Is Synergism Possible in Conversion?

I have a question: Is it possible for God in His sovereignty to create man with the responsibility of making choices that would not only determine the quality of his life but his eternal destiny as well? Almost everyone I know, Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike, agree that sanctification is synergistic. Could God have made the conversion process synergistic as well? I am not asking for a theological dissertation on the ramifications or the Scriptural basis for such a possibility, but rather the plausibility of the possibility that God COULD have created man with the responsibility of choosing his own eternal destiny?

Any comments?

Grateful to be in His grip!

><>”

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19 responses to this post.

  1. Hi,

    First of all the obvious answer… Of course it is “possible” for God to do anything.

    (I’m paraphrasing here so apologies in advance).
    Jesus said to the disciples that knowledge is from the spirit and you need that spirit so many of them went back home leaving only the 12. They rejected him and chose their destiny.

    What of the parable of the seed falling on the path or rocks or fertile soil? If we are the rocks or fertile soil then we are the ones that nourish (or otherwise) the seeds planted in us.

    What of the progidal son? He chose to go home to the father. The father didn’t call him or force him or give him special ointments (or grace) but the son repented of his lifestyle and chose to go back home with head in hand.

    I’d say yes again so that’s two yes’s and no no’s from me.

    Reply

  2. Duplicating the comment I left at my blog:

    “Is it possible for God in His sovereignty to create man with the responsibility of making choices that would not only determine the quality of his life but his eternal destiny as well?”

    Of course it is possible; in fact, God has already done so. God has already created man with the responsibility of making choices that would determine quality of life and eternal destiny. Adam and Eve in particular were completely free to choose which way to go. The possibility, or even necessity, of individual choice is not really the issue. We all must choose. But since the fall, our individual choice would always be against salvation. We must make a choice; on our own, we will always make it against God. But when God brings regeneration and faith, that choice changes from sin to salvation. Our desire is for God. Irresistible grace does not mean we come against our will; it means our will, our choice, will be for God.

    “Almost everyone I know, Calvinist and non-Calvinist alike, agree that sanctification is synergistic. Could God have made the conversion process synergistic as well?”

    Sanctification is a little tricky. I am reluctant to call it synergistic, but I’m reluctant to say it isn’t, so I guess that makes me undecided. 🙂 There is certainly the component that must come from us, but any good that comes from us ultimately comes from God. In Galatians 3:3 Paul seems to attack the notion of sanctification by work: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

    Also passages like Philippians 1:6: “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

    And especially Philippians 2:12-13: “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

    Take these together, and at the very least we must acknowledge that any good we do in the direction of sanctification is God at work through us – him who works in us to desire and to do his will. The only synergistic aspect is that he is doing it in and through us.

    Reply

  3. Could God have created man with the responsibility of choosing his own eternal destiny?

    That the answer to the above question is ‘Yes’ seems so self-evident that it is almost embarrassing to have to substantiate it. Nevertheless, I like what Tozer said:

    “Certain things have been decreed by the free determination of God, and one of these is the law of choice and consequences. God has decreed that all who willingly commit themselves to His Son Jesus Christ in the obedience of faith shall receive eternal life and become sons of God. He has also decreed that all who love darkness and continue in rebellion against the high authority of heaven shall remain in a state of spiritual alienation and suffer eternal death at last.

    Reducing the whole matter to individual terms, we arrive at some vital and highly personal conclusions. In the moral conflict now raging around us, whoever is on God’s side is on the winning side and cannot lose; whoever is on the other side is on the losing side and cannot win. Here there is no chance, no gamble. There is freedom to choose which side we shall be on but no freedom to negotiate the results of the choice once it is made. By the mercy of God we may repent a wrong choice and alter the consequences by making a new and right choice. Beyond that we cannot go.

    The whole matter of moral choice centres around Jesus Christ. Christ stated it plainly: “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt. 12:30) and, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) The gospel message embodies three distinct elements: an announcement, a command, and a call. It announces the good news of redemption accomplished in mercy; it commands all men everywhere to repent, and it calls all men to surrender to the tenors of grace by believing on Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.

    We must all choose whether we will obey the gospel or turn away in unbelief and reject its authority. Our choice is our own, but the consequences of the choice have already been determined by the sovereign will of God, and from this there is no appeal.”

    From ‘The Sovereignty of God’ in The Knowledge of the Holy

    With kind regards,
    Matthew

    Reply

  4. Thanks for the interaction. I pray there is more. Andrew, you are disqualified because you voted twice. No fair! JK. Is it possible that there were some “special ointments” in the fine food he was eating just before he returned to his father’s house?

