Born of God: Historical Context Shapes Theology

Revised and reblogged from this article, by Leighton Flowers

In the typical debate over Calvinism’s soteriological claims you will often see the non-Calvinist refer to John 1:12 to emphasize man’s responsibility to “receive Him” so as to be given the right to become a child of God.

John 1:12: “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,”

One Non-Calvinist wrote this argument to a Reformed Baptist minister, John Samson, of

“It is clear that belief comes first, THEN they receive the right to become children of God. He gave the right to become children of God to those who believe. He did not make those who are already children of God believe. You have reversed the passage. But not only that! He only gave the right to become children of God to those that believe…”

Samson cordially defended his Reformed perspective, saying in part:

“…The very next verse (V.13) of John chapter one actually qualifies the statement about how be become adopted children of God in verse 12. It does this by asserting that this gift does not come about by the will of man but through the new birth or regeneration.

Lets read the whole thing in context:

 “He [Jesus] came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1: 11-13). In other words, we all believe the gospel unto the adoption of God’s children because of the grace of God in regeneration, not because man exercised his unregenerate will. We were born of God, not by the will, but by the Spirit.” (emphasis added by Samson) <link>

This response aptly represents most Calvinist’s interpretation of this passage, but is this what the apostle John actually had in mind when he wrote this? Let’s explore a little deeper.

First, the text says that “He came to His own,” and most commentators agree that “His own” is a general reference to the nation of Israel, the lineage through whom Christ came. We must recognize the contrast between those who rejected Christ (Israel) and those who did receive or believe in Him (“as many as did receive”).[1] This narrative reflects on a similar dichotomy painted by the apostle Paul in Acts 28:23-28:

They arranged to meet Paul on a certain day, and came in even larger numbers to the place where he was staying. He witnessed to them from morning till evening, explaining about the kingdom of God, and from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets he tried to persuade them about Jesus. Some were convinced by what he said, but others would not believe. They disagreed among themselves and began to leave after Paul had made this final statement: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your ancestors when he said through Isaiah the prophet:

 “‘Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.” For this people’s [Israel’s] heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.’ “Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!”

The New Testament authors lived in a world that was drawn with thick cultural lines. How the Jews, Jesus’ own people, responded to their Messiah in contrast to how the Gentiles responded to the Jewish Messiah, and what that means and what the Church should do about it, is the overriding historical concern of the New Testament. It’s no wonder both John and Paul are addressing this question. Just as the apostle John sets up a dichotomy between those who rejected the Messiah (Israel) and those who received Him (Gentiles), so too Paul draws on this same generalized contrast between these two groups of people (Israel who has “become calloused” and the Gentiles who “will listen.”) John’s point is that God has granted the immoral barbarian Gentiles the RIGHT to be children of God through faith in Christ, though it was believed by many in the first century that this RIGHT was reserved for those of the circumcision alone (Israel).[2]

While recognizing the complexity of the Reformation period, the overarching concern during the Reformation was whether or not someone had to be a member of good standing in the Roman Catholic Church in order to be in good standing with God. The Catholic answer to this question was, “Yes, you must perform these specific religious works and adhere to these specific teachings as handed down to us by the Apostles”. The Reformers, even as they further split on other issues, answered with, “No, there is nothing a man must do to be saved, it is by grace alone by faith alone that one is a Christian”.

The Calvinist imports the historical concerns of the Reformation and, in so doing,  misinterprets the apostle’s reference to the “will of the flesh,” by applying it to our hyper-individualized modern soteriological conflict, handed down to us from the Reformation, over the nature of man’s free will, while ignoring the obvious Jew/Gentile context of the first century.[3] Samson takes the apostle to mean something like, “Man’s will has nothing to do with whether or not they will be born of God,” when clearly that is not the issue the apostle is attempting to address.

Instead, it is quite obvious from this context that the three points the apostle John lists here are in reference to the misconceptions of what Israelites perceived as their given covenantal “RIGHTS”[4]as direct descendants of Abraham:

  • not of blood = being a descendant or blood relative of Abraham (Rom. 9:7)
  • nor of the will of the flesh = being one who “pursued” or “ran after” the law so as to merit righteousness (Rom. 9:31)
  • nor of the will of man [husband’s will] = being married or in anyway connected to the patriarchal head

The apostle is knocking the legs out from under those Jews who think they have the RIGHT to be God’s child because of who their granddaddy is (blood), their law keeping efforts (fleshly running), or by patriarchal headship (husband’s will). John is not attempting to make a soteriological stance on the nature of man’s free will or responsibility in light of the gospel appeal.  This is simply not a concern of the author and is imported, whole hog, from the Reformation; a conflict that started 1500 years after the author penned the passage in question.

However, even if we did take on the concerns of the Reformation, the Calvinist understanding still does not stand up to scrutiny. In another passage Paul does teach us a little more about the matters of the will,

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)

Notice that Paul is not denouncing the pursuit itself. He is denouncing the manner or purpose of that pursuit. Is righteousness being pursued by works or by faith? Are you running after the law or are you running after Christ? People are responsible to will and to run (1 Cor. 9:24; 2 Tim. 4:7), but if they do so according to the law and the flesh they will never finish the race. They will not attain their goal. If, however, they pursue righteousness by faith in the only righteous One, they will attain it by grace.

Calvinists have mistakenly applied the scripture’s teaching on man’s inability to attain righteousness by means of the law as proof for their erroneous claims that mankind is born morally incapable of attaining righteousness by faith (i.e. “Total Inability” – Calvinist’s belief that man’s morally incapacity of fulfilling the law’s demands equals man’s moral incapacity to trust in the One who fulfilled that law in our stead).

