Responding To Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith

Below is my response to Dominic’s follow-up rebuttal of my post concerning the purpose of regeneration in Calvinism.   You can read my response to his first reply here. It is quite lengthy because the discussion primarily turns on issues of exegesis, and exegesis requires careful attention to language and context.  If Dominic replies again I will just focus on a general reply to his main points without interacting with all that he says (though I felt such interaction was necessary in this response).  As in my last response, Dominic’s comments are blocked in yellow quotes while my responses appear in between.

Ben: I admit to being confused by this and I certainly disagree with his “definition” of faith (i.e. the simple faith that receives Christ) as requiring the indwelling Spirit. It seems that he is saying that God can turn the will to belief but that belief doesn’t constitute faith. And I am still left to wonder what these “propositions” entail.

Dominic: That is exactly what I’m saying; and I defended this claim quite adequately. I was also fairly clear that the propositions in question are the propositions of the Christian faith: namely, to start with, that Christ died for our sins; and all the truths which relate to this.

Well, I am confused again.  I guess Dominic is saying that God can turn ones will to believe certain facts about Christianity (the basic truths of the gospel) and yet that belief does not constitute saving faith.  So one can believe the gospel message but not have saving faith?  Is that correct?  Or is Dominic saying one can have knowledge of certain Christian teachings without believing them?  To have knowledge of something is not the same as believing it, so I am not sure how this can be what Dominic is saying.  And faith is just the noun form of believe (the verb form), so again, I am having trouble grasping the distinction here.

Ben: Faith, as pertains to receiving the truth of the gospel and the gift of salvation, is simple trust in the work of Christ, and does not require intimate knowledge of all of the “things of God” (Rom. 4:4, 5)

Dominic: This is true, but doesn’t speak to whether or not a person can have faith apart from the indwelling Spirit. Nothing in Romans 4 speaks to this question-what is under consideration there is the means of justification, namely through faith in God’s promise. Of course, I affirm that; but it doesn’t speak to the nature of faith (whether for or against my position). It’s hard to see why you would appeal to Romans 4 here; it doesn’t seem to be relevant at all.

It is relevant in that there is a distinction between receiving the simple gospel message (through trust in Christ) and having intimate knowledge of God’s thoughts, etc.  Dominic claims that Paul is describing saving faith in 1 Cor. 2 and that one can only attain to saving faith by having a deep and intimate knowledge of the things of God.  I deny that, and referenced Rom. 4 to show that the faith that saves is a simple trust in Christ, as opposed to the deep intimate knowledge of things of God described by Paul in 1 Cor. 2.  In other words, Paul is not describing simple saving faith in 1 Cor. 2, which undermines Dominic’s entire argument.

Ben: Oh! So God can turn the heart to a false faith but not a real faith.

Dominic: Again, I explained this in my original response. God can turn the heart to either; but man is not capable, in and of himself, of attaining a genuine apprehension of spiritual truths. Therefore, since faith is a genuine apprehension of spiritual truths, a man can only attain faith when indwelt by the Spirit, who communicates those truths to him. Subsequently, without giving his Spirit, God can only turn the heart of man to false faith. True faith necessitates being born again of the Spirit.

This gets back to the original question and I still don’t see that it has been answered.  Dominic holds to exhaustive determinism.  He believes that our every thought, desire, and action is caused by God.  Our wills are meticulously controlled by God.  So why can’t God, in accordance with Dominic’s concept of sovereignty = exhaustive determinism, simply create spiritual understanding in the mind of the sinner and turn his will towards faith in Christ?  It is not a matter of how God has determined to go about such things, but whether or not He needs to do it that way.

Calvinists typically speak of regeneration preceding faith in the language of necessity (e.g. Dominic’s statement, “True faith necessitates being born again of the Spirit.”).  God must regenerate a sinner in order for them to produce faith.  God can’t produce faith in the unregenerate.  But why?  So I understand that in Calvinism, God doesn’t turn the will apart from regeneration, but surely He can, can’t He?  Dominic writes, “a man can only attain faith when indwelt by the Spirit, who communicates those truths to him.”  But why can’t God just give that person such knowledge in accordance with His exhaustive control of the mind?  Why the need for the Spirit to dwell within and communicate these truths?  Why can’t God just implant these truths in the sinners mind and turn the will towards faith?  I still don’t see anything in Dominic’s reply that would answer this question.

Ben: If the unregenerate can muster it on their own, then why the need for God to turn the will towards this false faith? How is false faith any different than unbelief?

Dominic: Re the first question, this seems to be trading on a view of God’s sovereignty which is alien to Calvinism, wherein man’s actions are implicitly autonomous, and God merely directs them. Naturally, reading an Arminian view of action theory into a Calvinist exposition will result in the appearance of incongruity. I need merely point out that, under the Calvinist view, the fact of the unregenerate sinner mustering a false faith is not distinct from the fact of God turning the will of the unregenerate sinner to a false faith. Whatever occurs in reality is instantiated by God; refer to my recent post on this matter: ‘A simple argument for divine determinism’.

Here Dominic again espouses God’s exhaustive control over the mind, thoughts, and will of man.  So again, why cannot God control the mind, thoughts, and will of man towards the acceptance of spiritual truths and faith in Christ?  What prevents this sovereign God from doing so?  Even the “depraved” mind is controlled by God towards unbelief and depravity according to Dominic, so why can’t he just turn it from one direction (unbelief and sin) to another (faith and righteousness)?  In all situations God controls the mind and will and creates our every thought.  Dominic fully affirms this.  Yet God must regenerate the sinner and fill him with his Holy Spirit before He can turn the will towards faith and before He can create spiritual understanding in that person?

It is not a matter of the person learning from the Spirit and freely submitting to those truths.  That doesn’t comport with Dominic’s view (though it does comport with the Arminian view).  Even with the presence of the Holy Spirit communicating spiritual truth, the sinner (sinner who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit no less!) cannot turn his own will toward faith, and cannot create spiritual understanding in himself (i.e. cannot receive instruction on his own).  All this must still be done by God (God must still turn the will and create spiritual understanding in the person).  So what purpose does regeneration, the indwelling of the Spirit, and the communication of spiritual truths, serve in such a scenario?

Dominic: Re the second question, its answer should be readily apparent given a moment’s reflection. False faith is a kind of unbelief; but it is an unbelief disguised as belief. Presumably you accept that false faith does exist; it is certainly referred to many times in Scripture. Warnings against false teachers, who are wolves in sheep’s clothing (ie, unbelievers pretending to be believers) are common. And James refers to those who are “hearers only, deceiving themselves” (1:22). Plainly, it is possible to believe-not merely making the pretence of belief-and yet to not be saved.

Good.  So he admits that false faith is just unbelief.  So God is capable of turning the will from one sort of unbelief to another (and in the C scheme God would be cruelly creating the impression of saving faith in a person who is merely exercising false faith- a false faith that God Himself caused), but cannot turn the will towards true faith.  This he asserts, but has yet to prove.

Ben: And is he suggesting that one needs to be “good” before he can believe? So the message of salvation is not for sinners but for those that God has made good enough to receive it by faith? Only the good can receive Christ by faith?

Dominic: I’m having trouble seeing where I could be even remotely construed as saying this. You will need to explain your reasoning further; suffice to say this representation bears no resemblance to the position I explicated.

I construed it from the following comment you made in your last post, “It cannot be any more than what that unregenerate heart can muster from its own depths-and there is nothing good, nothing like the intimate knowledge of God required for salvation, down there.” (emphasis mine)

Now, apparently I was mistaken, but this seemed to imply that belief in God is contingent on something “good” in us (i.e. “down there”).  Since the unregenerate has nothing “good” in its depths to “muster from” then he cannot believe the gospel.  This led to my statements above.  I apologize if I misunderstood Dominic on this, but I hope he can see how I was able to construe those conclusions from what he wrote.

Ben: Paul is not speaking of understanding the gospel and accepting it (since they are infants in Christ), but the deeper revelations of the Spirit that can be received only by the mature (vss. 6, 7; cf. “solid food” of 3:2).

Dominic: This isn’t so; you’re relying on a simplistic bifurcation of the passage to come to this conclusion. 1 Corinthians 2 begins with Paul’s recollection of his evangelizing the Corinthian Christians: namely, that he “decided to know nothing among them except Jesus Christ and him crucified” (v 2).

I agree, and said as much in my initial response.  And may I suggest that I am not the one relying on a “simplistic bifurcation” of the passage, since Dominic is divorcing his proof text from context to make his point (it is not “bifurcation” to recognize, contextually, that Paul is not speaking of saving faith in these passages).

Dominic: The faith of the Corinthians rested not “in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God” (v 5).

I agree again.

Dominic: Now, Paul does go on to speak of wisdom imparted to the mature; but this does not exclude the previous comments regarding the cross itself; rather, it builds on them. Consider verse 12: “we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God.” What is the foremost of the things freely given to us by God-indeed, the very foundation of those things? Surely it is “redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7-8).

I agree again.  The message to the mature is a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the gospel, especially concerning the riches and inheritance we have in Christ, which can only be received by those who are already in a relationship with Christ (i.e. those who have already received the gospel by simple faith).  So the message to the mature is for those who are already believers.  This only serves to undermine his position and further support mine.

Dominic: Note also how that passage continues: “making known to us the mystery of his will”. In chapter 2 of Ephesians, during his reiteration of what God has done, Paul refers to this event as how God “made us alive together with Christ” (v 5). All of this describes quite plainly the action taken by God, and excludes human action as the cause of our apprehension of spiritual truth.

It excludes it in verse 5, but includes it in verse 8, where all of the salvation benefits (including regeneration- being “made alive” in Christ) described in verses 4-7 are said to be “through faith”.  This completely undermines Dominic’s understanding of this passage.

Dominic: In fact, as you yourself note, the structure of Ephesians 1 corresponds well to 1 Corinthians 2: Paul reminds his audience of how they received Christ by the power of the Spirit, and then goes on to speak of the greater wisdom imparted by the Spirit to those mature in the faith. But as you failed to note, in both cases this is not a separate gift to faith, which requires the Spirit where faith does not. It is the same gift, extended: a knowledge which builds upon the initial faith of the believer: the “wisdom of the cross” which can only be understood via the indwelling of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 1:18 intimates, and 2:14 explicitly says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” Now, unless you are going to argue that the message of the cross is not a spiritual truth, a “thing of the Spirit of God”, your objection is baseless-relying as it does on an unnatural bifurcation of the first half of the chapter from the second.

Not at all.  No one is denying that these spiritual things described in 1 Cor. 2 are intended for believers who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit.  My entire point is that all of what Paul says in verses 6-14 is directed toward believers who have already received the gospel message (2:5).  It is even true of those who Paul describes as “worldly” and unable to receive these truths because they do not have the “Spirit”, which simply means that they are not yielding to that Spirit so as to attain to these deeper spiritual truths.  This is plainly the case based on how Paul concludes the discourse in 1 Cor. 3:1-4,

Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual (cf. 1 Cor. 2:14-15) but as worldly– mere infants in Christ.  I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men [without the Spirit]?  For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not mere men? (emphasis mine)

These verses render Dominic’s interpretation impossible.  Paul is applying all that he just said directly to these believers and their behavior.  They are “infants in Christ” (and in Pauline usage no one is “in Christ” without being saved).  And yet Paul calls them “worldly” and “mere men” and says he cannot address them as “spiritual”.  All of this is in the context of Paul describing the man with and without the Spirit in 1 Cor. 2:13-15 (Dominic’s primary proof text).

So it becomes clear that in the context of this passage Paul is not saying that one cannot come to faith in Christ unto salvation without being first indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  He is saying that those believers who are “worldly” and “unspiritual” cannot move on to a fuller understanding of all that they have in Christ, “what God has prepared for those who love Him” (2:8), cf. “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18), due to their unwillingness to yield to the Spirit and their clinging to the things of the world (e.g. quarreling, favoritism, etc.).

It is this obvious context which proves Dominic’s proof texting of this passage to be inappropriate misapplication (and notice how Paul moves from “acting like mere men” to the absolute, “are you not mere men?”  This is basic to a proper understanding of what Paul is saying here.  Those “without the Spirit” are those who are “acting” like they do not have the Spirit (i.e. are not yielding to the Spirit), when in fact they do have the Spirit).

Dominic wants us to ignore the context so he can make these passages work in defending his view of saving faith being dependent on regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.  This is obvious in his comment about “spiritual truths”.  Just look at how he focuses on verse 14 and divorces it from the context that defines its meaning.  Yes, the simple gospel constitutes a spiritual truth, but Paul is not using “spiritual truth” in this passage to describe the simple gospel message.  In this context “spiritual truths” as defined by Paul, have reference to the deeper things of God available only for mature and “spiritual” believers (in contrast to immature and “unspiritual” believers). This simple contextual consideration undermines Dominic’s entire argument from this passage.  Dominic is trying to get something out of this passage that it simply does not provide.

Dominic: Furthermore, I am of course not appealing solely to 1 Corinthians 2 to make my case. This is the passage I chose as best to make my point, because it is lengthy and clear; but as I noted, it’s merely a verbose explanation of John 3:3.

But Dominic has misunderstood John 3:3 as well.  In both cases Dominic has read his theology into the passage without allowing the inspired writers to finish their thoughts or define their terms (he does the same thing above with regards to Eph. 2:5, rather than understanding it according to how Paul concludes the matter in verse 8).  I made this same point in the post I wrote on John 3:3, 6 that I referred Dominic to in my last post,

“Rather than allowing Jesus to explain His own teaching, the Calvinist wants to “explain” what Jesus meant before He does. If we want to understand what Jesus meant by His comments in John 3:3, 6, we only need to keep reading. If we can resist the temptation to read our theology into his comments we will soon discover that one is born again by believing in Christ and thereby appropriating the benefits of His atonement. Only after the blood of the “lifted up” Messiah is applied through faith can one begin to experience the eternal life that begins at the new birth.” (taken from my post, Does Jesus Teach that Regeneration Precedes Faith in John 3:3, 6?)

Dominic: Or of 1 Corinthians 12:3-“no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit“. What does faith entail if not the statement that Jesus is Lord? Yet no one can say this except in the Holy Spirit. Just as Jesus himself said to Peter upon his profession of faith: “flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17); and Peter himself acknowledged, saying “he has caused us to be born again” (1 Peter 1:3).

1 Cor. 12:3 can just as easily be translated “by the Holy Spirit”.  In fact, the vast majority of translations prefer “by” to “in” in this passage (translating en as instrumental).  This then would speak to the influence of the Holy Spirit rather than to the indwelling presence of the Spirit.  This fits the context well, since Paul was just speaking about their prior pagan state in which they were “influenced” to follow after false gods (NIV).  Other translations speak of going astray even as they were “led”.  So the passage has reference to the leading of the Spirit in confessing Christ as Lord.   No one can turn to Christ nor confess Him as Lord apart from the influence and leading of the Holy Spirit.  That is basic to prevenient grace, but does not speak to the need for the indwelling Spirit in order to put faith in Christ for salvation.

You are either led by the Spirit (even to faith in Christ), or you are led astray by ungodly influences, and those who are led astray cannot (and would not) say, “Jesus is Lord.”

As far as Peter, it is quite true that his confession resulted from a revelation from the Father, but there is no indication that this revelation came by way of direct communication of the indwelling Holy Spirit.  This is especially true since Scripture is very clear that the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit at this point.  If anything, Peter’s confession argues strongly against Dominic’s position, and supports the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace (notice also that Jesus says “my Father who is in heaven” has revealed this to Peter, and not “the Holy Spirit that is within you” has revealed this…).

Ben: The interpretation Dominic suggests also runs contrary to what Paul says in Galatians 3:3, 5,

I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law or by believing what you heard? (emphasis mine)

Does God give you His Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?“(emphasis mine)

Dominic: You continue to appeal to verses which are not actually dealing with the issue at hand.

This is a remarkable statement.  The issue has to do with the need for regeneration prior to faith and Dominic answers the question by pointing us to a passage that has nothing to do with regeneration or saving faith, but the spiritual maturity of believers and their corresponding ability, or inability, to receive deeper spiritual truths.  Yet Dominic asserts that 1 Cor. 2 proves that one can only believe by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  But this is nothing more than mere assertion based on what he believes the passage implies (without regards to context).  Then, in the face of explicit statements by Paul that the Holy Spirit is received by faith, he complains that I am appealing to verses that are not actually dealing with the issue!

Dominic: I think this is telling.

Ditto.

Dominic: Just as with Romans 4, Galatians 3 is concerned with the means of justification-not with the nature of faith, or the ordo salutis. Nothing in Galatians 3 contradicts my position on the nature and prerequisites of faith; nothing in Galatians 3 speaks to the nature and prerequisites of faith. The same is true of your appeal to Ephesians 3:16 and 17.

