Posts Tagged ‘PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS’

A Couple of Complications With Calvinism, Part 2

Now, there is a second issue that would seem to be problematic for the Calvinist’s “ordu salutis.” For the Calvinist, man is totally depraved and is therefore unable to respond to God unless and until God first regenerates him thus enabling him to exercise repentance and faith to be converted. Apart from this initiative that is God’s and God’s alone, man cannot and will not be saved. Once God regenerates the fallen individual, repentance and faith are all simultaneous with regeneration bringing about conversion and new birth. As Calvinists are challenged with the charge that they believe “regeneration precedes repentance and saving faith” their response is often “no, that is not what we believe.” Since they believe the process is all simultaneous, then they can honestly say they do not believe “regeneration does precedes repentance and faith.” However, this is not really a totally accurate response and when asked, “Do you believe repentance and saving faith precede regeneration and conversion,” their answer is often more evasive than direct.

Here is a major problem for what is called a monergistic approach to conversion. Monergism posits a belief that God and God alone through the Holy Spirit works to bring about “effectually” the salvation of individuals with no input from the individual himself and so the tenet of “Irresistible Grace” and “Limited Atonement” come into focus. In this position, God and God alone saves individuals who are condemned because of their sin.
There is a major problem with this position. Jesus is BOTH Lord and Savior. The Reformed position certainly focuses on Jesus becoming Savior. God chooses who is and is not saved. The question that needs to be answered is this: If God indeed makes Jesus ones Savior through the gift of faith and grace that He and He alone gives to the new born individual, does He then also by this same gift of grace make Jesus Lord of that person’s life? The argument that propels Calvinism is this notion that God in His sovereignty is a God who “saves those He has chosen to save” as opposed to being a God who “wants to save those He has chosen to save.” Here is the question. If God does save as the Monergistic God of the Calvinist posits, then does He not also make Jesus Lord for the same individual?

Because Jesus is certainly Savior of the new born Christian, how does the monergistic view of conversion apply to the Lordship aspect of the new born Christian? How does the presence of sin in the life of the new born Christian challenge the Lordship aspect of the monergistic role of God in the salvific process? If God and God alone does save and cannot fail in His decretive work, it would seem that God’s salvific work would also make God sovereign in the Lordship aspect of the new born Christian’s existence and that would by necessity lead to a life of sinlessness for the new born Christian. The Reformed Theology proponent holds on to God’s monergistic work in the tenet of irresistible grace whereby the lost, unregenerate individual accepts Jesus as Savior and God who is sovereign accomplishes what He sets out to do. If this same tenet is applied to God’s making Jesus Lord of the same individual, then it would follow that in His sovereignty He would also make the new born Christian immune to the power of sin because he will submit to the Lordship of Christ instead of continuing to be held captive to the old sin nature that God has effectually and efficaciously put to death at conversion.

Since the new born Christian is not set free from sin completely, one of two conclusions must be true. First, salvation is not monergistic or it would make God not only responsible for those who go to hell, it would also make God directly responsible for the sin the saved person commits. If Jesus is indeed Lord in a monergistic mindset where God does not just “want to save” but accomplishes what He decrees with respect to Jesus as Savior, the same must be true of His Lordship in the life of the new born believer and the ongoing effects of sin on the believer. The second conclusion is simple. Since sin is a present reality in the new born Christian’s life and challenges the question of the implicit benefits of an actual Lordship relationship in the life of the new born Christian, God’s monergistic work with respect to the Lordship of Christ in the new born believer is in all actuality challenged and along with it, His monergistic work in making Jesus Savior. If making Jesus Lord is synergistic as opposed to monergistic, so must making Jesus ones Savior be synergistic as well.

