhout the Spirit’s work no one could have faith, no one could be converted. A denial of inability is to claim that a person can come to faith without the Spirit working in them. Arminians when they speak of inabilty mean that the person is unable to come to faith without the Spirit working in them. Leighton defined inability in his article as “the belief that all humanity is born incapable of willingly coming to Christ for salvation EVEN IN THE LIGHT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WROUGHT TRUTH OF THE GOSPEL.” that is not a good definition of inability as his definition combines inability (i.e. they cannot come to faith) AND prevenient grace (Spirit wrought truth of the gospel). Who makes the gospel true to people? The Holy Spirit. Who gives understanding of the gospel and makes it personal? The Holy Spirit. What I call the prevenient gace of God, i.e. the preconversion work of the Spirit, Leighton slips in and calls it the Spirit wrought truth of the gospel. Note Leighton says that inablity is the idea that the person cannot come to faith EVEN WHEN THEY EXPERIENCE THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT. That is not what Arminians and others mean by inabililty at all. We mean there is inability unless the Spirit works! It is the Spirit working in the sinner that gives them ability to have faith.Notice Leighton defines it as inability even when the Spirit works! What a false representation this is. I like your terminoloyg Scott “Spirit less word” “Spirit less gospel.” Those terms make the point, unless the Spirit works through the word or the gospel, it will not be effective. We are unable to come to faith on our own wiithout the work of the Spirit. But when the Spirit does work in an individual then the heartest heart can be enabled to come to Christ. Personally I do not even use the term prevenient grace, I just talk about the necessity of the Spirit’s work in people. If He does not convict a person of their sin they cannot be saved. Can they convict themselves of sin? No, but He can and does convict people of their sin. He also reveals Christ to them, if he does not do it, the person will not be able to have faith. Leighton claims he denies inability but then in his own defintion he puts in the work of the Spirit as what makes the gospel effectual to a person. Well take away that work of the Spirit and see if anyone can come to faith, they cannot.

  5. Brother Leighton,

    Based on previous discussions with you, we both believe that fallen man, though depraved, never lost his ability to respond favorably to God. Adam and Eve are our first such examples.

    Romans 6:17-18 (NKJV)….
    But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. And having been set free from sin (by obeying the doctrine), you became slaves of righteousness.

    I believe three things can be taken from these two verses. First, one can be a slave to sin and yet still believe (obey) the spoken word. In other words, being slaves did not prevent them from believing. Second, it is precisely because one believes that one is set free. And third, if the phrase “slave to sin” is absolute, then wouldn’t the phrase “slaves of righteousness” be the same? I don’t think any Christian would claim they are incapable of sinning.

    John 8:31-32 (NKJV)…..
    Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”

    Notice Jesus’ words were directed toward believing Jews.

    Genesis 15:5-6 (NKJV)…..
    Then He brought him (Abram) outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And He said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” And he (Abram) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

    The burden of proof is on the Calvinist/Arminian that Abram’s response was due to some kind of grace enablements, instead of merely the spoken word of God.

    God bless.

    1. Phillip,
      Let’s make this real simple for you. You claim that the burden of proof is on others to show that Abraham’s response was due to some kind of grace enablements, instead of MERELY the spoken word of God? Phillip do you believe that the Holy Spirit has to work in a sinner’s heart and mind before they can come to faith in Christ?
      Can they come to Christ without the Spirit doing anything in their heart and mind?

      Can they come to faith in Christ wiithout being convicted of their sin?

      And if they are convicted of their sin, who do you think is doing that?

      You seem to think that the word without the Spirit can accompish these things? You appear to hold to what Scott appropriately called a “Spirit less word”, a “Spirit less gospel”.

      If you DO believe the Spirit must work in people’s hearts for them to understand scripture, to be convicted of their sin, to know who Jesus is, to know why He is the way of salvation, etc. THEN guess what? You are thinking like an Arminian. It is these things the Spirit does before the person is coverted, that enable him or her to have a faith response, is what Armiians call prevenient grace.

      Now if you believe that we can come to faith in Christ without the work of the Spirit then you have got some very serious problems in your theology. Prevenient grace is easy to undertand it simply refers to the work of the Spirit in a sinner before they are saved that enables them to have a faith response to the gospel. Why do you seem to leave out the Holy Spirit out of your thinking

  6. Leighton,

    I am only going to start the conversation with you here as there is a lot that can be said in response to your article here. Regarding who is or is not an “Arminian”, “Calvinist” “Traditionalist”, whatever, a lot depends upon how you define the term. Most people would label me an Arminian based upon the beliefs that I hold, most notably my beliefs in the area of soteriology. Often people will define you by your affirmation or denial of the popular acronym TULIP (e.g. so if you affirm all five of these elements you are a “five point Calvinist”, if you affirm four of them but deny limited atonement then you are a “four point Calvinist”). I am fully aware that within the Southern Baptists some are attempting to differentiate themselves from both Calvinists and Arminians by calling themselves “Traditionalists”. The fun thing is that I am a Baptist who affirms that a genuine believer cannot lose their salvation (what calvinists are getting at with “P” in TULIP) and from what I have read I am a “Traditionalist” and yet most would label me an Arminian. 🙂

    In my own thinking I tend to view someone as “Arminian” if they hold common Arminian beliefs. And what are these common Arminian beliefs. Well since people love to do it, let’s compare Arminian beliefs with Calvinists beliefs on TULIP. Arminians affirm “T” but do not believe that a person must be regenerated first in order to understand spiritual things (A’s believe that the Holy Spirit must work in a person in order for them to be enabled to have a faith response to the gospel, this is called “prevenient grace” since it comes before the person is converted, it is undeserved hence “grace” and yet contrary Calvinists it is grace that can be resisted). All A’s deny unconditional election. Now here it gets interesting because all A’s believe in conditional election and yet some A’s believe that election is based upon foreknown faith (you said this was like looking down the corridors of time to see who would believe . . .) and some (including myself) hold to a corporate view of election. Now you said that you seem to hold this corporate view yourself and that it is a common view among Southern Baptists. Conditional election then, whether you hold the corporate view or not, is an Arminian belief. Regarding “L” all A’s deny it and instead believe that Jesus did not die only for the preselected elect but for the whole world. This belief, universal atonement (not to be confused with universalism the idea that all will be saved eventually) is an Arminian belief. As far as I know, Southern Baptist traditionalists also hold this belief. Then there is “I” a belief that all A’s deny and Traditionalists also deny. A’s believe, and Traditionalists believe the same thing, that the preconversion grace of God that we receive (A’s call it prevenient grace, Baptists tend to call it the work of the Spirit) can be resisted. Closely related to this denial of irresistible grace is the affirmation of libertarian free will. Again both A’s and Traditionalists believe that mankind has LFW. Regarding “P” it is true that many A’s believe that you can lose your salvation, but this is not an Arminian distinctive (as with the nature of conditional election) there is disagreement with many A’s believing that you can lose your salvation and some believing you cannot.

    Does affirming that you cannot lose our salvation make you a calvinist?

    No, Traditionalists are not calvinists and they affirm that you cannot lose your salvation (and again some A’s also affirm that you cannot lose your salvation).

    Do you see a pattern here?

    The pattern is that what we would call “Arminian beliefs” (including the denial of unconditional election/the affirmation of conditional election, the corporate election view; the affirmation of universal atonement, the denial of irresistible grace, the affirmation of libertarian free will) are beliefs held by “Traditionalists”. There is so much overlap which explains why a person like Roger Olson says that many, many Southern Baptists are Arminians and don’t know it! 🙂

    And what about a person like me who is Baptist and holds to eternal security and also holds many of these other Arminian beliefs: am I an Arminian but not a Traditionalist, or Traditionalist but not Arminian, or Arminian and Traditionalist at the same time?

    Now I know you want to make much of the denial by traditionalists of “inability” (and more will be said in another post about this issue). But if that is the ONLY difference between a supposed Arminian and Traditionalist, that is not much. If a person holds all these well-known Arminian beliefs including: denial of unconditional election, affirmation of conditional election/the corporate view of election/affirmation of unlimited atonement/affirmation that you cannot lose your salvation/affirmation that grace is resistible that the work of the Spirit before conversion can be resisted/affirmation of libertarian free will and denial of determinism BUT they also hold to total depravity and “inability” does that alone make them Arminian and not Traditionalist?

    Seems to me there is way too much overlap on all these other things to make that claim.

    Seems to me that instead of trying to differentiate one from another you ought to be looking at what they hold in common (which between Arminians and Traditionalists IS A LOT!!!).

    Or perhaps rather than trying to differentiate between Traditionalists and Arminians, perhaps the more important issue is to see who the common theological “enemy” is? Arminians and Traditionalists agree on almost everything, and their real disagreement is with calvinism. Arminians and Traditionalists agree on so much and also simultaneously disagree with calvinists on the same things (the denial of unconditional election, the denial of determinism/compatibilism, the denial of irresistible grace, the denial of limited atonement). And my observation concerning the Southern Baptists is that the problem is not Arminian beliefs (such as unlimited atonement, libertarian free will) but calvinist beliefs that oppose these Arminian beliefs (such as limited atonement, theological determinism/compatibilism). I wrote this post just to get things going. In another post I want to discuss the issue of “inability” which appears to be the only real difference between Arminians and Traditionalists.

    One last thing to whet your appetite on this. From what I know my beliefs are very similar to those of Adrian Rodgers. I quoted some of his words in another thread and Leighton you made no response. I will requote them as what he says indicates a Baptist who affirms inability/that without the work of the Spirit we cannot have a faith response to the gospel:

    Here is the quote:

    “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 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 light shine. You must preach. But remember, there is another dimension.” (Jesus is God’s Answer to Man’s Darkness: John 20:30)

  7. Leighton,

    By the way, in your Irenaeus quote, you write: “but afterward, by the William of God, they delivered to us in the Scriptures.” I’m certain you meant to type “Will” and not “William.” But I thank you for the thought! (haha)

  8. Since man is not totally depraved but is fully able to respond God’s gracious revelation of Himself through His word, there is no need for prevenient grace. Perhaps that is why it is not mentioned in the Bible

    1. Earnest,

      “Since man is not totally depraved but is fully able to respond God’s gracious revelation of Himself through His word, there is no need for prevenient grace. Perhaps that is why it is not mentioned in the Bible.”

      A key here is how do you define the term “prevenient grace”?

      You state that the term is not mentioned in the Bible: this is correct, but neither is the term “trinity.” How did we come up with the concept of “trinity”? We found scriptures presenting that there is only one God, and that the Father, Son, and Spirit are God. So we concluded that there is one God who exists in three persons. Put another way, though the term “trinity “is not in the Bible, the concept **is**. Likewise with PG. I define the concept of PG as: the work of the Holy Spirit BEFORE a person becomes a believer which enables that person to have a faith response to the gospel. Because it comes BEFORE conversion it is called “prevenient”. Because it is undeserved and unmerited, it is viewed as grace from God.

      Question – do we find biblical texts suggesting that the Spirit works in a person before they are saved enabling them to have faith?

      I would say Yes. Just one example, we are told that the Spirit convicts the world.

      Why does the Spirit convict people of their sin?

      Is it not so that they would know their sinful condition so that they can then trust in Jesus and be saved?

      Isn’t that enabling a faith response to the gospel?

      If you don’t know you are a sinner and are not convicted about it, why should you believe the gospel?

      You speak of “God’s gracious revelation of Himself through His word”: does the Spirit give understanding of scripture to people so that they know how to be saved and that salvation is only through Jesus and through faith? It is not as if the word just goes out, people hear it and think “Ok now I will trust in Jesus.” No, the Spirit has to inform them about their sinful condition, reveal Jesus to them, etc.

      And all these things happen before the person comes to faith in Jesus, hence the term/concept PG.
      If PG ***is*** the preconversion work of the Spirit in the hearts and minds of people that enables them to have a faith response: then how can you claim “there is no need for prevenient grace”???

      Actually what you call it is not nearly as important as that you believe that the preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary for a person to have a faith response and trust in Jesus. I have explained why it is called PG, but the terminology is not nearly as important as recognizing that it is a biblical concept found in various scriptures.

      1. Robert,
        While I agree the Holy Spirit convicts a sinner, I do not agree that the sinner must be changed in any way to enable him with the ability to believe. Mankind never lost any ability to respond to God, if he did, he could not respond to conviction. Conviction does not allow or provide faith. Faith is entirely man’s response to God. The Holy Spirit does not do any preconversion enabling work because none is needed. The Spirit reveals Christ and informs men of their sinful condition through God’s Word.

      2. Ernest,
        Thanks for replying. I don’t think that we are actually that far off. The key for me is do you affirm that the preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary for a person to become a believer, necessary for them to be enabled to have a faith response to the gospel. You state that you believe that the Spirit reveals Christ to a person. If He does not do so for a person can they be saved? I would say No, and I hope you agree on this.

        As I have said throughout this thread I use the term “preconversion work of the Spirit” for any of those things that he does in the heart and mind of a person before they become believers (this includes convicting them of their sin, revealing Christ to them, etc.). Ernest do you believe a person can become a believer if they are not convicted of their sin, if the Spirit does not reveal Christ to them? If you believe they cannot, then you believe in the preconversion work of the Spirit. I don’t care what you call it, call it X to be simple. Does X have to occur for a person to be enabled to have a faith response to the gospel?

        It seems to me that one of your concerns is that a person’s nature must first be changed before they have the ability to respond to the gospel. I do not make this claim thought some do. I believe we have the ability to respond to the gospel message, but we are unable to do so unless the Spirit works in us first. Perhaps an analogy may help here.
        Imagine you go to a nice restaurant and the server gives you a menu that tells you what your choics for dinner are. You have the ability to make those choices before you are given the menu, but you cannot make those choices unless the server gives you the menu informing you of what choices are available. The Spirit is like the server, if he does not inform you about Jesus, inform you of your sinful condition, you have no reason to choose to trust Jesus to save you. The Spirit in informing you does not change your nature, but if he does not inform you about the choice to trust in Jesus you will not make that choice on your own. LIkewise in the restaurant, the work of the server does not change you nature, but he does tell you about what choice you have. For me inability does not mean that our nature must be changed first before we are able to believer, it means we need to be informed by the Spirit about some spiritual realities before we choose to trust in Jesus. It seems to me that those who deny that any preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary, are saying that you can know what choices you have at a restaurant without ever seeing the menu (and in some restaurants there are specials that are not even on the menu that the server has to tell you about or you will not know about them). The Spirit does not change your nature for you to be enabled to choose Christ, he does inform you about spiritual realities that you need to make the choice (including spiritual realities such as our sinful condition, who Jesus is, how and why he is the way of salvation, etc. etc.). Without the work of the Spirit you will not be enabled to make the choice to choose to trust in Christ. Put even more simply, the Spirit’s preconversion work of informing you about spiritual realities ***is*** what enables you to have a faith response ot the gospel. Hope I have made things more clear here.

      3. Robert,
        Yes, as I stated earlier, I believe that God graciously reveals Himself to all men and the Holy Spirit convicts all men of their sin. All men are free to respond or reject God’s revelation and God holds man responsible for the choice he makes. Christ has provided opportunity for the salvation of all men by redeeming them, reconciling them to the Father and being a mediator and a propitiation for their sins.
        I do not believe the Holy Spirit’s work enables a man to respond in faith. He is fully able to respond in faith.

      4. Ernest,

        “Yes, as I stated earlier, I believe that God graciously reveals Himself to all men and the Holy Spirit convicts all men of their sin.”

        Ok let’s assume that what you say here is true. This gracious revealing of Himself by God and this conviction of their sin by God:
        do we deserve these things, do we merit these things?

        If you answer No, then they are unmerited favor from God, or for short “grace”.

        This grace that comes to men, does it occur so that people will place their faith in the Lord?

        And this grace: it comes before a person is converted, correct?

        If it is a grace that is given by God before they are converted, it is **prevenient** grace (which means “before grace”, or a grace that comes before, before they are saved).

        So Ernest you do believe in prevenient grace, you just don’t want to call it that. And that is fine, I don’t care what you call it, as long as you acknowledge that this before conversion grace is necessary for a person to become a believer.

        “All men are free to respond or reject God’s revelation and God holds man responsible for the choice he makes.”

        Again, let’s assume you are correct that all men are free and can respond or reject this revelation from God that comes to them before they are believers.

        Can they become believers if God does not give them this revelation?

        I know you believe that he does give them all this revelation,that is not my question. My question is if He did not give this revelation: could they be saved without it?

      5. Robert you asked //Can they become believers if God does not give them this revelation?// seems you are subtly changing the question. If you are asking do they have the ability to believe before the work of the Holy Spirit in them,then my answer is’ Yes’ . They are born with this ability which they can exercise when they reach maturity in the same way a bird is born with the ability to fly. The mother bird’s kicking him out of the nest does not give the bird the ability to fly. Similarly the work of the Holy Spirit does not give man the ability to believe. The ability to believe is an inherent attribute of man – part of being made in God’s image.

  9. Great reply Leighton Flowers! 🙂 As a Pelagian, I am far closer to your position than to William’s Arminian position. I also do not believe that the image of God is marred. How do you come to this conclusion, Leighton? 🙂

  10. :arrow:At this point, the differences between William’s position and my own seem to be inconsequential.

    For me it seems to be not the substance but the wording that is disagreed upon.

    :arrow:Thus, the question is why do some believe mankind is able to respond willingly to God’s audible word, but not His inspired word?

    Neither of us believe it’s possible without grace. One just wants to combine that grace into the word itself. Take away all grace of God, both sides believe depravity/inability. TD/TI does not teach that Adam could not respond to God in the garden because there was grace there. There is always grace there. TD/TI just wants to bring out “how sinful sin really is” even though there is grace there.

    :arrow:Whereas I wouldn’t affirm that “the Holy Spirit must free us from bondage and enable us to respond to the Gospel.”

    Err, what about the devil does he just sit on his hands while the Gospel is preached? What about the strongman or the birds that eat up the seeds.

    :arrow:…some other unknown hidden inward means (a “prevenient grace,” never expounded upon in the Bible)…

    We have massive amounts of Biblical evidence for hidden inward means. Somehow the Traditionalist just doesn’t have the “prevenient grace” to be able to see the gracious Spirit-wrought Word of God right in front of their noses. :3

    :arrow:It appears to me that those spoken of in scripture as being “freed from sin’s bondage” are specifically those who have already believed

    There are places that talk of a provisional and temporary grace for transition. Assuming the devil can be a real strongman like Scripture says, once we are freed we do not necessarily have to follow Christ; why can’t we just walk straight back to our strongman. I’ve heard of people doing just that—freed but running back to Satan.

    :arrow:But William would have to argue that God frees all people from the bondage of sin
    Not all Arminians believe prevenient grade is universal to all people, but rather accompanies the saints and the Word, described as spiritual seed.

    :arrow:We all agree that the Holy Spirit must convict sinners. Our point of contention is over the means by which the Spirit brings conviction to sinners.