Again, these assertions are hard to even take seriously.  I already explained above why I mentioned Rom. 4, and Galatians speaks directly to the issue of how we receive the Holy Spirit.  We receive the Spirit by faith.  That kills his argument completely.  Dominic asserts that initial saving faith is impossible prior to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and Paul flatly contradicts him by saying the Holy Spirit is received by faith!  Let me spell this out as clearly as possible so as to avoid any confusion,

Dominic (paraphrased): “The indwelling of the Holy Spirit must precede faith, and causes faith”

The apostle Paul (paraphrased): “We receive the Holy Spirit by faith (i.e. reception of the Holy Spirit results from faith and does not cause it).”

Yet, Dominic can somehow assert, in the face of such plain statements by Paul, that “nothing in Galatians 3 speaks to the nature and prerequisites of faith”.  Again, his whole argument is based on what he believes 1 Cor. 2 implies, yet the explicit statements of Paul on the subject are, for some reason, inadmissible! (?)

Ephesians 3:17, despite Dominic’s protest, is extremely relevant to his assertions concerning 1 Cor. 2.  Dominic insisted that one must possess the mind of Christ prior to being able to believe the simple gospel unto salvation.  Yet, Paul tells us that Christ dwells in our hearts “through faith”, and verses 14-19 correspond perfectly to the deeper knowledge and revelation of God (and His love), available to believers, but not necessarily received by them, as described in 1 Cor. 2.

Dominic: To summarize, that spiritual rebirth must precede faith is amply evidenced in Scripture.

If it is, Dominic has yet to furnish us with any such evidence.  He has, however, treated us to numerous unfounded assertions.  Let’s focus briefly on his dismissal of Galatians as relevant to the discussion, and this statement here about the new birth preceding faith.  The new birth would certainly be the point at which we become a child of God, would it not?  Well, it just so happens that Paul has something to say about how we become children of God in Galatians,

“You are all sons of God through faith in Jesus Christ…Because you are Sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out ‘Abba, Father’. (Gal. 3:26, 4: 6)

We become children of God through faith, and becoming God’s child is directly linked to receiving the Holy Spirit.  For this reason we are “heirs according to the promise”, which Paul had previously described as “the promise of the Spirit” received “by faith”. (Gal. 3:14).  Now perhaps Dominic wants to claim that becoming “Sons of God” through faith is somehow only a reference to justification.  This would, however, only serve to further undermine his assertion as the indwelling of the Spirit in verse 6 would then be consequent to justification.  In that case, since justification is “by faith”, faith would still logically precede the reception of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, according to his claims on regeneration, faith would precede regeneration as well (and this just happens to be in perfect accord with the Arminian ordo).

Dominic: It has always been necessary for faith, as Jesus expected Nicodemus to know (John 3:10)-though under the Old Covenant the Spirit was not given in such measure. The opposite view, that regeneration is the consequence of faith, simply isn’t evidenced at all-you have had to appeal to passages which don’t pertain to regeneration in order to make your case, while ignoring the numerous passages which do. This seems quite decisive to me, and stands in isolation to the other biblical arguments against libertarian action theory-which are themselves equally decisive.

Dominic finishes his rebuttal with more assertions regarding the priority of regeneration and more dismissive statements regarding the explicit testimony of Paul that the Holy Spirit is received by faith.  Thankfully, such hand waving will not suffice to overturn the clear Scriptural testimony that the Holy Spirit is received by faith; and this testimony, while undermining Dominic’s argument, fully supports the Arminian ordo.

I would still welcome Dominic to address what I called “theological absurdities” with regards to the Calvinistic ordo salutis in my initial post.

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71 Responses

  1. The more I see Calvinists standing up for their beliefs the more I recognise that their God is a different God to the one in whom I believe. The Calvinist God is different in nature, different in action and different in his approach to his relationship with mankind.

    They use the same bible for the formulation of their doctrine but they use it in a different way – relying heavily on out of context proof texts.

    If only they would start by reading through the WHOLE of scripture and see it as a practical account of God in action. He SHOWS us how He relates to mankind. Any interpretation of individual verses or passages that contradicts what is revealed in this practical account is a false interpretation of scripture.

    Calvinists believe in God – but which god are they REALLY believing in?

  2. Hello Onesimus,

    “The more I see Calvinists standing up for their beliefs the more I recognize that their God is a different God to the one in whom I believe. The Calvinist God is different in nature, different in action and different in his approach to his relationship with mankind.”

    I’m not sure I would say the necessitarian believes in a different God than other bible-believing Christians. Rather, their critical and major mistake is to claim that the God of the bible exhaustively predetermines (i.e. ED) every event. I call them “necessatarians” because this is what their belief leads to: every event is necessary, must occur exactly how it occurs, is exactly what God wants to happen in minute detail, and it is impossible for the event to have been otherwise. A major problem with ED, is that it then mangles the bible and leads to implications and conclusions about God and His character and ways of acting, that are not true and contradict what God has explicitly and clearly revealed.

    Take the example of the atonement of Christ. The bible says this occurred for the sake of the World because God desires for all to be saved. The necessitarian’s belief in ED leads him to conclude that God does not desire for all to be saved and so God set things up so that only the “elect” could and would be saved while the “reprobates” were damned from eternity and it is impossible for them to be saved.

    “They use the same bible for the formulation of their doctrine but they use it in a different way – relying heavily on out of context proof texts.”

    You are right about that. The necessitarian must use “proof texting” in their attempt to support and defend their mistaken ED belief. So rather than taking the bible as a whole on any given topic, they will intentionally look for verses that could be construed to teach ED or verses that sound like they teach ED.

    So for example they will run to Romans 9 to find “proof texts” of ED and they will push the passages that speak about God having mercy on whomever and hardening whomever. What their proof texting leaves out however is that Romans 9 is not talking about ED, but functions as part of a unit (Romans 9-11 which speaks about why so many Jews in Paul’s time were rejecting Christianity, how could this be? Was God not fulfilling His Word and His promises?). Romans 10 clearly talks about how salvation is by faith and the Jews were not getting saved because they were stumbling on the need to trust in Jesus alone for salvation (instead they were trusting in their own good works to save them rather than in Christ and His work on the cross). Romans 11 continues the themes developed in Romans 9-10 and then concludes with 11:32 which says that God desires to have mercy on all (the verses following 11:32 are a praise of God/doxology for the fact that He is this way desiring to save all both Jews and Gentiles through faith in Christ alone).

    “If only they would start by reading through the WHOLE of scripture and see it as a practical account of God in action. He SHOWS us how He relates to mankind. Any interpretation of individual verses or passages that contradicts what is revealed in this practical account is a false interpretation of scripture.”

    You are suggesting the proper method of biblical interpretation. Necessatarians on the other hand are interested in proving and defending their necessitarian view any way they can do so BY USING SCRIPTURE to prove their views rather than allowing scripture to develop their views.

    “Calvinists believe in God – but which god are they REALLY believing in?”

    They want to believe in the God of the bible, but their error of ED mangles things completely.

    Robert

    PS- when I get some more time Ben I want to comment on your latest response to Dominic, I just couldn’t resist commenting on Onesimus’ words first.

  3. Robert, thank you for the response to my comment.

    I would very much like to see Calvinists and their understanding of God in a more tolerant light because I have several friends who are Calvinists. However, at what point does a God cease to be the God of the Bible and become a false God?

    When the Israelites made the golden calf they referred to it as the God who had brought them out of Israel. In one sense it was the RIGHT God they were worshipping, but instead of recognising Him for who He REALLY is they created their own image of Him.

    At that time their knowledge of God was based on the spoken word of Moses and upon a few personal experiences as interpreted by Moses. They had no written scriptures and the Holy Spirit was not given to them in the way he has been given to believers today.
    When Moses departed their camp, leaving them without their primary link to God, they reverted to the ideas of divinity they’d absorbed in Egypt over the previous 400 years. And God did not take it lightly when they created a false image of God and worshipped it.
    The God created by the doctrines of Calvinism is no less a falsehood than the golden calf created by Israel. And there is no excuse for the creation of this false god. Today we have the written scriptures and the Holy Spirit has been sent to lead us into all truth. There is therefore no excuse for such a gross distortion of God’s character, God’s ways, God’s purposes and God’s method of salvation.

    I suspect that Jehovahs Witnesses and Mormons also want to believe in the God of the bible and they also mangle things completely because they build their understanding upon faulty foundations. Yet we have no hesitation in recognising THEIR departure from the truth? And what have they got wrong? They have a different understanding of God’s character, God’s ways, God’s purposes and God’s method of salvation.
    The same problems exhibited in Calvinism.

  4. […] faith and non-saving belief in Christian doctrines. For example, Ben writes in his latest post, ‘Responding To Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith’, Well, I am confused again. I guess Dominic is saying that God can turn ones will to believe […]

  5. “When the Israelites made the golden calf they referred to it as the God who had brought them out of Israel.”

    Of course, this SHOULD read: “the God who had brought them out of EGYPT”.

  6. I have enjoyed reading this exchange. Of course, as you all know, historic Calvinism does not put regeneration prior to faith. Calvin and Edwards did not. Spurgeon and Booth did not. It is only the Hyper Calvinist who puts regeneration prior to faith.

    Of course the passage in Gal. 3 is clear. We receive the Spirit by faith. End of discussion!

    God bless

    Stephen

  7. Thanks Stephen. I wondered if you were paying attention to this. It is nice to have a Calvinist on my side 🙂

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. onesimus,

    I understand your concerns. Calvinists and Arminians have very different conceptions of God. I think it has to do with focus.

    Calvinists focus on sovereignty and define it as exhaustive determinism. This leads to serious problems with God’s character and intentions that are contrary to the overall revelation of Scripture.

    Arminians focus on God’s love and nature as a relational Being and do not see sovereignty defined as exhaustive deterministic control (not in the Bible or in normal language use outside of the Bible). Of course I believe the Arminian account of God is a more accurate reflection of the overall testimony of Scripture.

    However, I do believe Calvinists are saved if they are trusting in Christ to save them and see God as their Creator and Savior. I think they are very wrong about how they understand the nuts and bolts of how salvation works, and how they understand sovereignty, but they do believe in the God of the Bible (unfortunately, their picture of Him is incomplete and distorted some).

    Now, as you noted, it is a challenge to determine when this crosses the line to idolatry, but on this blog I do not want comments that would suggest that Calvinists worship a false god. Calvinists often level the same charge at Arminians, call them heretics, and even question their salvation, because their conception of God is different. I don’t think this gets us anywhere on either side and makes productive discussion impossible. I don’t want to be called a heretic, and so I refrain from saying such things about Calvinists on this blog, and have asked all commenters to do the same while commenting here. I addressed that on the “Important Blog Rules” page (just click the tab at the top to see it).

    Again, I understand that it is very tough to know where to draw the line, and you have the right to think and believe whatever you like about the Calvinist conception of God, but on this blog I don’t want either side accusing others of worshipping false gods.

    I do, however, encourage you to keep commenting here and feel free to share your thoughts on why you believe the Calvinists are wrong in how they interpret Scripture, etc. If we can demonstrate that (and I am confident we can), it will go a long ways toward preventing others from embracing Calvinism, and may even help to those who are already Calvinists rethink their position.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  9. Stephen,

    “I have enjoyed reading this exchange. Of course, as you all know, historic Calvinism does not put regeneration prior to faith. Calvin and Edwards did not. Spurgeon and Booth did not. It is only the Hyper Calvinist who puts regeneration prior to faith.”

    Do you have some citations of Spurgeon and Edwards that show they held the correct view? If you have those readily at hand I would love to see you post them here.

    If this is your definition of “hypercalvinism” then Piper, Sproul, MacArthur, etc. etc. are all “hyper-calvinists”. While I believe they are mistaken about regeneration preceding faith, I do not see them as “hypercalvinists”.

    How do **you** define “hypercalvinist” Stephen??

    “Of course the passage in Gal. 3 is clear. We receive the Spirit by faith. End of discussion!”

    At least one professing calvinist gets it right! 🙂

    Robert

  10. Hi Ben,

    “Well, I am confused again. I guess Dominic is saying that God can turn ones will to believe certain facts about Christianity (the basic truths of the gospel) and yet that belief does not constitute saving faith. So one can believe the gospel message but not have saving faith? Is that correct? Or is Dominic saying one can have knowledge of certain Christian teachings without believing them? To have knowledge of something is not the same as believing it, so I am not sure how this can be what Dominic is saying. And faith is just the noun form of believe (the verb form), so again, I am having trouble grasping the distinction here.”

    Part of your continuing “confusion” here is caused by an error that Dominic continues to make: he is confusing revelation and knowledge of that revelation and faith. The Spirit gives us revelation, knowledge of things, but that is not faith. Faith is an action of trusting in some knowledge or belief that you have. I can believe that a certain chair will hold me up, but faith is actually trusting the chair’s support sufficiently to sit in the chair. Likewise, many people have knowledge of things (including Christians knowing certain revelations that God has given to us) but if they do not act upon what they know, or trust what they know, they become a “hearer” and not a “doer”. Dominic originally attempted to frame his view of faith upon 1 Cor. 2 which talks not about faith but about the revelations that the Spirit gives which the mature person both understands and trusts in.

    “It is relevant in that there is a distinction between receiving the simple gospel message (through trust in Christ) and having intimate knowledge of God’s thoughts, etc. Dominic claims that Paul is describing saving faith in 1 Cor. 2 and that one can only attain to saving faith by having a deep and intimate knowledge of the things of God. I deny that, and referenced Rom. 4 to show that the faith that saves is a simple trust in Christ, as opposed to the deep intimate knowledge of things of God described by Paul in 1 Cor. 2. In other words, Paul is not describing simple saving faith in 1 Cor. 2, which undermines Dominic’s entire argument.”

    Exactly.

    Dominic attempted to proof text for his view from 1 Cor. 2. It is just like when a cultist has a pre-set agenda, say they want (X) to be true. They then look for any bible verse which might support or seem to support (X). Dominic does the exact same thing here. His (X) is the belief that he wants to believe to be true (namely that regeneration precedes faith). His proof texting is to go to 1 Cor. 2 to support his (X). We both have shown this to be proof texting and yet just like the cultist he continues to push his proof text ignoring the context and proper interpretation of the passage.

    “This gets back to the original question and I still don’t see that it has been answered. Dominic holds to exhaustive determinism. He believes that our every thought, desire, and action is caused by God. Our wills are meticulously controlled by God. So why can’t God, in accordance with Dominic’s concept of sovereignty = exhaustive determinism, simply create spiritual understanding in the mind of the sinner and turn his will towards faith in Christ?”

    He hasn’t answered your question and I doubt that he will, he is too busy trying to proof text for his view and argue for regeneration preceding faith.

    “Why the need for the Spirit to dwell within and communicate these truths? Why can’t God just implant these truths in the sinners mind and turn the will towards faith?”

    Actually that is exactly what God does in fact do, and we call that prevenient grace since it is grace given before the person is converted and it is grace that enables a sinner to respond in faith to the gospel message. But a committed necessatarian like Dominic is never going to admit that truth, to do so, he would be denying his system which he wants to proof text for and rationalize as the truth.

    “ I still don’t see anything in Dominic’s reply that would answer this question.”

    You haven’t and you won’t.

    “Yet God must regenerate the sinner and fill him with his Holy Spirit before He can turn the will towards faith and before He can create spiritual understanding in that person?”

    Dominic is assuming **inability** on the part of God: that God cannot turn the will towards faith and do so before that person is regenerated. As the bible teaches that faith precedes regeneration and also as I have a lot of experience in evangelism and actually **seeing** the Lord do so, I know that He both can do it and in fact does do it in sinners before they are converted.

    “I agree, and said as much in my initial response. And may I suggest that I am not the one relying on a “simplistic bifurcation” of the passage, since Dominic is divorcing his proof text from context to make his point (it is not “bifurcation” to recognize, contextually, that Paul is not speaking of saving faith in these passages).”

    It is very difficult to reason with someone when they are engaging in proof texting as they just keep going back to their texts and do so over and over. Usually they don’t want the truth on that subject they only are interested in proving their pre-set agenda with their supposed proof texts.

    “I agree again. The message to the mature is a deeper understanding of the mysteries of the gospel, especially concerning the riches and inheritance we have in Christ, which can only be received by those who are already in a relationship with Christ (i.e. those who have already received the gospel by simple faith). So the message to the mature is for those who are already believers. This only serves to undermine his position and further support mine.”

    Again you appeal to the truth about 1 Cor. 2 but he is just going to ignore it and just keep proof texting holding to his false and mistaken interpretation.

    “Not at all. No one is denying that these spiritual things described in 1 Cor. 2 are intended for believers who are indwelt with the Holy Spirit. My entire point is that all of what Paul says in verses 6-14 is directed toward believers who have already received the gospel message (2:5). It is even true of those who Paul describes as “worldly” and unable to receive these truths because they do not have the “Spirit”, which simply means that they are not yielding to that Spirit so as to attain to these deeper spiritual truths. This is plainly the case based on how Paul concludes the discourse in 1 Cor. 3:1-4,”

    Again you are repeating the truth to an intentionally stopped up ear, a person who is not interested in the truth but in proof texting.

