The problem(s) with Calvinism

This is not actually in response to a post on Caffeinated Thoughts, but that post convinced me to actually go ahead and write this one. I’m not looking to start an argument. I would just like to point out the glaring problems I see with Calvinism and see if anyone can provide me with a reasonable explanation for the seeming absurdities.

1. Calvinism teaches that man cannot choose God of his own will, correct? God must choose man. Man is totally depraved and will not come to God on his own. If that is the case, how can God hold people accountable for something they have no control over? Does this not mean that God created men without the ability to choose him? In the Calvinistic view, hell is a place of punishment for rejecting God, right? If so, then how can God punish people when they reject him not by choice but because they were unable to choose him of their own volition? Is this not the definition of a sadist?

2. Why does the Bible tell people to repent? What is the point of telling people to repent when if God “elects” someone they’re going to do that anyway? In other words, why give us instructions when we have no choice in the matter? That seems asinine to me. It’s like telling people to remember to breathe.

In fact, one of the commenters to the above-mentioned post pointed out almost the same thing. He said, “To say that the Holy Spirit works with the individual to convict them of sin to bring them to salvation is ludicrous IF they are incapable of doing anything, i.e. free will.”

3. What’s the point of offering the gift of salvation to people who have no ability to accept it? That’s like giving a peanut butter sandwich to your child who has a severe peanut allergy and saying, “There, I’ve given you your food. Go ahead and throw it away if you want, but don’t say I didn’t offer you anything.”

4. Did Adam and Eve have free will? Were they incapable of obeying God’s instructions? If they were capable of obeying but chose not to, then they had free will. If they were incapable of obeying in the first place, then God’s creation was not perfect, and God is the author of sin and evil.

A Calvinist friend suggested a video that was put out by a Calvinist who was trying to explain the idea of double predestination. He said the concept of “equal ultimacy” (i.e. that God deliberately sends people to hell by injecting or infusing unbelief and sin into their hearts) is “harsh and unbiblical,” making God out to be a “vicious tyrant.” I’d have to agree. On that he provides a good explanation. However, it seems to me that those same words could be used to describe Calvinism even if we reject the extreme belief of equal ultimacy.

One thing that was especially interesting to me was that about 24 minutes into the video, the guy gives us the example of Pharaoh in trying to explain the concept of double predestination and make it “palatable.” He did not accept the plain reading of Exodus when it came to God hardening Pharaoh’s heart. If you take the passage in Exodus at face value, however, it states very plainly that God actively hardened Pharaoh’s heart. It is only by comparing the passage with other doctrines taken from other passages that you can deduce that God only passively hardened Pharaoh’s heart (which I, too, believe, because we first read that Pharaoh hardened his own heart).

Calvinists always claim that those who disagree with them are ignoring the plain reading of scripture, but I’d say we’re simply comparing the passages with what is taught throughout the rest of the Bible–exactly what this teacher did with this particular passage. As I mentioned before, I think the passages that seem to be teaching Calvinism are better understood as substituting the secondary cause for the primary cause.

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33 Responses to “The problem(s) with Calvinism”

  1. Kansas Bob says:

    Nice treatment of Calvinism Casey.. my thinking is similar to yours.

  2. You’re not looking to start an argument.. right ;).

    While I do state my positions on things I embrace what John Wesley once said, “In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” This while it is an important topic to me is not one I would consider an essential to the faith. I believe there are sincere believers in both camps and people in between.

    That said, let me tell you charitably where you’re wrong (I mean answer your questions), LOL.

    1. I think you are looking at election in this way picturing people lining up at the gate of heaven clamoring to get in and God says to some no and to some yes. In reality because of our depravity men are fleeing God and God in His mercy grabs one here and another there. So God is not a sadist, but rather because of His grace he elects, and because of His grace He sends His Son.

    People go to hell because of their sin. Isaiah 59:2, “but your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and yours sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.” God is not to blame when we do not choose Him. But we can not take any credit for our salvation when we do. Ephesians 1 and 2, Romans 8 and 9 are key passages for this. Casey even if you hold the Arminian point of view you still have to deal with predestination and election. So far I’ve seen no reconciliation of those passages with your position.

    2. John 6:44 – Jesus says, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” Is Jesus being asinine?

    Even though we were dead in our sins, God made us alive in Christ, (Ephesians 2:5). God enables us to respond to His calling.

    I freely admit that there is a tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. John 6 you see both. God is sovereign over our salvation, but doesn’t let us off the hook. Regarding “free will”, he doesn’t force us to choose, He enables, He calls and His calling is effective. It is because of election that we can even see fruit in evangelism.

    3. Because God commands us to do it. The Gospel is to be proclaimed. We are commanded to be disciplemakers. We are to be His witnesses. We are told to be salt and light. We have no clue who is elect. We are to show love to our neighbors. Far too often I’ve seen pride in evangelism – “I led so and so to Christ.” “So many people this month received Christ.” Like they had anything to do with the actual act of salvation. God used us to carry out His work. We proclaimed, He produced fruit. That way God gets all of the glory and credit. Far too often I’ve seen those who are Arminian be absolutely manipulative when it comes to sharing the Gospel, and it comes with a false assumption – that because we get somebody to pray a prayer they are saved. I’m not saying that doesn’t happen, but sometimes people respond to pressure or emotion instead of the work of the Holy Spirit and actual desire. When that is the case we give those who prayed with us false assurance.
    4. Casey, do you think God did not know they were going to sin? Because He created us with a will that can disobey He didn’t create evil and sin, but allowed it because He knew us. To say that God wouldn’t know what Adam and Eve would do, and then what we are doing is limiting God’s omniscience. That’s the basis of open theism which I consider a heresy. God’s creation was perfect because unlike us Adam and Eve were created without a sin nature. We are born with a sin nature.

    Ultimately all of this is done for His glory so that He would work out His plan among us.

    I’m sure my answers won’t sway you. So we will have to agree to disagree. Good push back though.

    I don’t know if you read my post on 1 John 2:2 regarding propitiation. You can check it out here – http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/?p=1633

  3. Oh – just realized the “In the essentials…” quote is from Augustine, not Wesley. My bad, had to give the right dead guy his due.

  4. casey says:

    No, Shane, I am not looking for an argument. And if it degenerates into that I’ll turn off the comments. I’m not arrogant enough to proclaim that I am the one with all the answers after 2,000 years or whatever of debate. I just honestly cannot see how Calvinism stands up to the test of logic.

    1. No, I’m not picturing it that way at all. You’re simply setting up a straw man here. Can man choose God of his own volition or can he not? If he cannot, then how can he be held responsible?

    2. If God had not extended the invitation no one could have come to him, regardless of whether they wanted to or not. I don’t think that verse proves either argument.

    3. No, I’m not talking about witnessing. I’m talking about God himself offering salvation to people he knows can’t accept it.

    4. I believe God knew they would sin. He knows everything. I agree with you on that point. What you’re saying, however, is that Adam and Eve had the ability to choose, but we do not. So again, in effect we are being punished for something that is totally out of our control. To use the aforementioned Calvinist’s words, that’s just harsh, and it makes God out to be a vicious tyrant.

    Of course, we can agree to disagree. I was just hoping to get some sort of insight into the Calvinist argument before having to discard it as absurd.

  5. Casey,

    How do you deal with the Bible’s teaching on election, foreknowledge, and predestination? You seem to just want to ignore its teaching. It is a hard doctrine, one in which we aren’t going to likely fully understand.

