Just How Free is God?

Someone called the “Gatekeeper” dropped a link to his (or her) site called Grace Gate and asked me to check it out.  I did check it out and will continue to check it out.  It is just another Calvinist site devoted to indoctrinating Christians into the “Doctrines of Grace.”  There is no place to leave comments at his site and he (or she) does not encourage interaction (though there is an e-mail address), so I thought I would interact with some of the material over here and invite him (or her) to comment freely.  Below is an introductory paragraph under the heading (B-1) The Freedom of God.

The question here is this, ‘Is God completely free to do whatever He wills, or is He limited in His freedom by what humans choose to do?’  If God is dependent even 0.000001% on the choice of any other being, then He can not logically be completely free.  Some would argue that releasing a small amount of His sovereign will to the decisions of humanity is not relinquishing the free-will of God; that He is ‘sovereign over His own sovereignty.’  But by logical definition, for God to release control of His complete freedom is to no longer have 100% complete freedom.  The premise of ‘(B-1) The Freedom of God’ is to show that God is revealed in the Scriptures to be 100% completely free to do with humanity as He has decided in the mystery of His eternal counsel.  He is not ‘The Great Responder’, but is free to write all of human history and decree the movement of every molecule and the fate of every person; to His glory, never limited, stymied or thwarted by an overruling decision of man.

I find this paragraph to be both irrational and self-refuting.  First, it is self-refuting since it says that God has total freedom to do whatever He pleases but denies Him the freedom to create free moral agents and hold them accountable for how they respond to him (note that he says God is not “The Great Responder”). It’s the usual, “God is sovereign and can do anything He wants except create man with a measure of free will”, which of course severely limits His freedom.  If God is not free to create man and endow him with a measure of free will, then He is not completely free is He?  So the question is not what God can do (since we should all agree that God could micromanage His creation or create free moral agents), but what God actually does.

If He is completely free then He could freely create a world full of free moral agents or a world full of creatures that are always and only controlled completely by God in all they think and do.  We need to look to Scripture to determine which of these things God sovereignly and freely decided to do. That is the real point of contention, is it not?  So the above paragraph does not prove that a free God could only be the Calvinist God.  In fact, it demonstrates that Calvinists are the ones who look to limit God’s freedom and sovereignty by putting restrictions on what He can and cannot do.

Second, the paragraph is irrational.  Look at this statement which attempts to say that God can only be truly free if He is not free to give His creatures a measure of freedom,

“Some would argue that releasing a small amount of His sovereign will to the decisions of humanity is not relinquishing the free-will of God; that He is ‘sovereign over His own sovereignty.’  But by logical definition, for God to release control of His complete freedom is to no longer have 100% complete freedom.”

Let’s use an analogy to further demonstrate the irrationality of this claim.  If I am on my couch and I want my two and a half year old daughter to come to me from her bedroom I will call her.  Now I could go and grab her and bring her to me but that is not what I want to do (it is not my will).  I want her to come to me because it is what is in her best interest and I want her to learn to trust me that when I call her there is an important reason for her to respond.  My perfect will is that she will come to me, but my permissive will is that she will suffer the consequences if she does not obey (be punished).  My will is not to grab her and bring her to me so if I do not grab her and bring her to me then my will has in no way been violated and neither has my freedom (for I was still free to bring her to me but did not will to do so).

What if she was near a hot stove?  I would sternly warn her not to touch the stove because I do not want her to get burned.  But I also want to see if she will trust me and not touch the stove.  I could intervene immediately but decide instead to see if she will obey.  If she disobeys she will get burned.  This would be my permissive will for her but not my perfect will because I do not want her to get burned.  But what I want more than anything is for her to freely obey me and demonstrate that she trusts me as her Father and protector.  So I freely decided to allow for an opportunity for her to trust me or reject my counsel and suffer the consequences.  I am still in complete control and I am free to intervene if I like, but I am also free to leave the outcome with her and how she decides to respond to me.  Either way, I am free and in complete control.  My freedom is not limited if I intervene and my freedom is not limited if I don’t.  In either case I am perfectly exercising my freedom and she is not violating it by either choice she decides to make.

So it is with God.  He is not willing that any should perish.  He is also not willing to irresistibly cause his creatures to trust in Him.  God’s will is to have a relationship with them based on trust and love which springs freely from the creature.  His will is not violated if His creatures refuse Him because God’s will was for them to have the opportunity to either trust in Him or reject Him.  His perfect will is realized when His creatures trust in Him and enter into a loving relationship with Him, and His permissive will is realized when His creatures reject Him and suffer the consequences of that rejection.  God’s freedom is not limited in Arminianism.  God gets exactly what He wants and He is not worried about the fact that His creatures have free will.  He is big enough and wise enough to accomplish His will despite allowing His creatures a measure of free will, as I stated in a previous post,

While there is mystery in how God can perfectly arrange an event like the crucifixion without violating the free will of His creatures, it is a true mystery on par with the Trinity, incarnation, and creation Ex Nihilo. It is not hard to accept given God’s unfathomable wisdom. Compatibilism, on the other hand, wants us to accept two completely contradictory assumptions under the umbrella of “mystery”. It tells us that God causes people to engage in sinful activity, and yet also tells us that God is not the author of sin. It tells us that the one who sins in accordance with God’s infallible decree is responsible for that sin while the God who ordained that sin is not. That is not a “mystery”. That is a flat contradiction and an abuse of normal human language.

It seems to me that when it comes to the scope and nature of God’s sovereignty, the Arminian God is far wiser than the God of Calvinism. A God who controls His universe like a puppet master is not that impressive to me. A God who can control His universe and accomplish His will without having to override or meticulously control the will of His creatures seems far more impressive and worthy of worship. I believe that Calvinism does not exalt God’s sovereignty but rather limits it by not properly incorporating God’s infinite wisdom into the equation. The Arminian view exalts God’s sovereignty within the balanced context of His omnipotence and omniscience. It also allows for divine mystery within its proper context and definition, without expecting us to accept disturbing contradictions.

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48 Responses

  1. Hi Ben,

    “Let’s use an analogy to further demonstrate the irrationality of this claim. If I am on my couch and I want my two and a half year old daughter to come to me from her bedroom I will call her. Now I could go and grab her and bring her to me but that is not what I want to do (it is not my will). I want her to come to me because it is what is in her best interest and I want her to learn to trust me that when I call her there is an important reason for her to respond. My perfect will is that she will come to me, but my permissive will is that she will suffer the consequences if she does not obey (be punished). My will is not to grab her and bring her to me so if I do not grab her and bring her to me then my will has in no way been violated and neither has my freedom (for I was still free to bring her to me but did not will to do so).”

    I understand your analogy, but you present only two options here: force her to come (coerce her against her will, she may will not to come but through superior power you will compel her to come), or command her to come in which case she may choose to come or choose not to come. When I believe a very significant third option needs to be kept in mind when discussing exhaustive determinism. Let’s call these options (1) the coercion or constrained option, and (2) the libertarian free will option.

    There is a third option which I believe is what the exhaustive determinism of theological determinists really amounts to. In this case, one person ***completely controls and dictates the actions of another person***. The controller merely manipulates/controls the mind, will, body of the one controlled, so that the one controlled does what the controller wants to occur. Let’s call option (3) the non-constrained and completely controlled option (because the person is not forced to do things, nor do they have libertarian free will).