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A Couple of Complications With Calvinism, Part 1

A principle problem with the Calvinist tenet of Total Depravity or Inability can be seen in the Jewish concept of sin. In Judaism, there is no concept of “original sin”. There is no Jewish concept of the effects of sin being passed on to future generations. Judaism teaches that man is not born sinful. When man is born he neither carries the burden of sin committed by his ancestors nor is he tainted by it. Sin is the result of human inclinations, which must be properly controlled. In the Jewish mindset, sin literally means “missing the mark” like an arrow missing the bulls eye on a target. Man sins when he strays from God’s Law and is disobedient to His Law. The early stories in Genesis teach that these human inclinations “are the result of evil from his youth” (Gen. 8:21, see also Jer. 32:30).

Pardon in the Old Testament actually appears for the first time in Exodus 23. “Behold, I send an Angel before you to keep you in the way and to bring you into the place which I have prepared. Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions; for My name is in Him. But if you indeed obey His voice and do all that I speak, then I will be an enemy to your enemies and an adversary to your adversaries.” (Ex 23:20-22) Here the angel is almost assuredly a reference to the One who led the children of Israel out of Egypt and then appeared as the Shekinah glory of God that guided the children of Israel through the wilderness and then led them into the Promised Land. This “angel” is no doubt the One who spoke to Moses in Exodus 33:14, saying, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” This angel is the “presence” or face of God (Isa 63:9,18; Ex 34:6) His “glory” is no other than “the Angel of the Covenant” (Mal 3:1), the Messiah, the Christ ( John 1:14; 14:9; 1 Cor 10:4; Heb 1:3).

Notice the instruction given to Moses to give to the children of Israel. “Beware of Him and obey His voice; do not provoke Him, for He will not pardon your transgressions.” Take heed to give reverent attention to this One because He is God” and obey His voice. Obedience to the Word of God is seen in the Old Testament over and over again. Obedience to God’s Word is the foundation of the Shema, which is considered to be the most important part of Jewish prayer service. It is traditional for Jews to say the Shema as their last words in this life, and it is customary for parents to teach their children to say it before they go to sleep at night. This prayer is recited out loud on Yom Kippur demonstrating the overwhelming need for God’s salvation.

The Shema begins with the declaration, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” (Deuteronomy 6:4) relating to the kingship of God. There is an admonition that follows the declaration, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.” (Deut 6:5-9) This love demonstrated in obedience to God’s Word becomes the foundation for reward and punishment. It contains the promise of reward for serving God with all one’s heart, soul, and might (Deut 11:13) and for the fulfillment of the laws. It also contains punishment for transgression. There is an admonition directed to the individual Jew as well as one directed at the whole community of all the Jews.

The plea for pardon appears for the first time in Exodus 34, in the story of the golden calf where Moses prayed to God on behalf of the people who had sinned terribly against God; “If now I have found grace in Your sight, O Lord, let my Lord, I pray, go among us, even though we are a stiff-necked people; and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us as Your inheritance.” (Ex 34:9) The Israelites had transgressed God’s Law and had done so in an egregious manner. Moses prayed to God on their behalf.

Again in Numbers 14, when the people threatened to stone Joshua and Caleb for encouraging the people to trust God and to go into the Promised Land in spite of the report of strong obstacles facing the Israelites, God’s anger burned against them. “And all the congregation said to stone them with stones. Now the glory of the Lord appeared in the tabernacle of meeting before all the children of Israel. Then the Lord said to Moses: “How long will these people reject Me? And how long will they not believe Me, with all the signs which I have performed among them? 12 I will strike them with the pestilence and disinherit them, and I will make of you a nation greater and mightier than they.” (Num 14:10-12) Moses interceded on their behalf and prayed for God’s pardon for His people. (Num 14:20-24)

“Then the Lord said: ‘I have pardoned, according to your word; but truly, as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord — because all these men who have seen My glory and the signs which I did in Egypt and in the wilderness, and have put Me to the test now these ten times, and have not heeded My voice, they certainly shall not see the land of which I swore to their fathers, nor shall any of those who rejected Me see it’.” What is interesting here is this: there is no reference whatsoever to any suggestion or even a hint of any concept of total depravity and certainly no concept of in ability on anyone’s part to respond to God. It simply is not in the Old Testament.

