by Leighton Flowers
Are “Modern Arminians” and Provisionists Semi-Pelagians for denying the need for a Partial Regeneration?
As many of our regular listeners are aware, we as “Provisionists” (or “Traditional Southern Baptists”), are sometimes accused of holding to heretical (or “semi” heretical) views due to our denial of the Calvinistic doctrine of Total Inability, the belief that all men are born in a corpse-like dead condition spiritually and thus must be given new life (“regeneration” on Calvinism) or partial life (“partial regeneration” on Classical Arminianism) in order to believe the clearly taught, graciously inspired gospel truth brought by the Holy Spirit through His chosen messengers.
I have produced much to debunk the concept of Total Inability in my books, blog posts and broadcasts, but in short, we deny that being “spiritually dead” entails a moral incapacity to believe so as to be given new life. What does the Bible say one must do BEFORE getting new life?
“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name”John 20:31
“…you refuse to come to me to have life”John 5:40
The scriptures seem to teach that “believing in” or “coming to” Christ is the solution for those who remain dead in their trespasses rather than some pre-regenerating or pre-partial regenerating work.
Interestingly, some modern day Arminians, like Dr. Brian Abasciano of the Society of Evangelical Arminians, agree with me in regard to my objections against the need for a “partial regeneration.” Abasciano wrote:
“…the classical Arminian view is neither the only nor the typical Arminian view of prevenient grace. The classical view regards prevenient grace as a partial regeneration…the more typical Arminian view today does not view prevenient grace as partial regeneration, but as God’s work of helping sinners to believe the gospel in various ways such as enlightening, convicting, drawing, opening the heart, etc…. It does not involve a split in regeneration” <link>
Both Olson and Abasciano maintain, however, that God must supply an extra supernatural grace to the lost, above and beyond the supernaturally gracious work in bringing us the gospel, in order for the lost to believe it. In my experience, the modern Arminian, like Abasciano, have been hard-pressed to explain what exactly that supernatural grace is accomplishing that is not adequately accomplished by the gospel itself. After all, if the condition of man from birth is not, as the Calvinist explains it, “corpse-like-dead and thus needing spiritual life in order to believe the gospel,” then what must the Holy Spirit do to the lost man in order to make the gospel revelation sufficiently believable? On Abasciano’s view, what specifically is the Spirit DOING above and beyond what the Spirit does by bringing the light of the gospel?
Provisionist/Traditionalists, like myself, maintain that the gospel is a sufficient work of supernatural grace by the Holy Spirit to enable whosoever hears it to believe (Rom 10:14; Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:15). And that the only reason someone might be in a condition by which they are “ever hearing but not understanding, ever seeing but not perceiving” is due to an individual’s libertarianly free choice to continually reject God’s clearly revealed truth and remain in rebellion (the word “libertarian” simply means they had the moral capacity to choose otherwise). Over time, despite God’s patience and gracious provisions, a sinner’s heart may “grow calloused” or their “consciences become seared” and they may be “given over by God to their defiled minds.” But, despite what both Arminians and Calvinists teach, this is not an innate moral incapacity from birth inherited from Adam due to the Fall (Acts 28:23-28; Jn 12:39-41; Heb 3:15; Rom 1:28; 2:15; 1 Tim 4:2).
In a recent Twitter exchange, Abasciano explained what he sees as the difference between my view and that of the modern day Arminian. He wrote,
“We believe that sinners need God’s help to believe, that sinners need the Holy Spirit to work directly in their hearts alongside the gospel”
And I would say that sinners need God’s help to believe, so the Holy Spirit inspired the gospel to be written and proclaimed through His chosen messengers and spread by His Bride throughout the world so as to work directly in their hearts.
Abasciano seems to assume the gospel (God’s word) itself cannot be considered a “supernatural work of the Holy Spirit,” which has the ability to sufficiently “penetrate the heart,” but the Bible seems to indicate otherwise:
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”Heb. 4:12
This penetrating work into the “soul and spirit” sounds like the work of “prevenient grace” described by my Arminian brethren, yet the author of Hebrews simply refers to “the word of God” as accomplishing this work, not some extra working of grace that aids the otherwise incapacitated nature of fallen man. Do God’s gracious means really need more grace to work?
Here are other passages that seem to teach that the scriptures, God’s inspired words, are sufficient even for the lost:
“…you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”2 Timothy 3:15-16
“Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ”Rom. 10:17
“Leighton believes there is nothing wrong with sinners that would mean they cannot believe the gospel on their own once it is presented. (He says they are not on their own because they have the gospel, but that is torturing the language; the point is having the gospel, they can believe it without additional grace/help from God.)”
I would characterize the gospel as a gracious “help of God” and see no reason to assume it’s insufficient to do what the scriptures say it is meant to do. The Holy Spirit brings us the gospel so why would anyone attempt to separate the two, as if the gospel may be “a dead letter” (as Calvin put it) if the Holy Spirit does not work alongside it? You cannot separate the author from his writings, especially if that author is supernaturally preserving and carrying those writings through those in which He Himself inspires and embodies.
“This is Semi-Pelagian, which does not mean unsaved. On the classical teachings, it depends on what you mean by them. We affirm original sin, but there are varying orthodox views of original sin. We believe in total depravity, which includes inability to believe apart from God’s gracious enabling.”
How does Abasciano think he is going to escape the boogie-man label of “Semi-Pelagianism” brought by his fellow Arminians of the “Classical Arminian” variety (like Olson) who, in affirming the “corpse-like deadness” of the lost and thus the necessity of partial regeneration, can thus hurl a similar objection against modern Arminians. In other words, how would Abasciano reply if Olson falsely labeled him as he has falsely labeled me?1
Maybe then Abasciano would borrow from the works of Drs. David Allen and Adam Harwood, who clearly establish the historical definitions of the term “semi-Pelagianism” and demonstrate how we differ? Maybe then he would realize the error of his ways?
Abasciano also wrote regarding my views:
“I have shared with [Leighton] the non-partial-regeneration view, but he still insists that sinners don’t need the Holy Spirit to personally and actively minister to them to be able to believe the gospel.”
I know what Abasciano means, but to be clear, I would say that we DO need the Holy Spirit to personally and actively minister to us by means of the gospel so that we may believe. Our difference is not with regard to the personal nature of the Holy Spirit’s work, nor the activity of the Holy Spirit. The point of our contention is solely about the means by which the Holy Spirit works, which I maintain is both personal and active. Abasciano may not believe such means are personal and active but it would be question-begging to presume true the very point up for debate.
The root of the problem is that Dr. Abasciano, knowingly or unknowingly, separates the personal working of the Holy Spirit from the means of the word of God, particularly in a way which I do not do, and hence since I make no such separation, I can easily affirm both (a) the necessity of the personal and active work of the Holy Spirit AND (b) the efficacy of the word of God. He must establish biblically that the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing the gospel is not personal or active enough to be believed by lost people unless another additional MORE personal and MORE active working precedes or accompanies it.
“He [Leighton] is very concerned to insist that there is nothing wrong with human nature such that we need the Holy Spirit to believe the gospel besides that the Holy Spirit revealed the gospel and inspires evangelists. Stating that man does not have ability to believe in the gospel until we hear its message is completely irrelevant.”
To be clear, I do believe there is something wrong with human nature, but I maintain that the gospel provides a sufficient solution to remedy that which is wrong. I also question those who insist the gospel is an insufficient solution, given the many passages that speak of its power2 and the absence of any passage which denies it.3
The fact that we cannot believe something we do not know is only irrelevant to those, like Abasciano, who are seeking to establish the need for something more than the gospel, which once again is the very point up for debate. The principle itself was not irrelevant to Paul in Romans 10:14 apparently:
“How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?”
This strongly implies that those who do hear the preacher proclaim the gospel might believe and thus call upon Christ for salvation. What verse explicitly or implicitly suggests otherwise?
“The disagreement is over what we need. [Leighton] says we only need the information of the gospel to believe it without any additional working of the Holy Spirit.”
Allow me to better represent my view: I believe we need the light of the gospel, which is a sufficient work of the Holy Spirit. Abasciano says the gospel is not a sufficient light apart from another work (of which has no clear definition from what I can tell).
“That is the problem. That is what makes him Semi-Pelagian. But the Arminian position is that man is so sinful that he will not believe the gospel unless the Holy Spirit helps him. Man and the gospel = rejection by man. Man + the gospel + the Holy Spirit working alongside the gospel = man able to believe.”
That does not comport with the definition of Semi-Pelagianism, as provided by Allen and Harwood referenced above (which has yet to be refuted by either Olson or Abasciano to my knowledge). And, if Provisionists were to make an equation to contrast those presented above it would look like this:
Man + the Holy Spirit working by means of the gospel = man able to believe
When Abasciano was asked to clarify what is meant by the “additional work of the Holy Spirit” if it is not “partial regeneration,” Abasciano replied in part saying:
“…we are talking about the [personal] presence of the Holy Spirit. Leighton denies he must be personally present working.”
Both Abasciano and I affirm the omnipresence of God (i.e. He is at all places at all times), so, this is another mischaracterization. Our disagreement IS NOT about the presence of the Spirit, but is instead about the means by which the Spirit (who is always present) is working and the sufficiency of that work.
Abasciano needs to answer this question: What is it that the Holy Spirit is doing that is above and beyond that which the Holy Spirit accomplishes by the means of the gospel?
“I have characterized Leighton’s view before as a form of deism with respect to conversion. We might call it conversional deism. The Holy Spirit did the personal work upfront of creating the gospel. It’s now loose in the world and people can interact with it on their own with the power to believe it or not without God/the Holy Spirit doing anything else.”
This accusation assumes, without any basis, that my view maintains the Holy Spirit is only “creating the gospel,” and then “letting it loose in the world,” when I have explicitly stated to Abasciano (and others from the SEA) that is not my position. Additionally, this characterization seems a bit ironic given that it presumes that the gospel being proclaimed can somehow come about absent a direct, active work of the Holy Spirit, which is closer to Abasciano’s view than mine.
Did not the Holy Spirit inspire the authors to write the gospel? Did not God work within His Bride, of Holy Spirit indwelled believers, to canonize and preserve the scriptures? Does not the Holy Spirit still today embody and influence believers to spread the good news to others? Does not the Holy Spirit still today work through all sorts of circumstances, dreams, visions, good deeds of His Bride and other various means to ensure that others hear His inspired message? And, finally, is not the Holy Spirit omnipresent? I cannot imagine one of us would answer any of these questions in the negative.
I do believe Dr. Abasciano means well, but it appears to me that he is using a tactic called “closing the ranks,” in which he is trying establish his more modern version of Arminianism as “orthodox,” while excluding Provisionists/Traditionalists, and yet, one could make the argument that the “modern Arminians” are closer neighbors to the Provisionists side of the “Prevenient Grace” discussion, since they are with us in denying partial regeneration. Provisionists, therefore, can act as a scapegoat of sorts for the modern Arminian by saying to their classical Arminian friends, “Ok, we disagree on this one point but we are not as bad as those semi-heretical Provisionists are because they think God created us with a capacity that we never lost and we think God permitted us to lose it only to give it back again. See, they are the real heretics, not us!”
There is no need for such boogie-man tactics and there is no reason modern Arminians should be any more scared of Provisionists than they are of those classical Arminians who side with the Calvinists on this relatively obscure doctrine. And, Provisionists certainly should not be treated as more dangerous (“less orthodox”) than the Calvinist, as some surprisingly do. We should deal with the actual claims of our opponents without trying to attach them to heretical views which have little or nothing to do with our actual points of contention.
From my study of the scriptures, I find nothing which clearly teaches that fallen humanity has lost the innate moral capacity to respond positively to God’s own gracious appeals and provisions to be reconciled from that Fall.4 If you have, please show me. I’ll do my best to objectively and honestly evaluate it with much prayer and an open mind.
With all due respect to my Arminian friends, I believe their concession to the unfounded Calvinistic doctrine of “Total Inability” has muddled the waters and made an otherwise clear distinction rather difficult to untangle.
I understand that both Calvinists and Arminians desire to be true to the biblical account, but my challenge to them both is to engage with us over the relevant biblical data (without punting to the boogie man fallacy of Pelagianism or some new made up form of Deism).
In my experience, the scholars on both sides tend to cite the other as validation for their otherwise unfounded views (i.e. even Arminians agree with us on this point so no need to debate it biblically) and anyone who falls outside the 16th century parameters are piously dismissed by man-made labels also introduced in the 16th century (i.e. semi-Pelagianism).
108 thoughts on “A Reply to Brian Abasciano and the Society of Evangelical Arminians”
Does anyone really believe that Brian Abasciano, and his Arminian associates, are willingly going to forsake what they have embraced, endorsed, taught, and preached for years?
Does anyone really believe that at some point someone could click on the link to the Society of Evangelical Arminians only to find it reads “Out of Business”? Or “Never mind”?
Ain’t gonna happen.
In their minds, they are convinced that Arminianism is the only biblical alternative to Calvinism. Either we are wrong, or they have been duped. The latter is not an option.
In regards to prevenient grace, you won’t get a straight answer on exactly how, or even when, prevenient grace works, because they can’t decide within their own ranks. They agree that prevenient grace is necessary, but can’t agree on exactly how and when it transpires. Or for how long. Is prevenient grace a “one time shot”? Or are folks constantly going back and forth from total depravity to partial depravity? Again, good luck getting a straight answer. Cause they don’t know. They are making it up as they go along (hence “modern” Arminianism compared with “classical” Arminianism).
In my encounters with my Arminian brothers in the past, I ran into the same interference. When I asked them for scriptural proof, or biblical examples, to support their notion of prevenient grace, they quickly labeled me a Semi-Pelagian, simply because I questioned it. Just like their Calvinist counterparts, they immediately run to labels in a desperate attempt to shame you into accepting their doctrine. By labeling those who reject prevenient grace as Semi-Pelagian, or worse, they say about us exactly what the Calvinist says about them. “They are saved, but just barely”. When you push them on the details they are forced to raise up their hands in frustration and shout “shut up, you Semi-Pelagian!”
The Calvinist and the Arminian are battling for the top spot, but both agree they are more biblically astute than the rest of us. Calling someone a Semi-Pelagian, or whatever, is just a bully tactic they use not only to get you to shut up, but also to give themselves a feeling of superiority. And it serves anther purpose. It is also intended to keep their own troops in line.
The reason I suspect you’re labeled as “semi-Pelagian” is because you failed, as you do here, to provide a pessimistic anthropology, and harmartiology. You’re very good at leveling charges of what Arminians can and are unable to provide, but serving up alleged misses without a meticulous delineation of the both its noetic and deleterious effects is what—and accurately so—makes you a card-carrying Pelagian.
We have no data of your construal of original sin, or its effects from both the gospel and the Pauline corpus. Until you provide a theology proper of these deafening issues, your miles away from a dermabraison of your optimistic-Pelagian-anthropology.
May I offer a different observation? It seems to me you’re agreeing without recognizing your agreement. Both of you acknowledge that the gospel is not a dead letter. Both of you agree that the sword is only ever wielded by the hand of the Holy Spirit. It does not wield itself. Brian thinks you believe there is no hand. Clearly, you recognize there is. You seem to think Brian believes there is some other empty hand at work. A special hand that works independently of the sword. I’m not sure he’s saying that.
My apologies for the metaphors. They help me to better understand nuances such as these. I think The two of you are simply talking past one another, accusing one another of things you don’t really believe. Some of the comments here perpetuate an uncharitable spirit that only serves to widen the division. There’s no call for that. I see common ground among brothers who are just hampered by misapplied labels.
“…card carrying Pelagian.”
Thanks for validating my point.
As opposed to being a “card carrying Augustinian”.
The condition of fallen man is he is a sinner. He has inherited that old Adam that gives him that sin nature. When a person sins (and eventually he will), he dies before God (Romans 6:23, Romans 7:8-10, James 1:5).
Is man depraved? You bet. Rotten to the core.
Can fallen, lost, depraved sinners still believe God? Absolutely. Is the word of God sufficient to save? Yes. All scripture is God breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). Just go thru the gospel of John and you will read gobs of examples of people believing in Jesus simply because of something He said or did. Here’s just one example….
John 4:39-42 (NKJV)….
And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the word of the woman who testified, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard Him and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.”
In the example above, we are told some of the Samaritans believed because of the woman’s testimony. Many more believed because they heard it for themselves. Where’s the hocus pocus of supernatural grace? Where does it say their belief was a direct result of their depravity being dealt with first? God’s word says they believed simply because of a conversation. Nothing more.
Some believed when Jesus turned the water into wine (John 2:11). For some it took the rising of Lazarus (John 11:45).
Jesus said to His Jewish audience “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” (John 4:48)
The people needed proof or evidence that He was the promised Messiah, or King. However, this proof and evidence didn’t change their fallen condition.
Jesus didn’t say “unless you people are born again, you will by no means believe” (Calvinism) or “unless you people are released from the bondage of sin, you will by no means believe.” (Arminianism). In fact, He taught the exact opposite….
John 6:53 (NKJV)….
Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man (and the Word became flesh) and drink His blood (put faith in His blood sacrifice), you have no life in you.”
“No life in you”. None. Zero. Zilch. There goes the Calvinist and classical Arminian theory.
John 8:31-32 (NKJV)…..
Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”
Free from what? Free from the bondage of sin. And He said this to those Jews who “believed in Him”. The apostle Paul confirms this to his Jewish audience…
Romans 6:17 NKJV)….
But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.
Being a slave of sin did not prohibit them from believing Him. Another rebuke of Arminianism.
Just one more example….
John 8:2-9 (NKJV)….
Now early in the morning He came again into the temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him. But Jesus stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground. Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.
Strange response for a bunch of “totally depraved” and “slaves to sin” men. They should have stoned her, but they didn’t. Why? Because they knew Jesus was right. He spoke the truth. His words injured them. They felt shame and guilt. This only confirms the following…..
Hebrews 4:12 (NKJV)….
For the word of God (either spoken or written) is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
Prevenient grace is just an Arminian attempt to solve a Calvinist problem. I wish my Arminian brothers would examine their own beliefs with the same tenacity they do with their Calvinist counterparts.
While I respect Dr. Abasciano’s scholarship, now I guess I’ll have to treat him as what he accused Leighton Flowers of, treat Dr. Abasciano as one who holds to “semi-Pelagianism” and a sort of “deism” in salvation. Dr. Abasciano’s a Christian and a smart guy, I just have to take more care if I still read his writings.
“ 16If a malicious witness arises to accuse a person of wrongdoing, 17then both parties to the dispute shall appear before the LORD, before the priests and the judges who are in office in those days. 18The judges shall inquire diligently, and if the witness is a false witness and has accused his brother falsely, 19then you shall do to him as he had meant to do to his brother. So you shall purge the evilc from your midst. 20And the rest shall hear and fear, and shall never again commit any such evil among you. 21Your eye shall not pity. It shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.”
First time responder on this site but long time reader. A.B. What a confusing response to a very good debate!
Jimmy, I totally agree! My first thought reading A.B.s response was “Speak English, Dude!” And my second was “Someone is trying too hard to sound smart and impressive! What are they making up for?!” It doesn’t come across as smart or helpful, though. It just comes across as confusing, vain, condescending, and self-inflating. Makes me not want to hear a word A.B. has to say (even if I could understand it).
Phillip: As opposed to being a “card carrying Augustinian”.
Your inverted cynicism cannot be derogatory, at least historically. Recall that it is your Pelagian presuppositions that was condemned by the Western church. Once at the Council of Carthage (418), and at the Council of Ephesus (431). Hence, why “Augustinianism” does not have the “boogey-man” quality as does your Pelagianism.
All the perfunctory proof-texting can be theologically swallowed-up with a Wesleyan-Arminian framework, and is consistent with it. In fact, much of it was the fallacy of irrelevant contexts. You take back with your left hand, what you give with your right (i.e., man is “rotten to the core”). Aside from the utter misfires, you also managed to ignite a bundle of strawman. Therefore, your attempt to demonstrate a naturalistic soteriology by glorifying the natural powers of fallen humanity fails.
Phillip: Where’s the hocus pocus of supernatural grace?
Before I go through this critique, I’ll demonstrate that we are in fact dealing with an unashamed Pelagian. Here’s canon 7 from the Council of Orange (529): “If anyone affirms that we can form any right opinion or make any right choice which relates to the salvation of eternal life, as is expedient for us, or that we can be saved, that is, assent to the preaching of the gospel through our natural powers without the illumination and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, who makes all men gladly assent to and believe in the truth, he is led astray by a heretical spirit, and does not understand the voice of God who says in the Gospel, “Without me you can do nothing” (John 15:5), and the word of the apostle, “Not that we are sufficient to think any thing of ourselves, as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is from God” (2 Cor. 3:5).”
Only a hard-core Pelagain would glorify man’s corrupt natural powers to assent to the truth of the gospel, and ridicule the divine activity as “hocus pocos of supernatural grace.” This is exactly what a Provisionist’s anthropology entails, and we have Pelagian Phillip ridiculing “supernatural grace.”
No wonder 💭 Phillip can glorify the natural sinful corruption of man and yet suggest: “Can fallen, lost, depraved sinners still believe God? Absolutely.”
There are two universal scriptural truisms that implode’s Phillip’s Pelagianism from the inside-out. The first is the necessity (“hocus pocus”, if you like) of the Spirit’s universal convicting ministry which he achieves either unmediated or mediated (see John 16:8; the text does not allude to the notion that the Spirit’s out-working is straightjacketed through human preaching).
The second is Paul’s anthropological diagnoses of the wracking corruption that is a result of Adam’s transgression: “no one understands;” and “no one seeks for God” (Romans 3:11). One crucial reason for the Spirit’s global independent convicting enterprise is because the propositional content of the gospel—on its own unaided by his own efficacious activity—is insufficient to overcome the deleterious effects of sin. Hence, the apostle’s affirmation of total inability – “no one seeks after God”.
However, Phillip, contradicting the apostle, would have us believe that the gospel is no different than your typical new age incantation, or the self-help empowerment seminars the likes of Tony Robbins, Oprah Winfrey, or Depak Chopra—who all have shown great success in demonstrating that unbelieving sinful pagans, apart from “hocus pocus supernatural grace”, can repent and do good things.
As Phillip reminds us, even though man is corrupt “to the core” he has not lost the *natural* ability to seek and love God. This is demonstrated when, as Philip’s Pelagianism construes it, man can believe merely upon coming in contact with the propositional content of the gospel. No need for “hocus pocus supernatural grace”, as he ridicules.
Phillip: Where does it say their belief was a direct result of their depravity being dealt with first? God’s word says they believed simply because of a conversation. Nothing more.
Pelagians are comfortable proof-texting a naturalistic soteriology. It’s their goal to glorify that man’s sinful autonomy is still capable to seek God. The naturalistic assumptions couched in such neophyte questions can only be arrived by suppressing relevant passages such as the universal ubiquity of the “hocus pocus” ministry of the Holy Spirit” (John 16:8). The Spirit’s convicting “hocus pocus” activity is thoroughly at work at every instance to overcome the corrupt predisposition, inclining man to love sin, not seek after God but seeks after his own sinful desires (see Acts 10:38; more on this later). Phillip either out of ignorance or willfully, has suppressed these relevant text along with others:
“The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” – Genesis 6:5.
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” – Jeremiah 17:9
According to Phillip, even though our heart is “evil continually”, “deceitful” and “desperately sick”, there is no need for the Spirit’s “hocus pocus supernatural grace.” The natural powers of man’s faculties, though distorted, remain intact in such a way that the propositional content of the gospel is sufficient for an to assent to the truth claims of the gospel.