    “These verses render Dominic’s interpretation impossible. Paul is applying all that he just said directly to these believers and their behavior. They are “infants in Christ” (and in Pauline usage no one is “in Christ” without being saved). And yet Paul calls them “worldly” and “mere men” and says he cannot address them as “spiritual”. All of this is in the context of Paul describing the man with and without the Spirit in 1 Cor. 2:13-15 (Dominic’s primary proof text).”

    I know exactly how it feels to keep repeating the truth to someone who is proof texting and does not accept the truth, we experience that whenever we deal with a cultist who does exactly the same thing.

    “So it becomes clear that in the context of this passage Paul is not saying that one cannot come to faith in Christ unto salvation without being first indwelt by the Holy Spirit. He is saying that those believers who are “worldly” and “unspiritual” cannot move on to a fuller understanding of all that they have in Christ, “what God has prepared for those who love Him” (2:8), cf. “the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints” (Eph. 1:18), due to their unwillingness to yield to the Spirit and their clinging to the things of the world (e.g. quarreling, favoritism, etc.).
    It is this obvious context which proves Dominic’s proof texting of this passage to be inappropriate misapplication (and notice how Paul moves from “acting like mere men” to the absolute, “are you not mere men?” This is basic to a proper understanding of what Paul is saying here. Those “without the Spirit” are those who are “acting” like they do not have the Spirit (i.e. are not yielding to the Spirit), when in fact they do have the Spirit).”

    Again, how many times can you present the truth to someone who intentionally does not want to hear it and wants to embrace error instead?

    “Dominic wants us to ignore the context so he can make these passages work in defending his view of saving faith being dependent on regeneration and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. This is obvious in his comment about “spiritual truths”. Just look at how he focuses on verse 14 and divorces it from the context that defines its meaning. Yes, the simple gospel constitutes a spiritual truth, but Paul is not using “spiritual truth” in this passage to describe the simple gospel message. In this context “spiritual truths” as defined by Paul, have reference to the deeper things of God available only for mature and “spiritual” believers (in contrast to immature and “unspiritual” believers). This simple contextual consideration undermines Dominic’s entire argument from this passage. Dominic is trying to get something out of this passage that it simply does not provide.”

    Right, again, 1 Cor. 2 is talking about revelation that the Spirit provides, in this specific context to believers. It is not discussing whether or not the Spirit gives revelation to unbelievers to lead them to Christ (that would be evangelism and the 1 Cor. 2 passage has nothing to do with evangelism and everything to do with people who are already Christians and who already have the indwelling Spirit).

    “But Dominic has misunderstood John 3:3 as well. In both cases Dominic has read his theology into the passage without allowing the inspired writers to finish their thoughts or define their terms (he does the same thing above with regards to Eph. 2:5, rather than understanding it according to how Paul concludes the matter in verse 8).”

    Ignoring one text in the immediate context in order to make your point is again a sure sign the person is attempting to proof text. Dominic keeps doing it over and over, he’s very committed to his false system of calvinism and he will do whatever it takes even if that includes mangling the text of scripture.

    “ I made this same point in the post I wrote on John 3:3, 6 that I referred Dominic to in my last post, “Rather than allowing Jesus to explain His own teaching, the Calvinist wants to “explain” what Jesus meant before He does. If we want to understand what Jesus meant by His comments in John 3:3, 6, we only need to keep reading. If we can resist the temptation to read our theology into his comments we will soon discover that one is born again by believing in Christ and thereby appropriating the benefits of His atonement. Only after the blood of the “lifted up” Messiah is applied through faith can one begin to experience the eternal life that begins at the new birth.”

    And why would someone explain what Jesus meant before he does? PROOF TEXTING!

    “1 Cor. 12:3 can just as easily be translated “by the Holy Spirit”. In fact, the vast majority of translations prefer “by” to “in” in this passage (translating en as instrumental). This then would speak to the influence of the Holy Spirit rather than to the indwelling presence of the Spirit. This fits the context well, since Paul was just speaking about their prior pagan state in which they were “influenced” to follow after false gods (NIV). Other translations speak of going astray even as they were “led”. So the passage has reference to the leading of the Spirit in confessing Christ as Lord. No one can turn to Christ nor confess Him as Lord apart from the influence and leading of the Holy Spirit. That is basic to prevenient grace, but does not speak to the need for the indwelling Spirit in order to put faith in Christ for salvation.”

    Very good and clear explanation of 1 Cor. 12:3.

    “As far as Peter, it is quite true that his confession resulted from a revelation from the Father, but there is no indication that this revelation came by way of direct communication of the indwelling Holy Spirit. This is especially true since Scripture is very clear that the disciples had not yet received the Holy Spirit at this point. If anything, Peter’s confession argues strongly against Dominic’s position, and supports the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace (notice also that Jesus says “my Father who is in heaven” has revealed this to Peter, and not “the Holy Spirit that is within you” has revealed this…).”

    Remember that Peter receives this revelation before Acts 2 when he and the other apostles are indwelled by the Spirit.

    “Dominic: You continue to appeal to verses which are not actually dealing with the issue at hand.
    This is a remarkable statement.”

    And a common statement you will hear from cultists when you share the proper bible verses with them. They will often say exactly this, claiming that the verses that you share have nothing to do with the issue at hand. I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this exact point from the mouths of cultists.

    “The issue has to do with the need for regeneration prior to faith and Dominic answers the question by pointing us to a passage that has nothing to do with regeneration or saving faith, but the spiritual maturity of believers and their corresponding ability, or inability, to receive deeper spiritual truths. Yet Dominic asserts that 1 Cor. 2 proves that one can only believe by being indwelt by the Holy Spirit. But this is nothing more than mere assertion based on what he believes the passage implies (without regards to context). Then, in the face of explicit statements by Paul that the Holy Spirit is received by faith, he complains that I am appealing to verses that are not actually dealing with the issue!”

    You got it. Just like when the cultist brings up verses x, y, and z against the Trinity and then we bring up verses a, b, can c, and they will always say the verses we bring up are off the topic and irrelevant or we just are not interpreting them correctly.

    “Again, these assertions are hard to even take seriously. I already explained above why I mentioned Rom. 4, and Galatians speaks directly to the issue of how we receive the Holy Spirit. We receive the Spirit by faith. That kills his argument completely. “

    This is absolutely true, even Stephen another calvinist clearly sees this point. But Dominic will never concede this point because he is just too committed to his false necessatarian system of calvinism.

    “Dominic asserts that initial saving faith is impossible prior to the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and Paul flatly contradicts him by saying the Holy Spirit is received by faith! Let me spell this out as clearly as possible so as to avoid any confusion,
    Dominic (paraphrased): “The indwelling of the Holy Spirit must precede faith, and causes faith”
    The apostle Paul (paraphrased): “We receive the Holy Spirit by faith (i.e. reception of the Holy Spirit results from faith and does not cause it).””

    I really appreciated how you did this, by doing so you clearly show to others who are pursuing the truth and not proof texting that Dominic is arguing against the apostle Paul and scripture. So w know that Dominic is wrong and clearly so.

    “Dominic: To summarize, that spiritual rebirth must precede faith is amply evidenced in Scripture.
    If it is, Dominic has yet to furnish us with any such evidence. He has, however, treated us to numerous unfounded assertions.”

    Unfounded assertions, you mean PROOF TEXTING?? I had said earlier that I have rarely seen such a blatant example of proof texting as what Dominic is engaging in.

    “We become children of God through faith, and becoming God’s child is directly linked to receiving the Holy Spirit. For this reason we are “heirs according to the promise”, which Paul had previously described as “the promise of the Spirit” received “by faith”. (Gal. 3:14). Now perhaps Dominic wants to claim that becoming “Sons of God” through faith is somehow only a reference to justification. This would, however, only serve to further undermine his assertion as the indwelling of the Spirit in verse 6 would then be consequent to justification. In that case, since justification is “by faith”, faith would still logically precede the reception of the Holy Spirit, and therefore, according to his claims on regeneration, faith would precede regeneration as well (and this just happens to be in perfect accord with the Arminian ordo).”

    Dominic has no good response to the Galatians 3 passage. That passage is clear and determinative, lights out the party is over! 🙂

    “Dominic finishes his rebuttal with more assertions regarding the priority of regeneration and more dismissive statements regarding the explicit testimony of Paul that the Holy Spirit is received by faith. Thankfully, such hand waving will not suffice to overturn the clear Scriptural testimony that the Holy Spirit is received by faith; and this testimony, while undermining Dominic’s argument, fully supports the Arminian ordo.”

    Exactly!!!

    “I would still welcome Dominic to address what I called “theological absurdities” with regards to the Calvinistic ordo salutis in my initial post.”

    I would like to see that as well, but seriously doubt that that will be forthcoming from Dominic: he is ***just too busy proof texting** trying desperately to support his erroneous and unbiblical view that regeneration precedes faith!

    Robert

  11. Dear Robert:

    Your questions are similar to the ones Dr. Ligon Duncan III asked me the other day and I made an entry in reply to him and I gave many links to statements from leading Calvinists on regeneration preceding or coming concurrent with faith.

    As far as a definition on what is Hyper Calvinism, this is also available in my blog but I will have to search the archives to give you the various postings. But, I have used Phil Johnson’s definition which included the view that men are regenerated apart from the means of the gospel. Those who put regeneration before faith cannot consistently have it a means in it.

    About Piper. I have also written articles recently reviewing his writings on this subject. I find him inconsistent. However, his most recent writings are more near the truth and he does not make regeneration to precede faith, but makes faith to be the essential part of regeneration itself.

    I will try to post those other links later. However, you will find many on the page where I reply to Duncan.

    See here

    I see the main difference to be in whether faith and repentance are sovereign gifts of God given to the elect or whether they are acheivements of sinners. Or perhaps who best answers the question – “who makes you to differ from another?”

    God bless,

    Stephen

  12. Dear Robert:

    Here are the other postings/links.

    See here

    And here

    And here

    And here

    Blessings,

    Stephen

  13. Dear Robert:

    I also made an entry today giving some other citations from Spurgeon which show he believed men were begotten by faith.

    Blessings

    Stephen

    http://baptistgadfly.blogspot.com/

  14. Dear Robert:

    I furnished my readers with some new citations from Spurgeon to show he believed men are born again by faith.

    Blessings,

    Stephen

    See here

  15. Stephen,

    Thanks for your response and thank you for providing links and the information that I asked for. The links quoting Spurgeon are absolutely clear, especially that “wheel illustration”. I also read Ligon’s comments to you as well as how you answered his questions and yet he never responded. That was not right of him.

    At one point in your response you wrote:

    “I see the main difference to be in whether faith and repentance are sovereign gifts of God given to the elect or whether they are achievements of sinners.”

    Perhaps if I provided some propositions I could better explain where I am coming from and further the discussion here.

    Proposition 1 = Where there is saving faith on the part of a person, there will be regeneration.

    I share this proposition because I believe it states the truth and if properly understood helps us see two very common errors made in regards to the relationship between saving faith and regeneration. Many, many people would agree with proposition 1, whether they be Arminians or calvinists, I doubt that you will find many(or any?)who disagree with proposition 1. So then how do problems develop if we all seem to agree with proposition 1?

    The problems come in when since we assume proposition 1 to be true we then are liable to making two mistakes. It is interesting that the Arminians make one mistake and the calvinists make the other mistake and these mistakes are almost like mirror images of each other. Here is the first mistake stated as proposition 2:

    Proposition 2 = the saving faith that a person has causes or produces regeneration

    This proposition is false because regeneration is a miraculous action by God, it is something that we humans cannot do, and it is something that nothing we humans can do, can cause or produce regeneration. Put another way, regeneration is a unilateral action of God, it is what some would call monergistic, done by one agent alone not the human agent. Some Arminians whether intentionally or unintentionally, speak or write as if faith causes or produces regeneration, when it does not and cannot cause or produce regeneration. People make this mistake because proposition 1 is true, saving faith and regeneration seem to occur together.

    Proposition 3 = regeneration causes or produces saving faith

    The error here is that for regeneration to cause or produce saving faith, regeneration must precede faith. Like the previous error, people realize that saving faith and regeneration appear together, so they mistakenly conclude and often then argue that regeneration produces faith. This is the error of many modern calvinists such as Sproul and MacArthur. Now it needs to be understood that just because Arminians believe proposition 3 to be error, does not mean that we then must assert proposition 2 which is also error that our faith causes or produces regeneration.

    So what is the truth in this area? The truth despite many who are in error in this area is that Proposition 1 is true, but proposition 2 and 3 are both false. Saving faith and regeneration do seem to appear at the same time, but neither causes or produces the other.

    These errors could be simply avoided if we understand and properly distinguish what man does and what God does. Man must believe, man must have faith, in order to be saved. And God always regenerates those who are believers. So God regenerates and man has faith. If you look at this it seems so obvious and so commonsensical and yet so many err by arguing for or attempting to prove propositions 2 and 3.

    Now hopefully what I am saying is clear and easily understood. If so, now Stephen I have a bone to pick with your statement that: ““I see the main difference to be in whether faith and repentance are sovereign gifts of God given to the elect or whether they are achievements of sinners.”

    Unwittingly I believe Stephen that you are making the error of not properly distinguishing what man does and what God does. As with faith, it is man not God who must repent but man. Man must have faith and man must repent, not God. Faith and repentance are actions that man does. Now where Arminian theology gets it right in my opinion is that we properly distinguish what God does and what man does when it comes to faith and repentance. We believe that man not God must have faith and repent. We also believe that man on his own, apart from God, without the work of the Spirit (what we call prevenient grace because it is grace that goes before conversion, because it is the grace from God which enables human actions such as faith and repentance, etc.) cannot have faith, cannot repent. We believe that the work of the Spirit working through the Word is what enables a human person to have faith or to repent. We also believe that while the Spirit must first enable these actions, once enabled the human person must choose to trust, must choose to repent of their sins. Viewed this way it can be seen that no one can come to Christ for salvation unless the Spirit has been working in them. And yet this work of the Spirit while enabling does not necessitate that a person have faith and repent. Now you may not agree with us, but at least understand where we are coming from, do not as some zealous calvinists intentionally do so, caricature and misrepresent our views. If the Spirit must enable us to be able to do things (like trust God for salvation, like understand scripture and understand the gospel, like be convicted of our sin, etc. etc.), then we do not save ourselves, then we do not come to God on our own apart from the powerful work of the Spirit. And if we are enabled to have faith and then choose to trust in the Lord, our action of trust does not cause or produce the miracle of the new birth.

    Now it is interesting Stephen that in your statement you frame things as one of two possibilities, either God gives the gifts of faith and repentance OR “they are achievements of sinners.” In logic that is called a false dilemma as it presents things as if there are only two possibilities, here your only two possibilities are that faith and repentance are a gift of God or they are human ACHIEVEMENTS!!!! If they are human achievements then they are things we can boast about. But from the bible and also in our experiences doing evangelism and also in our own conversion experiences we know that when a person has saving faith and has repentance, they are always humbled by God and are not prideful about either their faith or their repentance. Its like the alcoholic who has to hit rock bottom to see that nothing they can do can help them or save them, that they must rely on some other person to save them, when a sinner reaches that state as a result of the work of the Spirit. Then they are in the place where they could have saving faith and repent of their sins. But if they are in that state, there is no pride, their is no reliance on what they can do or what they will do to save themselves. Instead their is total surrender to God and total acknowledgment that we cannot save ourselves, that nothing we can do can possibly save us, that God alone can save us and deliver us from our sinful condition and lifestyle.

    When people “hit rock bottom” spiritually speaking, the faith and repentance that then occurs is never viewed as a HUMAN ACHIEVEMENT. It is always viewed as a condition that God brought us to, that God did, not us. And again, in my own experience as well as others that I have evangelized who became Christians, none of us boasts about our faith or repentance. We give all of the credit to God.

    Perhaps an illustration may help. Imagine two immigrant parents who come to this country with nothing due to awful circumstances. These parents then work hard and save their money for years so that when the time comes their child can go to college. So they work and they sacrifice and the day finally comes when all their hard work and sacrifice has resulted in the money in the bank so that their child can go to college. And say the child when presented with the opportunity to go to college then chooses to go to college. Do we view or interpret this result, that the child thus is enabled to go to college based upon the work of their parents, the child did not work for or earn in any way by his own efforts the thousands of dollars that made his college attendance possible, as THE ACHIEVEMENT OF THE CHILD? No, we commend the parents for the hard work and planning and sacrifice that they did. Likewise when it comes to our salvation, who does all of the work and all of the planning, to make the actions of faith and repentance on our part possible? God does and He alone does the work. To then call our actions of faith and repentance which were impossible apart from what God did in our lives through the work of the Spirit, HUMAN ACHIEVEMENTS, is a mistaken way of describing and framing things. The third possibility that your words did not allow for is this: the prevenient grace that we are given through the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, the grace is completely undeserved, unmerited, sovereignly given to individuals whenever God wants to do so, that enables but does not necessitate faith and repentance is truly a gift from God given to sinners and the faith and repentance that result if they do occur, are not HUMAN ACHIEVEMENTS in which we can boast or take any pride in.