    Why is the Holy Spirit needed if the Word is sufficient? It seems to me once one sees the “Word” as everything and anything the Spirit just becomes a redundancy that wrote it once a long time ago and that’s it. Yet Scripture, if it is living, can’t be just words on a page. It’s supernatural. So why is the Spirit even needed after the Word is written. After all we don’t need any “extra secondary” means right? The Spirit convicts of sin—only through the written Word, and by no other means. So the Word convicts the world of sin and righteousness and judgment, no Spirit necessary except to originally write it. Yet Paul says the Word is read but a veil lies on hearts, until one turns to the Spirit. How can it be—that Paul can distinguish Word and Spirit like that. Paul could have said “a veil lies over their hearts” but when they “turn to the Word.” For me it’s like the Spirit points to the Word and lights it up—lights it up like Christmas lights and says “See, look what it says! This is what it means! Pay attention!”

    :arrow:So, the work of the Holy Spirit, on our view, is not to “aid an innate disability due to the Fall,” but to reveal truth that could not have been known or understood by any other means except the divine revelation through supernatural inspiration of “holy apostles.”

    Except how can we know what holy book and what apostles are right. What is there to tell us that Mohammad is not the correct apostle and the Koran is not the correct holy book? The Bible? But how can we know the Bible is God’s Word, when other books claim God wrote them to? This is where we “pull back the veil” to see it’s not all in black and white, but that there are angels and demons and spiritual things working behind the scenes. This is why the Gospel is a fragrance that Paul said was spreading through all the world. When God’s Words are described as supernatural, as life and light and truth and forever and food and drink and power and grace and a sword and living and active and at work, it really does make one think they are more than just words on a page saying “howdy, here’s my message.”

  11. Well, I guess I remain some kind of Arminian, as I definitely believe that the Holy Spirit must work before a person can accept God’s leading. This is based as much on my experience and seeing how other’s react to the Gospel, as it is on scripture. In response to how a person can be enlightened and then remain there without being saved-a person chooses to once again be blind. Of course, this choice is also not made in a vacuum, once a person rejects the spirits moving, the devil is free to jump in and pull the wool over his eyes again.

    1. Wildswanderer,

      “Well, I guess I remain some kind of Arminian, as I definitely believe that the Holy Spirit must work before a person can accept God’s leading. This is based as much on my experience and seeing how other’s react to the Gospel, as it is on scripture.”

      This is exactly my position on prevenient grace!

      If you believe that “the Holy Spirit must work before a person can accept God’s leading”, then you believe in PG. Because PG means the preconversion work of the Spirit that enables a faith response. Without the preconversion work of the Spirit an individual cannot be saved. Because it is necessary, it is false to claim that a person can just come to faith in Christ on their own (this is the main concern about Pelagianism, the claim that a person can come to faith on their own, APART FROM THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT). Now perhaps you don’t particularly like the term PG. That is Ok, as the terminology is not critical, though maintaining the concept is.

      I note that your basis for believing that the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work is necessary is identical to mine: “This is based as much on my experience and seeing how other’s react to the Gospel, as it is on scripture.” I see references to the preconversion work of the Spirit in the Bible and I also have seen how the Spirit works in people whom I and others evangelize. I do lots of evangelism and also follow up. You ask people about how they came to Christ and over and over they will speak of these experiences which are clearly experiences of the preconversion work of the Spirit. They speak of being convicted of their sin? Who did that? They speak of how they did not understand the Bible but started understanding it and knowing what it meant and what it meant for them becoming a believer. Who did that? They speak of how Jesus was revealed to them, who He really is, what he did, why it is important. Who was revealing that? These are all testimonies of the preconversion work of the Spirit. I have seen them so many times and with so many people that I know it is real. So my basis for believing in PG/the preconversion work of the Spirit is just like yours and anyone else who does any evangelism.

      If you or anyone else is a saved person, just look at your own experiences of the
      Spirit’s preconversion work before you were saved: if you are a saved person you will know you had these experiences. You did not merit them nor deserve them, they are the grace of God in action in your life. Hence the term Prevenient/before grace/undeserved, unmerited grace from God.

    2. Re-read your first sentence as I believe it perfectly illustrates the unnecessary redundancy created by this doctrine. It’s as if you have said “I definitely believe that God must work before a person can accept God’s working.”

      Just an observation

      1. Eh, but God is a Trinity. Jesus said “believe in God, believe also in Me.” Nobody says Jesus is being redundant here, because they really are different persons (not: believe in God, believe also in God). If you notice a Person of the Trinity is mentioned, the Holy Spirit, and he does stuff (like bearing witness). bless

      2. I’m not really seeing the problem, because I have often seen God working in the lives of people who continue to reject his working. I did exactly the same thing, to the point that I would internally thank the Holy Spirit for his conviction, while simultaneously saying “Not yet, I’m not ready.” At some point, it is my observation that people will harden their hearts to conviction, rather then spend their lives in the constant turmoil of being in the center of a spiritual war, or they will simply surrender. The “hound of heaven” thankfully, does not give up easily and will use anything to break through our resistance. Being that my back round is with churches who put a lot of emphasize on the Holy Spirit, I believe in hindsight, that a lot of this was impressed on my mind at a very early age. What else is one to conclude when you literally see people shaking with conviction, but still resisting? In your traditionalist view, (which admittedly is a not one I have ever had opportunity to consider) it almost seems impossible that a person could hear the gospel weekly and not be converted. But I appreciate the chance to interact with much more seasoned theologians here and am always willing to learn. Blessings…

  12. Hebrews 4:2 (NKJV)…..
    For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with prevenient grace in those who heard it.

    Only that’s not what the text says.

    1. Hebrews 2:4 (NKJV)
      …which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

      If it was spoken by the Lord, why then did “God bear witness”?

      1. Dizerner,

        Phillip brings up Hebrews 4:2 and writes:
        [[“Hebrews 4:2 (NKJV)…..
        For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with prevenient grace in those who heard it.
        Only that’s not what the text says.”]]

        This is a major distortion of what PG means.

        PG does not replace faith, PG makes faith possible.

        PG is the preconversion work of the Spirit. If that does not occur, then a person will not have faith, they will not be able to have faith.

        The actual text is:

        “2 For indeed we have had good news preached to us, just as they also; but the word [a]they heard did not profit them, because [b]it [the word] was not united BY FAITH in those who heard.”

        What is being said here? It says that the word was preached but some were not saved because the Word was NOT united with faith. We are saved when we trust in God and His Word: no faith = no salvation.

        A person cannot have faith unless they have experienced the preconversion work of the Spirit/other wise called “prevenient grace”. No work of the Spirit means no enabling of a person to have faith.
        The problem with the people in Heb. 2:4 is not that they did not experience the preconversion work of the Spirit/PG, the problem is that AFTER the Spirit worked in them they did not choose to trust in Jesus. I have preached messages to hundreds of people at a time and I am sure the Spirit was working in many of them who did not get saved (i.e. the Word was not combined with faith in these individuals, at least not at that time). Anyone who evangelizes knows exactly what is meant in this verse.

        Dizerner you then replied and made a good point:

        {{Hebrews 2:4 (NKJV)
        …which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?
        If it was spoken by the Lord, why then did “God bear witness”?}}

        This is a critical point that folks like Phillip and Leighton seem to be missing, the Word is preached but then the Spirit ***has to work*** through the Word to enable people to have faith.

        If the Word alone without the preconversion work of the Spirit could save a person, then as you say why is God also bearing witness with signs and wonders, with various miracles”?

        If the Spirit does not work, the Word is not going to be believed. And the Spirit may work in a person giving them understanding of scripture, convicting them of sin, revealing Jesus to them, etc. etc. and the person may still resist this work of the Spirit. Hebrews 4:2 is speaking directly of such people: those who were resisting the work of the Spirit so the proclamation of the Word did not result in their salvation, instead they did not choose to respond with faith so “the word did not profit them” because the word was not combined with personal faith on their part.

  13. Leighton,

    You shared what in my thinking is a very misguided and awful analogy. I am quite familiar with the use of analogies as I use them all the time myself in preaching and teaching. But this one has got to go, it is just so off base. Allow me to explain.

    Prevenient grace is the term that I and others use for the preconversion work of the Holy Spirt that enables a person to have a faith response to the gospel. This preconversion work of the Spirit include personal experiences such as: being convicted of one’s sin so that one recognizes one’s sinful condition before God, revealing who Jesus is to a person, revealing that the way of salvation is through faith in Christ, giving understanding of scripture, showing a person that Jesus is who He claimed to be, giving miracles to show that Jesus is the Messiah, giving dreams and visions to people, etc. etc. etc. after experiencing these workings of the Spirit the person is then enabled to choose to trust in Jesus to be saved. If the person does not experience these workings by the Spirit they will not be able to believe.

    So note in my understanding there is NOT some mysterious thing IN ADDITION TO the preconversion work of the Spirit that **is** prevenient grace: rather, this preconversion work of the Spirit **is** the prevenient grace that God gives us to enable us to have faith and become believers. With these things in mind look at your analogy.

    “An analogy for consideration:
    I’ve said before, the gospel is to the Holy Spirit what the hammer is to the carpenter. Every analogy falls short, but the only point of this one is to reveal that the Holy Spirit (the carpenter) uses a tool (the Gospel) to enable a response (drive the nail).”

    Ok, make sure I get this straight, so the gospel = the tool the Spirit uses, the hammer.

    The Spirit = the carpenter.

    The carpenter/Sprit uses the hammer/gospel to enable a faith response.

    Well Leighton this use of the hammer by the Carpenter, is the Carpenter working?

    And that working by the carpenter, that effort by the Carpenter, THAT is prevenient grace.

    THAT is the preconversion work of the Spirit.

    If the Carpenter/Spirit does not work, that hammer will not drive in the nail will he?

    The nail cannot be driven in unless the Carpenter works, correct?

    Next you completely get confused about PG when you say:

    “Whereas, the classical Arminian position insists that the carpenter (the Holy Spirit) must secretly put some mysterious oil on the nail (prevenient grace) that supposedly enables it to be driven into wood while still maintaining that the carpenter (the Holy Spirit) used the hammer (the Gospel) to drive the nail (enable a response). This presupposes the nail NEEDED the oil in order to be driven by the hammer and creates confusion as to the sufficient power of the carpenter’s hammer (the Gospel).”

    So according to you, Leighton, the three elements of the Arminian understanding of PG are:
    (1) The Holy Spirit, (2) the gospel, and (3) prevenient grace.

    Do you see why this is wrong Leighton? If, as I, and others maintain,
    PG = the work of the Spirit, then instead of this misrepresentation of the Arminian position that you present (involving three elements). There are ****not three elements****, there are ONLY two (1) The Holy Spirit (his preconversion work being called or designated as “prevenient grace”) and (2) the gospel. Put another way, if the work of the Spirit ***Is*** Prevenient grace, then there is not (1) The Holy Spirit, (2) the gospel and (3) Prevenient grace, rather (1) is the Holy Spirit and His work, there is no additional element!

    You continue:

    “Now, if the “Authoritative Carpenter’s Manual” clearly indicates that nails cannot be driven by the hammer apart from the application of oil, then by all means, I would concede this point. But if the manual never even mentions anything about oil at all, but over and over again points the hammer as the sole means of power and sufficiency for driving nails, then why add the additional oily means?”

    The authoritative Carpenter’s Manual is the Bible in this analogy. And you are correct it does not speak of something additional to the work of the Spirit as occurring when a person is converted. But it does not have to as the preconversion work of the Spirit is what we call “prevenient grace”. All these things the Spirit does before a person is saved, which I mentioned above, which occur in scripture (e.g. convicting people of their sin, revealing Jesus to a person, etc.) ****ARE**** explicitly mentioned in the “authoritative Carpenter’s Manual”. Leighton you unintentionally mispresent what Arminians believe.

    It is not THE SPIRIT + prevenient grace = enabling a faith response to the gospel.

    It is THE WORK OF THE SPIRIT/WHICH IS REFERRED TO AS “prevenient grace” that enables a faith response to the gospel.

    If you believe that the Spirit must work in a person before they are saved to enable them to have faith, then you believe in prevenient grace whether you like to call it that or not.

    Now for a more fitting analogy of prevenient grace/the preconversion work of the Spirit, from a friend of mine:

    “It is like the difference between me giving someone a message to pass on to you, and me coming to your house and sitting down with you and discussing my message with you. In one instance, I am not actively and personally conversing with you , and in the other I am.”

    Leighton your position appears to be like the first giving of the message (“me giving someone a message to pass on to you”). You claim that the gospel alone, given to a sinner enables them to have faith.

    But consider the second way of giving the message (“me coming to your house and sitting down with you and discussing my message with you”). The second is much more personal. And that is just it, the preconversion work of the Spirit is very personal and He works in individuals to enable them to have faith: “he comes to your house and sits down with you and discusses the Word with you”.

    It is this action of Him coming to an individual and working on them individually, speaking to them personally, that is the preconversion work of the Spirit that enables a faith response. There is nothing in addition to the work of the Spirit that is prevenient grace, rather, it IS the WORKING OF THE SPIRIT that is prevenient grace. There are not three elements with prevenient grace being something in addition to the work of the Spirit: it is the work of the Spirit that we call prevenient grace.

    If I equate the preconversion work of the Spirit with prevenient grace (and I do, as do others, and I have made myself clear on this here multiple times), and you come along with this awful analogy where the work of the Spirit is not prevenient grace, but prevenient grace is something additional to the work of the Spirit, then can you understand why I see your analogy as completely misrepresenting my view?

    You call prevenient grace “some mysterious oil” which is in addition to the work of the Spirit: that is not what I mean by PG. There is no “mysterious oil” in addition to the preconversion work of the Spirit: but it is this preconversion work of the Spirit which we call prevenient grace.

    Returning to your analogy one last time:

    That working by the Carpenter/Spirit is the prevenient grace that enables a faith response. If the Carpenter/Spirit does not work/if PG is not given, that nail will not be driven in, that hammer/the gospel won’t work!

  14. Dear Bro. Flowers, I was not aware of the traditional southern Baptist view concerning how it is taught that the unregenerate who are dead in sins can confess their sinful condition and need of a savoir through the hearing of the Word or God or the Gospel and convicting or reproving of the Holy Spirit.Just as John said in 1 John 1;8-9,If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.If we confess our sins,he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.Before knowing the traditionalist view I could only compare the Armenian and Calvinist view to each other .I definitely did not believe we must be regenerated before we could believe the gospel. And also struggled to believe that a provenience grace was needed to free our wills so that then we would be then be enabled to believe or reject the gospel.You bring out a good point about what after a person rejects the gospel is his will still a freed will because of provenience grace.Also why would we not believe if our wills had been set free from a inability to believe the gospel?The traditionalist view just makes things so much clearer to understand how faith comes by hearing the word and that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation and how we can believe through the Holy Spirit who is reproving the world of the sin of not believingly in me as Jesus said even though as unregenerate people we are dead in sins.Like you say the prodigal son was dead yet came to his senses and returned to his father after remembering how loving he was not only to himself but to the farm workers too.And we know also that God is willing that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth and that He has confined all unto sin so that he might have mercy upon all.This traditionalists view that I had never heard before I had learned the other two views is just what I needed to see because now I see that not only do we not first have to be regenerated before we can believe the gospel but also we do not need a provenience grace to free our wills so that then we can either choose to believe or reject the gospel .I just want you to know that your message about the traditional view is very coherent and not incoherent like James White said and that you reached me with it if not him. Maybe that is his way of avoiding not wanting to debate your view or even talking about it anymore.But like Jesus said the truth sets people free and also what is not truth will keep you deceived and bounded up. Thanks,Bro. Hooper

    1. Just a point. You quote Flowers with “You bring out a good point about what after a person rejects the gospel is his will still a freed will because of prevenient grace.”

      It would simply be a straw man to insist our understanding of prevenient grace means the will is thereafter forever freed. The Bible talks quite clearly of a temporary period of time the will is freed, not an indefinite and never-ending time of a freed will.

      Christ came to set the captives free—but those captives, whom Christ called children of the devil, although offered a genuine and real opportunity to turn from sin and follow Christ, were not promised that they would always have that grace to do so.

      Christ said “Walk in the light while you have the light.” There comes a time when the Spirit simply stops striving with a person. I’ve seen it right before my eyes. It’s a scary thing.

  15. Sure am appreciating this website, and the God-honoring way that you interact with those who disagree with you. The content is very helpful and encouraging. I’ve got a couple of questions that I’m wondering about:

    1) A number of times you’ve mentioned that the “foresight faith view” was not a satisfying answer for you. Norm Geisler in his message, “5 reasons I’m not a 5 point calvinist” seems to reference this view. I was wondering if you could elaborate on why you feel the “foresight faith view” is not viable. I’m trying to understand this view myself but am not clear on the objections.

    2) Would you consider identifying yourself apart from denominational labels? You’re referencing “We are neither Calvinists nor Arminians; we are Baptists!” and supporting the notion that the third position is Baptist can feel just as exclusive for those who are none of the above… but still agree because of how we understand God’s Word. There are likely many of us who see the Scriptures as you do but may not wear the label “Baptist”. I appreciate that the “Baptist Faith and Message” may be useful to reference because of your circles, but in taking on this issue of salvation, this is much broader than the Baptist perspectives. It touches all of us who look to Christ alone for our salvation. I would appeal to 1 Corinthians 1:10-16. Do you think that your message would reach further if your presentation was not tied in a public way to a particular denomination but rather to the plain teachings of God’s Word?

    Again, I am grateful for this site. Your teaching ministry has been very helpful to me in the short time that I’ve been aware of it. I look forward to reading, listening, and learning more. Many thanks Leighton!

  16. I hope this isn’t to far off subject.

    From the article, “He could have justly allowed each of us to suffer the immediate life-terminating consequences of our first sin.”

    Yes, but could his love? It’s a serious question I have. My thinking is his justice and other attributes e.g., love, work together. Would God’s nature be free to not reach out and attempt to save those he created and loves?

      1. Thanks for responding. I am enjoying your writings and this site very much. I have also read some on Williams sight, he is also very thoughtful and a good writer. Guess I am a traditionalist just never heard it termed that way.

  17. I’ve wondered the same thing. I’ve heard people say things to the effect that God didn’t have to save anyone. I think I understand the appeal to God’s holiness and justice in what they’re saying. He is perfect in His expression of judgment and wrath. But, could God have really sat back and done nothing? It seems that His love, grace, and mercy would also equally find perfect expression. That He is love is no less true than the truth that He is just. I’m forever grateful for what He expressed at Calvary.

  18. My wondering is in relation to His nature and how His nature relates to His actions. I don’t think I would use the word “forced”. No one can force Him do anything. But can He act contrary to His nature? He can’t be unjust and He can’t be unloving… not because it’s forced upon Him… but because of who He is. I don’t understand a lot of things but the Scriptures are clear that God’s love for us motivated Him to do something about our situation. John 3:16; 1 John 4:9,10 come to mind. He certainly was compelled to save us. Whatever the nature of His love is, it will mean everything to those He saves from His eternal wrath and brings into His eternal family.

    1. We agree it’s just that God doesn’t owe that to anyone, and it helps us understand why all are not saved, and it also helps us to understand that God didn’t owe us salvation. Those things give me a more reverential attitude, and also give me a real foundation of grace.

  19. Genesis 15:6 (NKJV)…….
    And as a result of the pre-conversion work of the Spirit, he (Abram) believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.