Since man is by nature “evil” (Matt. 7:11), inclined always towards sin and self, this explains the apostle’s truism of Romans 3:11, only “hocus pocus supernatural grace” can bring about a godward inclination—desire towards God—which prepares the sinner to assent to the claims of the gospel. The activity of the Spirit, as mentioned above can be mediated or unmediated. When mediated, it is important to know that it is done through human preaching, which in turn presupposes that it logically precedes (i.e., pre-venes) the sinner’s will to assent to the gospel.
The Pelagian impulse, like Phillip, is to adamantly suggest that man’s corruption does not run so deep that it necessitates “hocus pocus supernatural grace”. Neither does Phillip speak for all Provisionists because I am aware that some are careful to INCLUDE the Spirit’s convicting ministry. As Leighton points out, the difference seems hard to detect between Provisionists and Classical Arminians.
Phillip: Jesus didn’t say “unless you people are born again, you will by no means believe” (Calvinism) or “unless you people are released from the bondage of sin, you will by no means believe.” (Arminianism). In fact, He taught the exact opposite….
Did he? I already established that the Spirit’s convicting ministry of “sin, judgment, and righteousness” is universal in scope at every instance (John 16:8, cf. Acts 10:38) and Jesus’ ministry is suffused and imbued at every moment of his ministry. The burden of proof is on Pelagian Phillip to show otherwise, and to argue that there are exceptions in the apostle’s universal truism in Romans 3:11—which you have ignorantly or willfully suppressed in order to prejudice your case. These texts provide the theological context and grounding of all instances where sinners believe; that is to say, they couldn’t have done so without “hocus pocus supernatural grace”.
Pelagian’s Phillip’s argumentation amounts to the fallacy of arguing from silence. For instance, where in the gospels does Jesus condemn same-sex marriage?? Where in the gospels does Jesus condemn abortion?? Where in the gospels does Jesus condemn pedophilia??… etc.
Here’s what Jesus taught: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sen me draws him” (John 6:44). The phrase “no one can come” speaks to inability. Jesus here destroys the Pelagian tendency for evil sinners to seek God apart from the “hocus pocus supernatural grace” of the Father.
What part of “NO ONE CAN COME” is difficult to understand? And why would you omit this? Answer: It doesn’t fit your Pelagian framework.
Phillip: Being a slave of sin did not prohibit them from believing Him. Another rebuke of Arminianism.
By this time we are now able to see the fallaciousness of this line of inquiry. It’s yet another strawman. It also assumes that, left to his own corruption, man STILL has the natural autonomous power to “seek God” and to “come to the father” – all completely on his own, unaided by “hocus pocus supernatural grace” merely by coming in contact with human preaching. Your premise continues to beg the question, and enough has been said so far demonstrating your omission of relevant theological premises that are incompatible, if not outright contradictory, to your naturalistic position.
Phillip: Strange response for a bunch of “totally depraved” and “slaves to sin” men. They should have stoned her, but they didn’t. Why? Because they knew Jesus was right. He spoke the truth. His words injured them. They felt shame and guilt. This only confirms the following…..
This is assumes that the unregenerate is unable to feel guilt and shame. This is another whopper of a strawman, and misunderstands the deleterious effects of sin. Total inability does not teach that the image of God is destroyed in man in such a way that they are unable to introspect their own conscious. So it is consistent within an Arminian framework for the Pharisees to feel “shame and guilt” because it was a “shame and guilt” as it “injured” their religious popularity, and their political expediencies.
The point that Pelagian Phillip misses is that the Pharisees are unable to see that the scriptures testify about Jesus (John 5:39). They did not repent of their sins and received their Messiah. Rather they felt remorse for reasons that were self-serving. For, Jesus characterizes the Pharisees error by publicly denouncing that they “do not know the scriptures nor the power of God” (Matt. 22:29).
As it stands, it’s not “strange” at all the Pharisees felt “shame and guilt”. What is indeed “strange” is Phillip equivocating worldly sorrow (from below) and righteous sorrow (from above): “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Corinthians 7:10). Theologically, Phillip over and over commits this categorical fallacy.
Does Philip see the Pharisees whom he praises for right action that their “shame and guilt” was “godly grief” and yet reject Jesus as their Messiah! Again, he must protrude his Pelagian agenda and myopically focus on the Pharisees hypocrisy and paint it in a good like. Sort of like saying: “Athesits are capable of believing in God without hocus pocus supernatural grace because atheists too are capable of doing virtuous acts.”
And even, if the Pharisees would have repented of their sins, and believed in Jesus at that moment, it would demonstrate that, once again, such recognition could not have been done without the Spirit’s convicting ministry since Peter clearly taught that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power” (Acts 10:38). Another illustration, contradicted by Pelagian Phillip, is Luke’s narrating Jesus opening the “scroll of the prophet of Isaiah” to proclaim “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor” (4:16, 18).
Though John says clearly, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63). Phillip would object and suggest the converse: “It is the flesh who has the natural power to believe, hocus pocus supernatural grace is no help at all!” (Pel. Phillip 1:22).
Contrary to the litany of Johnanine examples that Phillip cited, none are without the “hocu pocus supernatural grace” that he despises:
– God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with “hocus pocus supernatural grace” (Acts 10:38)
– The “hocus pocus supernatural grace is upon me” because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor (Luke 4:16)
– It is hocus pocus supernatural grace that gives life; the flesh is no help at all” (John 6:63).
“One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.” – Acts 16:14
Here’s one, among many, examples where “hocus pocus supernatural grace” clearly demonstrates the prevenient work of divine activity followed by human activity of gospel preaching. “The Lord opened her heart” needn’t refer to regeneration nor partial regeneration”; we have a clear demonstration of God’s sovereign activity – the “hocus pocus” side of the equation, as it were. This is exactly what Arminians expect to find in the text, contradicted by Phillip’s Pelagianism. God “opening her heart” was necessary because the apostle’s preaching alone is insufficient without the prevenient work of the Holy Spirit either mediated or unmediated. Even if it can be argued that “the Lord” opened her heart” THROUGH Paul’s preaching, the Arminian framework is vindicated: The logical order is God’s “hocus pocus supernatural grace” acting *logically prior* to “what was said by Paul”. Hence, pre-venient grace! Even if Paul’s preaching is the instrumental means, what cannot be denied is that God’s “opening her heart” is logically prior to Paul’s preaching because the text says that “The Lord open her heart TO PAY attention to what was said by Paul.” The divine action was necessary because pagans self-seeking understand of God is never legitimate apart from the Spirit’s convicting calling.
Pelagian Phillip, and all staunch anti-prevenient Leightonian-provisionsts would have to rule out the divine activity logically preceding human preaching in the particular case. The grammar of the text fixes the construction in such a way where the likes of Phillip would have to re-structure and re-define the text to make it fit his Pelagian optimistic anthropology.
Question: What explains what prompted God to “open” Lydias heart? Why wasn’t Paul’s human preaching alone sufficient? Like Phillip argued, is it not true that Lydia’s enslavement to sin shouldn’t have prohibited her from believing! Perhaps Phillip’s allegiance to Pelagianism is such that he would counsel God that his move was superfluous – God did a “hocus pocus” move that was unnecessary.
To anticipate another objection – it serves no explanatory advantages to emphasize that Lydia was already a “worshipper of God”. Recall the universal truism that “no one seeks God (Rom. 3:11). Surely Lydia sought after God, but it is no more legitimate, any more than when Seihks, Jaines, Buddhists, Zoroastrians, and Muslims seek after God. The Greek word “theos” is a generic title that can be applied to all sorts of deities. In Luke’s overarching narrative it can be argued that Lydia was “religious”, part of the pantheon of pagans who worshipped an “unknown God” (17:22-23). Either way, it is still legitimate to ask the series of questions above. Note Luke’s construction of the passage:
– “The Lord opened her heart (“hocus pocus [prevenient] supernatural grace) v. 14a
– “To pay attention to what was said by Paul (human preaching) v. 14b
To summarize: Phillip will be aghast recognizing that not once did he ensure to cite references of the Spirit’s role in salvation. But he couldn’t either way, since his goal was to ridicule the “hocus pocus” aspect of orthodox soteriology. By selective editing, cherry picking passages out of their canonical and theological contexts, he managed to show that man still has intact natural powers to believe and assent to the gospel without “hocus pocus supernatural grace”.
Phillip and atheists are both kissin’ cousins: They emphasize the naturalistic powers of man’s autonomy to achieve nirvana. Not all provisionists, however, will argue like Phillip does. I’ve heard Leighton Flowers enough to know that “hocus pocus supernatural grace” is necessary. But like, Phillip, Flowers also believes that man has the natural capacity from birth to believe, but man “BECOMES” hardened by sinful choices. That is to say, man—not the corruption itself—makes himself hardened to the claims of the gospel. The “corruption” is the fruit of man’s choice, not that man’s choices are the fruit of either an inherited corruption. Thus man “looses” the natural capacity to “believe” God—not a birth—but through our own choices. Although Pelagian Phillip says we are “rotten to the core”, he didn’t loose an opportunity to contradict this premise every step of the way.
All in all, seems that, “Prevenient grace is just a [Johanine & Lukan] attempt to solve a Calvinist problem.”
Brothers and sisters,
We have a doozy here. What a blessing.
Please take the time to read the above. Notice carefully the full blown bully tactics. This is precisely what I have encountered before when discussing TD/TI with my Arminian brothers.
If you reject their notions of TD/TI you are essentially “kissing cousins” with atheists. What a hoot!
Regarding the story of Lydia, here it is in context….
Acts 16:13-14 (NKJV)….
And on the Sabbath day we went out of the city to the riverside, where prayer was customarily made; and we sat down and spoke to the women who met there. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.
This is just one of the verses Calvinists quote to support their version of prevenient grace. Notice Paul found Lydia in a place of prayer. She was already a “worshipper of God”. Yes, the Lord opened her heart, just as a farmer must open the ground to plant the seed (Luke 8:4-15, James 1:21), but nowhere does this imply that the noetic effects of the fall were being dealt with or that Lydia had been restored to a pre-fall condition. That has to be forced upon the text.
Later on in Acts we read….
Acts 13:7 (KJV)…..
And when they had gone through the isle unto Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Barjesus: Which was with the deputy of the country, Sergius Paulus, a prudent man; who called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God.
“Desired” to hear the word of God? A fallen, totally depraved sinner? An impossibility within the ranks of Calvinism, but there you have it.
I will repeat Leighton’s words with one slight modification…..
“From my study of the scriptures, I find nothing which *even remotely* teaches that fallen humanity has lost the innate moral capacity to respond positively to God’s own gracious appeals and provisions to be reconciled from that Fall.”
I agree wholeheartedly. Show me scriptural evidence, or proof, of a person’s depravity being overcomed or diminished, and man being restored to a pre-fall condition before believing the word of God and I will strongly consider it with much prayer.
Merry Christmas to all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus.
[This is a selection of things I’ve written about before, which fits as a response to a lot of what’s said in this Soteriology 101 post. It will be long, so bear with me. You’re not the only one, A.B., who’s got a lot to say. And I have just got to say to A.B.: “I think you’re very rude, judgmental, and condescending in your responses. (My husband had other more “colorful” words to describe you which can’t be repeated here.) If I were you, I’d ask God to examine my heart and reveal to me if there’s anything I need to work on. When someone has to attack a person the way you do, adding all sorts of insults and accusations, instead of just dealing with the topic at hand, something’s wrong.”]
My Calvi-pastor loves to use Lydia as an example to “prove” Calvinism, saying “See, it says God opened her heart to believe.” But the text does not say God opened her heart to believe. It just says that she was already a worshipper of God and that God opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message. “To believe” is an assumption, added by Calvinists, based on their flawed belief of total depravity. The Bible does not say what Paul’s message was or that it was the gospel’s message of salvation, as Calvinists assume it must be.
When we sent a letter to our elders about the pastor’s Calvinism, I pointed out that Lydia was already a believer and so the pastor couldn’t use it to try to prove that God opened her heart to believe. She already believed before her heart was opened by God. But then when the pastor would preach on it after that, he would add something like “Yes, it says she was a worshipper of God, but she was not saved yet. She was not a true believer until God opened her heart.” Where does it say this in the text? Nowhere. He didn’t even have a verse to back him up. He just proclaimed it like it was truth. But he’s adding something that isn’t there, even though the Bible itself said she was a “worshipper of God.”
The best part is that the Calvinist pastor’s response itself (saying Lydia was not a believer yet) actually contradicts and defeats Calvinism, when you consider what Calvinists believe. Because if she was a God-worshipper but not a believer yet – if she was, as my pastor calls all unregenerated people, “totally depraved, desperately wicked, rebellious sinners who can’t do good or seek God” – then she was worshipping God before she was “regenerated.” She was still in her “depraved” state, yet she was worshipping God (the highest “good” we can do) all on her own.
This totally destroys the “total depravity/inability” because here is a person worshipping God before her heart was opened … which means we are not so fallen that we can’t think about God unless He makes us do it … which means that we can think about and want and seek God on our own … which means regeneration isn’t necessary first … which means there are no elect people that God has to irresistibly call to Him and to regenerate … which means Jesus didn’t die just for the elect but He died for all people. Which means Calvinism is completely, totally wrong!
And on the flip side, if Calvinists admit that she really was a believer … then God didn’t open her heart to believe through Paul’s message. Because she believed before her heart was “opened.” And this means they can’t use this as a proof-text that God opens our hearts (of the elect only) to believe. (The passage about Lydia is actually a gift to anti-Calvinists.)
So then what was Paul’s message? What did God open her heart about? I believe it’s about the importance of believers getting baptized, because that’s the next thing she does.
And where in the Bible is there support for what I think? Well, just a few chapters over. What happened to Lydia is probably similar to what happened in Acts 19 when Paul met believers who did not yet have the Holy Spirit because they hadn’t been baptized in the name of the Lord but only in John the Baptist’s “baptism of repentance.” Paul convinced them to be baptized in the name of the Lord to receive the Holy Spirit. Being a message about the need to be baptized seems the most likely, not about the need to believe.
Calvinists wrongly – using flawed human logic – equate spiritual death with physical dead bodies. They insist that if physical “dead” means you can’t do anything on your own, like a dead body that just lays there all dead, then spiritual death must also mean you can’t do anything on your own. And that’s why God has to cause you (well, the “elect” only) to seek Him, to want Him, to believe in Him. Because you are dead like a dead body. But they are basing their theology on their own flawed analogy! Find me one verse that says “spiritually dead” means that we are as lifeless and incapable of doing anything as a dead body, that we can’t think or reason or analyze or decide. Find me one verse that says a consequence of the Fall was that God took away mankind’s right to make decisions, to reason, to think. There are no verses like that.
But do you know what we do find? Someone else who was considered “dead,” according to the Bible. The prodigal son. And yet he “came to his senses” and went back to his father. His father did not drag him back or put some sort of spell over him to draw him back. He simply waited for the son to “come to his senses” on his own after looking around at his life and the condition he was in, and he decided to return to the father.
Spiritual death does not mean “like a lifeless dead body.” That is a bad, wrong, misleading analogy! It simply means that we are dead in our sins, separated from God, headed to hell. (If Calvinists can get you to agree to their bad analogies, then they’ve got you hooked!)
But guess what? Our brains still work. Our minds are still alive. And God expects us to use our living brains to want Him, seek Him, and find Him! In fact, look at Amos 5:4: “Seek me and live …” God is saying, “Seek me and you will find life,” which means that if they have to seek Him to find life then they are dead right now because they haven’t yet found life in Him. This means God is talking to “dead people.” He is telling “dead people” to seek Him, to find life in Him. And God can expect “dead people” to seek Him because He knows that our brains still work.
Calvinism says “dead people can’t seek God.” But God Himself commanded “dead” people to seek Him. And so I ask, who’s wrong?
Personally, I believe that the Holy Spirit works on people NOT by regenerating or partially-regenerating certain hearts to make them believe, but by giving us all the ability to think, to reason, to make decisions, to see Him through His creation and to feel the desire for Him in our hearts, that God-shaped hole, and to understand Scripture and respond to it. He gave us the Word and the knowledge of Him, passed down through the generations. So no non-Calvinist says that people come to God in a vacuum, in a void, but that God’s fingerprints and truth are everywhere to make sure we know He is real. But He gave us the responsibility to decide how to respond to Him and His truth. We decide if we want to accept the truth or reject it, to accept God or reject Him.
Also, regarding Calvinists using Romans 3:11: “There is no one who understands, no one who seeks God,” to say that men are “so dead” inside that no one can seek God unless God pre-chose them to be saved and causes them to want Him, seek Him, and believe in Him.
My response is “Really!?! Because Psalm 14:2 says ‘The Lord looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God.’ If it’s impossible for anyone to seek God, why would God look to see if there are any of us who do it?”
Romans 3:11 is just about general human nature, how we are self-centered, self-focused. (Actually, it’s about how we – the Jews specifically – can’t earn our way to heaven through our good works or bloodlines. That’s what this passage is about.) It’s not about it being “impossible” to seek God. Nowhere does it say we can’t seek God … just that mankind, left to ourselves, generally doesn’t desire to seek Him.
This is why He has to reach out to us, to draw us to Him. And He draws all men, according to John 12:32, through nature, the Word, the sense He gives mankind in our hearts that there’s more out there than just what we see, etc. But we have to choose to respond or resist. And it’s because He draws us all, because He makes Himself real to all and available to all, that no one has an excuse for why they didn’t seek Him and believe in Him.
Acts 17:27: “God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.”
Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”
You sure would have an excuse for not believing in Him if He created you to be an unbeliever and made it impossible for you to want Him, seek Him, or believe in Him!
So which is true? We don’t have an excuse or we do? We can seek or we can’t?
And let me ask this: If there is truly a question between the two about which is right – that we can seek or can’t seek – which one fits best with the rest of the Bible and God’s character?
Which one fits with the idea of God loving the world (John 3:16)? Would it be love to predestine most people to hell, giving them no chance to be saved? Is it love to create most people just so that He can send them to eternal torment in hell because it brings Him some sort of sick glory (according to the Calvinist)? If that’s love, what does hate look like? (And if we’re supposed to reflect God to others and try to be like Him, what’s that gonna look like – if He hated most people before He even made them just so He could send them to hell for His glory, never giving them a chance to be saved?)
What about God’s justice? Can He really be considered a just God if He commands all people to believe in Him but then prevents most people from believing in Him and then holds them accountable for not believing, punishing them eternally for the unbelief He predestined and caused? Is it justice to predestine/cause people to sin, never giving them the chance to do anything different, but then to punish them for what they had no choice over, what He made them do? If that’s justice, I’d hate to see injustice! And once again, what does that mean for us as Christians, if we are called to be like Him?
How about Jesus’s death on the cross for the sins of all men? If God predestined most people to never repent, if He sent Jesus to die only for the elect, as the Calvinists say, how can He then say in the Bible that Jesus died for all sins, for all men? And then if God really does love only the elect and really did send Jesus to die only for the elect but says in His Word that He loves all men and that Jesus died for all men … then how in the world can you trust anything God says, if He says one thing but means another? How can you trust a God who gets glory, as Calvinists say, for causing evil, sin, and putting people in hell? How is Calvi-god any different from Satan then? How is evil any different from good?
Calvinism destroys the Gospel.
And there is no question … Men can seek God. In fact, God says so. God expects us to seek Him. Because that’s how we find Him. And He wants to be found!
Isaiah 55:6: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near.”
Deuteronomy 4:29: “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him, if you look for him with all your heart and with all your soul.”
Jeremiah 29:13: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart…”
Hebrews 11:6: “… anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”
1 Chronicles 22:19: “Now devote your heart and soul to seeking the Lord your God.”
Amos 5:4, 14: “Seek me and live … Seek good, not evil.”
Proverbs 8:17: “… those who seek me find me.”
Joshua 24:15: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve …”
And yet the Calvinist uses Romans 3:11 to say that we can’t seek God, that it’s impossible unless God causes us to do it, that He decides who believes in Him and who doesn’t, that Jesus died only for the few “chosen” people because He wouldn’t waste His blood on those He predestined to reject Him, that the non-elected were created just so God could hate them and send them to hell because He gets some sort of glory for showing off His justice and His wrath against sin (never mind that Calvinism’s god first predestined and caused those sins), and that the non-elect never had a chance to be saved because God made sure they had no ability to seek Him, to believe in Him, to choose Him. All of which is in total opposition to what the rest of the Bible teaches! (If a theology replaces what God clearly said with their ideas of what God supposedly meant to say – a secret level of knowledge which contradicts what God clearly said – then you can be 100% certain that it’s WRONG!)
John 3:16-17 (emphasis added in all verses): “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save THE WORLD through him.”
John 12:32: “But I, when I am lifted up, will draw ALL MEN to myself.”
Acts 17:30: “In the past, God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands ALL PEOPLE everywhere to repent.” (Can we trust a God who commands all men to repent while making it impossible for most men to repent? How can we trust any command He gives us if He might have preplanned us to do the opposite of what He said? What a great excuse we would have for disobeying any command He gave us!)
Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to ALL MEN.”
1 Timothy 2:3-6: “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants ALL MEN to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for ALL MEN …”
1 Timothy 4:10: “… that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of ALL MEN, and especially of those who believe.” (He’s made salvation available for all men, by dying for all men, but only those who willingly choose to believe in Him will acquire that salvation. The choice is ours!)
Romans 5:18: “Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for ALL MEN.”
Romans 10:13: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
How could Calvinists have gotten it so wrong, replacing what God clearly said with their own rambling, contradictory ideas of what God must have meant to say, directly opposing what God clearly said!?!
God says “Seek Me!” But Calvinists say we cannot seek Him.
God says “Believe in Me! Choose Me!” But Calvinists say we cannot believe in Him or choose Him unless we were predestined to, unless He causes us to.
God says it’s our choice. Calvinists say it’s God choice, and we can’t do anything about it.
And so I ask: Who are you gonna believe?
How very wicked it is of Calvinists to teach people that we can’t do the very things God commands us to do to be saved: To seek Him, believe in Him, choose Him!
If God says that we must seek and believe to be saved, but Calvinists say “You can’t seek or believe on your own, but God has to do it for you,” then how can anyone truly be saved the Calvinist way!?!
How very brilliant of Satan to use God’s Word against God and to use well-meaning Christians (or maybe I should say “Christians,” in quotes) to spread a theology that teaches the opposite of what God says!
2 Corinthians 11:14-15: “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.”
[Extra note: Speaking of God’s love and justice … Calvinists use the pathetic example of 100 men on death row to demonstrate God’s love and justice (their version of it). They say that God shows His gracious love by choosing to set free 10 men who deserve death, while showing His justice (His wrath against sin) by choosing to let the other 90 guilty men stay on death row to pay the penalty for their sins. This, they say, demonstrates both His love and justice.
BUT … the glaring problem here (which they will never acknowledge or admit to) is that, in Calvinism, God caused those men to be on death row in the first place. He predestined the crimes they did and caused them to do it. They had no choice about it.
That’s not love or justice!
Is it grace or love to first cause men to be on death row and then to set them free? Is that really what love, grace, or mercy looks like – causing people to sin and then “forgiving” them for “their” sin, never giving them a choice about anything they do in this big cosmic play? Ridiculous! Do love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, etc., have any meaning at all if we have no choice about anything we do, if He causes the sin He then has to “forgive,” if He causes the problems He then has to “fix”?
And those 90 men left on death row are paying the penalty for the sins God (Calvinism’s god) caused them to commit. They’re guilty because of what He created them to be and caused them to do. But then He punishes them for it, as if they had a choice. They’re not paying the price for sins they chose to do, but for sins He caused them to do and predestined them to never repent of. Where is the justice in that!?!
And how tiny, tiny, tiny Calvi-god’s love must be if he created the vast majority of people to go to hell and choose to save only a tiny few out of love!