    1. This isn’t a straw man argument. It seems a lot of people want to look at God from one attribute only. God is love, God is also just, and God metes out wrath. We do get to choose – we choose sin every time. That’s my point. Election also demonstrates His grace.

    2. The verse talks about a drawing of that person. It is more than a simple invitation.

    3. They still choose to reject. See point #1.
    4. See point #1 – we do have a will, it is just by nature hostile to God. Our choices do have consequences. We always choose sin.

    Like I said their is a tension between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. It seems, to me, that you are wanting to go to the other opposite side of the spectrum. How do you deal with those passages?

    I could be just as dismissive of an Arminian position saying they teach a works-based salvation, but I don’t believe that is what they believe. Do you also believe you can lose your salvation, because that is a natural byproduct of your argument.

    I’d say you need to wrestle with it more, and read some more. At least figure out how you will reconcile the passages I’ve mentioned before rejecting the doctrine outright.

    Also when you call this doctrine absurd, think of those in company with this doctrine: Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Huss, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Spurgeon, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones are just a view who have passed. Today we have J.I. Packer, John Stott, Wayne Grudem, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Al Molher, and John MacArthur to name a few.

  6. Kansas Bob says:

    About working for your salvation.. for me, saying yes to the Holy Spirit is the work that Jesus spoke of in John 6:29.. it is a simple response.. not a work in the traditional sense of the word.

  7. Kansas Bob says:

    About predestination.. for me, God predestines on the basis of His foreknowledge of our response to the universal offer of His gift.. not on the basis of some sort of Jacob/Esau love/hate.

  8. casey says:

    I agree with Bob, here, Shane. God predestines on the basis of his foreknowledge. “Those whom he foreknew he also predestined.”

    1. I agree that God metes out wrath. However, I disagree that it is unjust. God does not mete out wrath on people for things they have no control over. To do so would be unjust and sadistic.

    2. According to your position it does. To me, however, it means that man was separated from God before the Cross and that after Jesus died for us we were drawn to God (i.e. given the option of coming to him). Yes, it’s a whole lot more than a simple invitation. It’s Jesus defeating sin and death on the cross.

    3. How is it a choice when it is the only thing they can do? You’re playing word games here.

    4. If we are unable to choose not to sin, it is not a choice to sin. There’s simply no way around this. You can’t use the word choice if there are not actual choices that can be made.

    Martin Luther was a racist. He had some things right, but on some things he was dead wrong. Even if Calvinists were in the majority (they may be, I don’t know) it doesn’t mean anything. That’s an ad populem argument, and it’s a logical fallacy.

    If you want to see how I reconcile the other passages, see this post:
    http://www.hoshuha.com/blog/predestination.html
    Basically, it is a matter of primary cause vs. secondary cause. Did God make David number his army, or did Satan?

  9. Casey – I didn’t list those guys to say those who hold an opposite view is in the minority. Actually I think the majority would be people in between. I said that to encourage you to exercise humility in this discussion.

    I’m not going to dismiss your position as absurd even though I disagree with it. I think you guys bring up some good points. I need to study more. I didn’t start out a Calvinist – was more middle of the road, and through study and the teaching of others it made sense to me. I will say that my defense of Calvinism is likely wanting, and will admit that I don’t understand how everything works. Like I said before there is tension.

    The most important thing that J.I. Packer boils a Calvinist position down to is that “God saves sinners.” I think that is something that we can all agree on, even if we don’t agree on the details.

  10. casey says:

    Shane, I know you believe that Calvinism is biblically sound, and I am not making any judgements on people that hold to that belief. As you quoted, “In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.”

    I personally find the arguments for Calvinism logically absurd. I’m not saying I’m right. I could very well be wrong. If there is a logically sound defense, I am honestly interested in it.

    You listed a number of great thinkers who were Calvinists, and I respect you as a thoughtful person, too. Let me be clear that I am finding fault with Calvinism, not with Calvinists (well, not all of them, anyway).

  11. Fair enough Casey, hey at least we agree on Jesus.

    And McCain/Palin too :D

  12. casey says:

    Hey, 2 out of 3 ain’t bad. :P

  13. Kansas Bob says:

    Nice dialog guys.

  14. Joseff says:

    Hi guys. I hope I am not too late in this conversation – I do not want to kick a dead horse. I myself have become a convinced 5 point Calvinist after the past few years of study. I was interested in contributing my 2c worth if you’ll allow it.

    I know these are tough issues, and all of Casey’s concerns are legit and fair questions – questions that all current Calvinists have had to struggle with and work through in the past. It’s sort of like struggling through a dark tunnel of looming questions and concerns and confusions, but you finally see the light at the end of the tunnel as you slowly unravel the mess that is created by the human brain at first mention of the buzz-word “predestination”.

    That being said, please allow me to answer the concerns of Casey in the original post.

    Casey said “Calvinism teaches that man cannot choose God of his own will..” This is true, but it is not exclusively Calvinism that teaches this, nor was it Calvinism that “initially” presented such an idea, but rather, it is the pages of scripture itself.

    The Bible says what man must do, and what God commands men to do, but it likewise has alot to say about what men *cannot do*. For example, all men, everywhere, are expected to obey the 10 commandments. Yet we also know that fallen man, while in his fleshly nature (ie, not born again, not regenerated), not only *wont* obey the law, but *cannot* obey the law. It is literally impossible for him to do so. He is incapable in the fullest sense of doing it. See Romans 8:7-8:

    Yet, though fallen man “cannot” submit to the law of God, God still holds men accountable for it! This is sort of related to points #2 and #3, but I digress.

    The point is, it is not unjust or morally wrong for God to command a man to do something that God knows full well he is incapable of doing. The reason is as follows:

    Paul tells us in Romans 3:20 that the law exists in order to make us aware of our sins. The law was never issued by God in order that men may obey the law – but rather, the law’s entire purpose is to reveal to us what we must do, and what we should do, but what we CANNOT do. The law is the schoolmaster that brings us to Christ.

    In like manner, when men are told to repent and believe the Gospel, it is not so that the man can take hold of his own power in order that he may do those things and “get saved” or “save himself”, but rather, it is to make him aware that he is powerless to help himself, and make him aware of his helpless state and horrify him, so that he will flee to Christ as the only perfect Saviour.

    Back on track: Does Calvinism teach that man cannot choose God of his own will and power? Yes. Why? Because that’s what the Bible teaches.

    While the Bible has alot to say about what we should do, it also reveals what man can, or cannot do. Here are some of the great “cannots” of the Bible:

    Man cannot see: Jn 3
    Man cannot come: Jn 6
    Man cannot understand: 1Cor
    Man finds the gospel foolishness: 1 Cor
    Man cannot obey: Rom 8
    Man cannot stop doing evil anymore than a leopard can change his spots

    More on mans natural, fallen state:

    Man is a hater of God: Rom 1
    Man does not seek God: Rom 3, Psa 14
    Man is hostile towards God: Rom 8
    Man enjoys the lusts of the flesh: Eph 2
    His heart is evil continually, from his youth (gen)
    Man is a slave to sin
    Man is not willing

    On and on we could go.

    Not only is man’s so-called free will never introduced in the Bible as a concept Christians should be concerned with, but anytime man’s will is used in reference to salvation, it is spoken of in the negative.

    Just stop and think about how many times in the NT Jesus sites people for “not being willing” to repent and believe? This is man’s natural response. All men, in their natural state, are unwilling to humble themselves, repent, and see Christ’s excellency.