    An example of this kind of control would be a human person operating a radio controlled car. The human controls and directs the motion, location, speed, and direction of the car. In this case the controller has non-constrained control of the car (since the care has no will of its own to act independently of the human, and since whatever the car does when controlled by the human is not against the will of the car). Another common example of this kind of control is a puppet master and his puppet. The puppets movements are completely controlled and determined by the puppet master who moves the puppet by pulling particular strings which control and direct the limbs of the puppet. A puppet master moving the puppet via the pulling of strings is not coercing the puppet against its will (option 1), nor does the puppet respond via libertarian free will (option 2). So examples of the third option include radio controlled devices and puppets.

    With this in mind let’s go back to your illustration of your daughter. You spoke of coercive control/option 1, and libertarian free will/option 2. The third option, which would be the case if your daughter’s actions were ***completely dictated and controlled by you***, would be like if you sat on the couch and had a radio-controlled daughter whose ever move, thought, desire, etc. was completely and directly controlled by you via the remote control. So you would simply cause her to come to you via the remote control, if you so desired. I don’t want to leave this third option out of discussion as this is really what calvinism and theological determinism amounts to: radio controlled humans who only and always do precisely what God wants them to do.

    Now it is significant that if we examine scripture and ask which of the three options is presented there? We find instances of option (1), where God does coerce persons to do what He wants them to do (e.g., when God had Nebuchadnezzar eating grass like an animal, he did not want to do so, but God made him do it). We also find instances of option (2), where God commands people to do something or not do something and some obey and some choose not to obey. But what about the third option, do we find instances of this kind of control in the bible? I believe the closest we come to this kind of thing is scriptures that speak about how God **can** control a person to do what He wants (like turning the heart of the King in a particular direction). But these verses do not seem to present this as an **abiding** or continuous condition of mankind, something that is always in operation. It is more like, God can do it if He intervenes in a situation and wants to do so, because He is sovereign over all persons, but that he does not do this all the time and in every case.

    I bring up this third option because I believe that non-calvinists when they discuss God’s sovereignty and exhaustive determinism of theological determinists sometimes limit the options to coercion/constraint OR libertarian free will, when in fact exhaustive determinism would not involve coercion/constraint or libertarian free will, but a kind of control of the person present with option (3)/non-constrained control. I would also add that if this were occurring, we would not know it to be happening so the control would be covert-non-constrained control (CNC type control). So it would be like you have a radio controlled daughter but she thinks she is acting freely whether she comes or does not come, when in reality, either way you controlled her so completely that she came or did not come depending on what you wanted to happen.

    Robert

  2. One more thing, a major problem that I have with CNC control or having “radio controlled humans” is that I would not do **that** to another person. I would not do it to my daughter whom i love greatly nor do I believe that God would do **that** to us. Could he have designed and created things that way? Of course. Did He? I say No. Unfortunately the theological determinist actually wants a world full of radio controlled humans/puppets/robots or however else you want to characterize CNC type controlled persons.

    For Father’s day, I would much prefer a scribbled but made by my toddler’s own hand and her own choices card, to a STORE BOUGHT machine produced card. I think our heavenly Father is the same way.

    Robert

  3. Hi Ben,

    To play devil’s advocate, what if your daughter was out in the street playing (when you told her not to) and a Mack truck was coming? Would you trust her to come when called, or would you go out and grab her? What if you knew that she would not come unless you fetched her? It seems to me this is more like the scenario that God faces.

    This is a tough question for Arminians, but I think it is easier for us to answer than the Calvinists. Their God ordains his children to play in the street, and then sends a Mack truck to run them over (for his glory, of course).

    I would also disagree with the author’s contention that sovereignty = “completely free”. God is not “free” to go against his nature. For example, he is not free to flood the entire world again. To do so would violate his promises. God cannot disown himself. Even the Calvinist must recognize this.

  4. Hello Ben,

    I can think of another analogy. Since my analogy takes a rather morbid turn, let me substitute myself for your daughter. I’ve inherited a trait that renders me a corpse. I’m dead in the other room. You call me into the room and instantly I am brought to life. I am made alive and hear your words and walk into the living room. From my perspective, this experience can be summarized as “1) I heard your voice 2) I decided to walk into the room.” I don’t sense that I was dead. However, from the reality of the situation “1) You voice caused a new creation in me 2) I decided to walk into the room.” This is a more Lutheran perspective.

  5. Three more “God cannots” for this in here:

    1. God cannot make us God.
    2. God cannot lie.
    3 God cannot break His promises to those He has made His promises to.

  6. Hey guys,

    Great comments. I was not trying to make every conceivable point with the analogies above. I was mainly concerned with the nature of freedom. God can give us opportunities to make decisions and be completely free in doing so. He does not relinquish control or limit His sovereignty by allowing His creatures to make genuine choices without controlling those choices. That was my main point and what I was trying to convey in those scenarios.

    I personally don’t like using analogies and usually shy away for interacting with them since they always break down at some point especially when we try to make sense of our relationship with God. This is simply because God is a unique being and our relationship with Him is unique. It is a Creator/creation relationship which finds no exact parallel in human relationships. For that reason analogies will never fully convey the intricacies of our relationship with God.

    To be quite honest, I would probably not allow my daughter to get burned if I could prevent it. Maybe a better analogy would have been my daughter reaching for a thorn bush. As Kevin pointed out the peril that faces unbelievers is far greater than a thorn, a stove, or a Mac truck. But unbelievers aren’t as naive as children either and there are other areas where the analogy breaks down.

    The main point remains, however, that God has the freedom and right to create free moral agents and hold them accountable for how they respond to Him. To deny this is to deny His freedom and sovereignty, the very things that Calvinists want so badly to defend.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  7. Michael,

    I agree with your “cannots.” God cannot do those things because they are not consistent with His nature. However, there is no reason to believe that creating free agents and holding them accountable for their actions is not consistent with God’s nature. I would also point out that many of God’s promises are conditional. So if God promises eternal life to believers and condemnation to unbelievers, He is not breaking a promise for revoking eternal life from a believer who later abandons the faith. In fact, He would be acting in perfect accord with His promise (since the believer became an unbeliever and thereby forfeited the promise made to believers).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Joel,

    I need to educate myself more on the Lutheran view but I do reject the belief that regeneration precedes faith and have written several posts on the subject.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. For God to allow freedom is to reduce His own freedom?? Gatekeeper must be citing some deep law of the macrocosm:.

    “Within a closed system, freedom can neither be created nor destroyed, the amount remains constant; an entity within the system being given freedom necessitates the entity granting freedom have less freedom in doing so.” (The law of conservation of non-deterministic agency)

    So if you give someone freedom, you must be losing some of your freedom! This kind of logic of course explains the reasoning behind Totalitarian political systems like Fascism, which are also based upon preserving the principle of ‘freedom,’ just for different people.

  10. Thanks Ben,

    and watch out who you are saying is “not naive”. 🙂

    I have a problem. I am full of love and as you know “love believes” all things. Talk about being naive!

    It isn’t until I find out “what I believe” that I find out I wasn’t believing what I believe, if you know what I mean, ah believe?

    Anyway,

    Here is a way for a free moral agent to believe in the Left Hand Kingdom of God on earth all the while believing in the Resurrection of the Christ now sitting on His Glorious Throne governing from the Right Hand Kingdom in Heaven:

    2Co 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?–unless indeed you fail to meet the test!
    2Co 13:6 I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test.
    2Co 13:7 But we pray to God that you may not do wrong–not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed.
    2Co 13:8 For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth.

    and
    1Th 5:19 Do not quench the Spirit.
    1Th 5:20 Do not despise prophecies,
    1Th 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good.
    1Th 5:22 Abstain from every form of evil.
    1Th 5:23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    1Th 5:24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

    Though I mourn for unbelievers, I now am staying rather viligant before the Lord seeing how naive I have proven myself to be to me!