    Matthew, excellent post. Unfortunately, the answer to the question is too “self-evident” for many; the problem and the reason for the post is that there are those who sit determined on each side of the question answering “Yes” and then “No.” Chris’ answer is a perfect example of the “other side.”

    Chris, your answer to the question concerning the possibility of God creating us (who are alive today) with the responsibility of making choices that would determine our eternal destiny then would have to be “no” it is not possible, correct? Apart from the regenerating work of God, man is totally and completely incapable of responding to God in ANY favorable manner, period.

    Your reluctance to say that sanctification is synergistic, seems to me to be equally interesting. Would it not be fair to say that if your position on sanctification is not firmly monergistic then by definition it would HAVE to be synergistic?

    Your choice of Galatians 3 is an interesting one. Here is the text you referenced in its context.

    Gal 3:1-25
    O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified? It seems to me that Paul is referencing the “truth that saved them” with “Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross”. It was the message that Paul preached to them concerning the crucifixion and resurrection that opened the eyes of the Galatians.

    2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh? 4 Have you suffered so many things in vain — if indeed it was in vain?

    I think the following commentary notes are worth quoting with respect to verse 3:

    “In the Spirit – Not merely was Christ crucified ‘graphically set forth’ in my preaching, but also “the Spirit” confirmed it by imparting His gifts. ‘Yet are ye now being made perfect’ (Greek) – i.e., seeking to be made perfect with fleshly, i.e., sensuous and earthly ordinances? (cf. Rom 2:28; Phil 3:3; Heb 9:10.) Having begun with the Holy Spirit ruling your spiritual life as its ‘essence and active principle’ (Ellicott), in contrast to “the flesh,” the element in which the law works (Alford). The Galatians thought that they were going more deeply into the spirit; for the flesh may be easily mistaken for the spirit, unless believers maintain a pure faith.”
    (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright © 1997, 2003, 2005, 2006 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)

    5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? — 6 just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” 7 Therefore know that only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” 9 So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham.

    Verse 9 looms large in my mind as well. Those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham. I understand the fact that this verse does not negate the role regeneration MAY play in the process of faith, but it seems to me Paul’s lack of acknowledging its role would lend credibility to the possibility that saving faith is what produces regeneration as opposed to it being the other way around. In fact, his whole argument in this passage seems to suggest that regeneration prior to conversion is not even a consideration or there would be no confusion as to who and how any of the Galatians were saved.

    The Law Brings a Curse

    10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” 11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.” 12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”

    13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

    Once again, it is faith in what Christ has done on the cross on our behalf that allows us to “receive the promise of the Spirit”. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God. (Rom 10:17)

    Purpose of the Law

    19 What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator does not mediate for one only, but God is one.

    21 Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law. 22 But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.
    (NKJV)

    Verses 22-25 sum up Paul’s position in this passage. All are no doubt under sin. There is no question about that. (Ro. 3:23) Notice Paul’s next statement, “The Scriptures condemn so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be GIVEN to those who believe. The Law “was our tudor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” Once again, it seems to me as I read this passage, there is no hint at all of God’s regenerating work other than the exercise of believing faith on sinful man’s part, which Paul is saying that came to them because of his preaching the gospel message to them and their response to that message centered around the cross.

    To me, verses 22-25 clarify what Paul said in verse 3; “perfected by the flesh” is defined as going back to the work of the Law to maintain your position of relationship in Christ. The Law did not save them and it will not sustain them.

    Your concluding statement that “we must acknowledge that any good we do in the direction of sanctification is God at work through us” is absolutely correct. The question that I have even in this statement is this: Is God and God alone responsible for that good or is it a response on our part to His revealed Word and His Self-declared purpose to reconcile us (the world) unto Himself? Are we responsible for OUR choices or is God responsible for EVERY good or Godly choice that we make and we only responsible for every decision that “falls short of the glory of God”?

    Thanks for your input!

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    ><>”

    Reply

    • “Chris, your answer to the question concerning the possibility of God creating us (who are alive today) with the responsibility of making choices that would determine our eternal destiny then would have to be “no” it is not possible, correct?”

      No, the answer I gave was yes, he can and does create us with that responsibility. We are responsible for our sin, we are responsible for responding to the gospel. The choices we make have eternal ramifications.

      “Apart from the regenerating work of God, man is totally and completely incapable of responding to God in ANY favorable manner, period.”

      That is correct, but it is not the same question you asked before. They are separate issues. Whether God gives us choice is a separate issue from whether or not our flesh would ever choose God. We are given choice – the choice to perfectly obey the law of God, then the choice to respond to Jesus with faith, but no one is able to desire God so no one will ever obey the law or choose to respond to the gospel unless God first does something in that individual’s life.