    There is never, ever a time in the NT where salvation is the result of man being naturally willing! Doesn’t that say something? This alone is a strong case for monergism and irresistible grace, but I digress.

    Salvation is always presented as a result of God’s working in a man:

    The lord opened Lyddia’s heart to believe
    Jesus knocked Paul off the horse
    The Gentiles were ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48)
    Men were granted repentance from the Lord 2Ti2:25
    Peter told the recipients of his letter that they “obtained” their faith
    Eph 2:8-9 tells us that the entire salvation package is a gift from God
    On and on we could go

    The real issue in Casey’s #1 concern is directly answered in Romans 9, is it not? Casey said “How can God punish people for rejecting Him when they were unable to do so?”

    Didn’t the Apostle Paul expect this question after he presented unconditional election in Romans 9? Right after Paul stated that God gives mercy to whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires, Paul anticipates the very question Casey asked:

    “You will say to me then, how will he [God] yet find fault? For who has resisted His will?” Rom 9:19

    In other words, “Paul, if it’s ultimately God’s doing that men have hardened hearts, how can he find fault with them/hold them accountable?”

    Paul throws diplomacy out the window and puts man in his place and reminds us of God’s place: “Who are you, O man, to reply against God?”

    Paul then reminds us that we are like pots in the Potters hands: being formed for different purposes in whatever way God deems fit, for His own purpose and glory. Some for grace for the demonstration and glorification of His mercy, some for wrath for the glorification of His justice.

    Too often we forget that God is wrathful and just, hates sin, and sinners (Psa 5:5). God is love, yes, but love is not God. God is not exclusively love. He is a consuming fire, holy, and cannot put up with sin, and will by no means clear the guilty.

    I think what Paul is saying in Romans 9 is that the objects of God’s grace would not fully appreciate it if there was not something to contrast it with: His wrath. It’s sort of like how a contrast between things is necessary to understand and appreciate them individually. For example:

    Without darkness, we would not appreciate or know what “light” is.
    Without evil, we would not know what “good” is.
    Without suffering, we would not appreciate well-being.

    Without a real threat of God’s wrath and justice, what would Christians be being saved from? Nothing…

    Let me address another point Casey made: He said “Whats the point of offering the gift of salvation to people who have no ability to accept it?”

    This is a legit concern, but I think a biblical understanding of salvation is necessary to answer the question.

    The Bible never describes salvation as a gift being offered to men, if only they will take it. Rather, salvation is spoken of as a gift that is APPLIED to men (not merely offered to them). Salvation is described as being born again, a new creation (being made a new creature), a change of the heart from stone to flesh, being resurrected, being quickened, being washed and regenerated (made alive)

    So you see, salvation is not a package waiting for a living man to walk by and weigh the evidences and make a choice to take it or not, salvation is that the man is spiritually dead and buried away in the coffin of sin and self, and then being miraculously resurrected, spiritually! What’s the result of a spiritually dead man (eph 2) that is born again and resurrected to spiritual life? Why, faith and repentance of course!

    This is why we tell men to repent and believe – because it’s all that they can do. But they will only do it if they have been born again, which happens as a ministry of the Holy Spirit, who blows wherever and on whomever he wants to, like the wind blows (John 3:8)

    We don’t tell men to “make themselves born again”, do we? No, because that’s not their job, that’s not something they can do. They can’t resurrect themselves or make themselves “born again” anymore than a physically dead man can resurrect himself or an unborn child can cause his own conception/birth.

    When salvation is spoken of as a “gift offered” rather than a “gift”, period, it sort of waters down the nature of the gospel: that the call to repent and believe is not an invitation, but it is a COMMAND. To disobey the command is a sin. Repentance and faith is not a suggestion or a well-wish from God, it is a summons, a direct order, an imperative, a command.

    As you will come to know shortly in your study of reformed theology, you will find that the whole issue hinges on the doctrine of regeneration more than it does on the doctrine of predestination. This is why Paul Washer, a Calvinist, said recently “Calvinism is not the issue, regeneration is”

    Regeneration is when God changes a sinner’s heart, inclines him to believe, draws him (drags with force, see a Greek concordance), gives him to Christ, regenerates him, washes him, makes him alive, quickens him, creates a new heart in him, makes him a new creature, indeed, RESURRECTS HIM.

    So you see, election is not all there is to salvation. Election is simply what God did, before time, to mark sinners for regeneration, justification, and glorification – sinners who did not deserve to be saved in the first place. This is the very definition of grace: unmerited and unearned.

    This is why we preach the gospel. This is why there’s a difference between the outward call and the inward call. The outward call is the universal outward gospel message preached to all creatures.

    We must remember, God does not exist to save us. Rather, we exist to glorify God, in one way or another.

    Thank you guys and God bless!

    Joe

  15. casey says:

    Hi Joe,

    Thanks for stopping by. I appreciate your input. In the future, however, please try to make your comments a little more concise. I had to delete your P.S. and several places where you pasted entire passages of scripture (it gets linked automatically, so there’s no need).

    To me, “Who are you to question God?” is not an answer. Your responses are typical of defenders of Calvinism in that you simply shift the focus of the question. You can play word games all you want, but you have essentially agreed that my statements hold true, i.e. that 1) God punishes people even though they reject him not by choice but because they were unable to choose him of their own volition, 2) God tells people to repent even though they do not have the ability to do so, and 3) Salvation is not made available to all men. I don’t think you addressed point number 4.

    I’m sorry, but an interpretation that leaves us with the above conclusions simply cannot be correct. You can argue that “God said it, so I believe it” all you want, but I’ll still say you’re interpreting it wrong.

  16. Joseff says:

    Heya Casey,

    Thanks for the quick reply. Sorry for the long nature of the post. Yes, I didn’t deny your concerns, but I showed you from scripture that they are not erroneous.

    Yes, God commands people to do something they cannot do. I proved this to you by showing that God commands men to obey the law (ie, the 10 commandments). Yet Rom 8:7 flat out states that man is *unable* to do so. Incapable.

    Yes, sometimes God commands the opposite of His secret decree: This is proven by Pharaoh’s account and God’s purpose in hardening his heart. Other accounts that prove this are Assyria’s attack on Israel (Isa 10), the crucifixion of Christ (Acts 4), Judas’ betrayal of Christ, Joseph’s brothers throwing him into slavery (Gen 45)

    Yes, salvation is only for the elect. But do you know what this does? It makes salvation all of God and a 100% success rate. Every single person who God elects is saved. Every single person that Christ dies for is saved. Every single person that the Spirit regenerates is saved. God never fails in what He intends to do in this view, which is harmonious with what the entire Bible (Especially the OT) says about God’s sovereignty.

    A non-reformed view of salvation has God trying, and failing, repeatedly. The Father can’t elect unless the men first give him a reason to do so. The Son tries to atone for all, but the majority of mankind slips through His fingers and He is upset for all eternity. The Spirit can’t overcome the human will, because the human will is just so darn powerful!

    Is Jesus the lifeguard who sees a drowning(but still alive) man, and throws him a rope, which allows the man to save himself if he chooses to do so after weighing the pros and cons of the situation?

    Or, is Jesus the lifeguard who sees an already dead, drowned man, dives in, drags him out, and miraculously brings him back to life?

    Casey, I guess we should be going to scripture. What scriptural passages are holding you back from accepting this position? I know that emotional reasons can prevent someone from doing so, but those do not count. Scripture is our authority, not how we feel about it.