Calvinists seem to think that a man’s inability to “climb a rope to heaven” (works salvation) equals man’s moral incapacity to confess those inabilities and place their trust in the only One who can successfully climb that rope in our stead (grace applied through faith). This moral incapacity to trust in Christ due to the Fall of Adam is simply never taught in the pages of scripture. Nothing in the Bible remotely suggests that the Fall has made mankind morally incapable of responding to God’s own life-giving, inspired, gospel appeal to be reconciled from that Fall!

All agree that we are born of God when we are saved, but no scripture ever teaches we must be born again in order to gain the moral capacity to believe the gospel. We are not given a new heart so as to confess we use to have a bad heart. That is simply getting the proverbial cart before the horse. <more here>  In fact, the apostle John clearly states that God gives new life “to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name,” and not to a group of very fortunate individuals chosen for no apparent reason before time began (i.e. “Unconditional Election”).

[1] “as many as received Him” – This phrase is equivalent to the pronouns whoever (Webster = “Any one without exception; any person whatever”) or whosoever (Any one; any person whatever) which fling open the door of salvation to both Jews and Gentiles. Sadly this was a truth the Jews had a difficult time accepting in the early church (cf Acts 11:11-3, 15:1, 21:20-23, Gal 2:12-14) for they felt that they had special benefits based on their physical (ethnic) lineage (Abraham, Moses, circumcision, etc). This open invitation (so to speak) is similar to Paul’s declaration (quoting the OT prophet Joel 2:32) that “Whoever will call upon the Name of the LORD (Jehovah) will be saved (cf will be “born of…God” = Jn 1:13).” (Ro 10:13). It follows that calling upon His Name is one aspect of receiving (and believing in) Yeshua the Messiah. It should be noted that throughout Scripture until the very end of His revelation, this “as many as” attitude reflects the Father’s heart toward His rebellious creatures, John recording And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17)

Dr. Bob Utley on “as many as received Him” – This shows humanity’s part in salvation (cf. v. 16). Humans must respond to God’s offer of grace in Christ (cf. Jn 3:16; Ro 10:9–13; Eph. 2:8–9).

Received is aorist tense (at a moment in time, the moment we believed in Jesus) and active voice which implies that this receiving is a volitional choice, a choice of one’s will to believe.

“Received” (2983) (lambano) speaks of a literal taking hold of, obtaining or grasping. John often uses the terms accept/receive (lambano) in a theological sense – (1) Of receiving Jesus, negatively (Jn 3:11, 3:32); positively (Jn 1:12; 3:33; 5:43; 13:20). (2) Of receiving the Spirit, negatively (Jn 14:17), positively (Jn 7:39). (3) Of receiving Jesus’ words, negatively (Jn 12:48), positively (Jn 17:8)

Easton’s Bible Dictionary – Vine on John’s selection of lambano instead of paralambano (as used in John 1:11) – lambano, a simple but spontaneous acceptance from individuals, whether Jews or Gentiles, and so a simpler verb than that used before of the Jewish nation. Web Site:

[2] This Jew/Gentile dichotomy is also seen in the parable of the Wedding Banquet recorded for us in Matthew 22:1-14 and again in Romans 11:30-36: “For just as you (Gentile believers) once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their (Israel’s) disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, in order that because of the mercy shown to you (Gentiles) they (the believing Jewish Remnant) also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all. (Jews and Gentiles) Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Or WHO HAS FIRST GIVEN TO HIM THAT IT MIGHT BE PAID BACK TO HIM AGAIN? For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”

[3] Dr. James Leo Garrett wrote, “From Augustine of Hippo to the twentieth century, Western Christianity has tended to interpret the doctrine of election from the perspective of and with regard to individual human beings. During those same centuries the doctrine has been far less emphasized and seldom ever controversial in Eastern Orthodoxy. Is it possible that Augustine and later Calvin, with the help of many others, contributed to a hyper individualization of this doctrine that was hardly warranted by Romans 9–11, Eph. 1, and I Peter 2? Is it not true that the major emphasis in both testaments falls upon an elect people—Israel (OT) and disciples or church (NT)?” James Leo Garrett Jr., Systematic Theology: Biblical Historical, and Evangelical, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 500

[4] “The right” – When we believed in the Word, the true Light, we in turn received the privilege of access to God’s family. Paul goes a step further in Romans 5:1-2 explaining what happens when we were justified by faith (received and believed in Jesus) – “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have obtained our introduction (prosagoge) by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” (Rom. 5:1-2)

Dr. Bob Utley on the right (exousia) – This Greek term can mean (1) legal authority or (2) right or privilege (cf. Jn 5:27; 17:2; 19:10, 11). Through Jesus fallen mankind can now know God and acknowledge Him as God and Father.

“To become” (1096) (ginomai) means to come into existence, to cause to become or come into being and signifies a change of condition, state or place. Ginomai is the root of the verb gennao (used in Jn 1:13) which means to beget, to give birth, to produce offspring (cp our English word – “gen”-erate). Ibid.

39 thoughts on “Born of God: Historical Context Shapes Theology

  1. This is such an important context at the beginning of John’s gospel, the gospel that John says he wrote so readers might first believe and then after believing they might have life… which is only given in the new birth. No reader would get the theological interpretation out of John’s introduction that Calvinists try to twist out of it, or should I say, into it.

    God does the birthing, as verse 13 clearly says. He doesn’t do it based on one’s blood heritage, good works done in the flesh, or by a ritual performed by the will of someone else. He does it to those who have received His Son in their spirit by faith, for He gave them the right to become born into His family.

    Reformed theology posits a fake “regeneration” that makes no-one immediately a child of God, nor does it immediately give everlasting life! What kind of birth does not make one immediately a child or give life? Very silly… besides being a clear rejection and twisting of clear Scripture teaching.