“Oh,” the Calvinist says, “but God chose to show His wrath against sin, His justice, by putting people in hell for their sins. He needed people to sin so that He could do this. So He predestined people to be unbelievers so that He could put them in hell so that He could get worship for (and worship Himself for) how just He is. He gets glory by showing off His justice this way, by first ‘ordaining’ and then punishing sin. So it’s a good thing. A God-glorifying thing.” (Yes, they really do say this garbage! Talk about calling evil good!)
And I say, “Really!?! Because God Himself tells us how He chose to show off His justice … and it’s not by putting people in hell but by sending Jesus to the cross to pay for our sins.”
“God presented [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished- he did it [sent Jesus to the cross for our sins] to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” (Romans 3:25-26)
And furthermore, to incorporate the idea that God loves the world, all men, Calvinists will say that God has two different kinds of love: a “save your soul” kind for the elect and a “give you food and sunshine for 80 years until you die and go to hell for eternity” kind for the non-elect.
Once again, “Really!?! Which verse says that? Because my Bible says that God shows His love this way: ‘God demonstrates his love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8) So unless only the elect are ‘sinners,’ Jesus died for all of us, just like He confirmed in verse after verse.”
So the Bible says that God demonstrated His justice by sending Jesus to the die for our sins. And it says that He demonstrated His love by sending Jesus to die for our sins. But Calvinists say He demonstrates His justice by predestining most people to hell and demonstrates His love by predestining a tiny few people to heaven, sending Jesus to die only for them.
And so I wonder, who’s right? The Calvinist or God?
An if Calvinism is wrong, if it’s full of lies that contradict the Bible, then who do you think is behind it?
“And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.”]
And when I say “no non-Calvinist says we come to God in a vacuum” I am talking about the non/anti-Calvinists here at Soteriology 101. We here are not claiming we come to God all on our own, without any help from God or the Holy Spirit.
“Personally, I believe that the Holy Spirit works on people NOT by regenerating or partially-regenerating certain hearts to make them believe, but by giving us all the ability to think, to reason, to make decisions, to see Him through His creation and to feel the desire for Him in our hearts, that God-shaped hole, and to understand Scripture and respond to it. He gave us the Word and the knowledge of Him, passed down through the generations. So no non-Calvinist says that people come to God in a vacuum, in a void, but that God’s fingerprints and truth are everywhere to make sure we know He is real. But He gave us the responsibility to decide how to respond to Him and His truth. We decide if we want to accept the truth or reject it, to accept God or reject Him.”
I would just add to your comment, a little further down, on why men – particularly, in this case, the Jews – do not ‘seek God’. The Jews had been falsely led to believe that keeping the Sabbath and the ceremonial Law, was how one ‘worshipped’ God. In a similar vein, most believers today believe that going to church on Sunday, and paying your tithe, is how you ‘worship’ God. We have come full circle, and are as lost as was the nation of Israel when Jesus broke into their world.
It is the deception of Satan, carried out by false teachers and co-opted institutions, that most often leads even well-meaning people astray. It is not so much that they do not desire to worship God, but that they have been misled. In the same manner, they have been misled that ‘listening to God’ means listening to a 28 minute sermon given by a man on Sunday morning. Thus, although God still desires to draw us to himself, to make himself known and heard, too many of us have closed our ears. We had our ‘listen’ Sunday, and now it’s time to get on with ‘real life’.
Deception is the key to blinding people, and keeping them far from God. We need to hear, as much as the early church did, the truths proclaimed by the apostles. But we are not going to hear anything if we limit ourselves to the latest man-made speech.
Here from a Classical Arminian is just an overview of some errors I think Dr. Flowers makes regarding our position on prevenient grace. Ironically, many are the same errors he points out that Calvinists are using against him. None of this is intended in an unkind or polemical spirit. I am not trying to “put down” or belittle a person or position, but point out arguments that don’t make sense and are inconsistent.
1. The boogeyman fallacy: “Hocus-pocus mystical magic on the heart” has become akin to “Pelagian goo getting on you.” In Greek we literally have the word “musterion” constantly being used with the Gospel, God’s working in the heart, and grace. “Christ in us” is literally called a “mystery” and “resurrection power,” not just a message. It is no more an argument to call getting born again getting “zapped” then to have revelation or grace called getting “zapped.” Calling something supernatural by a word designed to be diminutive is not an argument, it’s just an insult.
2. Demanding to know how something is done, but the explanation has no bearing on whether it is true or not. Calvinists insist that if you can’t explain exactly how God can know a free future, it can’t be. Not being able to explain exactly how God’s prevenient grace works, has no bearing on its truth. It is like claiming “If you can’t explain exactly *how* God created the world, then you can’t say the Bible says God created the world,” which atheists often use. “What* exactly* did God do when he created, and how did he do it; describe it or you can’t prove it.” This is a literal non-sequitur.
3. Hi-jacking definitions of words to preload one’s presuppositions already into them: “Sovereignty” and “The Gospel message” can be preloaded terms. We are told that we don’t believe “the Gospel message” is enough, but we define the Gospel as NOT just a message but the power and Person that come along with it. Never is it “just a message.” The Bible, in fact, makes a strong point to say the Gospel is not just “information” or “a message” or “words” for the brain, but a real supernatural power and revelation.
4. The “how dare you misrepresent me” fallacy: stating back the logical implications of the premises of your opponent is not misrepresenting them. E.g. this objector is not saying Dr. Flower’s does not “profess” to believe in the sin nature, as Calvinist’s “profess” to believe in freedom, but that that conclusion does not follow from his premise. If I claim until I’m blue in the face that I believe in A and I believe in B, but I don’t believe A + B = A + B, then I’m being internally inconsistent and it is not misrepresenting me to call me out on that logical error. You may disagree that my logic holds, but I’m not attempting to misrepresent you.
5.Double-speak: when one claims to believe in something, but then later goes on to say numerous things that completely exclude that claim. If you truly believe humans are literally born with a sin nature, then it is inconsistent to say it is superfluous or unnecessary for them to need grace to respond to God. If you truly believe it is unjust for God to require something of someone they cannot do, then you, by definition, believe the Law of God, which is called “holy, just and good,” is inherently unjust because God is asking us to do something we can’t do. You can’t have your “the Gospel would be unjust if men can’t believe it” cake and then eat your “the law is perfectly just if man can’t believe it” cake too.
6. Broad-sweeping claims that necessitate approaching a Biblical text with prejudice: “free will is not in the Bible” is the same type of argument as “prevenient grace is not in the Bible.” It is better to simply deal with each verse than just hand-wave with sweeping generalities. It is stating a claim in such a way as to assume what you set out to prove, and to paint your own claim as already the default and obvious position. What is in the Bible or not in the Bible, must be explained and expounded upon without broad-sweeping assumptions.
There are many verses in the Bible indicating God’s grace precedes man’s response, and here is a brief overview of just a few. We see it in OT metaphors of the dry bones or lying in a pool of blood, or a vineyard needing care before producing fruit, or a heart that is like stone and needs to be replaced. It’s all over the NT with Jesus saying apart from him we can do nothing and will dry up and die, that the light must come before man can respond to it, that Jesus brought the anointing and the Spirit with him to open blind eyes and set the captives free, which things a simple message does not do. We have constant talk of “enlightment” and the “natural mind” being not enough to understand the things of God. The natural mind is the mind we are born with, unaided by the Holy Spirit’s illumination. We must do so much logical judo to make these say something other than that we need grace to respond, and the only logical reason one would deny this need for grace is some form of self-righteousness and self-goodness in man. People have gone so far as saying “no one seeks God” really means people *do* seek, if you look at the original Psalm, even though Paul’s own summation is “all are guilty.” Paul’s argument doesn’t work if “those who are in the flesh [can] please God.” If in my flesh dwells no good thing, then only the Holy Spirit can convict the world of sin and righteousness; God’s gracious appeals need more than just to be gracious, they need actual grace. Judicial hardening indeed is best seen as a removal of predeceding/prevenient grace, since grace will be working since birth on our inherent deadness in Adam to resurrect us. This is why David says “take not your Holy Spirit from me,” rather than “take not your gracious message from me.” If the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life, the words can be spoken without Spirit and without life: a dead inefficacious message. The Bible never automatically brings revelation or life all by itself, it becomes a dead religious book. And the argument that unbelievers can freely believe such demonic works as the Koran avoids the argument altogether that many feel they cannot believe the Koran naturally, and the Bible says deception comes from the working of evil spirits, not the inherent ability to believe Muhammad flew up to heaven on a winged horse. I don’t find I naturally have the ability to believe Muhammad did that.
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake. (1 Thess. 1)
How would Dr. Flowers even define a gospel in “word only” when he defines “word only” as sufficient? Dr. Flowers would say it was literally impossible for the gospel to *ever* be in word only, by definition, yet Paul here clearly disagrees. Why would Paul definitively say here that a gospel without “power” and “the Holy Spirit” and “much assurance” is not the same kind of gospel? It would make no sense at all.
Jesus said to them, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. (Luke 24)
It makes no sense for minds to need “opening” if they can simply listen to a “gracious” message and that is all they need. This goes the same for the devil constantly being said to blind and mislead people before God brings the truth to them; the “light of the Gospel of the glory of God in Christ” is said to be “blinded” by the god of this world. The devil would be incapable of blinding people that had a natural ability to believe, yet we are all by nature children of wrath.
The above are not just isolated scriptures, there are many more like them. I have previously supported Dr. Flowers for several years in his stand against Calvinism, and I sincerely love him as a brother in the Lord, but I feel he is very unfair and inconsistent to the Classical Arminian position. Surprisingly in the end I find it a more evil doctrine to put goodness in man (Provisionism), than to put evil in God (Calvinism); because even if you put evil in God you can still admit you are fully evil, and have a strong foundation of grace, that is, a complete commitment to admit you are fully evil and only God can save you. Self-righteousness in the Bible is said to be a big enough sin to even block forgiveness (see the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector). So by becoming offended at God over man being born with a sin nature, because it makes man inherently incapable of keeping the Law which God clearly commands, we foster a rebellious spirit against the truth of original sin and look instead to find some inherent goodness somewhere in humans that is not the work of preceding undeserved grace. It is cultivating a self-righteous spirit that denies the full extent of our sinfulness to the very core of our being.
God bless you all and thank you for the platform to defend my position.
Before I was born again I had a growing conviction of sin, I wasnt getting the gospel preached to me, and I wasnt going to church. I did have knowledge in my mind Jesus was real, and a knowledge of the wrath of God. I went to an evangelism event and responded to the call of the gospel and was changed, the weight was lifted. It was like my life was like an abandoned messy house and God through the Holy Spirit stood at the door and shined a light around it. When I responded to the gospel, it was like the he purchased it and moved in threw out the junk and started cleaning up the different rooms. Electricity was supplied after he moved in. My testimony was revealing of sin and need for salvation from hell before I was born again, and supply of grace and power to follow God with a clean conscience after being made new through believing the gospel of Jesus Christ with a faith that was given by God.
Thank you Rick for that testimony!
It is very similar to mine.
It can be our impression that the Gospel did not get conveyed to us – because our initial progressive steps towards the Lord do no include a church alter call or a street evangelist etc.
But the Lord in fact does have the ability to progressively plant gospel seeds in our understanding.
And he can put a pebble in our shoe and let the internal discomfort force our minds to consider things we’ve been avoiding.
So I think somehow the Lord conveyed the understanding of the Good News to you.
Perhaps in a progressive manner that you were not fully aware of.
What is unique about the Calvinistic view – is that it is predicated on Universal Divine Causal Determinism.
Determinism becomes his canon
The Calvinistic world is therefore 100% deterministic
Which presents a conundrum for the Calvinist.
Because IN-deterministic events cannot exist in a 100% deterministic world – any more than air can exist within a perfect vacuum
The problem for the Calvinist then is – he experiences IN-deterministic events in his life
He experiences IN-deterministic functionality
He perceives himself as being able to choose between multiple options
He doesn’t perceive those options as predestined illusions.
He perceives himself as the determiner of his choices.
He does not perceive his minds impulses are predestined impulses which simply show up irresistibly in his brain.
And also he sees events in the general narrative of scripture that are IN-deterministic
So he needs to have some degree of IN-determinism in his life, in his personal functionality, and in his theology.
The net result is that he has to learn how to exist in two conceptual worlds which mutually exclude each other.
This is why Calvin instructs his disciples to hold the doctrine as TRUE while living *AS-IF* the doctrine is FALSE.
Its a state of DOUBLE-MINDEDNESS.
1 Thessalonians 1:5 (NKJV)…
For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake
“What kind of men we (Paul and his entourage) were among you (Paul’s immediate audience)….”
Consider the following….
Acts 15:12 (NKJV)….
Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring *how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them* among the Gentiles.
Acts 19:11 (NKJV)….
Now God worked unusual miracles by the hands of Paul…
During Paul’s ministry, many of the children of Israel living amongst the Gentiles needed more than just words, but proof that Paul was God’s chosen vessel. An apostle of God. Most of the time, miracles accompanied Paul’s message. I would argue this “power and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance/convincing” is just that. Divine miracles. There are no apostles today. No divine miracles (for the most part). Today, almost all we have as evidence is the written word.
Luke 24:44045 (NKJV)….
Jesus said to them, “These are the words I spoke to you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms.” Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.
By “opened their minds” He simply means he explained the scriptures to them. This does not mean that their minds were previously closed or resistant to truth. They just didn’t understand. They weren’t regenerated (Calvinism) and they weren’t “released from the bondage of sin” (classical Arminianism). He taught. They listened and learned.
Luke 18:32-34 (NKJV)…..
“For He will be delivered to the Gentiles and will be mocked and insulted and spit upon. They will scourge Him and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again.” But *they understood none of these things*; this saying was *hidden from them*, and *they did not know* the things which were spoken.
1 Corinthians 2:7-8 (NKJV)….
But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of *this age* knew; for had *they* known, *they* would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
None of the above has any application for us today. It’s a history lesson. When Jesus appeared on the scene, Israel was looking for a fulfillment of the scriptures. Their promised Messiah. They were looking for their King (John 1:49, John 12:13). And many wanted to make Him king (John 6:15), but His time had not yet come. Before He could rule as a Lion, He first had to come as a Lamb. Before He could restore the kingdom to Israel, He had to first address the curse (the penalty for Israel’s rebellion) and the problem of sin. This is what was hidden from His Jewish disciples and this is what He explained to them. During Christ’s earthly ministry all the Jewish people had were the OT scriptures. The 4 gospels (actually, just one gospel from 4 different perspectives; the gospel of the kingdom) were being unfolded before their eyes. Today, we have the completed word of God.
Both Calvinists and Arminians accept TD/TI as biblical truth. By default, both have to believe in some form of irresistible grace, though the Arminian will object to this.
Regardless, the Classical Arminian position suffers the same problem as does the Calvinist position. Classical Arminianism does not believe in “free will”, but “freed will”.
However, “freedom” is only found in Christ Jesus and is only given to those who have been pardoned/acquitted of a crime. Before a guilty sinner can be given freedom, he must first be justified or declared “not guilty”. We don’t set a criminal free (nor give them “new life”) before the verdict. Neither does God.
So, for me, the issues with prevenient grace are twofold. First, I don’t see biblical evidence of TD/TI, thus prevenient grace isn’t necessary. There’s nothing in scripture that says fallen man must be restored to a pre-fall condition before he can believe. It just isn’t there. Second, I haven’t come across any explanation or solution for TD/TI that makes biblical sense. In other words, the notion of “being released from the bondage of sin” prior to faith is just as unbiblical as being born again prior to faith. Someone even suggested that this prevenient grace is part of God’s redemptive grace as if everyone is somehow partially redeemed. So now we have people walking around partially depraved and partially redeemed. Where do you find that in scripture?
I am not saying that God must not tap man on his shoulder to get his attention. God does and must take the initiative. I am just saying this tap on the shoulder doesn’t offset any noetic effects of the fall (overcome man’s depravity). And that is what prevenient grace is supposed to do. That is its purpose. To restore man to pre-fallen state.
Honestly? I think most people who have embraced prevenient grace is because they have been convinced that Arminianism is the only biblical alternative to Calvinism. Calvinism beats it into their heads that a rejection of TD/TI is heretical and condemn by the “Church Fathers”. In desperation, they have concocted their own solution for TD. “Freedom precedes faith”.
Oh, Phillip….oh my…
Do I have a bone to pick with your comment…
You had said:
“By “opened their minds” He simply means he explained the scriptures to them. This does not mean that their minds were previously closed or resistant to truth. They just didn’t understand. They weren’t regenerated (Calvinism) and they weren’t “released from the bondage of sin” (classical Arminianism). He taught. They listened and learned. ”
Oh, yes their minds were indeed previously closed. Hence Romans 11, to wit:
8 (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.
Which is Paul QUOTING Moses in Deuteronomy…
Yet the Lord hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.
I’m NOT a Calvinist, and I am NOT an Arminian…I am NON-DENOMINATION. I argue against BOTH, for I, too, do not believe in prevenient grace, either. I only believe in Grace, period. So in that regard, I believe just as you do.
You had said:
” In other words, the notion of “being released from the bondage of sin” prior to faith is just as unbiblical as being born again prior to faith. ”
First of all, I fully agree. But let’s narrow this down for a moment to back in the days of Jesus. Let’s define “Being released from the bondage of sin”, as it regards the Jews, back in the days of Jesus.
What isTHE BONDAGE OF SIN?
Answer: The Law of Moses.
WHO was in the BONDAGE OF SIN?
What is sin? I’m not being sarcastic, but according to 1 John 3:4, sin is the transgression of the law…and in Romans 3:20, the law is the KNOWLEDGE of sin. The only ones under the law was Jews, which is why I’m only mentioning Jews…not the Gentiles. Romans 5:13, 4:15, Acts 17:30 discusses Gentiles…to include Abraham as well.
And the last I remember, only the Jews were given the law…not the Gentiles. So, it was the Jews ONLY who were under the Bondage of Sin (Romans 5:13, 4:15 explains the REST OF HUMANITY, to include ABRAHAM, of course).
Don’t worry, I’m getting to my point:
There is a verse that BOTH Calvinists and Arminians throw at us…it states, For there is NO ONE RIGHTEOUS, NO NOT ONE. Am I right?
And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.
Who were “they” and WHY were they righteous?
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
So, I need to CONCENTRATE on the word RIGHTEOUSNESS, where Calvinists and Arminians concentrate on preveniant grace, etc.
Abraham BELIEVED GOD and it was counted to him as RIGHTEOUSNESS. The Bible states that THREE TIMES. Note that it does NOT say that Abraham believe “IN” God, but the he believed God. Question. What was it that God told him that Abraham believed? That is a TEST QUESTION…lol. Seriously, that is a TEST Question, because whatever it was that God told him, is SUPPOSED TO BE our basis for RIGHTEOUSNESS, as well.
Now, BACK TO THE JEWS…
Under the law of Moses…
And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us.
THIS IS THE BONDAGE OF SIN that you bring up…
Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;
JUST AS IT WAS FOR ABRAHAM.
The major thing that irks me so much, is that in Both Calvinism and Arminianism, Abraham seems to be put on the back burner, when Abraham needs to be the FOCUS…
For it was Abraham that was PROMISED the INHERITANCE, and WE are the heirs of THAT promise. So, what exactly is the INHERITACE that WE get, that was promised to Abraham? Jesus is the Promised seed, but Jesus is NOT the Inheritance. The inheritance is the PROMISED LAND! What is the Promised Land?
For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.
Trust me, I have not gotten off on a tangent. I had a point to make about RIGHTEOUSNESS, as opposed to PREVENIENT GRACE, and that RIGHTEOUSNESS can only be obtianed in two different ways, either WORKING for it, as in Deuteronomy 6:25, aka Jews under the law of Moses…or…Romans 3:20…just like Abraham.
For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
So where is prevenient grace in that? It’s not there.
And in regards to miracles…
1 Corinthians 12:10
To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:
Unless, or course, you argue that there is NO SUCH THING AS GIFTS FOR TODAY, for which I would retort…
1 Corinthians 13:10
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
When the END OF THE WORLD gets here, then Jesus COMES…aka That Which is Perfect, THEN and only then will the gifts cease.
I have much more to say, but I’ll just leave it at this for the moment.
An addendum to my last…
You had said:
“You had said:
“By “opened their minds” He simply means he explained the scriptures to them. This does not mean that their minds were previously closed or resistant to truth. They just didn’t understand. They weren’t regenerated (Calvinism) and they weren’t “released from the bondage of sin” (classical Arminianism). He taught. They listened and learned. ”
I’ve noticed that Lydia has been mentioned by some here.
I think it was you that said that she was a follower of God.
I take it a BUNCH further than just that.
If you will NOTE what DAY it was when Paul encountered Lydia? It was a JEWISH Sabbath.
What was the CUSTOM of Paul regarding TO THE JEW FIRST?
When did Paul ARRIVE in town?
It was ALWAYS the custom of Paul to FIRST speak to the Jews on the Jewish Sabbath.
Conclusion: Lydia was a Jew…and as such, she was indeed blind, as I mentioned in my last comment regarding Romans 11:8 and Deuteronomy 29:4.
THE FOLLOWING IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE, because it is the EXACT OPPOSITE of Romans 11:8/Deuteronomy 29:4
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
Summary: Deuteronomy 29:4 and Romans 11:8 is for the JEWS; Romans 15:21 is for the Gentiles.
The word REGENERATE is only in MY Bible twice. It is ONLY the Jews who need to be regenerated. Not the Gentiles, as evidenced in Romans 15:21.
Lydia was a Jew.
And, I have another bone to pick with you.
I do not believe that man is ROTTEN TO THE CORE, as you do. I’ve noticed a couple of choice words that you, and others use regarding the word CORRUPT and SIN NATURE.
I oppose the word CORRUPTION because of the following:
Because thou wilt not leave my soul in hell, neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
He seeing this before spake of the resurrection of Christ, that his soul was not left in hell, neither his flesh did see corruption.
And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David.
Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.
For David, after he had served his own generation by the will of God, fell on sleep, and was laid unto his fathers, and saw corruption:
But he, whom God raised again, saw no corruption.
Corruption is discussing the DECAYING body, not related to BEHAVIOR.
In addition, we never inherited a SIN NATURE at all from Adam. The only thing we inherited from Adam was a body that dies. That’s it.
14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves:
BY NATURE they are NOT sinning.
But then again…
Romans 5:13, 4:15.
Only those UNDER THE LAW are judged BY THE LAW…
12 … as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;
So, Gentiles come from a place who were NEVER UNDER THE LAW to begin with, and even after becoming a Christian are still not under the law.
The law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. The schoolmaster reveals our sins (NOT THE HOLY SPIRIT). For BY THE LAW is the KNOWLEDGE of sin.
Yes, I know the verse that is used that God looked down and only saw mankind doing evil. So I guess when the pastor preaches on Sundays, he’s doing evil? There must be some context that we are missing, just like THERE IS NO ONE RIGHTEOUS, NO NOT ONE, and then counter that with the mom and dad of John the Baptist being RIGHTEOUS…under the law, too, I might add. So much for them filthy rags, huh?
I’ll keep this short and on topic.
My overall point is that His Jewish disciples’ minds were not “closed” because of their fallen nature. Their minds weren’t “closed” because they were totally depraved. If we want to say that the Jews were blinded by God to ensure His crucifixion, that’s fine, but it wasn’t out of depravity, but design and for the good of mankind (including those blinded).
Again, the goal of prevenient grace is to remove all resistance and overcome the noetic effects of the fall. When our Lord taught His followers the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, including the 12 apostles (Mark 4:10), that includes Judas, there was no resistance on their part. They were willing to listen and learn. Not one had been “born again” (Calvinism) nor “released from the bondage of sin” (Arminianism).
OK, I’ll buy that. We do indeed agree! And THAT explanation is indeed biblical in Romans 9. But as we both know, both the Calinists and Arminians convolute that one, too.