    John 3:16? 1 Tim 2:4? 2 Pet 3:9? I assure you, in context, these types of passages not only do not say what some want them to say (by a mere surface reading), but ironically, they actually support the reformed position!

    If you want, I can go over these, and others, with you. Lets cut to the bottom line and talk about scripture. What say you?

  17. Joseff says:

    I’m sorry for spamming, and I don’t mean to appear like I’m coming out of no where with guns-a-blazin’, but I feel like I must clarify something in my last post:

    I said “Yes, God commands people to do something they cannot do”, but I did not explain why that is not unjust of God, so let me try here:

    The reason God could justly command Pharaoh to repent, though God had no intentions of him doing so, is because man is already naturally unwilling.

    In other words, God did not create fresh evil in Pharaoh’s heart. God did not do anything to “prevent” Pharaoh from repenting.

    Imagine this: the same sun that melts the wax hardens the clay. The sun does not need to act different towards the clay than it does the wax in order to achieve different results. The wax melts because that is its inherent nature. The clay hardens because that, too, is its nature.

    In like manner, when God commands Pharaoh to repent and believe in Him in order to be forgiven (Pharaoh is the example of every single one of Adam’s offspring), God is simply being who He is: holy, kind, loving, and just. The natural response to who God is, by the natural, not-yet-regenerate (born again) man, is to become hardened.

    When God said He would harden Pharaoh’s heart, this is what He meant. The reason it was just and fair of God to do this is because of one reason: Grace. Think with me for a second. Grace is never, ever obligatory or earned, but is always unearned and voluntary on God’s part.

    God can command Pharaoh to repent, but not offer him the grace to do so, and that is PERFECTLY JUST! Why? Because Pharaoh, like all men, are already guilty, condemned, and hell-bound because of sin. God does not need to do anything in order for men to go to hell. He simply needs to give them justice and not offer them grace! But if God DOES decide to voluntarily and freely give grace, then we will see results! Salvation is all of grace isn’t it? Receiving faith is a gracious gift. Having our hearts changed, which enables us to believe and repent, is a gracious gift from God.

    Back on track: When God commands men to repent, they will only continually and consistently harden like the clay in the sun, because that is their nature. God will never expect something to act contrary to their nature, but Casey, God does change the nature!

    The only way that a man will humble himself and see Christ’s excellency, and repent and believe, is if God changes the clay into wax – only then will the wax melt!

    This is the doctrine of regeneration, spelled out in Ezek 36:25-27. This is being born again, made a new creature, recreated, resurrected from spiritual deadness, quickened, made alive. (See Titus 3:5, John 3:5, Eph 2)

    I think i told you in my first post, the issue is not Calvinism, it is regeneration. If you get regeneration down, TULIP will fall into place.

    Thanks again for hearing me out. God bless.

    Joe

  18. casey says:

    If I have a child, and I put him into a room with a 20-foot ceiling without a ladder and tell him to change the lightbulb, would it be wrong of me to then punish him for not changing the lightbulb? What if I had two children, and I put both of them into rooms with 20-foot ceilings. One I give a ladder and the other I don’t. I reward the one with the ladder who changes the lightbulb and punish the one without the ladder who cannot change the lightbulb. Is it okay then because I have shown mercy to one?

    You’ve already admitted that in your belief system humans do not have the ability to choose to do right. God is then punishing us for not choosing salvation, even though we do not have the ability. Saying we have a sin nature and that God is just letting us do as we please is missing the point all together.

    God does not fail by allowing men to have free will. You believe that Adam and Eve had free will, right? Did God fail when they sinned?

    I don’t need you to explain your interpretation of certain scriptures that seem to contradict your position. I think you’re wrong in your interpretation. I can’t even consider your ideas until I’m satisfied that they are logical and do not end up with a god that is a monster.

  19. Joseff says:

    Your analogy is faulty at several levels Casey and totally misses the mark. You see, your analogy presents a situation where people are innocent until proven guilty. But the Bible presents the opposite: guilty until proven innocent.

    Your analogy has innocent people being punished for not being able to perform X. Yes, of course that would be injustice.

    However, a better, more Biblical analogy (that does not conveniently leave out SIN) is as follows:

    A number of rapists, murderers, adulterers, liars, and thieves are in prison, awaiting their just execution. The warden *should* do the just thing and simply let them get what they deserve and have earned: death. But, the warden is merciful, and graciously decides to pardon some of the convicts.

    The ones he does not pardon and ultimately experience justice are not guilty merely on the basis of the warden “passing over them”, but rather, they have been guilty from the start.

    You said “In your belief system humans don’t have the ability to do right”

    Sir, that’s not my belief system, that’s the Bible.

    Regarding Adam and Eve: the only answer is the Biblical answer – God is sovereign, and His decree always happens and His purposes cannot be thwarted.

    God created with the full intention of letting them fall – there is no other answer than that. Any other answer presents an unbiblical god who is a “reactor” instead of a Sovereign God who does all that He pleases, and does all things according to the council of his own will.

    God promised eternal life before the world began, Christ is the lamb slain before the foundation of the world, God predestined us before the world began, God chose us in Him before the world began – these all prove that however the human history played out is precisely how God intended it. And that is nothing more than the idea that God is Sovereign.

    Putting aside Calvinism, atonements, elections, and inabilities, at least do yourself a favor and go study the doctrine of regeneration.

    If you don’t hear anything else I said, at least hear this: regeneration precedes faith.

  20. melissa says:

    Did Satan have free will? Did he rebel against God because God made him do it, or did he do it on his own free will? How about the angels who followed him?

    Regarding Calvinism, I have also examined it, while diligently studying my Bible. It has many compelling arguments. However, I do not believe it takes EVERY word of God into consideration. In other words, it isolates certain scriptures from the rest of the Bible, and insists that you base your beliefs on ONLY those scriptures.

    Jesus, when tested by satan in the wilderness, answered him with “It is written.” When the devil used Scripture against him, Jesus said “It is ALSO written.” I think this is very important and will help us not to fall for error.

    I have told the Lord Jesus that when I go into my prayer closet with the Word only (Sola Scriptura) and become convinced of Calvinism, then I’ll be a Calvinist. Not before! From my experience, one must be taught Calvinism, one is not going to pick it up on his own, by simply reading and believing the Bible.

    God bless you.

  21. casey says:

    There you go again, Joe, answering a question that was not asked. I asked you if Adam and Eve had free will. If they did not, then God is the author of sin and evil.

    You said, “Your analogy has innocent people being punished for not being able to perform X. Yes, of course that would be injustice.” You admitted that you believe humans do not have a choice. We cannot do right of our own volition. So, yes, my analogy does hold. According to your position, God is telling us to do something that he knows full well we cannot, and when we fail he punishes us for eternity.

  22. Joseff says:

    Regarding Adam & Eve:

    The creature’s ability to choose what they desire (more Biblically accurately called “free choice”, not “free will”) has always been in tact, before and after the fall.

    However, the choices of mankind throughout human history is not independent of God’s Sovereignty and His purpose to carry out his eternal plan through His own creation for His own glory.

    There’s 2 major understandings of free will.
    1) Libertarian free will – the idea that we are totally free, even from any sort of sovereign plan or control of God. This view holds that God’s plan and purpose can and be and often is thwarted, resisted, and overthrown by the creature’s will and whether or not he will cooperate.