    Again, not what the text says.

    1. Phillip refers to Gen. 15:6 and then says that the phrase Preconversion work of the Spirit is not there. He is correct, that phrase is not there, nor will you find the word “preconversion” in any Biblical text. This does not mean that the concept is not present or valid. Similary you will find no verses that have the word “trinity” in them: does it follow from this that the concept of trinity is not biblical and not valid? I have to admit I am bit shocked that anyone professing to be a christian would deny that the preconversiion work of the Spirit is not necessary for a person to be saved. If the Spirit does not work in the mind and heart of a person, including Abraham in Genesis or anyone else in the Bible, or anyone else in the Bible, they will not be saved.

      That points to an important question for Phillip: this is a Yes or No question, Can a person be saved without the preconversion work of the Spirit?

      Some here may deny inability, but surely no one denies that the Spirit has to work in a person’s heart and mind for them to become a believer?

      Or does Phillip actually deny this??????

      1. Robert,
        The Holy Spirits’s convicting a man of sin does not enable a man to respond in faith. God’s revelation of Himself to a man does not enable man to respond in faith. It is incorrect to describe the work of the Holy Spirit as enabling work because men do not lack the ability to respond to God. Jesus said men were unwilling not unable.

      2. Ernest,

        I am sorry, this post begins with a line that is absolutely false.
        I am actually shocked that you could even make this assertion. Allow me to explain.

        You claim:

        “The Holy Spirits’s convicting a man of sin does not enable a man to respond in faith.”

        Say Joe is an unbeliever. He goes to a Billy Graham crusade and hears a gospel proclamation. He is not yet a believer. The Spirit CONVICTS him of his sin, reveals Christ to him during the message, reveals that Jesus is the way of salvation to Joe, etc. Joe based upon this preconversion work of the Spirit (including conviction of Joe about his sins) then chooses to trust in Christ for salvation. The Spirit most definitely ENABLED Joe to make this faith response. If the Spirit did not work in this way during the presentation, Joe would not be convicted of his sin, not know who Jesus is, not know that Jesus is the way of salvation, etc.

        When we speak of a person responding in faith, it is not in a vacuum.

        That person, whether it is Joe or anyone else ****has to be convicted of their sins****, shown their spiritual condition (i.e. that they can only be saved through Jesus, that only believers will be saved, that unbelievers will go to hell, etc.) in order to make an informed choice to trust in Christ for salvation.

        No conviction by the Spirit means no reason to trust in Jesus to save you from your sins.

        You have to be convicted of your sins for the gospel to be meaningful for you.

        Until you know you are a sinner (and that knowing is a preconversion work of the Spirit), you will have no need to trust in Jesus to save you. And save you from what? It is the Spirit who reveals to a sinner that they are in danger of God’s wrath, that they must repent, that they are a sinner who must obtain forgiveness from God, etc. These are all preconversion works of the Spirit.

        In contrast to all of this, Ernest, you claim that the Spirit’s convicting of a man of their own sin DOES NOT ENABLE a man to respond to faith.

        How are they going to know they need to trust in Jesus (which is what a biblical faith response is) UNLESS THE SPIRIT REVEALS THIS NEED TO THEM?

        “God’s revelation of Himself to a man does not enable man to respond in faith.”

        This statement is false for the same reasons. If the Holy Spirit does not reveal Himself to a person, then how is their proper object of faith going to be Him, the true God? There are lots of false gods out there and even false gospels.

        It is the Holy Spirit who reveals the true gospel to an individual. It is the Spirit that reveals that Jesus is Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3). If they do not know who Jesus really is, do not know that He is the way of salvation. If they do not experience this work of the Spirit (and again it occurs BEFORE they are converted) THEY CANNOT HAVE A PROPER FAITH RESPONSE (i.e. they cannot choose to place their faith in the true God for salvation).

        ‘It is incorrect to describe the work of the Holy Spirit as enabling work because men do not lack the ability to respond to God.”

        This statement is also completely false. It is not that the person lacks the capacity or ability to respond to God AFTER GOD REVEALS HIMSELF TO THAT PERSON. But unless God reveals Himself to that person they cannot be saved. A person may have the capacity to make a choice to trust in Jesus: but why should they make that choice unless the Spirit convicts them of their sin and shows them Jesus is the way of salvation.

        I think you are trying so hard to argue that a person has the capacity to trust in Jesus that you are minimizing and neglecting the fact that unless the Spirit works in that person they will not know what they need to know in order to make that choice to trust in Jesus.

        “Jesus said men were unwilling not unable.”

        Yes and He was speaking of people that experienced the work of the Sprit. Example, the Spirit did miracles showing Jesus was the Jewish Messiah to the Jewish people. Those who then were unwilling to believe could not claim that God had not revealed himself to them, He did, through the miracles the Spirit did in connection with Jesus’ ministry. It was not that God had not revealed Himself to them but that they had been exposed to the revelation and then were unwilling to bow the knee to Jesus.

  20. John 4:48 (NKJV)…..
    Then Jesus said to him, “Unless you people have prevenient grace, you will by no means believe.”

    And, again, not what the text says.

    1. Aside from the fact that what you filled in with “prevenient grace” which was “signs and wonders” actually IS ironically a prevenient grace, Robert does have a point that you aren’t really proving any point by using a select Scripture and then making an argument from silence. It would be like me posting:

      “Don’t prepare the way of the Lord, don’t make his paths straight, because the Lord can just show up and you need no preparation.”

      or

      “Then all Israel didn’t prepare their hearts to seek the Lord their God, because you don’t need to prepare your heart to seek God you just do it.”

      or

      “Don’t plow up your fallow ground, because you don’t need to do anything like that when it’s time to seek the Lord.”

      or

      “Then John the Baptist showed up in the desert declaring “I’m the redundant voice of the Lord, telling you all the same things Jesus will tell you anyway.”

      Except that’s not what the text says…

      I mean it’s I suppose a “cute” way to try to make a point, but not one that really sticks close to the text. To say there is no Biblical case for prevenient grace is just to turn a deliberately blind eye on a whole lot of passages talking about the pre-conversion work of the Holy Spirit; something no serious student of the Bible should ever do.

      1. David,

        I think the point Leighton, Ernest, and myself is making is simply that man never lost his ability to respond favorably to God. We reject TD/TI so we don’t believe man needs to be restored to a pre-fall condition. We don’t deny that the Holy Spirit “convicts the world of sin”, but we just don’t see this as necessary to enable a person to a point of faith. So, yes, the Holy Spirit convicts, but only because man is convict-able. God draws, because man is draw-able. God teaches, because man is teach-able. A far cry from total inability.

        So when Jesus said “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe”, He was simply referring to providing evidence and proof that He was who he said He was. However, this evidence and proof was not a gracious enabling that dealt with their depravity.

        John 8:7-9 (KJV)…..
        So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

        Please notice these depraved sinners were convicted by their own conscience. Jesus’ words were sufficient to cause this conviction because they knew they were equally guilty. But, again, this conviction “by their own conscience” was in no way a result from them being “released from the bondage of sin” and thus enabled to respond favorably to the Lord’s words.

        Blessings, brother.

      2. Phillip’s appeal to John 8 fails.

        “John 8:7-9 (KJV)…..
        So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
        Please notice these depraved sinners were convicted by their own conscience. Jesus’ words were sufficient to cause this conviction because they knew they were equally guilty. But, again, this conviction “by their own conscience” was in no way a result from them being “released from the bondage of sin” and thus enabled to respond favorably to the Lord’s words.”

        The reason it fails is that the context is not one of evangelism or any call to believe in Jesus. The people respond to their consciences. The passage is not at all talking about how people come to Christ or their conversion experience. As THAT is the context of our discussion here, this passage says nothing about depravity and inability when it comes to having faith in Christ. So it fails as it has no relevancy to what we have been speaking about. Phillip you better try some other proof text to make your point. 🙂 

      3. I can see better where you’re coming from. When I think pretty hard about the issues I do often get very confounded trying to sort it all out. One could say if we were totally evil, then whether we had free will or not, we’d never choose the good. And having seen what the fallen sinner is capable of, where a person is actually just a bad seed, it seems to validate this idea of TD. Of course people can look good, kind, thoughtful, generous, and nice and that is a confusing issue when trying to convince someone they are such a sinner they needed God to die for them in incredible pain. It’s like that song: bad to the bone. Yet on my other hand, I’m thinking there’s no reason for free will to be eliminated by TD, in fact I’ve gone to great lengths arguing that it’s not. Nor does slavery to sin eliminate free will, for the very fact that something is enslaved shows that it must be the free will that is enslaved. But is a person good without the Cross? I’d believe a person can make a “good” choice, like believing in Christ, but that choice did not merit anything, it was not righteous of itself. And often I think we feel the Traditionalist view is just a little bit soft and weak on sin; if sin is as vile as Scripture says it is, and every single person does it, what is to motivate us to change? Yet I’d argue that a TD person could choose to God and even choose to want to want God—that is, they could not change their nature, desire or actions, but they could indeed make a choice for God in some way. I wouldn’t see TD as eliminating autonomy altogether in that sense, and maybe in this we’re not so far apart. Yet you have to realize the life of sin loves sin, it is perfectly happy cursing God out and going on its merry way. If you preach to a crowd of 10 and 1 breaks down sobbing, you know that person didn’t just choose to feel conviction or those righteous feelings; the Spirit came upon them and their heart was soft for whatever reason. I’ve talked to hard hearts, very hard hearts, that I still knew by the Spirit they heard what I said—they understood the issues at play. I don’t think a man can understand those issues on his own. But it seems to me you don’t argue against “prevenient grace” in general (despite your ill-conceived in my view distaste for the word “prevenient” that seems completely arbitrary when you accept perfectly fine other unbiblical descriptions like “judicial” or “unpardonable” or even “amazing grace” [amazing? that’s not in the Bible!]). But what seems to be the only real sticking point is the matter of choice and nothing else. You’re fine with miracles happening, you’re fine with Jesus and his apostles walking around teaching, you’re fine with a holy book being written, you’re fine with needing Christ to die for us all while we are yet sinners, but it’s this matter of choice you balk at. As long as we get the information, we need no help in the matter of making a choice, we just make it. I know when we first meet Jesus wherever and whenever that is (and I’d love to hear your story & testimony it might help me understand where you’re coming from and why you feeling strongly about it), when we first meet Jesus some drastic and radical things happen. It’s a bit shocking really—the opening of a whole dimension and way of looking at life and a whole overarching spiritual reality we were never quite fully aware of. And the fact that—I mean for me it’s weird that I know for sure I deserve an eternal hell yet the thought really is genuinely too much for me. I accept it by the Spirit and feel it in my heart and see it in the Word but to actually think of going there, of being lost—it puts everything in my on tilt. And Jesus saved me from that. Now I love Jesus but I also admit I don’t love him and that’s a bizarre paradox for me. I mean we know that everything is grace from God, but this is different. Adam and Eve had grace in one sense, they got lots of goodies and happiness, but you’ll notice something, they didn’t need any blood. Nary any blood in sight. There was no blood as part of their relationship with God, now for me, the idea is so ingrained from my earliest memories, and now through radical times of struggling with so much of a spiritual battle in my life, I cling to the Blood every second, nay, every millisecond, every thought, every blink, every breath, that blood is uppermost in my heart’s meditation. And God told them they’d die, he said they’d die. We can say “look the prodigal son died, and he just decided one day to go back,” but I can’t equate that with the fall, it’s not a parallel picture. The prodigal son was a Christian that fell away, he was not an unbeliever. The prodigal story lacks one thing, it lacks blood. Where’s the blood. Now in the Bible God does talk to even heathens as if they were in control of some of their actions (and by that I don’t think we can extrapolate to all but some). God asked Abimelech to quit it, and the text is clear Abimelech, a presumably unsaved and godless man, had the ability to refrain or not refrain from a given moral action regarding Sarah. And I believe that, and in many instance I believe the will is in control. In some instances I think the will is overpowered for a given action. I see two levels of sin, one deliberate and one involuntary as just part of being sinful in nature. And the Traditionalist does accept that I’m not entirely sure where you stand on it. I’ve heard people from all parts of the spectrum in their views on this. But I would say one thing, Abimelech certainly had sins in his life he had not control over. And where Abimelech to attempt to dedicate his life to YHWH I’m certain he couldn’t do it in his own willpower. Yet could he make a move and a choice towards God, as Paul says? Well, in theory I think it’s possible. One thing I see completely underrated as a Scriptural teaching is generational sin, and it’s quite a pervasive teaching and very much against our individualistic justice-driven Western philosophical mindset. I think we sometimes must think God is an American, he believes in individual liberty and justice for all. Yet God says without blinking an eye that he will punish or bless generations of children for the sin or righteousness of the fathers. And by the time we get to Ezekiel where it says he will change the proverb of the sons eating sour grapes, we are still left with the feeling that this passage was not meant to erase the former. I’ve read stories of people who seemed to seek God out of almost thin air and I’ve read stories of people whose heart was mind-mindbogglingly hardened. And the question that presents itself is, how much of it is us? We can choose God, but does that make God beholden to us, does that earn us righteousness? We see a real sick and nasty person at some point after innumerable sins actually find regeneration somehow (think Manasseh). At other points you see the older brother who says he worked hard all his life, but falls into self-righteousness and pride, thinking he’d actually earned something by it. If all was theoretically by God’s grace, how could we avoid monergism and double-predestination? Yet in my insistence that however logical that tries to display itself, it does not match up to Bible and logic, I have to find another scheme. There is autonomy somewhere—everything screams it. But how much and to what effect? I of course believe I made a choice to follow God, but what if God never graced my life? Could I have been Hitler? I mean honestly, could I? I’ve… I don’t know, I’ve felt things inside me. And you must understand, that when you confess something you make yourself vulnerable and open to criticism, but I’ve felt things at times. Dispositions, possibilities, understanding I can’t just assume I’m the God-fearing, Jesus-loving devoted man of God I sometimes think I am. I mean, I don’t know. If I ask “how much of the holiness in my life is of you and how much is of me,” am I being a bit presumptuous and arrogant? But what if it’s just saying I could make right choices? Or what if it’s saying I could just make a choice to hook up with and receive God’s grace? An evil man has no reason to choose good? But yet it can’t be that there is no autonomy? And the only solution I’ve come up with in the end might seem complicated, just like the Trinity is quite complicated. But I think it’s a dynamic tandem of grace and receptive choice. I think when mankind fell, they fell hard, a lot harder than people want to think, even Christians. Really, really hard. We can read of atrocities that boggle thing mind in social circumstances where things go bad and people become quite evil. Can I really say anyone that hears “choose Jesus” simply can choose Jesus, no questions asked? I don’t think the Bible reads that simplistically for sure, anyway.

  21. “We don’t deny that the Holy Spirit “convicts the world of sin”, but we just don’t see this as necessary to enable a person to a point of faith.”

    Just surfing around today and came across this discussion. Saw this, “I think the point Leighton, Ernest, and myself is making is simply that man never lost his ability to respond favorably to God. We reject TD/TI so we don’t believe man needs to be restored to a pre-fall condition.”

    This my fellow travelers is the crux of the matter. You have Robert and others along with Calvinists recognizing that God must do something pre conversion (prevenient grace) in order for man to believe. We differ of course on whether it is irresistible or not and the order of salvation. But we agree that man’s condition as fallen man necessitates God doing something,

    Then there is the statement quoted above that Phillip writes and Leighton and erneststrauss agree with, or at least “like.”

    Robert and others who agree with him along with us Calvinists will never come to agreement with Phillip, Leighton and erneststrauss on the necessity of God’s prevenient grace due to the simple fact that our views of man’s fallen condition are so radically different.

    Just an observation.

    1. You say “necessitates God doing something” which presumed we don’t believe He has done anything. You should say, “necessitates God doing more than sending Christ, the scriptures, the Bride, etc”

    2. Let me add, that His word accompanied by the Spirit working is what is required. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God, not by man merely being able to fog a mirror.

      1. //Correct, more than just His presence in the world. That’s why we support missionaries and just finished up our annual missions conference and such.// Christ did more than come into the world. He willingly died for all men. He propitiated the Father for all men. He is the mediator for all men. He provided ample evidence of who He is and promised salvation for all who believe, That is grace. Men need nothing further to humble themselves and trust/believe Him for eternal life.

      2. Erneststrauss,

        The issue as I see it is, what is man’s post fallen condition. Calvinists say that man’s condition prevents him from exercising faith apart from a prior work of God. You and a few others on here apparently say that man can exercise faith part from the specific work of God by His Spirit prior to exercising faith.

      3. //Calvinists say that man’s condition prevents him from exercising faith apart from a prior work of God. // therein lies the problem. Nowhere in the BIBLE does it say that. In fact it gives Cornelius as one among many who were seeking and believed God prior to being born again. See acts 10 and 11. notice especially Acts 11:15-17 (HCSB)
        15 “As I began to speak, the Holy Spirit came down on them, just as on us at the beginning. 16 Then I remembered the word of the Lord, how He said, ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’ 17 Therefore, if God gave them the same gift that He also gave to us WHEN WE BELIEVED on the Lord Jesus Christ, how could I possibly hinder God?”
        regeneration/salvation comes when we believe. We are saved through regeneration (*Titus 3:5) not after regeneration.

    3. I’ve been wondering and puzzled about this… whether we need extra “help” to make a choice or not seems, perhaps, a finer nuance. I think their concerns are keeping things simple, so that it’s a matter of “hear and do the Word” without further complications. What we observe in theology and life experience is that sin is as Paul said exceedingly sinful; people don’t naturally do the right things. Yet is their bondage so severe they need help to even make a choice? Why do we feel strongly that is an important way to look at things? Grace? Well of course the Calvinist thinks even making a choice is Pelagian. But the Arminian says you need grace to make a choice and the Traditionalist says you don’t really need any extra grace to make a choice.

      Nobody anywhere denies that choices for God are made in practical experience. I made many choices for God, but have come to firmly believe I didn’t make them on my own out of the blue. I had a predisposition towards God because I had quite a spiritual heritage in my life. I grew up in a Christian home, was saved from my earliest memory, my mother prayed for me before I was even born; yet why do I think with all that I still needed some magical extra “prevenient grace” and the Word of God just wasn’t enough all on its own. In a word I think it’s seeing just how far man fell in the fall, and just how deeply sin is pervasive in our hearts. Despite all that going for me, I’ve lived in legalistic bondage and fearful I cannot live to the standard Christ calls me to.

      So when I walk up to X uinsaved person and tell them about Christ, I don’t think they are making a yes/no choice just like if I told them about Buddha or Mohammad. Because whatever proposition I’m giving them is normally just facts, but when I’m giving them a proposition about Jesus I’m introducing them to a real and actual spiritual being, a real Person. And I’m assuming that he’s there, speaking and working, because I know my words alone aren’t going to do jack if God’s not in it. You see Christians that seem to make no effort at all to hear and cooperate with the Spirit in their witnessing—they merely scream words that don’t mean anything to lost people, instead of spending so much time praying that their humility and brokenness reaches out and speaks all on its own.