Speaking of Lydia, I forgot to mention something else. Peter said the following:
And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation…
So, in the place that Lydia was, on a Jewish Sabbath, and that Paul would be speaking to Jews on a Jewish Sabbath…to the Jew first…and that Jews were forbidden to KEEP COMPANY or come unto one of another natioin…
I did notice that “worshipped God” was mentioned. If you do a word search for that, “worshipped God”, there is only 2 exact phrases of that. One pertaining to Lydia, and the other:
And he departed thence, and entered into a certain man’s house, named Justus, one that worshipped God, whose house joined hard to the synagogue.
Sounds to me like Justus was a Jew?
But I’m thinking that your mind was on Cornelius, right?
Acts chapter 10 indicates twice that Cornelius FEARED God, but WORSHIPPED PETER:
25 And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him.
26 But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.
But this is what Peter told him about God:
35 But in every nation (GENTILES) he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
Then Peter preached Jesus and said the following:
43 To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.
Again, I want to stay on topic, but I will just say this.
Yes. Lydia was a Jew. The Bereans were Jews (Acts 17:11). The Ethiopian Eunuch was a Jew.
Acts 8:27-28 (NKJV)….
And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship, was returning. And sitting in his chariot, he was reading Isaiah the prophet.
He was reading the prophet of Isaiah. The Jews were entrusted with the word of God (Romans 3:2). I guess some folks think that everyone was walking around with their own Geneva Study Bibles.
Hey, we agree again! That’s twice. So…can you tell me if 1 and 2 Thessalonians was written to Gentiles, or Jews? Or were all of the NT Epistles written to Gentiles, outside of James and Hebrews? What about the Epistles of Peter?
Extra Credit: IS the primary focus of Revelation on Gentiles or Jews or both?
I ask these questions for a purpose, and that purpose is the word ELECT. My conclusion is the ONLY THE JEWS are the Elect, all because of what we both currently agree on.
The word Elect, in my study, is not a synonym for the word Christian, or Saved. Altho the Elect will be saved. But this topic is in a different thread altogether anyway.
Brother, I understand. I really do. All good questions. And I have gobs myself.
But, again, the topic of this thread is the teaching, and error, of the Arminian concept of prevenient grace.
Let’s keep it there.
Looks like I am late to the discussion. Maybe no one reads this, if so it is just an exercise in personal mediation. I am a former long time (30-year) Calvinist recently turned Arminian. I thought I was a classical/reformed Arminian but now wonder if I am better labeled a modern Arminian. Arminius was a product of the Reformation and I think that is why he spoke about regeneration before faith which his followers have interpreted to mean a partial regeneration since he also believed in resistible grace. Arminius claimed he could affirm the Belgic Confession by limiting his affirmation to what the early church taught and not adding Calvin and Beza’s version of Augustinianism. This is mere speculation but I wonder if Arminius were alive today in the context of this discussion, he might qualify his definition of regeneration to agree with modern Arminians.
I am also a Baptist and remain open minded and sympathetic to the Baptist foundation of Provisionalism. I’ve long appreciated Dr. Flower’s perspectives on the soteriology debate. I can’t help but think as one of the other commenters above, that Abasciano and Flowers agree more than they realize and are simply talking past each other. Perhaps the problem lies in their definition of the gospel. Abasciano seems to use the term in a technical sense to refer to the bare information that must be believed (1 Cor. 15:1-5). Flowers seems to use the term to refer to the entirety of the Holy Spirit’s ministry of the Word (from inspiration to proclamation to illumination to conviction). Flowers sees the bare information and the personal and active work of the Spirit as an inseparable unit, the gospel “given”.
Maybe its because of my Calvinist upbringing but I agree with Calvin that apart from the Holy Spirit the gospel is a dead letter. I also think that separation does occur in reality. The words of the gospel are not magical incantations inherently impregnated with the power of the Holy Spirit. If so, which English translation contains this power? Or do I need to recite it in original Greek? The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. The carnal mind cannot submit to the Law of God. I think Flowers and Abasciano agree that the Holy Spirit must work through the gospel for anyone to be saved. So I struggle to see the true point of disagreement.
I will go further and argue that Flowers believes in prevenient grace, he just doesn’t use the term. For example, Flowers states, “Does not the Holy Spirit still today work through all sorts of circumstances, dreams, visions, good deeds of His Bride and other various means to ensure that others hear His inspired message?” He answers his questions in the affirmative. This sure looks like prevenient grace to me. Flowers provides his own list of prevenient grace without realizing it. Certainly these things are not the gospel proper though they are part of the Holy Spirit’s work in bringing the gospel to an individual. So where’s the problem?
I don’t blame Flowers for being offended by the label semi-Pelagian. It does seem that Abasciano is the one leveling accusations and Flowers is simply responding and defending his view as he should. Despite the fact I consider myself an Arminian, I find myself mostly in agreement with Flowers. I agree the non-judicially hardened man can respond in faith to general revelation (Rom. 1:20). But this is not semi-Pelagianism because general revelation is itself a form of prevenient grace. But neither is general revelation sufficient to save. Faith comes by hearing the gospel proper, which is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe. But the salvation process involves a string of necessary prevenient acts of grace which are properly seen as separate from and prior to the gospel proper.
While I sympathize with Flowers, I do wonder why he insists so strongly on drawing a distinction with Arminianism. He suggests that it is muddying the waters of the soteriology debate by conceding the T in TULIP. But we should be concerned with what is true not with which view offers the most clear distinction to Calvinism. I also hear the Arminian concern that Provisionalism could lead to self-righteousness. But I don’t get the sense that Flowers has an “optimistic anthropology” as some suggest above. Every soteriological view has potential pitfalls to avoid. I think Flowers is careful to avoid his.
I would encourage Arminians and Provisionalists to try harder to avoid talking past one another. Despite some of the strong rhetoric above, I think Flowers and Abasciano would find it hard to disagree with each other if they just took the time to truly hear one another.
Grace and peace in Christ our Lord,
Welcome Dana! Thank you for your personal meditation. I think the more you listen to Flowers the more you’ll find that his occasional push back against “Arminianism” is exactly because it is the classical/reformed Arminianism still popular with many today that he is specifically against. He also holds to Everlasting Security, though he does not often debate that with his many Arminian friends.
Hello Dana and welcome
Wonderful comments btw!
Thanks. I appreciate knowing my comments were received. I get that he is against Total Depravity and more precisely Total Inability, but as I said in my last post, it seems he is closer to Arminian theology than he wants to admit since he concedes there is activity of the Holy Spirit prior to the formal preaching of the gospel.
Although this is probably not the best place to discuss this, since you brought it up, I am fascinated to learn more about Dr. Flower’s views on Everlasting Security. He is so thoughtful and easy to understand but I have not found a clear defense on this particular issue. As you said, he doesn’t often debate this point with Arminians. I think Arminians also avoid the debate because they want to embrace Provisionalists as Arminian-ish, under the same umbrella. I like the inclusive mentality but it’s a shame we can’t get more high quality analysis on this issue like we do on other issues like Total Depravity.
As a former Calvinist I used to love this doctrine of Everlasting Security (Perseverance of the Saints) but since leaving Calvinism, the logical necessity is gone for me. So the question for me (as it should be for everyone) is what does the Bible teach.
I would be happy to return to the Everlasting Security side as it is a comforting concept and would make things easier for me in my Baptist community. I suspect it’s a hot button subject because it offers comfort to those who struggle with sin or have loved ones who are “backslidden.” As for me, I find the warning passages too compelling to ignore. And the thought of having a false assurance scares me more than knowing I have to persevere in faith to be finally saved. Anyone who loves Jesus should not be afraid of the need to persevere unto final salvation, especially since God empowers us to be able to do so. Honestly, my change in position has not reduced my assurance of salvation since assurance is based on present fruit not a past decision. And since we all need to take our call to persevere in faith seriously, I fail to see the downside of my position. But I remain willing to change my mind again as Scripture leads.
I did listen to Dr. Flower’s interview with Dr. David Allen regarding Hebrews 6 in which Dr. Allen argues that the falling away is a loss of reward for immature believers. I see the textual connection to the preceding verses in chapter 5, but I was not satisfied with his explanation for how this fits with the farming metaphor in chapter 6 which speaks of being rejected, cursed and burned. As I recall, he may have alluded to 1 Cor. 3:15 briefly but I find it hard to press the concepts of rejection and cursing into 1 Cor. 3 which focuses more on milder concepts of revealing, testing and suffering loss. The language of Hebrews 6 comports better with 2 Tim. 2:12 which clearly states “if we deny Him, He will deny us”, as well Hebrews 10:26 “there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.”
And now that that I think about it, there is an irony in Dr. Flowers lamenting Arminians conceding the T in TULIP when he and his fellow Provisionalists concede the P. Why does this not also muddy the waters? But as I said, that should not be our focus, just what the Scripture teaches. Thanks for any guidance you can offer.
Thank you Dana for this comment.
I’ve always found it interesting to hear Calvinists (of course you are an X-Calvinist) refer to the “P” in the TULIP as reasurring.
Because the “P” in the TULIP as it currently is – I find irrational.
And I have a revised “P” which I think is much more TRUTH-TELLING
“P” Possibility of Election:
According to the underlying doctrine, an individual’s election is either infallibly/immutably true or infallibly/immutably false. And it is a logical impossibility for something that is infallibly/immutably true to ever be false. Therefore, the notion that something infallibly/immutably true needs to “Persevere” in order to keep itself from becoming false is no more rational than a married bachelor. The idea of apostasy or falling away in this context is an illusion, and the typical resolve concerning an individual in that situation, is that he was never really elect in the first place. And that individual’s perception of election and salvation as infallibly/immutably true, would have been a predestined illusion.
“P” Possibility of Election
Any human certainty of election in this lifetime is a predestined illusion. Each believer is promised only the possibility of election.
Nice to hear from you BrD. I understand your confusion about Calvinist comfort in the P of TULIP. But I think you are mischaracterizing P when you say one must persevere to keep a truth from becoming false. As a Calvinist I believed I was elect (still do but conditionally elect on the basis of my faith in Christ which admittedly sounds like doublespeak to a Calvinist) but as a Calvinist I acknowledged I could not know 100% for sure I was elect since it was possible I was deceived however remote the possibility. The remoteness helped keep that fear at bay.
I agree there is a logical inconsistency in P because I treated my responsibility to persevere as something I needed to do even though my perseverance was either guaranteed or my election was in fact an illusion and thus impossible. I was content to live with this hopeless reality without feeling hopeless by packaging the reality as a mystery. In doing so I was even able to take pride and joy in my submission to God’s transcendence, content with an imperfect assurance. I still am content with my imperfect assurance by the way.
So both Possibility or Probability could be substituted but Perseverance also works because the ultimately unknowable elect certainly will persevere whoever they are. But to your point none of these P’s offer an absolute comfort unless combined with the mystery card that ignores the logical problem you present.
I’m also content to let contented Calvinist have their mystery. It works for them. My pastoral/practical concern is that Eternal Security can lead to complacency and that does not work.
Any of that make sense?
Blessings in Christ,
Dana: Nice to hear from you BrD.
DW: yes! Nice to hear from you
Please bear with me as I answer some of your comments – and please don’t take these as me being critical of you – but rather consider it an analysis of what or me is simply rational thinking
Dana: I understand your confusion about Calvinist comfort in the P of TULIP.
DW: Actually I don’t have any confusion at all. What I clearly see is simply irrational thinking.
Dana: But I think you are mis-characterizing P when you say one must persevere to keep a truth from becoming false.
DW: Actually I’m not miss-characterizing it at all
And the clear indicator of that can be found in the simple question
What in fact needs to persevere?
As I pointed out – logic shows us – there are only two conditions:
1) If a person’s election status is infallibly TRUE – then there is nothing that needs to persevere. Because it is logically impossible for something that is infallibly TRUE to ever be compromised.
2) If a person’s election status is infallibly FALSE then there is nothing to persevere.
That is LOGIC
Dana: As a Calvinist I believed I was elect…
DW: Yes – but according to the doctrine – your belief has to also take into consideration the doctrine which stipulates the Calvinists who are divinely given a FALSE SENSE election. And the doctrine stipulates – the MANY are given a false SENSE of election – while the FEW who are not.
Dana: as a Calvinist I acknowledged I could not know 100% for sure I was elect since it was possible I was deceived however remote the possibility.
DW: Actually according to John Calvin (who was being logically consistent with the doctrine) the MANY are the ones with the remote possibility of being election – and the FEW are the ones with the possibility of being elect.
Dana: The remoteness helped keep that fear at bay.
DW: But that sense of remoteness would have in fact been a misconception of what logically follows with the doctrine.
Dana: I agree there is a logical inconsistency in P because I treated my responsibility to persevere as something I needed to do even though my perseverance was either guaranteed or my election was in fact an illusion and thus impossible.
Dana: I was content to live with this hopeless reality without feeling hopeless by packaging the reality as a mystery.
DW: Yes! Most Calvinists simply go about their office treating their election status *AS-IF* it is TRUE – even though the doctrine offers them the opposite probability.
Dana: In doing so I was even able to take pride and joy in my submission to God’s transcendence, content with an imperfect assurance. I still am content with my imperfect assurance by the way.
DW: But again – that would have been based on misconception of what logically follows with the doctrine.
Dana: So both Possibility or Probability could be substituted but Perseverance also works because the ultimately unknowable elect certainly will persevere whoever they are.
DW: But is that rational?
the critical question is – what in fact needs to persevere?
There is in fact absolutely nothing a person can do – to alter what has been FIXED by infallible decree – at the foundation of the world.
The whole idea of a Calvinist persevering is a complete non-sequitur.
Please allow yourself some time to think it through.
Sorry Dana for the delay in responding. I think Provisionists like Leighton and myself do take half of the T, the sin nature part but not the guilt or inability to respond to grace offered. And we do take half of the P, the everlasting gift of righteous indwelling life, but not the Lordship salvation guaranteed dedicated living of all those in Christ.
I have answers for all the main favorite warning passages of Armininians who try to extrapolate their meaning into the removal of everlasting life as possible, just like I have answers for all the main favorite predestination passages of Calvinists who try to extrapolate their meaning to include individual election for salvation before creation. But let me share these first thoughts –
The warnings in Hebrews are to not-yet-saved unbelievers who have had sufficient drawing to understand the gospel and may have even professed it. To understand the warning passages in Heb 6 and 10, the warning passage in 4 helps the most.
Hebrews 4:1-3 NKJV — Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you [who only profess salvation, having been enlightened and tasted of it] seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…”
Hebrews 4:11 NKJV — Let us therefore be diligent to enter [to help others who just profess salvation to enter] that rest, lest anyone fall [back into Judaism… never having been saved] according to the same example of disobedience [as unbelievers in Israel in the wilderness].
2 Corinthians 13:5 NKJV — Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified.
1 John 2:19 NKJV — They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
Matthew 7:21-23 NKJV — “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
False profession exists and must be warned against. Those warning passages in Hebrews are doing just that.
Remember too that an unbeliever can be “sanctified” (10:29) to receive blessing that may help lead them to salvation. 1 Corinthians 7:14 NKJV — For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
You wrote “And we do take half of the P, the everlasting gift of righteous indwelling life…”
I would like to understand what you mean by the everlasting gift of righteous indwelling life. Is this a specific reference to the indwelling Spirit or just salvation in general? It seems your position entails God giving us an eternal gift based on a moment in time free will decision to trust in Christ. Does this not then make continuing in that faith unnecessary? How does this fit with texts like Rom. 11:22, 1 Cor. 15:1-2 and Col. 1:23 which emphasize the need to continue in faith? I intentionally excluded references to Hebrews since you have addressed that in your last response. I have more to say on Hebrews but want to first give you an opportunity to help me gain clarity on your position regarding this first questions of mine. Here’s a second related question:
In your opening paragraph you also wrote “…but not the Lordship salvation guaranteed dedicated living of all those in Christ.”
What is your position on “Lordship” salvation? I agree with you that regeneration does not result in sinless perfection, but it does result in real change, otherwise we should question whether regeneration has actually taken place. But in your second clarifying response you talked about the:
“present tense participles defining continuing actions that the change of the new birth makes.”
This sounds like you do see salvation as a guaranteed dedicated living. I would say the new birth enables us to continue in these actions without guaranteeing that we will choose to continue in them. But your position seems to require a more certain result, similar to the Calvinist who concludes that perseverance in faith of the elect is inevitable. So to sum up these two questions, which view do you take? Is perseverance (continuing) in faith inevitable or unnecessary?
Thanks for take the time to help me understand your view better.
Dana: I would like to understand what you mean by the everlasting gift of righteous indwelling life. Is this a specific reference to the indwelling Spirit or just salvation in general?
I will engage Brian’s comments at a later reply.
Dana: And the thought of having a false assurance scares me more than knowing I have to persevere in faith to be finally saved.
Please allow my take on this issue, thanks.
It seems to me lack of assurance stems from a misunderstanding of the doctrine of sanctification, what actually amounts to “persevere in faith”, and a failure to take into account specific sins that strictly fall out of the scope of divine expiation.
There is no good biblical basis, for instance, to think that my yielding to temptation should stir the convictions towards wavering to non-assurance. If we trust the scripture, which is God’s very communicative self-presentation, the believer must contend against the incredible assurances that it does give us.
“There is now no condemnation” (Rom 8:1). “I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13). “For Sin shall have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace” (Rom 6:14).
No amount of sin can ever invalidate such assurances, provided his repentance is sincere (2 Cor 7:10; cf. Ps 51). For “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on singing because he has been born of God” (1 Jn 3:9).
The solution, therefore, as I encourage my brothers whose sin causes them to waver, is not the loss of salvation; rather, “if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”
Loosing one’s salvation is no more caused by sinning, any more than a parent severs a child caused by constant disobedience. Again, revelation provides the relevant solution: “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives…God is treating you as sons” (Heb 12:6-7).
Allowing divine speech to rule over threats of doubt leaves us no choice but to argue against such ineffable majestic promises!
However—and this is a huge HOWEVER!—on closer exegetical inspection, God does in fact warn against specific sins that can cause one to, not only forfeit their salvation, but cut oneself off to the point of no return. These particularly sins, as I see them exegetically, are apostasy and unbelief.
Apostasy, briefly, is a decisive, calculated, deliberate, willful, total, and final public denunciation of Christ and his sacrifice that can be committed by the regenerate! Apostasy does not occur, say, when I lie; or cheat; or steal; or even murder; no. Rather, it is, utterly and unmistakably, intentional. When questioned upon the nature of such wavering, it turns out that such doubts no where resemble anything approaching apostasy. Ultimately, this is the working definition presupposed throughout Hebrews. It’s laughable to think Hebrews intends to communicate lack of rewards. The language of judgment does not comport.
Paul warns in Rom 11:16-24 that reverting to unbelief can indeed cut one off the sphere of the people of God, but is not eternally condemnable. For, “God has the power to graft them in again” (v. 23). So perhaps from among those who experience the dark knight of assurance, seems likely that tinkering with “unbelief”—or as popularly known across the social media spectrum as, the deconstruction of faith—is the targeted sin that puts one on the edge of being “cut off”, though perhaps temporarily.
Depending on the nature of such doubts, we can put our finger of which case outlined above, comports with a specific category of sin. Ask yourself, is the nature of your doubts such that, you think about willfully rejecting Christ?
There is another type of sin such that, once committed, hits a point of no return; namely, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. However, I. hold to the variety that such sin is uncommitable post-crucifixion given the specified nature of the circumstances. That is to say, the impossibility of reenacting the Pharisaic confrontations with the historic Christ in bodily form,as portrayed in the gospel accounts. So I’ll say nothing more about it.
It stands to reason, then, whenever anyone says you cannot loose your salvation, the assumption behind the proposition has in mind a type of assurance against any and all sin for which propitiation has been made. To which I respond, “That is absolutely correct! You cannot loose your salvation by sinning. But the perenetic sections in the NT does in fact demonstrate that quite spectacular specified types of sin, namely apostasy and unbelief, do in fact threaten to cut themselves from the Christological sphere of eternal life.
But keep in mind that it is eternal life that is dispossessed, not the nature of the possession—another crucial distinction that unhooks the Calvinist’s confusion of the nature of “eternal”.
Essentially, absent worries of apostasy and unbelief, we can celebrate the invitation to “draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb 4:16).
I subscribe to philosophical/exegetical classical Arminianism. We understand that “faith” is the instrumental means by which we persevere. It is through our willing and agency that we exercise three aspects of faith to persevere, namely, fiducia, noticia, and assensus.
Yes, salvation is conditional: “by which you are saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain” (1 Cor 15:1-2). And we’re also commanded to “build yourselves up in your most holy faith….keep yourselves in the love of God” (Jude 1:20-21). Yet, contextually, Jude also affirms, “Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy” (v. 24). So it’s not solely a unilateral divine action at work on the soteriological spectrum. Rather, it is both/and. Jude is perhaps the closest contextual evidence we have to soteriological synergism in virtue of the inspired apostle himself. Yet such synergism doesn’t smack of any hint of merit. To toss such a charge is to question the inspired text.
What cripples, I think, assurance is the joint proposition of Augustianian predestinarianism, and the epistemic chasm that ravages the believer between his faith and God’s decree. For instance, when the text says “that you may know you have eternal life”, the Calvinist can’t bridge this epistemic gap without pretending to know more than what God’s secret decree allows. The puritans tried to bridge this gap by way of logically deduction, but the result was they ditched their Reformed thinking. Here’s an example:
P1: If effectual grace is manifested in me by good works, then I am elect.
P2: I manifest good works.
C1: Therefore, I am one of the elect.
So the question to ask here is: But how do you know P2 is true for you?
I just thought to throw a bone against the notion that “perseverance” brings any sort of comfort. And, btw, perseverance is a misnomer, it seems to be more accurately a matter of preservation.
A good reason, I think, Flowers’ and co., do not defend this is because, when philosophically pressed, they’ll end up inescapably defending the very decreedal determinism they reject.
Very thoughtful post A.B.
From my point of view – there is an assurance for the believer – which the believer can have reliance upon – as apposed what one finds with Exhaustive Divine Determinism – simply because with EDD – the creature has no assurance of the reliability of his perceptions.
Since on EDD
1) An external mind (a THEOS) determines whatsoever “perceptions” will come to pass within the human brain
2) That external mind determines the believer to have FALSE perceptions which are infallibly decreed to be perceived as TRUE
3) The function of choice is non-existent – because only one single option is ever made available to the creature. And the creature is given no choice as to what that option will be – and no choice to refrain from that one option.
4) Thus on Determinism – it logically follows – the creature is not granted the function of choosing between TRUE and FALSE on any matter.
5) Accordingly the creature is not granted the function of discerning TRUE from FALSE on any proposition
6) Accordingly the creature has no assurance in the reliability of his own perceptions
When we remove (1-6) above – it seems to me – we are left with a THEOS who does grant humans the Liberty of discerning TRUE from FALSE – and grants humans tools for the discovery of TRUE from FALSE
Therefore – on that basis the believer can read scripture and understand the boundaries and requirements expressed within scripture for what it describes in 2nd Peter 1:10 “give diligence to make your calling and election sure”
Where the Calvinist – in order to adopt that verse to himself – is forced to deny the foundational core of his own doctrine.
And in the process of doing that – his mind has to learn how to be DOUBLE-MINDED without cognition of it.
Thank A.B. I agree with almost all of what you wrote, which is why I now call myself a classical Arminian like you. Whether I am better classified as “modern” like Abasciano or “classical” is still unclear to me. I do agree with Abasciano on corporate election.
I appreciate your pastoral concern for me and agree with the counsel you offer, but I think you may have misunderstood my statement you quoted at the beginning of your reply. I said, “…And the thought of having a false assurance scares me more than knowing I have to persevere in faith to be finally saved.”