    2) Compatiblist free will – this view teaches that man’s free choices are still in tact and do not thwart God’s purpose, but rather, God carries out his purposes *through* the free choices of men.

    Examples of this in the Bible:

    Joseph’s brothers threw him into a pit and sold him into slavery, yet after it was all said and done, Joseph tells his brothers “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (Gen 45). In other words, yes, the brothers did what they most wanted to do. God did not twist their arm to carry out His plan. Yet they are still held responsible for the evils they committed against Joseph, even though it was God’s purpose from the beginning to put Joseph in Egypt through these events

    Example 2: Acts 4 tells us that Christ’s murder through the free choices of Pilot, Herod, Jews and Gentiles was predestined to happen. This was God’s ordained means to sacrifice His Son, yet the men involved are not stripped of their responsibility for doing so because their intentions were evil, but God’s is always good.

    There’s several, several examples of God carrying out His plans through the free choices of men. This is why it’s called “compatiblist free will” – because man’s free choices and responsibility remain in tact while yet God’s Sovereign plan is never thwarted.

    In answer to your question, yes, Adam freely and willingly sinned, but the 2nd answer is also, yes, it was God’s decree and eternal purpose that it would happen. Rom 9 tells us that God is willing to show both His wrath and His mercy, so that He can receive glory (Regardless if you read Rom 9 as pertaining to salvation or national privileges, it does not change the truth found in verses 22-23.

    Also, see:

    Pro 16:4 The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.

    In short, there’s always two answers to a question.
    Did Joseph’s brothers put Joseph in Egypt? Yes.
    Did God put Joseph in Egypt? Yes.
    Does God hold the brothers accountable for what they did? Yes

    Did evil men crucify Christ? Yes.
    Did God crucify Christ? Yes
    Does God hold those men accuontable for doing it? Yes

    Did Judas willingly betray Christ? Yes
    Did God purpose for it to happen? Yes (See Jn 17:12)
    Does God hold Judas responsible for doing that? Yes

    Did Assyria willingly attack Israel? (Isa 10) Yes.
    Did God use Assyria to attack Israel? Yes
    Did God punish Assyria for it? Yes

    Did Adam freely and willingly disobey and fall? Yes
    Was this God’s decretive purpose all along? Yes
    Are men held responsible for being fallen? Yes

    Surely this is a satisfactory answer, Casey?

    There is no such thing as a man’s will being “free”. Christ tells us that we are slaves to sin. Paul tells us that we are either slaves of Christ or slaves of satan and sin. Christ advises that we are either children of God or children of the devil.

    There is no neutral middle Ground Casey. The Biblical choices are NOT
    1) Libertarian free will on neutral ground
    2) Slave to Christ once saved

    Rather, the Biblical options are:

    1) Slaves to sin and satan, fulfilling the lusts of the flesh
    2) Slaves of Christ and righteousness, born again

    The will is not free, it is rather in bondage to one of these two things. The idea of freedom is that you are able to choose from among the range of things you desire, so yes, free choice has always been, and always will be in tact. (fallen or saved)

    The point is, that fallen men do not desire Christ, holiness, or repentance. They must first be born again and the heart must be changed before he can incline himself towards holy and spiritually good things. Only thereafter, only after regeneration does a man “see” the kingdom and have the ability to “come” to Christ, and only then can they “understand” spiritual things, no longer finding them foolish, and only then can they “please God”.

  23. casey says:

    Hi Joe,

    For the most part I can agree with what you’re saying. It lines up perfectly with what I understand about free will. No one who believes in free will believes that mankind can thwart God’s plans. God uses our free will to accomplish his purposes. God did not create Adam and Eve with the intention of them sinning, but he was not caught off guard by it, either.

    I think probably the main problem is that we are unable to think of things from God’s perspective, because we are limited by time. Our very thoughts are only possible because of the passage of time. God, however, is the Creator of all things, including time, so he is not bound by it. The Bible must explain things in words that we can understand, but there are other deeper things taking place behind the scenes that we are unable to comprehend because of our finite minds.

    So I agree with you that God is sovereign and that God’s purposes will be accomplished regardless of the actions of mankind. What I disagree with you about is your position that God is predestining people irrespective of his foreknowledge or their free will.

  24. Joe says:

    Thanks for the response Casey.

    You said “no one that believes in free will believes that mankind can thwart God’s plans”.

    I agree wholeheartedly. The question is: is it God’s plan to save every single individual that ever lived, is living, or would live?

    If so, then what’s stopping this from happening? Are men too sinful to be saved? No, because God saved the chief of sinners and can save to the uttermost. Is it because men hate Christ? No because all fallen men hate God, (Rom 1:30) and Paul himself hated Christ yet was converted by God’s power. Is it because men do not have spiritual eyes or ears? No, because God’s grace in regeneration grants the eyes to see and the ears to hear. Is it because God is trying to save them, but cannot? No, because God doesn’t “try” to do anything. He does not try to save – He saves!

    In short, God’s grace is effectual. (hereafter called irresistible grace) God can and does draw men to Christ resulting in them coming to Christ (John 6:37). God can and does cause men to be born again (ie, regeneration) (Eph 2, 1 Pet 1:3)

    In fact, you believe this. Do you know why I know this? Because I’m sure you have at some time in the past prayed to God and asked him to save your lost friends and family. If you don’t believe that God could or should irresistibly or effectual change a man’s heart and incline him to believe, then why are you praying to God? What are you asking Him to do?

    If you can adhere to the Bible’s version of “free will” – hereafter called Compatiblist Freedom, then to understand reformed theology and predestination, you simply need to apply the concept to salvation itself.

    Do men freely and willingly obey God and believe the Gospel to be saved? Yes
    Was this God’s purpose all along? Were these men predestined for it? Yes

    What about the lost? Are there verses that suggest that they are lost for a purpose? The answer is hard to swallow, but yes, there is.

    Rom 9:18-24, Prov 16:4

    Men are not saved or lost by accident. Constantly the NT talks about God choosing us, predestining us, appointing us to eternal life, etc.

    There is simply no way to shrug off the meaning of these texts. If you’re saved, it’s because you were predestined for it. For the longest time I swept those verses under the rug, categorizing them as “things that are a mystery and not meant to be known”. I was simply fooling myself. The Bible teaches predestination boldly and without apology, but it also teaches that men are responsible for what they do or do not do. These things don’t make sense to us, but they do to God.

    Both concepts are true. As Spurgeon, a Calvinist said, to think men are so free that God is not in control of their actions is near atheism. But to think that God’s control is such that men are not responsible for their actions is fatalism. There are two lines running together that the Bible teaches, and though we cannot reconcile them in our finite brains, they are both true nonetheless. We are not meant to reconcile them in our minds, but rather simply believe them.

    To argue against absolute predestination does no good. You must believe it because the Bible teaches it. We must believe that yes, God ordains everything that happens, but likewise yes, men are responsible for what they do.

    As far as your specific question about God predestining based on foreseen faith, hereafter called “Conditional Election”, there is simply no Biblical, exegetical basis for this concept. No where does the Bible state it, and when the Bible comes close to talking about the reasons for election (Romans 9), it in fact takes the opposite stance.

    A Christians goal is to defend God’s purpose, not man’s freedoms or ideas of fairness. Romans 9 tells us that God elects unconditionally for His own purposes, because he has vessels of mercy that must be contrasted with vessels of wrath.

