Response to Tom Ascol of the Founders Ministry

Below is a recording of my review of Tom Ascol’s latest book confronting the view of the Traditionalist’s Statement, but I’m intentionally going to stick to the scriptural matters. I’m not going to engage over these 2 major points of the book:

1) The SBC was started by Calvinists so that’s the real “tradition” 

I don’t care who started the SBC or what they believed. They have been shown to have many errant beliefs and are not our authority. Plus, the SBC became the largest denomination in the world under “Provisionism,” not Calvinism. We could waste time debating labels but frankly, the labels really do not matter, I want to focus on scripture.

2) The Traditional statement is semi-pelagian. 

“Semi-Pelagian” a man-made term used to label and dismiss rather than engage the biblical content. You could as easily call us “semi-Augustinian” but that wouldn’t serve the purpose of the boogie man fallacy. We could call determinists “semi-Gnostics” but would that be profitable? In fact, by this standard, all Trinitarians could be labeled “semi-Catholic” so as to dismiss the perspective. When people who extoll The 5-Solas (namely Sola Scriptura) resort to this fallacious argumentation it is out-right hypocritical. (More on this “boogie-man” fallacy can be found HERE.)

Sola Scriptura

The main biblical argument Ascol seems to focus on, at least early in the book, is John 6 and Rom 8:7-8. These are his proof texts for the Calvinistic doctrine of “Total Inability,” which is the foundation for the entire systematic. Of course, neither of these texts come close to saying what needs to be said to support the Calvinistic premise. This will be my primary focus.

11 thoughts on “Response to Tom Ascol of the Founders Ministry

  1. Good stuff Leighton! Here are my additional thoughts on those two passages – First concerning John 6 –

    John 6:28-29 – John Calvin said, “Those who infer from this passage that faith is the gift of God are mistaken; for Christ does not now show what God produces in us, but what he wishes and requires from us.” I agree with Calvin’s interpretation on this one. 🙂

    John 6:36-40 – Definitely there are a number of puzzle pieces in these verses without much explanation on how to put them together. The Father sends and gives, the Son raises up, and each disiciple must see, believe, and come. Of course there is some order and overlap in these activities that must be figured out. But does coming and giving always mean salvation? “Raising up” in verse 40 seems to indicate yes they do. But Judas in 17:12, seems to indicate no. Jesus will of course raise up everyone, either to life or damnation (5:28-29). So, I think this passage is best understood to say that the Father is “giving” (present tense, vs. 37) those that He wants to “come” personally to “see” His Son and to be given an opportunity to “believe” in His Son. Those that truly become part of the “given” (perfect tense, vs. 39) in a settle way, evidently because of placing their trust in Christ, will be raised up to everlasting life on the last day. It is much like the phrase Jesus said later – “I will draw all men unto me.” They are not all thus saved, just because they are “drawn,” but they are brought to a saving opportunity and they will be without excuse if they reject that opportunity. Of course, one day, all men also will be literally drawn to Christ as Lord and will have to bow the knee, both saved and unsaved alike.

    6:43-44 – This whole passage is full of “hard saying(s)” (6:60) It appears that here Jesus is trying to winnow out the crowds to find true disciples among the food and king seekers. I do not think He is trying to teach the crowds Calvinist theology, as if He is sitting back saying – “You poor souls you just don’t get it, and that is because you are not especially given to me by my Father, or drawn by my Father. They are the only ones I am going to save, not you guys!” Instead, I think Jesus is basically saying, “Today, if you hear God’s voice drawing you, do not harden you heart, because you can only come to me for resurrection life when God calls. You can’t come any time you like.” I choose to believe that Jesus is saying these “hard sayings” not as a rebuke but as a plea, and not just a plea to the elect but to everyone, though especially as a plea to those seekers at this moment, i.e. those who are already responding positively to God’s gracious initiative in their lives.