    Robert

    PS- I know the story about the immigrants first hand, because the child was me. And I am eternally grateful for what my parents did for me. Just as I am eternally grateful for what my Heavenly Father did for me as well when it comes to salvation.

  16. Dear Robert:

    You said: “So what is the truth in this area? The truth despite many who are in error in this area is that Proposition 1 is true, but proposition 2 and 3 are both false. Saving faith and regeneration do seem to appear at the same time, but neither causes or produces the other.”

    I agree. I have said this numerous times in my writings.

    I would like to end my discussion here with that bit of agreement. I do not care to enter into a lengthy discussion about the difference between historic Calvinism and Arminianism on how one is made a believer. I am just too busy with other things. Besides, we have sort of discussed all this before.

    God bless

    Stephen

  17. Robert,

    Great thoughts. I love the illustration from your life concerning the provision of college funds. That is an excellent analogy that brings out the proper Arminian perspective (though no analogy is perfect), and demonstrates how silly it would be for you to have boasted in putting yourself through college by accepting the provision from your parents. When we think of receiving a gift, we never think of the possibility of boasting, and that is exactly how Paul describes the difference between faith and works in Rom. 4 (“faith” receives a gift and “works” earn wages).

    You said in your post that Arminians err in saying faith causes regeneration. I am glad you clarified that by saying that “some” Arminians (or those who call themselves Arminians) have said or written things to that effect. Arminius himself certainly never taught that faith causes regeneration. He saw regeneration as a monergistic work of God (and it is), though God refuses to do that work on unbelievers. Faith is the condition for receiving salvation (and all that it entails), but it does not cause it. We should have no difficulty in recognizing that “condition” doesn’t necessarily equal “cause”. And yet, for the Calvinist to make his case, he must insist that condition always equals cause, which is demonstrably false (and your illustration serves as an example).

    I also wonder if MacArthur believes that regeneration precedes faith (though he is certainly a Calvinist). I haven’t read much from him, but I do have his study Bible, and I have checked those passages where Calvinists typically assert that regeneration precedes faith (e.g. John 3), and MacArthur never makes that point in his notes on those passages. But he does say things that seem to put faith logically prior to regeneration. For instance, he writes in the notes on John 3:3,

    “New birth is an act of God by which eternal life is imparted to the believer.”

    And in his section titled, “Overview of Theology” under “Regeneration”, he writes,

    “We teach that regeneration is a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit by which divine nature and divine life are given (Jn. 3:3-8; Tit 3:5). It is instantaneous and is accomplished solely by the power of the Holy Spirit through the instrumentality of the Word of God (Jn. 5:24), when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to the divine provision of salvation.”

    Now maybe he contradicts this in other writings or changed his view since then, but these statements seem to contradict the Calvinist notion of regeneration preceding faith, while supporting the Arminian view.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  18. Stephen,

    I would suggest that you have misunderstood Phil Johnson on hyper-Calvinism. In my discussions at Pyromaniacs it seems very clear that Phil and Dan would put regeneration logically prior to faith. Affirming the need for the means of preaching does not lead necessarily to the conclusion that faith precedes regeneration.

    I think Phil would say that upon hearing the word, God regenerates the sinner, and that regeneration immediately produces faith. I don’t think that he would say that the belief that regeneration precedes faith is a feature of hyper-Calvinism. He would only label the belief that God regenerates apart from the hearing of the word as hyper Calvinism. Big difference.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  19. Dear Ben:

    Phil Johnson said:

    “Hyper-Calvinism is sometimes defined as the view that God will save the elect apart from any means. Some, but very few, modern hyper-Calvinists hold such an extreme view. Those who do hold this view oppose all forms of evangelism and preaching to the unsaved, because they believe God will save whomever He chooses, apart from human means.”

    Again, whoever says that men are first born again and then come later to faith, take the gospel out of the equation. Again, I ask the same question that never gets a reply from the Hypers. Does not “begotten by the gospel” not mean “begotten by faith in the gospel”?

    Those who say one must be regenerated prior to faith do not consistently believe that the gospel is a means in regeneration. They no doubt allow means after regeneration, for “salvation” or some other post regeneration experience, but they will not make it a means in the initial givine of life. All kinds of Hyperists have been cited by me in my blog to demonstrate this. Just check out Hendryx at monergism. com. He says the “first stage” of salvation, “regeneration,” is “without means.” This is what many have said.

    God bless

    Stephen

  20. This quote from MacArthur does not specifically say that regeneration precedes faith, but it seems to imply it (try not to be too annoyed by the blatant mischaracterization of Arminian theology as being Pelagian and holding that man is capable of choosing to be saved from his own resources alone):

    “Arminius would say–Arminian theology, Palagian [sic] theology, as it’s also called–would say “man is capable.” That while man is, in the general sense, a sinner, he has capacities within himself to choose to be saved. That is the debate. I don’t think that’s biblical. I think we are dead in trespasses and sin, and dead people don’t make choices. Dead people can’t make themselves alive. So, I think there is a clear distinction there.” — John MacArthur (the comments from which this quote is taken can be found in various places on the web; here is one place it can be found: http://so4j.com/calvinism-vs-arminianism-compare.php)

  21. Stephen,

    I understand what you are saying but you seem to be reading too much into Johnson’s definition. The issue here goes beyond the need for means. The need for means is all that Johnson is addressing. Maybe he is being inconsistent, but (I am almost certain) he believes that regeneration logically precedes faith. He would only deny that God regenerates apart from the means of the word (in order to avoid the conclusion that evangelism is pointless).

    So you may have your own idea of what constitutes hyper-Calvinism, but your use of Johnson’s definition to argue against the logical priority of regeneration seems inaccurate (since that is not specifically what he is addressing). I will look through his site again and try to find some links, but I am quite confident that he has asserted on numerous occasions, both in comments and on posts, that regeneration must precede faith.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  22. Arminian,

    That sure seems to be inconsistent with his other comments, especially when he wrote, “when the repentant sinner, as enabled by the Holy Spirit, responds in faith to the divine provision of salvation.”

    Note that he says, “repentant sinner” which would suggest that one dead in sins is able to repent, and I think it is rather clear that MacArthur sees repentance as a necessary component of faith. He does add that this is possible only through divine enabling (which is the Arminian position), but the enabling and repentance is seen to be prior to regeneration in the context of the sentence. So he has either changed his position, or he is being very inconsistent.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  23. Good Morning, Ben, (CAPS for Italics)

    Last night, I reviewed the blog rules after reading your reminder to Onesimus not to imply that Calvinists are heretics, or (by your implication) that what they believe is heresy. But to be honest, I am a little confused to see him warned for his remarks, not merely because I felt that his point about the mixture of truth and error as presented in the Golden Calf was absolutely on target, but because any technical violation on his part of the blog rules seemed no more of a violation of policy than certain things I myself have stated in my own testimony shown on the X-Calvinist corner of the ArminianPerspectives website, which has received approval. Obviously, I’m missing something about your point of view, here, so I feel the need to ask for clarification. Of course, I remain grateful for my testimony’s inclusion on your website, and hope it will remain there. As you may know, it even formed the basis of what has become the Preface to my book.

    Now, Ben, it’s your site, of course, but I feel compelled to say that I think the posting guidelines may be problematic in at least one regard. Namely, are the posters to your site ever given the lead-way to call a spade a spade if the issue is de facto heresy? Of course, I understand your concern for proper decorum on the one hand, and that because you yourself do not want you or your views described in heretical terms (at least in the context of the Arminianism/ Calvinism dialog), you ask that all posters refrain from that kind of rhetoric. And I agree that as Christians we are called to generally be temperate in our posts (“the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”). Certainly, none of us should rush to post something with off-putting dialog. (I trust we all understand that.) Yet, personally, I don’t see anything in Onesimus’ reply that would suggest that he himself didn’t understand the basics of decorum, though technically he may have violated the blog rules by his more-less rhetorical approach in asking how Calvinism differed from those heresies more readily identified by Christians using the same criteria. But if a poster, then, is forbidden altogether to even imply that a spade a spade when it IS a spade, then of what use is dialog if one is de facto discussing heresy regarding the Evangelical church but disallowed from implying or calling it that? Do we stop at Calvinism but allow it for neoorthodoxy? Or do we stop at Calvinism but allow it for Higher Criticism? After all, all these religious systems claim to be Christian and use Christian terms to describe themselves. Applied rigorously, neoorthodoxy and the Higher Criticism do not even need to change the autographa—they merely need to pour different meanings into its words. I think, perhaps, we are falling prey to thinking that that what falls within the pale of Christianity is that which the visible, Evangelical Church ITSELF seems to think is Christian—but surely such a foundation as the “CHURCH DEFINING” may become (I would say “is”) shifting sand.

    So, while I wish to recognize your right to establish the blog policies for your own site, I personally feel that a better solution would be to recognize that there is 1) a significant difference between calling a false system heresy, and calling the one who ESPOUSES it a “heretic”; and 2) recognizing that the tone of one’s posting voice may justifiably be different toward a long-time leader in the 5-point Calvinist movement, and the tone used with a younger Calvinist poster still “getting his wings” but meantime feeling compelled to express his leaders’ views. As this 2nd point is a little easier to address than the first, let me begin there.

    In my own investigation of how Jesus, the prophets, Paul, and other apostles besides Paul approached their audiences, there is a great difference in approach depending upon the audience. Winsomeness is called for in many circumstances, but not in all. Yes, I think we ought to be temperate about rushing to use the “H” words (after all, generally “a soft tongue breaketh the bone”), but I have observed that sarcasm is sometimes used in the Bible IF the audience has remained stubborn despite long or significant exposure to the truth. This is the case in John 11 when Jesus rhetorically asked his unbelieving audience for which good work that He had shown them from His Father would they stone him, or when Paul used sarcasm with the Corinthians who despised him, or when in Isaiah God says (in effect) to the children of Israel, “Yes, keep listening, just don’t hear—keep looking, just don’t see; lest you be healed—[implied: “after all, why would you want that?”]. I believe that long-term Calvinist leaders who for decades have resisted the truth about the holy nature of God, fall into this category of stubborn audience. And this leads me to my first point above. While I think we have a duty to identify the exhaustive-determinism doctrine of these leaders as wholly unbiblical, I think we may question whether it necessarily follows that they are therefore not saved (if this is what is implied in stating that someone is a “heretic”). After all, a genuine believer can be double-minded, and may with one part of his mind and heart truly believe and be saved, while with another part hold various thoughts and espouse ideas about the nature of God that are entirely false. As you know, to my regret I have been such a person. But personally, I don’t see how a 5-point Calvinist—and I’m speaking hypothetically here—IF he has held these points TO BE TRUE IN THEIR DIALECTICISM throughout the ENTIRETY of what he alleges is his “Christian” experience, could possibly be considered saved. But either way it doesn’t alter the gross falsehood status of the Calvinistic system itself. In fact, I believe it can be shown that if Spinoza or Hegel were forced to express their dialectical views on the Mind and Spirit using only the Bible and today’s Evangelical language, their presentations would hardly differ from the exhaustive-deterministic, Calvinistic arguments and Calvinistic exegesis we currently witness. Hegel was a former seminarian, after all, and he speaks of Christ, God, Christianity, and so forth. Here I would strongly encourage you and other posters on this site to consider the writings of the 19th century Christian writer, Samuel J. Andrews (I believe he was Arminian), listed as the bottom tab on my site, http://www.xCalvinist.com. His writings show a profound understanding of how the Monism of Spinoza, Hegel, and German Idealism evolved in theologians in the form of their Higher Criticism, and the devastating effects this Criticism has had on the Church. Reading Andrews has helped me to see Calvinism as merely one branch of this devastating phenomenon of literary deconstruction. In short, I should not have been surprised when an acquaintance of mine who had been a former hyper-Calvinism ended up speaking well of Karl Barth, imagining, as he did, that he had left the rancor of the Calvinist/Arminian debate far behind him. Rather, I would say he had simply taken the next logical step in dialecticism—not merely applying it to the nature of God but to language itself. To what, then, do we apply (by implication or otherwise) the definition “heresy”? Or do you think the word ought to be avoided at ALL costs? To post thoughtful responses takes considerable time, and I don’t want to have to wonder if the normal mien of my posts are going to be approved. I’m sure you understand my feelings about that. So again, I feel the need to ask for some clarification. In the meantime I submit this particular post with my understanding that it doesn’t “cross the line” in any stronger way than my testimony does, which has received prior approval.

    So, I guess my concern, Ben, is knowing where exactly is this line of implication? I think if we fail to see the doctrine of exhaustive determinism as equally cultish as any other idea to which we would readily define as “heresy”, I think we do Christ a disfavor. And so this brings me to my own quotation below. If on the ArminianPerspectives website those of us who feel that hyper-Calvinism is as false as the Mormon religion are disallowed whatsoever to express the matter as we feel it lays, not without consideration of the scriptures which speak of our need to oft express matters temperately, then it seems we are expected to make points within a framework where readers are left inferring that we (I and certain others) don’t think Calvinism is as much of a departure from biblical truth as we believe it is. I suppose, since it’s your site, one will acquiesce to these guidelines is if he wishes to participate. And I do not say it is unfair for you to ask this of posters, since it’s your site. After all, it IS called ARMINIAN Perspectives, so maybe I have unfairly expected too much as a poster, since I am not really Arminian, and do not feel that hyper-Calvinism—since it argues against human predication (see Piper in his article “Are There Two Wills of God”)—is within the pale of Christian thought. So, I guess I’m seeking enough clarity to know whether I should be posting at all. Perhaps the problem is basically mine for having imagined (wrongly?) that Arminianism makes a substantial difference in defining free will, compared to Calvinism.

    At any rate, the following below is edited from Chapter 18 of my book. Here I point out the very real problem readers and hearers have in trying to discern whether a person ESPOUSING (hyper-) Calvinism truly believes the gospel. [I purposely use the word “espousing” here, rather than the word “believing” (as in “final and abiding believing.”)] I think my quote below goes to Onesimus’s point about trying to discern what it all means when the one who professes Christianity embraces strongly a radical and systematized falsehood:

    (Quote:)
    Hypothetically, two persons could profess to believe the above Westminster statement (about the antimony of divine sovereignty and free will) yet one be a Christian while the other not. For example, Calvinist A might truly BELIEVE (as God would judge it) in human freedom because he once held to a proper understanding of human freedom (with its implication of final individuation [Creator / creature distinctions) and confessed to God his need of Christ. In short, he understood what it meant to receive Christ, and he received Christ. Arguably, confession (according to Scripture) must be made before two or three witnesses for the confession to be established, yet even here one might argue that the Persons of the Trinity would suffice for that condition if the man has understood God’s message and earnestly prayed to God to be saved. Calvinist A, despite his theology, would thus be truly born again, because, though his heart condemns him in his subsequent and erroneous doctrine about the gospel, and especially about the nature of God, God is greater than his heart, and thus the heart’s CONDEMNATION spoken of must be the kind of PRESENT judgment in which double-minded Christians find themselves, i.e., a divine judgment which makes the believer subject to chastisement. That said, God knows the believer’s DECEPTION has occurred SUBSEQUENT to his conversion. I say ‘deception,’ not ‘disbelief,’ lest someone were to mistakenly infer from my use of ‘disbelief’ (and despite the context of my preceding argument) the meaning of PERMANENT deception and/or confession that would belie his true state as a believer no longer under condemnation with the world for its unbelief. Thus God is greater than Calvinist A’s heart and cannot deny Himself, the Persons of the Godhead being true and bearing witness to each other of the believer’s de facto faith and salvation, and so Calvinist A is de facto saved. Whenever in this book I talk of the Calvinist who has made terms MEANINGLESS, I mean it in the sense of LINGUISTICALLY MEANINGLESS TO HIS HEARERS, that is, hearers who cannot really know what is in the heart of the Calvinist. Thus by giving Calvinist-A his label as a Calvinist, we are referring to his PRESENT confession of Calvin’s belief in the absolute sovereignty of God which he holds in doublethink.