Consider Exodus 20:4-6, “You shall not make for yourself a carved image — any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.” Here and in Exodus 34, and Numbers 14, the Scriptures themselves answer the question of the validity of total depravity; there is none or else there would be no warning concerning disobedience being “visited on the third and fourth generations.” If they were totally depraved as Reformed Theology contends, there would be no validity to the warning.

Ezekiel 18 presents an interesting treatment of sin and redemption as provided for by God. “Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?’ Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live. The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself. But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him; because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live. Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord God, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live? (Ezek 18:19-23)

God’s instruction here is clear; “Turn and live.” “Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways,” says the Lord God. “Repent, and turn from all your transgressions, so that iniquity will not be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions which you have committed, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit. For why should you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of one who dies,” says the Lord God. “Therefore turn and live!” (Ezek 18:30-32) This is God’s Word of instruction and there is no hint of His being the catalyst of repentance whatsoever. Repentance is the responsibility of the sinner; not the One sinned against. Once again, there is no hint of total depravity or inability presented in the Old Testament.

This is not to say that sin is not present in the Old Testament nor is it to suggest that the presence of sin in the world has no effect on the sinner. David acknowledges this in Psalm, when he says that he was born in iniquity and conceived in sin. (Psalm 51:5-6) Sin is an ever present reality. Sin is an individual problem and even a national problem but the focus of sin is on those committing the sin and the One sin is committed against who will forgive that sin if those committing the sin would “humble themselves and pray and seek God’s face and turn from their wicked ways.” (2 Chron. 7:14) David also understood that he and he alone was responsible to God for his sin (Psalm 51:2-5) and he also knew that God and God alone was the One who could and would forgive his sin. (Psalm 51:7-19) David did not repent of his sin because God gave him some special grace to do so; he repented because God’s Word through the touch of the Holy Spirit working in his heart convicted him of his sin and God’s love demonstrated to Him and to Israel is their long and storied past caused David to fall to His knees and cry out to God for forgiveness so that God might bless him and in being blessed, David might be a blessing to others.

Total Depravity and Regeneration: Really?

Read Exodus chapter 3.

2 And the Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a flame of fire from the midst of a bush. So he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not consumed. 3 Then Moses said, “I will now turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush does not burn.” 4 So when the Lord saw that he turned aside to look, God called to him from the midst of the bush and said, “Moses, Moses!”

And he said, “Here I am.”

5 Then He said, “Do not draw near this place. Take your sandals off your feet, for the place where you stand is holy ground.” 6 Moreover He said,”I am the God of your father — the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look upon God.

Where in this passage is there any hint of the regenerative work of God so that Moses could hear or even respond to God? It is not there. Read on.

11 But Moses said to God,”Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?” 12 So He said,”I will certainly be with you. And this shall be a sign to you that I have sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”

13 Then Moses said to God, “Indeed, when I come to the children of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they say to me, ‘What is His name?’ what shall I say to them?” 14 And God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”

God tells Moses to go to the leaders of the children of Israel and speak to them and tell them “I AM WHO I AM has sent me.” Where is regeneration indicated or even hinted at in the children of Israel so that they will hear and respond and not reject anything good from God? Notice verse 18, God says to Moses, “18 Then they will heed your voice;”

Not there.

Fast forward to Exodus 19, verses 3 and 4.

3And Moses went up unto God, and the LORD called unto him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob, and tell the children of Israel: 4`Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you unto Myself.

Where is there any mention of even a hint that God has regenerated anyone’s heart here so that the children of Israel who are without regeneration nothing more than totally depraved individuals whose only response here apart from God’s efficacious calling is to reject God’s revelation and Word to be spoken to them by Moses? (So say Calvinists)

It is not there because the whole concept is not Biblical. God spoke to His people through Moses and He expected them to respond and their response determined His response. This is what covenant does. God makes a promise and man’s response becomes the determining factor in the application of God’s promise.

It is like accepting a job offer. If one goes to work and fulfills the obligation of the covenant or agreement to work, THEN there is a payday. This is the concept of covenant in both the Old and New Testaments. Conversion is our response to God’s provision and promise to save those who call on Him and by faith trust in the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Seems so simple to me.