I did not mean to imply by that statement that I actually harbored significant doubts that my salvation was in fact genuine. I am (99.9%) confident that my assurance of salvation is justified and not false. I don’t lose any sleep at night over it but I think I have a healthy fear of the 0.1% possibility and it is this healthy fear in part that keeps me grounded and not overconfident in my self-assessment.
In the quoted statement, I was using the language of comparison to argue that between the two possible things to worry about, a false assurance is far more dangerous than a reality in which perseverance in faith is not inevitable or guaranteed. But I’m thinking the Provisionalist position may be that perseverance is unnecessary, which concerns me as the most dangerous of the three options: conditional synergistic perseverance (my position), inevitable perseverance of the elect (Calvinism), unnecessary perseverance (Provisionalism?). I hope I am mistaken about Provisionalism.
Other than that clarification, the only pushback I will offer to your response is that I see unbelief as the only cause of forfeiture of eternal life. Apostasy is a symptom of unbelief so it is evidence of forfeiture of eternal life. When the prodigal left his father, he forfeited the blessing and benefits of sonship (eternal life). When he returned in desperation, he had no moral grounds to demand restoration, so he planned to humble himself to beg for mere servant status, which was in itself undeserved since his apostasy was so complete. Yet the father welcomed him back and restored his full status as son as an act of pure scandalous grace. What a savior! Truly we have no other that saves like this!
No sin we commit directly cause us to forfeit eternal life. But unchecked sin is the path toward unbelief. That’s why Paul warns believers in Romans 6:23 that the wages of sin is death! We don’t earn our salvation by avoiding sin, we avoid the dangers that come from sin like a root of bitterness and the enslaving effects of sin by resisting the temptation to give ourselves over totally to sin’s dominion.
But I came to this site because I am interested in learning more about the Provisionalist perspective on things. I would encourage you to watch the interview by Flowers with Allen on Hebrews 6 before dismissing it as laughable. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qsjv4lx991s But I share your same concerns. It seems Brian does not agree with Dr. Allen that Hebrews 6 speaks of loss of reward, so I still have more questions for Brian which I hope he can clarify after he has a chance to reply to my last post. Stay tuned!
Thank you Dana for your thoughtful reply and questions. The new birth changes one’s faith into a new ending faith that Jesus is the Christ. The person never thirsts again because of the indwelling Spirit that never leaves (John 4:14).
There is nectar of the new birth an intentional practice of righteousness especially when God’s promised discipline kicks in, though there may be often familiar and long time immaturity. There is no intentional practice of evil, though there may be often falling into sins of the flesh. There is no hatred of believers or live for the world in their inner man… and they always know it.
Lordship salvation is a false gospel that tries to add Rom 12:1 dedication as a prerequisite to receiving the new birth or for recognition of the new birth’s existence.
The first class conditions of 1Cor 15:1-2 and Col 1-23 are descriptions of already being in Christ by faith that is changed by the new birth, those verses are not warnings against attaining some future salvation. Rom 11:22 is not about individuals as branches. I have much more to share on each of these passages, but that is my general response.
Typing with my thumbs so I will make this brief. Did you mean to say the new birth changes one’s faith into a (never?) ending faith…? Do you have a verse to support this idea of a changing faith?
What do you mean by nectar of the new birth? A faint almost unrecognizable seed of future fruit? Your descriptions seem conflicted: intentional practice of righteousness contrasts with often familiar and long time immaturity. No intentional practice of evil but often (unintentionally?) falling into sin. Yet no hatred of believers or (love?) for the world. This description of the born again believer is confusing.
What do you mean “…and they always know it.” Know what? That they are saved even though they are not maturing in faith and frequently sin unintentionally?
I agree Romans 12:1 dedication is not presented as a condition for regeneration. But it is presented as an expectation for those who would claim to serve and worship God. If someone fails to do this is it not an indication of spiritual deadness?
You have not answered my main question directly. Is perseverance in faith unnecessary for final salvation?
Dana, the new birth is all that is necessary for final salvation. The fruit of constant faith that Jesus is the Christ is one of the fruits of the new birth (1John 5:1, Phil 1:29). And, yes, they always know it.
Yes they also know they are being divinely disciplined towards dedication (Rom 12:1), and they constantly regret their failures/sins of the flesh.
Sorry my explanation is confusing. It’s probably the best I can do. 😉
You replied, “…the new birth is all that is necessary for final salvation. The fruit of constant faith that Jesus is the Christ is one of the fruits of the new birth (1John 5:1, Phil 1:29).”
I believe an abiding continuing faith in Jesus Christ is the only necessary condition for salvation both present and final (John 15:1-8). It is not enough simply to believe factually that Jesus is the Christ (King). We must receive Him and believe in His name (John 1:12) to become a child of God (13). As I’m sure you would agree, this reception and belief is more than mere intellectual ascent. It is a full surrender to the fact that as the Christ, Jesus is the promised King to whom we owe our allegiance and devotion. And that devoted surrender is seen by our ongoing efforts to obey his commands. If we say we have come to know him and yet do not keep his commandments, then we are a liar and the truth is not in us (1 John 2:4). James explains that our faith without works is a dead faith, that is not a real saving faith.
You seem to agree that true and genuine faith which produces the new birth will in turn bear the fruit of continuing everlasting faith. You would probably argue that a profession which does not continue to believe, never truly believed in the first place. Regardless whether that is true or not, we should be able to agree that continuing faith is necessary for final salvation. So why not answer my question in the affirmative: Is perseverance in faith necessary for final salvation? Yes!
Your hesitancy to affirm this statement concerns me that you are holding onto a belief that one can be genuinely born again and yet not persevere in faith. Or you believe that faith is not evidenced by obedience. You seem to believe that we can not mature, not remain devoted to Christ, not obey his commands, not continue to abide in relationship with him and yet still be assured of our salvation. I am not suggesting that true believers never sin or abide in these things perfectly. That would make me a liar (1 John 1:8). I agree with you that one of the marks of genuine faith is conviction (regret) of our remaining struggles with sin. As one of my former pastors liked to say, “believers lapse into sin and loath it, unbelievers leap into sin and love it.”
But neither do believers lapse into sin and dismiss it as inconsequential. You are not saying that sin is inconsequential but I fear your unwillingness to affirm the necessity of perseverance, logically leads to the conclusion that the fruits of faith (repentance, obedience, fellowship, love) are also unnecessary, that faith can exists without this fruit. I’m not sure what fruit you consider a necessary evidence of genuine faith. You mentioned faith has a “nectar” but didn’t offer examples to help me understand what that means. You mentioned the saved person “constantly regret their failures/sins of the flesh.” So the evidence of being born again is not victory of sin but merely regretting our constant failures? That’s the proof we are saved?
Did you intend to offer 1 John 5:1 and Phil 1:29 as scriptural evidence for your assertion that “the new birth changes our faith into a never ending faith”? These texts don’t say that. 1 John 5:1 could be used to argue that those who are begotten (born again) will infallibly believe. But I would expect a Calvinist to make that argument, which you are not. Anyway, the verb “believe” is a present participle describing a present ongoing action. So I think it is better to understand the this verse as “those who are presently believing are doing so because they were previously born again.” This is not the same as saying that their faith is infallible.
I don’t see the connection of Phil. 1:29 to your point. In fact, verses 27-28 suggest that the proof of salvation is not that you believe but that your conduct is worthy of the gospel, that you stand in one spirit with your brothers in Christ and strive together for the faith of the gospel! The evidence of our faith is not that we once believed and are therefore granted an “everlasting faith” but rather the evidence is that we are living out that faith in obedience. Short of that evidence, why should we have assurance of genuine faith?
I am trying to imagine Jesus describing your view of salvation to his disciples. Please don’t take offense to this paragraph. It is a description of my understanding of your view in the spirit of communication so you can help correct and fill in what is missing in my understanding of your view: It would seem you imagine Jesus saying, “Come and believe in me. If you do initially make that decision, then I will cause you to be born again in such a way that you will irresistibly continue to believe in me without fail, even though you may not actually follow me. I want you to follow me and if you don’t my Father will chasten you, but even if you never grow or follow me, you will still be saved because of that one time faith decision you made way back when. Why is that? Because when you first believed, I changed your fallible faith into an everlasting faith. Now that faith won’t necessarily produce very much fruit, though there should be at least a slight hint of the “nectar” of potential fruit. But practically speaking, the fruit of your everlasting faith may be largely undetectable. Yet despite this minimal fruitfulness, you will somehow know for certain that your faith is genuine anyway. How? Just continue to trust in my promise that I already gave you this everlasting faith even when you are not producing fruit. The important thing is that at one time in your life you sincerely believed. Just trust in that memory despite any present evidence to the contrary. Unless of course your past memory was a deception. The way you tell whether your faith was indeed genuine is by the present yet potentially undetectable fruit of everlasting faith. If that makes you nervous then just trust again in my promise to give you an everlasting faith and leave it at that.”
I’m sure that’s not how you would word it, but can you see why with this perception of your view, I am having a hard time believing your view is consistent with the message of the bible? Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” (Matt. 16:24-25). Jesus demands full commitment and obedience of his disciples. Some try to argue that you can be saved but not a disciple. I can’t find that notion in Scripture. Maybe you can point it out for me?
Thank you Dana for your lengthy reply and for trying to understand. We will continue to disagree on what causes final salvation. Our works do not, nor does a decision to serve Jesus as Lord. Only the new birth causes the initial and middle and final salvation. The fruits of the new birth will guarantee a constant hatred for sin, a constant belief that Jesus is the only Savior, and will guarantee a constant disciplining to drag us towards a needed decision of Lordship service. That discipline will produce fruit of righteousness even if in the midst of immature fleshly failure.
Calls to discipleship in the Gospel are not calls to salvation they are calls to Rom 12:1 dedication. Yes, you can be saved and not dedicated, but you can’t be truly dedicated and not saved.
I’ve nothing more to add. Blessings.
I think you are conflating the means of salvation with the assurance of salvation. I’m not saying our fruitful devotion “causes” our final salvation. I am saying that fruitfulness is the evidence that we are presently saved and thus on the path toward final salvation. Do you see the distinction?
We have assurance of salvation while we are believing (present participle) in Christ. The way we know that we are truly believing is by seeing the fruit of the new birth. If you say that you are presently believing in Christ but not abiding, loving, living for Christ, what reason is there to believe your profession is genuine? A hatred of sin? That’s one indication, but an unbeliever can have a worldly sorrow, regret over their sin without true repentance. True assurance needs more than a faith profession and a feeling of guilt over sin. I fear you are encouraging those not presently saved to believe they are saved despite the evidence to the contrary.
I sense you are not interested in continuing this conversation. Is that because you feel I am not listening to you? I’m trying. I was hoping to gain an understanding of Provisionalist eternal security but the more I learn the further I am from accepting it. Perhaps like my initial comment (Flowers and Abasciano talking past each other) applies to our discussion too, but it seems there is a more fundamental disagreement. But even if that is the case, I would like to more clearly define that difference. You have attempted to summarize it but I am pushing back. Perhaps if you don’t feel you can continue the discussion someone else will help. Thanks for your time.
Dana, Let me confirm again that I am thankful you read want I have written. I think you understand it. We actually do agree on alot. There will be fruit from the new birth, more than just a remorse for sin and a certitude that Jesus is the Christ. I mentioned that God’s discipline produces fruit.
Assurance starts at the new birth, but it will falter
often while the new believer stays immature. And then there are those not yet saved who have a false assurance. Only dedication (Rom 12:1) brings the submission to God’s Lordship, and a maturity of full assurance as the believer sees God produce mature fruit.
But then there are those not yet dedicated, who think they are dedicated, who try to gain assurance by a self discipline of Christian habits, and they can even gain a pretty confident false assurance (like Pharisees). But their outward good works are not fruits from the new birth or from a true dedication which produces an assurance that all the fruit was produced by God.
But true salvation cannot be lost once the new birth takes place… and growth to maturity and full assurance will be a different rates for different believers.
Thanks for the additional comments and clarifications. They help a lot and I agree with you that we agree on a lot. I think we have established that you affirm the true believer will bear fruit. My concern is how that impacts our Christian living and counsel toward others. For example, I would counsel a person who professes faith in Christ but does not bear fruit to make their calling and election sure rather than finding assurance in their presently fruitless life. How about you? Whether they were saved at one time or just falsely assured like the Pharisees, makes no practical difference to me. We should agree that the one who professes faith in Christ but bears no fruit has no just cause for assurance of salvation.
Then there are those who profess faith in Christ and have limited present fruitfulness. In those cases we could point to the limited fruit as evidence of genuine faith but the level of assurance in that case will be less than one who bears much fruit. I agree with you that “growth to maturity and full assurance will be at different rates for different believers.”
So, to circle back to the main question at hand, if bearing fruit is an inevitable result of true faith and if it is impossible for one with true faith to permanently fall away from said faith, wouldn’t it follow then that you believe perseverance in faith is inevitable rather than unnecessary? I still have not heard a clear affirmation of this position. I hope you do because the alternate position (perseverance is unnecessary) is far more troubling to me. At one point in our discussion that is where you seemed to be headed.
In the spirit of showing all my cards, let me explain that if you affirm inevitable perseverance, my follow up question will be this: If perseverance in faith is evitable, does this not encourage complacency in the heart of the believer? If I bore genuine fruit at one time in my life then it follows I can be assured that my present lack of fruitfulness is merely backsliding and regression in maturity. I need not fear that I am still lost in my sins. I can trust in my past fruitfulness as sufficient evidence of my salvation. I need not continue in faith to maintain my assurance. Assuming you affirm the inevitability of perseverance, how do you avoid complacency over present unfruitfulness?
Thanks for persevering with me!
Dana, I hope my persevering with you will produce some good fruit. But it’s God’s fruit that He produces that really matters. The threat of having salvation taken away by the Father from His child is not Scriptural, not helpful, harmful, and not needed to keep a true believer from becoming complacent in their continued falling into sin.
Remember that the fruit of their hatred for sin also continues and God’s loving but painful discipline will also continue, and it not only produce good fruit, but it will be the deterrent from being complacent.
Yes, if a professing believer is not hating sin and not seeing God’s painful discipline in their lives, they should doubt their salvation.
And yes everyone should make their calling and election sure, which does not mean gaining or preserving salvation or taking it from being able to be forfeited to not being able to be forfeited.
Making one’s calling and election sure is about getting full assurance of the faith that cannot be lost, which full assurance is gained, not through works of righteousness, or fruit one can try to produce themselves, but through personal examination that one’s trust is only in Jesus to remove sins, and through personal observation of the fruit He produces as one keeps their eyes on Him.
You said “making [one’s] calling and election sure…does not mean gaining or preserving salvation…” I agree. When people use the term “preservation” in the context of this discussion, they do not mean that the individual preserves their own salvation by making their calling and election sure. They mean that God preserves there salvation. I agree with this understanding of the word though by my understanding, preservation is not irresistible. God gives us all we need to persevere, but he does not guarantee our perseverance. A guarantee would logically lead to complacency which I believe is why you don’t find such language in Scripture.
Some may point to Eph. 1:14 which describes the Holy Spirit as “the guarantee of our inheritance” but the word translated guarantee means “down payment”. Down payments do provide confidence to the seller but they do not guarantee a closing.
Others point to Phil. 1:6 where Paul says he is confident that “he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.” But this “confidence” Paul possessed is the same confidence he expresses in v. 25 regarding his future ministry. This is not an expression of guarantee but rather simply an expression of confidence as the translation suggests. You don’t need a guarantee to feel safe and confident and assured that you will persevere until the day of Christ Jesus when our salvation finally becomes guaranteed and permanent.
As for the Father threatening to take salvation away from his children not being Scriptural, that is the very nature of our debate so you are simply begging the question. I believe the many warning passages are the very Scriptural evidence you claim do not exist. They are written to believers to warn us of what can happen if we neglect to heed the warning. Take 2 Timothy 2:12 for example. “If we deny Him, He will deny us.” Paul is addressing Timothy and himself in affirming this “faithful saying” as applicable to true believers like Paul and Timothy. The same group that died with Him and lives with Him is also warned that if they deny Him they will yet be denied. This is in the context of obtaining the salvation which is in Christ Jesus (vs. 10). So in context, they are potentially denied salvation.
Of course if you insist these warnings are only to false believers, then you can preserve your assertion, but I challenge you to establish that exegetically rather than simply starting with the assumption and begging the question. I’d love to hear your textual reasons for why this warning does not apply to Paul and Timothy.
Peace to you,
Please, Dana, let me bow out of this conversation. I will make some final comments, and you can add yours. But I won’t answer any more questions. If you want my exposition of specific passages you can email me – firstname.lastname@example.org. But I guarantee you I won’t change my mind on the everlasting nature of salvation promised in the new birth.
You haven’t really responded yet on my repeated comments about God’s loving fruitbearing discipline guaranteed to all His children. You don’t see the contradiction of saying God preserves salvation but we are responsible for it being preserved, somehow convincing God to keep the promise He makes unconditionally to His children.
The word in Eph 1:4 actually means “pledge”. God never goes back on a pledge. John 4:14 says “will never thirst”. That is an unconditional promise. 1Cor 1:8 is also an unconditional promise to “confirm you to the end”.
As for 2Tim 2:13, the parallelism in these last four statements make me see this all as a warning and not including a positive promise.
(2Ti 2:12-13 NKJV)
… If we deny Him, He also will deny us.
If we are faithless, He remains faithful [consistent and just];
He cannot deny Himself [judgment will fall on the deniers].
But I don’t take the “we” or “us” to mean only those who are truly born again, but also includes those who profess to be or even need to be. So the warning here is for those who profess but who are not yet saved and may still publicly deny the Lord, or a public warning to the lost, like a preacher uses the rhetorical general “we”.
The context supports this idea of a false profession being among God’s people (vs. 10, 17, 19) and it ends with trying to appeal to those in this group who may be trapped by Satan who need repentance (vs 24-26).
Of course you can bow out of the conversation. I appreciate your time and response as I try to understand your position. It may appear that my objective has been to convince you to change your mind but that is not the case. By pushing back on your assertions and offering counter arguments, I am testing the validity of both our views. I think it is unhealthy to assume that we will never change our mind on a doctrine that is so firmly contested by godly people on both sides of a debate. I would encourage you to be open minded going forward.
The Word of God is our authority, not our doctrinal commitments.
I’ve enjoyed our exchange and I hope you have too. I do have some practical concerns regarding the effects of your view but I trust by God’s grace you can avoid those pitfalls of complacency and misplaced assurance.
I’m sorry I did not respond to your repeated comments regarding “God’s loving fruitbearing discipline”. I assume you are referring to Hebrews 12 and the peaceable fruit of righteousness which God’s discipline is intended to produce in his children’s lives. I think we would agree that God will discipline those he loves as needed and that a lack of discipline when we sin indicates we are illegitimate children (not saved). And I do believe all believers struggle with sin. So discipline is a guarantee in a sense for true believers but the fruit it produces is not. Just as a father disciplines his child and the child remains free to respond properly or not, so we remain free to reject God’s discipline and forfeit the peaceable fruit it can produce. But we have already established that genuine faith will produce fruit and varying speeds of maturity. So I don’t see how the fruit produced by God’s discipline contributes to the main question of whether perseverance of the true believer is inevitable, unless you see the fruit of discipline as an inevitable fruit. If so, then I guess we will just have to disagree as you are choosing not to continue this conversation.
I agree, “pledge” is another meaning of the word translated “guarantee” in Eph. 1:14 (NKJV), but the word has a monetary connotation. A pledge or earnest was a down payment intended to offer assurance that the party making the assurance could be trusted to show up at the closing ready to complete the transaction. It is not a pledge in the same sense we use the word today, a solemn vow, though there is certainly similarity to the monetary term. I certainly agree that God will never go back on his promises and commitments. When a believer falls away from saving faith and forfeits their salvation, God has not failed or gone back on his promise, the apostate (now unbelieving) individual is the one who has gone back and left the faith they once held. God always shows up at the closing. They question is will we? Thankfully God helps us to persevere so we can have confidence and assurance that we will indeed persevere to the end, even if not an absolute guarantee.
I can see why you see John 4:14 as evidence of a permanent change upon conversion. The woman is invited to ask for living water and if she does, Jesus says the water he will give will become in her a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life. I admit it would be reasonable to assume here that Jesus is offering a permanent change which guarantees perpetual thirst quenching water established by her one time request. So I agree this text is supportive of your view but I don’t think it is enough to settle the matter. We need to reconcile this concept with the many passages which speak of ongoing (present participle) faith as the condition for salvation (e.g., John 3:16). I believe this is best resolved by understanding the fountain of water remaining available to her as long as she continues to ask for it by continuing to abide and rest in a saving faith relationship with Christ the giver of the living water. Once we are in Christ, we need never thirst again for He is the source of that water. But if we remove ourselves from this saving relationship through our free and willful rejection of Christ, then we remove ourselves from access to this water and will indeed thirst again. That is not Jesus’ point in this text, but his message does not rule that out.
1 Cor. 1:8 is written concerning those who are “eagerly awaiting” (present participle) the return of Christ (v. 7). So in context, if you continue to eagerly await Christ (an expression of genuine faith) then God will preserve you blameless to the end. But if you stop eagerly awaiting, this is an indication of unbelief, and if you do not believe then you are not presently saved and unless you repent and return to Christ in faith, you will not be preserved blameless at the revelation (return) of Christ.
I’m glad we agree that 2 Tim. 2:12-13 is a warning to believers. I don’t have a problem conceding that unbelievers are also in mind, but it seems to be a case of special pleading to argue that the good (living, enduring, reigning) applies to the believers in the group while the bad (denying) applies only to false believers. If Paul believes that the warning does not apply to him or Timothy, it would be inappropriate for him to use the plural pronoun even in a general rhetorical sense. Paul could rightly use the pronoun “we” even if he is supremely confident that he is not going to deny Christ, so long as it remains at least a remote possibility. He could even use it in a hypothetical sense but this would be misleading so I am skeptical of hypothetical explanations. If Paul believes he and Timothy are truly exempt, he should have made that clear to avoid being misunderstood. Instead Paul seems comfortable including himself and Timothy in the warning.
The contextual references you make describe Paul’s concern that in failing to remember (v. 14), be diligent (v. 15) and shun (v. 16), there is a danger that some will stray from the truth and have their faith overthrow (v. 18). Surely some of these folks Paul speaks of are not genuine believers but Paul’s concern is not that these false believers would stray from the truth or overthrow their own false faith but rather that these false believers would lead genuine believers to do just that. You can’t stray from or overthrow something you do not possess. A plain reading of this text suggests there is a real danger for genuine believers that Timothy needs to guard and protect his flock against. My prayer is that we too would take these warnings seriously as they are intended.
Thank you once again for your time.