  11. Michael,

    When I said that unbelievers are not “naive” I meant something like this:

    “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the ungodliness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened…Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done…Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these things but also approve of those who practice them.” (Rom. 1:18-21, 28, 32)

  12. Joel wrote:

    “I can think of another analogy. Since my analogy takes a rather morbid turn, let me substitute myself for your daughter. I’ve inherited a trait that renders me a corpse. I’m dead in the other room. You call me into the room and instantly I am brought to life. I am made alive and hear your words and walk into the living room. From my perspective, this experience can be summarized as “1) I heard your voice 2) I decided to walk into the room.” I don’t sense that I was dead. However, from the reality of the situation “1) Your voice caused a new creation in me 2) I decided to walk into the room.” This is a more Lutheran perspective.”

    Actually this perspective is also the reformed perspective on the doctrine of “total depravity”. They like to use this analogy of a physically dead corpse that is unable to respond to the gospel message until it is first made alive. They also like to use Jesus calling Lazarus from the dead to illustrate this. I have problems with this analogy and thinking however.

    First of all, in the bible the nature of man consists of a physical aspect (body and brain) and an immaterial aspect (soul, spirit, mind). The nonbeliever’s body is not dead, so it cannot be said they are “dead” in this sense. The nonbeliever’s spirit is also not “dead” as they think and reason. So from an ontological sense, neither their body or spirit is dead.

    So in what way is the nonbeliever dead?

    I would suggest that four scriptures provide the proper answer to this question. In the parable of the prodigal son, the Father says of his son, “for this son of mine was DEAD, and has come to life again, he was lost and has been found” (LK. 15:24) So in this text “death” means separation from (the son being separated form his father; and in the parable the father represents our Heavenly Father). The prodigal son’s body and spirit were alive when he left his father, but he was separated from his Father, out of relationship. Likewise the nonbeliever who is not in relationship with the Heavenly Father is also “dead and lost”. We speak of nonbelievers as being “lost” not because they cannot be located in space but because they are not in proper relationship with God. In Rev. 20:14 it says “And death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the SECOND DEATH, the lake of fire.” How is this a “death” if the person is conscious and they have already been physically resurrected? The answer is that the second death refers to ETERNAL SEPARATION from God. The third text is John 5 which speaks of two resurrections (the second one referred to is physical resurrection as people come out of tombs to face final judgment, vv. 28-29; the first referred to is when people hear the Son of God and live which refers to conversion). I believe when we have these scriptures in mind we understand that “spiritual death” refers to a person being separated from God. When they are converted, they are made alive, and now in relationship with God. The bible never speaks of the nonbeliever’s body or spirit being dead when they are unsaved. Instead, they are SEPARATED FROM GOD BY THEIR SINS. Finally, this is confirmed by the fall of Adam into sin. He was told that in the day he took from the tree he would die. Did he die the moment that he sinned? Not physically nor was his spirit killed. He was however, separated from God by his sin, with physical death being the consequence. Taken together these four passages clearly show the nature of “spiritual death” as separation from God due to sin. As I am aware of what the bible says about death and separation from God by our sin, I do not accept the Reformed and Lutheran analogy that “spiritual death” means the nonbeliever is like a physically dead corpse. The nonbeliever does lots of things with his funtioning body and functioning spirit. He is however separated from God by his sin and if this is not dealt with he will suffer the second death/eternal separation from God.

    Robert

  13. Hello Kevin,

    “To play devil’s advocate, what if your daughter was out in the street playing (when you told her not to) and a Mack truck was coming? Would you trust her to come when called, or would you go out and grab her? What if you knew that she would not come unless you fetched her? It seems to me this is more like the scenario that God faces.

    This is a tough question for Arminians, but I think it is easier for us to answer than the Calvinists. Their God ordains his children to play in the street, and then sends a Mack truck to run them over (for his glory, of course).”

    C. S. Lewis in one of his writings (don’t remember where) speaks about how God maintains an orderly world and does not intervene every time. And what it would be like if He did. He talks about and asks about, what would a world where sound waves that were going to make hurtful comments were suddenly scrambled, where a weapon changed into something else before it hurt a person, etc. Such a world would be chaotic, disorderly and free will would not really exist there. I think he had a point on this.

    Some people (I have seen it most notably by atheists arguing that God does not exist and calvinists arguing that Arminianism is just as bad as Calvinism when it comes to the problem of evil) will argue or question: well why doesn’t God intervene and prevent the child from (using your example) being hit by the Mack truck? I do not believe that God is **obligated** to always intervene and I also believe that if he always did so Lewis is right the world would be disorderly, chaotic, and free will would not exist. So it seems to me that God intervenes selectively, he picks his spots. Since He is sovereign He determines when or if He will intervene in a situation. The same child who can choose to nicely play catch with you, is the same child who can throw a rock threw a window by acccident or intentionally bop another child over the head with a toy. It seems that if one is going to be made possible so is the other. The Mack truck can deliver needed supplies to hurricane victims, the same truck can run over someone. I think we are asking too much, and actually engaging in wishful and childish thinking if we want a world where free will exists and at the same time expect a world where every harm is prevented, every pain spared. That is just not the reality that we deal with nor the reality that God has created. We live instead in a real world where we make choices with real consequences, where we can choose to use our car to take someone to the hospital or use that same care to send someone to the hospital.

    Robert

  14. 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.

    There is no doubt that man could perform more evil acts toward his fellow man than he does. But if he is restrained from performing more evil acts by motives that are not owing to his glad submission to God, then even his “virtue” is evil in the sight of God.

    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.

    The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.

    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.

    Of course totally depraved men can be very religious and very philanthropic. They can pray and give alms and fast, as Jesus said (Matthew 6:1-18). But their very religion is rebellion against the rights of their Creator, if it does not come from a childlike heart of trust in the free grace of God. Religion is one of the chief ways that man conceals his unwillingness to forsake self-reliance and bank all his hopes on the unmerited mercy of God (Luke 18:9-14; Colossians 2:20-23).

    The totality of our rebellion is seen in Romans 3:9-10 and 18. “I have already charged that all men, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one seeks for God….There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

    It is a myth that man in his natural state is genuinely seeking God. Men do seek God. But they do not seek him for who he is. They seek him in a pinch as one who might preserve them from death or enhance their worldly enjoyments. Apart from conversion, no one comes to the light of God.

    Some do come to the light. But listen to what John 3:20-21 says about them. “Every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.”

    Yes there are those who come to the light — namely those whose deeds are the work of God. “Wrought in God” means worked by God. Apart from this gracious work of God all men hate the light of God and will not come to him lest their evil be exposed — this is total rebellion. “No one seeks for God…There is no fear of God before their eyes!”

    (2) In his total rebellion everything man does is sin.

    In Romans 14:23 Paul says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.” Therefore, if all men are in total rebellion, everything they do is the product of rebellion and cannot be an honor to God, but only part of their sinful rebellion. If a king teaches his subjects how to fight well and then those subjects rebel against their king and use the very skill he taught them to resist him, then even those skills become evil.

    Thus man does many things which he can only do because he is created in the image of God and which in the service of God could be praised. But in the service of man’s self-justifying rebellion, these very things are sinful.