      It’s worth noting that Arminians would agree 100% with what I’ve just said. Arminians believe in something very much like total depravity, but Arminians propose that God gives prevenient grace to people which elevates them out of their deprave state just enough to allow them to make a free choice to reject or accept the gospel.

      I think that to a degree, the Arminian notion is plausible. Yes, it is certainly possible for God to do this – to enable people to desire or reject the gospel. The problem with the Arminian notion of prevenient grace is not that it is impossible but that it is unbiblical, it is simply not found in Scripture.

      “Would it not be fair to say that if your position on sanctification is not firmly monergistic then by definition it would HAVE to be synergistic?”

      No, my position is undecided with heavy monergistic leanings.

      “In fact, his whole argument in this passage seems to suggest that regeneration prior to conversion is not even a consideration or there would be no confusion as to who and how any of the Galatians were saved.”

      I don’t think the chapter is dealing with the ordo salutis (and I’m not sure how we got there from a discussion on sanctification). Paul is dealing with Christians who acknowledge they were saved through the work of the Spirit yet are now returning to works for sanctification. They have tried to resurrect elements of the law, making adherence to the Mosaic law a necessary part for Christian sanctification. Paul’s point to them in verse 3 is that just as they were not saved by works, they are not sanctified by works. It is the Spirit who saves, it is also the Spirit who sanctifies. He doesn’t mention regeneration because that in itself has nothing to do with his point.

      “Are we responsible for OUR choices or is God responsible for EVERY good or Godly choice that we make and we only responsible for every decision that “falls short of the glory of God”?”

      We are responsible for our choices, but I wonder how you would define the word responsible. We are responsible in that God has given us certain obligations, ways to live that are in accordance with his will. If we fail to live according to his will, we are held accountable because we were responsible to live in obedience. But responsibility and credit are not the same. What I mean is, I am responsible for living in obedience to God, yet Scripture seems to make it clear that when I live in obedience to God, it is not because I have chosen by my own power and acted under my own power to do the things of God. If I live in obedience to God, if I am faithful with the responsibility God has given me, it is only because God is at work in me to will and to work for his good pleasure. That is why I said “and especially” with regards to Philippians 2:13, I think it is key in this discussion.

      Reply

      • Hey Chris,

        You wrote, “They are separate issues. Whether God gives us choice is a separate issue from whether or not our flesh would ever choose God. We are given choice – the choice to perfectly obey the law of God, then the choice to respond to Jesus with faith, but no one is able to desire God so no one will ever obey the law or choose to respond to the gospel unless God first does something in that individual’s life.”

        To me this is not much more than a matter semantics, which I know you have heard probably a 1000+ times. If an individual is “given the choice to choose” but no one will “choose to respond to the gospel” seems to me to be contradictory statements. It seems to me that in your statement, an individual’s choices are already made; without regeneration, one’s choice is limited to rejecting the gospel message and after regeneration one’s choice is then also limited to accepting that same gospel message. Choice is really removed unless and until God changes the predisposition of the individual.

        This is at the root of my original question. David’s quoting Dr. Patterson below, is really the direction that the original question was pointed in; “I happen to believe that God is sovereign enough that He can make a man totally free if He wishes to do so.” It seems to me that Calvinism really takes that possibility away.

        With respect to the issue of sanctification, I guess the real gist of that application is Calvinism seems to me, to reduce God’s monergistic work to conversion; His involvement in man prior to conversion is certainly not monergistic; His involvement in sanctification, which immediately follows conversion, almost has to be synergistic; then the ONLY decision that God controls directly is that concerning his conversion. If every other decision is synergistic at least to some degree, then it just seems to me that the posibility of one’s conversion may be more synergistic than the Calvinist position states.

        You wrote, “We are responsible in that God has given us certain obligations, ways to live that are in accordance with his will.” How does this “flesh itself out” in a monergistic leaning thought process? Does this mean that “my obedience to the Word of God is solely God’s doing? Does that mean when I come short of God’s ideal, that it is also God’s doing or a lack thereof?

        Is that what you are saying when you wrote, “What I mean is, I am responsible for living in obedience to God, yet Scripture seems to make it clear that when I live in obedience to God, it is not because I have chosen by my own power and acted under my own power to do the things of God. If I live in obedience to God, if I am faithful with the responsibility God has given me, it is only because God is at work in me to will and to work for his good pleasure. That is why I said “and especially” with regards to Philippians 2:13, I think it is key in this discussion.”

        I understand the issue of the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the work that He plays in the sanctification process. So in a sense, I am in agreement that our righteousness is not our own, but the result of our response to God’s initiative in our hearts and in our lives. My question I think is really this: does the concept of irresistible grace apply in the sanctification process as it does in conversion experience? The answer to that question would probably determine the monergism/synergism question in my mind.

