The analogy of being “dead” is seen throughout the scriptures, but can it be demonstrated to mean that mankind is born morally unable to willingly respond to God Himself, as the Calvinists presume? Are we born dead like Lazarus, a corpse rotting in the tomb (a link scripture never draws), or are we dead like the Prodigal, a loved one living in rebellion? Scripture supports the latter rather than the former:
“For this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found.’ And they began to celebrate” (Luke 15:24).
Spiritual deadness seems to be equated with “separateness,” “lostness,” or “in rebellion,” not as “total moral inability to respond.” Likewise, in Romans 6:11, Paul also teaches the believers to count themselves “dead to sin.” A consistent Calvinist would have to interpret this to mean that believers are morally unable to sin when tempted. Of course, that is not the case. Paul is teaching that we are to separate ourselves from sin, in much the same way we were once separated by our sin from God. “Deadness” here connotes the idea of being separated, like the son was from his father, not the incapacitation of the will to respond to God’s appeal to be reconciled from our separation.
Plus, if we examine the story of Lazarus more closely it reveals a truth that flies in the face of the Calvinistic conclusion.
“So Jesus then said to them plainly, ‘Lazarus is dead, and I am glad for your sakes that I was not there, so that you may believe…’ (John 11:14-15).
The lesson the Lord wishes to teach his followers is not the conclusion that Calvinists draw from this text (i.e. God effectually makes the spiritually dead alive in the same way He raises Lazarus); but instead, the Lord’s expressed desire is so that the witnesses “may believe.” Clearly, an outward sign is said to have the ability to help individuals believe, something that seems completely superfluous given the effectuality of regeneration on the Calvinistic system. The text goes on to say:
“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world’ … Jesus said to her, ‘Did I not say to you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?’’ (John 11:25-27; 40).
Once again, it is the faith of the eye witnesses, not Lazarus, that Jesus seems to be focused upon in this discourse. Furthermore, the responsibility is put onto the individual to believe so as to live, not the other way around. The focus of this text is on the believing response of the witnesses to Christ’s miracle and the believers eventual resurrection from the dead. Remember, Lazarus was a believer, not Totally Depraved, so this miracle more likely represents the believer’s resurrection from the dead than a irresistible soteriological drawing of the lost to faith.
“So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised His eyes, and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me; but because of the people standing around I said it, so that they may believe that You sent Me’… Therefore many of the Jews who came to Mary, and saw what He had done, believed in Him” (John 11:41-42; 45).
Jesus expresses a desire for the witnesses to believe based upon what they have seen, something on Calvinism that is a certainty for the Elect ones and absolutely impossible for the Reprobates, regardless of what miracle either of them witness. Notice that Jesus describes the faith of the eye witnesses as being a direct response to what they saw, not a supernatural inward work of regeneration, or an unconditional choice before time began.
No where in this passage, or any other, do we find the concept of spiritual deadness as being in reference to total inability, yet the story of Lazarus is one of the most referenced proof texts cited by Calvinists in defense of this doctrine.
Let’s consider other passages which use the analogy of “deadness.” For instance, take a look at Jesus’ own words to the church in Sardis:
“To the angel of the church in Sardis write: These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.” (Rev. 3:1-6)
Clearly, Jesus fully expects this church to heed his warning and respond in repentance despite the fact that he called them “dead.” The Calvinist may object saying, “But, Jesus is speaking to the church, not to the lost, so that does not apply to our point of contention.” I disagree, and here is why:
- The point is simply to show how the analogy of being “dead” doesn’t necessarily imply “corpse-like inability.” This use of the word illustrates that point because clearly those in the church are expected to “wake up” and “repent.” The burden is on the Calvinist to produce examples where the analogy explicitly demonstrates the concept of “total inability” to respond to God’s life-giving Word.
- The Calvinistic teachings on “Compatibilism” equally applies to the choices of the Saints (the elect) and the Reprobates (the non-elect). According to the Compatibilist, a person will always choose in accordance with his or her greatest desire, which is determined by the God given nature and Divinely controlled circumstances in which that individual makes the choice.Therefore, the choice of a Christian is as much under the “sovereign meticulous providence” of God as are the choices of the Reprobates. So, according to a consistent Calvinist, the “dead” believers in Sardis were as incapable of response to Christ’s appeals to repent, as were the “dead reprobates” being called by the gospel to repentance for the very first time. In other words, if Compatibilism is true, then both the “dead” believer in Sardis and the “dead” reprobate is equally incapable of repentance apart from God’s gracious work to effectuate that willing response. Thus, the burden of proof is still on the Calvinist to demonstrate that the analogy of being “dead,” in both instances, equals “corpse-like inability.”
Paul is known to use the analogy of being “dead” along side the concept of being included “in Him,” as we see here:
“In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions” (Col. 2:11-13).
Here Paul seems to relate circumcision to being made alive. Deut. 10:16 says, “Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer,” which strongly seems to indicate it is man’s responsibility to humbly repent, as seen repeated in Jer. 4:4:
“Circumcise yourselves to the LORD and remove the foreskins of your heart, Men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, Or else My wrath will go forth like fire And burn with none to quench it, Because of the evil of your deeds.’”