    In Romans 7:18 Paul says, “I know that no good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.” This is a radical confession of the truth that in our rebellion nothing we think or feel is good. It is all part of our rebellion. The fact that Paul qualifies his depravity with the words, “that is, in my flesh,” shows that he is willing to affirm the good of anything that the Spirit of God produces in him (Romans 15:18). “Flesh” refers to man in his natural state apart from the work of God’s Spirit. So what Paul is saying in Romans 7:18 is that apart from the work of God’s Spirit all we think and feel and do is not good.

    NOTE: We recognize that the word “good” has a broad range of meanings. We will have to use it in a restricted sense to refer to many actions of fallen people which in relation are in fact not good.

    For example we will have to say that it is good that most unbelievers do not kill and that some unbelievers perform acts of benevolence. What we mean when we call such actions good is that they more or less conform to the external pattern of life that God has commanded in Scripture.

    However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that’s his will in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore even these “good” acts are part of our rebellion and are not “good” in the sense that really counts in the end — in relation to God.

    (3) Man’s inability to submit to God and do good is total.

    Picking up on the term “flesh” above (man apart from the grace of God) we find Paul declaring it to be totally enslaved to rebellion. Romans 8:7-8 says, “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, indeed it cannot; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”

    The “mind of the flesh” is the mind of man apart from the indwelling Spirit of God (“You are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you,” Romans 8:9). So natural man has a mindset that does not and cannot submit to God. Man cannot reform himself.

    Ephesians 2:1 says that we Christians were all once “dead in trespasses and sins.” The point of deadness is that we were incapable of any life with God. Our hearts were like a stone toward God (Ephesians 4:18; Ezekiel 36:26). Our hearts were blind and incapable of seeing the glory of God in Christ (2 Corinthians 4:4-6). We were totally unable to reform ourselves.

    (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.

    The reality of hell is God’s clear indictment of the infiniteness of our guilt. If our corruption were not deserving of an eternal punishment God would be unjust to threaten us with a punishment so severe as eternal torment. But the Scriptures teach that God is just in condemning unbelievers to eternal hell (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9; Matthew 5:29f; 10:28; 13:49f; 18:8f; 25:46; Revelation 14:9-11; 20:10). Therefore, to the extent that hell is a total sentence of condemnation, to that extent must we think of ourselves as totally blameworthy apart from the saving grace of God.

    In summary, total depravity means that our rebellion against God is total, everything we do in this rebellion is sin, our inability to submit to God or reform ourselves is total, and we are therefore totally deserving of eternal punishment.

    It is hard to exaggerate the importance of admitting our condition to be this bad. If we think of ourselves as basically good or even less than totally at odds with God, our grasp of the work of God in redemption will be defective. But if we humble ourselves under this terrible truth of our total depravity, we will be in a position to see and appreciate the glory and wonder of the work of God

  15. Here’s another God “cannot” quote:

    A.W. Tozer said of God, that He cannot “learn” anything, because If He did, He wouldn’t be God!

  16. Michael,

    I don’t believe that God can learn either. He has always had perfect foreknowledge of all that would ever happen (both those things that He would make happen and those things that He would allow to happen). There was never a “time” when God did not perfectly know all things (though it is misleading to speak of time since God knew all things from before time existed).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  17. Randy,

    Excellent comments on depravity. I agree completely.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Ben,

    you wrote:

    [[There was never a “time” when God did not perfectly know all things (though it is misleading to speak of time since God knew all things from before time existed).]]

    I am having trouble with that written that way.

    Might I untrouble myself and edit it this way:::>

    “There is never a “”time”” when God does not perfectly know all things (though it is misleading to speak of time since God knows all from before, during and after time exists).”

    God Bless
    michael
    natamllc

  19. God is just as free as is needed for Calvinism to be true

    … =)

  20. Hello Ben,

    You wrote:

    “Randy,

    Excellent comments on depravity. I agree completely.”

    Do you really agree with everything that Randy said? I am surprised by this because while some things Randy says about depravity are true, other things he says are outright false and can be shown to be false by comparing what he claims with what scripture states. The biggest error of Randy is that he attempts to proof text (i.e., when one picks a verse in isolation ignoring its immediate context, and then using the verse to attempt to prove something which it is not saying nor is the immediate context even remotely suggesting, this is a mistaken way to use scripture and conclusions drawn by means of proof texting are erroneous and misleading). In particular, Randy bases his claim that the nonbeliever cannot do any good whatsoever upon Romans 14:23.

    Randy says about this verse:

    “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.

    The terrible condition of man’s heart will never be recognized by people who assess it only in relation to other men. Romans 14:23 makes plain that depravity is our condition in relation to God primarily, and only secondarily in relation to man. Unless we start here we will never grasp the totality of our natural depravity.”

    Romans 14:23 is not a radical indictman of all natural virtue. In fact the context is not even a discussion of depravity nor of natural value. The immediate context of the verse is CHRISTIAN LIBERTY (i.e. that in some matters we have choices and have liberty, but that in order to not stumble other believers we will choose to forego what we have the right to do). Check out the verses immediately prior to and subsequent to Romans 14:23 and you find it is directly speaking to believers on the issue of Christian liberty. It is not a statement about natural virtue or a statement on depravity, that is not the point of the passage or the verse at all.

    Randy says that unless we start here, and then he tries to argue his conception of depravity (i.e. that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing any good whatsoever) based on this verse. That completely ignores the context of the verse or the issue being discussed in this section, or the audience (it is speaking not about humanity in general or even speaking to nonbelievers but is directly addressed to believers alone as the context makes very clear.

    You cannot properly infer that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing any good from Romans 14:23, that is unless you are proof texting, taking the verse in isolation ripping it out of its actual context to try to make your point: which is precisely what Randy has done.

    I do not have the time now, as it has been a full Saturday for me, but I did not want to let this obvious case of proof texting go by unnoticed. If anyone doubts it is prooftexting I suggest they merely look at the verses previous to and subsequent to Romans 14:23 to see what the text was actually speaking to, what problem it was addressing and to whom it was speaking.

    When I get some more time I will show some other problems with what Randy has written. Especially his point that the nonbeliever cannot do any good. The bible does not say this, though calvinists wish this were true in order to maintain their conception of depravity.

    Ben do you still agree with his use of Romans 14:23? Or do you see it as the proof texting that it really is? As the erroneous intepretation of a biblical text in an attempt to make a point that is not stated by the text nor intended by the text, and not present or intended by the surrounding context either?

    Robert

  21. God is in control of everything,even every human being.

    Many people in our day deny God and His control over all things. These insist upon walking in their ignorance—for they refuse any testimony from the Bible. Many Christians, however, also appear to be unsure of the extent of the power and control of God. They are willing to concede that God tries to save sinners—but they are not certain whether God can really and fully accomplish His purpose. They agree that God sends all good things—but are loath to maintain that God sends wars and sickness. They are ready to say that God guides good men—but hesitate to confess that wicked men are also under His direction and control.

    One of the truths which has been historically and emphatically confessed by Reformed, Calvinistic churches is that of the Sovereignty of our God. Sovereignty refers to absolute, total rule and control over all things, a rule which God alone possesses. God’s Sovereignty is not limited. Nor is it given to Him. But it is without limit, and it is God’s personal right. God is not the Ruler of some sort of democracy in which He rules by the will of the people. His rule and authority belong exclusively to Himself—and God fully exercises this rule in His creation. He is the Sovereign One. Nothing and no one escapes His rule.

    This is a vital truth. Without it, or in distorting it, one cannot but propose doctrines or beliefs contrary to God’s Word. Consider this once in the light of what the Bible itself teaches.