    For the Calvinist regeneration is kinda like a drug that had been before willfully refused by the woman that a man offered it to, along with his proposal of marriage to her… but then he slips it into her drink without her knowing and she immediately accepts his next proposal of marriage.

    Now does that sound like true love? And you can call a drugged woman’s “yes” her “personal responsibility” even though she was unable to do other because of a change the “drug” made in her, when it was given during the time she was still firmly rejecting the one making the proposal who was slipping her the drug without her understanding.

    I see no personal willing acceptance of that woman… nor do I see love in the one who caused the change in her instantly upon her using that drug.

  2. An excellent presentation of a much more legitimate interpretation of this passage. The one thing I would disagree with is the concept of our salvation resting on Christ’s keeping of the Law. Although I would grant that he kept the law perfectly, it is also stated repeatedly in scripture that salvation does not come through keeping the law – either men or Christ.

    Salvation is by grace, by putting our trust in God’s promises of sin atonement, forgiveness and everlasting life. It was essential for Jesus to be a spotless lamb, without sin; thus his keeping of the Law was indeed significant and necessary. But ultimately, we are not saved due to Christ’s keeping of the Law. We are saved by believing in the promises of God – that is faith. In my opinion, this error leads to much confusion, as it leads people to continue to believe it is all about ‘The Law’, when this simply is not so. Abraham was declared righteous before the Law ever existed. The purpose of the Law was to demonstrate our propensity to sin, not to show us how to be righteous. Putting our faith in Jesus’ keeping of the Law is only one step away from the Jewish error of putting their faith in their own ability to keep the Law.

    It is time we began to see what the Law was, is and was meant to be. It was not given to show us how to be righteous, but to show us that we would never be able to earn salvation by trying hard enough to be good. Keeping the Law will not, because it cannot, ever bring salvation and righteousness. Jesus kept the Law because he was righteous, he was not righteous because he kept the Law. In laying down his life, and shedding his own blood, Jesus provided atonement for our sin – not in keeping the Law.

  3. Eric,
    You said “We are not given a new heart so as to confess we use to have a bad heart.”

    True! I often say…. we are not “made alive” so that then we can “freely choose” to be “made alive in Christ.

    or ..

    we are not “given new birth” so that then we can “freely choose” to be “born again.”

    For the Reformed cart-before-horse idea to be true we would have to be born again twice.

  4. I have often brought up the Reformed idea of regeneration-precedes-faith.

    They make it clear that people are “too-dead” to respond in any way (RH even says they can do NO good thing at all). They claim they must have regeneration before they can “seek” in any way.

    I have laid out many scenarios where a person begins to read the Bible (alone or in a group) and after years of “reasoning” (Paul’s word) and “persuading” (Paul’s word) they repent and follow Christ.

    Now…..were they “seeking” all those years? If so, how? Had they been regenerated (so that they could seek)? Or were they seeking as unregenerated (in which case seeking then is possible)?

    Sproul tells us that regeneration and conversion are so close you cant see between them….. but what of the people gently, slowly coming to Christ from weeks, months, years of Bible study?

    This is yet another of the many biblical, logical, life-in-the-real-world inconsistencies of Calvinism.

  5. An excellant article.
    I wish this point could have been explained more : nor of the will of man [husband’s will] = being married or in anyway connected to the patriarchal head
    How does this differ from being born a Jew?

    1. Hi Ernest… my view is that “not by the will of man” excludes circumcision done by someone else to an infant and would also exclude therefore baptismal regeneration of infants by a priest.

  6. John 1:13-15 (NKJV)….
    He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

    I agree with my Calvinist brothers that regeneration (or being “born again”) is a monergistic work of God. I just disagree with them when it occurs. To be clear. We are NOT “born again” because we believe. But we are “born again” AFTER we believe, which the verses above clearly state.

  7. Another great article!

    What stands out to me – is that it is so very human for any of us to get a sense of entitlement.

    We see the human propensity for this very clearly in our current social/political programs.

    The Jewish people of the OT were declared by God to be a people set apart for his name – as part of God’s promise to Abraham.

    But God suffered with them in the wilderness for 40 years.
    He then suffered with them after the establishment of the promised land – running off after other god’s who would promise them the least little thing.

    He then suffered with them corrupting the law, corrupting then temple, and corrupting its ministries.

    And they just kept remembering the many generations in which He had declared them his chosen people.
    Its no wonder they would engender a *FORM* OF godliness – and develop a strong sense of entitlement.

    The ironic thing – is even with Calvinism’s emphasis on exhaustive determinism – Calvinists themselves are not immune to having the same exact sense of entitlement.

    We observe it in the form of a self-righteous and antagonistic attitude towards others.
    The same exact attitude we read about it with the scribes and pharisees – and their antagonism against Christ.

    The poor Calvinist’s theology does not eradicate a carnal sense of entitlement from his nature.
    All the human boasting about having a theology that is “supposedly” more god honoring is just that – boasting.

    So in regard to a sense of entitlement – the scripture is correct when it says – there is nothing new under the sun.

  8. Question for anyone,doesn’t traditionalist believe in eternal salvation or the security of every believer?
    And if libertarian free will teaches that the will of man can choose to believe into Christ,how can that doctrine remain consistent unless the will of the believer would also have that liberty to choose to believe out of Christ and forsake salvation and finally perish?

    1. Good question Shawn. Some traditionalists don’t believe in OSAS. But also most believe that LFW doesn’t mean free to do anything at anytime. It just means free to choose between available options and to do otherwise at the moment of choice.

      Most believe that regeneration changes the nature so that choices now become limited, and losing faith is no longer a choice to their free will.

