Does SHOULD always imply COULD?

Reblogged from March 2018

If I tell my child that he should clean his room it does strongly imply that he could clean his room. This is basic common sense, but is it applicable to how God deals with humanity? Is the implication in scripture of “you should” mean that “you could?”

I think we can all agree that “ought” strongly implies moral ability for all practical purposes, but is that a biblical reality in every instance? Sometimes the Bible defies our practical sensibilities and turns our reality upon its ear. Is that the case here? Do God’s expressions of what we SHOULD do imply that we actually COULD do it.[1]

Suppose you had a horrible gambling addiction and as a result accrued a debt so large that it was literally impossible for you to repay. Would your inability to pay off this debt excuse you from paying it? Of course not. You SHOULD pay off this debt regardless of whether or not you COULD pay off this debt. This is an example of where inability does not remove responsibility and thus SHOULD does not mean that one necessarily COULD.

Likewise, the scriptures teach us that we SHOULD obey the law of God perfectly (Matt. 5:48), but it also teaches us that no one COULD (Rom. 3:23). Our moral inability to fulfill the law’s demands does not remove our moral responsibility to the law. We have a sin debt that we cannot pay, yet scripture seems to teach that we are held accountable for that debt nonetheless. In this instance, it certainly does seem that SHOULD does not imply COULD.

But, continuing with the analogy above, suppose your wealthy and benevolent father offered to pay your gambling debt for you if you would confess your addiction and go to rehab. Clearly, this is something you SHOULD do, but COULD you? Of course, you COULD! Your inability to pay off the debt in no way hinders you from accepting the benevolent offer of your father’s provision.

Likewise, with regard to the law, your benevolent and gracious Father offers to pay your sin debt if you confess your sin addiction and trust in Him. Clearly, this is something you SHOULD do, but COULD you? Of course, you COULD! Your inability to pay off your sin debt in no way hinders you from accepting the benevolent offer of your Father’s gracious provision.

Suppose someone tried to convince you that one’s inability to pay off their debt equaled their inability to accept help when it was offered. Would you believe them? I ask because that is what our Calvinistic friends are attempting to get the church to believe. Allow me to explain further…

Could the “Rich Young Ruler” have willingly given up his wealth to follow Christ as Zacchaeus does in the very next chapter? Or was Zacchaeus granted an ability that was withheld from the Rich Young Ruler? (Note: I’m speaking of man’s moral/spiritual abilities to repent in faith, not their physical ability or mental assent, so please don’t try to rebut this article with the all too often “catch-all” phrase of, “He is able but not willing.”)

Calvinists would agree with the Traditionalists that both Zacchaeus and Rich Young Ruler SHOULD have given up everything to follow Christ, but only the Traditionalist maintains that both of them COULD have willingly done so. Why do Calvinists insist that SHOULD doesn’t imply COULD when it comes to the Biblical revelation?

Dr. Wayne Grudem, a Calvinistic scholar, explains the issue in this manner:

“Advocates of the Arminian position draw attention to the frequency of the free offer of the gospel in the New Testament. They would say that these invitations to people to repent and come to Christ for salvation, if bona fide, must imply the ability to respond to them. Thus, all people without exception have the ability to respond, not just those who have been sovereignly given that ability by God in a special way.” [2]

Grudem, like John Hendryx of, rebuts this perspective by making arguments such as:

“What the Scriptures say we ‘ought’ to do does not necessarily imply what we ‘can’ do. The Ten Commandments, likewise, speak of what we ought to do but they do not imply that we have the moral ability to carry them out. The law of God was given so that we would be stripped of having any hope from ourselves. Even faith itself is a divine command that we cannot fulfill without the application of God’s regenerative grace by the Holy Spirit.”[3]

Are you following the Calvinistic argument? Here it is put very simply:

  1. God tells man they SHOULD keep all the commandments.
  2. Man CANNOT keep all the commandments.
  3. God also tells man they SHOULD believe and repent for breaking commandments.
  4. Therefore man also CANNOT believe and repent for breaking commandments.[4]

If the fallacy in this argument is not obvious to you, please allow me to use the analogy above as a parallel:

  1. The gambler SHOULD pay off his gambling debts.
  2. The gambler CANNOT pay off his gambling debts.
  3. The father tells the man he SHOULD admit his addiction and receive help.
  4. Therefore the gambler CANNOT admit his addiction and receive help.