    When Rom 8:29 and 1 Pet 1:2 talk about God’s “foreknowledge”, it is not talking about His omniscience.

    Rather, God’s “knowledge” is a more personal, intimate thing. See the following verses:

    Mat 7:23, John 10:14-15, 1 Co 8:3, 2 Ti 2:19, Amos 3:2, Rom 11:2

    Besides, Rom 8:29 assigns the object of “know” as “Whom” – people. God knew people, not actions of the people. “Whom He did foreknow…”

    Fore = before
    Know = know in a personal, loving relationship

    Foreknown means forelove.

    Furthermore, faith is proven to be a gift from God. Therefore it would make no sense for Paul to say that God predestined people based on the gift He Himself gave them.

    See these verses for proof that faith and repentance are gifts:

    Eph 2:8, Php 1:29, 2nd Tim 2:25, Acts 13:48, 1 Co 12:3, Rom 8:9, 2 Ti 2:25, 2 Pet 1:1, etc.

  25. casey says:

    I was trying to give you an out, Joe, by proposing that we agree to disagree. You can say “You must believe it because the Bible teaches it” until you’re blue in the face. My response is always going to be, “Your interpretation is wrong.” There have been countless God-fearing scholars on either side of the debate throughout the years, so you can’t claim that only your side is true to the Bible. Until you can show me that Calvinism does not make God a monster you will not sway me with your other arguments.

    “Is it God’s plan to save every single individual that ever lived, is living, or would live?” No, I would say it is God’s plan to give every single individual that ever lived, is living or would live an opportunity to be saved. He did not “try” to provide the means for man to be saved, he did provide the means for man to be saved.

    And yet, there are certain things that our sovereign God cannot do. For example, God cannot create a rock so big that he cannot lift it. In the same way, he cannot give humans free will and take it away at the same time. If someone chooses not to believe, it is not God’s failure but theirs.

    On the other hand, according to your position, there is no difference between the elect and the non-elect other than the fact that God has chosen one and not the other. Both are equally deserving of eternal punishment. So God chooses to save some but not others. Could he not find it in his heart to save everyone? Again, if God created some people for the express purpose of subjecting them to eternal punishment (=revealing his glory???), as is apparently the position of Calvinism, then he is a monster.

    I do not pray for God to save friends or family members. I pray that the Holy Spirit will convict them. It is up to them whether they respond or not. If they were predestined one way or the other, what would be the point of praying?

    Are you a Greek scholar? How can you make a statement that Romans 8:29 is not talking about God’s omniscience? According to the Greek interlinear, it does indeed mean “to have knowledge beforehand.” Is this how you come to your conclusions? By elevating your own ideas to the level of Scripture and then insisting that others “must believe” as you do? You can’t break down words and assign new meanings to a compound based on the comprising parts. Even if it was a legitimate practice in English, that would not make it OK in the Greek.

    Salvation is a gift, faith is not. Greek scholars have already shown that “this” refers to “salvation” in Ephesians 2:8. Even John Calvin himself recognized that (see The Epistle to the Ephesians, Edinburgh: Oliver & Boyd, 1965, p. 144). Once again, why would we be commanded to believe (have faith) if faith is, in fact, a gift? Such a command would be ridiculous and, dare I say, mean-spirited.

  26. Joe says:

    Casey I want to thank you for continuing to converse with me about this topic. I truly appreciate it. Let me address some of your concerns:

    You keep saying “your interpretation is wrong”, but Casey, I did not interpret anything. The countless scriptures I’ve mentioned need no deep interpretation, but rather, a simple face reading. A simple face reading of the Bible will reveal the following truths:

    1) By nature Man cannot savingly believe in Christ or the gospel
    2) The remedy to this is regeneration (being born again, born of God)
    3) The result of being born of God is faith in Christ

    Casey, both sides of the debate (Calv and non-Calv/Arminian) agree that the Bible teaches #1. The remedy listed above in my list is the reformed view. The other “remedy” proposed by men from the other side of the debate is called “prevenient grace”, which is the idea that yes, men are fallen and lost the ability to come to God by their own power, but God responded by granting a universal enablement to every single individual that ever lived.

    The problem is, by their own admission, there is no exegetical, scriptural support for prevenient grace. The entire non-reformed position stands or falls with prevenient grace. It is the foundation.

    Prevenient grace seems to be more of a theological necessity in
    the Arminian (or non-reformed) system than a demonstrable teaching of Scripture.

    The challenge is to prove from the Bible that God’s enablement is not effectual. This would be very difficult to do, because Christ Himself declares “All that the Father gives me, will come to me” – John 6:37

    *Will* come to Him. Not “might”, or “maybe” or “has a higher possibility” or “a better chance”. They will come, without a doubt, if given to the Son by the Father.

    No interpretation is needed. You simply need to read the text.

    You then said that God’s purpose is not to save, but rather, provide salvation. In other words, you believe that the Bible teaches “God makes men savable”, not “God saves men”. Can you back this up with scripture?

    What exactly, from the Bible, would you use to prove that what God did was to merely make men savable? The Bible tells us that God quickens (regenerates) whom He will (John 3), and that the result is believing in Christ (1 Jn 5:1, John 6)

    The Bible tells us that those the Father gave to the son, Christ died for, and those died for will, without a doubt, receive eternal life (John 6, John 10, John 17, Hebrews, Romans 8, Eph 5)

    The Bible tells us that God elects, and His choice results in the final glorification of those elected (Rom 8, 2nd Thess 2:13, Acts 13:48, Eph 1, 1st and 2nd Peter, etc)

    John 17 and Hebrews tells us that those Christ died for and mediates for are, without a doubt, eternally saved and redeemed. It is said that “Christ entered into the holy place and obtained eternal redemption”. (Heb 9:12)

    It does NOT say that “Christ obtained the possibility of eternal redemption”

    It is said in John 17 that Christ “does not pray for the world, but for those that the Father gave him – and the result of Christ mediation and sanctification on the cross – those same people will, without a doubt, receive eternal life. (John 17:1-2, 9, 19)

    I’m not sure where you get the idea that what the Triune God did does anything less than perfectly save. God elects, the Son atones, the Spirit regenerates.

    Where do you see room for failure in this truth? Where does man’s will and choice enter the picture? Salvation is monergistic, it is the work of one party alone – God. He took all the steps necessary.

    As said earlier, Calvinism is simply this: Salvation is of the Lord.

    To answer your question, no, I’m not a Greek scholar, but I appeal to those who are. I’m not sure what experts you speak of, but whether or not Eph 2:8-9 is speaking of salvation as the entire package, or each individual piece, it does not matter, because there is Biblical proof from several other areas of the Bible that faith and repentance are both gifts from God – they do not originate in a fallen sinner.

    Also, I’m not sure what experts you appeal to, but foreknowledge in Rom 8:29 is a verb, not a noun. It is something God actively does – He decides to “know” people. It is not a mere passive acknowledgment of men and their actions. I already gave you several, several other Bible passages that shed more light on what it means for God to “know” people. Please read and consider them.

    You then said: “On the other hand, according to your position, there is no difference between the elect and the non-elect other than the fact that God has chosen one and not the other. Both are equally deserving of eternal punishment. So God chooses to save some but not others. Could he not find it in his heart to save everyone?”

    That’s not according to my position, that’s according to the Bible and basic Christianity 101 understanding. The difference between the saved and the lost is one thing and one thing only: a 5 letter word called GRACE.