    First of all, the Sovereignty of God includes the fact that He has formed by His powerful Word the whole of the universe — and He preserves its existence. This fact staggers the imagination! The universe itself is so vast that man knows not how to describe its beginning or its end. The number of stars is so large as to be uncountable. The energy expended by all these heavenly bodies in the universe can not be measured by man. There are those who claim to be ignorant concerning the origin of this universe. Some suggest that perhaps it is eternal. But the Bible tells us simply, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1).And Hebrews 11:3 states, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the Word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”

    Imagine! God created the vast universe — and He Himself is far above it, nor is He limited by it. So also did Solomon pray in dedicating the temple at Jerusalem, “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, the heaven and heaven of heavens can not contain thee; how much less this house that I have builded?” (1 Kings 8:27).

    But the Sovereignty of God is not limited to the formation of all things by His powerful Word. He is Sovereign in that He directs and governs all things that take place. God places the sea within its bounds: Job 38:8, “Or who shut up the sea with doors, when it brake forth, as if it had issued out of the womb?”

    Or again, He causes the rain to fall and the grass to grow, “Who covereth the heaven with clouds, who prepareth rain for the earth, who maketh grass to grow upon the mountains” (Psalm 147:8).

    Striking, is it not, that the Sovereign God causes each drop of rain to fall where He wills; He causes each flake of snow to descent according to His good-pleasure. This is not the extent of His power, however, God’s power extends over the birds of the heavens and even over the hairs which fall from one’s head. Jesus said, “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matthew 10:29-30).

    But still more amazing, though disputed by many, is the fact that God’s power directs wars, pestilence, disease, and winds which come upon the earth. Not only does He as God send peace, but He also causes war. He not only gives health, but He also sends sickness and death. God says in Isaiah 45:7, “I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things.”

    Again we read in Psalm 46:8, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth.” When Christians, then, hear of or encounter the terrible hurricanes or tornadoes, when they behold the destruction of disease, when they see the devastation of wars — let them confess: “The hand of the Lord directs all these things!”

    There is a yet more amazing wonder in this fact of God’s Sovereignty. He rule extends even over evil men — yes, and over the devil himself. Many deny this. It is often suggested that God influences and directs good men — but that evil men and the devil are minor forces outside of the rule of God. It is conceded that God can frustrate the evil designs of these forces of darkness, but the claim is that these are nevertheless independent forces. If this view were correct, there would be a serious limit to or abridgment of the Sovereignty of God. Fact is, however, that God is also sovereign with respect to wicked men. They cannot lift up one little finger, they cannot perform one evil act, but that this is under the absolute control of God.

    That this is true can also be shown clearly from Scripture. We read in Exodus, chapters 3 and 4, that Moses, who earlier had fled from Egypt, was caring for the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro. This had been his occupation during the past 40 years. Suddenly, God changed the life of Moses. God met him at the burning, but unconsumed, bush in the wilderness, and instructed him to go to Pharaoh with the command to let God’s people go. But then God told Moses, “When thou goest to return into Egypt, see that thou do all these wonders before Pharaoh which I have put in thy hand; but I will harden his heart that he shall not let the people go.”

    It is not true that Pharaoh first hardened his heart — and then God further hardened it. Before Pharaoh was even aware of the existence of Moses, God emphasizes: “I will harden Pharaoh’s heart” (Exodus 4:21).As a result of this act of God, Pharaoh hardens his heart. Though God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, yet Pharaoh himself is held responsible and is terribly punished, through the ten plagues, for his sin.

    And why should God harden Pharaoh’s heart?

    The apostle Paul answers with the words of Romans 9:17, “For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might show my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.”

    Other instances are mentioned in Scripture. There is the account of 1 Kings 22, where Ahab sought advice through his false prophets concerning his plan to fight against Syria. These false prophets unanimously urged him to go to battle — with the assurance of victory. But then Ahab called God’s prophet Micaiah. Micaiah explained to Ahab that it was God Who placed a lying spirit in the mouths of Ahab’s false prophets — in order to lead Ahab to his destruction in this battle. God was Sovereign even over those false prophets.

    But there is more too, for even the devil himself is under the direct control of God. Possibly the clearest evidence of this is found in the book of Job. In the first chapter we read that Satan appeared before God. God reminded Satan of Job who was “a perfect and upright man, one that feareth God and escheweth evil.” “Ah,” says Satan, “but does Job serve God for nothing? Touch what he has and he shall curse thee.”

    God then tells Satan in verse 12, “Behold, all that he hath is in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand.” Thus did God give Satan specific but limited power to carry out the evil design of trying to cause Job to curse God.

    But there is a yet more wonderful, amazing evidence of the Sovereignty of God revealed in Scripture. This Almighty God, through His own power alone, saves His people from sin and death and brings them to heavenly glory. Many mistaken preachers will claim that Jesus stands outside the sinner’s heart and insistently knocks upon the door. The decisive action leading unto salvation must be taken by man. But that is not the presentation of Scripture. In Jeremiah 31:18, 19 we read, “Turn thou me, and I shall be turned; for thou art the Lord my God. Surely after that I was turned, I repented; and after that I was instructed, I smote upon my thigh; I was ashamed, yea, even confounded, but I did bear the reproach of my youth.”

    And we read concerning the preaching of the missionaries Paul and Barnabas, “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the Word of the Lord; and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed” (Acts 13:48).

    And on another missionary journey, Paul spoke to women worshipping at a riverside near Philippi. One of these women, Lydia, believed. Concerning her, we read, “Whose heart the Lord opened that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul” (Acts 16:14).

    Further, it was the Sovereignty of God which was evident at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. When one views what happened at the cross, one might be inclined to suggest that matters had gotten out of hand. It almost seemed as though God had lost control. It appeared as though Satan was about to have the victory. Yet that is exactly what did not happen. God had all things under control at the cross. What took place, took place in harmony with His grand purpose. So also did Peter explain to the audience at Pentecost when he told them, “Jesus, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2:23).

    God had determined that the cross must come — but wicked men took and crucified the Christ. Thus did God use the evil action of wicked men to accomplish His glorious purpose.

    It is also this same sovereign, almighty power of God whereby He preserves His people in the salvation He gives unto them. We read in Philippians 1:6, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

    The Sovereign God has revealed His absolute control over all things in saving a people from sin and bringing them to heaven with all of its glories.

    Is it important that the faithful Christian maintain this Scriptural presentation of God’s Sovereignty?

    Most definitely!

    The very reason that the whole of the universe exists is that God’s Name might be highly exalted. All that has taken place, all that shall yet occur, must serve the purpose of glorifying God. No one or nothing may attempt to take away from the Sovereignty of our God.

    It is the characteristic mark of all heresy that the truth of God’s Sovereignty is compromised. Man would introduce that which exalts man, that which exalts man’s power or ability, that which claims that man has a certain ability to earn or merit something of God. Or man deliberately attempts to detract from God’s absolute rule by suggesting that others, outside of God, possess an independent power.

    But it is the mark of a faithful Christian and of the true church that these believe and confess the Scriptural truth of the absolute Sovereignty of God. All doctrine, every confession, must be founded upon the truth of God’s Sovereignty. Whatever detracts in any way from this truth must be rejected. True doctrine must follow out of and reveal the truth that God is the Sovereign One.

    The Christian must live and walk in the consciousness of this truth too. All too often one would think of himself as independent — free from the power and authority of God. He does not seek God’s face in prayer as he ought. He does not support the cause of God’s kingdom as a faithful child of God is called to do. He finds pleasure in this world with all of its lusts. Such an one lives as though God is not the Sovereign One.

    What a wonderful truth is this confession of God’s Sovereignty!