Maybe another analogy will help bring more clarity: Back when my kids were younger we did a family activity that our church had suggested. I stood at the top of the stairs with my four children at the bottom.

I said to them, “Here are the rules. You must get from the bottom of the stairs to the top of the stairs without touching any of the railing, the wall or even the stairs. Ready, go!”

My kids looked at me and then each other and then back at their mother. With bewilderment in their eyes, they immediately began to whine and complain saying, “Dad, that is impossible!”

I told them to stop whining and figure it out.

The youngest stood at the bottom and started trying to jump, slamming himself into the steps over and over. The more creative one of the bunch began looking for tools to help build some kind of contraption. Another set down on the floor while loudly declaring, “This is just stupid, no one can do that!”

Finally, in exasperation one of the kids yelled out, “Dad, why don’t you just help us?” I raised my eyebrows as if to give them a clue that they may be on the right track. The eldest caught on quickly.

“Can you help us dad?” he shouted.

I replied quietly, “No one even asked me.”

“Can you carry us up the stairs?” he asked.

“I will if you ask me,” I said.

And one by one, I carried each child to the top after they simply asked.

Then, we sat down and talked about salvation. We talked about how it is impossible for us to get to heaven by our own efforts, but if we ask Christ for help then He will carry us. It was a great visual lesson of God’s grace in contrast with man’s works.

But suppose that my children’s inability to get to the top the stairs also meant they were incapable of asking me for help. Imagine how this story would’ve played out if it was impossible for my children not only to get to the top of the stairs but equally impossible for them to recognize that inability and request help when it was offered.

This illustrates the mistake of Calvinism. Let’s go back to their fallacy above as it relates to my story:

  1. Dad tells his kids they SHOULD get to the top of stairs.
  2. Kids CANNOT complete this task as requested.
  3. Dad also tells the kids they SHOULD ask for help.
  4. Therefore the kids CANNOT ask for help.

Do you see the problem now? The whole purpose of presenting my kids with that dilemma was to help them to discover their need for help. To suggest that they cannot realize their need and ask for help on the basis that they cannot get to the top of the stairs completely undermines the very purpose of giving them that dilemma.

The purpose of the father in both instances is to get others to trust Him. The law was not sent for the purpose of getting mankind to heaven. Just as the purpose of the activity was not to get the kids to the top of the staircase.  The purpose was to help them to see that they have a need and that they cannot do it on their own.

Calvinists have wrongly concluded that because mankind is unable to attain righteousness by works through the law, they must also be equally unable to attain righteousness by grace through faith. In other words, they have concluded that because mankind is incapable of “making it to the top of the stairs,” then they are equally incapable of “recognizing their inability and asking for help.”  IT DOES NOT FOLLOW AND IT IS NOT BIBLICAL. Paul said;

What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; but the people of Israel, who pursued the law as the way of righteousness, have not attained their goal. Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works (Rom. 9:30-32).

It seems Calvinists would have us believe that because pursuit by works fails in attaining righteousness that a pursuit by faith would not even be possible. This is simply never taught in scripture.

When Calvinists are pressed on the obvious implication that SHOULD implies COULD, they appeal to the demands of the law, which is like appealing to my demands for the children to get to the top of the stairs without touching anything. I didn’t make that demand with the expectation of my children actually doing it, after all, it is impossible. I made the demand to help them realize they could not do it without my help.

So too, God did not send the law with the expectation that we could actually fulfill its demands. That is not the purpose of the law. According to the scripture, “No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin” (Rom. 3:20).

The law is a “tutor” who points us to our need for Christ (Gal. 3:24). The law was never sent for the purpose of being fulfilled by mankind, just as the stair-climbing activity was never intended to be completed by my kids. It was a “tutoring” lesson to teach my children that they must rely on someone else, a useless activity indeed if they are somehow incapable of coming to that realization or admitting their need for help.

If my kids are as completely incapable of understanding their need for help in getting to the top of stairs as they are in getting to the top of the stairs without help, then why would I bother with the activity in the first place? Likewise, if mankind is as completely incapable of trusting in the One who fulfilled the law as they are in fulfilling the law themselves, then what is the point in sending an insufficient tutor to teach them a lesson they cannot learn?