      1. I can second Brian’s statement on LFW

        A frequent definition I’ve see for Libertarian Free will is:

        The ability to choose between multiple options – and do otherwise.
        But the individual will make choices consistent with his nature.
        For example, a thief will choose between whether or not rob a grocery store vs a bank.

        Whereas in Theological Determinism – the thief’s freedom is limited to one single unique choice.
        That choice which the THEOS RENDERED-CERTAIN (at the foundation of the world) the thief would choose.

        As Peter Van Inwagen states:
        “Determinism is quite simply the thesis that the past determines one single unique future.” (Essay on Free Will, p.2)

        That is why Christian philosophers say:
        In Determinism there is no such thing as a forked path in the garden of life.

        However, in order to maintain a state of psychological normalcy – most determinists resolve to “make-believe” that do-otherwise does exist for them – even thought doing so is logically incoherent.

        This for example is something Stephen Hawking has acknowledged.

      2. BrianWagner or anyone else,I was under the impression that traditionalist all had SBC roots?So they would say that a persons choice to be saved is self determined by the individual,but afterwards the choices to stay saved are determined by God because God has given them a new nature?

    2. Shawn, I cannot speak for the ‘official’ opinion of Traditionalism, whatever that may be, but I tend to concur with your suggestion that the very freedom of the will that puts their trust in God requires the concurrent freedom to turn from him.

      It seems to me that we have usually been offered two extreme views. One asserts that nothing you ever do, however wicked, can separate you from God once you have been born again. The other suggests that you must live in fear of any misstep, as if one foul can throw you out of the game.

      Personally, I find neither of those options biblically consistent nor livable. Viewing the new birth/adoption into God’s family as the beginning of a new relationship, desired and chosen by both parties, I do not see it as a fear-based walk in which one wrong move might cause the contract to be null. I see it more like any human adoption, a genuine relationship intended to provide ongoing care and interaction, through good and bad.

      Or, to change metaphors, as with marriage, the goal, the ideal, is for the relationship to be permanent, through good and bad, sickness and health, etc. God is always loving and faithful, so the only possibility of divorce is if we choose to no longer be responsive to his loving faithfulness, and turn away to worthless idols. In my opinion, once one has truly seen and understood who God is, it is very unlikely that one would ever want to give him up for useless imitations, but I do not believe that God will ever hold one in a covenant against their will.

      I consider it a real possibility, but likely one rarely chosen. Most importantly, it is not something God holds over our heads, threatening to cast us aside should we not live in sinless perfection. Imagine adoptive parents who daily threaten their child to behave or be thrown out – simply is not who God is. He lovingly, patiently seeks to walk alongside us, understanding of our weakness and failings, offering us all that we need to grow into the likeness of his faithful Son.

      1. To put some skin on this, I have a close relative who had always longed to have children, but it did not come to pass. Rather late in life, out of the blue, the possibility of adopting a newborn literally fell into their lap, and this man and his wife accepted it as a gift from God. Sadly, (and I personally believe due to vaccines) this child suffers from a moderate degree of autism, with physical, behavioral and developmental struggles. This has brought a degree of stress and heartache that this couple had never foreseen; but they would never stop loving this child or wish him away. They will continue to do their best for him, love him and work through whatever comes their way. This is but a dim reflection of the perfect, faithful love God has for all men.

  9. I would agree while using that in comparison with God’s unconditional love for His own children by the new birth and even much more than we can comprehend.While Gods goodness has a temporary patience and long-suffering for all his creatures physically in this life.But this brings another question that heard asked awhile back that brings difficulties for some calvinism and arminianism.If God who scripture declares that He is all knowing,knows everybody and everything from beginning to end,and the Bible also teaches that there are different degrees of judgement according to His righteous justice and every day someone lives they are accumulating wrath eternally, if they end in unrepentant state according to Romans 2,how is God’s love displayed to them by allowing this wrath accumulated knowning that some day they will pay for all their sin?

    1. And that Shawn is the 64k dollar question! And it is why I believe the Scripture clearly teaches dynamic omniscience.

      Set foreknowledge in Calvinism, Arminianism, and Molinism.

      The future has to be set before creation to work out only one way for it to be known with certainty before creation that it will work out only one way. The certainty of knowledge is not the cause of it being set to work out only one way… but there is no other cause before creation than God to make that certainty or to create the necessity of a future working out only one way.

      But the future is not set to work out only one way… therefore it is impossible for God to know it as set to work out only one way for God does not know lies about the future. And that it is set to work out only one way is a lie according to Scripture.

      God knows the future as He has revealed it to be in His Word… with some will bes and some might bes. That is the truth about the future, and God only knows the truth about the future.

      That truth changes, but stays truth, as God’s knowledge of what will be turns to knowing it as what was, and His knowledge of what might be turns to will be if He wants it to or to what would have been if He wants it to. That is dynamic omniscience. Pretty simple really! 😉

      Knowledge isn’t causitive, but immutably set divine foreknowledge is confirming of a set future working out only one way. I reject that Scripture and logic teach this as it relates to Libertarian Free Will (LFW) and decisions made by it.

      If a LFW decision requires a LFW to exist to make that decision,
      Then the LFW decision does not exist before the bringing into existence of that LFW.
      The LFW of man does not exist before creation, therefore the LFW decision of man does not exist before creation.
      If a LFW decision requires at least two options to freely decide between in any given circumstance
      Then there does not exist a LFW decision with only one option.
      If God knew before creation that the future was set to work out only one way,
      And if God’s knowledge is never wrong or able to be altered,
      Then something had to set that future to work out only that one way before creation for God to come to know that one completed future to work out only one way before creation.
      God was the only “something” that before creation could “set” the future to only work out one way and for Him then to be able to logically come to know it as set for certain.
      Therefore the future working out only one way not only makes the existence of a LFW decision impossible, since the LFW requires more than one option to freely decide between once the LFW comes into existence, it also makes the certainty of a LFW decision to be known before the creation of that LFW impossible, since the LFW and its choice didn’t exist before creation to be known.