      I guess I can understand a desire not to complicate things, but on the other hand, prevenient grace seems pretty important for me both Biblically and in real life experiences. Understanding it means I can put less trust in my flesh and my fleshly efforts—I don’t have to use “persuasive means” because the Holy Spirit is a persuasive Person, who can take my awkward attempts at expressing the message of Christ and make them sound clear and eloquent to anyone. Despite evangelists saying this or that method does better or worse, I can’t help but think that in truth, in the long run, it really isn’t a secret and special way of phrasing the right words or doing the right things, but the fruit that lasts, the real converts that genuinely love God, are not made from “persuasive words of man’s wisdom” but rather from feeling the true passion and faith of a heart submitted to Christ, used in all its imperfections and failings.

      In the end for me it’s like Calvinists—I think Traditionalists and Calvinists are both saved and love Jesus, I just think they are missing out on a more accurate way of seeing God and Scripture and just how he is working in the world. Just how important that is, I’m not entirely sure—maybe I’ve spent too much time focusing on theology to the exclusion of other more simple and practical methods of spirituality. But knowing I can share something with another Christian, just like I can share something with someone lost, and hope that the Spirit can use my imperfect and awkward words to provoke them to deeper study of the Word and their thoughts about God and how he works in the world, believing that God can use each other to bring us more seriously and firmly into Biblical truths even if we don’t end up agreeing, is a hope I have and for all the tension, my hope is God’s people will provoke each other to love and good works, one of which is understanding him better.

      bless

      1. I do not read anywhere in the account of the fall or elsewhere in the Bible where man is said to have lost any ability to understand and believe God’s revelation of Himself. Throughout the Bible we are given examples of men choosing to follow God with no mention of some supernatural change prior to their choice. Many are even described as righteous, upright and God-fearing – completely at odds with the way Calvinism tries to portray all men prior to being regenerated. The Holy Spirit does convict all men and all men are able to respond to the Holy Spirit without some supernatural work that changes man’s ability.
        The belief in total depravity has led Calvinism into formulating a special grace that is never distinguished in the Bible. It never tries to subdivide grace into a grace that is only available to a certain group of people. The Bible only speaks of God’s grace.
        The error of total depravity has also led Calvinists to errors of chronology and agency in salvation.
        The supernatural work that changes man occurs when a man accepts the free gift of salvation and is regenerated. Titus 3:5 tells us that regeneration is the means (the “how”) of salvation not some separate act of God prior to salvation . Calvinism is forced to adopt a chronology of salvation that contradicts the chronology recorded in the Bible. Some even resort to an argument of “logical priority” thinking that will somehow strengthen their argument that faith precedes regeneration.
        A second error of Calvinism is the error of agency. In order to support their monergistic view of salvation, they are forced to maintain that God is the agent of faith and that faith is a gift to the regenerated man. They ignore scriptures in which unregenerated men are commanded to repent and believe or are told that they can be born again by believing (John 3).

      2. Thanks for responding.

        >> I do not read anywhere in the account of the fall or elsewhere in the Bible where man is said to have lost any ability to understand and believe God’s revelation of Himself.

        This isn’t what total depravity teaches under Classic Arminianism, so it seems like a straw man. But what you mean is “without any grace at all from God” men have the ability to respond to God—and that’s where we disagree—whether people need grace or not.

        >> Many are even described as righteous, upright and God-fearing – completely at odds with the way Calvinism tries to portray all men prior to being regenerated.

        Seems like another straw man, no offense. Because you can’t show a Scripture that says they were upright or righteous apart from only and solely the grace of God, which means, without that grace they are depraved.

        >> The Holy Spirit does convict all men and all men are able to respond to the Holy Spirit without some supernatural work that changes man’s ability.

        Again you say the Holy Spirit has to do something, but then it seems to me you say he doesn’t do anything. Why does the Holy Spirit need to convict anyone at all if they can simply pick up a Bible and read it?

        >> It never tries to subdivide grace into a grace that is only available to a certain group of people. The Bible only speaks of God’s grace.

        Do you complain about “judicial hardening” when the Bible talks about only “hardening”? We add a descriptive word to it simply to describe it.

        >> The error of total depravity has also led Calvinists to errors of chronology and agency in salvation.

        Nope. It is the error of determinism that has done this, not the teaching of original sin.

        >> The supernatural work that changes man occurs when a man accepts the free gift of salvation and is regenerated.

        The Bible says the Spirit of God moves on and speaks to a sinner’s heart; Jesus is the light of the World, not just to saints, but to sinners as well; but they will not always have that light even in this earthly life, because that’s what Jesus taught us, that they will walk in darkness and know not where they are going if they don’t accept that Light while it is there.

        >> They ignore scriptures in which unregenerated men are commanded to repent and believe or are told that they can be born again by believing (John 3).

        I think you make a big mistake equating irresistible grace with prevenient grace. They are not the same thing.

  22. // Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God// Yes Faith comes by hearing, not by grace. It is mans response to God’s grace.

  23. Numbers 21:4-9 (NIV)……
    They traveled from Mount Hor along the route to the Red Sea, to go around Edom. But the people grew impatient on the way; they spoke against God and against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? There is no bread! There is no water! And we detest this miserable food!” Then the LORD sent venomous snakes among them; they bit the people and many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said, “We sinned when we spoke against the LORD and against you. Pray that the LORD will take the snakes away from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. The LORD said to Moses, “Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.” So Moses made a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. Then when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.

    I believe the above addresses and dismisses so many of the tenets of Calvinism, but I want to stay focused on this issue of TD/TI and prevenient grace and particularly verse 8…

    “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’”

    Now was the bronze serpent upon the pole sufficient to save the Israelites or did God need to restore their eye sight? The Israelites were dying. For all practical purposes they were “dead in trespasses and sin”, but were they still able to “look”?

    What does the text say?

    “Anyone who is bitten CAN look at it and live.”

    According to the doctrine of TD/TI, the bronze serpent upon the pole should have been insufficient to save the dying Israelites. According to Calvinism/Arminianism additional grace was needed to restore the eye sight of the dying Israelites. However, the text of scripture clearly states that the dying Israelites still possessed the ability to look. So even though these Israelites were dying from the infection of sin, they still possessed the ability to look at the object of salvation supplied by God.

    I believe this analogy works in perfect harmony with lost man and the finished works of Jesus upon the cross (or the gospel of Christ). Are we fallen? Yes. Are we depraved? Yes. Are we dead in trespasses and sin? Yes. Do we still have the ability to look to the cross (believe the gospel)? Yes.

    1. Phillip’s analogy fails, allow me to explain. He brings up the serpent story from Numbers 21. He then says:

      “I believe the above addresses and dismisses so many of the tenets of Calvinism, but I want to stay focused on this issue of TD/TI and prevenient grace and particularly verse 8…
      “The LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a snake and put it up on a pole; anyone who is bitten can look at it and live.’”
      Now was the bronze serpent upon the pole sufficient to save the Israelites or did God need to restore their eye sight? The Israelites were dying. For all practical purposes they were “dead in trespasses and sin”, but were they still able to “look”?”

      First, let’s make an important point: Jesus brings up this story in John 3 to make an analogy between these events and his crucifixion and people being saved by faith, not their own efforts. In Numbers 21 those bitten were going to die and could not save themselves by any effort they made (likewise the sinner is bitten by sin and cannot save himself/herself by any effort they make). In Numbers 21 those who trusted in God’s provision (the snake on the pole) were saved from their deadly snake bite (likewise the sinner who trusts in God’s provision, Jesus on the cross, is saved from the sin). In both cases the point is that a person is saved not by their own efforts but by trusting in God’s provision alone.

      Now did the snake on the pole in Numbers 21 in itself save the people? No. Instead, God chose to save those who showed their trust in Him by looking up at the snake on the pole. It was not the snake on the pole that saved people, it was THE POWER OF GOD APPLIED TO PEOPLE WHO TRUSTED HIM BY LOOKING UP AT THE POLE IN FAITH. The snake in itself did not save people, rather God saved those who had faith. Likewise, does Jesus’ death on the cross in itself save a person? No, unless they trust in Jesus’ crucifixion, they won’t be saved.

      The atonement has two elements, the provision which is for all, and then the application of it, which is only to those who have faith. Likewise the snake was given for all of the Israelites (provision) but was only applied to those who had faith (application).

      Phillip then tries to draw an analogy with total depravity/total inability:

      “According to the doctrine of TD/TI, the bronze serpent upon the pole should have been insufficient to save the dying Israelites.”

      But the bronze serpent IN ITSELF was insufficient to save the dying Israelites: God’s power is what saved those bitten by the snakes.

      “According to Calvinism/Arminianism additional grace was needed to restore the eye sight of the dying Israelites.”

      Here the analogy breaks down completely.

      In Numbers 21 God revealed to Moses who then revealed to the people how they could be saved from the deadly snake bites.
      In the New Testament era WHO IS THAT REVEALS TO PEOPLE THAT Jesus’ death on the cross is how a person can be saved?
      It is the Holy Spirit who reveals this. If He does not reveal this to a person they cannot be saved.

      Phillip leaves out the work of the Holy Spirit.

      It is true in both cases that people are saved by faith. In our era however, how do people know they can be saved through faith in the cross? The Spirit reveals this to them. In Numbers 21 Moses revealed that the way they could be saved was by looking up: in our era it is the Spirit who reveals to people that the way they can be saved is by looking up in faith at Jesus on the cross. If the Spirit does not reveal this to a person they are unable to be saved (hence inability is true without the work of the Spirit).

      Could an Israelite have been saved in Numbers 21 if it had not been revealed to them to look up at the snake on the pole and live?

      No, likewise if the Spirit does not reveal Christ to a person, reveal their sinfulness, convict them of sin, etc. they cannot be saved by the cross of Christ.

      “However, the text of scripture clearly states that the dying Israelites still possessed the ability to look.”

      Sure they had the ability to look, but how would they have known that they should look unless it had been revealed to them?

      Likewise how can a person know Jesus is the way of salvation, know they are a sinner, unless the Spirit reveals these things to them?

      “I believe this analogy works in perfect harmony with lost man and the finished works of Jesus upon the cross (or the gospel of Christ). Are we fallen? Yes. Are we depraved? Yes. Are we dead in trespasses and sin? Yes. Do we still have the ability to look to the cross (believe the gospel)? Yes.”

      We have the ability to look to the cross, but if the Spirt does not tell us about the cross and why the cross is important, etc. if the Spirit’s preconversion work in revealing these things does not occur then we will not choose to trust in Jesus on the cross to save us.

      1. Robert, Inherent in man is the ability to believe what God reveals to all men. The Holy Spirits pre salvation work is not a work that changes mans ability, It is a work that reveals God and man’s need for God. There is no need to separate these acts from God’s grace and call them prevenient grace. The Bible does not make this distinction. Neither should we.

    2. Phillip, I definitely want to respect the point you bring up about the brazen serpent. My counter argument would be, that the natural man would think it was quite a silly thing to think that looking at a metal statue would do something magical and bring healing from a snake bite. What if an Israelite thought “That’s ridiculous, why would that help me in any way, I’m sick?” Do you think any man there ever had that thought? It seems to me your making again an argument from silence. You’re saying God did absolutely nothing in those Israelites hearts to have faith and desire to be healed. The text does not tell us that God did absolutely nothing in their hearts. This was God’s punishment for their rebellion and complaining. Why couldn’t they have continued to rebel and complain? “A snake on a pole and we have to just stare at constantly?! That’s humiliating, that’s foolish.” If you simply assume that people always have a disposition to obey God, I think you go against a great number of Scripture passages.

      1. David,

        Regarding the dying Israelites, no doubt watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, die highly motivated them to do anything to survive. Now perhaps a few, initially, did think it was foolishness and died. We don’t know. But I am sure after a few did “look” thousands starting doing the same.

        You say I am making an argument from silence. Well, sometimes silence says a lot. However, saying God did something supernatural that enabled them to “look” is reading something into the text that just isn’t there. You do know Calvinists claim the exact same thing. Here is a quote from one Calvinist…..

        “All three of these verses (Gal 3:2, Acts 2:38, Eph 1:13) are mute on what the work of the Spirit might be in an person prior to their belief so it is an argument from silence to conclude, therefore, that God, the Holy Spirit, does not effectually bring His people to saving faith behind the scenes, especially since this is the testimony of so many other texts of scripture.”

        Stay gracious, brother.

      2. Phillip,

        As I pointed out in an earlier post, our analogy from Numbers 21 fails because in Numbers 21 Moses revealed to them what they must do to be physically saved from the bite of the snakes (similarly, the Holy Spirit reveals to individuals what they need to know to be spiritually saved). If you eliminate the preconversion work of the Spirit in revealing what we need to do to be saved, modern people will not be saved: likewise if Moses did not reveal to them how they might be saved by looking up they could not have been saved either.

        You tried to bolster your case saying:

        “Regarding the dying Israelites, no doubt watching hundreds, perhaps thousands, die highly motivated them to do anything to survive. Now perhaps a few, initially, did think it was foolishness and died. We don’t know. But I am sure after a few did “look” thousands starting doing the same.”

        If they were not looking based upon what Moses revealed, then their “faith” was just going through the motions (similar to people who don’t really have faith but go to church meeting anyway for “fire insurance purposes”). God knows the heart and responds to people’s faith or lack of faith, so He knows who is who. That is not the issue, the issue is that God in Numbers 21 supernaturally saved those who looked up in faith at the snake.

        To put it more simply, it was not the looking up that saved them (if they had been bit by a poisonous snake, then all the looking up at any object could not heal them or save them): No, it was the power of God that supernaturally saved them. He saved those who trusted Him and that has always been his way: He saves those who trust in His Word (in the context of Numbers 21, Moses revelation of the way of being saved **was** His Word to them in that context.

        Phillip you also do not seem to understand what an argument from silence means (it is a logical fallacy that means your argument is not valid). As Dizerner has correctly pointed out, and I said the same thing, you have engaged in multiple arguments from silence, hence each of these arguments is invalid and so does not make your case. You show your lack of understanding the nature of an argument from silence when you say:

        “You say I am making an argument from silence. Well, sometimes silence says a lot.”

        You seem here to be completely out of touch with the fact that an argument from silence is a fallacy and not a good or valid argument at all.

        “However, saying God did something supernatural that enabled them to “look” is reading something into the text that just isn’t there.”

        I never said that God had to do something supernatural to enable them to look, they did have to have the way of salvation in this situation revealed to them (just as moderns have to have the way of salvation through Christ revealed to them as well). That is the point, if the Spirit does not reveal things to an individual (i.e. his preconversion work) they cannot be saved.

        Philip what you keep failing to grasp, and it has to be intentional at this point, is that the preconversion work of the Spirit is necessary for a person to be able to make an informed choice to trust in Christ for salvation. Without this revealing by the Spirit no one gets saved.

        To deny this work, or minimize this work, or even attack this work, is to malign and disparage the work of the Spirit in our salvation: not a mistake that we want to be making.

    1. Phillip,

      Thanks for sharing that Twain quote, it is actually very funny and makes a point. Unfortunately, Twain being the atheist did not take into account what the wise Solomon said in Proverbs concerning interacting with fools. Solomon said quite a bit that has real application today, just as it did thousands of years ago.

      It is interesting that Solomon placed two proverbs side by side, saying opposite things in regards to interacting with fools:

      Proverbs 23:4 = “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, Or you will also be like him.”
      Proverbs 23:5 = “Answer a fool as his folly deserves, That he not be wise in his own eyes.”

      The first verse tells us not to interact with fools as if we do we may end up becoming like them (similar to what Twain was getting at). But the second verse tells us to interact with them, so that they don’t become wise in their own eyes. I take the interpretation that the reason these two opposite exhortations were placed together is to say that sometimes we interact with the fool sometimes we do not: and that we need to use wisdom to decide when to do so and when not to do so.

      In my own experience the major reason to interact with someone who shows himself/herself to be a fool is for the sake of others. The fool has made it clear they are not interested in the truth but only in their own opinion, but for the sake of others who are watching or listening, you engage them. As an example of this consider the current political events gearing up for the general election. There are definitely some fools talking, and you have to pick your spots and respond to some of the things they are saying for the sake of others.

  24. Ernest,

    “The Holy Spirits pre salvation work is not a work that changes mans ability, It is a work that reveals God and man’s need for God.”

    It does not change a man’s nature (that only occurs at regeneration): but it does change a person’s ability. Perhaps an analogy may help you to better understand this. I and others who work in prison ministry, do multiple things to help inmates better themselves. One of the things we do for people is to give them job referrals, tell them about say a job opening where they could apply and possibly get a job. Say there are two inmates. One is not told of job referral X, he does not know about it, so he is not going to pursue it as a possibility. Another **is** told about job referral X, he now knows about it, so he can pursue it as a possibility.

    By informing the second inmate of the job referral I have not changed his nature, but I have changed his ability to find a job, I have given him greater possibilities. Greater ability to make better choices.

    I and others do that kind of thing for inmates, we inform them about things giving them greater possibilities for employment, housing, drug recovery, etc. etc. Are we changing their ability to find a job, get housing, get drug treatment for their addictions, etc. etc.? Yes. If we do not inform them of these possibilities then their ability to realize these possibilities will be lessened.

    You cannot apply for a job that you don’t know about.

    You cannot get housing if you do not know it is available, etc. etc.

    Likewise the Holy Spirit in informing people about their sinful condition, who Jesus is, convicting them of their sin, etc. is not changing their nature, but He is changing their ability to know how to be saved and possibly be saved.

    “There is no need to separate these acts from God’s grace and call them prevenient grace.”

    Why not? I don’t know about you, I don’t know what your experience is in regards to evangelism and leading others to Christ. But speaking for me, I train people in evangelism. Train them how to share their faith, how to present the gospel, what things they can expect that the Holy Spirit will do in people as they share their faith, keep them focused on what the Spirit can do, that we cannot do (e.g. we cannot be the junior Holy Spirit and convict people of sin, only the Spirit does that!). My term for these things the Spirit does is “the preconversion work of the Spirit” (or “prevenient grace”, prevenient because it comes before a person is converted, grace because these things done by the Spirit are undeserved, not merited in any way).

    There is also another very important reason to speak of this prevenient grace/preconversion work of the Spirit: if you know about it, and believe it is necessary for people to be saved, THEN YOU WILL PRAY FOR THE SPIRIT TO WORK IN THIS WAY IN INDIVIDUALS. This makes for very personal and relevant prayer: e.g. pray that the Spirit would work in the mind and heart of Joe to reveal to Joe his sinful condition, to show Joe who Jesus is, to lead Joe to a place where he knows he has to trust in Jesus to be saved, etc. etc.

    “The Bible does not make this distinction. Neither should we.”

    As just explained this distinction allows us to speak intelligently about what the Spirit does in leading people to Christ: THAT is very helpful and practical in the area of evangelism. Regarding the Bible making this distinction, the Bible also does not use the term trinity, but there are very good reasons for using this terminology when speaking of the nature of God. There are very good and practical reasons for speaking of the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work in people.

    1. Robert, If you see a need to use the unbiblical term “prevenient grace” which has different meanings to other people than the one espoused by you, then please, go ahead and follow your will. The Holy Spirit did not see a need to use such a term and neither do I. He called it “grace”. So will I.
      Blessings

      1. Ernest,

        “Robert, If you see a need to use the unbiblical term “prevenient grace” which has different meanings to other people than the one espoused by you, then please, go ahead and follow your will.”