        Your thoughts??? I really appreciate the dialogue.

        Grateful to be in His Grip!

        ><>”

      • “I happen to believe that God is sovereign enough that He can make a man totally free if He wishes to do so.”

        The Calvinist would say the same, in terms of will. Man is completely free to choose how he will regarding God. God does not constrain our choice. God does not limit us, only allowing some to choose one way and others to choose another way. God has left us free.

        By our sin, we have willingly cast that freedom aside. The choice we have made is to rebel and to remain in our rebellion. This is something I have hit again and again and I can’t understand why it is a difficult issue. God does not limit the range of choice available to us. The gospel is freely offered to everyone. All are invited, all are called to Christ, all are given this choice. And we were created with the full capacity to respond with either obedience or rebellion. That capacity became corrupted through our (in Adam) free choice to rebel against God. We, by our sin, have brought corruption. The choice remains – God makes the offer and we are responsible to respond, but we never will.

        Also, going back to the Bible on this, what I mentioned before remains – I believe something like the Arminian notion of prevenient grace is possible, but where do we see it in Scripture? Where do we see anything of man’s capacity other than the Bible telling us again and again that all are sinners, all have rejected God, no one seeks God, etc? The Bible is clear on total depravity, so even Arminians have conceded that point. But where is the Bible clear that God has restored our capacity to choose good, that God has removed the corruption that leads all people ever into sin?

        “If every other decision is synergistic at least to some degree, then it just seems to me that the possibility of one’s conversion may be more synergistic than the Calvinist position states.”

        Possibilities are meaningless, apart from the testimony of Scripture. It matters very little what God *could* do, it matters what God *has* done and what God says he *will* do. It is all well and good to consider what actions are within the realm of God’s power, but at the end of the day that is just pointless speculation. The question is, what does the Bible teach.

        “Does this mean that my obedience to the Word of God is solely God’s doing? Does that mean when I come short of God’s ideal, that it is also God’s doing or a lack thereof?”

        It means that the responsibility is mine, but again and again I have proven incapable of obedience. By grace, God works in me to bring obedience. It is grace – he does not have to do this. When I fall into sin, the responsibility is mine, not God’s, for the burden was on me to obey, not on him to provide grace. When I obey, it is by God’s grace alone because my obedience came by the Spirit, by his power, not mine.

        “does the concept of irresistible grace apply in the sanctification process as it does in conversion experience? The answer to that question would probably determine the monergism/synergism question in my mind.”

        I agree, I think it would determine the monergism/synergism question, but I’m not yet sure how to answer.

  5. You ask, “Is it possible for God in His sovereignty to create man with the responsibility of making choices that would not only determine the quality of his life but his eternal destiny as well?”

    My answer is, yes.

    I have a post, “Paige Patterson on Calvinism.” I like the way he put it:

    “I just happen to believe that God is sovereign enough that He can make a man totally free if He wishes to do so.” -Dr. Paige Patterson, SWBTS

    David R. Brumbelow

    Reply

  6. Sorry, Bob. Didn’t know you wanted my answer over here….You producing a bit of synergy yourself, huh? My answer is too long for your post, I’m not known for brevity, but you asked…so here goes:

    Well, Hello Bob Hadley, Nice to meet you. Welcome to “Today”. Wow! What a comment! You are asking me some heavy duty questions. I think.

    I read your comment and question to my husband this morning. Ya see, I think that God put him and me together in a synergistic fashion to carry out His purpose for our individual lives. And so, yeah…I think it is possible for God to do anything He wants to bring about the result He purposes for the good of all of us and His perfect will which we only see a pinch of in our entire earth-life. After all, He knew before we were each born that we’d need a Savior to make us righteous before Him. He had to give us a chunk of Himself to fuse the glorified nature of Himself within our beings. I don’t pretend to understand it all. I just know that the good and the bad occurs and God is in charge of it all. Satan likes to think He is, and Satan likes to tell man that we are in charge and in control. But in the finality of every situation, we all must bow before the sovereignty of God’s will. He sets up the rules and boundaries of the game in life. We can stay within the boundaries or step outside them. Most often, man steps outside the boundaries and stretches rules in what we deem is our own favor. But God’s got a plan for whatever way we choose. He’s like the perfect closer, designated runner and pinch hitter. He’s the baking powder and salt in my cake batter. He’s the hand that holds the chisel.