    My God is He Who hears and can answer my prayer. My God directs all things for my good (Romans 8:28).Because my God is absolutely sovereign, there are no real accidents which befall me. And I shall surely dwell in the house of the Lord forever — my Sovereign God sees to this through His Son Jesus Christ.

    What comfort, what assurance, it is for the Christian to know and confess God’s Sovereignty. There is nothing, then, that can ever separate me from the love of God. “For,” says God’s Word, “I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

    That is true because God is the sovereign God. Thank God that He is!

  22. You know Randy, if you’re going to take an approach so unoriginal as to post an entire pamphlet instead of just dropping a link to it (such as http://www.prca.org/pamphlets/pamphlet_42.html), you should at least give credit to its source, in this case Reverend Gise J. Van Baren.

  23. Randy

    as I read your posts this came to mind. Care to comment on these things, if you can?

    Psa 59:5 You, LORD God of hosts, are God of Israel. Rouse yourself to punish all the nations; spare none of those who treacherously plot evil. Selah
    Psa 59:6 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city.
    Psa 59:7 There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips– for “Who,” they think, “will hear us?”
    Psa 59:8 But you, O LORD, laugh at them; you hold all the nations in derision.
    Psa 59:9 O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.
    Psa 59:10 My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies.
    Psa 59:11 Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by your power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield!
    Psa 59:12 For the sin of their mouths, the words of their lips, let them be trapped in their pride. For the cursing and lies that they utter,
    Psa 59:13 consume them in wrath; consume them till they are no more, that they may know that God rules over Jacob to the ends of the earth. Selah
    Psa 59:14 Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city.
    Psa 59:15 They wander about for food and growl if they do not get their fill.

    There are seeming “contradictions” in there and it takes the “Spirit of the Lord” to make sense of its “plain meaning” don’t you think or know? 🙂

  24. How about getting back to God”s absolute sovereignty ? Unless you find God’s sovereignty contradicts it’s self.

  25. Hello JC and Ben,

    I thought that “Randy” (if that is even his real name, he could be yet another calvinist sock puppet)) presented a pretty **canned calvinist presentation **in his first post. It was full of proof texting and somehow did not seem original. Then I saw the later one on God’s sovereignty and the calvinist propaganda continued except this time it was much longer with more proof texting. Now I read that you discovered who really wrote this material (i.e., Gise J. Van Baren). I did a quick google search and brought up the pamphlet quickly. JC just curious how did you know this was someone else’s material not written by “Randy”?

    When one presents the material of another as if it is one’s own, without giving proper credit for the material this is dishonest. In an academic context, if you do this kind of thing (its called plagarism), and are found out, your grade is a fail. It is sad that determinists must feel compelled to engage in sock puppeting, anonymous posting and now this, citing entire pamphlets on their erroneous system of calvinism without giving proper credit for the source. Honest people do not need to go to these lengths or engage in these practices to make their points.

    Seems to me a blog like this is not intended for people to be citing whole pamphlets on calvinism in order to spread their errors here. To do so on an openly Arminian website is just another form of calvinist dishonesty.

    Thankfully you guys eliminated anonymous posting. The lengths these calvinist/determinists go, is truly amazing. It also shows that you guys must be really saying some significant things to be irking and provoking the calvinists to engage in these unethical practices.

    Robert

  26. Robert,

    1. Normal posts aren’t that long.

    2. Writing style is a bit too grandiose for normal writing; bit too well-presented and researched to be something someone threw together off the cuff.

    3. I didn’t spot any spelling errors.

    I figured it could have been a post he’d written for his blog or something (though Randy doesn’t have a blog/site listed). I was positive that wherever it came from, it had been copy/pasted, so I just put in one of the more distinctive lines into a search and it pulled it right up.

  27. Robert,

    I want to thank you for your thoughtful response to the Lutheran and Reformed analogy regarding the nonbeliever as a physically dead corpse. I agree that this separation from God by our sin, left undealt with, will led us to suffer the second death/eternal separation from God. So how can it be dealt with in light of 1 Corinthians 2:14 where “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”?

    How about instead of dead…the nonbeliever is 500 light years away, paddling upstream in a canoe pulling a barge, with paddles with only a single “spork” from KFC. See if anyone can find a pamphlet on that!

    Joking aside, I want to learn much more about the Arminian perspective. So, I hope to engage here when I get the opportunity.

    Ben,

    Regarding the belief that regeneration precedes faith…I do not know of anyone who accepts that position if they are deliberate in their walk as a disciple. I would contend that regeneration and faith come together in the same package. I think the subtle point here lies in how faith in understood. I do know many people who deny that regeneration without a confessed faith. Thus, requiring a professed/confessed faith in order to receive regeneration. But this takes me back to 1 Corinthians 2:14 which I mentioned above…don’t we need to have the Spirit to hear the Spirit? Do we hear first or have first?

    I look forward to reading the articles you mentioned.

  28. Nice find JC. 🙂 Looks like Randy is a Piper fan as well.

    http://www.monergism.com/thethreshold/articles/piper/depravity.html

  29. Wherever Randy found the information, it’s still good stuff. In fact, his first comment was so good that even Ben gave an “Amen” to it. Of course that is what usually happens when truth is spoken; we should all “Amen” no matter what our theological leanings.

    Grace & Peace

  30. Jc, Ben and Robert you guys sound like the three stooges with your arogance and pride. Your religious views are nothing new. I here the same views from every Arminian Article I read ,so to say your responses are original there not. Why don’t you guys proof text this verse?
    (Isaiah 53: 11-12 He shall see the labor of his soul, and be satisfied. by his knowledgemy righteousservant shall justify many,for he shall bear their iniquities. Thereforei will divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul unto death, and he was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

    (2 Peter 3: 15-16)
    and consider that the long suffering of are Lord is salvation- as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of scriptures.
    God bless, Randy

  31. Robert,

    The reason I agreed with what Randy wrote initially (assuming they were his words and not someone else’s) was because I felt he qualified those statements concerning doing good in a way that I found satisfying:

    However, such outward conformity to the revealed will of God is not righteousness in relation to God. It is not done out of reliance on him or for his glory. He is not trusted for the resources, though he gives them all. Nor is his honor exalted, even though that’s his will in all things (1 Corinthians 10:31). Therefore even these “good” acts are part of our rebellion and are not “good” in the sense that really counts in the end — in relation to God.

    I agree that we cannot ultimately please God without faith and there is a sense in which whatever we do, however good, if it is not done in faith, is sin because it proceeds from a heart of unbelief. For that reason even “good” unbelievers cannot be saved. If Randy meant to imply that we cannot do anything that can in any way be considered “good” then I disagree. But I do agree that no act of “goodness” if not proceeding from faith in God is ultimately pleasing to Him since it is tainted by unbelief.

    I will have to re-read Randy’s comments to see if I was being too rash in fully agreeing with him (I rarely agree “completely” with anyone so I should use a little more caution in throwing that word around).

    That I agree with Randy on some points does not mean I agree in all points especially since it now seems obvious that he is a Calvinist. Arminians generally affirm total depravity as strongly as Calvinists, except for the improper use of “dead in sin” language and the belief that God’s enabling work is irresistible regeneration.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  32. Randy,

    Consider what you wrote here:

    Jc, Ben and Robert you guys sound like the three stooges with your arogance and pride. Your religious views are nothing new. I here the same views from every Arminian Article I read ,so to say your responses are original there not.

    …and ask yourself if these comments are reflective of Christian humility. It also needs to be pointed out that I have said nothing so far concerning you except that I agreed with your first post. So why would you call me arrogant and compare me to one of the three stooges?