    6:63-65 – You are correct in seeing these verses as a repetition of what was said before. So the idea is the same. I agree with the Calvinist that no one is able to believe until God draws them, gives them, causes them to come to that moment of opportunity. I disagree with the Calvinist in that I believe that they come to that opportunity already with the ability to believe or reject what the Father is offering them in Christ. If they reject and walk away, there is no guarentee that the Father will give them another opportunity, nor can they bring themselves back to the moment of decision.

  2. As for Rom 8:5-8
    5. Οἱ γὰρ κατὰ σάρκα ὄντες, τὰ τῆς σαρκὸς φρονοῦσιν· οἱ δὲ κατὰ πνεῦμα, τὰ τοῦ πνεύματος. [… the things of the flesh they are thinking…]
    6. τὸ γὰρ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς, θάνατος· τὸ δὲ φρόνημα τοῦ πνεύματος, ζωὴ καὶ εἰρήνη· —-[For the thinking of the flesh (is) death…]
    7. διότι τὸ φρόνημα τῆς σαρκὸς, ἔχθρα εἰς Θεόν· τῷ γὰρ νόμῳ τοῦ Θεοῦ οὐχ ὑποτάσσεται· οὐδὲ γὰρ δύναται. —-[wherefore the thinking of the flesh (is) an emnity towards God…]
    8. Οἱ δὲ ἐν σαρκὶ ὄντες Θεῷ ἀρέσαι οὐ δύνανται. [… to satisfy God they are not able]

    Rom 8:5-8 is talking about the fact that anything that is initiated by the carnal mind cannot please/satisfy God in an everlasting way or earn His righteousness. That continues to be true after regeneration also.

    But responding with your spirit to the enablement of the HS to seek and eventually make a decision of trust, if you do not harden yourself against it, is what the Scripture teaches that can happen even before regeneration. It is the Spirit getting a foothold in the carnal mind.

    That foothold does not please (satisfy) God to earn His salvation, but it does cause the ability of the human spirit to humbly follow His drawing to the point of personal trust when God then fulfills His will and grants everlasting life in the new birth through faith. Faith must be in place first for saving grace to go through it.

  3. Leighton,
    Yes….. they do like to talk about the election part….. and rarely the predestined for Hell part. But if He predestined in the way that Calvinist say…. God planned to nuke the majority of mankind before anybody was even around.

    Come on Calvinists…..just own it!

  4. Not to mention….think of how much glory this bring Christ—- all those people predestined to Hell.

    The national colleague of ours who let his 20-something son beguile him into Calvinism (after 35 years of identifying as a non-Calvinist) said that God does everything for His glory. He prays every day for the salvation of his daughter and no one has the heart to tell him, it is very possible that God wants to destroy his daughter for His glory.

    That would be Goon News huh!?

  5. I have a new idea and I may post it on several threads. This particular post from Leighton (the Founders one) is all about “sticking with Scripture,” so let’s do that.

    What is happening now is that our Calvinist friends keep responding to our posts with circular reasoning, (and some people bother to answer them) (I stopped long ago…. senseless), or young zealous ones drop by, and say “heresy” “scripture is clear” Calvinism is the pure doctrine” “we are right!” repeating talking points but no new information.

    They bring nothing new to the table —just the same 10 (for the youngsters) or 20 verses over and over with dogmatic — “we know we are right cuz we know it!”

    So…. Let’s just read our Bibles and post good, Christ-honoring posts that speak of His great love for all men, His willingness to be personal with men, and His willingness to work with both our faults and our faith. Let’s just fill these pages with that, disregarding any “A = not-A” responses that do not add to the conversation (we have heard all that many times!).

    Share with us your readings from Scripture!

    1. Great idea FOH,

      Proverbs 1:10-16,
      My son, if sinners entice thee, consent thou not. If they say, Come with us, let us lay wait for blood, let us lurk privily for the innocent without cause: Let us swallow them up alive as the grave; and whole, as those that go down into the pit: We shall find all precious substance, we shall fill our houses with spoil: Cast in thy lot among us; let us all have one purse: My son, walk not thou in the way with them; refrain thy foot from their path: For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood.