The argument that SHOULD implies COULD remains virtually unanswered by the Calvinist who appeals to the law as their example. That is unless they can demonstrate that it actually was God’s intention for us to fulfill the law’s demand in order to attain righteousness. After all, to conclude that man cannot fulfill the purpose of the law’s demands begs the question, because it presumes man cannot fulfill the purpose of the law by believing in the One who fulfilled its demands.

Basic common sense tells us that if one ought to do something, he can do it. This is especially true if one is punished for his failure to do that which is expected. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10, Paul says of the unrighteous, “They perish because they did not accept the love of the truth in order to be saved.” And in John 12:48, Jesus said, “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; the very words I have spoken will condemn them at the last day.”

Scripture never once says that we will perish because of Adam’s sin. But over and over again it says that we will each be held accountable for our response to the clear the revelation of God.  According to Paul, all men stand “without excuse” (Rom. 1:20), yet Calvinistic doctrine gives mankind the best excuse imaginable:

Judge: “Why did you remain in unbelief?”
Reprobate: “I was born hated and rejected by my God who sealed me in unbelief from the time I was born until the time I died due to the sin of another.”

Can you think of any better excuse than that?  I cannot.

25 thoughts on “Does SHOULD always imply COULD?

  1. Thanks for the re-post.

    The Calvinist “should-but-cannot” argument about the 10 Commandments is a tricky one (surprise!).

    They base it on the idea that “Everyone knows we cannot keep all the commandments, but we ‘should,’ therefore …..”

    But that argument does not work. No one can keep ALL the commandments ALL the time…. but certainly it possible to follow some of the commandments some of the time. Of course people are going to say I am trying to say works can save me. NOT my point at all!

    My point is that the “should-and-can” are much closer than people think…. and that argument should not be used to say man is “too-dead” to respond to Christ’s call to “come unto me all you who labor and are heavy burden, and I will give you rest.”

  2. Jesus even takes it one step further with His invitation to go into the kingdom of heaven saying : Matthew 23:37 (HCSB)
    37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem! She who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her. How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, yet you were not willing! How could He be willing for them to enter the kingdom but unwilling to even make it possible for them to do so?
    His invitation to come with a promise of rest from their heavy burdens becomes no more than a taunt to any who are unable.

  3. Judge: “Why did you remain in unbelief?”
    Reprobate: “I was born hated and rejected by my God who sealed me in unbelief from the time I was born until the time I died due to the sin of another.”

    Can you think of any better excuse than that? I cannot.

    Unless Calvin’s god doesn’t live up to the very standards that he demands of the creatures.
    In that case – Calvin’s god would have the very characteristic that Jesus criticizes in men.
    Do what they say – but don’t do what they do – because they don’t do what they say.
    They heep burdens on others that they themselves won’t lift a finger to bear.


    In the church I would rather speak five words communicated with understanding – that by my voice I might teach others – rather than to speak ten thousand words in a language that others are not certain to understood. For if the trumpet gives an UNCERTAIN SOUND – who shall prepare himself to the battle? So likewise, you – except you utter words that are UNCERTAIN in how they are to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken?

    Personally – I see Paul drawing on a sound logical principle here in regard to commutations in the church.
    He wants to ensure when words of life are given – people don’t hear them as an UNCERTAIN SOUND.

    Here is an example of words of life that may be given:
    Jeremiah 29:11
    For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

    But what does this statement mean to a Calvinist – as it applies to himself?

    Calvin teaches him that the plans Calvin’s god (at the foundation of the world) has for him are according to the SECRET counsel of his will. And a SECRET kept by the THEOS by its very nature – cannot be known by anyone other than the THEOS – or else it isn’t a SECRET.

    A given Calvinist has two options:
    If Calvin’s god (at the foundation of the world) ordained this Calvinist to be “elect” – then these can certainly represent the SOUND of divine benevolence.

    If Calvin’s god (at the foundation of the world) ordained the Calvinist for damnation – then these words will represent a distinctly different SOUND.

    How can the Calvinist be CERTAIN which SOUND it is?

    Here is another example of words of life that may be given:
    My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. And I give unto them eternal life. And they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all, and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.