  10. So are you saying Brianwagner that God doesn’t know who will be in heaven and who won’t I don’t understand ? Another thing comes to mind is Judas,was that God’s determination of events or was it just a one possibility that came true?

    1. Shawn, I don’t think I can state it more clearly. He knows all the possibilities that still exist. He knows who is in heaven now, of course, and who is now saved and thus will be in heaven soon, and He knows who is alive that still might get saved and who might yet be born and might get saved.

      He knows all that was, that is, that is unconditionally planned for the future and all that is still possible for His and other’s free choices for the future. No-one is unconditonally planned to be saved before they are born or at their birth.

      God did predetermine some events before creation and still did/does after creation. Judas was not eternally immutably predestined from before creation to be “Judas”.

      Choosing a Judas to be an apostle as someone who already had hardened freely his heart against the saving grace of God and then keeping him hardened as a vessel of wrath and permitting him to fulfill an exact event that brings about good was just of God.

      But decreeing a Judas eternally immutably predestined from before creation to be born hardened and to do that sin that Judas did would have been unjust for God to do, no matter even if good came from it.

      1. Brianwagner I’m wondering where the text of scriptures that teach that God only knows who are alive that might come to Christ?And how would that reconcile with text such as John 10:16 Jesus said And other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them I MUST bring and they shall hear my voice and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd….that sounds very determinent and sure.

        Thank Shawn

      2. Thank you Shawn for your questions. I hope you believe that there is no justice in the idea of an eternal immutable predestination of all specific sins and damnations before creation.

        And I hope you don’t think Jesus’ words in John 10 should carry all the weight in support to be the clearest indication of individual eternal immutable predestination to salvation. The passage says nothing about before creation. Nor does it clearly prove Jesus is talking about any not yet born “sheep”. Jesus is probably talking about those Gentile sheep (saved) who were alive in His day or who were already dead and who will be gathered together with the saved sheep of Israel in the resurrection when all will hear His voice.

        Rom 9, 25
        No one is born a sheep or a goat! No one is eternally immutably ordained to be a sheep or a goat or one of a so-called elect group.
        God was not lying when He said that before an individual is in Christ they are not one of “His people” or “His beloved”. (Rom 9:25). He says very clearly that before they have His Spirit there are not one “of His” (Rom 8:9). He says very clearly that once one is a member of the elect, there is “nothing” that can separate them from His love! (Rom 8:37f)

    2. Hi Shawn,

      I think what you are trying to understand is within ‘time” as we know it. We have to remember that ‘time’ is a created thing, and we cannot understand anything without it. God is not bound by time and exists outside of it. Ask me to explain this and I can’t. All I can say is that God is eternal.
      God can look at His created world and universe (which would be puny compared to Him) before, during, or after, because He is outside of time. Within His created world He has made laws – Moral and Natural. All of these laws have limitations of what can be done within the law. For instance man can only jump so high, but he can choose to jump as high as he likes within the law put on how high God allowed that mankind can jump.
      Man can also disobey God, but this disobedience will not and cannot dethrone God and the things he purposes. God would be aware of the most heinous sin that could possibly be committed and man probably hasn’t reached it yet, who knows? Just because God knows, doesn’t mean that he purposes or ever purposed man to reach it.

      God can know the outcome of what men freely choose because that’s the way God designed it. So God would know who would be in heaven; not because He picked out who would be by a secret decree before men were born for unrevealed reasons as Calvinists erroneously teach, which is also very un-biblical.

      The best verse I believe that gives us an understanding and explanation is in Acts17:26-27 “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined the times before appointed, and the bounds of their habitation; That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us”:

      The set in stone things are the “times before appointed” and “the bounds of their (our) habitation”. The things that are not set in stone are “that they should seek the Lord”

      So, can God can look ahead of when it is set in stone? Yes, because He is God and exists outside of time. He could even be there before it even happens because He is God and is outside of time. Don’t try and ask me to explain this because I am not God and exist within time.

      One thing we can be absolutely sure about is God’s promises. When He calls a sinner to repent and believe the gospel we can without a shadow of doubt know that He means it! Because he has made it possible “that they should seek the Lord”.

      When the bible says – “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead”.” – We can be absolutely sure they will be judged for not repenting and believing the gospel because God designed it that they could have.

      If someone doesn’t believe these things then they they don’t believe God is trustworthy with what He says in His word. We have to take God at His word and just believe what He says and that He says what he means.

      Thanks Shawn. God is always good!

  11. Thanks for the reply,the scripture is clear that God gives light whether it’s the light of 1creation,2conscience,3 law ,4 gospel,to his creation,Romans ch 1-2 declare,but it’s also clear that men in themselves will not respond savingly to seek God as Romans 3 declare there is none that seeks after God.
    Are you and Brianwagner saying the same thing on God’s knowledge it seems you have different views ? And wouldn’t God still be trustworthy and good if He left us to are sin and just condemnation?

    1. The scripture you are referring to – “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God” -Romans 3:10-11; This needs to be understood in light of context with the “as it written” scripture it is referring to. We must always go to the bible and see where it was written.

      When we go to the scripture it is a reference from Psalm 14:2 “The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God” The previous verse states that “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God”. One can only be called foolish if he didn’t do what he could have done, otherwise it wouldn’t be foolish. Verse 4 states “Have all the workers of iniquity no knowledge? who eat up my people as they eat bread, and call not upon the LORD.”