    I have found in my life that God just flat-out loves the devil out of me. It is a painfully sweet surgery when He cuts into the festering boil of my life’s choices and releases the poison that seeks to claim me for its own. When His Spirit convicts mine of a pursuit that is not within His will, I know. He gave us all the knowledge of good and evil when Eve took a bite of that fruit in Eden. That is the synergy. We have the knowledge. He has the wisdom. We can have the wisdom if we ask. He gives more and more wisdom as we seek Him. The logistics is something I just have come to trust in faith. I believe He will guide me when I blow it and bring me back onto the course He knows is best. I’ve messed up royal in this life. Royal. Many times. But God in His infinite wisdom showed us that most all His people throughout all time have messed up in one way or another…yet, He loves them because they turn to Him. Grace is a wonderful thing. Mercy is beyond my ability to discern but within my ability to accept and wallow in.

    Calvie and Non-Calvie is just part of man’s way of trying to understand more of God. It’s funny sometimes when I think about it. In the final analysis of things, we can’t. We cannot understand the mind of God. We only get a glimpse. I don’t understand all the petals as Calvie’s try to explain them. And I am okay with that. I don’t worry about it anymore. I did when I first learned that it was an issue. My gut tied knots in my heart and almost cut-off blood flow to my brain. But I am at peace with God without knowing it or understanding it. I really don’t worry about whether someone thinks I am a poor ignorant non-C or not. I don’t worry about whether I am vocal enough about it all. I just sit around talking to God all day and He assures me He has it all under control. That’s enough for me.

    If the SBC splits into S and B and C and becomes CBS then God has a plan. His work will not be thwarted even if man messes up some portion of a great garden growing in the world. God is God, after all. I don’t know if that answers your question but it is where my thoughts took me as I wrote. I may come back tonight and re-read them and say, “what are you talkin’ about girl?!!”, but for now…that is my thoughts. I will go by and visit your blog and see what you have to say on it all. I probably should have done that before offering my limited opinion. But then it may have clouded my undiluted, spontaneous answer. Blessings, selahV

    Reply

  7. You said:

    “Are we responsible for OUR choices or is God responsible for EVERY good or Godly choice that we make and we only responsible for every decision that “falls short of the glory of God”?”

    Now you can kick me right out of here because I’m going to vote 3 times and this one will be different to my other two (but exactly the same in a weird kind of way).

    Why would God make a being that can only do bad things? Why would Jesus ask us to be perfect if we can only fall short?

    This is how I perceive free will (which in a very round-a-bout way is what you are really talking about). If my right hand had eyes and a tiny brain but no way of perceiving my arm then it would think it had free will. There’s no arm to direct it and it holds things and makes things from almost nothing and has its own intelligence. In fact if it looked around it would probably think it or other hands made just about everything there was. What a magnificent creature this hand is, it would be quite enamoured with itself. It is intelligent, has free will, and creates – it might even think it was a god.

    Then one day it might realise the greater connection back to the arm and then back to the brain. If it was willing to accept what it saw now but “knew” all along but couldn’t “see” then it would realise that it had no free will at all but just did the bidding of the greater intelligence behind it. What a magnificent creature is the hand that it can do all these things and is a servant to a greater intelligence to enable its works to be done.

    We work in the same way. While we are enamoured with our physical being we believe our brain is all there is and since we can’t “see” a connection to anything higher then we are it buddy so anything we do, good or bad, is ours and ours alone so we have total free will. We might even pray to some “thing” out there we’ve heard about but as far as this physical existence goes we need to rely on the physical – it appears to be the only way.

    When we see the “connection” back to our source and accept it then we realise that we are simply instruments so that His work will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We can then be in the world but not “of” the world. We have no free will and actually desire no free will because it is total freedom to not have free will.

    Free will appears to be very real when you are bound by the flesh. It can’t be argued against because that appearance is so strong and tied to our physical senses and the way they work. When you go beyond the physical senses they are seen as the limitations they really are.

    In essense they both have it right. Calvinists after transformation and others before transformation. It’s a rare beast that can see both at the same time.

    As I like to say “It’s all how you look at it.” 🙂

    Reply

    • Your third vote really confused me! That right hand with a brain really got me all twisted up! Glad you did not throw in the big toe with a mouth. I would have probably lost it.

      You said, “When we see the “connection” back to our source and accept it then we realise that we are simply instruments so that His work will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We can then be in the world but not “of” the world. We have no free will and actually desire no free will because it is total freedom to not have free will.”

      Not sure i am following your last statement and what I am following I am not agreeing with. Of course, “free will” has a number of meanings and even more connotations so I will not pass judgment on what I might interpret you to be saying.

      I believe God created us with minds to choose between doing what seems right in our own eyes versus doing what His Word instructs us to do. The consequences of those decisions are what determine the quality of our lives and our eternal destiny as well.

      I understand the importance and the relevance of the work of the Holy Spirit in that process and the importance of revelation; however, in the end, God is looking “to and fro on the earth for those He can show Himself strong whose hearts are loyal to him.” (2 Chron 6:19) Our obedience to His Word and His Son are what make God proud of us as His children. He wants to be our God and He wants us to be His people. How much simpler can things be?