    Here again the Calvinist has the same two options:

    If he is ordained to be “elect” then these words of Jesus apply to him.
    If he is ordained for damnation then these words of Jesus do not apply to him.

    On top of this – Calvin asserts that a -quote “LARGE MIXTURE” of Calvinists are those whom Calvin’s god holds salvation out to as a -quote “savor of condemnation”. These Calvinists – quote “have nothing of Christ but the name and outward appearance”.
    Calvinists call these members of their fold “Tares”. They look like the real thing. They walk like the real thing. They talk like the real thing. They are convinced within themselves they are the real thing. But they are not. According to Calvin these Calvinists are not within the “INVISIBLE” church. And those who are really “elect” are INVISIBLE.

    To add further to the problem – Calvin asserts that when God speaks, he often speaks his EXPRESSED will – while withholding his SECRET will. And his EXPRESSED will can be the exact opposite of his SECRET will.

    So, when the Calvinist is reading “my sheep hear my voice”, the Calvinist knows those words apply only to the “elect”.
    And the Calvinist doesn’t know who the “elect” are because they are INVISIBLE.

    Those promises of God to his beloved in scripture may only be the EXPRESSED will for him – but not the SECRET for him.

    Therefore, it is the case for every Calvinist – that the promises of God within scripture are an UNCERTAIN SOUND.

  5. “If I tell my child that he should clean his room it does strongly imply that he could clean his room.”

    When I was a kid, the word should did not imply “could”. It implied “WILL”. I will clean my room, and I will pay my debts. Personal responsibility if I “WILL”-fully disobey my parents. I can’t blame that on God’s Sovereignty. God made me disobey my parents? Mom was God in my household. Either I obey her, or I got her wrath! So, I will clean my room, and when I am done, that is proof that I COULD! But the “will” came before the could…in my house, anyway!


    From the Gnostic Society Library:
    “Scholars have long debated the possible origins of the Gnostic movement, without conclusive results. There is evidence linking it from an **EARLY PERIOD IN THE CHRISTIAN ERA TO VARIOUS GREEK PHILOSOPHIES**, to currents within Judaism, to Egyptian religious systems influenced by Greek thinking, to Iranian ideas of good and evil as contending forces, and to the India-born mystical systems. We will here be concerned mainly with **GNOSTICS WHO CONSIDERED THEMSELVES CHRISTIANS, AND, MORE SPECIFICALLY, WITH CHRISTIAN GNOSTICISM** as reflected in the Thomas writings…..

    Gnosis was thought to lead to a **UNITIVE**, or mystical, experience in which the **COMPOSITE WORLD** would be left behind and a primordial, **UNDIFFERENTIATED ONENESS** regained.” -end quote

    Undifferentiated oneness – appears to be a key characteristic in the ancient Gnostic NeoPlatonist Christianity. Here the THEOS is called the “one”. He has created a COMPOSITE WORLD. His very nature and character is understood as UNDIFFERENTIATED ONENESS.

    Gnostic NeoPlatonic thinking is dualistic in nature. But a key characteristic appears to be found in the term UNDIFFERENTIATED.
    This dualism appears in what Augustine lovingly called “Antithesis”.

    Good-Evil, Right-Wrong, True-False, Light-Dark. These things appear not as separate entities but as COMPOSITE PAIRS, because they exist in UNDIFFERENTIATED form.

    Right and Wrong for example, exist as two sides of the divine dualism. Yes, they exit as antithetical to each other. But they are co-mingled into each other, and there is no clear line of demarcation between them. True and False exist in the same state – Light and Darkness – Good and Evil – Benevolence and Malevolence. These all exist as antithetical pairs, but in UNDIFFERENTIATED form.

    The THEOS who created this world, created it after his own image. He is UNDIFFERENTIATED. He is a COMPOSITE of Good and Evil, existing as co-mingled constituents within his oneness.

    Consider what a Gnostic NeoPlatonist Christian must hold as his understanding of his god. His god is both good and evil at the same time. And there is no clear line of demarcation between benevolence and malevolence.

    What does the Gnostic NeoPlatonist Christian see, when he looks at Christians who have a God who is only wonderfully benevolent. Like a loving nurturing father who tenderly cares for his children? This God is just yes – punishing evil acts when necessary. Allowing man to reap what he sows – or become bound in the fetters of his own sin. But this God is not malevolent like the Gnostic NeoPlatonist Christians god.