      Proverbs 21:16 says ” The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.”

      We can see that, YES, workers of iniquity have God given knowledge: And that, Yes, unregenerate are shown understanding. That is why God says these things, because men can respond to God. That is why God says “The man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain in the congregation of the dead.”

      Understood in context we can see that God seeks men so much so that you have to be a fool to ignore it.

      We see in Jeremiah 4:14, God making an appeal to Israel – ” O Jerusalem, wash thine heart from wickedness, that thou mayest be saved. How long shall thy vain thoughts lodge within thee?”
      We then see in verse 22 – ” For my people is foolish, they have not known me; they are sottish children, and they have none understanding: they are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge.”

      We can easily see that, yes, they had knowledge, and that, yes, they had understanding, But they chose to ignore God’s appeal to be saved. Not because they couldn’t but because they could have and didn’t because of their own foolishness.

      God is not saying one thing out of one side of his mouth and something else out of the other side. He really means it.

      Scripture has to be understood in light of Scripture and never contradicts itself, and especially when it refers to a “as it is written”.

      Thanks Shawn, I hope this is helpful.

      1. Hi Shawn, – Just to clarify my point. Left alone no one would seek after God if God did not appeal to men to seek after Him. But where in the bible does it say that that men cannot respond to God’s appeals? And there is a bible full of men responding to God’s appeals.
        “That they should seek the Lord, if haply they might feel after him, and find him, though he be not far from every one of us”. – This plan still remains. It’s not a failed plan.

        Thanks again Shawn.

      2. Damon men respond but not according to truth read my reply to fromoverhere below,God commands all men to repent doesn’t mean that men can do that but that they should do that.Did Jesus keep the Fathers will perfectly if not then He is no savoiur,Jesus said in John 6:40 that He came to do not His will but the will of his Father that sent him and that being that of ALL which the Father had given him He should lose nothing,if He failed this command then we are still in our sins with no hope,but His record is perfect as All that the Father has given will come and those who comes He never cast out or loses them,This is the God of scripture,Christ the Savior the good Shepherd who finds all His sheep and keeps them eternally!


      3. Damon
        God is not saying one thing out of one side of his mouth and something else out of the other side. He really means it.

        Totally excellent point!!

        But in Calvinism it logically follows that is exactly what Calvin’s god does.
        Calvinists use highly ingenious language to make this APPEAR biblical.

        Calvin’s god has a SECRET will
        With which he knows [X] = TRUE

        But he also has a PRESCRIPTIVE will
        With which he communicates [X] is FALSE

        For example:
        He leads Adam to believe his will is for Adam’s obedience is TRUE
        But he SECRETLY knows what he is communicating is FALSE.

        He leads Cain to believe his will is for Cain to do well – is TRUE.
        But he SECRETLY knows what he is communicating is FALSE.

        He leads Israel to believe his will is for them to have life is TRUE
        But he SECRETLY knows what he is communicating is FALSE.

        This is why we observe a Calvinist communicating things *AS-IF* TRUE – he internally knows to be FALSE.
        And vis-versa.

        Scripture says (concerning man-made god’s) – they who worship them BECOME LIKE unto them.

  12. Shawn,

    Thanks for posting. Stick around and look at the many, many scriptural answers to Calvinism’s claim on this site.

    Please dont throw at us the 3-4-5 main verses (Roms 3:11) and when “we dont get it” move on. There are former Calvinists on this site trying to dialog.

    Now, Mark 10 tells us that Christ loved a young man and called him (certainly qualifying for the Calvinist’s “Christ must call His sheep”), and yet he “resisted the grace.”

    21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack….. and come, follow Me.” 22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving…”

    Scriptures seems to tell us he was seeking Christ: “a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him,” calling Him Good Teacher.

    One of the non-negotiables of Calvinism (the I in TULIP) is irresistible grace. This man was seeking Christ…. loved by Christ… called by Christ, and yet still resisted Christ’s extended grace.

  13. Shawn,
    Please dont forget that there are many more verses telling us to seek than the one poetic Romans 3 verses telling that man does not (naturally) seek. ((Dont forget it also say in that passage that ALL have venom under their lips there too)).

    Hebrews 11: 6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” He rewards those who seek Him. Not: He allows certain people to seek Him.

    I have posted many, many verses on another string about “seeking” including that Christ called out to the multitude on the hillside “seek first the kingdom.”

    All over the Bible it appears that it is possible for men to hear Christ’s call, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden.” There is no indication that this only applies to certain ones, but is a call to all who labor!

  14. Men respond but never in a salvantic way apart from grace,they may have zeal but not according to knowledge as did the Jew Romans 10.They seek but not in truth as did the man in Mark’s gospel as he came to Christ not as submitting to him as Lord and Savoiur but calling him good master and when bringing his own self righteousness and stating what shall I DO that I might have eternal life and Christ never gave grace but questioned the man on depravity and why do you call me good there is only one good which is God.The man didn’t know who Christ was and Christ never revealed himself but gave him the commandments which we both know that being impossible to keep to be saved.
    I’m glad you brought up this text it’s a classic that shows how the unregenrate seek God in self righteousness and Christ let that man walk away in his blindness . When Jesus seeks His dicibles he called the by name and they forsook what they where doing occupations and such and followed him,when Jesus went to heal the sick they was always made whole.ALL that the Fathers gives shall come to me and him that comes to me I will in no wise cast out John 6:37.

    1. Shawn, Men cannot seek apart from grace… agreed. Praise His Name that He gives sufficient grace to all to enable seeking.

      As for John 6, 37
      John 6:37 speaks of the Father’s giving (present tense) to Christ. Therefore it would be calling Jesus a deceiver to suggest all had already been given to Christ, unless, of course, Jesus did not know the determinist doctrine very well.