This parallels Paul’s teaching in Ephesians 1 and 2, which likewise references the saints as having once been dead but being made alive by God. Both Calvinists and non-Calvinists affirm that we were all once dead in our sins and have been made alive together with Him. The point of contention is over whether the dead sinner has any responsibility in his being raised up. Is the concept of “deadness” meant to suggest that mankind has no responsibility (ability to respond) to God’s appeal to “repent and live” (Num. 21:8-9; Ezk. 18:32; 33:11; John 6:40; John 20:31).
The text indicates that we are “made alive together with Him,” and it is mankind’s responsibility to be included “in Him,” through faith:
“And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory” (Eph. 1:13-14).
When were you “mark in Him?”
“When you believed,” according to the text.
Clearly, one must believe in order to be marked “in Him” and receive the Holy Spirit, not the other way around. It is “in Him” that we are “made alive” or “raised,” according to the texts quoted above.
No where in the Bible is the concept of being “dead” connoted to mean that mankind has no responsibility to humble themselves and repent in faith so as to be “made alive together with Him.” As Paul teaches in Romans 8:10, “If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.”
The theme of being “raised up,” “made alive,” “exalted,” or “lifted up” is carried throughout the scriptures, and it is not difficult to see the expectation God has for those who He will graciously raise up:
1 Peter 5:5-6: “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
James 4:10: “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”
Matthew 23:12: For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.
Psalm 18:27: You save the humble but bring low those whose eyes are haughty.
Psalm 147:6: The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.
Matthew 18:4: Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
Luke 18:14: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Not once in scripture does it teach that God is the one responsible for humbling us so that we would be “lifted up,” “raised up,” “exalted” or “make alive together with Him.”
In James 1:14-15, it states, “But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Likewise, Paul says in Romans 7:9-10, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me.” Yet, Calvinists teach that we are born dead already. So, which is it? Clearly, the analogy of “death” can carry with it different connotations, none of which can be shown by the text to mean “total inability” from birth.
Finally, if spiritual deadness is taken in a woodenly literal way by the Calvinist when it comes to mankind’s moral inability to respond willingly, then why can the “corpse-like dead man” respond unwillingly? A corpse could not “grab the life preserver when it is offered,” as the Calvinist likes to point out, but a corpse also could not actively swim away from it either, as is the rebellious response of many to the gospel. In fact, there are all different kinds of responses to the life preserver. Some swim around it for a while and seem genuinely interested. Others mock it angrily. In fact, no two “dead” people respond in the exact same way to the life preserver, which obviously would not be true if they literally responded like a corpse.
Once again, the Calvinistic presumption is just that, a presumption they read into the text that is simply never substantiated by any explicit biblical teaching.
For more on this subject, CLICK HERE.
724 thoughts on “Born Dead?”
1. The apostle Paul is different from yours. He is a missionary who plant churches., in your case, you don’t.
2. If you have been formerly working with the US Navy air craft carriers, I’m sure you know what I mean by using the term “mother unit” where a soldier is assigned. In your case you have no home church at this time. You really need one local church within the Body of Christ. Christianity is not a “lone ranger”.
3. Perhaps you can try to seek membership even in Non-Calvinist Reform Church as long as it does not belong to the cults. Joseph Smith and his LDS could be the “legion” you might be telling us here.
4. Church members and Elders serving the local church are still imperfect human beings, like you…. So, you cannot expect a perfect church as of this time on earth.
5. By the way, you said an “Elder” in the church are those old people. I disagree with you on this. Old age was not the basis of the Apostle Paul in appointing elders to the churches.
6. Proselyting? … I’m not thinking of that because that is not our practice in the church. Reform churches are not bad. I have several friends that are unbeliever in our community including children…. and they can testify.
7. Perhaps you may start to organize a bible study in your community. Later on it will grow in number then you may register it as a local Reform Church in your area, then you as their pioneering Pastor. In this way no one will abuse you. Anyway this is just a suggestion.
Nice meeting you here Ed.
Humor me for a moment, please.
I just googled “MOSES, a type of Jesus”. You think I am a FOOL for telling you that Moses is Jesus, and the Pharaoh is BONDAGE.
MANY MANY MANY churches preach what I told you, yet you think I’m the fool, comparing what I said to a piece of wood.
Let me say this:
Forget about that verse. Don’t read it.
Now, go back to the Hebrew scriptures and you tell me if you can find that Jesus promised Abraham Jesus as the promised seed.
And yet, you want me to become a member of a local Calvinist or Reform church, when they can’t even see Jesus in Moses as a TYPE?
No, jt, you just want to have me in BONDAGE under the CONTROL of someone called an elder, when he is YOUNGER than I am.
In my neck of the woods, we have TRIBAL ELDERS. How old are they? 20?
By definition the word ELDER is OLDER. The Catholics made that word equate to a religious office, all because they have NO CLUE as how to read the Bible.