        Actually there are lots of people, mostly Arminians, who use the term with the same meaning that I do (they use “prevenient grace” to refer to the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit).

        Regarding it being an “unbiblical term”:

        Ernest do you use the term “trinity”?

        That is also an “unbiblical term” if you mean the term is not present in any biblical text.

        And yet we use the term because it is helpful in explaining what we believe about God’s nature.
        Likewise, using the term “prevenient grace” is helpful in explaining what we believe about the Holy Spirit’s work in unbelievers before they are saved.

        “The Holy Spirit did not see a need to use such a term and neither do I. He called it “grace”. So will I.”

        Again, I don’t care what you call the preconversion work of the Spirit, as long as you affirm the concept.

        “The Holy Spirit also did not see a need to use” the term “trinity” either, so I guess you never ever use the term “trinity”:

        Is that correct Ernest???

  25. I want to make one more and, hopefully, final comment regarding “Why I am not an Arminian”.

    As previously stated, I don’t adhere to the Augustinian doctrine of TD/TI. I believe if anyone would just start reading the Bible beginning with the account of Adam and Eve, they would come across countless examples where TD/TI just doesn’t make sense.

    First and foremost, God outlined the penalty of man’s rebellion against Him and nowhere did He suggest that man would be incapable of responding favorably to Him. Adam and Eve, though fallen and depraved, certainly continued to have a relationship with the Lord outside of the garden and they had not been “regenerated” or “released from the bondage of sin”. I mean, that is on the verge of being ridiculous. In fact, now Adam and Eve, and their posterity, had become like God knowing “good and evil” (Genesis 3:22).

    Anyway, all that said, the other reality is even if TD/TI were true, both Calvinists and Arminians have done a terrible job of providing a biblical solution. The notions of lost man being “regenerated” or being “released from the bondage of sin” prior to faith is just unbiblical. The ironic part is the Arminian sees the glaring error of “regeneration precedes faith”. And the Calvinist sees the glaring error of prevenient grace. However, neither party can provide one biblical example, NOT ONE, which clearly supports their stance. And yet they both deny all the biblical examples to the contrary. We all know that we are supposed to let scripture interpret scripture, so if our understanding of certain texts is accurate, we should be able to provide a biblical example to support it. If the Calvinist/Arminian solutions for TD/TI are true, then we should be able to find at least one scripture reading something like…..

    “As a result of being ‘born again’, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Or…

    “Having been ‘released from the bondage of sin’, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    Or even…

    “With the issue of depravity now in the rear view mirror, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

    God bless.

    1. Phillip,

      “As previously stated, I don’t adhere to the Augustinian doctrine of TD/TI.”

      That is just the problem, not everyone agrees with what Phillip calls the “Augustinian doctrine of TD/TI”. In fact even among Arminians there is not agreement, not all hold to this conception of TD. There are also differences among people regarding the guilt of Adam being imputed to all of his descendants (some Arminians believe this some do not, personally I do not believe it). I even know Calvinists who do not hold this “Augustinian doctrine”, so this charge cannot even be made against all Calvinists! Phillip also does not define this “Augustinian doctrine” (it appears he puts this view whatever it is on all Arminians, this is both unfair and misleading). A better approach rather than tarring everyone with this “Augustinian doctrine” is to look at what an individual actually believes and go from there. That is both fair and respectful of each person, rather than taking this broad brush and inaccurate approach. But I don’t expect Phillip to be fair or accurate as he has not been fair or accurate in the past (e.g. as I hold to total depravity but I do not hold the “Augustinian conception” but Phillip still labelled me a “one point calvinist” when my views are not even close to what calvinists believe).
      Phillip then gives his reasons for rejecting the “Augustinian doctrine”:

      “First and foremost, God outlined the penalty of man’s rebellion against Him and nowhere did He suggest that man would be incapable of responding favorably to Him. Adam and Eve, though fallen and depraved, certainly continued to have a relationship with the Lord outside of the garden and they had not been “regenerated” or “released from the bondage of sin”. I mean, that is on the verge of being ridiculous.”

      Note Phillip says here they were “fallen and depraved”, so he does hold a conception of TD. He next brings up two phrases “regenerated” (presumably that is referring to the calvinist view) and “released from the bondage of sin” (presumably that is referring to the Arminian view). The problem is that “released from the bondage of sin” does not refer to the view of all Arminians.

      In scripture the language of being a slave to sin and being released form the bondage of sin refers to the two types of persons unbelievers and believers (unbelievers are characterized as “slaves to sin” and believers are characterized as “freed from slavery to sin”). As this is true, there is no such thing as a person who is an unbeliever who has been freed from slavery to sin: THAT happens only when you are a believer. I have noticed that Phillip has regularly put that view on Arminians (i.e. that A’s believe that when prevenient grace comes a person is freed from sin, that is not true because a nonbeliever may experience the preconversion work of the Spirit reject that and he is still a nonbeliever and he has not yet been freed from slavery to sin).

      Next he gives another false representation of the Arminian view:

      “Anyway, all that said, the other reality is even if TD/TI were true, both Calvinists and Arminians have done a terrible job of providing a biblical solution. The notions of lost man being “regenerated” or being “released from the bondage of sin” prior to faith is just unbiblical.”

      And as I just stated, a lost man, unbeliever is not freed from the bondage of sin by prevenient grace, they are only freed from the bondage of sin WHEN THEY BECOME A BELIEVER. Phillip repeatedly misrepresents Arminians which indicates again an extreme hostility towards A’s. You can disagree with someone without resorting to misrepresentations as Phillip repeatedly does. I can know and understand your view without needing to misrepresent it.

      “The ironic part is the Arminian sees the glaring error of “regeneration precedes faith”. And the Calvinist sees the glaring error of prevenient grace. However, neither party can provide one biblical example, NOT ONE, which clearly supports their stance.”

      If he means a case that prevenient grace frees a person from slavery to sin, there is no case, and no need to make that case. Prevenient grace/the preconversion work of the Spirit enables a person to make a faith response, it gives them the ability to make a faith choice because the Spirit reveals things to an individual so that they can make an informed choice, so that they can choose to trust knowing who Jesus is, knowing the way of salvation, knowing their sinful condition and that Jesus is the remedy for this condition.

      “We all know that we are supposed to let scripture interpret scripture, so if our understanding of certain texts is accurate, we should be able to provide a biblical example to support it.”

      Agreed, that is why I have said repeatedly and Phillip just ignores it, that there is most definitely scripture indicating inability to come to Christ on our own (two prominent ones are John 6:44 which states the universal negative that no one can come to Christ in faith without being drawn, which means no drawing = no coming; the second very prominent text is 1 Cor. 12:3 that says that no one can declare Jesus to be Lord without the Spirit, unless the Spirit reveals Christ to you, you cannot know who Jesus is and declare Him to be Lord, and other texts tell us that it is this profession of Jesus as Lord that saves a person). So the texts supporting the preconversion work of the Spirit are there, it is just that some like Phillip choose to ignore them.

      [[“If the Calvinist/Arminian solutions for TD/TI are true, then we should be able to find at least one scripture reading something like…..
      “As a result of being ‘born again’, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
      Or…
      “Having been ‘released from the bondage of sin’, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
      Or even…
      “With the issue of depravity now in the rear view mirror, Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.””]]

      This is Phillip again resorting to his argument from silence error. Phillip needs to educate himself more on what A’s believe and also take a logic class and learn what a logical fallacy is and why you don’t want to engage in them when making your case.

      Again, Phillip considers me to be Arminian, and yet I don’t hold to the view that a person is released from bondage to sin by prevenient grace.

      PG enables a faith response because PG is the preconversion work of the Spirit that makes a faith response possible.

      One can believe in both total depravity and inability and yet not hold to the “Augustine doctrine” or the calvinist conception of depravity where people are like zombies with no ability to understand spiritual things even when the Spirit reveals things to them. One can hold to the biblical view of depravity and the biblical view of inability and be both an Arminian and a Traditionalist. In the beginning of this thread I used myself as an example of someone that others would label **both** Arminian and Traditionalist.

      I am a Baptist who holds Arminian beliefs such as the denial of unconditional election, corporate election, that grace (including prevenient grace/the preconversion work of the Spirit) can be resisted, that Jesus died for the whole world, that libertarian free will is real and often present (including when we choose to trust in Christ for salvation).

      I am also a Traditionalist in believing that a genuine believer cannot lose their salvation, that the guilt of Adam was not imputed to his descendants (i.e. we are not born guilty of Adam’s sin) and that we can hold to both total depravity and inability without holding to the Augustinian conception of depravity. Phillip tries to convey that all Arminians believe the same things, this is just false (to use a very obvious example, when it comes to whether or not you can lose salvation, some A’s believe you can and some A’s believe that you cannot). Phillip also seems incapable of recognizing that not all A’s hold the same conception of depravity and inability. It is easy to put all A’s in a single box, but that is both misleading and inaccurate.

    2. Robert, you are ably defending PG, a concept that surprisingly to some, you and I agree on. Now we have differences as to whether that PG is resistible or not, but we agree on the need for a pre conversion work by the Spirit before one can believe. I agree with this next statement you made:

      “Prevenient grace/the preconversion work of the Spirit enables a person to make a faith response, it gives them the ability to make a faith choice because the Spirit reveals things to an individual so that they can make an informed choice, so that they can choose to trust knowing who Jesus is, knowing the way of salvation, knowing their sinful condition and that Jesus is the remedy for this condition.”

      Of course as I said, we have a different view of whether a person can resist this PG. But we agree that apart from a work of the Spirit, no one will believe,

      One other point though. You said,

      “…calvinist conception of depravity where people are like zombies with no ability to understand spiritual things even when the Spirit reveals things to them.”

      I don’t think that is exactly accurate. The Reformed view does not see people like zombies “with no ability to understand spiritual things even when the Spirit reveals things to them.” In point of fact, we believe that when the Spirit reveals things to sinners about Jesus–his person and work and man’s sinful and hell bound situation, the sinner does, by this work of the Spirit in revealing these things to him, have the ability to understand spiritual things…for the first time…and now has the ability to exercise faith.

      Otherwise, you are doing a good job defending the necessity of PG.

      1. Hello Les,

        “Robert, you are ably defending PG, a concept that surprisingly to some, you and I agree on. Now we have differences as to whether that PG is resistible or not, but we agree on the need for a pre conversion work by the Spirit before one can believe.”

        Nice to see that we agree on the need for the preconversion work of the Spirit. As you say, however, our main disagreement is that you believe that this work of the Spirit is irresistible while I believe the Spirit can be and is sometimes resisted.

        [[“One other point though. You said,
        “…calvinist conception of depravity where people are like zombies with no ability to understand spiritual things even when the Spirit reveals things to them.”
        I don’t think that is exactly accurate. The Reformed view does not see people like zombies “with no ability to understand spiritual things even when the Spirit reveals things to them.” In point of fact, we believe that when the Spirit reveals things to sinners about Jesus–his person and work and man’s sinful and hell bound situation, the sinner does, by this work of the Spirit in revealing these things to him, have the ability to understand spiritual things…for the first time…and now has the ability to exercise faith.”]]

        Now Les perhaps this is not true of YOU. But I have interacted with many, many Calvinists on line who told me and others that the nonbeliever is like a zombie/the living dead who walks the earth incapable of understanding spiritual things UNLESS they are regenerated first. Having seen this so many times, I will continue to maintain that many calvinists give off this impression when they speak of the lack of understanding nonbelievers have UNTIL they are regenerated.

        “Otherwise, you are doing a good job defending the necessity of PG.”

        NOTE TO PHILLIP = you have claimed that I cannot interact in a civil or positive way with those with whom I disagree. That is not true of my interaction here with Les, a calvinist. We definitely disagree, and yet we are agreeing to disagree agreeably! 🙂

      2. Robert,

        I must have misunderstood what you had written. I agree with those other Calvinists that the “nonbeliever is like a zombie/the living dead who walks the earth incapable of understanding spiritual things UNLESS they are regenerated first.” Zombies. Like the Walking Dead tv show. 🙂

        i.e. until regeneration, the sinner does not ravingly comprehend spiritual things. We don’t mean he cannot intellectually understand things in the bible or even the gospel. But ravingly, we don’t think he truly, I suppose we would say, understand spiritual things.

        Sorry for my misunderstanding.

        Les

  26. Robert,
    Your defense for “prevenient grace” using the argument of the term “Trinity” fails in two ways. The concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible but there is no concept of an enabling “prevenient grace” in the Bible – only grace. The concept of the Trinity has a definite meaning whereas those who hold to “prevenient grace” do not agree to what it is so using the term leads to confusion and misunderstanding. I have chosen to be clear in my presentation of God’s word using terms found in the Bible. Again, I choose to use the term grace.
    Blessings

    1. Ernest,

      “Your defense for “prevenient grace” using the argument of the term “Trinity” fails in two ways”

      You did not answer my question to you Ernest: do you use the term “trinity”?

      “The concept of the Trinity is found in the Bible but there is no concept of an enabling “prevenient grace” in the Bible – only grace.”

      This statement is not true at all. I have defined “prevenient grace” for you, it means “prevenient” (before) and “grace” (undeserved or unmerited favor from God).

      The preconversion work of the Holy Spirit *******is******* mentioned in multiple places in scripture (again, we are told that the Spirit convicts the world of sin . . .John 16:8 = why is He convicting the world of sin? He is doing so, so that people can be saved by being reconciled to God through faith in Jesus; we are told that the Spirit enables a person to say that Jesus is Lord, 1 Cor. 12:3, we are told that a person must confess that Jesus is Lord to be saved, we are told that the Spirit did miracles testifying that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah, this was prevenient grace aimed specifically at the Jewish people, Jesus said that a person had to be taught of God, in Jn. 6:45, do you believe that the Spirit is not involved in that teaching of people? And that unforgiveable sin mentioned in Mark 3 and Matthew 12 why does Jesus say that this sin against the Spirit is unforgiveable? Is it not because he is talking about the Spirit’s work in testifying about Jesus? If you reject the Spirit’s preconversion work then you cannot be saved, etc. etc. etc.). According to the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 12:3 the Spirit enables a person to confess Jesus is Lord. If the Spirit does not do this enabling then they cannot confess Jesus as Lord. And confessing Jesus as Lord is how a person is saved, cf. Romans 10:9 “that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved;”

      According to Paul a person cannot confess that Jesus is Lord except by the Spirit. So the Spirit has to reveal this to a person before they are saved (before grace/prevenient grace/the preconversion work of the Spirit). If he does not do this in a person then they cannot make the confession that Paul speaks about in Romans 10:9.

      Ernest are you a Baptist? This verse is commonly cited by Baptists at baptisms.

      I notice that I have brought up these verses and you simply ignore them. Now you come along and claim there is no evidence of the preconversion work of the Spirit in the Bible,that does not seem honest. There is plenty of evidence of the preconversion work of the Spirit in scripture, you apparently just don’t want to accept that fact. That is fine, that is your choice, not a choice caused by any lack of biblical evidence.

      “The concept of the Trinity has a definite meaning whereas those who hold to “prevenient grace” do not agree to what it is so using the term leads to confusion and misunderstanding.”

      This is not true either, those who use the term “prevenient grace” all agree that it means a grace that goes before a person is saved.

      People may disagree on what all is included in prevenient grace, but there is not much disagreement concerning the meaning of the term as you claim here.

      I have taught on this many times and when it is explained as grace that comes before a person is saved, and specifically the work of the Spirit before a person is converted that leads them to Christ, I have not had people say they were confused or that it was difficult Again, I have trained people in evangelism and presented this concept and people understand it easily. Ernest what is your experience with evangelism? Have you led folks to Christ? Have you trained others in sharing their faith? I am asking because I am wondering if you are speaking only from your theological armchair or from real world practice in evangelism.

      “I have chosen to be clear in my presentation of God’s word using terms found in the Bible.”

      Again, then you won’t be using the term trinity as that term is never found in the Bible either.

      “Again, I choose to use the term grace.”

      That sounds nice, except the problem is that others use the word “grace” as well. Catholics use the term “grace” do you mean the same thing as they do by the term? Calvinists use the term “grace” do you mean the same thing as they do by the term? Non-Christian cultists use the term “grace” as well, do you mean the same thing as they do by the term? Simply saying “grace” is not specific enough considering there are false teachers and false teachings concerning “grace” out there as well. I speak from direct experience on this as I used to work with Walter Martin in counter cult ministry. Many use the same terms that we Christians use, so we have to define our terms carefully and biblically to differentiate what we are saying from others, especially those who use the same terms but with very different and even non-Christian meanings.

      1. Robert, Since you can not agree on the meaning of grace, it seems pointless to argue for prevenient grace. Man does not need prevenient grace to enable him to believe/trust Christ. He was created with this ability.
        Btw grace means favor. When we believe, God favors us with salvation and other blessings.
        Blessings

      2. Ernest,

        What church are you associated with? Are you a Baptist, a . . . I want to know where you are coming from. Thanks.

    2. Ernest,

      In case you missed it, Robert is a committed Arminian (though I have referred to him as a Closet Arminian in the past because he refuses to confess his membership with the SEA).

      You should also know by now that engaging him is pointless. Notice no one else has. He has left several comments directed to me and I haven’t read a single one of them. Not a word. And I won’t because it is futile, un-edifying, and really, I just don’t have the time to read his essays.

      So if you want to engage him further, that’s fine. But just remember… “the beatings will continue until you affirm Arminianism is true.”

      God bless, brother.

      1. Phillip,

        As I said that I would respond whenever Phillip decides to post, I will do so here. His comments manifest an extreme hatred for Arminians and Arminian theology. For example, he has been very hateful in his comments towards me claiming that I was a fool, unsaved, etc. (it should be noted that while Phillip has repeatedly tried to attack me as a fool and as an unsaved person, I have not responded in kind, I believe Phillip is mistaken in some of his claims but this **does not justify** viewing him as a fool or an unbeliever or attacking him as one). Phillip’s bitterness and hatred appears to be consuming him. So pray for this individual.

        Phillip wrote:

        “In case you missed it, Robert is a committed Arminian (though I have referred to him as a Closet Arminian in the past because he refuses to confess his membership with the SEA).”

        I have no problem admitting that I hold “Arminian” beliefs, I also hold “Traditionalist” beliefs as well. I have been upfront and honest about this from the beginning of this thread (one of my points is to be careful about labelling someone as “Arminian” but not Traditionalist, as in fact I am someone who holds to beliefs from both of these perspectives and can therefore be labelled ***both*** as an “Arminian” and a “Traditionalist”. And I don’t mind these theological labels as long as they are used properly and not in a pejorative way.)

        Phillip also wrote:

        “So if you want to engage him further, that’s fine. But just remember… “the beatings will continue until you affirm Arminianism is true.”

        That is not true at all, I don’t need to hear someone say that “Arminianism is true”. I know people disagree on things such as Arminianism, Traditionalism, etc.. I do however, want to see differing views properly and fairly expressed (something Phillip repeatedly does not do)).