    So when you imply that the only difference between the saved and the lost is God’s choice to save some, I answer yes, that’s exactly right. And that’s in perfect accordance with Rom 9 which states that God has mercy on whom He will, and He hardens whom He will.

    You then argue that God could not find it in his heart to save all men, but I must ask – is God morally obligated to do so? If God were to decide to not give mercy to a single individual but rather, let the entire race justly perish because of their sins, would that be a problem with you? I have a feeling you would say “yes”, because you are arguing for God’s obligatory role to save, or at least try to save, all men. Such a concept is foreign from the Bible and Christianity.

    You then stated: “Again, if God created some people for the express purpose of subjecting them to eternal punishment (=revealing his glory???), as is apparently the position of Calvinism, then he is a monster.”

    Casey, that is not the position of Calvinism, that is the position of the Holy Spirit inspired scriptures. Romans 9 tells us that God desires to show his wrath in vessels of wrath. It also tells us that God’s purpose for creating Pharaoh and raising him up as king was solely to crush him and show his power in him, for His own Glory. Prov 16:4 states that God created all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil.

    Putting the Calvinism debate aside, if you have trouble reading those three above-mentioned passages, then your problem is not with a theological system called by any name, rather, your problem is with the Bible itself. It is not the Reformers who wrote Prov 16:4 and Rom 9:17-22, it is God Himself.

    Our Job as Christians is not to cherry pick Bible verses that appeal to us, comfort us, or that fit our preconceived idea of who we think God is. Our job is to obey, trust, and believe in the entire revelation of scripture and what it says God is. If it says God creates the wicked for His own purpose, then I unapologetically stand by it, and you should too. If it says that God raised up a man for the sole purpose of making an example out of him for His own glory, then I stand by it, and you should too. If Acts 13:48 says “those appointed to eternal life believe”, then I stand by it, and you should too.

    It is folly to shrug off these hard to swallow truths by simply dismissing them as an erroneous interpretation. You know as well as I do that hardly any exegesis is required to understand these passages – their meaning is as clear as crystal.

    I’m not saying that you must believe everything that I, Joe believe. I cannot argue for human authority. However, if I were to do such a thing, human authority and church history would agree with my position, not yours.

    As Spurgeon said, “We (Calvinists) are backed up by antiquity”

  27. casey says:

    Joe, all you’re doing is repeating yourself in different words. Let’s recap:

    1. God holds people accountable for failing to accept Christ even though they have no ability to choose him of their own volition. In fact, based on your latest comment: God created men without the ability to choose him (i.e. instilled with a sin nature), but his grace is only extended to some. Basically, God designed men to sin but then punishes them for it.

    2. God commands people to repent even though he knows fully well that the elect cannot help but repent and the non-elect cannot repent.

    3. God does offer salvation to all men, but only the elect are capable of accepting the gift.

    4. Adam and Eve did not have free will. They sinned according to God’s plan.

    These are your answers as I understand them. Rationalize them if you will with parables about potters and clay, but these answers are not satisfactory. The God I know wept over Jerusalem because the people rejected him (Luke 19:41-44). You do not weep over people rejecting you if you decreed that they would do so from the very beginning. The Calvinist interpretation makes God a sadist and a schizophrenic. If such was the case God would not be worthy of worship.

    You say that all I need to do is read the text, and then you give John 6:37 as your proof text. Who is cherry-picking? I’ve already said that God has predestined. My view is that he predestines those whom he foreknows will choose him. Shall I pick up John 3:16 and tell you that you must believe as I do because either God loved the whole world or he did not? I know very well that you have your own interpretation of John 3:16, just as you know very well that I have my own interpretation of John 6:37. How we interpret these verses is based on our underlying theology.

    You seem like a nice guy, Joe, but I honestly see no point in continuing this discussion with you.

    By the way, in future discussions you might want to avoid ad populem arguments even if you preface them as such.

  28. Joe says:

    Can’t your argument in #1 be said about sin itself? The Bible clearly states that fallen man is incapable of obeying God’s law. It states that fallen man is unable to please God. That means he has no ability to obey God, or please him in any manner.

    Yet you would agree with me that God punishes them and holds them accountable for the sins they commit! This is the very thing you are arguing against!

    #2 – you misunderstand. It is not that that the elect are forced to repent and the nonelect are prevented from repenting. The issue is, as in Pharaoh’s case, the non-elect (nor the elect prior to regeneration) *have no desire to repent*. By their fallen nature, they are “haters of God”, hostile towards God, at enmity against God.

    It sounds like your mistake is viewing non-regenerate fallen man as some neutral agent, sitting on the fence between good and evil, between loving God or hating God, and must choose which way to go. However, the Bible does not describe fallen man this way. There is no such thing as this third “middle, neutral ground”. All men by nature already hate God, find him foolish, and would not repent or choose Christ if given the chance.

    The difference between those that repent, and those that do not, is one thing, and one thing only: Grace.

    If Grace was not involved, then there would be no difference between human beings – all would continue to happily enjoy their sins, hating God, and would willingly go to hell for all eternity because they certainly would not want to live with the God they hate so much!

    As far as Adam and Eve go – I never said they did not freely make the choice. Did you not read anything I said about Compatiblist free will? God works out his plan through the free actions of men

    If you cannot deny this truth in the examples I gave you about Joseph’s brothers, Assyria, Judas, and Christ’s crucifixion, then why do you insist on denying it in the case of Adam and Eve?

    It’s perfectly fine if you do not want to adhere to this theological view. But at least figure out what exactly your view is.

    Are you Semi-Pelagian or Arminian? If neither, then you can be accused of not being orthodox, but rather, having your own version of Christianity – “Casey’s version of Biblical Christianity”. Do you know the difference between the different historical views? If not, then you need to study. The reason is because if asked to defend your view, you would need to be able to do so from scripture. Could you? Could you articulate your theology? Could you describe to someone how a man is born again if asked – and prove it from scripture? Could you describe how the entire Trinity works out salvation? Could you explain how the Father elected, the Son atoned, and the Spirit regenerates – and prove it from scripture?

    Here’s the historic views:

    Pelagianism – the fall did not affect anyone following Adam – all humans are born with a clean slate and can be saved by simply choosing not to sin. God’s grace is not needed. Human monergism.

    Semi-Pelagianism: The fall affected all of Adam’s descendants, but only “wounded” them. There is an untouched island of righteousness that allows them toinitiate a relationship with God. God’s grace is needed, and man’s cooperation with that grace is needed. Synergism.

    Arminianism: The fall utterly ruined mankind, rendering him incapable of initiating a relationship with God. The remedy is a universal re-enablement by God called “prevenient grace”. Prev. Grace is not necessarily effectual and does not always result in salvation, because grace can be resisted due to man’s free will. God’s grace is needed, and man’s cooperation with that grace is needed. Synergism.

    Calvinism: Same as Arminianism insofar as the fall rendered mankind incapable of initiating a relationship with God. The remedy, however, is different. The remedy is instead regeneration, being born again. This new birth is always effectual and always results in salvation, and is only given to those whom God is pleased to give it. God’s grace alone is needed. Divine Monergism.

    So Casey, I’m simply asking you to tell me which of these historical views you fall into.

  29. casey says:

    Thanks, Joe, but this is my blog, so I’ll ask the questions. ;) I didn’t post this topic to have a Calvinism vs. Arminianism debate (especially with someone repeatedly making dogmatic statements like “that’s not my belief system, that’s the Bible”). I simply wanted to see if there was a logical/satisfactory solution to the problems I have with Calvinism. Alas, it appears not. Again, you argue that the non-elect are not prevented from repenting, but if they are created without the ability to repent, that is the same thing for all intents and purposes.