I am so Grateful to be in His Grip!

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Arminianism or Calvinism: Which Comes First?

This morning I read an argument about Which comes first, Arminianism or Calvinism? Kind of reminded me of the age old question: “Which came first, the chicken or the egg!” Let’s examine the question, “Which came first, Arminianism or Calvinism?” The first article I read was a comment on William Birch’s Arminian blog, which I read quite frequently. I appreciate William’s demeanor even when he desagrees, he does it with as much class as anyone I have read. His blog post can be found HERE…

Birch is writing a response to Peter Pike, who I have never read and his article can be found HERE… The article is titled, “Conversions and Deconversions.” The title itself was interesting enough for me to read both. Here are my thoughts on the discussion.

Pike begins his discussion of conversions and deconversions with the following comment: “I have read comments from some of the Arminians at SEA who have said that any new convert to Christianity who reads the Bible will automatically find Arminianism. Arminianism can be read in Scripture, they say, while Calvinism must be taught.

I have certainly heard the argument that MOST Calvinists began their Christian experience as Arminians. I would add, this would seem to me to be especially true of Southern Baptists and most non-Presbyterian denominations. I do know that most Calvinists that I have met and talked with and read,tell that they began their Christian walk as non-Calvinists. Somewhere along the road of Christian growth, they “found Calvinism.” Birch argues, as do many Arminians, that when one reads the Bible, they will have an Arminian view of the Scripture and the only way for one to adopt the Calvinist system is to be introduced to it outside the Bible. It is interesting to note Pikes retort to that argument.

Pike writes, note the parenthesis” “(I would counter by asking why it is that we trust those who are least experienced in Christ, who have followed Him for only a short time and who have not developed a long relationship with Him, would have some kind of inside knowledge about Him that those who have travelled the path of sanctification for many years would somehow lack. That is, why trust the immature Christian to show us the truth as opposed to the elders in the Lord?)”

If one understands his argument here, it is really “eye-opening”. Pike’s argument is basically, Arminians claim that “new born Christians” are Arminian when they begin their journey in the Bible. Calvinists are the more mature Christians, so why argue following the “baby Christians” as opposed to the more mature Christians. That is an interesting come back for the argument that reading the Bible makes one an Arminian. It is a very interesting comment indeed!

Here is why I say this. Pike is saying in essence, reading the Bible is not enough. This is why Birch convincingly concludes, “when merely reading the text of Scripture — do not conclude with any semblance of Calvinism when they study their Bibles. Birch makes note of Pike’s contention that, “there is an admission that Calvinism must be taught; i.e., Calvinism is not the result of a plain reading of the text.” This is a difficult argument for the Calvinist to overcome for most who began their Christian walk as Arminians admit that the later “found” Calvinism. I agree with Birch’s contention that Calvinism must be taught; it is not caught in the Bible, itself. That in and of itself is troubling to me.

If I must be “taught” Calvinism by “elders in the faith”, as Pike suggests, then I am not sure I want it. If I cannot find it in the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit is not able to bring me to that end, then I do not see the significance of reading or listening to Piper, Sproul, Dricsoll, Boyce, Keller, Mohler and so on as the list may go on. It really does not matter if 95% of Christians are Calvinist; if it cannot be “caught in the Bible” without first being taught by someone else, then “thank you but no thank you” is my preference.

Pike continues his article by building another non-Biblical case for adopting Calvinism. He points out that “Calvinism is the most consistent form of Christianity” and he backs up that assertion with the “fact that most convert from Arminianism to Calvinism and not the other way around.” He continues saying, since Arminians are Christian, even though barely, as they mature MOST convert to Calvinism.

Pike offers the following statement:

1. Calvinism is a more consistent form of Christianity.
2. Those who reject the more consistent form a Christianity have nowhere more consistent within Christianity to go toward.
3. Therefore, it is more likely that to reject the more consistent form of Christianity, one will reject Christianity as a whole.