    Let us consider the remaining, and hypothetical, example, i.e., Calvinist B, a man who in his heart has always held the dialectical statement of the Westminster Confession’s statement (see above) TO BE TRUE IN ITS DIALECTICISM. That is, there has never been a time when he understood and confessed his need to God and received Christ as Savior. [I hasten to add that proper confession always involves proper (true) belief. When the Bible states that “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,” the term ‘belief,’ used in Romans 4:3 implies, by inclusion, confession to God.] Thus, if such a man as Calvinist B has not believed unto salvation, that is, according to the most elementary sense in which it is understood that Abraham believed [which of necessity would involve an understanding of the Creator/ creature distinction], Calvinist B is not saved. For how could such a man be saved if he recognized no distinction between Creator and creature, or between Mind and Matter, etc.? The problem, then, for readers and listeners of a Calvinist is this: how can readers/hearers really know exactly what the Calvinist believes in his heart about the theological terms he uses? In other words, does he use his terms as Calvinist A, or Calvinist B? Is he a wheat or a tare? And if a wheat, does he lately appear as a tare? And if, in any of these cases, he is a leader within a local Body—indeed, even if he is a renowned Church father who has set the course of ‘Christian’ apologetics for many centuries—what impact will his confession have on the clarity of the gospel and doctrine both inside and outside the four walls of the church?

  24. Dear Ben:

    The idea that men are regenerated prior to faith, or as an experience that renders believing the gospel possible, takes the gospel, as a means, out of the work of regeneration. It is a part of the definition of Hyper Calvinism. This is not only stated by Johnson, but many others also, Notice just these two statements from postings on the internet.

    Calvinists do believe that regeneration precedes faith in Christ. We do not confuse the term regeneration with that of justification or salvation. The Spirit of God regenerates the elect sinner enabling him to forsake the deadness of his sin and willingly embrace Christ and so be justified by faith and saved for eternity. Regeneration therefore is not synonymous with justification or salvation any more than conviction of sin is synonymous with conversion to Christ.

    http://www.oldtruth.com/calvinism/avoidingconfusion.html

    Some debate exists, however, concerning the means of regeneration. Reformed interpreters have traditionally held that God sovereignly employs his Word, the gospel, in bringing sinners to life. This position is sometimes referred to as mediate, or gospel regeneration. Some among the “higher” (Hyper) Calvinists espouse a view of immediate regeneration and argue that God uses no such means at all in regeneration — He sovereignly brings the sinner to life apart from any means whatever. God uses his Word / the gospel in conversion, bringing individuals to an awareness of their new life, but he does not use his Word in bringing them to life. He does this without the use of any means(immediately)

    http://thearmoury.blogspot.com/2008/02/guest-post-theological-journal-part-ii.html

    What authority would you accept for a definition?

    God bless

    Stephen

  25. Dear Ben:

    I am sorry. The first citation was, in my view, a typical Hyper Calvinistic statement.

    It was citations, as in the latter, which demonstrate that Hyper Calvinism denies the gospel is a means in regeneration.

    Blessings

    Stephen

  26. Dan,

    That was quite a post. I appreciate your commitment to clarity, and it is “clear” to me now that I have not clarified things well enough. I think “heresy”, especially, does need further clarification.

    Anything that is false could be called a heresy. Of course, I think Calvinists are wrong about a great many things (from a Biblical perspective), and so I do think they are guilty of heresy. Anything they teach that is contrary to God’s word is heresy. When I speak of calling the opposing view heretical and calling those proponents of those views heretics, I am specifically speaking of damnable heresies (i.e. heresies that imply that a person is not saved). This is most often how this word has been thrown around in the context of this debate, and it is that particular use of the word that I want to avoid on this site.

    In my blog rules page I mentioned the use of a little “g” in referring to the opposing position’s God (e.g. saying “the Calvinist god” or “Arminian god”). The reason for this is because it suggests damnable heresy. If one is worshipping a false god, rather than the true God, then they are not saved. This is why I brought up the issue with onesimus. In his comments he wrote, “Calvinists believe in God – but which god are they REALLY believing in?” I don’t know if he meant to insinuate that Calvinists believe in a false god (which seemed to be the case since he compared it with the worship of the golden calf), but his comments could easily be taken that way. That is why I referred him to the blog rules page.

    You brought up Mormons. I would say that Mormons are guilty of damnable heresy. Their conception of God is the furthest thing from the way God is described and defined in the Bible, and they do not even see the Bible as an authority on par with their other standard works (the Book of Mormon, Doctrines and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price). Their doctrines are primarily derived from these extra Biblical works. So I don’t have a problem with anyone suggesting that Mormons are not saved since they believe in a false god and embrace a false gospel (though I would suggest that that might not be the best way to persuade a Mormon to abandon Mormonism, as it would tend to create an immediate defensive posture that rules out carefully considering what the Christian has to say).

    But Calvinists take Scripture alone as their authority. They affirm Christ’s deity. They affirm the Trinity. They affirm the sinfulness of man and the need for atonement. They affirm God as Savior (only God can save). They affirm God as creator (God created all things out of nothing). They affirm the sinlessness of Christ and the virgin birth. They affirm salvation by grace through faith. They affirm the inspiration of Scripture. They affirm all of God’s attributes as described in Scripture. They falter in their understanding of one of those attributes (sovereignty) and in their understanding of how God goes about saving people (unconditionally, rather than conditionally). But I don’t see those as damnable heresies, and I don’t see that it is appropriate to speak of their God as a false “god” because of those theological distinctives.

    Now I do see that some of their theological distinctives could lead to damnable heresies (e.g. antinomianism- if practiced). I have no problem saying antinomianism is a damnable heresy. I think Calvinism can lead to antinomianism, but most Calvinist deny this and advocate holy living.

    Beyond all this I think we can have productive conversations without calling each other heretics and suggesting that each other are not saved or worship a different “god”. I think it is the only way to have productive conversations on this matter. I doubt onesimus was suggesting that Calvinist are not saved, but his comments could be misconstrued that way, and that is why I brought those comments to his attention in light of the blog rules.

    Hope that helps.
    Ben

  27. Stephen,

    In the second link it is clearly said that regeneration precedes faith and repentance (as does the first). You seem to cite that as agreeing with your position. So let me ask you plainly, do you believe that regeneration precedes faith? It seems to me that Johnson is being inconsistent, but it seems to me that you might be as well.

    I understand your gripe has to do with means, but that does not impact the ordo salutis, only the way that ordo is set in motion. On the Calvinist ordo of
    regeneration–>faith, you seem to fully agree. Is that correct?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. Dear Ben:

    Where in the second citation did the writer say that regeneration precedes faith?

    The latter citation says that it is part of Hyper Calvinism to eliminate the gospel as a means in regeneration.

    It is also a part of Hyper Calvinism to say that regeneration and conversion are different experiences.

    Now, why do you not answer my questions?

    The first is – “is begotten by the gospel” not the same as “begotten by believing it”? The Hypers will not answer this question for it would expose them. But, I cannot understand why you would not answer it.

    I do believe in concurrence, but, as I have often pointed out in my writings, the scriptures put faith before regeneration. Do you disagree or not?

    Also, I have gone round and round with Phil Johnson and the pyros. They are Hyperists and I would be happy to debate it with them. But, I have called upon them to answer my question and they run from it.

    Also, answer my question about authority for a definition of Hyper Calvinism? Is Hardshellism an example of it? Did you not know that I use to be one? Why would I not know what it is?

    Blessings

    Stephen

  29. Stephen,

    Yo useem to be directly contradicting yourself. Haven’t you been arguing that faith precedes regeneration, or at least that regeneration does not precede faith?

    But you said this above (emphasis mine): **Calvinists do believe that regeneration precedes faith in Christ.** We do not confuse the term regeneration with that of justification or salvation. **The Spirit of God regenerates the elect sinner enabling him to forsake the deadness of his sin and willingly embrace Christ and so be justified by faith and saved for eternity.** Regeneration therefore is not synonymous with justification or salvation any more than conviction of sin is synonymous with conversion to Christ.

    Assuming you consder yourself a Calvinist, you seem to advocate regeneration prior to faith here, as is also implied by your claim that regeneration enables the sinner to embrace Christ and be justified by faith. Am I misunderstanding you?

    Don’t get me wrong, it is great for you to acknowledge the clear testimony of Scripture that faith precedes regeneration. But you just seem to be directly contradicting yourself.

  30. Dear Ben:

    I have given you my position. Also, the first citation I said was an example of Hyperism. It was because the writer said regeneration occurred before faith.

    You seem to think I cited it as approval. I did not.

    Again, the bible puts faith prior to salvation, whether that salvation be regeneration, sanctification, justification, adoption, or some other aspect.

    Again, I believe faith is the essential ingredient in the life of the born again soul.

    Blessings

    Stephen

  31. Stephen,

    Right before the section you quote it says,

    “Regeneration entails a new disposition on the part of the individual, transforming him in “new life” toward God bringing him to repentance and faith resulting in Conversion (1Jn. 5:1), and his on-going progress in holiness (2 Cor. 3:18).”

    That seems to plainly state that regeneration leads to repentance and faith, does it not?

    It is also a part of Hyper Calvinism to say that regeneration and conversion are different experiences.

    But look at that quote above that leads directly to the paragraph you cite as your position. It seems to plainly indicate that regeneration leads to repentance and faith “resulting” in conversion. That makes regeneration and conversion “different experiences”.

    Now, why do you not answer my questions?

    The first is – “is begotten by the gospel” not the same as “begotten by believing it”? The Hypers will not answer this question for it would expose them. But, I cannot understand why you would not answer it.

    I didn’t realize these questions were directed towards me. They seemed to be directed towards those hypers that you disagreed with. Why don’t you cite the specific verse you are quoting from so I can examine it in context. On the surface of it, I would say that I agree.

    I do believe in concurrence, but, as I have often pointed out in my writings, the scriptures put faith before regeneration. Do you disagree or not?

    I agree, obviously.

    Also, I have gone round and round with Phil Johnson and the pyros. They are Hyperists and I would be happy to debate it with them. But, I have called upon them to answer my question and they run from it.

    So you are saying that Phil Johnson is a hyper-Calvinist, even though you say he denies hyper-Calvinism, and you cite his definition of hyper-Calvinism as support for your position?

    Also, answer my question about authority for a definition of Hyper Calvinism? Is Hardshellism an example of it? Did you not know that I use to be one? Why would I not know what it is?

    I never questioned your authorities. I only pointed out that they were either inconsistent with what you were saying or were not saying all that you wanted them to say. That still seems to be the case.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  32. Also, the first citation I said was an example of Hyperism. It was because the writer said regeneration occurred before faith.

    You seem to think I cited it as approval. I did not.

    I was referring to the second citation and quoted what precedes that citation in my last comments. Maybe you are directing this at “Arminian” thinking he is me. He is not me. He may have been confused and thought your first citation supported your position, but I was referring to the second citation and just now (in my last post) quoted directly from the preceding paragraph from where you took that quote and linked to it.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  33. Stephen,

    Here is another quote from that second link you provided,

    “Both sides in this debate agree that regeneration is a work of God alone, that regeneration is not given “in response” to faith or anything human, that regeneration precedes faith, and that the gospel / God’s Word has no power of itself either to regenerate or convert. All these things both sides affirm together. The question does not turn on questions of divine sovereignty but of the sovereign use of the gospel.”

    Do you see that?

  34. Oh, I see I did misunderstand you Stephen. You gave the quote I referred to as an example of what you call hypers advocating regeneration before faith. Sorry.

    But Ben appears to have identified some inconsistency between you and your sources. So I will leave that to the two of you to hash out.

    God bless!

  35. Dear Ben:

    Many people who are Hyper Calvinist will not admit it. Some will. James White, R. C. Sproul, Ligon Duncan, Phil Johnson, etc., will not admit to being Hyper. Are they? At least logically speaking?

    I will recant that these men are Hypers if they can demonstrate to me that they believe in means, not in salvation only, but in initial regeneration or new birth, and yet affirm that men are regenerated in order to be able to be capable of believing the gospel. I definitely believe that they are Hyperists if they deny means in regeneration.

    Also, about those pasages about being begotten by the gospel, see I Cor. 4: 15, James 1: 18, I Peter 1: 23. Again, I ask Johnson to tell me how the gospel begets men apart from faith in it.

    Johnson was directly asked by me in his blog to deal with this. He ran from it and promised to deal with it in the future in a lengthy series. That was months ago.

    I do plan to write more on what constitutes Hyper Calvinism.

    For sure, being a former Hardshell, who all admit are truly Hyper, I ought to know what it is.

    When I saw how the above scriptures, and many more, clearly taught means in regeneration, then it was clear that faith also preceded it, at least logically.

    Faith is begotten when life is begotten. That is what I believe the scriptures to teach.

    Blessings,

    Stephen

  36. Dear Ben:

    Yes, the writer of the 2nd citation did contradict himself. I agree. That was not my point in citing the part I did from him. I cited the specific words that stated that a denial of means in salvation and regeneration is an element of Hyper Calvinism. So, what we have is a person who defines Hyper Calvinism and that very definition goes against his own statements.

    How do you handle people who say the gospel in a means in conversion or salvation, but not in regeneration?

    Blessings

    Stephen

  37. For those who want to know where MacArthur stands on the “ordo,” notice this:

    “Faith Works: The Gospel According to the Apostles”

    By John MacArthur

    The High Cost of Salvation by Faith-Works
    A Review of John F. MacArthur, Jr.’s

    “Since MacArthur believes that commitment of one’s life to Christ is a condition of eternal salvation (cf. pp. 204-205, 210), he should have included a chapter in order to prove this. But he does not.

    The author also seems to believe that confessing one’s faith in Christ is a condition of eternal life (cf. pp. 25, 206). Thus a chapter or at least an extended discussion on this supposed condition is essential. Yet neither is included.

    According to MacArthur, eternal salvation requires counting the cost and paying the price (pp. 204-205). If so, surely more than two pages could be written on this subject. And surely MacArthur could find a passage in the epistles which teaches this. Instead he refers the reader to two passages on discipleship from the Gospels (Luke 14:26-33; Matt 10:34-38)!

    If regeneration logically precedes faith, as MacArthur suggests in passing comments (cf. pp. 61, 67), then why not a chapter or extended discussion proving this?”

    “Regeneration, according to MacArthur, logically occurs before faith–meaning that at least in theory there is such a thing as a regenerate unbeliever.” (“Weaknesses of the Book”)

    http://www.faithalone.org/journal/1993ii/faith-works.html

    I think that MacArthur is like so many who say regeneration precedes faith – they speak contradictorily.

    God bless

    Stephen

  38. Daniel,
    Thank you for the encouragement I found in your comments. I’ll make sure I spend some time reading through your website.
    I was the “victim” of false teaching in the 1980s – an experience that came close to destroying my faith altogether. My acceptance of that teaching came about because I was seeking for truth, but was too lazy and undisciplined to take any responsibility for the teaching I was swallowing.
    At the most I would check the proof-texts that were quoted by my chosen teachers. I made no attempt to SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES to see whether the verse was actually saying what was being promoted by the preacher.
    It took 15 years of doubt and confusion before I was ready to have my faith re-established: THIS time on a more secure foundation.

    That experience has made me extra-aware and extra-wary of teachings that ignore the context of scripture. I see that context starts with the overall revelation God has given of His character, His purposes and how He relates to His creation (especially man). God has SHOWN us practical examples of how He relates to mankind throughout the scriptures. Therefore any interpretation of individual verses or passages of scripture MUST conform to this overall PRACTICAL revelation God has given.

    In the past two years I have been involved with two local churches that follow the way of the proof-text. The first I describe as “Charismanic” – it adopted any and every fad that came its way, and turned out to be a big follower of teachings from the Toronto Airport group responsible for the “Toronto Blessing”. The next church was a highly traditional group led by a “Four and a half point” (his own description) Calvinist.

    Both of these groups would insist they are Christian – yet the God(s) they each present are not even similar to each other. One portrays a God who is so loving that He is almost desperate to have people accept Him. The other group (at least their minister) presents a God who chose those He wants to be His even before creation; a God who has to exert a force called “Irresistible Grace” upon His own creation to ensure He has a selected group of people to follow Him.

    Both groups would see themselves as serving the true God. Both groups say they rely on revelation from scripture. Yet the pictures they present of God are totally different. The way they see God relating to mankind is totally different. Their understanding of the salvation process is totally different. Are BOTH promoting the True God and true gospel despite the clear contradictions?

    Can there be two contradictory but valid ways of understanding God’s way of bringing people into His kingdom?
    And there is my dilemma. After spending so many years following a false portrayal of God; what do I make of so many contradictory concepts of God and the different means by which salvation is obtained?

    When I read the New Testament I see a lot of the use of the words “repent” and “repentance” associated with the gospel. I also see many references to the need to “believe” as part of the requirements of receiving salvation. These are things are COMMANDED as being necessary. They are mentioned MANY times – and yet a doctrine has been created to nullify these responses that God requires from man.
    A doctrine based on a term that is mentioned infrequently.
    This doctrine is focused around the very FEW references to being “born again” (or regeneration) and it has totally shifted the emphasis of the gospel message.
    Instead of being the MEANS by which God has ordained entry into a new life with Him; repentance and belief become the by-products of a new life He has arbitrarily handed out.
    This is more than a matter of theological disagreement over alternative views to be discussed over a nice cup of tea. It is a total distortion and corruption of the gospel message.