  30. joe says:

    “Again, you argue that the non-elect are not prevented from repenting, but if they are created without the ability to repent, that is the same thing for all intents and purposes.”

    First lets make something clear. They are not “created” that way. Mankind was created sinless. By his free choice to sin and disobey, all of his offspring inherit his sin nature. God made a covenant (a promise) to Adam, and said you disobey, you will surely die. It happened. It was God’s decree.

    Why do I know this? Because eternal life was promised before the world began. Because God is said to desire that both his wrath and his mercy be demonstrated and glorified. Because Prov 16:4 says that God created all things for Himself, even the wicked for the day of evil. Because the names of those saved were written in the book of life before the world was created (Rev 17:8) It was God’s decree, for his own secret, holy, mysterious purposes. I know that’s hard to accept, but that’s what the Bible teaches. God is both the Ordainer of evil without directly being responsible for evil. That’s the clear teaching of the Bible. He’s in control of evil, and uses it for his purposes. It was obviously, in God’s mind, better to allow evil into the universe, to serve his purpose, and give him glory, that it would be without it.

    It is a result of the fall that man inherits his sin nature, and thus, his spiritual inabilities. Thus, by nature and choice, all human beings are stained by sin, unable, and unwilling to return to God. That’s orthodox.

    Second, man is unable to please God and unable to keep the law, yet God holds him responsible for that, right? Does this, too, make God a monster? You have never satisfactorily answered this question. In fact you’ve avoided it at all costs.

    Next, yes, man is unable to repent and believe, man is unable to “come to Christ” in faith. These are not Calvinisms’ words, they are Christ’s and Paul’s words.

    No man seeks God
    No man can obey God.
    No man can please God.
    Man finds the gospel foolish, he is unable to understand it.
    No man can see the kingdom unless born again.

    No man can come to me unless it is given to him by the Father
    All that the Father gives me, will come to me.

    In other words, that’s the whole debate summed up in two statements. No man has the ability to come to Christ, but to all whom the ability is given, will come, without fail, without a doubt.

    Finally, you keep forgetting a key point that the Bible labors to make clear. It’s not man’s inability that is the ultimate problem – it’s his unwillingness.

    So while man is unable, he is likewise unwilling. For instance, I am unable to kill a puppy because I am unwilling to do so. My unwillingness is the very source of my inability. In like manner, coming to Christ and submitting to God, and giving up the sins we love so much, is so obnoxious to the human spirit, that he would never do it, ever, if given the opportunity.

    Lets say you loved chocolate, and hated vanilla. Would you give up chocolate for some vanilla? Would you give up the thing you love so much for the thing you hate so much? No, of course not. That’s natural. In like manner, man is not willing, and thus not able, to give up the sins he loves so much for the God he hates so much.

    The Bible describes fallen man as unwilling, haters of God, hostile towards God, enemies of God, finding him foolishness, children of wrath.

    You however seem to want to latch onto this notion that fallen man (unregenerate man) is not really against God and hostile towards him, but rather, sitting on the fence, at some neutral point. It seems that in your view, man doesn’t hate God, but doesn’t love him either, he’s neutral, and he needs to hurry up and make his choice. Such a concept is foreign to the Bible.

    The question is, since the bible is true, and it says that fallen men by nature hate God and are unwilling to submit to him, how do you get a man to drop their hatred? How can the man suddenly change his own attitude and his own heart and his own nature? He cannot.

    This necessitates regeneration. The heart must be changed. The eyes that cannot see must be given sight. The ears must be given the ability to hear. The heart must be given the ability to love, when it formerly only hated. It must be given the ability to understand, when it formerly could not understand. The spirit must give life. This is what Christ said in John 6. This is what He meant when he said that the Father must grant it enable a man to come to Christ. He must be born again. This is what John said in 1 Jn 5:1.

    This is all Biblical language and you know exactly which Bible verses these concepts are contained in.

    Regeneration precedes faith Casey! How can you Biblically prove otherwise? You cannot. All I’m arguing for is that you are not necessarily defeated by a theological system by any name, rather, you are simply defeated by the scriptures. I’m not trying to be harsh, but you have avoided all the scriptures I’ve thus far given you. You have not replied in any meaningful way to the theological ideas the Scripture itself presents to us.

    You have only instead lashed back with opinions and pejorative language such as “God is a monster!” and “That’s unfair!” and “I’m not satisfied!”, yet you give no real reason to not be satisfied with the scriptures other than “That’s the wrong interpretation”. Yet you do not provide the correct one, why? Do your questions immediately, suddenly, and magically defeat the Scriptures clear teachings on these matters? No, not at all.

    If you think these scriptures are taken out of context and interpreted wrongly, then please, by all means, provide the correct interpretation here. Your opinions cannot defeat the argument – only the scriptures can. So why are you avoiding using them as your ammunition?

  31. casey says:

    Joe, I do not consider myself an Arminian. I believe I am perfectly capable of reading the scriptures for myself and not depending on someone else’s commentary to come to a conclusion on any given topic. I’ve attended Arminian churches in the past, and my current church is Calvinist. As Shane mentioned, I do not believe it is an essential, so I have no problem attending churches that hold either view.

    It seems I misunderstood your position on Adam and Eve, but that merely brings another question. You say that free will takes away from the sovereignty of God, but then you admit that Adam and Eve had free will (we both agree that God knows our choices beforehand and uses them for his purposes, so that’s not the issue). On the other hand, if you are going to make a distinction between being created sinless and having free will, you’ll have to explain that so that a dummy like me can understand.

    I do not believe it is impossible for man to keep the law (practically, maybe, but not theoretically). When we sin it is because of our free will. We do not become slaves to sin by birth but by choice (and yet, a single sin is an infinite offense against a holy God, and no amount of keeping the law afterwards can redeem us). God punishes us for willful disobedience, not for something we have no control over. And the gift of salvation is available to all who freely choose it.

    I already told you what I believe the correct interpretation of your proof texts is. God predestines based on his foreknowledge. If that is unsatisfactory to you, then so be it, but you have not defeated me with the scriptures as you have repeatedly claimed. You sound like a broken record.

    Joe, as I said before, I’m not interested in a debate (perhaps one of these days I’ll do a post on why I think they’re pointless). You’re obviously itching for one, and I’m sure there are plenty of places out there to engage in one. There’s really no point in listing a whole bunch of scriptures that you think support your view. You have yours and I have mine (starting with John 3:16 and the like but including verses like Matt. 3:1-2 which make no sense in a Calvinist context). The issue is not who can cite more verses but which interpretation makes the most sense. That is the discussion I was hoping to have.

  32. Joe says:

    Hey Casey,

    Was not interested in a debate, was only attempting to address and correct some misconceptions that abound regarding reformed theology. (which, in my opinion, were prevalent, but hopefully now understood more accurately)

    In my defense, if you’ll just take 30 seconds to glance through our conversation, you will discover that I never argued in defense of a “theology”, I merely presented the scriptures and argued for them. Scripture after scripture about what men cannot do which necessitates what God must do, and Casey, that’s what makes grace all the more gracious!

    Thanks for the dialog, hope you have a good Christmas season and New Years :)

  33. casey says:

    Thanks, Joe. Same to you. God bless.