    We might have some compassion for the Gnostic NeoPlatonist Christian. Perhaps he is simply acting out from anger concerning his own situation? His god is not wonderfully benevolent like the other Christian’s God – how dare they have such a God!.

    His god is a COMPOSITE of benevolence and malevolence co-mingled together in UNDIFFERENTIATED form. His god ordains some to life and some to darkness. Some to glory, some to eternal flames. Some to salvation, some to continuous sin.

    Perhaps we should be more understanding when the Gnostic NeoPlatonist Christian points the finger of accusation at us, calls us heretics, and casts other pejoratives at us. Perhaps subconsciously, he longs to have a benevolent God like we have? Perhaps he feels he had to bite the bullet and embraced the TRUE good-evil deity. Perhaps he is angry because we have a God who is a benevolent loving father. Perhaps if you were in his shoes, you would be doing the same thing.

    ” The decree is dreadful indeed, I confess.” – John Calvin

  7. Excellent article! If only Calvinist apologists like James White could get this. Just last night I listened to him as he went on and on about “synergism” and “man-centered theology” and how these concepts at least partly define the “dividing line” between biblical and non-biblical theology. His main problem, I think, is that his “God-centered” theology has at its foundation a view of man that does not take into adequate consideration ALL that God says about man’s fallen condition. Yes, Scripture does describe sinners as being “dead,” but it also describes sinners as slaves, as prisoners, and as the sick needing a physician. It’s a problem when one focuses on only the one metaphor–our being “dead”–and interprets everything else accordingly. Of course a dead man is not capable of making any kind of decision, even regarding his own resurrection, but a sick man most certainly CAN both seek and accept medical treatment for his condition. And if a prisoner or slave is presented with terms for his freedom, he certainly CAN agree to the terms. And when he’s set free, he won’t say to his liberator, “We did it together, didn’t we? Just you and me; we’re quite a team!” NO! He is DEEPLY grateful for the freedom he now has and wants to show his thankfulness to his liberator.

      1. Just have one small question about being dead, that I believe is an important aspect of the topic. In order to be dead, one had to have been alive, FIRST. At least, that’s the natural order of things. Why is it taught that we are born dead, before we are made alive? This goes straight to the topic of what happens to babies if they die? Alive, then died, then alive again, AKA born AGAIN. Does anyone besides me see this? What is life? What is SPIRITUAL life? James 2:26. Life requires a spirit to live in a body. Spiritual life requires The Holy Spirit residing in your body, with your spirit. Life comes before death, not the other way around, right?

      2. C24,

        The topic of infant death and salvation is a very tricky one for Calvinists and they fall on differing positions. Their consistent position should be —what difference does age make? Chosen is chosen. Which is hard-liner Sproul’s position. But most of them find a linguistic-gymnastic way to dance around the issue since that sounds so harsh.

        I mean they do not want to promote a doctrine that says that babies are all unregenerated (although some do—saying that God keeps the ones He has chosen).

        But the basic tenets of Calvinism should enforce this position….. and really it is no different if the person is born or not born…infant or adult. Calvinists should just fess up to this. Just own it. God rejects the unchosen…. babies or not.

      3. Yep, and this is exactly the reason to bring it up. Paul in Romans 7 said that he was alive before he knew what sin was, and that he died once he knew. Adam died spiritually once he got knowledge, hence name of tree. And…later…working now…

      4. The real one that Calvinists cannot answer is Luke 15, the Prodigal Son.

        MacArthur went so far as to call it the parable of the Seeking Father….but he dialed that back in subsequent version since he realized how stupid that sounded. The father did not do any seeking!

        The “dead” son (Jesus referred to him twice that way) “came to his senses” “in a faraway land” and came to the father —-who was gracious….. and waiting.

      5. C24,
        It can be found many places and I have put the link the youtube video on a few of these comment pages. In an 87 min sermon, MacArthur spends about 15 mins telling how “dead” the son was to the father.

        Then …..later he quotes Romans 3:11 and says the son could not seek him —and is the father doing all the seeking. I scratched my head, since no one reading that story would see it that way.