        I also see no need in “beating anyone up” concerning Arminianism as this is an area where godly people can and do disagree.

    3. Ernest I don’t think you’re at all being fair in some of your points against Robert. I don’t mind that you disagree with him, but I do mind that you argue fairly and make valid points.

      For the past month I’ve been in engaged in debates on the Trinity. Every single argument you use, they use.

      1. It’s an unnecessarily complex idea.
      2. The Bible never uses the term.
      3. More simply read, Jesus never calls himself God.
      4. You have to use elaborate argumentation and logic to come up with it.
      5. Trinitarians all disagree with each other on many points.
      6. There is no 100% exact and concise consensus.
      7. Their terms lead to confusion and misunderstanding (ousia vs prosopon, etc.)

      When we examine all these concepts, we find they fail one by one to be a valid objection. The Bible never says “Don’t use any complex logic to deduce things from this book,” on the contrary it Peter admitted Paul said some incredibly complex things and Proverbs exhorts us to search a matter out. All of the above types of arguments are simply not a Biblical way of approaching doctrine.

      bless.

      1. Dizerner, I think you must have missed something in this thread with Robert. My argument is not about the Trinity, in fact I agree with all the points you made. My argument is against prevenient grace , a concept which is not taught in the Bible since man is born with t.he ability to believe God. The Bible teaches about grace and that is the term it uses. It was Robert who tried to use the analogy of the Trinity, not me. Thanks for your comments.
        Blessings

      2. Dizerner,

        Interesting, you have made the same connection that I have. I have heard all of these arguments before as well (like you, in connection with denials of the trinity, that is why I brought up that as an analogy, sort of a test balloon to verify something). Something is up when people are using the identical arguments that certain groups use against the trinity. I appreciate your pointing this out Dizerner as I want it all out there in the light.

      3. Dizerner,

        I am close to ending the interaction with Ernest. His comments do not appear to be rational and he appears to now be simply repeating his claims and refusing to deal with counter evidence against his claims. I have asked him direct questions which he refuses to answer and presented clear scriptures presenting the preconversion work of the Spirit (also called “prevenient grace” by many as it is a grace that comes before a person is converted and enables them to have a faith response), and he does not interact with any of these scriptures. He just keeps reasserting his points (as if this alone makes them true). Now if he had answered my questions and interacted with the scriptures that I brought to his attention, and then rejected prevenient grace, that would be one thing.

        I don’t have a problem with someone disagreeing with me on something: I do have a problem when someone refuses to answer any questions and ignores scripture that is brought up. Dizerner you made this point as well when you stated: “I don’t mind that you disagree with him, but I do mind that you argue fairly and make valid points.”

        I totally agree with you, I don’t mind if someone disagrees with me, but they need to argue “fairly and make valid points” not just repeat their claims.

        He also fails to grasp the analogy with the trinity that I have brought up. His argument was that since the term prevenient grace is not found in the Bible, therefore we should not use it. My response was that this very same argument can be used with the term trinity, it is not found in the Bible, and by parity of reasoning/according to his own argument, then we should not use that term either. Dizerner you have also recognized that he is engaging in identical arguments to those used by anti-Trinitarians. While they are all easily answerable, again if the answers are given and the person ignores these answers and just keeps repeating their claims how is this different than the anti-Trinitarian responses?

        It is not, and to quote you again it is not arguing fairly or making valid points.

        He also responded that we should merely use the term grace. I responded the problem with that is that different people define grace differently, e.g. Catholics and Protestants, so you have to examine what a person means by the term. I also pointed out that in my counter cult ministry background we often say nonbelievers using Christian terms with very different meanings. He IGNORES all of this and just keeps repeating his claims.

        Now he writes:

        [[“Dizerner and Robert there are some points you should consider when trying to use the analogy of the term Trinity to the term prevenient grace.
        1. The Bible does not have a term to describe the Biblical concept of one God in three persons so the term Trinity. The Bible does not teach that man must be enabled in order to believe. It does teach that the Holy Spirit graciously convicts all men of sin, reveals God to all men, and justifies and regenerates all who believe. The Bible calls that grace – it is God’s favor.”]]

        This is false, the Bible does teach that man must be enabled in order to believe (again Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:3 that no one can declare Jesus to be Lord except by the Spirit, Paul also says that a person who confesses that Jesus is Lord and was raised is saved, If the person cannot declare Jesus to be Lord UNLESS the Spirit enables them, then they are unable to confess Jesus on their own, you keep ignoring scriptures like these, perhaps it is because they directly contradict your claims).

        Dizerner note that he admits here: “It does teach that the Holy Spirit graciously convicts all men of sin, reveals God to all men”, THAT *******IS****** prevenient grace as this is the preconversion work of the Spirit that enables a faith response in a sinner. And if they are NOT convicted of their sin, if they are NOT receiving the Spirit’s work of revealing Jesus to them, etc., then they CANNOT respond in faith and choose to trust Him. So he explicitly admits the preconversion work of the Spirit but then ignores the fact that without His work, a person cannot believe.

        [[“‘2. While there are some nuances to the concept of Trinity, It would be difficult to find many if any who disagree that the term refers to one God in three persons. On the other hand, Robert is trying to use the term prevenient grace as some pregrace enabeling trying to make the argument that Christ must be revealed before a man has the ability to believe. This is false”]]

        It is not false. Again, if the Spirit does not convict a person of sin, does not reveal Christ to them, then they cannot and will not believe in Christ for salvation.

        “ – Christ is revealed to two men, one believes, the other doesn’t.”

        And who does this revealing of Christ to these two men??? It is the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).

        “The man who believed did not do so because he was given an ability any more than a dog is given the ability to swim by throwing it into the water. What is given is opportunity.”

        And this giving of an “opportunity” to be saved (that is his language) who gives this “opportunity” to be saved? Is it not the Spirit who does this? And if the Spirit does not give the “opportunity” to be saved to a person by convicting them of their sin and revealing Christ to them: can they be saved? NO. The “opportunity” may be given at different times to different people and even at different times in the life of one individual, but if this “opportunity” is not given by the Spirit, people cannot and will not be saved. So even using his own language of “opportunity” we see the necessity of the preconversion work of the Spirit.

        [[“3. Robert’s use of the term prevenient grace becomes confusing because for many of those who hold to TD/TI the term is used to describe as a supernatural act of regeneration which removes mans inability so that when presented the gospel (at some other point in time) will be able to believe. The use of the term Trinity does not lead to such confusion.”]]

        Dizerner I have been clear from the beginning that I do not hold the Calvinist view (i.e. that a person must be regenerated first before they can understand spiritual things). I have been clear and consistent from the beginning, that the preconversion work of the Spirit/otherwise known as “prevenient grace” enables a faith response, and yet it can be resisted. The Spirit can be resisted in His work, there are clear scriptures presenting this fact. We also know from observing others and perhaps in our own experience that we at times resisted the preconversion work of the Spirit (we rejected what He was doing, we refused to bow the knee to Jesus, etc.). Anyone who does any evangelism has seen this.

        [[“4. Dizerner, No one is arguing against a Biblical concept because it is complex. Indeed Grace is one of the simplest concepts that even a child can understand – God favors us. The essence of the argument is prevenient grace is non-existent because man does not need it. What man needs is grace and it is available to all.”]]

        The last two sentences here bring out the problem in his thinking.

        First line, he claims that “prevenient grace is non-existent”.

        If PG = the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit (including things like his convicting people of sin, his revealing Jesus to people, etc.), then it definitely exists.

        “because man does not need it”, If PG = the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit (including things like his convicting people of sin, his revealing Jesus to people, etc.) then people definitely need it, because without this work by the Spirit (if they are not convicted of their sins, if Jesus is not revealed to them, etc.) they cannot become believers, they cannot confess Jesus as Lord (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).

        “What man needs is grace”, correct, they need the “before grace”/the prevenient grace/the preconversion work of the Spirit in order for them to choose to trust Jesus for salvation. Without THIS grace, without this work of the Spirit, they cannot choose to trust in Jesus.

        Dizerner am I missing something in what Ernest is saying, or is he just ignoring the scripture that clearly speaks of the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work? Dizerner do you think that I have not been clear in what I have said to Ernest?

      4. Robert I feel you—that is I sense what you’re saying. I tend to get overly frustrated sometimes in these discussions, and I’m sure others do with me as well. There does come a time that people’s opinions are simply too strongly held on both sides for them to hear any new points from each other, and it’s probably best to stop. I think you’ve done admirably in this particular blog post comments defending PG and you even got a staunch Calvinist to say so, which is in my mind quite an achievement . When one feels one has really said everything necessary for another to see the truth of it, there’s not much more we can do, but just pray and keep humble I think. I’ve had some interactions particularly with Calvinists that made me want to tear my hair out, but I hope I’m a more patient man today because of it (I’m not a Calvinist hater I swear, lol).

        Ernest I’d just remind you that even the Bible uses the same word in different ways; faith, law and works for example.

        Are works always just works? We have works of the flesh, works of the law, works of faith.

        We have a dead faith and a living faith.

        We have the law of Moses, the law of sin, the law of Christ, the law of death.

        Would it be okay to say “I think law is just law, faith is just faith, and works are just works, no matter what?” Seems like even the inspired Bible writers saw the need for nuance.

        Either way I try to respect and truly understand why an issue is important to someone; what’s the driving motivation behind each thing. Because we feel strongly about something when we feel its important or have some life experience about it or a deep desire to see the truth for what it is or some other motivation.

        bless & thx for everyone in this convo I found it particularly interesting to meditate on.

  27. Dizerner and tRobert there are some points you should consider when trying to use the analogy of the term Trinity to the term prevenient grace.
    1. The Bible does not have a term to describe the Biblical concept of one God in three persons so the term Trinity. The Bible does not teach that man must be enabled in order to believe. It does teach that the Holy Spirit graciously convicts all men of sin, reveals God to all men, and justifies and regenerates all who believe. The Bible calls that grace – it is God’s favor.
    2. While there are some nuances to the concept of Trinity, It would be difficult to find many if any who disagree that the term refers to one God in three persons. On the other hand, Robert is trying to use the term prevenient grace as some pregrace enabeling trying to make the argument that Christ must be revealed before a man has the ability to believe. This is false – Christ is revealed to two men, one believes, the other doesn’t. The man who believed did not do so because he was given an ability any more than a dog is given the ability to swim by throwing it into the water. What is given is opportunity.
    3. Robert’s use of the term prevenient grace becomes confusing because for many of those who hold to TD/TI the term is used to describe as a supernatural act of regeneration which removes mans inability so that when presented the gospel (at some other point in time) will be able to believe. The use of the term Trinity does not lead to such confusion.
    4. Dizerner, No one is arguing against a Biblical concept because it is complex. Indeed Grace is one of the simplest concepts that even a child can understand – God favors us. The essence of the argument is prevenient grace is non-existent because man does not need it. What man needs is grace and it is available to all.

  28. Robert, Thank you for your “response”. I could not have illustrated any better the confusion that is inherent in the use of the term prevenient grace.
    May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you.

  29. Dizerner, Thank you for your response. I am puzzled about the word(s) you are referring to when you say //even the Bible uses the same word in different ways//. I don’t recall saying or intimating that a word is only used one way in the Bible but if that was the impression I gave, I apologize for my poor communication. Let me assure you that is not my position. I have argued in threads that one does not have the liberty to make up your own definition ex nihilo. This is especially true when examining the meaning of a passage, but I don’t think this is what you mean. Perhaps you can explain.
    blessings

      1. Dizerner, on the contrary, I have argued that grace is multifaceted. It includes Gods drawing of all men by revealing Himself through His word, The Holy Spirits conviction of sin, Christ’s redeeming of all men by His death on the cross, regeneration, justification etc. My arguments is that there is no such thing as prevenient grace which enables man to believe, whether it is as defined by Robert or those who believe in TD/TI. The ability to believe is an inherent attribute of man.

      2. Okay I have a question, why did Jesus say when the Light left the Pharisees that darkness would overtake them? How is that not illustrative of prevenient grace?

        If Christ said apart from him we can do nothing, and none do good, why would a person with a sinful nature ever desire to believe in Christ even if they had that ability? What would motivate them to believe on Christ?

        Do you accept original sin and the sin nature? Do you accept that humans can do no spiritually righteous thing apart from the work of Christ? Do you accept that spiritual deadness means devoid of God’s life?

        I ask all this because I feel if a person rejects PG they have either minimized original sin or become a determinist.

      3. Dizerner – replying to your questions =
        I suppose you are referring to this : John 12:35-36 (HCSB)
        35 Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. Walk while you have the light so that darkness doesn’t overtake you. The one who walks in darkness doesn’t know where he’s going. 36 While you have the light, believe in the light so that you may become sons of light.” Jesus said this, then went away and hid from them. ——— Jesus is explaining what He means by being lifted up after claiming to be the Messiah . He is the Light and He is predicting His cruxifiction and ascension. Notice His command is to believe – this would indicate they have the ability to believe. If a man continues to reject the light his heart is hardened. There is nothing here about a man being enabled to believe. Christ said elsewhere that the Pharisees were unwilling – not unable.

        We are motivated to believe by the Holy Spirit acting through God’s word. Of coarse motivation is not enabling —- Note these verses:
        John 6:45-46 (HCSB)
        45 It is written in the Prophets: And they will all be taught by God. Everyone who has listened to and learned from the Father comes to Me— 46 not that anyone has seen the Father except the One who is from God. He has seen the Father.

        and especially :

        John 6:47-50 (HCSB)
        47 “I assure you: Anyone who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread that comes down from heaven so that anyone may eat of it and not die.

        And we also have :

        Romans 10:17 (HCSB)
        17 So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

        The effect of Adam’s sin is clearly delineated in Genesis 3. The most profound effect was that sin entered the world which results in all men committing sin and being separated from God (Spiritual death).

        Bible does not teach determinism but presumes men have free will and calls all men to choose who they will serve.

        Now two simple questions for you –
        Can you quote a passage of scripture that says man lost the ability to believe God and that God must act in some supernatural way to restore his ability to believe?

        Can you explain why, in fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy it was necessary to harden the hearts of some unbelieving Jews if they were Totally depraved and lacked the ability to believe? John 12:40

      4. Thanks for you thought out answer.

        I must say I get a little frustrated at your argument that the Bible doesn’t say the Pharisees or sinful man cannot believe. That’s not my argument and never been my argument. I argue Scripture says that they can believe, and that’s my whole argument against Calvinists. It’s like you only accept my Scriptural arguments if it were as if the Bible didn’t even talk like men had prevenient grace. The Bible is going to say men can be willing and men can believe, because the Bible teaches prevenient grace. How can you argue that if the Bible actually says sinners have what we teach prevenient grace gives them, that means prevenient grace isn’t taught there? What is at issue here is not whether man has the ability to believe. What is at issue here is how men have the ability to believe. Can I please just say that again because this misunderstanding keeps coming up:

        What is at issue here is not whether man has the ability to believe. What is at issue here is how men have the ability to believe.

        Okay? So that means your argument cannot be simply that the Bible says men can be willing or believe, your argument has to be that God does absolutely no work of grace whatsoever in their heart because you premise is that men inherently with no grace from God whatsoever in their heart can choose to entrust themselves to Christ and admit they are sinners. That’s what you have to defend, not that the Bible say men are given the ability to will and to believe in Christ.

        Now you say “there is nothing in [John 12:35-36] about a man being enabled to believe.” This means you will have to take the stance that the Light coming into their lives did absolutely nothing to enable them to believe. Remember your claim here: “There is nothing about a man being enabled to believe” compared with “The light will be with you only a little longer…. While you have the light, believe in the light….” Would you really suggest that Jesus makes absolutely no connection here about the presence of the Light having a direct effect on whether the Pharisees have the ability to believe? Think hard about that. If that where what Jesus was saying, what effect would Jesus think the removal of that Light would have on them? Notice Jesus doesn’t say anything in this particular passage about “hard hearts” or about “being lifted up” or about “the Pharisees were not willing,” all ideas you bring in from other areas of John. This passage does not say “if a man continues to reject the light his heart is hardened,” because were that the meaning, it wouldn’t matter if the Light went away from them, would it? The Light could hang around all day, and all night for the rest of their lives, and that Light wouldn’t help them one bit, because their hearts were hardened to it. Jesus says the reason for their inability to believe in the Light will be because that Light will no longer be there, not because their hearts will be hardened (whether that is the case or not is a separate issue, because a hardened hart can’t believe even when the Light is right in front of it). The reason is Jesus is not talking about judicial hardening here, Jesus is talking about prevenient grace. If Jesus were talking about judicial hardening Jesus would say “While you have a soft heart believe in the Light lest God harden your heart and you be unable to believe even when the Light is right in front of you.” Jesus doesn’t say that, because Jesus is not threatening these particular people with judicial hardening. Jesus is describing to them his prevenient grace, which is directly connect to one and only one thing: the presence of the Light in close proximity to them. Otherwise, why does it matter if the Light goes away, what could prevent their “natural God-given ability” to believe anyway? Why would they even need that Light there, after all, they would be able to mentally recall everything Jesus said? And lest you try to say that the darkness overtaking them is only hell and their death, we can see that cannot be the case because they will be walking in darkness, and walking is a spiritual status never described about the state of damnation, but rather the spiritual traversing of this earthly life (easy to show with a study on the spiritual metaphor of “walking”). I agree that motivation is not enabling, because Jesus was here in this passage trying to motivate them precisely by letting them know that enabling was present, and would not always be.

        Now to answer your questions.
        >> Can you quote a passage of scripture that says man lost the ability to believe God and that God must act in some supernatural way to restore his ability to believe?
        I reject your question as an accurate representation of my position. Add clearly and forthrightly “with absolutely no form of grace from God acting in any way upon the man’s heart” and then I will answer.

        Next:
        >> Can you explain why, in fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy it was necessary to harden the hearts of some unbelieving Jews if they were Totally depraved and lacked the ability to believe? John 12:40

        Yes, of course I can explain this, in fact I believe there is only one logical and Scriptural explanation: prevenient grace had been working and reversing their totally depraved state. Think of this: if their hearts were not hard already, why would God harden a soft heart? And if their hearts were already hard, why would God need to harden it more? Here’s the only answer that makes sense: they were already resisting the softening power being applied to them, and their hardness came from that softening power being removed to revert them to the totally depraved state their natural inclination would be. Because you constantly argue against prevenient grace by stealing and borrowing all the effects of that prevenient grace, but saying it’s the “natural ability of the man to choose” (which to us sounds like you giving man goodness apart from grace) and then when the Bible shows what man can do with grace you argue that that is what man can do without grace. Do you see what I’m saying, does it make any sense to you now? The Bible is never going to read like prevenient grace doesn’t exist, and that is no disproof of it. But here you have men that you claim have the natural ability to respond to God being hardened and deprived of their ability to respond to God before they’ve even had a chance to live out their life and make that response to God! How does that make sense?! If you eliminate total depravity and you eliminate prevenient grace, why in the world would God judicially harden them at all?! And here some will try to plug that glaring gap by saying God did it to make sure Jesus got killed by them; God literally hardened and made people sin without peoples’ consent and without peoples’ just deserving it, just to make sure and get Jesus killed. This is the same thing as Calvinism teaches, that God himself initiates and causes men to sin to achieve his purposes! The Traditionalist has now completely adopted the exact soteriological system of the Calvinist, and just tweaked it a little. God made men sin to get God’s will done! But somehow they think it’s “okay” because it has a good purpose in the end. How would it ever be just and right to cause a person to sin just because the ends will somehow be better off for them? So for me that whole idea completely falls apart, and plus, the Bible never anywhere gives the reason for judicial hardening as a redemptive purpose, it instead says that God is so merciful that even in men’s sin he finds a way to work good.