Pike introduces another argument. Those who reject Calvinism rarely go back to Arminianism, which Birch has done; they most often reject Christianity as a whole. Pike writes, “This does seem, at least to me, to make sense. To abandon the more consistent form of Christianity results in the desire to abandon Christianity as a whole. One would not logically expect many to step back to a more inconsistent form of Christianity if they have trouble with Christian beliefs. And if you couple this with the belief that Christian sanctification will result in Christians becoming more consistent, we have two facts that seem to lead inexorably (or, dare I say, irresistibly) toward Calvinism.”

One thing is crystal clear to me: if the “Conversion and Deconversion” argument is a basis for me to conclude that Calvinism is the best logical path to “consistent Christianity, then “Thank you very much, but I must pass.”

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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Total Depravity or Separation

Total Depravity focuses on man’s sin. The statement is often made, “Man sins because he is a sinner and man is a sinner because he sins. The Doctrine of Total Depravity does not really allow that statement. Total Depravity says man sins because he is depraved; he is not depraved because he sins. The latter part of this statement must be true because a man who is totally depraved cannot become more depraved because of his own sin. According to the Doctrine of Total Depravity, man is born in this totally depraved state. He cannot not sin.

Here are some statements from John Piper at monergism.com dealing with Total Depravity. He writes,

“When we speak of man’s depravity we mean man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man.”

“Romans 14:23 says, “Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.” This is a radical indictment of all natural “virtue” that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.”

“Man’s depravity is total in at least four senses.

(1) Our rebellion against God is total. Apart from the grace of God there is no delight in the holiness of God, and there is no glad submission to the sovereign authority of God.
(2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.
(3) Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.
(4) Our rebellion is totally deserving of eternal punishment.”

“Ephesians 2:3 goes on to say that in our deadness we were “children of wrath.” That is, we were under God’s wrath because of the corruption of our hearts that made us as good as dead before God.” To view Pipers article, click HERE.

Much of what Piper says in the abbreviated statements quoted above is all correct, when taken on their own. The problem with total depravity comes into play when one takes the aforementioned statements and begins to use them to draw conclusions. Here is a perfect example of that. Take Piper’s final statement man’s depravity is total in man’s rebellion being “totally deserving of eternal punishment.” This is the basis for total depravity. Piper basically confirms the statement made earlier, that man is condemned and deserves death because he is totally depraved or in a state of rebellion against God.
Note the following quotes.

“But it was not true that all men had actually committed sinful actions at the time that Paul was writing, because some had not even been born yet, and many others had died in infancy before committing any conscious acts of sin. So Paul must be meaning that when Adam sinned, God considered true that all men sinned in Adam.” (Grudem, Wayne; Systematic Theology, Zondervan publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Page 494.)

“The federal headship view considers Adam, the first man, as the representative of the human race that generated from him. As the representative of all humans, Adam’s act of sin was considered by God to be the act of all people and his penalty of death was judicially made the penalty of everybody.” (Walvoord, John F., and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, (Wheaton, Illinois: Scripture Press Publications, Inc.), 1983, 1985.)

“The federal headship of Adam presupposes and rests upon his natural headship. He was our natural head before he was our federal head. He was doubtless made our federal representative because he was our natural progenitor, and was so conditioned that his agency must affect our destinies, and because our very nature was on trial (typically if not essentially) in him. Whatever, therefore, of virtue in this explanation the natural headship of Adam may be supposed to contain the federal theory retains.”( Hodge, A. A., Outlines of Theology, (Escondido, CA: Ephesians Four Group), 1999.)

Adam represented man and when he fell, man fell. This is the basis for Total Depravity.
If the wages of sin is death and death is the plight of those who are totally depraved because of Adam’s sin, then there remains no punishment for the individual’s sin itself. Since men are condemned because of Adam’s sin, (#4 in Piper’s list) then all are condemned to death because all are totally depraved. The totally depraved person cannot be punished for his depraved position and then be additionally punished for his own personal sin if the punishment for the former is death or eternal separation.