      Grateful to be in His Grip!

      ><>”

      Reply

      • “in the end, God is looking “to and fro on the earth for those He can show Himself strong whose hearts are loyal to him.” (2 Chron 6:19) Our obedience to His Word and His Son are what make God proud of us as His children.”

        Except this isn’t the case. I’m not sure what translation that’s from (2 Chronicles 16:9, by the way), but I checked several (ESV, KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV (old and new), HCSB, Tanakh) and they are all similar to the ESV: “for the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.”

        This passage is not telling us, “God is looking around, trying to find all those who are faithful to him,” but rather, “God is watchful over all things to support and protect his people.” I take this from Proverbs 15:3 which says, “The eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good.”

        Hanani’s point to Asa is, “God will give victory to his people, but instead of trusting God, you trusted in Syria.”

      • Hey Chris… thanks for pointing out the typo…

        “for the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him.” is in line with the NKJV, which I quoted, “in the end, God is looking “to and fro on the earth for those He can show Himself strong whose hearts are loyal to him.”

        You wrote… “This passage is not telling us, “God is looking around, trying to find all those who are faithful to him,” but rather, “God is watchful over all things to support and protect his people.”

        I would argue that His people are those “whose hearts are loyal to Him” and “faithful to Him.”

        I agree with your assessment of Hanani’s point. Here is a question that illustrates a point I am making on your position of God’s grace… would you say that Asa failed to trust God because God did not give him grace to do so? Did Asa trust Syria because it was a choice that he himself made, or because God did not give him the grace to do?

        Thanks again for the dialogue and the spirit of the dialogue! So refreshing.

        ><>”

      • On replying to comments, looks like your blog only allows a certain number of nested comment levels.

        “…in line with the NKJV, which I quoted…”

        Here is what the NKJV says:
        “For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him.”

        Here is what you said: ““in the end, God is looking ‘to and fro on the earth for those He can show Himself strong whose hearts are loyal to him’.”

        I belabor the point because I frequently hear people reference this passage as saying God is seeking, looking, searching for a certain kind of person, and that seems to be the way you are using it, as if to say, “God is looking throughout the earth for that kind of person.” But no translation, not even the NKJV, renders it that way and I don’t think that’s the point of the passage. God is not searching throughout the earth for that kind of person; he already knows who they are. Rather, those who trust him will see he is strong by his sovereignty over all things on earth.

        “would you say that Asa failed to trust God because God did not give him grace to do so? Did Asa trust Syria because it was a choice that he himself made, or because God did not give him the grace to do?”

        Asa failed to trust God because Asa refused to believe God’s promises. Asa made the choice to reject God.

      • Chris…

        I see what you are saying about the “to and fro”… I belabor the point because I frequently hear people reference this passage as saying God is seeking, looking, searching for a certain kind of person, and that seems to be the way you are using it, as if to say, “God is looking throughout the earth for that kind of person.”

        I really was not looking at the issue of Him looking… although I suppose there is an element of that… but the emphesis that I was looking at was God’s promise to “He can show Himself strong whose hearts are loyal to him’.” I was not looking at God’s inability to KNOW who those are… but the fact that He rewards those whose hearts are loyal to Him.”

        It is the loyalty to God that I believe is central in the Scriptures.

        You wrote, “Asa failed to trust God because Asa refused to believe God’s promises. Asa made the choice to reject God.” Sounds like synergism to me! LOL.

        ><>”

  8. Chris,

    For some reason I could not reply to your response in the thread so I am here. I agree with what you say here…

    “By our sin, we have willingly cast that freedom aside. The choice we have made is to rebel and to remain in our rebellion. This is something I have hit again and again and I can’t understand why it is a difficult issue. God does not limit the range of choice available to us. The gospel is freely offered to everyone. All are invited, all are called to Christ, all are given this choice. And we were created with the full capacity to respond with either obedience or rebellion.”

    Here is where we start to part company. I do not theoretically have a problem with the next statement that you make, “That capacity became corrupted through our (in Adam) free choice to rebel against God. We, by our sin, have brought corruption.” I am ok at this point.

    Here is where I am going to disagree and I will share my thoughts. “The choice remains – God makes the offer and we are responsible to respond, but we never will. The bold is where I think Calvinism goes to an extreme. My real point of contention is with the statement, “God makes the offer and we are responsible to respond.” This is exactly what I believe God is doing for mankind. I believe that with every ounch of my being, which is WAY TOO much I can tell you. I step on the scales and they say, “One at a time please.” Sorry… couldn’t resist.