    If you are embarrassed by the fact that you tried to pass off someone else’s work as your own then I can certainly understand that. That does not give you the right to make such comments concerning those who disagree with you or have pointed out that your words did not belong to you. There is little new under the sun from both camps and we all do tend to borrow from each other’s arguments, but if we do we should try to acknowledge our sources whenever possible. I haven’t followed the link that JC provided yet, so I don’t know just how closely your words match those of Mr. Van Baren, but if you essentially copied his words without giving him credit, then you should not feel very good about that IMO.

    BTW, I don’t see how Isaiah 53:11-12 poses any difficulty to the Arminian view, and I would be very careful how you use 2 Pet. 3:15-16. The way you use that passage suggests that you maybe a little over confident in your own understanding of Scripture (dare I say “arrogant” ?)

    God Bless,
    Ben

  33. Randy,

    Having just followed the links I was disappointed to find that you did indeed plagiarize another man’s work (both Van Baren and John Piper). Since you do not seem to value the Christian virtue of honesty, you will no longer be welcomed at this blog.

    I pray that you will learn to value your personal integrity above the importance of just trying to win an argument.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  34. Robert,

    I guess it was Piper’s words that I agreed with and not Randy’s.

  35. I will admit that I’ve not followed the links provided, but if Piper was the source for the first comment then it’s safe to say that it is well grounded in Scripture and we can all “Amen” the view expressed:)

    Grace & Peace

  36. Oh, come on! Christian forgiveness in order?

    Randy, did you intentionally plagerize?

    If so, repent and allow our Christian brothers, though differing in non essentials, they are good brothers preaching the Gospel, unless you do not agree?

    If you unintentially did not note the quote, then say so so that we all can have a good example to follow when things go amiss and we allow the Holy Ghost to admonish us of Christ’s directive here:::>

    Mat 6:11 Give us this day our daily bread,
    Mat 6:12 and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.

    And again, it is essential as Christians to always prefer one another as more important, right?

  37. …but if Piper was the source for the first comment then it’s safe to say that it is well grounded in Scripture and we can all “Amen” the view expressed:)

    Mitch,

    That comment sounds like Calvinistic Popery 🙂

  38. Hello Joel,

    “I want to thank you for your thoughtful response to the Lutheran and Reformed analogy regarding the nonbeliever as a physically dead corpse. I agree that this separation from God by our sin, left undealt with, will led us to suffer the second death/eternal separation from God. So how can it be dealt with in light of 1 Corinthians 2:14 where “The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”?”

    Thanks for a gracious response Joel.

    In answer to your question about 1 Cor. 2:14, note that it speaks of an unbeliever “without the Spirit.” I take this to mean the ordinary run of the mill nonbeliever apart from the work of the Spirit. Having said this, on our own we cannot come to God or understand spiritual things. The Spirit has to come and illuminate scripture for us, show us our sinfulness and that Jesus is the way of salvation, etc. etc. I do a lot of evangelism and observing people’s experiences as well as looking at my own conversion experience we all go through this process in which the Spirit works upon us enabling us to have faith in God and His word. Apart from ***that work*** of the Spirit we do not and cannot understand spiritual things (which is what I believe the 1 Cor.2:14 passage is referring to). Left to ourselves we are sinful and hell bound. But, and this is what I have seen time and time again, the Lord does not leave us to ourselves, leave us in our sinful condition in which we are separate from him and without hope in the world (cf. Eph. 2:12). He initiates a relationship with us. He did so primarily by sending his Son to die for the sins of the world (Jn. 3:16, 1 Jn. 2:2) on the cross (while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, Rom. 5:8). But he does not stop there, He also sends the Spirit to convict the world of sin, righteousness, judgment (cf. Jn.16:8-11). It is this work of the Spirit that enables us to have a faith response to the gospel. I believe Paul is talking about people who have not had that experience, that work of the Spirit in their lives, hence they cannot understand spiritual things because only the work of the Spirit brings this understanding.

    “How about instead of dead…the nonbeliever is 500 light years away, paddling upstream in a canoe pulling a barge, with paddles with only a single “spork” from KFC. See if anyone can find a pamphlet on that!”

    The point is that our sin creates such a separation and distance between us and God that our good works cannot overcome it NOTHING WE DO CAN OVERCOME IT, only the blood of Jesus can overcome that separation and make relationship with God possible. If we trust in Jesus and what He did our sins can be forgiven and the separation and distance between us and God eliminated.

    “Joking aside, I want to learn much more about the Arminian perspective. So, I hope to engage here when I get the opportunity.”

    This is a good site to learn more. There is also a new site called the Society of Evangelical Arminians that also provides some helpful material for you to learn more about Arminianism.

    Robert

  39. “Calvinistic Popery” may it never be

    I understand that the readers or contributors to this site will not “Amen” much from Piper, but it does appear that the comment that Randy provided is the exception to that rule. I was glad to see you endorse it and while we will differ on many, many things we will be in agreement on the thoughts expressed in that particular comment.

    Grace & Peace

  40. Hello Ben,

    I want to discuss here why I agree (as do you) with some things Piper said and also disagree with a point he attempted to argue repeatedly (i.e., that the nonbeliever cannot do any good actions, that their every action is sin).

    You wrote:

    “I agree that we cannot ultimately please God without faith and there is a sense in which whatever we do, however good, if it is not done in faith, is sin because it proceeds from a heart of unbelief.”

    Piper first attempted to prove his point that nonbelievers can never do any good actions by PROOF TEXTING FROM ROMANS 14:23. This is a case of proof texting as the passage is not dealing with depravity nor is it dealing with unbelievers or mankind in general, it is specifically dealing with BELIEVERS and the context is Christian liberty. Thus to attempt to argue from the text in isolation separating it from its immediate context is proof texting and does not establish (because it was not intended to argue) that the nonbeliever cannot do any good works. So I disagree with Piper’s improper use of Rom. 14:23. It is bad exegesis on the part of Piper and is proof texting. Piper appeals to the Rom. 14:23 passage multiple times in his article to make the point about nonbelievers not every doing any good works.

    “For that reason even “good” unbelievers cannot be saved.”

    Right, being good or doing good works is not what saves us. And here is where a common and major error by calvinists occurs (they attempt to argue that depravity means that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing any good works whatsoever; when depravity speaks of the fact that sin has affected every area of humans, has corrupted everything). The bible does not teach that the nonbeliever can never ever do any good works. In fact if you closely examine the book of Romans (and Piper ought to know this, so his promoting the erroneous claim that nonbelievers cannot do anything is inexcusable, he knows better) you find not that the apostle Paul argues that the nonbeliever never does any good works. No that is not the argument, and Paul does not claim or argue that the nonbeliever cannot do any good works. No, Paul’s argument is this: the Jewish people of the first century had the Law and attempted to keep the law and had confidence that their keeping of the Law, their doing of good works would justify them before God. Paul says No, they were putting their trust in their own works, their own righteousness, rather than placing their confidence and trust in GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS. Put another way, Paul is arguing that there are two forms of righteousness, the righteousness of man, as seen in the efforts of the Jews in keeping the Law, and the righteousness of God which is a gift and can only obtained by faith. Neither Paul nor Jesus ever said that the keeping of the law was bad or that the Jews never did any good works. No, their point, their argument was that the righteousness of man does not justify us before God (only faith in Jesus and His works justifies us before God). For someone like Piper to come along and suggest that the nonbeliever never does any good works flies completely contrary to Paul’s extensive and long sustained argument about the two types of righteousness in the book of Romans.