      If determinism was true, Jesus would have known it and He would have said – “All the Father already gave to me will come to me.” The context of John 6 clearly indicates what kind of people the Father was actively giving to the Son… They were those who were looking to the Son and believing in Him (6:40). There is nothing in this chapter about pre-creation decrees or individual election. The determinist forces those ideas into these verses because he wants to see them there.

      The response of freewill is a condition that God sovereignly made part of the “giving” requirements to be met before the coming. No-one is given to Christ before creation. Remember the word “gives” in John 6:37 is present tense which clearly contradicts the determinist idea of some being eternally immutably given before creation.

      The context points to drawing, looking at, believing in, and other things in that are in the process and responses of whom the Father’s giving. Jesus is explaining these things to unbelievers because He wants them to keep seeking Him, but not just for food that perishes.

      If you can’t see that Jesus is being used by the Father in this context to draw people to a decision to trust Jesus for everlasting food, everlasting life… I certainly can’t share the context any more clearly than Jesus has.

    2. I would encourage you to do what most ‘orthodox’ christian religious institutions forbid – ditch all of the prepackaged explanations of scripture and begin to read and think for yourself. As FOH often demonstrates on these threads, such reading brings genuine insight and understanding.

      Calvinism would tell us that men do not seek God because he has barred them from doing so – one of the, if not the most awful and hopeless assertions ever made. If this be true, nearly everything that is or has been done in the name of missions or evangelism is a total waste of time, as most people cannot and never will be allowed to understand and believe as required by God. Because he cursed them with the inability to do so.

      Scripture presents a far different, and more reasonable explanation. Upon breaking God’s command, Adam and Eve hid themselves. Anyone who has ever had or been a child knows exactly how they felt. When a child does something wrong they hide, or avoid looking into the eyes of their beloved parents, due to their guilt, shame and fear.

      This is exactly the position that man find himself in as he follows in the fleshly footsteps of his fleshly father. Even those who do not have The Law, have a conscience that condemns their selfish and wicked behavior. Thus men are ashamed and afraid. Those who choose false gods offer them whatever sacrifices they believe necessary to pacify them. It seems that deep within lies an understanding of our imperfection and the potential wrath of whatever supernatural deity we believe exists.

      Understanding that the barrier between man and God is the fear of punishment and death, Paul teaches that what Israel long sought to do through ceremonial sacrifices has been accomplished once and for all by Jesus:

      “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4)

      Men do not seek God for one of two reasons, again detailed by Paul in Romans. Either they deliberately exchange the truth for a lie, choosing sin and wickedness over repentance, or they are fearful of what awaits them. The gospel of Jesus Christ is the good news to all who are willing to turn from rebellion and wickedness that there is no more condemnation for them. Their forgiveness is full and free, conditioned only upon their belief in God’s promises and willingness to now follow and abide with him.

      The story of the rich young man tells us that there is a choice we must make. We cannot serve both God and mammon. We cannot cling to both forgiveness of sin and sin. We cannot grow in wisdom and knowledge while holding tightly to our former ignorance. And God will not impose his good will upon us. He allows us to make the choice, even the dreadful choice to remain in sin and death.

      A few years back I walked with a dear friend through the valley of the shadow of death. She had come to my (now former) Calvinist church due to our families’ friendship. When faced with the inevitability of her own impending death, she was counseled by her husband and pastor to not speak of it, to not give up hope. She turned to me, as I was the only one who would speak openly with her of death. I would even say that a recent health crisis of my own had prepared me, forcing me to face my own mortality.

      Never, even once, did it enter my head to assure her that she was one of ‘the elect’. I may have been in a Calvinist church for a decade, but I never, truly, bought into their theology. Instead, I spoke of the many, many assurances we had of God’s love and faithfulness. God led me to books, in the thrift store no less, that spoke of heaven, which my friend read and reread in the dark nights.

      I rejoice to tell you that she came to a perfect peace. She carefully cleaned out her house, wrote letters to all of her loved ones, planned her funeral and asked me and others to perform certain tasks and even wrote out thank you notes to be given to us. She believed, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that God was a rewarder of them that seek him trustingly, and she had put her full faith in him. She took him at his word, and appropriated each of his promises to her; not based upon a lifetime of being ‘good enough’ but based upon trusting in him, his forgiveness and his gift of life.

      A few years later, an elderly woman whose family we had known in our youth and brought into the Calvinist fold, had moved in with her family in her nineties. Although she did not embrace Calvinism, she certainly heard it for several years. Sadly, on her death bed, she was faced with uncertainty and fear, lest all that she had believed her whole life was wrong, and she must only hope that she was one of God’s ‘chosen’ elect.

      I cannot overemphasize the difference between the assurance of those who can only hope to be one of a select chosen few and those who appropriate God’s precious promises as being meant unquestioningly, for all who believe, with no secret lottery involved. One of my greatest desires is to share this ‘good news’ with those who have come under the spell of a theology that limits the love of God to a small select group and condemns all others to despair and hopelessness.

  15. Shawn,

    You replied with – “” God commands all men to repent doesn’t mean that men can do that but that they should do that.”

    Just think about that statement and dwell on it for a while. Hopefully you will see the irrationality in it. Ask yourself – why would God ask all men everywhere to repent when he knows that they cannot? and then judge them for not doing it?

    It would be like looking at a baby in a pram on a highway and yelling toward the baby “You should get out of there”. Which is a lot different than yelling at an adult on a highway and yelling “You should get out of there”.