Regarding the Lordship salvation/necessity of works debate, I find Article 24 of the Belgic confession to be helpful. As I mentioned in my initial post, Arminius affirmed the Belgic confession and neither he nor the early Remonstrants took a firm position on the question of eternal security (perseverance and preservation of the saints). While the Belgic confession does not take a definitive position on perseverance, this article does seem to suggest a certainty of perseverance consistent with the inevitable perseverance view we are discussing. Nevertheless, Arminius’ willingness to remain neutral on the subject supports my claim that the confession is likewise inconclusive. But the confession does offer a clear and helpful explanation for the relationship between faith and works that I affirm. As Baptists we tend to pride ourselves on not being beholden to the confessions but they can be quite helpful as in this case. Here it is:
We believe that this true faith, being wrought in man by the hearing of the Word of God and the operation of the Holy Ghost (1 Peter 1:23; Rom. 10:17; John 5:24), doth regenerate and make him a new man, causing him to live a new life (1 Thess. 1:5; Rom. 8:15; John 6:29; Col. 2:12; Phil. 1:1, 29; Eph. 2:8) and freeing him from the bondage of sin (Acts 15:9; Rom. 6:4, 22; Titus 2:12; John 8:36). Therefore it is so far from being true that this justifying faith makes men remiss in a pious and holy life (Titus 2:12), that on the contrary without it they would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation. Therefore it is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man; for we do not speak of a vain faith (Titus 3:8; John 15:5; Heb. 11:6; 1 Tim. 1:5), but of such a faith as is called in Scripture a faith that worketh by love (1 Tim. 1:5; Gal. 5:6; Titus 3:8), which excites man to the practice of those works which God has commanded in His Word. Which works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God, forasmuch as they are all sanctified by His grace; howbeit they are of no account towards our justification (2 Tim. 1:9; Rom. 9:32; Titus 3:5). For it is by faith in Christ that we are justified, even before we do good works (Rom. 4:4; Gen. 4:4); otherwise they could not be good works, any more than the fruit of a tree can be good before the tree itself is good (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 14:23; Gen. 4:4; Matt. 7:17). Therefore we do good works, but not to merit by them (for what can we merit?)—nay, we are beholden to God for the good works we do and not He to us (1 Cor. 4:7; Isa. 26:12; Gal. 3:5; 1 Thess. 2:13), since it is He that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Phil. 2:13). Let us therefore attend to what is written: “When ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say we are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.” (Luke 17:10) In the meantime we do not deny that God rewards our good works, but it is through His grace that He crowns His gifts (Matt. 10:42; 25:34–35; Rev. 3:12, 21; Rom. 2:6; Rev. 2:11; 2 John 8; Rom. 11:6). Moreover, though we do good works, we do not found our salvation upon them (Eph. 2:9–10); for we can do no work but what is polluted by our flesh, and also punishable (Isa. 64:6); and although we could perform such works, still the remembrance of one sin is sufficient to make God reject them. Thus, then, we would always be in doubt, tossed to and fro without any certainty, and our poor consciences would be continually vexed if they relied not on the merits of the suffering and death of our Savior (Isa. 28:16; Rom. 10:11; Hab. 2:4).
I think this provides a good description of the proper balance between faith and works and guards well against any notion of complacency. I have no practical issue with one who holds to eternal security while maintaining such commitment to the necessity of works as duty rather than the basis of our justification.
I also noticed while reading this that this “pre-Calvinist” confession contradicts the Calvinist ordo salutis. Clearly the “pre-Calvinists” believed regeneration was the result of faith not the other way around. I think you and I agree on this as well.
Peace to you,
Thanks again for the follow up. Though I suspect you will disagree, I think there is still a problem with how you frame the critical question: What in fact needs to persevere? The elect don’t “need” to persevere, the elect “will” persevere. It is simply a presumed fact not a question. The critical question we are discussing is whether this fact offers any true comfort to an individual. It was my statement that as a Calvinist I found comfort in the P of TULIP that prompted this dialogue.
I agree with you there is a logical problem, but my testimony as a former Calvinist is that the logical problem is solved practically by ignoring the logic and appealing to mystery. That is not a satisfying answer for you but it is for many Calvinists. To use a Matrix metaphor, you can’t force someone to take the red pill and if you care about people, you should at least understand the appeal of the blue pill. You have to wait until someone wants answers. I was content with my comforting blue pill of mystery for many many years. It wasn’t appeals to logic that opened my eyes, it was sound exegesis of my proof texts that did it. That is because my epistemology was firmly rooted in the authority of Scripture. I loved Scripture more than my doctrine. My willingness to admit that I and my spiritual fathers were wrong is evidential.
I am not familiar with Calvin’s claims that the deceived are many while the true elect are few. Certainly the number of unbelievers greatly outnumbers the number of believers (Matt. 7:13-14). But you are saying Calvin believed the number who think they are elect but are not also greatly outnumbers those who are in fact elect. Jesus does describe these false believers in Matt. 7:22 as “many” but I’m not sure He meant that the number of false believers would actually outnumber the true elect. But even if that is true, my own experience was not shaken by those statistical probabilities. Perhaps inherent in our remaining corruption is a narcissistic tendency to believe, even against the laws of probability that we are the exception to the rule. Now that I think about it, as a Calvinist I didn’t even have room in my vocabulary for probability. Probability was an illusion too, but I tried not to dwell on that thought too long either and would quickly retreat back to my fortress of mystery.
In any case, I praise God my eyes are open to the truth that there is truly hope for every one of God’s creatures. Yes, we must persevere, but perseverance is possible, even probable, even sure (in a conditional sense) if we simply surrender to God’s grace, put our hand to the plow and don’t look back.
Peace to you,
Dana: The elect “will” persevere.
DW: Ok – the elect will persevere from what?
The elect will persevere in faith.
Dana: The elect will persevere in faith.
DW: So it is the “Faith” of the elect that will persevere?
Faith is not a person so faith doesn’t literally persevere. It is the elect person who perseveres in faith (i.e. continues to believe and trust in Christ). If you are speaking anthropomorphically, I guess you could say that their Faith perseveres, but that is not what I said. I said the elect will persevere in faith. As a Calvinists I understood that if I were indeed elect, then I would infallibly persevere, that is, continue to believe and trust in Christ as evidenced by my continued obedience to Christ.
Dana: Faith is not a person so faith doesn’t literally persevere. It is the elect person who perseveres in faith
DW: But in Calvinism “Faith” is a gift that must be given to the person…….because it is otherwise something the person does not have – correct?
Correct. Not sure where you are leading me with theses questions so let me elaborate to perhaps cut to the chase:
In Calvinism, faith is a gift given irresistibly to the elect, albeit in an indirect fashion. It cannot be refused because the elect are given a new heart (a la Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Hebrews) that infallibly wants to believe/have faith/trust in Christ. We are “free” in a compatibilist/determinist sense to “choose what we want,” but it is God who determines (by pretemporal decree) our nature and thus what we will want to choose in time. I no longer see a distinction between this view and God simply determining our choices or choosing for us. As a Calvinist I did not have a clear solution for this problem so I simply appealed to mystery.
So applying this to our discussion, I think its fair to say that in Calvinism, perseverance is also a gift given irresistibly to the elect. So I could expand my statement to say, the elect will infallibly persevere in the faith they are irresistibly given from start to finish. This is why the doctrine of perseverance or eternal security fits better with Calvinism than with non-Calvinism, IMO. The irresistibility thread is more consistent (though flawed) in the Calvinist model than in the Provisionalist model.
Dana: Correct….In Calvinism, faith is a gift given irresistibly to the elect….It cannot be refused…
DW: Ok we have 3 categories of persons
We have the elect believer
With the elect believer – we have a gift of “Faith” which is something the person does not otherwise have.
We would obviously call this a “TRUE” “Faith” …..right?
But we also have 2 other categories of persons:
– The non-elect Calvinist believer
– The non-elect non-believer
In your mind – what gift is given or not-given to these other 2 categories of persons?
In my mind there is not a meaningful distinction between non-elect Calvinist “believers” and non-elect unbelievers. They are both non-believers because they both lack saving faith in Christ. But assuming you mean “believers” as in mere intellectual assent, what about non-elect non-Calvinist “believers”? Shouldn’t they get their own category too if there is in fact a distinction between types of non-elect people?
But to answer your question, in the Calvinist mind, every permutation of the non-elect receive some gifts of common grace but they are all denied both an atonement and the gift of regeneration which infallibly produces faith (true believing). So indirectly, the two categories you mention are both denied the gift of faith as a consequence of their non-elect status, since according to Calvinism, election determines whether one will in time receive the grace gift of regeneration, which produces the gift of faith.
DW: Thanks Dana
Dana: In my mind there is not a meaningful distinction between non-elect Calvinist “believers” and non-elect unbelievers.
DW: The distinction is however meaningful to every Calvinist simply by perception.
Every Calvinist is given a gift of perception
Its just a matter of whether that perception is TRUE or FALSE
Thus the Calvinist does not distinguish himself as a non-believer because he is given a FALSE perception of his eternal destiny and a FALSE perception of his current state.
Dana: They are both non-believers because they both lack saving faith in Christ.
DW: So accordingly – there is a sense – in which we can say those Calvinists are given a gift of FALSE “Faith” along with a FALSE perception.
Dana: What about non-elect non-Calvinist “believers”? Shouldn’t they get their own category too if there is in fact a distinction between types of non-elect people?
DW: Sure – we can make that a category also.
Dana: But to answer your question, in the Calvinist mind, every permutation of the non-elect receive some gifts of common grace but they are all denied both an atonement and the gift of regeneration which infallibly produces faith (true believing). So indirectly, the two categories you mention are both denied the gift of faith as a consequence of their non-elect status, since according to Calvinism, election determines whether one will in time receive the grace gift of regeneration, which produces the gift of faith.
DW: Yes – so we can see that everyone – whether elect or not – is given gifts.
Its just a matter of what gifts each individual is given.
So we have different categories of people – based upon gifts they are given
Or in other words – based upon what is infallibly decreed concerning each person.
And that not only applies to humans – but to all created things.
Demons are given the gifts associated with being a demons – and Lucifer is given gifts associated with being Lucifer.
But now to the business of the term “Perseverance”.
If we look at the etymology of this word – we find it is derived from the Latin “perseverantia”
Which means – “the quality or state of continuing or enduring”
And what we can see – is that according to the doctrine of Calvinism – n tsoever comes to pass – comes to pass by infallible decree
Which means – whatsoever comes to pass – comes to pass infallibly.
And one of the characteristics of infallibility is “the quality or state of continuing or enduring”
So in LOGIC we will let [X] stand for “Whatsoever comes to pass”
Therefore we can say:
1) All [X] comes to pass infallibly
2) While [X] is coming to pass – it is coming to pass infallibly
3) Therefore all [X] – while it is coming to pass – has “the quality or state of continuing or enduring”
So the elect Calvinist perseveres in whatever has been infallibly decreed to come to pass concerning the elect Calvinist simply all [X] while it is coming to pass – is coming to pass infallibly – and thus has “the quality or state of continuing or enduring”.
As a matter of fact, in Calvinism – the earth rotates one complete turn in 24 hours infallibly
Thus the earth’s rotation is “Persevering”
The earth orbits around the sun – one complete orbit every 12 months
Thus the earths orbit is “Persevering”
When you hold up a rock and let it drop to the ground – the rocks movement is “Persevering”
And while that rock bounces on the ground – its bounce is “Persevering”
And when it comes to a halt and stays still – its staying still is “Persevering”
So the question for the Calvinist then becomes – to what does he attribute “Perseverance”?
Does he attribute it to himself?
Or does he attribute it simply to what has been infallibly decreed?
Because everything that is infallibly decreed “Perseveres” in what it has been infallibly decreed to be and do.
So this brings us to recognize the issue of SEMANTICS in Calvinism.
In Calvinism – the “saint” is simply “Persevering” in whatever was infallibly decreed concerning the “saint” – in the same way – a rock is “Persevering’ in whatever was infallibly decreed concerning that rock
I don’t have any formal training in logic so you lost me on the X’s. But I think I get your main point. Perseverance loses its significance in a deterministic universe since everything is always persevering in its decreed path. But as a Calvinist I would not have found this persuasive since I appealed to mystery. Your dizzying logic is easily dismissed as a finite creature trying explain an infinite God. Exegesis, not logic, was the key for me.
Dana – Exegesis is logical! 😉 I am not sure which part of my explanation of those warning passages you had difficulty with. But if you want to discuss any, let me know. When you get to heaven, I am sure you believe that an everlasting change takes place and you won’t sin any more even though you have free will. I just believe the Scripture is clear that the new birth also makes some everlasting changes right now, even though we still have free will for many things.
Hi Brian. I haven’t responded yet to your reply on Everlasting Security but plan to. Thanks. Yes, I believe we will be unable to sin in heaven even though we still have a free will. But the conditions which will make that possible do not exist now. It is hard enough to imagine how that will work in heaven, impossible to see how it could be true in the here and now. But if the Scriptures clearly say this everlasting change occurs now, I will accept it in faith, but I need to study the specific Scriptures you believe say this before I am convinced. Maybe the texts you already shared will help. Thanks again.
Just to clarify, Dana, I don’t believe the change of the new birth brings sinlessness in this life. This might help.
Will it be possible for God’s child to stop abiding in the faith after resurrection even though they still have free will?
Some believe OSAS (once saved always saved) starts after resurrection… others after regeneration. But almost all believe OSAS is true salvation at some point… meaning never to be guilty of sin again forever.
There are a few who even believe that God never gives that final salvation, and they think they can forfeit whatever salvation they have even after they get to heaven. That is not much of a salvation in my thinking.
1John gives the evidences of regeneration as practicing righteousness (2:29), not practicing sin (3:9), loving the brethren (4:7), continuing to believe Jesus is the Christ (5:1), overcoming the world (5:4). These are all present tense participles defining continuing actions that the change of the new birth makes.
Thus, I believe these actions continue forever, since those changes could not be reversed without proposing that the God of love who gave the new birth life, creating His child, has taken that new birth life away and returned that one to being a child of the devil. There is no verse teaching God unbirths any of His children.
Yes – you got it!
Since anything that comes to pass infallibly is going to “Persevere” – then it logically follows – everything that is coming to pass infallibly can be said to be “Persevering”.
And on the topic of logic – Calvinism has what is often called a “closed system of logic”
A closed system of logic – is not designed to conform to logical thinking.
It is designed to affirm a given belief system.
The Jehovah’s Witness and the Muslim also have a “closed system of Logic”
Which again – is reasoning (or more precisely rationalizations) designed to affirm the given belief system.
In the case of Calvinism – the belief system is Exhaustive Divine Determinism
Thus the Calvinist rules of interpretation are designed to affirm Exhaustive Divine Determinism within the text of scripture.
So when a Calvinist tells me I am using “worldly” or “earthly” logic etc – that simply means they don’t like a given logical consequence of their system.
They learn to automatically shut their minds off from any logic that doesn’t give them the desired emotional outcome.
And they rationalize that process – to the point of actually denying their own doctrine – in order to make it emotionally palatable for themselves.
So yes – every human impulse comes to pass infallibly and thus irresistibly
So in Calvinism – it logically follows – all sinful and evil impulses which come to pass withing the human brain – are made irresistible.
So we have Irresistible evil as well as irresistible good.
How be it – the Calvinist will focus on the good.for emotional reasons.
And when it comes to Perseverance – we also have all sin and evil persevering
Because everything that is infallibly decreed to come to pass – will “Persevere” by virtue of it coming to pass infallibly..
And we can see why the Calvinist wouldn’t want to acknowledge or think about the fact that even a rock is said to “Persevere” in what it is infallibility decreed to be and do – Calvinism.
Because the Calvinist would then loose the sense of attributing “Perseverance” to himself.
And he has emotional reasons for not wanting to acknowledge that.
But now we come to the second part of “Perseverance” which is the “Endurance” part.
Again – according to the definition of “Perseverance” we have “continuing” and we also have “Enduring”
What then is the “Persevering” object enduring?
Well – as the rock is falling – and its fall is “Persevering” it is enduring any resistance to its fall.
Similarly when a fish is swimming through the water – it is “Persevering” through the water – which means it is “Enduring” whatever resistance is present within the environment of the water.
But then we must ask ourselves – why is the environment within-which an object “Perseveres” causing resistance?
And the Calvinist answer is – because that environment was infallibly decreed to be what it is.
So the bottom line in Calvinism is – an object “Persevering” is “Persevering” because it being or doing what it was infallibly decreed to be and do.
And what that object is “Enduring” is nothing more than what was infallibly decreed to be and do.
So LOGICALLY speaking – in Calvinism
Calvin’s god is essentially arm wrestling himself
For example – he makes an object “Persevere” in its movement
While at the same time – making that object “Endure” whatever resistance to its movement he also makes come to pass.
So Calvin’s god essentially makes things “Persevere” that which he infallibly decrees come to pass.
So he is the AUTHOR of the movement of that object which is “Persevering”
And he is also the AUTHOR of the resistance to that movement – which the object must “Endure”.
So Calvin’s god likes to arm wrestle himself.
The question then becomes – why would he create a world of objects which he is essentially using to arm wrestle himself with?
I had to google “closed system logic” to learn what you are talking about. Are you saying that Calvinists and cults start with an Exhaustive Determinism presupposition and then apply their logic to affirming that foundational truth? Is this in contrast to open system assumption that unproven statements cannot be assumed to be true? Is your faith an open system of logic? Do you start with any presuppositions?
Brian Wagner noted that exegesis is also logical. Maybe I traded one closed system presupposition (unconditional election) for a better one (biblical authority), but I remain nonetheless in a closed system? I’m not saying biblical authority can’t be proven true in an open system logic, but like most Christians, I am content to assume the truthfulness of this claim based on reasonable observations (e.g., fulfillment of prophecy, archaeological support, internal cohesiveness, historically verifiable information about Jesus, Jesus’ works and claims, the disciples resolve, etc.), without a formal logic syllogism to “prove” it. I’m really a novice when it comes to this formal logic stuff so pardon me if I am confusing technical terminology with my 15 minutes of Google education.
A closed system of logic is simply a system of thinking designed to affirm a particular belief system.
It is “Closed” to reasoning that either does not affirm or interferes with the system.
However when it comes to critical aspects of living such as business transactions – people intuitively understand the further one gets from logic – the more vulnerable a position one puts oneself in.
Even cult members are savvy when it comes to making sure they handle their money correctly.
Calvinists who accuse others of operating in “earthly” logic are typically unaware of how heavily they rely on that very logic within their daily lives. But when it comes to logic that interferes with aspects of their belief system – their minds can smoothly transition from affirming the doctrine one minute – to denying it the next – and not be cognizant of the transition.
A solipsist for example ( a person who believes all other people are figments of his imagination) is a pragmatic enough in the areas of his life where he must earn a living etc – even with the radical nature of his belief system.
And I agree with Brian on Biblical scholarship and logic.
The more irrational one gets in that arena – the more untrustworthy becomes one’s reputation within that arena.
Jesus commands: “In your communications – let your yea be yea and your nay be nay – for anything else comes of evil”
That is an iteration of the law of non-contradiction.
And the scripture says ” A False balance is an abomination to the Lord”
A False balance is a balance designed to mislead people.
So the God of scripture places a high premium on distinguishing that which is TRUE from that which FALSE.
Logic is a tool – just the same way a balancing scale is a tool.
And IMHO – we are held responsible for the way we use logic – the same way we are held responsible for the way we use a balancing scale.
I am not familiar with Calvin’s claims that the deceived are many while the true elect are few
DW: That is understandable – because most Calvinist pastors do not like enunciating the darker aspects of the doctrine.
You can imagine if a Calvinist pastor told his congregation that the highest probability is – most of them were created/designed for eternal torment in the lake of fire – for his good pleasure – how many difficult it would be for a Calvinist pastor to retain membership.
But if you ask the Calvinist pastor – how Calvinism interprets “the wheat and the chaff” given the fact that in Calvinism – the state of nature – including the state of man’s nature – is 100% meticulously predestined before man exists – by infallible decrees.
And according to the doctrine – the decree is made -quote “solely within himself” and does not take into consideration anything concerning the creature – or the condition thereof.
If the pastor is going to give an answer that does not attempt to evade the question – he will have to tell you the truth.
1) The scripture speaks of the FEW and the MANY
2) The scripture speaks of the wheat and the chaff
In Calvinism – the chaff represents MANY and the wheat represents FEW
So John Calvin provides the Calvinist interpretation:
The Lord gives them (the chaff) a SENSE such as can be felt WITHOUT the spirit of adoption.
In other words – the doctrine incorporates divine deception of the preponderance of believers
With the MANY believers having been given a FALSE perception of election/salvation.
They are totally depraved – and have no way of discerning their condition – as part of the divine deception of the MANY.
The FALSE SENSE of election they are given – is by infallible decree – which cannot be broken.
He ILLUMINES THEM FOR A TIME to partake of it – and then he
STRIKES them with greater blindness
You can understand why the average Calvinist pastor is going to withhold that information.
R.C. Sproul called it “The deeper truths of Calvinism” – which the pastor only gives to those who are mature enough to handle it.
Brian Wagner: I think Provisionists like Leighton and myself do take half of the T, the sin nature part but not the guilt or inability to respond to grace offered. And we do take half of the P, the everlasting gift of righteous indwelling life…
Wash me thoroughly from my guilt
And cleanse me from my sin.
Behold, I was brought forth in guilt,
And in sin my mother conceived me. (Psalm 51:2,5 NIV)
I have responded to this before, so I’ll simply repost a modified reply.
Let us bring out the full nuance of the noun particle חַטָּאת (translated as “guilt”, “iniquity”, etc.)
Koehler, Baumgartner, and Stamm (HALOT) semantically classify חַטָּאת (Ps 51:5) as denoting “sin” “expiation” “sin-offering”. These technical terms inescapably presupposes “guilt”. That is why it is translated thus in several translations, e.g., NASB (2020), HCSB. The NIV brings this out more fully: “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” The ESV translates it as “iniquity”. But it seems like a case of cherry picking the ESV over other translations.
The whole tenor of the Psalm 51 is David confessing (“expiating”), amending for guilt or wrong doing. Verse 5 David explains where and how he inherits the bent and propensity to sin; namely, from “conception.”
David is consistent in proposing an anthropology which is corrupt and guilty from birth: “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (58:3).
“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men” (Rom 5:18).
The logic of original guilt is grammatical and theologically fixed such that, whatever aspect of original guilt that is denied, symmetrically, you deny the second Adamic aspects of Christ. The term “condemnation” (κατάκριμα) is straight forward. Bauer, Arndt, Gingrich (BAUER) proposes this usage: “judicial pronouncement upon a guilty person, condemnation, punishment, penalty…” It is Adam’s action that condemn all men, just as the one divine action leads to imputed righteousness.
What makes this easy to defend is the theological concept as Christ as the second Adam. Whatever objections are raised against original guilt or corruption views, logically and inescapably, supervene on the effects of Christ’s righteousness.
Brian Wagner: I have answers for all the main favorite warning passages of Armininians who try to extrapolate their meaning into the removal of everlasting life as possible…
I’m afraid this is a strongman. Analytic/exegetical Arminians do not say, within their arsenal of arguments in defense of ontological apostasy that, such objections target “the removal of everlasting life.”
Brian Wagner: The warnings in Hebrews are to not-yet-saved unbelievers who have had sufficient drawing to understand the gospel and may have even professed it. To understand the warning passages in Heb 6 and 10, the warning passage in 4 helps the most.
The suggestion of spurious faith among “no-yet-saved unbelievers” is a tall order. But Brian doesn’t say anything compelling below to think otherwise. Let’s examine his overly adjusted prooftexting.
Brian Wagner : Hebrews 4:1-3 NKJV — Therefore, since a promise remains of entering His rest, let us fear lest any of you [who only profess salvation, having been enlightened and tasted of it] seem to have come short of it. For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. For we who have believed do enter that rest…”
A couple of issues. First, the inspired pastor warns himself when he uses the third person plural “us”, to “fear”, but distinguishes between himself and those who failed to persevere. Second, just because “they came short of it”, it does not follow they merely “professed salvation”, since the inspired author purposefully warns himself as well. That’s a non-sequitur. Brian begs the question against ontological apostasy. Third, Brian interpolates the technical term “enlightened” here, but again, he begs the question in his favor thinking it does not warrant that the hearers’ sins have not been expiated.
A synthetic methodical reading of all the perenesis in Hebrews, gives us clear insight into what “enlightened” amounts to. For instance, “But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings” (10:32).