    It is true that our good works do not and cannot save us, but to say **that** is not the same thing as saying that the **nonbeliever never ever does any good works**.

    The way calvinists like Piper generally try to get around this is by proof texting, by taking single verses in isolation and then trying to infer from these verses that the nonbeliever cannot and does not ever do any good works.

    “If Randy meant to imply that we cannot do anything that can in any way be considered “good” then I disagree.”

    Well then Ben you DO DISAGREE WITH PIPER as he is attempting to argue just that: that nonbelievers cannot do anything that can in any way be considered good.

    “I will have to re-read Randy’s comments to see if I was being too rash in fully agreeing with him (I rarely agree “completely” with anyone so I should use a little more caution in throwing that word around).”

    Right, I believe that if you carefully examine the Piper material you will agree with most of it. I agree with much of it, however, his argument that the nonbeliever is incapable of doing any good due to depravity is not biblical teaching. It is a stretch based upon proof texting as well as ignoring what the bible does say about good works (not that no one can do them, but that the works that we do that are good works cannot justify us before God, only the righteousness of God can save us, again look at Romans to see this point argued by Paul).

    There are some verses that speak clearly against this error made by Piper and many other calvinists. Soloman makes the general statement about mankind in Ecc. 7:20 when he writes: “Indeed there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.” The bible does not teach that men always do good, nor does it teach that men always sin: rather it says men can and do good, but that everybody sins. And that is the problem sin and its consequences. And even a single sin separates you from a holy God, sufficiently to result in eternal separation from sin. In a sense the apostle Paul argues this 7:20 verse in the book of Romans, except that he changes the order. He starts in the early chapters of Romans by arguing and demonstrating that EVERYBODY SINS (does not matter if you are a gentile without the law or a Jew with the law, both sin, both fall short of God’s perfect righteousness, short of God’s standard). After establishing that all have sinned and fall short, Paul then argues about the two kinds of righteousness (that of man, exemplified by the Jewish persons keeping the law and trusting in their law keeping to justify them before God, which Paul argues fails; and the righteousness of God that saves us, a righteousness that is a gift obtained through faith alone not any works not anything we do or could do).

    My favorite and the clearest case illustrating that the nonbeliever can do good works but that these good works do not justify him before God or save him is Cornelius in Acts 10. Cornelius was a “god-fearer” (v.2 “a devout man, and one who feared God”) which means he was a gentile convert to Judaism. He attempted to keep the law of God and the text says he did so in a way that was pleasing to God: “and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually . . . .Your prayers and alms have ascended as a memorial before God [stated by an angel who was representing God]” vv.2-4. So Cornelius **was** doing good works that **were** recognized by God before he became a Christian. Cornelius was not a Christian when he did these good works that God approved, he was a god-fearer/Gentile convert to Judaism. Cornelius first had to hear the gospel being presented by the apostle Peter. Peter presents the gospel to him (vv. 34-43). Then while Peter is presenting the gospel, Cornelius and others believe the message and receive the Holy Spirit. This reception of the Spirit upon faith in the gospel message is when Cornelius was saved. Cornelius was doing good works but it was his own righteousness, and that righteousness does not justify us before God. He needed and received the righteousness of God which Paul spoke about in Romans, when he had a faith response to the gospel message. The story of Cornelius shows that a nonbeliever can do good works, that these good works do not save him or justify him before God, that in addition to his good works, he needs to have a faith response to the gospel message.

    “That I agree with Randy on some points does not mean I agree in all points especially since it now seems obvious that he is a Calvinist. Arminians generally affirm total depravity as strongly as Calvinists, except for the improper use of “dead in sin” language and the belief that God’s enabling work is irresistible regeneration.”

    We agree that sin has affected every aspect of man. We agree that sin leads men to rebel against God. We agree that sin separates men from God putting them in a hopeless condition (unless they repent of their sin and believe the gospel and God forgives their sins and they become a child of God through faith). We agree that men cannot save themselves or justify themselves by their own works, by their own righteousness. We affirm that only the righteousness of God which Paul talks about in the book of Romans saves us or justifies us before God. We affirm that no one earns or merits this righteousness of God by our works, that it is a gift that can only be received by faith.

    So we would agree with some of Piper’s points, but his point and argument that nonbelievers cannot and never do any good works is false and unbiblical.

    Robert

  41. If a believer does something (good, bad or indifferent) and it is not of faith then it would be sin correct?

    Assuming that is true then are you saying that if an unbeliever does something (good, bad or indifferent) and it is not of faith then it would not be sin?

    Since it appears that Robert speaks for Ben and determines what all is believed and agreed upon and what is not, either Robert or Ben could answer. As always, thank you for the opportunity to interact and learn.

    Grace & Peace

  42. Mitch wrote:

    “Since it appears that Robert speaks for Ben and determines what all is believed and agreed upon and what is not, either Robert or Ben could answer.”

    I don’t appreciate these comments at all.

    Why the completely unnecessary put down of Ben here, Mitch?

    From what I have seen here on this blog he has presented lots of thoughtful and stimulating material. He seems to be perfectly capable of speaking for himself. And I don’t determine “what all is believed and agreed upon and what is not” ,here.

    Your comments were wrong and you owe Ben an apology.

    Robert

  43. Well Randy, that was impressive, but I haven’t seen your address Ben’s comment and mine?

    Why not set your head knowledge aside now and be a Christian man who can walk humbly with “Our” God and address the issue at hand?

  44. Robert, it was not my intent to “put down” anyone, least of all Ben. I respect him and his writings, but if you read the comment that you left one gets the impression that you determine what is agreed upon and what is not.

    Of course I know that Ben speaks for himself and is more than capable of telling us what he does and does not agree with, that is why I thought the comment that you left was a bit presumptuous and arrogant. I fail to see how/why I would owe anyone an apology. Perhaps an apology is in order though, just not from me:)

    Grace & Peace

  45. I deleted Randy’s most recent comments as he has still not owned up the fact of shamelessly taking credit for other people’s works, and continues to just quote the works of other people.

    Randy,

    Let me remeind you that you no longer welcomed to comment here as a I mentioned above.

  46. This is a tough issue. Certainly sinful people refrain from certain sins. It is hard to say if God counts it sin when we do those things which He has commanded even if they are not done in faith. For instance, Paul says,

    “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.” (Rom. 2:14-15)

    This seems to indicate that we are able to keep certain aspects of the law. However, no one is able to keep the whole law all the time because of the pull of the sinful nature. In any case, even the good that sinners do is tainted by unbelief because it is not done with a heart committed to God. So such acts are in a sense “good” and in a sense “sin” since they still fail to fully live up to God’s holy standard.

    I believe that even the case of Cornelius that Robert brought up illustrates that faith is required for truly good works. While Cornelius was not a believer in Christ until he heard the gospel, he was a believer in God and in right covenant relationship with the Father under the old dispensation. So his good works were done in faith and were therefore pleasing to God. He was one of those “other sheep” that the Father would not fail to bring into the fold of His Son.

    We all agree that no amount of “good” works can merit salvation and that all of us are lost without the forgiveness available in the atonement of Jesus Christ. We all agree that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” and that no one can come to Christ in faith apart from the grace of God. That is good enough for me.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  47. I can AMEN all you said in the last comment. Thanks for the time and interaction.

    Grace & Peace

  48. Hey Robert,

    I know your passion and sometimes I “feel” like you have lowered both barrels and blasted away at me.

    If I have offended you with any remarks or comments pointed towards you, I ask you to forgive me and release any aught you might be holding towards me.

    Please forgive me?

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