    When God asks anyone to do something he means it. I like what a man of God once said – “There are 2 ways of getting to heaven; 1. Keep the law perfectly; And, 2. Repent and believe the One that has kept the law perfectly”

    The first you cannot do even when we should have. The second you can do even when He shouldn’t have.

  16. Damon,acutally Christ and the ruler when he asked him good master what must I do to inherit life and Jesus gave him the law right up front,he commanded him to do the impossible though it be something he should do it was something he couldn’t do,God commands the impossible throughout scripture to show our weaknesses and His strength,this is where natural thought rejects this because it seems to make God unfair,I think people do not keep in mind that the natural man cannot do as following God but also does not WANT to follow God either even if he could which is why he doesn’t repent and believe the gospel.

  17. I’ll let the better informed respond to Shawn, but for me this provisionalist soteriology of salvation is robust and harmonizes with His Word much clearer to me. Thank you this is another great article! The Roman catholic idea of being in good standing does resonates with me, because I use to sit in the pews and tell God (at the time I wasn’t even sure if He existed) when I get it together I’ll come to you. What a lie (we can’t be good enough to seek Him)! Yet I would sit there singled out as unworthy & my exhusband and daughter would walk to the front & take communion, because they were better/entitled and my son & I remained seated unworthy not in good standing. Sounds a bit like calvinism to me the difference in this hyper individualized verses the Jew/Gentile sounds interesting and should cause them pause. Adherence to a faulty systematic even with such overwhelming evidence as to where this veering of Scriprure begins look at “the Augustine post here”… Maybe people are really misinformed about calvinism, and so I appreciate Leighton encouraging us to learn it from a calvinists perspective. One sad thing I’ve found though is calvinist don’t come right and admit it they side step saying these debates have always gone on etc.. They don’t want to come out and say or simply don’t understand the implication of who then is the author of evil? and ultimately sending most people to hell only to insure His own victory🤔 Hmm very narrow view of a God through just a thought can change the molecular composition of H2O to wine just one example of His Greatness. Or maybe they are just convinced this is a loving and just act of the Creator of all things?… after all they’re set even if their loved ones may not be🤔 hmm this seems counter productive to selfless..
    I actually called myself a Christian before I had a relationship with the Creator of; the heavens, earth and everything seen and unseen.. Colossians 1:16 NASB — For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.

    but even with this Christian title I don’t think I would have known how to pretend to be one🤔 I actually thought God if there even was One couldn’t be a God who would not allow nice people into heaven or something like that obviously blinded eyes & I didn’t know better!!! So why did Jesus have to come to die for a sinful world if we could save ourselves of course the answer is we can’t. Yet His love changed me in my brokenness so I find comfort in knowing this verse below that has been spoken here too!

    2 Thessalonians 2:10 NASB — and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

    To trust in TULIP as if it’s absolute authority above the clear revelation in Scripture is to reject many other passages. This notion of He gave me a drug ie forced me to believe is nothing less than unfortunate… I don’t idolize the fact that I’ve been born into God’s family, but rather I’m eternally grateful & long for others to know this undeserved love!!! I’m  not trying to convince myself I’m one of a select few… how could He possibly be working all things together for the good of those who love Him…. if knowing I love Him yet I care for others even people who bug me salvation hmmm i know I’m not good no one is why do i care??? I guess I’m determined to trust His transforming love is slowly transforming us from the inside out. And my hearts desire is for my daughter and son in law to have a relationship with Him too, but I’m so glad in the end i won’t be blaming God or being ok if He didn’t elect them, because that systematic is faulty they have libertarian freedom. I will continue to pray as James 5:16 says, because my hope is in Him and what He can do not in a man driven systematic. Thanks for continuing this work on this site others who struggle with trusting this deterministic system doesn’t seem to line up need to know they’re not alone🔔

    1. Reggie,when we came into the world as baby it was determined but not by us,I think we want control in so many ways but if I know if I had my way, I would not chosen spiritual life but death . Many people have some sort determinism belief as if there are those on this message board here that believes once saved alway saved which comes from the roots of reformed deterministic theologically , for Liberian free will to be consident you would have to say you can free will your way into Christ and you also have the liberty to free will out of Christ.

      Thanks for reading.

      1. Shawn
        for Liberian free will to be consident you would have to say you can free will your way into Christ and you also have the liberty to free will out of Christ.

        Hi Shawn
        I would say your intuition on this moves in the right direction – however the phrase “free will your way into” would be equivocal language for me. So I personally wouldn’t use it.

        If we take LFW to mean: The ability to choose from multiple available alternatives and the ability to do otherwise…..

        Then yes I would agree that an interpretation of faith in the gospel and Jesus which assumes LFW – would be a faith which is both “UP TO” God the giver – as well as “UP TO” us the recipient of the gift.

        In this conception – God the giver (having LFW) would not falter from his position of offering the gift.
        But the recipient (having LFW) has available alternatives and the ability to do otherwise and thus the liberty to reject the gift.
        And many who read the warning verses in the NT interpret them as consistent with this.

        However if Theological Determinism is assumed to be true rather than LFW – then the warning verses are what Paul would call “UNCERTAIN-SOUNDS”. Because Theological Determinism eradicates “alternate possibilities”, “do otherwise”, and “up to us”.
        In Theological Determinism nothing is “up to us” – but rather RENDERED-CERTAIN before we are born.

        William Lane Craig who holds to LFW refers to 1 Corinthians 10:13 as an example:
        God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape

        Craig states:
        God has provided a way of escape…and it’s entirely “UP TO US” whether we avail ourselves of it or not.

        But for the Theological Determinist this verse would be and UNCERTAIN SOUND.
        Because if the person has “A Posteriori” knowledge that he sinned – then it follows he was not permitted to escape.
        And in such case the way of escape exists only as a facade.

Leave a Reply