  39. Ben,
    Thank you for the clarification. I see that I failed to pay enough attention to Onesimus’s use of the little “g” for God, and I think I do remember you referring to that kind of assignation on your blog rules page. I know your response to me was time-consuming, but I appreciate the detailed response. Also, I appreciated much in your response to Dominic–it takes tremendous energy to do what you’re doing. Keep up the good work.

  40. Onesimus,
    I’ve read your latest post a couple of times, and a comment that my brother David has lately been saying to me came to mind. Sometimes when he and I are talking about all the confusion in the many forms of what is claimed to be “Christian” theology, he says to me: “We’re way down the line, now—near the end; all the errors in all these weird theologies have been filtering down for centuries, and now we have it all in its refined form.” So, yes, there are many weird theologies out there today, and I think many genuine Christian thinkers are troubled by what they see.

    I do hope you find my book helpful in trying to navigate through some of this morass of theology. We are all students and still learning. I’ve been blessed to have my brother David live nearby, so when I need to talk out some theology with somebody, he’s usually available. Calvinism never really made sense to him, so he wasn’t troubled with it as I was, and I don’t think these issues really consume him like they do me. But it’s always good if you have someone available to talk to about these things. I think the inter-posting on ArminianPerspectives can serve much of this function for you, if you don’t have such a person.

    As for theology, I’ve come to the conclusion (and the following statement won’t sound correct until I go on to explain what I mean) that the issue is probably less about exegesis and context than it is about presuppositions. Yes, in one sense context is everything; I agree. Yet, if one properly explained the context of a disputed passage to a Calvinist, it seems to fall on deaf ears. Why is this? I think the answer lies in a person’s presuppositions. For IF one BEGINS with the correct presuppositions about God and His nature, then much of the context and exegesis will naturally follow (granted, with prayer and study). What Ben has recently been doing with Dominic regarding 1 Cor. 2 is a pretty good example. Ben understands that this passage is about Christian maturity, not salvation, because Ben knows that the nature of God is not such that God can GIVE faith to anyone. But Dominic is holding to the classic Calvinist position, perhaps put best by B.B. Warfield (whom the Calvinist Loraine Boettner quotes), when he said, “God creates the very thoughts and intents of the heart.” Now, Onesimus, plainly, if God creates the thoughts and decisions of a man, then really there is no man. The Calvinist can use the word “man” but he has poured a new meaning into the word “man” so that it cannot mean man. In fact, all that is (unwittingly) being referred to is the Mind of GOD. Thus “man’s thoughts and will” are simply an extension of the Divine Mind in Calvinistic apologetics. And so, any argument to the contrary that is offered to Dominic about “man” will be filtered through the grid that screens out any predication of man whenever that predication would threaten the Calvinistic paradigm. So, I’ve come to the conclusion that all thinkers who take a position, correct or not, assume their conclusion from the very outset of a discussion. As a friend of mine put it, “The premise IS the conclusion.” And that’s what I mean about the importance of presuppositions. As Christ explained the matter when using the eye for an analogy of spiritual light: If the eye is light, then everything will be light to the person. Thus as long as we listen to the Spirit of God teaching us about God, then everything will be light to us. But if the eye is dark, then of course everything will be dark, and the darkness will be great.

    So, where does that leave us? Well, as Christian apologists we are called to reprove darkness. I think it takes tremendous energy to keep doing what Ben is doing, since there is no real end to how many scriptures the hyper-Calvinist will distort in order to justify his foolishness. Yet, it doesn’t appear to me that many of them are really searching for the truth in these matters, and I don’t think many of them change their minds.

    Anyway, please stay in touch, Onesimus, and don’t hesitate to send me a post through my website so I have your email. And feel free to bend my ear if something in theology is really bothering you—even if I don’t have an answer for you, it often helps to talk theology out with somebody.

  41. Hello Onesimus,

    I like the spirit I am seeing you display in your posts and let me explain why.

    “I was the “victim” of false teaching in the 1980s – an experience that came close to destroying my faith altogether. My acceptance of that teaching came about because I was seeking for truth, but was too lazy and undisciplined to take any responsibility for the teaching I was swallowing.”

    Truly sorry to hear that you had this experience.

    “At the most I would check the proof-texts that were quoted by my chosen teachers. I made no attempt to SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES to see whether the verse was actually saying what was being promoted by the preacher.”

    You make mention of SEARCHING THE SCRIPTURES here. Currently I am involved in a prison ministry involving about 6,000 inmates so I am not in the position of being a local church pastor at this time. But when I was a local church pastor, I made sure to do a certain message once a year (I still do the message but in different settings than a local church), a message I called BE A BEREAN. Once a year I would go to Acts 17:10-13 and talk about the BEREANS. I would set up the passage by first giving historical and actual examples of people listening and following weird teachings and leaders who “proof texted” for their views rather than faithfully teaching what the bible actually teaches. I would start with these horrible examples then I would turn to Acts 17 and talk about how the BEREANS dealt with the apostle Paul. I would talk about Paul a bit, one of the greatest apostles and Christians in history, impeccable education and background, incredible spiritual experiences given to Him by the Lord and a powerful testimony of his conversion. Once I had talked about the weird and bad examples and then the stellar example of Paul, then I would go to that text in Acts 17. The key verse of course is v. 11 “Now these were more noble minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.” What is so incredible and so important about the BEREANS is that even when the super Christian, the apostle Paul came to town they didn’t just take it in because it was the apostle Paul, they checked the scriptures for themselves. They checked him out with the bible. Now that is the attitude and mindset that every Christian ought to have: always check out any and every claim no matter who makes it with what does the bible actually say? I would make these points and then end by applying it to myself: “don’t just believe me when I teach something, always check it out for yourself, BE A BEREAN!”

    Now Onesimus it sounds to me that you have learned this very valuable lesson through difficult circumstances. Nevertheless, you learned the lesson. That is why I say I like your Spirit because your comments suggest to me that you really are trying to BE A BEREAN. And that is a very good thing, no matter what you end up believing.

    “It took 15 years of doubt and confusion before I was ready to have my faith re-established: THIS time on a more secure foundation.”

    “That experience has made me extra-aware and extra-wary of teachings that ignore the context of scripture. I see that context starts with the overall revelation God has given of His character, His purposes and how He relates to His creation (especially man). God has SHOWN us practical examples of how He relates to mankind throughout the scriptures. Therefore any interpretation of individual verses or passages of scripture MUST conform to this overall PRACTICAL revelation God has given.”

    Sounds good to me.

    “In the past two years I have been involved with two local churches that follow the way of the proof-text. The first I describe as “Charismanic” – it adopted any and every fad that came its way, and turned out to be a big follower of teachings from the Toronto Airport group responsible for the “Toronto Blessing”.”

    I know charismatics that are as you describe I also know others who are “BEREANS”.

    “The next church was a highly traditional group led by a “Four and a half point” (his own description) Calvinist.”

    Same as with charismatics, I know some that are “proof texters” out to convert everyone to calvinism. Speaking for myself I don’t want converts to calvinism, I want people to be BEREANS.

    “Both of these groups would insist they are Christian – yet the God(s) they each present are not even similar to each other. One portrays a God who is so loving that He is almost desperate to have people accept Him. The other group (at least their minister) presents a God who chose those He wants to be His even before creation; a God who has to exert a force called “Irresistible Grace” upon His own creation to ensure He has a selected group of people to follow Him.”

    The charismatics are right about God being loving. The calvinists are wrong that God preselected and predetermined who would be saved and who would be damned.

    “Both groups would see themselves as serving the true God. Both groups say they rely on revelation from scripture. Yet the pictures they present of God are totally different. The way they see God relating to mankind is totally different. Their understanding of the salvation process is totally different.”

    They have different emphases. Both are trying to present the God who reveals Himself in the bible.

    “Are BOTH promoting the True God and true gospel despite the clear contradictions?”

    If they present the God of the bible then they present the True God. If they present the gospel which is in the bible, they present the true gospel. In my experience the charismatics are very evangelistic and they definitely are presenting the gospel. The calvinists tend to be more or less evangelistic depending upon how consistent they are with the calvinist system (those most consistent are usually not strong in evangelism, though there are some exceptions, those least committed to the system and most committed to scripture tend to be more evangelistic).

    “Can there be two contradictory but valid ways of understanding God’s way of bringing people into His kingdom?”

    No, God brings in everybody the same way though the circumstances of their conversion may and will differ. Every Christian must experience the work of the Spirit who enables you to have faith and repent. Every Christian must find himself at the end of his rope at a point where he/she realizes that they cannot save themselves and that they can only be saved by trusting the Lord to save them.

    “And there is my dilemma. After spending so many years following a false portrayal of God; what do I make of so many contradictory concepts of God and the different means by which salvation is obtained?”

    What do you make of them? You search the scriptures for yourself, you test all claims with scripture, you rest in and place your confidence in what God says in His Word. If all the world denies what God says, then you deny the whole world, you hang onto His Word with all your strength. And if you can find others who are likeminded, other BEREANS, get to know them and mutually encourage each other, in the one true faith.

    “When I read the New Testament I see a lot of the use of the words “repent” and “repentance” associated with the gospel. I also see many references to the need to “believe” as part of the requirements of receiving salvation. These are things are COMMANDED as being necessary.”

    And those are the very passages that I preach on and teach the inmates.

    “They are mentioned MANY times – and yet a doctrine has been created to nullify these responses that God requires from man.”

    You mean the calvinistic/necessatarian error of regeneration preceding faith?

    “A doctrine based on a term that is mentioned infrequently.
    This doctrine is focused around the very FEW references to being “born again” (or regeneration) and it has totally shifted the emphasis of the gospel message.”

    The necessatarian message is: hope that God has preselected you and then regenerates you. The gospel message is that God so loved the World that He gave His Son so that . . . . Trust God alone and follow Him!

    “Instead of being the MEANS by which God has ordained entry into a new life with Him; repentance and belief become the by-products of a new life He has arbitrarily handed out.”

    You are correct it is arbitrarily handed out. As one of my friends likes to put it, it’s like a divine lottery that is completely fixed so that some people are big winners and others are big losers!

    “This is more than a matter of theological disagreement over alternative views to be discussed over a nice cup of tea. It is a total distortion and corruption of the gospel message.”

    Which is reason again to BE A BEREAN. We live at a time when there is lots of error and very little truth being taught. In such an age one must be particularly discerning, one must again BE A BEREAN!!!!

    Robert

  42. Thank you Daniel.
    I’ve visited your website and can’t figure out how to send you an email via that site.

    Could you please contact me via my blog?
    http://onefiles.blogspot.com/
    Email is accessible via my profile.

  43. Daniel
    I’ve been to your website but it wouldn’t accept my attempts to send you a message through the comments.

    Please contact me via my blog

    http://onefiles.blogspot.com/

  44. Stephen,

    Thanks for the clarification. I am not looking for an argument and I am not trying to give you a hard time. It just seems to me that you have your personal idea of what hyper-Calvinism entails that is not a generally accepted definition of hyper-Calvinism. In other words, the idea that regeneration precedes faith is not generally thought of as a feature of hyper-Calvinism. I think this is obvious from the fact that the “authorities” on hyper-Calvinism that you have provided actually hold to the priority of regeneration in the ordo. In other words, you quote them as giving reliable definitions of hyper-Calvinsm, but they do not agree with what you see as a major feature of hyper Calvinism.

    That means you haven’t really produced an authority that agrees with you that the priority of regeneration in the ordo is a feature of hyper-Calvinism. Now that doesn’t mean that you can’t label it hyper-Calvinism, but you can’t seem to find anyone who agrees with you on the matter.

    I agree with you that there seems to be some inconsistency there. It doesn’t make sense to say the gospel is a means to regeneration, if regeneration happens prior to being able to respond to the gospel. I suspect that the typical Calvinist would just make divisions in “salvation” saying the gospel is not necessary for regeneration, but is necessary for justification and all that follows. I think that is weak and unbiblical, but allows them to say the gospel is a means to salvation, while not a means to regeneration.

    Still, you can’t expect Phil Johnson and the like to admit that they are hyper-Calvinists when they are not according to their own definitions of what hyper-Calvinism entails, definitions that you have appealed to (though they do not define the priority of regeneration as a feature of hyper-Calvinism). So you may define them as hypers, but your definition of hyper does not seem to have much support out there.

    I guess for you, then, it is a sort of “Athanasius (Stephen) against the world” 😉

    God Bless,
    Ben

  45. While the notion of regeneration preceding faith is patently unbiblical, I don’t think it illogical in itself to regard the gospel as a means of regeneration apart from faith. For it could be argued (as wrong as it would be to do so) that the gospel itself regenerates those God desires for it to regenerate. Their simply hearing the gospel would regenerate them at the time God sovereignly decreed for it to do so. Think of it like God’s creation of the world. His word is what brought it to pass. In C theology, God’s word in the gospel effects regeneration at the time he designates it to for the individual elect person, which then causes the person to believe the gospel. Now again, this is totally unbiblical, but it is still logical. Besides Scripture’s affirmation of faith preceding regeneration in various ways, the separation between faith and the gospel in such a scheme is quite awkward and unbiblical too. But it remains logical despite the fact that it is a desperate expedient to try and uphold a theological system.

  46. Oh, I should have addeed that in the faulty C view I was describing in my past post, the gospel does IMO serve as a means to regeneration (though again, in a very contrived way that lacks support from Scripture).

  47. Dear Ben:

    So, you consider Johnson an “authority” on the definition? Why? What credentials would he have that I do not have? Was he ever an Hyperist as myself?

    I will give you an “authority” for my view.

    “Extreme Calvinists put the new birth before faith, since they believe that spiritually dead humans cannot exercise faith and, therefore, need to be born again before they can believe” [C. Gordon Olson, Beyond Calvinism and Arminianism, p. 39].

    See here

    Again, I will be writing on this more extensively in the future. Perhaps there is a need for more clarification, and I don’t mind giving a shot at it.

    God bless

    Stephen

  48. Stephen,

    You are the one who initially referred us to Phil Johnson as an authority for hyper-Calvinism. Here is what you wrote,

    “But, I have used Phil Johnson’s definition which included the view that men are regenerated apart from the means of the gospel. Those who put regeneration before faith cannot consistently have it a means in it.”

    Do you see what I mean? You quote him as an authority, but he doesn’t agree with the very definition of hyper-Calvinism that you use him as a credible source for.

    The quote from G. Olson lines up with what you are saying, but I think Olson sees general 5 point Calvinism as “extreme” Calvinism (which may be different to him then “hyper” Calvinism). It is kinda like Geisler who calls himself a moderate Calvinist and calls 5 point Calvinists “extreme” Calvinists, since he thinks that his view represents real Calvinism. But I think most people (especially Calvinists) would recognize what Geisler calls “extreme” Calvinism as just plain old Calvinism.

    So what I am saying is that the typical definition of hyper Calvinism among Calvinists does not include the priority of regeneration as a feature of hyper-Calvinism. They would say that the priority of regeneration is a feature of plain old, every day, five point Calvinism. You are trying to buck the trend, and maybe rightly so, but the fact is that your definition of hyper-Calvinism is not widely accepted. Most people do not see regeneration preceding faith as a feature of hyper-Calvinism. That is why guys like James White and MacArthur would think it strange that you would label them as hyper-Calvinists.

    You keep appealing to your prior commitment to “hyper-Calvinism” as proof that you know what it is, but your saying that what you formally held to was hyper-Calvinism is based largely on your personal conviction that the priority of regeneration is, in fact, a feature of hyper-Calvinism (which is, I think, circular).

    So really, I am just saying that your definition is not widely accepted. Maybe Olson agrees with you here (if he equates “extreme” with “hyper”), but he is not even a Calvinist, so I would tend to think that most Calvinists would say Olson is misrepresenting traditional Calvinism and wrongly calling it “extreme”.

    What would help your case would be to find a reputable Calvinist who sees the priority of regeneration as a defining feature of hyper-Calvinism. That is where you seem to be having trouble and that is why I say that your definition of hyper-Calvinism is not the standard one (at least from what I have read).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  49. Dear Ben:

    Yes, I did bring up Johnson and his definition of Calvinism because he does state, consistently with his own views or not, that those who deny means in “salvation” are a brand or variety of Hyper Calvinism. Now, if he believes that initial salvation, or regeneration, is accomplished apart from the means of the gospel truth, and faith, he has imbibed elements of Hyperism, even if he says that other aspects of salvation, after initial salvation, are by means. That was my point. It would be my point with him personally if I were to discuss it with him.

    I will be doing further research on this. I don’t think I am novel, as a Calvinist, in calling the views of today’s “reformed” crowd, who put regeneration prior to faith and repentance, in accusing them of embracing an element or variety of Hyperism. But, I will do more research on it and see what I can find.