Would Brian say here in this context, that the “you” here (10:32) is of “not-yet-saved unbelievers”? If Brian ascribes regenerate status to the “you” in 10:32, on what contextual syntactical non-arbitrary basis does he do so? Or will he simply dogmatically and eisegetically assert that it is the case? Can he point to evidence from the text the author himself provides parenthetical evidence he is using “enlightened” in two sense: in a salvific and non-salfivic way?
Brian Wagner: 1 John 2:19 NKJV — They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be made manifest, that none of them were of us.
So what exactly is the argument here? Well, as it turns out, it is the same reply, namely, “they were never saved to begin with”. But why should any Arminian not take this passage in the fullest plainest sense possible without any sort of allegorization or explaining it away. In fact, if the text says “they were not of us”, then, why would this account against ontological apostasy. Second, 1 John 2:19 is not a commentary for the homily in Hebrews. There is sufficient perspicuity in Hebrews from its own context to demonstrate believers addressed are in fact regenerate (as I will show below).
The burden of proof is on Brian to demonstrate Hebrews is so unintelligible such that, 1 John 2:19 must be appealed. But notice that there is no evidence in Hebrews itself that necessitates cross-referencing John to synthetically understand the entire homily. What is epistemically guiding Brian’s cross referencing is not revelation itself, but his own theological prejudices. That is exactly what is being debated, and so you shouldn’t beg the question.
The “they” in 1 John 2:19 are obviously not regenerated because it’s nearest referent are the “many antichrists” (v. 18). Therefore, I see no reason to think 1 John 2:19 is inconsistent with ontological apostasy.
Brian Wagner : False profession exists and must be warned against. Those warning passages in Hebrews are doing just that.
If this is what “logical exegesis” amounts to, it’s easy to demonstrate how fallacious the suggestion reduces to. Scripture has a dual authorship – human and divine. They cannot be disconnected. Let’s assume revelation is God’s infallible communicative presence. Suppose further, as Brian suggests, that “false profession” “must be warned against.” It pains me that I have to ask these sorts of questions:
Why would an omniscient being knowingly warn a false believer not to fall away? From what! A false faith? The professing believer is already there, is he not? If there is no top-down change in the individual’s soteriological state of affairs, is the divine mind warning not to fall away from a false faith?? Or, is it the case that God is warning ⚠️ not to fall from the appearance of spurious faith? Can Brian give any contextual evidence of what exactly is the false believer being warned against? Until we are provided scrupulous exegetical reasoning, the assertion amounts to a reductio ad absurdum.
Brian Wagner: Remember too that an unbeliever can be “sanctified” (10:29) to receive blessing that may help lead them to salvation. 1 Corinthians 7:14 NKJV — For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.
This is the continued mishmash of cobbling irrelevant texts, and repackaging them in such a way to fit one’s prejudices. 1 Corinthians 7:14 is not of the genre of perenesis, so we can sidestep it as irrelevant. But what about “sanctified” in Hebrews 10:29?
As one commentator puts it: “The phrase ἐν ᾧ ἡγιάσθη, “by means of which he was consecrated,” resumes 10:10, 14, where the subjective blessing secured by Christ’s sufficient sacrifice is defined as consecration to God (cf. 13:12). This phrase in v 29 corroborates that 10:26–31 is descriptive of the Christian who has experienced the action of Christ upon his life.”
Here is the powerful evidence that Brian glosses over: First, once again, the inspired pastor does not preclude himself from the warning when he uses the first person plural “we” (v. 25): “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries” (v. 27). [So much for rewards, right!!!]. Second, the aorist of the term sanctified describes a past definitive event. Third, Brian doesn’t specify what “sanctified” in this context means; except, for the fallacy of irrelevant contexts (e.g., 1 Cor 7:14). Rather, earlier in chapter 10 the preacher has already affirmed, “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those are sanctified”. One is “sanctified” by menas of the “one offering”, which is Christ’s atoning death through the means of his blood.
“Perfected” here refers to the one time final act of atoning for sins, in contradistinction to the repeated imperfect cultic animal sacrifices. There is no evidence in Hebrews that “perfected” refers to the nature of possession. The burden of proof is on those who say otherwise.
Notice carefully that “sanctified” requires a means. Verse 14 says “one offering”, which refers to Christ’s blood. Where Brian cites “sanctified” in verse 29, the preceding clause tells us the means by which the apostate was “sanctified”, namely “the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified…” (v. 29c).
The passage (v. 29) is comprised of three culminative aorist participial phrases that create a complete picture of the apostate. The “sanctified” clause is a relative clause (ἐν ᾧ, “by which”), which is best explained as modifying the immediate preceding means by which the apostate was “sanctified”. That is to say, the apostate committing all three apostate actions has been “sanctified” by the one offering (v. 14), or put another way—as author interchangeably utilizes these phrases—by “the blood of the covenant.” The warning is a fortiori precisely because the apostate has experience atonement for his sins, full stop.
Brian Wagner: There is no verse teaching God unbirths any of His children.
I end with what I began, namely, with another strawman. I AGREE. There is no verse that teaches “God unbirths any of His children.” That is correct! But irrelevant. To commit ontological apostasy doesn’t equate to being “unbirthed.” The apostles, including the preacher in Hebrews do not discuss the compatibility of their belief in ontological apostasy and the new birth.
I suspect, however, that this is no more a problem, any more than when Adam, who was created perfectly and 100% inclined towards holiness, also fell from perfect holiness.
Hey, you stole my thunder! But you said it more thoroughly than I could have so thank you. You are clearly more studied than me. But if I may, I don’t think Brian intended to present strawmen arguments, beg the question or proof text but I share your concern that his arguments are motivated by theological commitments rather than pure unbiased exegesis. That is admittedly hard to do. I have no doubt my Arminian bias at times clouds my interpretation of certain texts. That’s why its good to listen to those who think differently than you and help point out your blind spots. I look forward to hearing Brian’s response and learn more about the Provisionalist position. Maybe it will be persuasive, maybe not, but I withhold my judgement until he has a chance to clarify and respond to our questions.
Since you have already dealt with the texts, I will offer a brief summary of my assessment of the question at hand. As I see it, there are 5 main explanations for the warning passages in general and there are consequential results for the purpose you believe applies:
1. Warnings are to false professing people to wake up and get right with God before its too late. Result: I’m sure glad the warnings don’t apply to me because I’m not one of those false professing people. Those folks need to take it seriously but not me.
2. Warnings are to true believers and act as the infallible means of their perseverance. Result: We don’t have to worry about persevering because God is making it happen through His monergistic means. That’s a relief!
3. Warnings are hypothetical thought experiments intended to encourage true believers by pointing out what could be possible in a middle knowledge sense, if not for the fact that it is in fact impossible, leading to praise and gratitude. Result: Aren’t you glad these warnings don’t actually apply to us? Few.
4. Warnings are to true believers to guard them against the loss of reward. Result: I do take these warnings seriously, but I’m sure glad that my salvation is secure even if I choose to ignore the warnings at the expense of my rewards. What does it profit a man if he looses all his rewards yet gains his soul? It’s better than losing both, which is a considerable consolation.
5. Warnings are to true believers to guard them non-infallibly against the real danger of apostasy and unbelief, which results in eternal death, the greatest of all dangers. Wow! I better take these warnings seriously! Praise God I can by God’s grace!
From my perspective, of these 5 choices, only options 4 & 5 actually motivate the regenerate reader to take personal responsibility for heeding the warnings and only option 5 includes the greatest of motivation, eternal life. Ironically, options 1-4 all contain an element of comfort, which is strange for a warning to do. Perhaps this is a subconscious effort to insulate ourselves from what we don’t want to hear?
Maybe there is a 6th option I am not aware of but for now option 5 fits the best in my opinion. It is also possible that more than one are intended for each and that some warnings have different purposes than others, which must be exposed exegetically. But #5 is my default assumption until proven otherwise. Is that unfair? It seems like the safest position. But I’m willing to listen.
Grace to you all in Christ,
I enjoyed, Dana, your thorough analysis of the various views most have of why the warning passages are given. As you might guess, I hold to number 1.
Praise God He is concerned about those professing to be Christian who are not yet in Christ. How many of the 2 and 1/4 billion professing Christians in the world do you believe are not saved? Are all RC’s saved in your opinion? Can’t you see the need for such warnings?
Also, in those warning passages there is a consistent reminder to the reader who is sure of their salvation, that these warnings are for those in their midst who have an evil heart of unbelief (3:12-13) and who need to be encouraged to believe the gospel and to enter God’s rest.
Just went back to make sure I replied to all your posts and I think I missed this one. You asked “How many of the 2 and 1/4 billion professing Christians in the world do you believe are not saved? Are all RC’s [Reformed Christians?] saved in your opinion? Can’t you see the need for such warnings?
I am sure many of the world’s professing Christians are not actually saved. Certainly, I see the need to warn those who are not saved to wake up and turn from their sinful unbelief and be saved. I don’t see the need to warn such people of the danger of falling away since they do not possess a position in which it would be bad for them to fall. If they think the are saved and they are not, I hope they do fall away from such thinking. That would be a step in the right direction.
The problem I see is that the warning passages are worded with the presumption that the person is saved, whether they are in fact or not. So why not just accept the plain reading of the text? That seems like the safest position to me. The alternate view appears to be just wishful thinking. Who doesn’t like a guarantee? I’m willing to be corrected but so far I find the evidence uncompelling.
Thank you A.B. for taking the time to thoroughly respond to each thing I said. I will not attempt to respond with such depth, and I think others will be able to compare our two views and perhaps be able to judge which of us is dealing with the texts appropriately. I will however address a few things.
People do fall short of entering into salvation after being drawn with truth that they have already professed as true. Heb 4:2 mentions clearly they heard the gospel but did not mix it with faith. And I see no problem with God warning those whom He is drawing and giving light to, who have identified to be with “us”, but are not yet “of us”. And actually “of us” is more literal than “we” in 10:26.
As for guilt at birth and Ps 51:5, since I hadn’t discussed it – The Psalms cannot be used dogmatically to teach dogma because of the nature of subjective meanings in poetry. Also, the context of 51:5 is confession, so it would be unusual to think of David blaming any of his current sin on how he was made. And, the words the CSB thinks mean “born” and “conceived” are not the normal Hebrew words for those events… leaving the meaning even more obscure.
Finally the CSB links the preposition they translate “when” to the main verbs when actually they are connected to the nouns “iniquity” and “sin” which shows they were making an idiosyncratic choice in meaning.
I think the first phrase could be David talking about his own writhing in the pain of his iniquity, though I concede that is hard to make parallel in meaning with the second phrase in some way. I do think the second phrase is an admission of being a sinner from childhood. Since the NT uses “sin” to mean “sin nature” in some contexts, especially when it is the subject of the main verb, David is probably saying in the second phrase, that “with a sin nature, my mother conceived me.”
The first phrase reminds me of David’s guilty feelings expressed in Psalm 38:6-8 NKJV — I am troubled, I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long. For my loins are full of inflammation, And there is no soundness in my flesh. I am feeble and severely broken; I groan because of the turmoil of my heart.
Finally — salvation is given not taken by us or earned. It can’t be given back by, it has to be taken back by God. The ontological changes made by the new birth have to be undone by God. And this is true whether Arminians like, or use, that terminology or not. They do point to Rom 11:22 as God breaking of branches. Right? Though I don’t see God taking away individual salvation in that context, but taking away gospel blessings from generations of Israel and generations of any other nations who corporately reject the gospel.
Thanks again for taking your time to reply in detail.
What do provisionists make of verses like John 10:38?
Hello Pastor Loz
Can you be more specific about the question?
One point I could make which I would anticipate Dr. Flowers would agree with on this verse – is the fact that we have Jesus using language which infers – firstly that people are granted two CONTRARY options [BELIEVE] and [NOT BELIEVE]. And secondly – that people are granted a “Choice” between those options.
That alone is a direct denial of the Calvinist doctrine of decrees – which never grants either of those to creation.
The decree stipulates a *CLOSED* future for everything within creation.
If the creature is decreed to infallibly [NOT BELIEVE] then the option to [BELIEVE] is not granted to the creature.
For both options be available to the creature – denies the existence of the decree.
And for the creature to be granted the deciding “Choice” in any matter contradicts the doctrine of decrees.
My provisionist view, Loz, is that John 10:37-38, and the whole context, are good examples of Jesus trying to persuade a crowd, who is mostly biased against Him, to be thoughtful and look at the evidence given to them to lead them to trust in Him.
Thanks for the response Brian. To me the passage seems to suggest that Jesus is saying if He’s a message by itself is not sufficient to convince them, His miracles should provide additional evidence to convince them.
Actually, I see it as Jesus saying, “If you won’t choose to believe me based on what I say, at least, believe what my miracles should be revealing to you about me.”
I don’t see where He is indicating that what He says about Himself is insufficient. The rest of the context, and John 12:32f indicate that His Words are true and will be used for judgment in the last day, not His miracles.
If they won’t believe Him based on His message, but may believe Him based on His miracles, then His miracles would be accomplishing something that His message did not.
Loz, I think your missing what Jesus is trying to do. He is not taking about the ultimate moment of salvation, trusting Jesus and His promise to forgive sins and give everlasting life. He is just trying to nudge them forward to become more open to believing the truth that He is from God and God is in Him. Believing the miracles were from God through Him would make that possible.
John 10:38 NASB20 — “but if I do them, even though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.”
I take that as “even though you do not believe Me [yet]…”
If they won’t believe Him based on His message, but may believe Him based on His miracles, then His miracles would be accomplishing something that His message did not.
That would be the case if we assume a form of Calvinistic Determinism.
In such case – the message would be the “Determining” factor – and human “Choice” would not be.
And in that case – your point would be correct.
But I don’t think Dr. Flowers assumes Calvinistic Determinism when he states the message is “sufficient”
For me – Dr. Flower’s argument is actually a refutation of Calvinistic Determinism
Agreed, br.d. Their lack of response to the words of Jesus does not prove or disprove whether they were able to believe without the miracles. Jesus speaks hypothetically rather than prophetically. He is not saying, “you were not able to believe because of my words but you will believe because of my miraculous works.” That would be consistent with the Calvinist’s view but that’s not what Jesus says. Rather, I also agree with Brian that Jesus is saying, “you have not yet believed because of my words, but perhaps you will believe because of my miracles.” He speaks of potential, a concept for which there is no room in determinism. Their lack of belief to that point does not prove they were unable to believe unless your definition of Total Depravity is: “unable to believe until Regenerated”, in which case you are a Calvinist, which was not the main focus of this article. And if regeneration is truly the key to everything then why does Jesus bother pointing out his miracles? All He has to do is wait for the Holy Spirit to regenerate the elect ones. And unlike Calvinists, Jesus knows which of them are “elect” so again, no point in Jesus pressing this matter with them. – Just sayin’ 😉
The original point of this article was to flesh out the distinction between Arminianism and Provisionalism/Traditional Southern Baptists on the subject of Total Depravity. Arminians and Provisionalists agree that grace is required prior to faith, which is by definition prevenient. However, Provisionalists do not like the term prevenient because Arminians use it to include grace other than the gospel itself. Provisionalists insist that the gospel is sufficient grace in and of itself. While they acknowledge that God can give additional grace (such as miracles) to support the gospel, miracles are not necessary to enable faith. The doubters in John 10 could have believed, they just chose not to. Provisionalists insist the gospel alone is sufficient for anyone (not already hardened by judgment) to believe. The miracles merely provide additional aid toward faith. From our human perspective we could say that the miracles increased the probability of faith. (I can almost hear the Calvinists gasp!)
The debate between Provisionalists and Arminians (like myself) seems to come down to a difference in the nature of the gospel. Is the gospel just the facts of Christ’s substitutionary atoning death on the cross, his burial and resurrection? If all that is required for salvation is to believe these facts, then I suppose I would agree that we are able to believe without additional grace from God. Anyone can consider the evidence and decide to accept these facts as true. But I believe saving faith is more than just an intellectual acceptance of the evidence of the truth. Saving faith involves an embracing of not just the facts about Jesus but Jesus Himself as Lord and Savior. Belief in the truth without surrender to Christ’s kingship is insufficient to save. It is not true faith. Establishing Lordship or allegiance to Christ the King as a condition of salvation is not adding works to saving faith but rather identifying the essential mark of true faith. The notion of a believer having accepted Jesus as Savior but not yet as Lord is foreign to the Scriptures. Please someone show me an example of someone in the Bible who was clearly saved but their commitment to follow Christ came later after they “matured”.
Therefore, I conclude that we need more than just the facts (words) of the gospel. We need the Holy Spirit to soften, open, prepare our hearts through various means so that we are able to receive not just the facts but the person of whom the facts speak. Those means may include miracles or other more natural circumstances. Our minds cannot conceive of the myriad ways God can influence our hearts in preparation for receiving the gospel, but thankfully God is actively working in the hearts of non-hardened unbelievers for this very purpose. It speaks to God’s loving desire for all to be saved (even the hardened, who were past recipients of grace) and it magnifies the excellency of His amazing grace!
Good thoughts Dana. Yes a commitment of trust is needed, not just mental assent. In my view the Word always does a positive work as long as it remains in the heart without any extra help needed by the Holy Spirit, though I’m sure He often gives extra help as He watches a person’s positive response to the Word.
I believe this, because of the parable of the sower and the premise that the evil one would not take the Word away from the hard heart if he didn’t think leaving it could lead to belief and salvation is it started there (Luke 8:12).
Very nice post Dana!
And well said.
I bumped into a believer the other day – whose comments were pretty consistent with Calvinism.
But he claimed to be an Arminian
He used “prevenient grace” as a label for regeneration required for belief because of total depravity.
He essentially described himself as a 5-point Arminian
So – for all intents and purposes he is really a Calvinist trying to convince people he’s an Arminian
Calvinists seem to come in all shapes and flavors!! :-]
Thanks. One of the criticisms which Provisionalists level against Arminian Total Depravity is that it necessitates a partial regeneration and is therefore too similar to Calvinists Total Depravity. I recall reading that Arminius himself and the early Remonstrants used the term “regeneration” in the way Wesley used the term prevenient grace. Arminius came out of a Reformed tradition and tried his best to harmonize his views with orthodox reformed theology. More modern Arminians are not constrained by the same commitment. As a former Calvinists, I can sympathize with Arminius’ struggle.
I agree with Provisionalists that the concept of “partial regeneration” is problematic since the Scriptures clearly teach that life is the result of saving faith not the cause of it (John 1:12). Regeneration’s association with life make it a poor synonym for prevenient grace. Perhaps your friend should find a better word than regeneration to describe this work of the Holy Spirit. I prefer to say enabling (opening of the heart). I guess that’s where I part ways with the Provisionalists. They insist no enabling is required, just the clear communication of the facts of the gospel. But I will not go so far as to label them Semi-Pelagian. They affirm that grace is required for faith. They just insist the facts themselves are the grace. I disagree but we are still brothers, no heretics here in my opinion.
For me… no opening of the heart is needed. Or required.
Romans 15:21 (KJV)
21 But as it is written, To whom he was not spoken of, they shall see: and they that have not heard shall understand.
Yes, i know about Lydia.
I’m not a Provisionist. As a matter of fact, I’m not any -ian(except Christian), or -ist, or an -ism.
There are many terms that arises from all of those. The term “saving” faith is one of those.
For me, while faith is exactly what saves people, I just reduce it down to the word faith.
From Hebrews 11:1, what exactly is faith?
Using all the words in Hebrews 11:1, we can use a common dictionary to widdle our down.
I did that… what I get is that faith is knowing that you are going to get what you are waiting for.
Faith is based on something. Based on a promise from God about something.
But even the term “SAVING” faith has a similar feel to it as “opening the heart”, or regeneration, or enabling being required first.
In short, I don’t believe in TOTAL or Partial depravity.
In order for me to believe in that alone, is have to buy off on ORIGINAL SIN first, or that David was a sinner from the womb. I don’t.
Just my thoughts.
I prefer to say enabling (opening of the heart). I guess that’s where I part ways with the Provisionalists. They insist no enabling is required, just the clear communication of the facts of the gospel.
That is news to me Dana!
BTW: Thank you for another wonderful post!
We have people who came to the Lord out of the occult and were bound by spirits and needed to be released.
They heard the Gospel message – asked the Lord to forgive them for what they did.
And asked the Lord to deliver them from the stronghold of the enemy they were bound to.
And the Lord supernaturally delivered them from the demonic grip.
We have people who came to the Lord out of severe drug addiction who were bound by the drug.
They heard the Gospel message – asked the Lord to forgive them for what they did.
And asked the Lord to deliver them from the stronghold of that which they were bound to.
And the Lord supernaturally delivered them from its grip.
Those deliverance highly involve enabling a person who could not in his own strength set himself free from the bondage he was ensnared in.
Based on that – I find it hard to believe – a Provisionist would reject the process of enablement. .
I do not classify myself as a Provisionist – although I agree that God gives to man whatever provision is needed for salvation.
I may be incorrect here – but for me the heart of what the Provisionist rejects – is the concept that divine action or ennablement takes place by force and without human consent.
Thanks for the thoughts on faith. I’m not sure how Rom. 15:21 proves that opening of the heart is not necessary prior to faith. Paul wanted to go where no one else had preached previously. He hoped to go to Spain or other remote regions with the expectation that the Holy Spirit would go before him preparing hearts to hear before he preached to them. The quotation is from Isa. 52:15 speaking about the salvation of Gentiles. It has always been God’s heart to save both Jew and Gentile. Isaiah prophesies of their salvation not because they need no assistance but because it is God’s heart to give assistance, enabling, opening, prevenient grace.
I get not wanting to be identified by an -ism, but the reality is that these terms are just descriptive of doctrinal positions. If you agree with the doctrine, then you are that -ism whether you choose to identify with the term or not. I find the terms helpful shorthand. Rather than having to explain every detail of what I believe I can say “I’m an Arminian” and people should have a pretty good idea what that means. Then again, there is a lot of misconceptions about any doctrinal position, so terms have their weaknesses as well. But I still think it is better than being too broad in our identity, IMHO. The term Christian is used by all kinds of folks including Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Branch Davidians, etc.
Hebrews 11:1 is a good working definition for faith. The chapter illuminates what faith looks like. Faith is manifested by action (offering an acceptable sacrifice, walking with God, preparing an ark, etc.). If we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it patiently (Rom. 8:25). However, our waiting is not passive but active as Hebrews 11 demonstrates. It is not enough for someone to believe that God exists and is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (11:6) if they do not actually seek Him. Acting on our hope is what distinguishes faith from philosophy.
I’m not surprised to hear someone deny total depravity, but it does surprise me to hear you deny even partial depravity. Do you believe we are born neutral, innocent and capable of avoiding sin? If so, how do you explain Romans 3:23? If we are born with the ability to believe, have faith, please God, why have all sinned without exception? Sin is batting 1.000. The only explanation I can come up with is that we are born in a helpless condition and need God’s help to be reconciled to Him. Through one man, Adam, sin entered the world and spread to all men. Through one man, Christ, life is made available to all men. This is Paul’s point in Romans 5.
To be clear, I reject the notion that we are condemned for Adam’s sin. I would not say we are born sinners. David was not a sinner from the womb. We become sinners when we sin, but we are born slaves. We are born into a corrupt world with a corrupt nature such that once given the opportunity to sin, we will do so because it is our natural, depraved condition from birth. We are born into a kingdom of darkness and need to be transferred to the kingdom of light (Col. 1:13). Depravity does not condemn us, our own sinful choices condemn us, but those sinful choices are ultimately inevitable (for all have sinned without exception). Does this mean we do not have free will? In a sense, yes, or more precisely our free will is limited. We are slaves to sin until God enables us to see our sin for what it is and grants us repentance. As an Arminian, I believe this granting of repentance is resistible. I believe our wills are freed to believe by grace.