    My whole point is that God seeks and desires to reveal Himself to us ALL. The whole purpose of the Great Commision is to do exactly that. These were the last words that Jesus said before He left this earth for the final time until He comes again in glory to bring an end to sin and the corruption on the earth. Revelation by nature demands a response. Waving a Monet in front of a blind person is absolutely useless. There is no point to it. God reveals Himself to a lost and dying workd becasue it needs Him and the provisions that He gave for sinful man at Calvary. That is why I believe Paul preached the cross and Jesus crucified and risen from the dead. That message touches hearts and changes lives. God is in Jesus Christ reconcliing the world unto Himself. (2 Cor. 5:19)

    Verse 20 and 21 are very interesting as well.

    20 Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. NKJV

    Paul saw his preaching ministry as one of pleading with the lost on Christ’s behalf to “be reconciled to God.” It was as if, Paul says, that “God was pleading with the lost through his preaching.” There are eternal consequences to our response to this gospel message. It is as if life is a series of dead end roads and the only choice we have is to turn right or left… to go the broad road that leads to destruction or the narrow road that leads to life.

    I adamantly disagree with the following statement: “The Bible is clear on total depravity, so even Arminians have conceded that point. But where is the Bible clear that God has restored our capacity to choose good, that God has removed the corruption that leads all people ever into sin?” The Bible is clear that men are depraved but not totally as Calvinists suggest. I don’t care what the Arminian position is either. Since I do not agree that man is depraved to the point that he is “dead” and “has no capacity to respond to God’s self revelation of Himself, then the next statement is moot. I do not see saving faith as man’s ability to choose good; I see it as man’s ability to choose God.

    Again, the following statement is a matter of semantics, fancy footwork with words. You wrote, “By grace, God works in me to bring obedience. It is grace – he does not have to do this. When I fall into sin, the responsibility is mine, not God’s, for the burden was on me to obey, not on him to provide grace. When I obey, it is by God’s grace alone because my obedience came by the Spirit, by his power, not mine.”

    It is grace – he does not have to do this. Of course this is true. Grace is God giving me what I do not deserve. So, this can be expanded to include much more than you are allowing for in your statement.

    “When I fall into sin, the responsibility is mine, not God’s, for the burden was on me to obey, not on him to provide grace.” This is a VERY interesting statement. It is almost as if you are saying, every decision we make falls into one of two categories; God gives me grace and I respond faithfully or He does not give me grace and I make the wrong statement. Is this what you are saying?

    This is certainly monergistic leaning… but I do not believe the Scriptures will support that in any form of fashion…

    Look at the Old Testament… God is constantly pleading with Israel to repent and turn back to Him… Why? They are to trust Him and follow Him because He has been faithful to them every step that they have taken. Moses was constantly reminding them of all the great things God had done for them and how God had been faithful to them… He would continue to be faithful to them IF they would repent and look to Him. There is no picture whatsoever of God’s grace bringing them victory and a lack of grace causing them to stumble. It is not in the NT either.

    Romans 3:23 says that sin is “falling short of the glory of God.” If I am understanding you correctly, and I realize I might be failing at this point, but it is impossible to fall short of the “glory of God” if He is the One who provides the grace to stand. The whole concept makes NO sense to me.

    If on the other hand, God gives us His Word and the Holy Spirit to convict us and lead us, and our response to His Word dictates His response to me, then the gospel comes full circle and the process makes sense to me… this is basically what I see the Bible teaching.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    ><>”

    Reply

  9. “My whole point is that God seeks and desires to reveal Himself to us ALL.”

    God has already done this. See Romans 1:19-20. The Great Commission is a little more specific – not just to reveal God, but to make the gospel known.

    “Waving a Monet in front of a blind person is absolutely useless.”

    If all you focus on is that particular situation, then you might draw the conclusion that the man waving the Monet is a fool. But if you step back, you will realize the man was waving the Monet even before the blind man became blind and, in fact, the blind man blinded himself.

    “I do not agree that man is depraved to the point that he is ‘dead’ and ‘has no capacity to respond to God’s self revelation of Himself’”

    Then you are Pelagian or semi-Pelagian?

    “I do not see saving faith as man’s ability to choose good; I see it as man’s ability to choose God.”

    Is not God good? To choose good is to choose God. Nothing is good unless it is done in and for God (which is part of the reason no unbeliever ever does anything good – even those acts which seem good are not done for God and this, by definition, are not good).

    “It is almost as if you are saying, every decision we make falls into one of two categories; God gives me grace and I respond faithfully or He does not give me grace and I make the wrong statement. Is this what you are saying?:

    Once again, these are separate issues. On the matter of responsibility there is just one category: I am responsible (held accountable) for every decision I make.