Consider Piper’s initial stament quoted above, ““When we speak of man’s depravity we mean man’s natural condition apart from any grace exerted by God to restrain or transform man. Romans 14:23 says, ‘Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.’ This is a radical indictment of all natural ‘virtue’ that does not flow from a heart humbly relying on God’s grace.” Here Piper is saying “man’s problem is one of position”.

If man’s depravity is seen relative to his position in God, then it may be said that man is depraved, not because he sins, but because he is separated from God. Now it is understood that sin is what separates man from God. There are two aspects of sin. There is the individual aspect of sin and then there is the corporate aspect. If one looks at the corporate aspect, it is easy to conclude, “In Adam all have sinned” because man is without question a product of his own environment.

In this light, it is fair to say that man sins (individually) because he is a sinner (corporately) and/or because he is influenced by his environment. Man is also a sinner in the respect that he has God given needs that must be filled and because he is separated from God, his only means of satisfying those needs is to seek to satisfy them on his own. Because man is born separated from God, he is depraved. He is not depraved because of his sin; he is depraved because of his position inherited from Adam. Since his position is not in God, his actions will always fall short of the Glory of God and that is God’s definition of sin.

This is the reason the Bible says it is impossible for men to ever appear “righteous” in God’s eyes. The only way to ever have a right standing before God, men must be reconciled to God and the only way to be reconciled to Him is through the cross. The cross corrects the separation problem. This is why Jesus became a man. In the incarnation, God conquered the “separation problem”. The Creator became the created. In His death, Jesus did not just conquer sin; He conquered what the Bible calls the “final enemy” which is death itself. Death is the final separation of man and God.

Man is depraved because he is separated from God at birth. He is fully human. He cannot not sin. He is lost and is completely unable to find his own way. Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross paid the penalty for sin for anyone who will come to Him in repentance and saving faith, believing that God is everything He says He is and He will do everything He says He will do. It is at this point that the Holy Spirit takes up residency in the “new born person’s heart” and new life begins.

Next Post will deal with the question:
Could Jesus Have Sinned? Stay Tuned!

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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The Major Problem in Theological Discussions

I am convinced the landscape of theological discussion has been dominated by the wrong foundation. The major problem that I am seeing with theological discussions is Total Depravity. If all discussions begin there, then it is almost as if Calvinism IS the most logical conclusion. In most conversations regarding regeneration, when one understands man’s plight in a total depravity framework, he cannot view man in any other light but dead and in need of regeneration in order to be able to believe. This concept is I believe really better defined in the following way.

The correct way to understand man’s plight for me is as follows… Man is depraved. What does that mean? To say he is dead is not really correct because while it is true that dead mean cannot respond to God, it must also be true that they cannot sin, which is a common retort from non-Calvinists. The Calvinist knows that is not true so he bends dead to be “spiritually dead” but most cannot really explain what that means… they just throw it out there and use it and ignore any attempts to force them to define it. I would define being spiritually dead by saying, “the unregenerate man can only sin. He cannot do anything pleasing to God and Romans 3:23 defines sin as “falling sort of the glory of God.” So, since man can only sin and he cannot not sin on his own, his heart has to be transformed in order to not sin.” I actually am working through the implications of this statement and working it into my statement that man is totally lost as opposed to totally depraved.

Now the question becomes, HOW DOES GOD CHANGE MAN’S SINFUL DISPOSITION FROM ONE OF NOT BEING ABLE TO NOT SIN TO BEING ABLE TO BE BORN AGAIN? I maintain that revelation or the Irrefutable Gospel which is the message that God so loved the world, (UNCONDITIONAL LOVE) that the whosoever will’s may come is what opens the door of man’s hearts brought about by the convicting work of the Holy Spirit which allows faith to exercised. This is basically what the Calvinist and Arminian are arguing is what takes place in their posits of irresistible grace (Calvinist) and Prevenient Grace (Arminian) . I do not believe a man can just wake up on his own and become a Christian, which is what Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians maintain. Man left to himself cannot please God on his own apart from the convicting work of the Holy Spirit and the reconciliatory work of God in a person’s heart. Again, the difference between what I believe takes place and what the Calvinist and Arminian posit, is really rooted in the tenets of Total Depravity more so than anywhere else. In order to break the argument, total depravity must be the focal point, not what happens later; it is like arguing Dallas is west. If you are in Memphis that is correct. However, if you are in Los Angeles that is not correct and that is a good way to illustrate the problem as I see it. Actually there does seem to be a lot more commonality in what is being debated than most think. The difference in most discussion seems to me to be rooted in the dynamics of total depravity and how that is understood and the ramifications of how that actually plays out.