        On his web site…. to show how far he will go to protect his presuppositions of Calvinism, he writes:

        “But here’s the heart of the whole parable, and this often gets missed because we focus too much on the sons when we ought to focus on the father because this whole parable is illustrating the seeking God…. Notice this, “But while he was still a long way off,” no sinner on his own can approach near to God. In fact, in the terms of Romans 3:11 no man even seeks after God. It’s not until God begins the work in the heart that the sinner even begins to initially seek. But the seeking sinner will always be seeking afar off unless God, the seeking God comes to that sinner. And you see it while the sinner is still a long way off, his father saw him. How did he see him? I’ll tell you how, I believe the father was out there every day doing what? Looking for him; morning, noon and night, watching into the distance from some high point on the ground to see if indeed his son might be coming back. And here is the picture of the seeking father. He sees that son a long way off and a father knows his son, even at a distance.”

        I mean you cant make this stuff up…. it’s hard to believe! He equates the son being in a “distant country” to the father seeing him down the road…. completely ignoring the fact that the son came the WHOLE way from the distant county (as a dead, non-seeking person).

        He even says, “to see if indeed his son might be coming back….” But oh, indeed he CANT be coming back—-since he is dead and cannot seek.

        MacArthur and I became Calvinists around the same time in the 70’s in So Cal (I attended his church). Here he demonstrates the silly idea that the father is the one seeking here!!

        This parable demonstrates the father’s level of compassion and forgiveness….. but he never leaves home — seeks the son—- forces him to come home irresistibly. The is one of the most significant blunders of MacArthur.

      6. Oh that’s funny. I’ll see if I can find that video tonight. If I can’t find it, I’ll get back to you. In the mean time, the word of the day is KNOWLEDGE. UNTIL you eat of that tree, you are not dead in your trespasses and sins. Romans 5:13, Romans 7. And also in Deuteronomy… children did not have knowledge of good and evil, and they got to go to promised land. Not sure if you realize, but the spiritual promised land is eternal life. No knowledge, no sin can be imputed. That’s also in Romans 4, too. Romans 3 states that the law is the knowledge of sin.

      7. I found the video last night… fell asleep thru half, but the half I did hear, he was all over the place, and it’s obvious that his exe-JESUS of the parable has nothing to do with the parable at all. His explanation is a complete different story than the simple words written that a 2 year old can easily understand. But also, here’s the thing. Flesh vs Spirit. I hate how the word REGENERATE and UNREHENERATE is applied in all of Calvinism, as well as many non-Calvinists, too, by the way. THOSE OF US who are not Calvinists or never even knew anything about Calvin to begin with don’t even use that word in our Christianese. Let me break it down in simple terms. You are a spirit and you live in a body that sins, whether or not you are saved. If you die, you can’t sin. There is no body. The only thing left is your spirit. If you are alive, you are gonna sin, no matter what. Christians sin, and that is living in the flesh. Therefore, Christians that live in the flesh are the ones who don’t please God…AND THESE ARE THE REGENERATE ONES. This is what the bible is discussing. Believers sinning, believers living in the flesh, believers not pleasing God, believers not spiritually discerning things. The saved living in the flesh. In other words, the SAVED struggling with sin. But…Calvinism and many non -Cals in your neck of the woods seem to call those people the unsaved non-regenetate people. NOT TRUE! They are the saved regenerate ones who struggle with sin, and give in to temptation, being weak. Paul dies daily, meaning getting rid of the body that sins, to live in the ghost (spirit). That is known as being dead to sin. The Calvinists, and many non’ s make things extremely complicated, and in doing so, seminary is a marketing tool, that only the elite educated can teach, cuz people like you and me are too stupid to understand. John MacArthur is way overrated. He puts his pants on the same way I do. He is not smarter than me with no seminary. Time. And Coffee is all that is needed, and is much cheaper.

      8. Oh, and I might also add that many in your neck of the woods don’t believe that they are a spirit to begin with. So it’s hard for them to understand the flesh (BODY)/spirit thing. Some believe that when the word, spirit is used, that it means tree Holy Spirit, or GOD. They don’t realize that the passage is speaking of them as a spirit, clothed or housed in a body (FLESH). Flesh sins, spirit does not sin.