  30. You asked /What is at issue here is not whether man has the ability to believe. What is at issue here is how men have the ability to believe./ I have already answered that. The ability to believe is an inherent attribute of man. He was created with that ability – in the same way he is created with other abilities such as the ability to see.
    You stated /This means you will have to take the stance that the Light coming into their lives did absolutely nothing to enable them to believe. / That is exactly right. They already had the ability to believe.
    Christ came and commanded us to use that God given ability.

  31. Dizerner, as an addendum to the above reply –
    You wrote //Jesus says the reason for their inability to believe in the Light will be because that Light will no longer be there// No he does not. He says nothing about ability. It says nothing about HOW we believe. You keep reading that into the passage and its not there. Christ is only telling the people to believe while He is with them because when He leaves they will be surrounded by darkness. (which would presumably influence them to reject the Light)

    Blessings

    1. So “while you have the Light believe on the Light” makes no logical connection with belief and Light. I honestly don’t know what to say.

  32. Sure there is a connection -It answers three questions: Who should we believe in? The Light. When? Now. Why now? Because when the Light (Me) – a metaphor for truth- leaves, Darkness a metaphor for error will surround you. How are you going to believe? Jesus does not even consider this question because there is no need to, its a nonsensical question considering they can believe which even you admit they can. Why read into the passage something that is not there?

    1. Jesus is the Light how is he a metaphor….what’s this “even you” admit they can like I’m some person reluctant to admit the possibility of belief? For me, you are the one forcing the passage to conform to what you already want it to say, I am simply reading it for what it actually does say—the Light is necessary for belief, that alone invalidates your whole hypothesis that all men anywhere possess natural ability to believe.

      1. Where does the passage say the Light is necessary for belief? Using your interpretation man can no longer believe since John 12:35 (HCSB)
        35 Jesus answered, “The light will be with you only a little longer. …

        And so you would just disregard Jesus’ other teachings where He tells us He is the Light (sounds like a metaphor to me)
        John 8:12 (HCSB)
        12 Then Jesus spoke to them again: “I am the light of the world. Anyone who follows Me will never walk in the darkness but will have the light of life.”
        John 9:5 (HCSB)
        5 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
        John 12:46 (HCSB)
        46 I have come as a light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me would not remain in darkness.

        You have failed to show how this passage addresses how man is enabled to believe. – Maybe you can describe the enabling process you see there? Who does the passage say have been enabled? You insisted the question is How are they enabled. So, from this passage How are they enabled?

      2. Well Jesus is the source, he is the author and finisher of our faith, but we do the middle part. Remember this context of the Light producing an opportunity for belief is temporal and addressing a specific people; so it is like a template for how the Light works in people’s lives. When the Holy Spirit and the Word come in contact with a person, there comes the Light—while they have the Light they must believe in the Light within an uncertain period of time. We all have a period of grace.

        But we’ve probably exegeted these two verses to death. Maybe could move on to some others.

      3. //Remember this context of the Light producing an opportunity for belief // Yes. now I can completely agree with that. It provides an opportunity to believe. I also agree with the rest of the post. This opportunity is a period of grace and if this is your definition of prevenient grace thats fine It also fits my understanding of grace.
        Blessings

      4. Well thanks for letting me talk anyway, I’ve definitely been challenged to rethink and study deeper and I appreciate your input.

  33. I enjoyed it also. I have followed your posts here and elsewhere and have come to respect your opinions and your desire for the truth. I learn a lot from your posts. Keep up the good work.
    Blessings

  34. Dizerner,

    Congratulations on the progress you made here with Ernest. In a gracious way you have successfully persuaded him that prevenient grace does in fact exist.

    Earlier in this thread Ernest was strongly against the concept making comments that it did not even exist (e.g. “If you see a need to use the unbiblical term “prevenient grace” “My argument is against prevenient grace , a concept which is not taught in the Bible” “My argument is that there is no such thing as prevenient grace”).

    You discussed it with him further to the point that he now openly and explicitly states that it does exist (seen in his recent comment that “This opportunity is a period of grace and if this is your definition of prevenient grace thats fine It also fits my understanding of grace.”). Ernest is saying that if this is what you mean by prevenient grace then I can agree that it does exist as a form of God’s grace.

    Good job Dizerner, this shows that progress can sometimes be made in discussions like this. It is unfortunate that people will disagree with and argue against a concept because of the wording for it, when in fact they actually believe the concept is real and has validity, they just don’t like the terminology used for it.

    1. Just to be clear. The Bible does not teach an enablng grace which I have argued from the beginning. What I did agree to was what I said in an earlier post to you – that God graciously gives men an OPPORTUNITY to believe by revealing Himself. If you would like to call that prevenient grace, fine. I call that grace and so does the Bible. My belief has not changed one iota.

      1. Ernest,

        You made it absolutely clear that you did not believe that prevenient grace existed (cf. ““My argument is that there is no such thing as prevenient grace”). I asked you direct questions and you refused to answer them, I presented clear scriptures that present the existence of PG and you refused to engage these scriptures at all.

        You said that PG did not exist (e.g. ““My argument is that there is no such thing as prevenient grace”).
        Then in your discussion with dizerner you now admit that if he means X by PG then you grant that it exists (cf. ““This opportunity is a period of grace and if this is your definition of prevenient grace thats fine It also fits my understanding of grace.”).

        To claim something does not exist and then admit that it DOES EXIST, is to change your view.

        Now you appear to not want to admit that you have made a change in your view:

        “Just to be clear. The Bible does not teach an enablng grace which I have argued from the beginning. What I did agree to was what I said in an earlier post to you – that God graciously gives men an OPPORTUNITY to believe by revealing Himself. If you would like to call that prevenient grace, fine. I call that grace and so does the Bible. My belief has not changed one iota.”

        You said that PG DOES NOT EXIST.

        Now you grant that if we mean that it refers to the Holy Spirit granting an individual the opportunity to believe through his preconversion work (including convicting the person of sin, revealing Christ to them, etc.) then if you want to call THAT PG, that is fine.

        If language means anything at all, this is indicative of a change in position over time.

        You want to call it “opportunity”, as I said before I really don’t care what you call it, as long as you acknowledge that the Spirit must work in this way in the heart and mind of a person before they become a believer (i.e. without this work, they cannot become a believer, this is a form of inability, not in nature where a nature has to be change, but in opportunity and knowledge where the person has to have certain things revealed to him/her or they cannot make a choice to trust in Jesus alone to be saved). And Yes it is an enabling grace, because it enables the person to make the conscious choice to make Jesus the object of their faith.

        I will say it yet again, despite your denials, if a person does not experience the convicting work of the Spirit (convicting them of their sin, revealing their sinful condition to them), the revealing work of the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3) in which the Spirit reveals Christ to them, etc., they will not be able to trust in Christ for salvation.

        To return to a previous illustration one more time. Say “Joe” the inmate does not know about a certain job opening where he could go and have an interview for the job. I then inform him about this job opportunity, so that he can then interview for this particular job. My informing him has not changed his nature (he does not need to have his nature changed to be able to go to that job interview, nor does he need to be regenerated to go to that job interview, he has the capacity to go to a job interview if he knows about it, but if he does not know about it He IS UNABLE TO GO TO that particular job interview). My informing him of that job interview, that job possibility, ENABLES him to go to that job interview. Without my informing him of it, he cannot go to it, so my informing him about it, both enables him to go to that job interview, and gives him the opportunity to candidate for that job.

        Likewise the Spirit informs us about our sinful condition, about who Jesus is and what He has done, etc.: the Spirit informing us gives us the opportunity to be saved, enables us to make that choice. Now you can play word games to avoid this conclusion, but the fact remains if the Spirit does not give us the opportunity through revealing things to us, we are not able to have faith. His informing, revealing work, that occurs before a person is saved, enables saving faith. It is grace because it is undeserved and it occurs before we become believers (hence many have called it “prevenient”).

        No opportunity given by the Spirit = the person cannot have saving faith.

        Therefore this revealing work of the Spirit enables saving faith and is necessary for a person to be able to have a faith response.

      2. You are still trying to argue /enables us to make that choice./ That is incorrect. Here is the definition of enable:

        verb (used with object), enabled, enabling.
        1.
        to make able; give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize:
        This document will enable him to pass through the enemy lines unmolested.
        2.
        to make possible or easy:
        Aeronautics enables us to overcome great distances.
        3.
        to make ready; equip (often used in combination):
        Web-enabled cell phones.

        The Holy Spirit does none of those. As long as you define prevenient grace in terms of enabling then prevenient grace is nonexistant. Man is able to choose to follow Christ when given the choice. The Holy Spirit does not enable man to believe. That’s a Calvinist error that comes from Augustine.. What the Holy Spirit does is reveal God to man. This provides man with the opportunity to use his inherent ability to believe.

      3. Dizerner,

        If you are still reading this, it has become pathetic. Ernest refuses to admit that the Spirit enables a faith response to the gospel. Despite the fact that we cannot put our trust in Jesus unless the Spirit reveals Jesus to us (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3 a verse that is clear on this and Ernest refuses to deal with) unless the Spirit convicts us (all are agree on this already), etc. IF YOU CANNOT DO SOMETHING UNLESS ANOTHER PERSON DOES SOMETHING FOR YOU, THEN WHAT THAT OTHER PERSON IS DOING ********IS******* ENABLING YOU.

        Just as in my illustration of the inmate not being able to go on the job interview unless I tell him about it (so I am in fact enabling him to pursue this possible job): likewise, the sinner is not able to trust in Jesus unless the Spirit reveals some things to him (his sinful condition, the identity and work of Jesus, etc. etc.).

        “You are still trying to argue /enables us to make that choice./ That is incorrect.”

        The Spirit does enable us to make the choice, unless he does His work we cannot make the choice to trust in Jesus. Just as I enable the inmate to make the choice to go to the job interview by informing him about it.

        Ernest now gives the definition of enable:

        [[“Here is the definition of enable:
        verb (used with object), enabled, enabling.
        1.
        to make able; give power, means, competence, or ability to; authorize:
        This document will enable him to pass through the enemy lines unmolested.
        2.
        to make possible or easy:
        Aeronautics enables us to overcome great distances.
        3.
        to make ready; equip (often used in combination):
        Web-enabled cell phones.”]]

        Look at #1 “to make able”. By telling the inmate about the job so that he can then go for an interview, “I make able” the inmate when it comes to possibly getting this job. Look at #2 “to make possible”. If I don’t tell the inmate about that job possibility and thus “make possible” his going to the interview he has no chance of getting that job.

        And the Spirit does exaclty the same thing with the sinner. He “makes able” by informing us about our sinful condition and about Jesus, etc. By informing us about these things he “makes able” our choice to choose to trust Jesus to save us. He “makes possible” our saving faith, because by informing us about Jesus and our sinful condition, we are then ABLE to make the choice to trust in Jesus.

        Before I was saved I did not know about Jesus, did not know about my sinful condition, did not care about spiritual things, I was just doing my own thing. I was incapable of saving faith, not because I did not have the capacity to make choices, not because I lacked the free will to choose: but because I did not know that I had to choose Jesus to be saved. Did not know that I was a sinner who was heading for hell. Did not know that I needed to repent of my sins and follow Jesus in order to be saved. Did not know that Jesus was God in the flesh, or that he had come to die on the cross for my sins. There was a lot of spiritual realities that I did not know and so I was incapable of choosing to trust in Jesus. But then the Spirit worked in my heart and mind, convicting me of sin, revealing Jesus to me, etc. so that I could then know that I had to choose to trust in Jesus to be saved. Without the Spirit’s work I never would have been saved. And my testimony is shared by all genuine believers. So I know the enabling of the Spirit first hand, as well as having seen many others go through the same thing.

        Ernest denies all of this:

        “The Holy Spirit does none of those.”

        This statement is totally false and off base, I am surprised that a professing believer could ever make such a false and off base statement.

        “As long as you define prevenient grace in terms of enabling then prevenient grace is nonexistant.”

        Another denial of reality, another absolute denial of the truth regarding the work of the Spirit.

        “Man is able to choose to follow Christ when given the choice.”

        And WHEN is he given this choice? When the Spirit reveals things that he needs to know in order to make the choice to trust in Jesus (again revealing our sinful condition, who Jesus is, the way of salvation through Christ alone, etc. etc. etc.).

        “The Holy Spirit does not enable man to believe.”

        Yes he does, if He does not work in us we will not be able to trust Jesus to save us: just as if I don’t inform that inmate about the job possibility he will not be able to go for that interview.

        “That’s a Calvinist error that comes from Augustine.”

        That is not a calvinist error, non-Christians for all of church history have taught and believed that the Spirit must work in us to enable us to have saving faith. Arminians believe that and they most definitely are not calvinists. Even Catholics believe that, and again they are not calvinists.

        “What the Holy Spirit does is reveal God to man.”

        And if HE DOES NOT DO THAT FOR AN INDIVIDUAL, they cannot be saved. So he does enable a faith response.

        “This provides man with the opportunity to use his inherent ability to believe.”

        If I don’t tell the inmate about the job possibility and the interview, he will not have that opportunity to pursue that job. He has the inherent ability to go for a job interview, but if he does not know about it, does not know where it is, it is impossible for him to go for that interview.

        Dizerner have you ever seen someone so repeatedly deny and malign the work of the Spirit in your Christian experience?

        I have seen JW’s deny the Spirit’s work as they view him as a force not a person. But I had not (until now) seen a professing Christian deny the work of the Spirit in this way.

  35. Arminian Roger Olson writes…..

    “With Calvinists I can affirm that we are all spiritually dead apart from supernatural grace, but I add only that 1) even the spiritually dead possess the formal image of God, and 2) supernatural grace heals that deadness so that sinners can at least make a decision to repent and trust in God and Christ or not.”

    “According to classical Arminianism it is an operation of the Holy Spirit that frees the sinner’s will from bondage to sin and convicts, calls, illumines and enables the sinner to respond to the gospel call with repentance and faith (conversion).”

    There is no healing of spiritual deadness prior to conversion. There is no releasing the sinner from the bondage of sin prior to conversion. As non-Arminians (myself, Leighton, Ernest, and perhaps others) we reject TD/TI hence we reject the Arminian solution (PG) for it.

    Now can a lost sinner believe in Jesus if he has never heard of Jesus? Of course not (Romans 10:14); not any more than a child can believe in Santa Claus if he or she has never heard of Santa Claus. But the hearing of the word does not heal any spiritual deadness or releases the sinner from the bondage of sin. Those dead in trespasses and sin still possess the ability to believe (Colossians 2:13-14). Those enslaved to the bondage of sin still possess the ability to believe (Romans 6:17).

    Again, we maintain that fallen man never lost the ability to believe. Period. Prevenient grace is the Arminian solution for the Augustinian doctrine of TD/TI which we reject. Prevenient grace overcomes/diminishes/heals man’s depravity thus enabling him with the ability to believe. We believe depraved man does not need to be restored to a pre-fall condition in order to respond favorably to the word of God (spoken or written).

    The Arminian believes God must do something TO us (overcome our depravity/release us from the bondage of sin/heal our spiritual deadness) BEFORE we can believe.

    The non-Arminian believes God must do something FOR us (provide proof either thru the word, spoken or written, creation, or divine miracle), and does so, precisely BECAUSE we can believe.

    The difference is subtle, but the difference is there.

    1. Phillip is trying to make a really odd argument here (i.e. that God does not need to do something TO US for us to be saved, He only needs to do something FOR US). I know in the past he and others argued that God does not need to change our nature in order for us to believe (and this is correct, we do not need to have our nature changed in order for us to choose to trust in Jesus, but Phillip has now gone further, arguing God does not need to do anything TO US for us to become believers, He only needs to do something FOR US). And my response is that if He does not do these things FOR US then we cannot believe (so inability remains, apart from what the Spirit does FOR US, we are unable to believe).

      Phillip begins by citing Olson who represents “Classical Arminianism”:

      “Arminian Roger Olson writes…..
      “With Calvinists I can affirm that we are all spiritually dead apart from supernatural grace, but I add only that 1) even the spiritually dead possess the formal image of God, and 2) supernatural grace heals that deadness so that sinners can at least make a decision to repent and trust in God and Christ or not.”
      “According to classical Arminianism it is an operation of the Holy Spirit that frees the sinner’s will from bondage to sin and convicts, calls, illumines and enables the sinner to respond to the gospel call with repentance and faith (conversion).”

      Phillip then gives us his view, in his statements there are a lot of examples of confusing categories:

      “There is no healing of spiritual deadness prior to conversion.”

      Well think about it, according to scripture there are only two conditions that a person can be in: they are either spiritually dead/unsaved or spiritually alive/saved (you are one of the other). Can you be spiritually alive as a nonbeliever prior to your conversion? No.

      “There is no releasing the sinner from the bondage of sin prior to conversion.”

      Again, think about the biblical categories, there are only two, a person is characterized as “in bondage to sin”/the unbeliever or “released from the bondage of sin/the believer. So you are only released from bondage to sin if you are a believer, so could you be released from bondage to sin prior to your conversion? No.

      “As non-Arminians (myself, Leighton, Ernest, and perhaps others) we reject TD/TI hence we reject the Arminian solution (PG) for it.”

      And for the billionth time, not all Arminians hold to the same conception of total depravity/total inability as calvinists do (Olson may hold to it, Classical Arminians may hold to it, but I do not and Phillip considers me to be an Arminian, and I know other Arminians who hold the same views that I do). Phillip creates a false representation, as if ALL A’s believe the same thing. We do not. Olson and others (i.e. classical Arminians) may agree with calvinists on the nature of TD/TI, but that does not mean all of us hold the exact same view.

      Now it gets really interesting because in the next things that Phillip says he unwittingly makes the case for inability and prevenient grace as I understand it (i.e. that apart from the preconversion work of the Spirit we cannot have a faith response to the gospel)”

      “Now can a lost sinner believe in Jesus if he has never heard of Jesus? Of course not (Romans 10:14); not any more than a child can believe in Santa Claus if he or she has never heard of Santa Claus.”

      Did you all catch that, that is a statement of inability: if they do not hear about Jesus, then they CANNOT be saved, they cannot believe unless they hear. But we need to make an important point here, a sinner cannot be saved by just hearing about any old view of Jesus (cf. they cannot be saved by the views of Jesus that the Mormons and JWs hold for example). NO, the person has to hear about the true Jesus, the person has to hear the true gospel. And who is it that reveals this true Jesus this true gospel to sinners? It is the Holy Spirit in his preconversion work. If he does not reveal these things to a sinner they cannot believe. Hence this is a form of inability, it is also a form of prevenient grace because the preconversion work of the Spirit comes before a person is converted and enables them to have a faith response to the gospel.