    I don’t mind assisting in helping others to see how the view that regeneration precedes faith is indeed a variety of Hyper Calvinism.

    Ben, I know what Hyperism is. This may not be good argument, but I did spend several years in the Hardshell denomination. In fact, I can point you to Hardshell web sites where they admit to being Hypers and confess that the born again before faith, and apart from faith, is the central idea.

    It seems to me that you are willing to admit that some Arminians, like Olsen, do consider the born again before faith view to be Hyperism. I do too.

    Who would expect the Hypers to generally admit it? Why try to get a definition strictly from them? Or from Calvinists?

    Words evolve. Perhaps the term “Hyper Calvinism” also needs to evolve, or revert, or whatever.

    God bless

    Stephen

  50. Dear Ben:

    P. S.

    The old Calvinist writers used the term “antinomian,” I believe, at times when they meant the same as “Hyper Calvinism.”

    Stephen

  51. Stephen,

    Could you address my comments a few posts up explaining how the gospel can be considered a means to regeneration apart from faith (as wrong and unbiblical as the notion that regeneration precedes faith is).

  52. Hello Stephen,

    In response to my previous post you wrote:

    “I agree. I have said this numerous times in my writings. I would like to end my discussion here with that bit of agreement.”

    Glad to see that we agree.

    But if we agree about the three propositions and what I discussed then you need to take back the misrepresentation of Arminian belief that you made earlier (i.e. that it leads to us viewing faith and repentance as HUMAN **ACHIEVEMENTS**).

    You went on to say:

    “I do not care to enter into a lengthy discussion about the difference between historic Calvinism and Arminianism on how one is made a believer. I am just too busy with other things. Besides, we have sort of discussed all this before.”

    Not so fast. 🙂

    You presented a point which merits attention and I will do so here. Many necessatarians use it as if it were some sort of “magic bullet” argument against Arminianism. 🙂

    You had written:

    “I see the main difference to be in whether faith and repentance are sovereign gifts of God given to the elect or whether they are acheivements of sinners. Or perhaps who best answers the question – “who makes you to differ from another?””

    In my previous post I dealt with your first claim here: that its either: faith and repentance are sovereign gifts of God given to the elect (calvinism) OR “they are achievements of sinners” (a misrepresentation of Arminianism).

    Now I want to deal with your second statement and the common question/argument of calvinists that “who makes you to differ from another?”

    Lawyers in preparing their cases usually have a specific agenda in mind, they want to prove a certain point (or points). So they start with the point(s) they want to prove and then build their case around that point. They want to argue that the facts support this point and they win if they convince the judge or jury that their point rather than their opposition’s point is to be preferred. I see the same kind of thinking going on with whoever came up with this common calvinist argument. The point they want to make is to show Arminianism to be false or at least to discredit it. So if that is your point then the method then presents itself: how can it be shown that the Arminian with their view of libertarian free will is wrong? Well if it can be shown that the Arminian view of LFW leads to **implications** which are contrary to scripture, then the point will have been proved (or so they think and hope). So with these points in mind, the necessatarian then thinks of devising an argument that shows how LFW leads to unbiblical or contra-biblical implications. I believe that this is exactly what happened with the ““who makes you to differ from another?”” argument.

    Lawyers are experts at devising “complex questions” (i.e., questions that are set up and intentionally done in such a way as to set some one else up to look bad no matter how they answer a particular question). Con men are also quite adept at speaking in such a way as to lull and then manipulate their “victims”/marks into some verbal trap. The logical fallacy of “Complex question” refers to verbal traps where you are **set-up** by the way in which the question is framed or presented.

    The standard and well known example is the question: “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?” Already present in the question is the assumption that you have in fact at some time physically abused your wife. And that assumption is intentionally made part of the question so that if you answer the question as directly posed your “goose is cooked”/ “your bird is fried”/your noose is around your neck and the rope pulled before you ever had a chance to avoid it! 🙂 Say you answer “Yes”. The follow up is that: it’s nice that you have stopped but why did you do so in the past? By answering “Yes” you are admitting that at some point you did in fact abuse your wife. If you answer “No” then the follow up is that: why haven’t you stopped yet? Either way by the very way the question is framed and presented, a simple Yes or No answer makes you guilty. You’ve been set up by a complex question. Now intelligent people such as lawyers are very good at doing this kind of thing: and they do so to “prove” their agenda.

    Whenever I hear the “who makes you to differ from another?” point I feel like I am being set up. 🙂 How so? Well remember that the agenda or goal of the one presenting this argument is to somehow disprove or discredit the Arminian view of libertarian free will.

    The set up goes like this: say two people hear a gospel message and say the Spirit works in both enabling them both to make the choice to trust in Christ for salvation. If LFW is present then these two persons have it in their power to either choose to trust in Christ or choose to reject Christ. And say that one of these people does in fact choose to trust in Christ and the other in fact chooses not to trust in Christ. The follow up is then “so what makes the one differ from the other? It cannot be the work of the Spirit because they both had the Spirit enable them to have faith. Well if it is not the Spirit then it ***must*** be ***SOMETHING*** within the two people that makes the difference. And if it is something within the human person, then couldn’t he then boast about being superior in some way to the other who chose to reject? Isn’t the one who chose to trust, in some way superior, either smarter, or morally a better person, or . . . . .?

    Now how does this then disprove or discredit LFW? Well, the supplemental argument is that if there is in fact something different about one person, then that person **could** boast in his/her salvation, they could believe that they are in some way superior to the other person, they could think that their superiority saved them!

    Now what is the hidden assumption here? What is the necessatarian assuming that will in some way discredit LFW? The assumption is this: a person having faith “on their own” (which for the necessitarian automatically means LFW is involved, that the choice made by the person is not necessitated, as would be the case if the necessitarian view were true) could then boast about WHAT THEY DID TO SAVE THEMSELVES. And of course we all know that any view that could lead someone to thinking they saved themselves must be false.

    Now for the problems with this argument, developing a “complex question” is similar to “proof texting”, you have to ignore the context ignore reality, “put some things under the rug” or “hide them in the closet” and hope that others do not notice what you leave out, what you ignore in your verbal description.

    So what is the necessatarian leaving out in his verbal trap of the Arminian?
    First, the bible itself (properly interpreted), which has authority over any logical argument the necessatarian can invent, explicitly and clearly says that a saving faith EXCLUDES BOASTING. (see Romans 3:27-28 ). That point alone should eliminate this argument, because a saving faith is a **desperate faith** a **begging faith**, a faith that by its very nature EXCLUDES ANY BOASTING OR TAKING CREDIT FOR ONE’S SALVATION. I cannot tell you how many times I have brought up Romans 3:27-28 and yet had it fall upon deaf ears, completely ignored by the calvinist attempting to set me up with his “who makes you to differ” argument.

    Second, as I have already discussed in the earlier post, we believe that no one comes to Christ “on their own”. We are only enabled to have a faith response through the miraculous and powerful work of the Holy Spirit who is the one leading us to Christ, the one showing us things, revealing things, convicting us of our sin, etc. etc. etc.

    But let’s further explain what this desperate or begging faith looks like in real life experience. As I do extensive evangelism I have seen it up close many times. I have already alluded to the analogy of the alcoholic who hits “rock bottom” and finds himself at a place where he knows and acknowledges that he cannot save himself, that someone else will have to save him or he just won’t survive. I have said for a long time that addiction to alcohol and then release from this addiction is a great analogy for what happens when someone converts to Christianity. Just like the alcoholic the sinner has to “hit rock bottom” and realize that he cannot save himself, he needs a radical intervention by God to be saved. People literally have to come to the end of their resources, before they are in the place where they can then exercise saving faith. Put another way, God hates pride and gives grace to the humble (and in order to be converted to Christianity, in order to become a child of God you have to humble yourself before Him acknowledge your sinfulness, acknowledge your rebellion against Him and even submit to Him as Lord and Master over your life = and these things do not occur with prideful/boastful people, they only occur with people who “hit rock bottom” spiritually).

    It has occurred to me more than once that the necessatarians who keep bringing up this argument must have very little practical experience in evangelism. You see if you did, you would never claim that someone who experiences saving faith will end up boasting about it.

    It just doesn’t happen (note = I once had a necessitarian respond after I brought up these facts: “well it **could** happen so as long as there is a **possibility** that it could . . .” I responded: “have you actually ever in real life seen someone whom you believed to be genuinely converted to Christianity boast about it or view themselves as superior in some way to those who rejected the gospel?” He answered: “No, but it was still possible”. Now wait a minute why keep propping up an argument that in your own experience you have never seen to occur? This shows only an intense desire to argue against Arminianism).

    And again the bible makes it absolutely clear that saving faith doesn’t make boasting possible it ***excludes*** boasting. But why take other people’s experiences or the bible as your authority: WHY NOT LOOK AT YOUR OWN CONVERSION. If you profess to be a disciple of Jesus and Jesus is your Lord and Savior, then look back at your own conversion experience. Were you led by the Spirit to see your own sinfulness, to see your need for Christ, to see Him only as the way of salvation, to see that you could not save yourself and that you had to completely throw yourself upon Him to have any hope for salvation? And if you went through all of that, at that time was there any possibility of you boasting in some way about saving yourself? Was there any possibility that you would point to something inside of you, some factor about you, as being superior to others who did not make the choice to trust in Christ for salvation?

    The evidence then is overwhelming that saving faith involves a faith that is humble a person that realizes they are at the end of their rope, that they cannot save themselves and that God alone can save them, a faith that by its very nature excludes boasting or any other sentiments of being superior. And this evidence is seen in scripture, in the conversion experiences of other Christians and even in one’s own conversion experience.

    Robert

  53. Ben, and Robert,
    I’m coming late to the discussion here, but something caught my eye in Dominic’s original rebuttal to Ben that I want to draw your attention to. He states:

    “Naturally, reading an Arminian view of action theory into a Calvinist exposition will result in the appearance of incongruity. I need merely point out that, under the Calvinist view, the fact of the unregenerate sinner mustering a false faith is not distinct from the fact of God turning the will of the unregenerate sinner to a false faith.”

    I marvel, and wonder if I have ever found a better example in Evangelical literature that asserts the divinization of the mind of man. For observe carefully that Dominic’s last sentence is a sophisticated way of saying that “Man is God” because of the phrase “is not distinct.” For note—if the clause, “the unregenerate sinner mustering a false faith” IS NOT DISTINCT from “God turning the will of the unregenerate sinner to a false faith,” then there can be only one MIND present—the Divine Mind extending Itself—and thus “God” is a synonymous term for “the unregenerate sinner” who turns Himself toward a false faith.

    Also, since Dominic is approaching his subject with such aggressive, dialectical language, I think we need to be careful in supposing he affirms anything FULLY. Though I grant (with a reader’s understanding) Ben’s statement that Dominic “affirms fully” that God CAUSES man’s thoughts, will, choices, etc., I think Ben and I (and you too, Robert) would all agree that, very technically speaking, the dialectical thinker affirms no statement fully, not does he deny any statement fully (regarding his Calvinistic apologetic). Moreover, to observe that Dominic does not affirm any of his statements FULLY is really to observe that he does not affirm any of the thesis and antithesis statements WHATSOEVER. For if a thing is not defined FULLY [that is, DISTINCTLY (by “fully” I do not mean “exhaustively”)], then no definition is present. Hence we see the Calvinist strategy, however unwitting, of insisting on the dialectic (i.e., doublethink); for otherwise, he could not argue for the non-distinction between man and God.

    A personal confession here—I used to get stressed out while reading such Calvinistic rebuttals (trying to follow the ‘reasoning’). But these days, I’m more often reminding myself that such rebuttals as mere, dialectical rocking-horse rides in which Calvinistic thinkers constantly contradict themselves (while vigorously denying that they contradict themselves). Note, then, that at times Dominic is so far forward in his rock toward Monism that he treats the terms “God” and “man” synonymous. Yet, as soon as we think that Dominic has destroyed individuation altogether (all distinction between Creator and creature) he backs off his pantheistic language in order to invoke the term “human choice.” In fact, the rocking becomes so violent that he even combines the two in one thought, e.g., when he talks of God instantiating (representing by example) human choice. But we must ask, If God represents human choice, what then is “human”? As my brother recently pointed out to me about such rocking-horse rides—the methodology of such thinkers [like Dominic] show that Calvinists seem to forget immediately what they wrote. Hence in one phrase Dominic espouses Monism, then immediately rejects it in favor of “human choice”. In short, it might be best, for the sake of 3rd party listeners listening in to our dialog with Calvinists, that we remind readers that Calvinists do not affirm anything fully. I realize Ben’s arguments do state this insofar as pointing out the non-sensical element in Calvinistic arguments. But perhaps it will also be helpful to remind readers that non-sensical arguments mean that the non-sensical ARGUER is, in one sense, failing to put forth any real definitions at all.

    This brings me to Dominic’s criticism of Ben, observed in the first sentence in the above quote from Dominic. He claims that Ben is making Calvinism appear incongruent because of assuming “an Arminian view of action theory.” Yes, shame on you Ben for presupposing man can act—that there is such a thing as human predication! Just what were you thinking when you used sensical criticism against non-sensical exposition! Don’t you realize that until you subscribe to the word games of deconstruction theory you won’t see the congruence of Calvinism? And so, such a remark by Dominic reminds me of a recent Wikipedia comment about the 20th century criticism of the king of dialecticians, Georg Hegel—criticism about which some philosophers now claim was all on a wrong footing. One can guess why, when one notes the traditional way of describing Hegel’s philosophy as “thesis—antithesis—synthesis”. After all, just who did those 20th-century thinkers think they were, criticizing Hegel by assuming such fixed categories as “thesis” and “antithesis”? Ought not dialectical criticism be applied to dialectical theory? So, shame on all of us for thinking we could ever criticize Calvinism according to anything other than its own dialectical principles!

    Finally, it is worth nothing that because Hegel’s dialectical vagueness left even his contemporaries disagreeing on whether Hegel’s intent was to deny the existence of God, I think we ought to infer NOTHING MORE from Dominic’s statements then what he states. That is, I assume none of us know Dominic personally and therefore do not really know him apart from his writings. But, then, if we INFER more, assuming he speaks from a Christian basis, it seems to me we grant him more Christian content to his terms that what his statements really deserve or demonstrate. Indeed, I think the command that “love believes all things” ought not to be stretched to where we assume there is Christian content behind a rebuttal that appears IN THE MAJORITY of its statements to flatly deny human predication. So then, while I realize that in refuting a Calvinist we must in one sense grant a degree of rational definition to the individual terms the Calvinist uses, I think it may be prudent to more aggressively show on the other hand that the Calvinist regards the individual terms he uses as not individual things at all.

  54. Dear Robert:

    I do believe that faith is either the free gift of God, sovereignly given, and that the opposite view to this would be to say that it is, in some respects, the work of the sinner, the result of his own choice, made freely and independently, or a human work or acheivement. I am not saying that all Arminians would admit this, only that this is the logical opposite of the Calvinist view on faith.

    I do not think the question “who makes you to differ from another” is like the question “do you still be your wife.”

    It is good that you affirm that no sinner can come to Christ “on his own.” But, when you say that the ultimate reason why one has faith is not do solely to God, but to the free choice of the sinner, then you do make it, ultimately, in the end, what is “on his own.” Did he not “on his own” choose to have faith or not?

    Blessings,

    Stephen

  55. That is “due” not do.

    And I meant to say “either gift of God or work of the sinner.”

    Sorry, I should have proof read. I wrote this in a hurry. Been busy.

    Stephen

  56. And since when has faith been defined as “work”?
    Scripture makes a CLEAR distinction between faith and works; however it also makes it clear that works are a result of faith.

    From my observations, the whole debate between Calvinism and non-Calvinism is fed by ad-hoc definitions forced upon certain biblical concepts. Definitions are CREATED to support a certain theology rather than the theology being assessed by clearly defined principles as found in scripture. This faith is works definition is a blatant example of this in practice.

  57. Stephen,

    Good luck with your research. It may very well be that modern day Calvinists have re-defined what hyper-Calvinism is in order to exclude themselves. And it may very well be that the priority of regeneration is a historic feature of hyper-Calvinism. That remains for you to demonstrate, and I will be very interested to see how that research develops. Keep us posted.