So the challenge is to lay out the problem of sin in a differnt manner than what total depravity does. I am really seeing this in its most basic sense, as a struggle between pride and obedience. God has created us in His image which to me means we have the ability to be in control of our own destinies. God gave us the choice to choose; we had no choice in that. We also had no choice in choosing the consequences of our choices. God did that. He created us with certain needs and desires. His intention is to meet those needs and desires.

2He does that in what I am calling, His perpetual presence. Where God’s presence is, there is His power and His provisions are. That is what gives us life. When we choose any other path, pride becomes the antithesis of God’s will and way and that is sin and sin separates us from God, which is death. God makes provisions available to us that give us life and ironically they are ALL associated with His perpetual presence. That is really the basis of covenant in both the Old and New Testaments; God saying, I want to be your God and I want you to be My people. This is the basis I believe for the incarnation itself. God’s perpetual presence is now with us in the person of Christ Jesus. I also believe this has a lot to do with a bodily resurrection: Spirit and flesh united forever. Notice what defines “new birth”; it is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the heart of the new born believer. God’s perpetual presence is now with us, forever.

If we are successful in establishing some common ground away from the notion of total depravity then I believe there maybe hope that new ground can be laid that will lessen the divide in this whole argument. If that cannot be done, then the divide will only grow deeper. I pray for the former.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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A Much Needed Apology

I have been vocally opposed to the degree of influence that Calvinism has garnered in the recent months in the SBC and to the fact that it continues to be so. My position there has not changed nor has my position changed with respect to the theological posits of Calvinism.

My apology is in the area of practical applications of what I have associated as inconsistencies in Calvinism with the preaching and presenting the message by Calvinists to a lost world. While I have not been one to jump on the band wagon that Calvinists are not evangelistic, I have been critical of the inconsistencies in presenting the gospel through the lens of Calvinism in the pulpit as being inconsistent with what Calvinism actually suggests. Let me explain.

I have been critical of the Calvinist preacher who stands in the pulpit and says to the congregation, “if you are here this morning and are lost and without Christ, then you need to repent and in faith come to Christ, trusting Him and Him alone for salvation.” I saw that as inconsistent with the Calvinist position of total depravity, where those listening individuals are not even able to make that kind of commitment, in and of themselves and no invitation from a preacher is going to change that.

Unconditional election says, God choses who will and will not respond; not the individual in the pew and certainly not the preacher behind the pulpit. Limited Atonement gets even more precise in that Jesus only died for certain ones and only THOSE hearers will respond and their response is not specifically to the message, but to God’s efficacious call. Add to that, Irresistible Grace; it is God and God who alone pulls lost individuals out of the throws of judgment and when He speaks to the lost individual, that individual will respond positively. This is how I see the framework of Calvinism shaping any invitation given by a Calvinist preacher.

Even though I do not agree with the above concepts, I also do not agree that preaching to lost men to repent and come to Christ is inconsistent with the posits presented above because it is true that no preacher (Calvinist or non-Calvinist) knows who is and who is not to be saved in that setting. I was wrong in concluding that a Calvinist preacher should say, “If God wants you to be saved, you will be saved and if He does not you will not be saved.” While I agree that the aforementioned statement may be accurate, it is unfair to state that this ought to be the position of the Calvinist preacher. I have been unduly critical and wrong in that assessment and I apologize for that.

Grateful to be in His Grip!

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