    1. Vance,

      Sinners (unbelievers) are also called God-fearing and devout. Cornelius is called both in Acts 10…. and had a visible conversion later in the story.

      What was he before that conversion? “Too-dead” to make a choice? Why does the Word say this about him: “He and all his family were devout and God-fearing; he gave generously to those in need and prayed to God regularly.”?

      That does not sound dead.

      Was that “devout enough” to save him? No.

      Was he “alive enough” to hear God’s call and call in turn say “What is it, Lord?” Yes.

      Calvinists have no answer for this.

      If Cornelius is too dead to hear….. he had to be regenerated first to be “devout” “God-fearing” and to say “What is it Lord?”

      But if he was regenerated to be able to do all that…. then how much time lapsed before he then later hears Peter’s message and receives Christ?

      Calvinist friends: at what time was Cornelius regenerated? Right at his salvation (like Sproul says)? If so, how was he “too-dead” and yet calling “Lord” and being devout and God-fearing? The Calvinist position is that before regeneration we are all God-hating, not God-fearing.

      1. Fromoverhere,

        If one insists on making the Cornelius account fit the Calvinistic model, then one would have to read the account in a way that’s comparable with whittling corners off pieces of a puzzle to make the pieces fit. Do that, and you end up with a strange looking picture. Also, if one wants to figure out a way to put regeneration nearer the beginning of the Cornelius story, one may have to redefine regeneration, and it would be helpful to ignore or minimize texts such as Acts 11:14-17 and 15:7-9, which refer back to the event described in 10:44ff. In these, we find that the angel told Cornelius that Peter “will tell you words by which you and all your household *will be saved*” (11:14). We also find Peter stating that “God gave them the same gift as He gave us *when we believed* on the Lord Jesus Christ” (11:17). Sounds to me like regeneration took place when Cornelius and his companions believed the words Peter told them.

      2. Vance,
        You know that… and I know that regeneration took place when he believed.

        The problem for Calvinists (and it’s a big one) is they must put his regeneration immediately before his believing (a la Sproul)… and yet Cornelius is known well as “God-fearing” (not God-hating), “devout” (doing some good things; certainly not doing ONLY evil ALL the time… in any case), and speaking to God calling him “Lord.”

        These were all things that he did long before the regeneration-precedes-faith-but-RIGHT-before-faith idea.

  8. It seems I am a little late in posting this reply based on the date of the last comment but hopefully someone will check in and see this. I recall reading this article when it was originally posted and wanting to respond but I never got around to making a comment. In fact, this is my first time commenting on Soteriology 101 so take it easy on me. In full disclosure, I am a Sovereign Grace Baptist, which some would describe as a Reformed or Calvinistic Baptist (although I had never heard those terms until the last five years or so).

    I want to graciously point out a contradiction and a fallacy based on a “strawman” argument in this article. The contradiction relates to the primary subject of the article – “Does SHOULD Always Imply COULD?”. The author seems to answer his own question in the 4th paragraph, which concludes with the statement “In this instance, it certainly does seem that SHOULD does not imply COULD.” If I understand it correctly, this statement is in opposition to Dr. Flower’s previous arguments that responsibility always implies ability (respons”able”). The author then describes the Calvinistic argument beginning with the logical statements of “1.God tells man they SHOULD keep all the commandments…2.Man CANNOT keep all the commandments.” While he later describes this Calvinistic argument as fallacious, I must assume he believes the fallacy is in Part 4 of the argument since Parts 1, 2 and 3 are consistent with what is stated elsewhere in article. The contradiction comes in the implication of the question “Why do Calvinists insist that SHOULD doesn’t imply COULD when it comes to the Biblical revelation?” This question implies that the Calvinist’s (or, in my case, Sovereign Grace Baptist’s) insistence is unfounded when in fact the author has already stated that there is Biblical revelation showing SHOULD doesn’t always imply COULD. The author also positively cites a reference (#4) which states that “ought implies can” and “the principle of ought implies can perseveres”. These statements are inconsistent with the author’s own statement that “inability does not remove responsibility and thus SHOULD does not mean that one necessarily COULD.”