Paul chose elders to be teachers. He didn’t choose young people to be a religious title called elders. There is no such thing as a religious office of elders. The Catholics screwed that up in their reading of Paul.
Around the world there are TRIBES…Twelve Tribes of Israel…Tribes in Africa, Tribes in South America, and finally, TRIBES in America of the Native Indians.
All of those tribes have ELDERS. So when Paul uses the word ELDER it’s NOT AN OFFICE.
But reform people, including Calvinists, think that the word Elder is associated with an office, and AGE IS NOT A FACTOR.
Reformers have a ton of Catholic baggage. And this is one of them.
Now, read Galatians 3:16.
Can’t you see, just by that ONE VERSE, that Paul is TELLING YOU to go back to the Hebrew Scriptures and RE-READ them, and SEE if YOU can identify Jesus in the life of people from the Hebrew scriptures?
Without Galatians 3:16, PROVE TO ME, from the Hebrew scriptures alone, that one of the promises to Abraham was Jesus as the promised seed!
You have all the answers, so you should be able to TEACH ME something from your many years of being a preacher that I’m supposed to be UNDER THE AUTHORITY of in a local church.
Tell me if you know, without consulting Galatians 3:16 or ANY of the NT writings. Just use the Hebrew scriptures. Let’s see how smart you are by you using your infamous expository exegesis!
I look forward to you teaching me something that I don’t already know, oh great one that I’m supposed to submit to!
Your doctrines are abusive. It’s not a rogue bad pastor. It’s the doctrines. All the pastors believe the same thing in Calvinism. Especially CHURCH DISCIPLINE! Lording over people. It’s all over the internet.
Then do a Google search of Moses type of Jesus, and see the many posts about it from various people.
I dare ya!
Here is some more WOOD for you, jt:
I’m pretty confused that you and Brian think that I have Mormon beliefs just because I used the word “LEGION”.
Mark 5 and Luke 8 discusses the topic. Have you not read? How is this a MORMON issue when I say it?
It discusses ONE man, possessed by MANY evil spirits called demons, and when Jesus asked what his name was, he replied, LEGION, FOR THERE ARE MANY OF US.
How does the constitute a false accusation that I have Mormon beliefs? Please enlighten me!
Chapman posted this one:
“I’m pretty confused that you and Brian think that I have Mormon beliefs just because I used the word “LEGION”.
“Mark 5 and Luke 8 discusses the topic. Have you not read? How is this a MORMON issue when I say it?”
“It discusses ONE man, possessed by MANY evil spirits called demons, and when Jesus asked what his name was, he replied, LEGION, FOR THERE ARE MANY OF US.”
“How does the constitute a false accusation that I have Mormon beliefs? Please enlighten me!”
——-Here’s My Response——-
Yes Ed. I know the passage concerning the hot issue “Legion”. Let us not discuss about that anymore. Just forget it and instead let us concentrate to the topic in this thread ” Born Dead?”. They might get angry at us to consume the space here for things that are out of the topic in this thread.
Forget about any sentiments concerning that Mormon issue. I think both of us here are not interested with that cult group.
Ok, I’ll leave it be, except to ask why it is a “hot” issue. You don’t need to answer. I’m just being inquisitive to the word, hot.
Not sure if anyone commented on “may believe” in John 11:14-15. I know a little Greek (two semesters at seminary); this certainly doesn’t qualify me as a Greek expert, but I know just enough to make me dangerous. 🙂 The expression “so that you may believe” is called a hina clause because it starts with the conjunction hina. Hina here is translated as “so that” in the English translation, but it really means “for the purpose of.” In other words, a hina clause is a purpose clause.
The verb that is used in the hina clause is in the subjunctive mood; the subjunctive mood usually implies a probability in action, and that is why it is translated in the English as “may believe.” But in the Greek, the subjunctive mood is always used in combination with a hina clause, and the subjunctive verb mood in a hina clause is not to be taken as a probability, but rather as a definite action. In other words, the Greek verb should not be taken as “maybe yes” or “maybe no” that you will believe.
So to be more accurate, the phrase “so that you may believe” really should be translated as “for the purpose that you will believe.” When you realize that “may believe” is an artifact of the English translation, you can understand that the argument that is being made concerning “may believe” is not valid.
Hello Cliff and welcome!
I liked your saying “Enough Greek to be dangerous”
For me – that’s enough Greek to be able to experience the joy of reading the NT in its original language. :-]
Concerning my previous comment on hina clauses and their proper English translation, here is another example that is well known: John 3:15, “that whoever believes in him may have eternal like.” This is another hina clause, i.e. another purpose clause that starts with the hina conjunction. The verb (have) is once again in the subjunctive mood in the Greek. A verb in the subjunctive mood is usually translated as a probable action, but when a verb in the subjunctive mood is used in a hina clause, the verb is a definite action, not a probable action.
Now is this clause saying that everyone who believes “may have” eternal life, or “will have” eternal life? It is most definitely saying that everyone who believes “will have” eternal life. There is no “maybe yes” or “maybe no” about it. The Greek usage clearly says this, but the English translation makes us think there could be some doubt about whether a believing person will have eternal life.