      So we have the bible saying “consent thou not”…….. “My son, walk not thou in the way with them”….. “For their feet run to evil, and make haste to shed blood”

      We would have to say that according to Prov. 1:10-16 that God hates this sort of thing, and we would have to say this sort of thing is against God’s will. We would have to say that there is no way God would fix this evil to came to pass by a secret decree. We would have to say that he is going to judge this type of wickedness. Yes he allows it to come to pass, and He is a forgiving God, but, Ohhh! He is going to balance the books one day because He is Sovereign, Just, and Righteous.

      But then Calvin says –
      “Let us suppose, for example, that a merchant, after entering a forest in company with trust-worthy individuals, imprudently strays from his companions and wanders bewildered till he falls into a den of robbers and is murdered. His death was not only foreseen by the eye of God, but had been fixed by his decree.”
      (John Calvin, Institutes of Christian Religion, Book 1, Chapter 16, Paragraph 9)

      Wickedness!

  6. Daily reading Prov 22:1.

    A good name is more desirable than great riches;
    to be esteemed is better than silver or gold.
    ———–

    So the Bible is telling us to have a good name…. to try to be esteemed. Of course we give the glory to Christ if we are esteemed, but still that sounds very “man-centered”.

    And if we are esteemed (such as a great artist, musician, athlete, teacher, we can say all we want “I give all the glory to God” but there is not doubt that we put some human effort into it.

    That is a great picture of how God created the universe. Man participates.

    Calvinism-determinism does not allow for man’s participation…. and if so, only in a negative way. (of course mis-interpreting Romans 3:10 that no one does any good).

  7. Here is my interpretation of Jn. 6.

    The entire section of Jn. 6:25-71 anticipates Calvary and its necessity. Calvary, not Calvin, is the key that unlocks its interpretation and understanding. The passage looks ahead to Calvary, and this informs every single verse.

    The crowds desire to make Jesus a king by force but Jesus flees (Jn 6:15). Theirs is not the Messianic reign that Jesus is seeking; they want Him as king but for earthy and not spiritual reasons. The crowds are drawn to Him, but for all the wrong reasons. The miracles and testimony of Jesus up to this point have not achieved lasting belief, the desired result (Jn. 6:26). Therefore it is necessary that Jesus go to the cross to be crucified and resurrected.

    The crucifixion will produce life giving sustenance, the true and broken bread of Jesus crucified body, the priestly offering which must be consumed (Jn. 6:50-58). And the resurrection will be THE sign (Matt.12:38-42), THE miracle par excellence, authenticating all of Scripture by putting an exclamation point on Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and thus producing powerful, undeniable incentive to believe (Jn. 6:30). Calvary, rather than disqualifying Jesus as Messiah (Lk. 24:20-21), will actually validate Jesus as Messiah; He will be known, recognized, understood to be Messiah, in the breaking of the bread (Lk. 24:30-31, 35).

    Calvary is the Father’s plan, to which even Jesus Himself must be yielded and submitted (Jn 6:38). In this plan of the Father, ALL will be taught of God, and THOSE THAT HEAR AND LEARN of the Father will come to Jesus (Jn. 6:45), and Jesus will in no wise cast them out (Jn. 6:37). In this plan of the Father, ALL men will be drawn (for the right reasons) to Jesus when He is lifted up (Jn. 12:32), and SOME given because they will comprehend and believe the Father’s love (Jn. 3:16).

    Calvary is how all men are drawn and some permanently given to Jesus, and it comes about through the Father’s will and plan and Jesus’ submission to it. It is how the Father gives people to Jesus. And it is the anticipatory event, the subtext which must be kept in mind before the chapter can be properly understood.

    1. Tandt,
      Thanks for that look at John 6 in context. If history proves correct, we will all soon be told that no one has ever offered a non-Calvinist explanation of John 6.

  8. The key for me to understanding John 6:44 is verse 43: “Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves.” What Jesus then says in verses 44 and after must be an answer to the grumbling that just preceded. The question must then be asked…what were the Jews grumbling about? Determine the source of the grumbling and see if the Calvinist interpretation of verse 44 (basically man’s inability to believe in Christ unless regenerated first) holds water. In my opinion, it does not.

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