It is my understanding that Provisionalists would agree with my perspective for the most part even if we might word it differently. Where we disagree is over the nuanced question of whether the facts of the gospel are sufficient grace to open the heart, grant repentance and enable faith. Your view on the other hand (if I am understanding correctly) sounds more Pelagian. Sorry to label you, just using the label to explain my understand of your theology. Please feel free to correct my understanding.
I could be wrong about Provisionists (just realized I had been misspelling to term) denying the need for enabling but that’s my understanding. They would probably say that the slavery to addictions is a form of hardening, not a natural condition from birth. But as I explained to Ed above, the fact that all have sinned leads me to believe that all are born slaves to sin. How else do we explain the 100% failure rate?
I think Genesis also gives us insight into man’s depravity. Look at Genesis 4-6. People are able to be saved (e.g. Able, Enoch), there is even a period of revival after the birth of Seth’s son Enosh (4:26). But by the time we get to Gen. 6, we find that there is only one saved man (and maybe his family) on the face of the earth. This was not for lack of gospel facts, but rather, man left to his own choices inevitably moves away from God, not toward Him. That is why God decides in Gen. 12 to call a man named Abraham so that He might establish a family of faith to provide a continuation of faith from generation to generation. The calling of Abraham and establishment of the nation of Israel to serve as a nation of priests to the world (Ex. 19:6), is an example of God’s additional prevenient grace because the simple facts of the gospel (repent for the wrath of God is coming) were proving insufficient. God is gracious and gives more grace to help us. He does not withhold the help we need but he does allow us to reject that help.
God is gracious and gives more grace to help us. He does not withhold the help we need but he does allow us to reject that help.
Per my understanding of “Provisionism” – that statement would work very well as a description.
An example I can easily see within the N.T. is the place where we have a father whose son is possessed with a demon spirit. Here Jesus expresses disappointment with a lack of belief. Oh faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you? And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief! So the father is pleading for something that he does not have. He needs an “enablement” of faith.
For me – what we have here – is Jesus making a “Provision” for something which sin crippled people do not have.
For me – the idea of “Provisionism” also coincides with Jesus’ command “Seek and you shall find. Knock and it shall be opened”
I notice a certain pattern within scripture where humans are expected to exercise whatever degree of faith they may have. And God requires that in order for him to then “enable” them with more.
I see this pattern with all of Jesus miracles.
They all appear to involve a testing of the person to see what that person really wants.
He commands the lame man at the pool to stand up
The man’s body is “enabled” when he exhibits the faith to believe and act on that belief.
Jesus commands the 10 lepers to go and see the priest – and their bodies are “enabled” to health on their way to the priest. He commands the blind man at the pool to wash his face – and the man’s eyes are “enabled” as the man is obeying Jesus’ command out of faith.
So I see a principle difference between the way the Holy Spirit “enables” a human vs the way a demon spirit “enables” a person.
In the occult – there is a principle of “Passivity”.
The human must relinquish control over different internal human faculties – and grant that control to the demon spirit.
This is a critical principle with the practice of necromancy and functioning as a spirit medium.
For me this principle of “Passivity” which we see with man’s interaction with demon spirits – manifests as a form of rape.
And I don’t believe the Holy Spirit works that way.
That is why I see a pattern throughout Jesus’ miracles – and the same pattern within the O.T.
Moses is commanded to hold up his rod – and when Moses does that little bit – the Lord then parts the red sea.
God does not take control of Moses body or Moses brain – and make hold up the rod
Moses is given a choice – and when he chooses to believe God – then God “enables” things to happen.
In Calvinism – regeneration is more like a form of rape
A power acts internally within a person – without the person’s consent.
Non-Calvinists often joke – and call Calvinism’s “Irresistible grace” love potion number 9
It smacks of an occult principle which we see is the case when a demon spirit is at work.
Definitely not coming at it from a position of Calvinistic determinism, but from the viewpoint that for some people at least, witnessing Jesus’s miracles was an additional enabling factor that they needed. Whereas for others, it appears that the gospel by itself was a sufficient enabler. Thus I am not really subscribing to either a pure provisionist or pure Arminian view.
Thanks for clarifying Lorenzo. I don’t think the miracles were necessarily the enabling factor they needed. Considering their hostility toward Jesus, it seems more likely that even this appeal by Jesus did not persuade them. I agree that Jesus intended it to help aid them in their thinking, but this is more a testimony to Jesus’ abundant mercy giving more grace than is necessary because he does not want them to remain lost in their sins.
Again, just because they did not respond to the words of Jesus does not imply that the grace which they had received to that point was insufficient. Lack of response does not prove insufficiency at least in the middle knowledge sense of what could have been. Only Calvinistic determinism insists that lack of efficacy proves lack of ability, because they have no room in their thinking for libertarian choice or alternative outcomes.
correction to my post to br.d above. I said that prior to the flood, “the simple facts of the gospel (repent for the wrath of God is coming) were proving insufficient.” I should have said ineffectual rather than insufficient. The grace given was sufficient but it did not produce the desired result. Therefore, God gave even more grace to mankind to produce a more desirable result – i.e. more people saved, maintaining at least a remnant from generation to generation.
Well said Lorenzo :-]
Historically, the term Provisionism refers to Universal Atonement. i.e. Christ died to make provision for all to be saved. His blood was shed as the propitiation for all (1 John 2:2). This is also the distinction between General Baptists (Christ died for all generally) and Particular Baptists (Christ died for the elect particularly). While Provisionists agree that the Holy Spirit provides grace to the unregenerate (unbeliever) they insist that the gospel itself is all the grace needed for one to believe and thus the gospel is all that is required to hold an individual accountable for receiving or rejecting it. The fact that God at times gives more grace than is required does not indicate that the gospel alone was insufficient.
While Lorenzo takes a middle ground acknowledging that sometimes the gospel is enough and other times more grace is required, it seems that you and I take a more strict view that the gospel words themselves are never enough. We are slaves to sin and unable to accept the truth of the gospel until God provides additional grace to accompany the gospel. But I’ve also read Provisionists say that the grace of the Holy Spirit always accompanies the gospel words. When they phrase it like that, it is hard for me to find any meaningful distinction between our views. As long as we are acknowledging that grace is required for anyone to be saved, I’m good with it.
You may be familiar with this poem.
Years ago it was made into a song which I have very deep feelings for on a personal level.
It is the poem of Annie Flint – who wrote it while crippled by severe arthritis.
He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace.
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.
Fear not that thy need shall exceed His provision,
Our God ever yearns His resources to share;
Lean hard on the arm everlasting, availing;
The Father both thee and thy load will upbear.
His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
You said, “In Calvinism – Regeneration is more like a form of rape…a love potion no. 9”
As a former Calvinist I can tell you this caricature is quite offensive to our Calvinist brothers. Nor do I think it is appropriate to use sexual intercourse as a metaphor for the process of salvation. That’s gross. A better analogy is a person drowning. In their panic, they cannot see that the lifeguard is there to help them so they flail in desperation, resisting the help offered. Does the lifeguard say, “well obviously they don’t want my help so I will let them drown?” Of course not. Grabbing them and pull them out of the water against their will is actually a loving thing to do, not rape.
Another similar analogy is a person caught in a burning building. The fireman calls to them to come out but they are so paralyzed by the fear of the fire, they cannot respond. The fireman bravely goes into the fire and pulls them out despite their lack of cooperation. Afterward of course the person saved realizes the wisdom and bravery of their savior and praises them for intervening despite their lack of cooperation.
Here’s another analogy you may relate to. A teenager is addicted to drugs and cannot voluntarily choose to place themselves in treatment. The concerned parent sees how their child is enslaved to drugs and exercises their parental authority to place their child in a rehab facility against their child’s will. In each of these cases the individuals will is being violated but it is for a loving, good and wise purpose. Afterward the person is grateful for this intervention.
However, where Calvinists err is in their assumption that this intervention is irresistible. The person could continue to fight against the savior or jump back in the water or the fire after being rescued. The addict could return to their drugs after being released from their chemical dependency. This is my objection to the Provisionist (Traditional Southern Baptist) insistence on inevitable perseverance (once saved always saved). It is a view that fits better with Calvinistic determinism.
As Brian pointed out previously, we all believe in inevitable perseverance at some point. Provisionist say it is set at the moment of initial faith/salvation. Others like me say it is set after this life. The problems with the Provisionsist view are first that it contradicts the warnings in Scripture and second it is inconsistent with our continued struggle with sin in this life. It makes much more sense that our perseverance would be inevitable or permanent once we have a glorified body, are free from the influence of the evil one, are physically present with Christ, and God’s glory is continually and fully manifest before our eyes. The Provisionist view of OSAS also reduces salvation to a one-time act of our will. We choose at one moment to believe and then God is obligated to preserve us infallibly for all time whether we decide to continue to cooperate with his grace or not. It would seem to breed complacency and entitlement. The fact that some Provisionists avoid this pitfall does not alleviate my concern for others.
Yes, that’s a beautiful hymn and a comfort to know that as long as we continue to lean on the arm everlasting (by faith), an infinite storehouse of riches is available to us to help us through any trial. In fact, God may intentionally let us expend our hoarded resources so that at the end of our rope we can more completely trust in Him to help us persevere. Perseverance is a human/divine cooperative. This is what avoids the danger of complacency where one might say, “If God’s giving has just begun, then no need for me to give at all.” Certainly, that is not the mindset which the hymn write had in mind.
I understand there are other reasons to avoid this complacent mindset (fear of loss of rewards, temporal chastening, broken fellowship) but these consequences can be tolerated if there is no fear of eternal danger.
I’m a pastor in North East Ohio. I have an interesting theological track. Growing up in a bible/baptist church, we were provisionist without the label (before it was cool 🙂 ). In seminary, I shifted to a 4 pt Calvinism for awhile (I could never figure out the ‘L’ biblically). A few years back, I started to leave behind Calvinism. Ironically, the text that started me out of Calvinism was 1 Cor 10:13. It clearly taught libertarian free will as something provided by God’s grace. Overtime, things like Corporate election helped me understand Romans 9, Eph 1, etc.
But like you, I’ve come to realize that the assurance of salvation is based on being in Christ. These warnings are all over the New Testament (“Work out your salvation with fear and trembling”; “keep yourself in the love of God”; “if what you heard from the beginning abides in you”; “if anyone does not abide”). I also find it deeply compelling that (and I’m happy to be proven wrong) no one believed in eternal security for the first 1500 years of the church. The early church explicitly taught you could lose your salvation. As best as I can tell, eternal security began with John Calvin.
I find Romans 11:17-22 to be very clear. In fact, the whole context of Romans 9-11 comes on the heels of the great assurance passage at the end of Romans 8. Paul anticipates the Jewish objection. If nothing can separate us form God’s love and promise, what about all the Jews who have fallen away? Paul’s point is that God’s word hasn’t failed (Rom 9:6). The Jews have failed. And why did they fail? Because of their unbelief. The warning is then to Gentiles. Don’t think you’ll be treated any different. I have tried to understand the text from an eternal security perspective, but it just seems to fail every time. These are Gentile Christians who stand fast THROUGH FAITH into the people of God. They must be believers. And God says they should fear. Why? He will be kind to you, provided you continue in his kindness, otherwise you too will be cut off.
In the OT, you could be cut off from being in the Old Covenant. Deuteronomy 29:18 warns against a bitter root coming among the people, someone who blesses their heart and says, “I’ll be okay even though I walk in stubbornness of heart.” God makes it clear, they will not be okay. And then what happens in the New Covenant? Hebrews 12:15 warns against the same bitter root alluding to Dt 29:18.
I preached about this recently. We can have great assurance as long as we stay in Christ, as long as we keep believing. God does not remove salvation because of sin. We are not saved by works. However, sin does harden our hearts and will lead us to fall away from the living God (Heb 3:12-14). Sin will make me doubt God’s word, doubt the truthfulness of the gospel, and left unchecked could lead to apostasy and a falling away.
Now regardless of your position, I think everyone agrees, we must have faith and believe. So if you don’t have faith, you’re in trouble. But I agree with you Dana, these warnings are written to churches, and believers are called to fear.
.Also, much blessings on Leighton and his ministry. He’s doing a good work. And also in this post, I think Brian Abasciano and Leighton aren’t that far off. We all agree that we need God’s Spirit and working to come to faith.
Very nice post Kyle!!
In contrast to the non-Calvinist system which you outlined in your post
Calvinism’s doctrine of decrees does establish an ASSURANCE
But the ASSURANCE it establishes may be a FALSE ASSURANCE which Calvinists are not permitted to discern
Take Calvinist_X for example:
Calvinist_X at 35 years of age is granted an ASSURANCE of salvation
But is it a TRUE ASSURANCE or a FALSE ASSURANCE?
Everything within his mind tells him he is saved without question.
But remember- his *SENSE* of salvation and his *ASSURANCE* of salvation are authored by a divine decree
10 years later Calvinist_X totally rejects Christ and becomes a devout Atheist.
And on his death bed with his last breath adamantly rejects Christ
What this signifies – is that the ASSURANCE which Calvin’s god gave him was a FALSE ASSURANCE
And the decree did not grant him discernment on the matter.
I understand your perspective on Calvinist non-assurance, but as a former Calvinist I can assure you that I was assured of my election and salvation then and as an Arminian I remain assured of my election and salvation today. As a Calvinist, I never worried about the possibility that what I perceived as TRUE ASSURANCE was actually FALSE ASSURANCE.
Nothing has changed for me as an Arminian. While I know that it is possible that I could be deceived (thinking I am presently saved when in fact I am not), I don’t worry about it. Neither theological position has a monopoly on assurance and neither is exempt from the danger of self-deception.
My advice to those who lack assurance or fear self-deception is to look to Jesus, follow him more closely, strive for holiness and you will be fine. We find Jesus in the Word of God and through the indwelling, testifying ministry of the Holy Spirit, whom God desires to give us. God wants us to love and follow his son and the Spirit will help us get there. Entering his rest (Hebrews 4) is not about passive contentment with a past-obtained possession, but rather an active, ongoing, abiding relationship with the one who assures our hearts and is indeed greater than our hearts. Salvation is not a commodity (resource) we acquire but a communion (relationship) in which we abide.
True faith works so get to work, not to earn your salvation but to grow in your assurance and rest. Pray and read the Word daily, attend a Bible preaching church as often as you can, get involved in both ministry and fellowship opportunities, give faithfully and generously, show hospitality, love your neighbor, proclaim the gospel to whoever will listen. If you seek to know, love and serve Jesus in these ways, you will find an abundance of assurance and rest from fear. Frankly you won’t have the time to worry about self-deception. Sure, all those things could be disguises of busyness erected to deceive yourself but here’s the trump card: God loves you and doesn’t want you to remain deceived and He is able to help you see past self-deception. This is the essence of faith: trust God with the things you can’t control, seek him, surrender to him, serve him and see what he does in your life.
I understand your perspective on Calvinist non-assurance, but as a former Calvinist I can assure you that I was assured of my election and salvation then and as an Arminian
Consider the following:
Calvinist_X has the perception within his mind that he is elect and has an assurance of salvation.
10 years later Calvinist_X becomes a devout Atheist – and on his death bed on his last breath adamantly rejects Christ.
The foundational core of Calvinism is the doctrine of decrees.
The decree determines whatsoever will come to pass within creation.
The perception within Calvinist_X’s brain cannot be other than what it was decreed to infallibly be.
In this case – what did the divine decree establish?
Did the divine decree establish a TRUE assurance to come to pass within Calvinist_X’s mind?
Did the divine decree establish a FALSE assurance to come to pass within Calvinist_X’s mind?
If the divine decree establishes a FALSE perception to infallibly come to pass within his mind – if his mind were to discern that perception as FALSE – it would countervail the decree.
The decree cannot be countervailed.
Thus the decree does not grant the human mind the ability to discern a FALSE perception as FALSE.
The reason Calvinists assume they are granted TRUE assurance of salvation – is because they live in denial of their own doctrine.
Basically you are saying that Calvinists are not consistent. They say they believe in divine determinism (the decrees) but they live as if they are libertarianly free. I agree. Calvinism should logically lead to fatalism, yet I never met a Calvinist who was a true fatalist. That’s because fatalism is unlivable, and Calvinists know it. I knew it. As a Calvinist I gladly accepted the contradiction as a “tension”, “mystery”, “paradox” or “antinomy”. It just meant God was bigger than I could comprehend, which was a good thing. That denial is where I lived, quite happily. But I am even happier to learn that God’s good character is less paradoxical than I was previously forced to concede. Ironically, letting go of Calvinism made my view of God bigger not smaller. Who knew?
And well said!!!
They say they believe in divine determinism (the decrees) but they live *AS-IF* they are libertarianly free.
And the that aspect of Calvinism – is the natural human response to Determinism.
Here are some quotes
Sean Carroll (Theoretical physicist – Determinist)
Every person in the world, no matter how anti-free-will they are, talks about people *AS-IF* they make decisions.
I have noticed even people who claim everything is predestined and that we can do nothing to change it look before they cross the street. (Black Holes, Baby Universes and Other Essays)
William Lane Craig
Nobody can live *AS-IF* all that he thinks and does is determined by causes outside of himself.
Every Determinist recognizes that he as to act *AS-IF* he has option(S) to weigh, and can decide on what course of action to take….. (Determinism is unlivable)
“Hence as to future time, because the issue of all things is hidden from us, each ought to so to apply himself to his office, *AS-IF* nothing were determined about any part.”(Concerning the eternal predestination of God)
Calvinism’s language – is a language of DOUBLE-SPEAK – because it is founded on Determinism – and it is humanly impossible for a person to live coherently with Determinism – and still retain a sense of human normalcy.
You are absolutely correct!
There is an internal struggle that goes on within them.
Coming face to face – with the reality that your doctrine does not grant you choice between [SIN] and [NOT SIN] is simply too devastating for the Calvinist to acknowledge.
Thanks for sharing your story. It’s encouraging to hear that I am not alone. Like you I grew up in a Baptist church and the doctrine of eternal security was ingrained in me from my youth. It was also comforting to think my salvation was guaranteed so it was easy to embrace. Unlike your background, my church was a full 5-Point Calvinists church. I guess that made us more “consistent”. The L in TULIP is based on the logical implications of the other petals of the tulip rather than specific texts which necessitate a limited atonement. Sure, there are text which could be read to favor limited atonement, but none explicitly teach it. If you accept unconditional election, that God only ever intended to save a pre-selected group, then why would Christ die for those he never intended to save? The logic is sound if you accept the initial premise.
I became a pastor as well (bi-vocational associate, aka elder) in my church and was an enthusiastic 5-point Calvinist until the age of 46. Seven years ago, I was teaching a class on the book series “9-Marks of a Healthy Church” published by the Gospel Coalition. The first book by Ray Ortland Jr. entitled, “The Gospel” was what began my questioning of the “doctrines of grace.” Ortland presented a thoroughly monergistic definition of the gospel that failed to account for the role of faith in salvation. That got me to thinking how in Calvinism, faith is more of a by-product of regeneration than a true condition for salvation. Sure, you have to believe to be saved, but our believing is determined by God’s unconditional election, irresistible and preserving grace. It seemed to me that in Calvinism, faith is more the fruit of these things than the true condition of salvation. By my thinking, a condition is something potential, not something inevitable or even consequential.
So, for Calvinists to affirm faith is the condition of salvation is misleading and strains the normal understanding of a condition. It would be better for Calvinists to say that election is the only true condition of salvation. The only problem is that Scripture clearly and consistently presents faith as the condition of salvation, not election. The term “Elect” is used in Scripture as a synonym for believers, not a prerequisite for salvation. For me, that’s what started me down the path to investigate alternative ways to reconcile the relationship between faith and salvation.
Libertarian freedom provided a better (and more biblically consistent) solution. I agree with your assessment of 1 Cor. 10:13 (and all your other points for that matter). Faith is possible not pre-determined. Thus, it can rightly be considered the condition for salvation. Grace makes faith possible, and faith is a libertarian choice.
My point in this debate between Flowers and Abasciano is that both agree that we cannot be saved apart from God’s grace. Like you, I believe these two great thinkers are not as far apart as they seem to think they are. I guess even great thinkers have their limitations. 🙂
We could also add that in addition to the gospel message itself, there is invitation of the Father, the draw of Christ, and the conviction of the Holy Spirit in regards to sin. So there are many external and internal graces by God given to unbelievers.
Classic Arminians and Calvinists have never, to my experience, successfully explained what about Christ’s work or God’s redemptive plan is insufficient so as to still need an extra, specific grace just to make man able to believe, or able to even “want” to believe. Since their starting point is Total Inability – that man has no moral of spiritual capacity to trust the gospel, then it seems pre-faith regeneration, partial regeneration, and enlightenment are all just various ways to fix their own assumed problem.
And even Jesus says that the people of Tyre and Sidon “would have” repented had they seen the miracles done for Israel – and miracles are just an external witness! If Jesus Himself says that the miracles would have been enough to convince them, why do so many insist that all Christ has done by His cross and Resurrection, and the ministry of the Spirit convicting the world, the spread of the gospel, the testimony of the saints, etc. all are somehow not “enough” for any unbeliever to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ?
It just seems so odd, too. Like why is there such in emphasis in some circles of treating faith as a meritorious work of the law, or acting like it’s outside the Christian faith to believe that all people can choose accept God’s invitation and follow His command to repent and believe, and no one is morally or spiritually unable? And when did “speak the truth in love” and “build up one another” so easily turn into, “label others Pelagians and cast them from the fold or mock them if they don’t fully agree with Total Inability?”
From my perspective, both sides think that one is born spiritually dead, hence inability, total depravity. One side calls it “Prevenient Grace”, to be able to respond, while the other considers it “irresistable grace” to be able to respond, calling THOSE categories of grace, the gift.
Both believes in Original Sin, where Original Sin is the prerequisite to either of those graces.
When one dissects what Original Sin doctrine is, it is indeed possible to debunk that doctrine. And in doing so, it debunks both graces at the same time.
I have not done a full study of Pelagius, but of what I have scanned about him, and his beliefs, is that he was MORE RIGHT than the Arminians and Calvinists ever will be.
Pelagius is the most accurate in his assessment of free will, and yes, he discards the doctrine of Original Sin, as do I.
But I go a step further.
Where the gospels state that the Father “draws”, or that Jesus chose, REGENERATION, etc., I reserve that for the Jewish community only, in which TRANSITIONS them from the Law of Moses TO the Law of Christ.
I cannot ignore Deuteronomy 29:4/Romans 11:8, John 9:39-41, contrasting that with Romans 15:21.
But it seems that Arminians and Calvinists don’t do that, but that they put everyone in the same category of the Jewish community, and that they never read Romans 15:21, nor did they even TOUCH Romans 5:13/4:15, either.
And they forget about Abraham altogether and how he got righteousness, vs. the way that the Jewish community is WORKING for righteousness.
And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he hath commanded us.
So, here we have God mandating that the Jews follow the law, knowing full and well that no one can obtain righteousness thru the law, not giving the Jews a mind that understands anything, and people wonder why the Jews can’t get it right with God?
Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:
It was all a setup to fail.
And then we have 1 Cor 15:42-46
Planted in Corruption (a dying body)
Planted in Dishonor
Planted in Weakness
Planted a Natural weak dying body that came first
And most important, the Tree of Life is missing in everyone’s conversation, in that Adam could have obtained eternal life in a fallen state, but in order for him not to, that God had to block access, clearly showing that the tree had power to give eternal life before the fall.
We all die because Adam sinned, yes, but if God hadn’t blocked access, we would not die if Adam had eaten of that tree in a fallen state.
We die due to Adam not obtaining eternal life from that tree, because he sinned…not just because he sinned.
Original Sin is a terrible doctrine. Adam spiritually died that day that he got knowledge of good and evil. It did not begin the dying process of natural death, because as 1 Cor 15:42-46, it clearly shows he was formed that way from dirt (dust).
Anyway, that’s my rant.