    The author also builds a “strawman” with the Calvinistic argument that I referenced earlier. The full argument is stated as:
    1.God tells man they SHOULD keep all the commandments.
    2.Man CANNOT keep all the commandments.
    3.God also tells man they SHOULD believe and repent for breaking commandments.
    4.Therefore man also CANNOT believe and repent for breaking commandments.
    I do not know of any sound Calvinist or Reformed theologian that would make this argument. I believe the following argument is more consistent with what Scripture and what Dr. Grudem is saying in his quote:
    1.God tells man they SHOULD keep all the commandments, including the command to repent and believe the Gospel.
    2.Man CANNOT keep all the commandments and do anything pleasing to God because he is dead in trespasses and sins.
    The only time a Calvinist or Reformed theologian might use any semblance of the first argument is in response to the Traditionalist or Arminian argument that SHOULD always implies COULD or responsibility always implies ability. They would not start with that argument as their basic premise. We can certainly debate the proper Biblical understanding of man’s natural condition but this “strawman” is a fallacious representation of the Reformed argument.

    Lastly, I want to address something from the last section of the article. While it is not directly stated this way, the implication is that the lack of ability removes responsibility – if someone can’t believe then they can’t be held accountable for their unbelief. Let’s use similar argumentation and apply it to another article recently posted on Soteriology 101 regarding Prevenient Grace. The author of the Prevenient Grace article is identified only as “admin” so I assume this is Dr. Flowers or at least posted per his instructions. In this article, it is stated that “God’s gracious means to enable faith IS the Gospel.” The general premise of the article is that man does not need Prevenient Grace (as in the case of Arminian doctrine) or Effectual or Saving Grace (as in the case of Calvinistic doctrine) because the Holy Spirit-inspired Gospel is the means of grace. The implication of this is that man still needs something to enable faith, whether it be the Gospel, Prevenient Grace, or Effectual Grace. Based on this understanding, here might be the Traditionalist argument:
    1.God tells man that he SHOULD exercise faith to repent and believe the Gospel in order to be saved.
    2.Man CANNOT produce faith in and of himself.
    3.The preaching of the Gospel is God’s gracious means to enable faith so that man CAN repent and believe the GOSPEL.
    4.Any man that has not heard the preaching of the Gospel CANNOT repent and believe.
    5.Therefore any man that has not heard the Gospel is not responsible to repent and believe and cannot be held accountable for his unbelief.
    Maybe I have created a “strawman” with this argument but it is the same kind of logical argumentation that leads to fallacies and misunderstandings about the beliefs of others. It is also the kind of argumentation that leads to inclusivism and even universalism.

  9. Chapman posted this one:

    “Oh, and I might also add that many in your neck of the woods don’t believe that they are a spirit to begin with. So it’s hard for them to understand the flesh (BODY)/spirit thing. Some believe that when the word, spirit is used, that it means tree Holy Spirit, or GOD. They don’t realize that the passage is speaking of them as a spirit, clothed or housed in a body (FLESH). Flesh sins, spirit does not sin.”

    ———— Here’s My Response ————-

    The claim of Chapman that : The “spirit of man does not sin” – contradicts the teachings of the Apostle Paul as stated in I Thess. 5:23 “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely and may your whole SPIRIT, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

    It is God who is responsible in the sanctification (making holy) man’s spirit, soul and body. Chapman only believes the body (flesh) as the one that sins. Chapman cannot afford to deny and argue with Paul on this issue. The readers here at SOT will put their trust in Paul’s words rather than Chapman/s unfounded claims.

  10. FOH, the Pelagian have posted this one:

    “Sinners are also wandering sheep—- and they can wander home.”

    ———– Here’s My Response ————–

    FOH’s claim that a wandering sheep can come home on their own – contradicts the Parable of the lost sheep. The shepherd has to leave the 99 to go after the 1(one) that was lost, not vice versa. The lost sheep has to be lifted from the pit and needs to be carried on the shoulder of the Shepherd in their way back home together with the 99. It is very clear here that the lost sheep is incapable to come back home by himself alone except when there is divine intervention made for him by God. The lost sheep is spiritually dead, not physically dead as being watered down by Chapman and FOH as their tactics to confuse and be able to paint a bad image for their opponents.

    FOH cannot afford to deny and argue with Jesus Christ concerning the truths revealed in this parable concerning Divine intervention. It is God who is in-charge in the salvation of sinners, not Man.

Leave a Reply