      “But the hearing of the word does not heal any spiritual deadness or releases the sinner from the bondage of sin.”

      Why does it need to if a person only becomes spiritually alive as a believer and is only released from slavery to sin as a believer?

      “Those dead in trespasses and sin still possess the ability to believe (Colossians 2:13-14).”

      True they have the capacity to believe, and as nonbelievers they have lots of false gods as their faith objects before they become believers. What the Spirit does is reveal TO THEM the one true faith object, the one true way to be saved, through faith in Christ alone. They have the capacity to believe, but if the Spirit does not inform them about Jesus their sinful condition, etc. etc. they cannot be salved.

      “Those enslaved to the bondage of sin still possess the ability to believe (Romans 6:17).”

      Again, the issue is not capacity to believe, the issue is having the proper object of faith. There are lots of false gods and false gospels out there that people believe in: but to be saved they have to believe the true gospel, believe in the real Jesus, not a counterfeit or misrepresentation (e.g. Jesus was only a good man, a prophet).

      “Again, we maintain that fallen man never lost the ability to believe. Period.”

      And again I do not believe that fallen man ever lost his ability to choose or his ability to believe. But that ability to believe has to be connected to the right object of faith, the real Jesus.

      “Prevenient grace is the Arminian solution for the Augustinian doctrine of TD/TI which we reject.”

      Perhaps PG is the “solution” for some/classical Arminians to their conception of TD/TI, but many of us do not hold to the Augustinian doctrine of TD/TI: we hold a different view of TD/TI, we deny for example that guilt is passed on from parents to children. Put another way, some of us hold the same views on TD as traditionalists in the SBC do.

      “Prevenient grace overcomes/diminishes/heals man’s depravity thus enabling him with the ability to believe.”

      I don’t believe that, and I hold Arminian beliefs. PG does not “heal depravity” as even as believers we still suffer from the effects of sin/depravity, we still live in a fallen world.

      “We believe depraved man does not need to be restored to a pre-fall condition in order to respond favorably to the word of God (spoken or written).”

      When did I ever say this? Never. It is not us needing to be restored to a prefall conditon: it is us experiencing the preconversion work of the Spirit that makes it possible for us to choose the real Jesus, to trust the genuine gospel, to know these things are true and real and the way we are to be saved.

      Phillip then say that:

      “The Arminian believes God must do something TO us (overcome our depravity/release us from the bondage of sin/heal our spiritual deadness) BEFORE we can believe.”

      This is true, God does have to do something TO US, the Holy Spirit’s preconversion work is God doing something TO US that enables us to have a faith response to the gospel. The Spirit does not need to change our nature, free us from slavery to sin, make us spiritually alive first, regenerate us, He does need to inform us of things including who Jesus is, how he is the way of salvation, etc.

      “The non-Arminian believes God must do something FOR us (provide proof either thru the word, spoken or written, creation, or divine miracle), and does so, precisely BECAUSE we can believe.”

      So now we are playing semantic games, Phillip wants to deny that God does something TO US, he wants to claim that God only does things FOR US. I think this is a useless distinction, because whether you say he is doing it to us or for us, you are speaking of the same thing, the work of the Spirit revealing things to us (also called PG by many of us).

      Question if God does not do something FOR US (provide proof, etc.) can we believe in the true Jesus” If God does not inform us of our sinful condition, the identity of Jesus, etc. can we believe? No.

      So inability does not have to mean lack of capacity to believe, it can also mean that we have the capacity to believe but that the Spirit makes sure we have the correct object of faith to be saved. There are a lot of false teachings and false gospels and false Jesus’ and false spirits out there: only one Holy Spirit who reveals the true gospel and the true Jesus to people so that they can be saved and become genuine Christians.

      “The difference is subtle, but the difference is there.”

      Phillip keeps targeting classical Arminians and talking as if all Arminians believe the same things. But we do not. I am a good example of someone who is both Arminian and Traditionalist. I deny calvinism, I disagree with some of the things held by classical Arminians like Roger Olson, I hold to some Arminian beliefs, so I am both an Arminian and Traditionalist at the same time! If Phillip wants to show all Arminians are mistaken he has to show how my views are mistaken: not just target Roger Olson. I do not agree with Olson on everything (his conception of TD, he denies inerrancy while I affirm inerrancy, etc.). It is unfair to try to lump all Arminians together as Phillip tries to do.

      1. Ernest,

        What did I tell you?

        Pointless.

        Let Robert (the Arminian) ramble and rant. Have you ever come across anyone who can write so much and say so little?

        God bless, brother.

  36. Robert, you wrote /Despite the fact that we cannot put our trust in Jesus unless the Spirit reveals Jesus to us (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3 a verse that is clear on this and Ernest refuses to deal with)
    Your proof text says nothing about putting our trust in Jesus, in fact it is not even about salvation. I suggest you read the context. Paul is putting forth an argument for the reliability of one speaking in tongues. This whole passage is about gifts not grace.
    So now I have dealt with it and you remain in error teaching the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to believe.

    1. Ernest,

      [[“Robert, you wrote /Despite the fact that we cannot put our trust in Jesus unless the Spirit reveals Jesus to us (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3 a verse that is clear on this and Ernest refuses to deal with)Your proof text says nothing about putting our trust in Jesus, in fact it is not even about salvation. I suggest you read the context. Paul is putting forth an argument for the reliability of one speaking in tongues. This whole passage is about gifts not grace.
      So now I have dealt with it and you remain in error teaching the Holy Spirit gives us the ability to believe.”]]

      Actually you have not dealt with it at all. You are correct that the immediate context (i.e. 1 Corinthians 12-14 **is** dealing with spiritual gifts).

      But you are absolutely wrong that 1 Cor. 12:3 “is not even about salvation”.

      You have still completely failed to deal with this verse.

      What does the verse say?

      “Therefore I make it known to you, that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says Jesus is accursed, and no one can say Jesus is Lord, EXCEPT BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

      Paul **is** referring to salvation in this verse because the affirmation that “Jesus is Lord” is the affirmation that is involved when a person is saved (cf. Romans 10:9-10 that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved, for with the heart man believes resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation”). The same person that wrote 1 Cor. 12:3 also wrote Romans 10:9-10. And what does Paul say about this confession of Jesus as Lord in 1 Cor. 12:3 (he says that a person cannot make this confession EXCEPT by the Holy Spirit).

      If I cannot do something “except by the Holy Spirit” that means I am unable to do that unless the Spirit enables me to do it.

      This verse appears in the context of Paul’s discussion of gifts in 1 Cor. 12 and yet this confession that can only be made if the Spirit enables you to do so, is an issue of salvation (again compare it with what Paul says in Romans 10:9-10).

      So Ernest you have not dealt with 1 Cor. 12:3 at all, you have tried to flippantly dismiss it by claiming that since it occurs in a section where spiritual gifts are being discussed, therefore 12:3 cannot be saying anything about salvation. You have not even talked about 1 Cor. 12:3, not actually discussed the words of the verse at all, instead you try to dismiss it by yet again not even talking about what Paul says in this verse about the enabling by the Holy Spirit.

      It is you who remain in error on the enablement of the Holy Spirit:

      Paul says in 1 Cor. 12:3 that except by the Holy Spirit a person cannot confess Jesus as Lord/Paul also says in Romans 10-9-10 that the confession of Jesus as Lord is what occurs when a person is saved. You cannot divorce 1 Cor. 12:9 from Romans 10-9-10.

  37. To say one cannot do something does not mean one is not able to do something. – I cannot swim unless I jump in the water does not mean I am not able to swim. Pushing me in the water does not enable me to swim. You make the same error the Calvinist makes in arguing for Total depravity.
    In 1 Cor 12:3 Paul is giving a test to determining whether one speaking in tongues is reliable ie is it from God. There is nothing there about salvation.Speaking rhetorically, maybe you can find another verse (actually none exists) to support your position but this one does not.

    1. Ernest,

      “To say one cannot do something does not mean one is not able to do something.”

      In some cases this is true, as you point out in this example. In v. 2 however Paul says that no one can confess Jesus as Lord EXCEPT BY THE SPIRIT. That is a universal negative without exceptions.

      “You make the same error the Calvinist makes in arguing for Total depravity.”

      Not true at all, I do not argue that TD makes a person incapable of understanding spiritual things, nor do I argue that a person must be regenerated first before they can believe. I acknowledge that the sinner has the capacity to believe. But that capacity does not mean much unless the Spirit informs the sinner about some spiritual realities including that they are a sinner and that Jesus is the way of salvation. If the Spirit does not reveal these things to a sinner they cannot believe on their own.

      “In 1 Cor 12:3 Paul is giving a test to determining whether one speaking in tongues is reliable ie is it from God.”

      Actually he is not speaking of tongues speaking in that verse, he is speaking of prophetic inspiration, some of the Corinthians were claiming to be super spirituals (hence they claim they are more spiritual (Paul speaks directly to this hyper-spirituality in 1 cor. 14:36-38. First he says in v. 36 “Was it from you that the word of God first went forth?” a sarcastic way of saying are you guys the only ones who are inspired by the Spirit? No. Then he speaks to this supposed spirituality directly in v. 37 “ If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment”. Here Paul is pulling rank, saying if you were really spiritual then you would recognize my apostolic authority and submit to it and listen to what I say. Then in v. 38 he says “ But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” Meaning if they are really being inspired by the Holy Spirit they will submit to his authority. If they do not submit, do not listen, they are not to be recognized as spiritual. A major problem at Corinth was that some felt they were more spiritual than others. Paul deals with this by first pointing out that all spiritual gifts are from the grace of God (1 Cor. 12). Paul says the content of what you say shows whether or not what your supposed inspired speech is from God or not. If it is from God you won’t be cursing Jesus, if it is from God, you will confess the truth, such as that Jesus is Lord. But you ignore what Paul explicitly says in that verse (namely that EXCEPT by the Spirit a person cannot confess that Jesus is Lord).

      “There is nothing there about salvation.”

      Confessing Jesus as Lord is the heart of salvation, compare with Romans 10:9-10 again.

      “Speaking rhetorically, maybe you can find another verse (actually none exists) to support your position but this one does not.”

      When will you actually deal with the words of 12:3? You avoid it because it does not fit your position. I hope you are not a pastor, elder or Bible teacher as you are playing fast and loose with the scripture.

  38. Leighton,

    I hope to see this particular article posted at SBC Today. There are many non-Arminians within the SBC and your support is greatly needed.

    God bless, brother.

  39. Leighton,

    Adrian Rogers’ qoute provided again….

    “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 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 light shine. You must preach. But remember, there is another dimension.” (Jesus is God’s Answer to Man’s Darkness: John 20:30)

    And yet…..

    John 4:39-42 (NKJV)……
    And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF THE WOMAN who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed BECAUSE OF HIS OWN WORD. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”

    The spoken word was sufficient; both directly (His own word) and indirectly (the word of the woman). And I would suggest there was no inward work of the Holy Spirit involved. Why? Because of what Jesus says later in the same book of John.

    John 16:7-8 (NKJV)…..
    Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for IF I DO NOT go away, the Helper WILL NOT come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come (not come back), He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…

    And then there is the following….

    Acts 14:1 (NIV)…
    At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There THEY SPOKE SO EFFECTIVELY that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.

    Acts 28:23a-24 (NIV)….
    …from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets (the written word of God) he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced BY WHAT HE SAID, but others would not believe.

    Biblical example after biblical example of the preaching of the inspired word sufficient to save.

    Blessings, brother.

    1. Phillip again tries to argue that a person can believe without the preconversion work of the Spirit. Adrian Rodgers understood the truth on this and his words clearly reflect that he knew the work of the Spirit is necessary for a person to be able to believe. Phillip now gives his argument against Rodgers and fails:

      [[The Rodgers quote:
      ….
      “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 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 light shine. You must preach. But remember, there is another dimension.” (Jesus is God’s Answer to Man’s Darkness: John 20:30)}}

      Phillip’s response:

      [[“And yet…..
      John 4:39-42 (NKJV)……
      And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him BECAUSE OF THE WORD OF THE WOMAN who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed BECAUSE OF HIS OWN WORD. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
      The spoken word was sufficient; both directly (His own word) and indirectly (the word of the woman). And I would suggest there was no inward work of the Holy Spirit involved. Why? Because of what Jesus says later in the same book of John.
      John 16:7-8 (NKJV)…..
      Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for IF I DO NOT go away, the Helper WILL NOT come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come (not come back), He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment…
      And then there is the following….
      Acts 14:1 (NIV)…
      At Iconium Paul and Barnabas went as usual into the Jewish synagogue. There THEY SPOKE SO EFFECTIVELY that a great number of Jews and Greeks believed.
      Acts 28:23a-24 (NIV)….
      …from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets (the written word of God) he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced BY WHAT HE SAID, but others would not believe.
      Biblical example after biblical example of the preaching of the inspired word sufficient to save.”]]

      And all of this is refuted by a truth that Phillip seems to have forgotten or is not keeping in mind when making his claims: the truth is this, scripture teaches that the gospel is veiled from people because Satan has blinded them:

      “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” 2 Cor. 4:4).

      Scripture says that it is not just that the gospel goes out into the world, it goes out into a world in which the devil deceives people about the gospel so that it is veiled from them, so they cannot understand it on their own. They cannot understand it unless the Holy Spirit unblinds them. And how many unbelievers are part of this world system?

      ““We that that we are of God,, and THE WHOLE WORLD LIES IN THE POWER OF THE EVIL ONE” 1 Jn. 5:19).

      So the nonbeliever is not neutral as Phillip seems to think: they are blind!

      Satan’s blinding them makes them unable to believe the gospel unless unblinded first. And who does this unblinding? The Spirit does as he convicts people of their sin (cf. Jn.16:8) and reveals the true Jesus to them (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3).

      Phillip can quote scripture about the power of gospel presentation, but we are also to compare scripture with scripture (see what other texts on the same subject say about a matter). There are clear texts about the power of the gospel (e.g. Romans 1:16), there are also texts just as clear that Satan blinds people concerning the gospel so that it becomes veiled from their understanding. They may have the capacity to believe, but the false theologies, false philosophies, false gospels, false Christs, false religions, false ideas present in this world deceive them about the truth of Christianity. They have been deceived and conned by the god of this world so that on their own they cannot believe the gospel.

      This deception, this blindness, this veiling of the gospel can only be overcome by the preconversion work of the Spirit. Unless the Spirit works in the hearts and minds of these deceived people they cannot believe the true gospel.

  40. Your analogy of the oil and nail was interesting, but how would you harmonize it with the parable of the 10 virgins. It seems in their case, more than just the hammer was needed.

  41. Man is fully capable to believe the Word of God when it is presented to him. The reason some do not believe is not an inability but an unwillingness.

    1. Ernest continues to assert his false claim “Man is fully capable to believe the Word of God when it is presented to him”. If a person has been blinded to the gospel (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4), it is veiled from their understanding according to Paul. They cannot believe the gospel they are unable to believe the gospel UNTIL they are unblended first regarding the gospel. WHO does this unblinding? It is the Holy Spirit who does this unblinding. He does this by revealing the true Jesus to a person (cf. 1 Cor. 12:3) and convicting them of their sin (Jn. 16:8), etc. All the things that are called prevenient grace as it is a grace that occurs before conversion. Without this grace, this work of the Spirit, nobody is able to believe.

    2. Ernest,

      “Man is fully capable to believe the Word of God when it is presented to him. The reason some do not believe is not an inability but an unwillingness.”

      Why would a person, who comes fact to face with eternal damnation and torment and with the real possibility of heaven and the glories of Jesus, make a conscious decision to say, “no thanks?” Knowing what he faces and all he has to do is say “yes” why would he knowingly and willingly reject his own rescue? And another person standing right beside him says yes.

      Can you explain that?

      1. Les, Its called free will. Men make contrary choices everyday when presented the same evidence. It should not surprise you; The Pharisees are the classic examples. Some followed Christ but others chose not to. Jesus said of them – John 5:40 (HCSB)
        40 And you are not willing to come to Me so that you may have life.

      2. Ernest,

        “Les, Its called free will. Men make contrary choices everyday when presented the same evidence.”

        But what would explain a man seeing his utter doom and have a choice to avoid it and chose not to take that other choice (heaven)?

        Like, what man heading helplessly toward Niagra Falls to certain death say “no” to a rescuer overhead lowering a ladder to him? That makes no sense at all if men are free to make alternate choices and still choose certain death and eternal torment.

        Sorry Ernest. Can’t buy that. Calvinism (and Robert’s view of PG) only really explains why a rational person would choose death and destruction over blissful rescue.

    3. Ernest,

      Again, it is pointless. Robert is a staunch Arminian and no biblical evidence to the contrary will change his mind. I really believe Robert is a card carrying member of the Society of Evangelical Arminians (SEA). So if he ever rejected TD/TI and PG it would probably mean his membership would be revoked.

      Just give him grace.

      Peace to you, brother.

  42. Satan’s blinding does not make man unable to believe. It is man’s unwillingness to believe that causes blindness. 2 Corinthians 3:15-16 (HCSB) 15 Even to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts, 16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

    1. And how are they going to turn to the Lord? On their own, without the work of the Spirit? No. They will not turn and trust Christ unless the Spirit shows them they are sinners and that Jesus is the way of salvation.

      Your statement that Satan’s blinding does not make them unable to believe is way out in left field,, completely off base. If a person is blinded to the gospel they will not believe it. They have to be unblended first, and who does that? The Holy Spirit does.

      We cannot unblind ourselves. That is Paul’s point, people are deceived about spiritual things. They are deceived about Jesus (e.g. the JW’s and Mormons) they are deceived about the way of salvation (those religions that teach you are saved by your works), they are deceived by false gospels (cults and even professing Christianity such as Catholicism at times).

      Perhaps if Ernest did some evangelism of cults and other groups with false ideas he might actually see this blindness first hand.

    2. But Ernest, Christ clearly says:

      “But no one can enter the strong man’s house and plunder his property unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder his house.

      How would you reconcile that?

      1. Wait so the Holy Spirit is not the one “stronger,” but we ourselves tie up our own strongman that has imprisoned us? Is that what you are saying?

  43. Les, you wrote /Sorry Ernest. Can’t buy that. / I’m sorry too, Les., but that is what Jesus said about the Pharisees and Jerusalem. You have responded the same way they did. That is the problem with the Calvinist and Scripture. They don’t buy it.

    1. Ernest, sorry you’re sorry I’m sorry. 🙂

      You have a flawed anthropology brother. Oh we buy scripture all right. You must have forgotten your history. I’d still love for you to explain from scripture how two men in their natural state can hear the same exceptional news about Jesus and eternal life and one walk away from it and says, “no thanks. I’ll take eternal death.” Just saying “free will” is a non answer. But I suspect that’s all you have.

  44. Dizerner, Do you really think Jesus was calling the Holy Spirit the Strong man? Maybe you should reread verse 23.

  45. Les, What makes you think there is one reason that men reject the Gospel? As long as you buy into the flawed logic of Calvinism and continue to reject the Gospel you will remain behind the veil. I am here to tell you that there is hope for you – 2 Corinthians 3:16 (HCSB)
    16 but whenever a person turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

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