    A separate issue is the matter of credit: who gets the “credit” (or “blame”) for my disobedience or my obedience? Biblically, it is clear that the blame for my sin is rooted in me – my sinful heart, my sinful desires. No one has made me sin. But also biblically, the credit for my obedience is God’s. I can never look around and tell people, “Do you see the good that I just did?” – because I did not do it. Any good I do is God at work in me. Yet again back to Philippians 2:13 – it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. I’m not sure how Paul could have been any clearer.

    “There is no picture whatsoever of God’s grace bringing them victory and a lack of grace causing them to stumble. It is not in the NT either.”

    Oddly enough, it is also not what I have said. A lack of grace is not what causes us to stumble, a sinful heart is what causes us to stumble. But because of our sinful hearts, grace is the only way we could possibly obey.

    One of the challenging things in the Old Testament is deciding how to respond to passages where Old Testament saints seem to ascribe perfection or blamelessness to themselves. For example, Psalm 18:20: “The Lord dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.” He continues on in a similar way down through verse 24. Note verse 23: “I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from my guilt.” These things seem downright shocking. David seems to be plainly saying that God has done good to David because of how good David is. David is clean, righteous, pure, blameless and God has rewarded him accordingly.

    But as we keep reading we might reach verses 31-33 where David says, “For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.” In other words, God has dealt with me according to my righteousness, but it is God who made me righteous.

    This will be my last comment in the discussion, but I’ll check back to see your response.

    Reply

  10. Good interaction here….

    “My whole point is that God seeks and desires to reveal Himself to us ALL.”

    God has already done this. See Romans 1:19-20.

    Rom 1:16-23

    16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

    Verse 16 is a BIG passage of Scripture to me concerning conversion. The Gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation to everyone who believes. This pretty much sums up my thought concerning conversion.

    18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

    In verse 18, the wrath of God is revealed to those who “suppress the truth in unrighteousness… it would appear to me that if regeneration were in the mind of Paul, he would not be making this kind of statement concerning those who see the wrath of God… if regeneration were paramount, there would be no suppressing the truth with unrighteousness.

    20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and changed the glory of the incorruptible God into an image made like corruptible man — and birds and four-footed animals and creeping things.NKJV

    Once again, if regeneration were the mode of conversion, what would be the significance of this passage? How can someone KNOW God and not glorify Him as God… ? Futile in their thoughts?

    I am neither Pelagian nor semi-Pelagian. Although I am not really that versed on the two, Pelagians see man in a state where he can come to Christ without special Divine aid. I do not believe that at all. The work of the Holy Spirit is essential in the conviction process that preceeds conversion. Revelation and Reconciliation are essential in the salvific process. The semi-Pelagian position says teaches that man can make the first move toward God by seeking God out of his own free will and that man can cooperate with God’s grace even to the keeping of his faith through human effort. This would mean that God responds to the initial effort of person and that God’s grace is not absolutely necessary to maintain faith.

    Here is what amazes me… the only people who make these charges are Calvinists at non-Calvinists… who came up with the notion that one has to be ONE OF THE THREE? Sorry… I am neither.

    Listen to what you just wrote… “Oddly enough, it is also not what I have said. A lack of grace is not what causes us to stumble, a sinful heart is what causes us to stumble. But because of our sinful hearts, grace is the only way we could possibly obey.”

    So, if in any decision… if God does not give His grace, we cannot possibly obey. ???????? If God does not grant His grace in any situation… the only possible option is our sinful heart will cause us to stumble.” This is a monergistic stand on sanctification for sure. I just cannot subscribe.

    I appreciate again your participation. I, like you am finding it difficult to see the theological significance of the other’s position. I am really trying to understand how the Calvinist position can be taken seriously but I simply cannot.

    Be blessed my brother! I do know we will be able to find out the answers one day and I am convinced that this day is sooner than later!

    Thanks again for your consideration.

    Grateful to be in His Grip!

    ><>”

    Reply

  11. PS….

    I wrote earlier… Revelation by nature demands a response. Waving a Monet in front of a blind person is absolutely useless. There is no point to it. God reveals Himself to a lost and dying workd becasue it needs Him and the provisions that He gave for sinful man at Calvary. That is why I believe Paul preached the cross and Jesus crucified and risen from the dead. That message touches hearts and changes lives. God is in Jesus Christ reconcliing the world unto Himself. (2 Cor. 5:19)

    In my illustration of waving a Monet in front of a blind person is a reference to denying God the ability of revealing Himself to a lost man apart from regeneration. Revelation itself demands a response. If man is dead and incapable of responding, that is like showing a blind person a Monet. it is a futile exercise. I do not see God’s work as futile at all.

    ><>”

    Reply

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