    I do want to address your claim that Spurgeon did not hold to the priority of regeneration. I realize that many point to his sermon, The Warrant of Faith in order to justify that claim, and there are things he says in that sermon which might suggest he rejects the priority of regeneration. However, it seems to me that he is more concerned with temporal priority (the idea that one can be regenerated for a time period, and “saved” prior to hearing and believing the gospel), then logical priority. Other statements of his seem to argue for the logical priority of regeneration. For example,

    “Never yet did a man believe in Jesus with the faith here intended, except the Holy Spirit led him to do so. He has wrought all our works in us, and our faith too. Faith is too celestial a grace to spring up in human nature till it is renewed: faith is in every believer “the gift of God.” You will say to me, “Are these two things consistent?” I reply, “Certainly, for they are both true.” “How consistent?” say you. “How inconsistent?” say I, and you shall have as much difficulty to prove them inconsistent as I to prove them consistent. Experience makes them consistent, if theory does not.” (emphasis mine)

    And,

    “To believe in Jesus is a better indicator of regeneration than anything else, and in no case did it ever mislead. Faith in the living God and his Son Jesus Christ is always the result of the new birth, and can never exist except in the regenerate. Whoever has faith is a saved man.” (emphasis mine)

    From his sermon, Faith and Regeneration found at http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0979.htm

    And look at this one,

    “Coming to Christ is the very first effect of regeneration. No sooner is the soul quickened [i.e. given life] than it at once discovers its lost estate, is horrified thereat, looks out for a refuge, and believing Christ to be a suitable one, flies to him and reposes in him.” (emphasis mine)

    Taken from Sermon XXVI, Human Inability. You can read it here.

    Now if Surgeon sees faith as the “effect” and “result” of regeneration, I don’t see how we can avoid the conclusion that he sees regeneration preceding faith and sees regeneration as the cause of faith (at least logically).

    I want to address your comments on “what make you to differ” as well, but I am out of time for right now.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  58. Dear Ben:

    Here are some citations from Spurgeon that you are overlooking:

    “This change is often described as a birth. See the third chapter of the Gospel of John, which is wonderfully clear and to the point: “Except a man be born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” This birth is not a birth by baptism, for it is spoken of as accompanied by an intelligent faith which receives the Lord Jesus. Turn to John 1:12, 13: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believed on his name: which were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” So that believers are “born again” and receive Christ through faith: a regeneration imparted in infancy and lying dormant in unbelievers is a fiction unknown to Holy Scripture.”

    See http://baptistgadfly.blogspot.com/2009/03/spurgeon-born-again-by-faith.html

    “There is life for a look at the Crucified One.”

    O soul, if thou canst get into contact with Christ by simply trusting him, though that trust be ever so feeble, thou hast the faith of God’s elect; thou hast the faith which is in every case the token of the new birth.

    No, the moment that the sinner’s trust in placed on the finished work of Jesus he is saved.”

    “As if this chapter were written on purpose to meet the gross error that faith does not bring immediate salvation, it extols faith again and again, yea, and I may add, our Lord himself crowns faith, because faith never wears the crown, but brings all the glory to the dear Redeemer.

    We believe, and therefore we have been begotten of God.”

    Sermon 979. Faith and Regeneration

    http://baptistgadfly.blogspot.com/2009/03/spurgeon-on-faith.html

    I think he is very clear here.

    Blessings

    Stephen

  59. P.S.

    I think Spurgeon often used the term “regeneration” in its strictly theological sense, not in its biblical sense.

    Stephen

  60. Ben’s quotes are just as clear. It looks like Spurgeon was inconsistent on the point.

    (BTW Stephen, you still have not addressed my comments above explaining how the gospel can logically [though not biblically!] be considered a means to regeneration apart from faith.)

  61. Stephen,

    Real quick. This post is in response to what I would call some irresponsible proof-texting of a passage, on the part of Dominic, in order to get the passage to say more than it actually does. It seems to me that you are doing the exact same thing with 1 Cor. 4:7,

    “For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?”

    First, in the context of the passage, Paul is addressing those at Corinth who thought they were more spiritual than others, when, in fact, they were not (as discussed in 1 Cor. 2). They were, in fact, proving to be unspiritual and unable to move onto maturity due to their quallerling and favoritism (1:10-12, cf. 3:1-5). Some thought they were better than others due to the fact that they believed they had gained deeper revelation from a certain apostle that others had not received. In that context, Paul is probably speaking of receiving revelation from certain apostles and not “faith” from God.

    Much more could be said concerning context, but it is clear from that alone that this passage does not give you what you want from it. It might be better to focus on what it does not say. Nowhere does Paul speak of the gift of faith in this passage, or the gift of salvation. Nowhere does Paul correlate the inability to boast with the reception of an irresistible gift. Rather, Paul actually points out that they are boasting, though they have no grounds for boasting. This is important because faith (though not specifically addressed in this passage) excludes boasting, not because it is impossible to boast, but because one cannot legitimately boast in faith, since faith is simple trust and the receiving of a free gift (Rom. 4). So too, these Corinthians had no legitimate grounds for boasting, though they were indeed boasting.

    So it is not an issue of “can you boast” but “can you legitimately boast” or “do you have proper grounds for boasting?” Paul’s answer in both cases is “no”. And why is that? Because it is senseless to boast in something that we receive freely from another. On that basis alone, boasting is excluded. If you didn’t earn it, or deserve it, then you have no legitimate grounds for boasting (and faith doesn’t earn or merit anything). Paul never goes beyond this simple point, and neither should we. Yet, Calvinists insist on things that go far beyond what Paul says here and in Rom. 4 concerning faith, boasting and works (and in the process turn faith into a work, contrary to Paul’s simple definitions). The fact that faith is simple trust in another (Christ) to do what we cannot do for ourselves (save us), and is for that reason the receiving of a free and unearned gift, excludes boasting. Period. No more is needed to explain the nature of faith and its antithesis (works).

    So Paul is simply stating in 1 Cor. 4 that the Corinthians have no grounds for boasting over each other, since whatever they have has been received and not earned. And if it has simply been received then all legitimate grounds for boasting are cut off (cf. Rom. 4). Period. But you are reading your Calvinistic presuppositions into Paul’s words, rather than allowing Paul to speak for himself on the matter. You are, in a sense, going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), in order to support your doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election. Thankfully, there is nothing in Paul’s words, or definitions of faith and works, to support such doctrines.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  62. Ben’s quotes are just as clear. It looks like Spurgeon was inconsistent on the point.

    I think it can be argued that Spurgeon is not even being inconsistent. All of the quotes I have seen provided to argue that Spurgeon is teaching the priority of faith seem to have specific reference to temporal, rather than logical sequence. This is true even of the quotes you provide here (and one, at least, I think could even be taken as saying regeneration has priority).

    Spurgeon seems to be emphasizing that faith and the new birth happen simultaneously in time. He is very concerned with temporal order and the inevitable connection of regeneration with faith (one does not occur without the other, or apart from the other) while also maintaining that logically (without regards to temporal realities), regeneration precedes and causes faith.

    So I am not sure that Spurgeon was being inconsistent, only that some fail to note the distinction in Spurgeon’s mind (and in his sermons) between logical and temporal order (logically, regeneration comes first; temporally, they occur simultaneously).

    God Bless,
    Ben

  63. Looking again at those quotes Stephen provided, it does seem that Spurgeon may have been inconsistent (even with regards to logical order). Since it seems rather obvious, at this point, that he did contradict himself on the ordo, I don’t see how either side of the debate can legitimately cite him for support.

  64. Hello Onesimus,

    “And since when has faith been defined as “work”?”

    Good question, in both my experience and observation those who argue to equate **faith** with **works** are either cultists (who want to justify their own works righteousness view and attack the doctrine of justification through faith) or calvinists (who want to argue against the non-calvinist understanding that we are saved when we freely choose to trust Christ for salvation). Additionally these necessitarians/calvinists will argue that we can only be saved if we are regenerated first and this regeneration then produces faith in us. Unfortunately, Stephen is borrowing an argument from the cultists and these other necessatarians in order to argue for calvinism and against Arminianism.

    “Scripture makes a CLEAR distinction between faith and works; however it also makes it clear that works are a result of faith.”

    Absolutely correct.

    “From my observations, the whole debate between Calvinism and non-Calvinism is fed by ad-hoc definitions forced upon certain biblical concepts.”

    Yes. And again there is a definite similarity with the way cultists also develop “ad-hoc definitions” which they then force “upon certain biblical concepts” (such as trying to force “faith” to mean a work of some kind in which we save ourselves).

    “Definitions are CREATED to support a certain theology rather than the theology being assessed by clearly defined principles as found in scripture. This faith is works definition is a blatant example of this in practice.”

    The necessatarian argues for what in logic is called a false dilemma (things are presented in such a way that the person making the argument claims there are only two possibilities when in fact there are other possibilities and one of these other possibilities is the actual truth on the matter) in such a way that they claim there are only two possibilities: **EITHER** God zaps you with faith as a “gift” (meaning he so directly controls you like a Puppet master controlling his puppet by pulling its strings, so that you **have to have faith**, with no choice being involved on your part, your supposed “faith” is thus necessitated) **OR** it is “works” ( which includes their carefully and intentionally redefining a faith response [as a result of the work of the Spirit enabling you to have faith] so that it becomes a work in which you can then boast). With this logic if forced to choose between being saved by works or being saved by God sovereignly controlling you, who wouldn’t choose the latter option. **If** those were the only two possibilities. The key to their forced redefinition of faith and their argument is to claim that: **Anything** we do is defined as a work, so if we have faith since it is **something** that we do, and since **anything** we do is a “work”, it must then be defined as a “work”). If you dialogue with cultists you also hear a lot of false dilemmas being thrown your way.

    Sad the lengths people will go to support and defend and rationalize a false system of theology rather than embracing the revelation given by God Himself in scripture: which in this case is that we are saved through faith when we choose to trust the Lord (after the Holy Spirit has worked in our hearts enabling us to make that choice).

    Robert

  65. G’Day Robert,
    Thank you for your views on my comments.
    Far too much of my Christian life was affected by false doctrine. In my case it was Word of Faith teachings.
    I fell for it. I spent a couple of years promoting it.
    Then it took around 15 years of doubt and confusion, during which I came close to falling away altogether, before I was freed from it.

    While the things believed may be totally different, there are common factors with all false doctrine I’ve come across, including:

    1) A reliance on proof texts taken out of their context.
    2) A redefining of recognised terminology
    3) An overemphasis of particular concepts that stretches those concepts far beyond the limits of the truth they were intended to convey.

    You have also mentioned the matter of the false dilemma and there are probably many others.

    The above factors are applicable to WOF and they are also applicable to Calvinism. It is ironic that “faith” has been redefined by both of these different camps – and their redefinitions could not be more different.
    But then again, when faith is such a foundational part of GENUINE Christianity – it’s not surprising that attempts are made to corrupt that foundation. When the foundation is faulty, anything built upon it will be weak and unreliable.

    On this current topic of discussion, I really have concerns about the prominence being given to the idea of regeneration. It’s an idea that is mentioned very little in scripture and I wonder whether its overemphasis has given us a mystical/esoteric understanding of what Jesus meant by the need to be born again – in particular in the Calvinist context, that regeneration is required to make it possible for someone to repent and to believe.

  66. Dan,

    In Dominic’s case I think it is proper to say he “fully affirms” exhaustive determinism based on the link he provided,

    http://bnonn.thinkingmatters.org.nz/2009/on-free-will-part-1/

    Here he asserts that everything that comes into existence is caused directly by God (based again on brutal proof-texting). This includes our thoughts and choices. So our every thought and choice is caused by God. If this is the case then it makes no sense to speak of the need for the Holy Spirit to communicate certain spiritual truths to the sinner prior to a faith response. If God creates every thought in the sinner’s mind and causes His every choice, then it is at once apparent that such “communication” can serve no real purpose, and is far from “necessary”.

    God can create spiritual understanding in the sinner apart from such communication (according to Dominic), and even with such communication God must still create spiritual understanding. So Dominic has still not sufficiently addressed the initial question: What purpose does regeneration serve in Calvinism? (with regards to the ordo salutis and with these Calvinist deterministic presuppositions in mind)

    I am glad you explained what you meant by “Divinization of the Mind” because that could mean a number of things. I agree that Calvinism, when taken to its logical conclusion, depersonalizes the individual and leads to a panentheistic world view (everything is just an expression of God’s thoughts and personality- He is the only true personality in the universe). However, I am not sure you can make the leap from panentheism to pantheism so easily.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  67. Hello Onesimus,

    “Thank you for your views on my comments.”

    Sure, it appears to me that you are trying as best that you can to BE A BEREAN. And I respect Bereans a lot! 🙂

    “While the things believed may be totally different, there are common factors with all false doctrine I’ve come across, including:
    1) A reliance on proof texts taken out of their context.
    2) A redefining of recognized terminology
    3) An overemphasis of particular concepts that stretches those concepts far beyond the limits of the truth they were intended to convey.”

    I believe these are good observations, things you will particularly see with cults.

    “You have also mentioned the matter of the false dilemma and there are probably many others.”

    Unfortunately there are others, at least we can be aware of them so that we can avoid making those mistakes ourselves when interpreting the bible.

    “The above factors are applicable to WOF and they are also applicable to Calvinism. It is ironic that “faith” has been redefined by both of these different camps – and their redefinitions could not be more different.”

    They have to redefine because they are attempting to rationalize or justify false ideas that are not biblical. Again, the cults do this very thing with key Christian terminology as well. They do not mean what we mean even though they use the same terms that we use.

    “But then again, when faith is such a foundational part of GENUINE Christianity – it’s not surprising that attempts are made to corrupt that foundation. When the foundation is faulty, anything built upon it will be weak and unreliable.”

    The old tennis great Bill Tilden had an interesting and very effective strategy in beating his opponents on the tennis court. He would attack them at their strength figuring if he could beat them there, the rest of their game would collapse. I think the devil uses a similar strategy: attack it in the area of people being saved through a faith response (so that He can then argue that we are saved by works not by faith).

    “On this current topic of discussion, I really have concerns about the prominence being given to the idea of regeneration. It’s an idea that is mentioned very little in scripture and I wonder whether its overemphasis has given us a mystical/esoteric understanding of what Jesus meant by the need to be born again – in particular in the Calvinist context, that regeneration is required to make it possible for someone to repent and to believe.”

    You are right, regeneration is referred to in only a few places in scripture, while FAITH IS ALL OVER THE PLACE, most notably in the book of Romans.

    The calvinist argues that regeneration precedes faith in order to argue for his false doctrine of unconditional election. The bible presents that salvation is conditioned upon a person having faith (or put another way: God chooses those who freely choose to trust Him to be His people). Calvinism denies this and instead argues that unconditional election saves people (they are saved because God exhaustively determines all events and part of this exhaustive determinism, a subset of it, is that God preselects who will be saved and who will be damned).

    Now what would be a convenient argument or point to support this unconditional election to both salvation and damnation? Well, if you could show that no one can become a Christian unless they are regenerated first. Your next step would be to then show that faith can only occur if the person is regenerated first. And if they must be regenerated first, and yet we know not all are saved, then only those who get regenerated will be and can be saved. And who might they be? Well of course, they are the ones preselected for salvation. Pretty nifty huh? Quite logical and flows quite well. The problem is that it is just that **mere logic** being used to support the calvinist system rather than what the bible actually teaches.

    People just studying the bible for themselves will not become necessatarians, they must be indoctrinated into it first, must be taught the system first (that is why calvinists in talking about their “coming to calvinism” sound just like people telling their conversion stories, and they are conversion stories, not conversion to Christianity but conversion to calvinism). Once they imbibe the system, then it is easy to lead them to believe and accept the rest of the necessitarian beliefs and their own “interpretations” (actually misinterpretations) of scripture.

    Robert

  68. G’Day Robert,
    Yes I am doing what I can to emulate the Bereans, and I’m still surprised how much I get criticised for taking that approach; being accused of arrogance because I think I can find the truth though the scriptures by myself instead of putting man’s teachings first.
    I also take scripture seriously when it mentions the teaching role of the Holy Spirit, so I seek understanding from Him. As a third aspect I have found that the things I learn from scripture are always later confirmed or corrected through interaction with other believers.
    From my personal experience and observations I have learned how men’s traditions and theologies can corrupt their understanding of the plain meaning of scripture. I think this corruption comes through the presuppositions (mentioned earlier by Daniel Gracely) that those theologies and traditions create. It is very hard for us to approach scripture without the influence of the conditioning we have received IF we take a too casual approach to our study and reading of scripture. That is why it is essential to SEARCH the scriptures, paying attention to context, rather than merely looking up or referring to individual “texts”. Have you noticed how often a preacher will start a sermon with “a text” – from which he springboards into a topic of his own choice that often has little relevance to that quoted “text”?

    I also think it is also essential to gain an overall familiarity with scripture and how each different part relates to the others before we become too focussed on a smaller section of scripture. For example we can’t study the prophets if we are unfamiliar with the historical narratives associated with their prophetic messages. Likewise we can never understand Romans 9-11 if we are unfamiliar with the context of the OT references made in those chapters.

    You mentioned the observations I detailed in my previous comments and said they were “things you will particularly see with cults.”
    I am finding that the distinguishing line between the cults and recognised, respectable Christianity is becoming very blurred; and yet there are continuing calls to be tolerant and non-judgemental. That is particularly evident in the “charismanic” camp (not to be confused with “charismatic”).

    You said: “They have to redefine because they are attempting to rationalize or justify false ideas that are not biblical. Again, the cults do this very thing with key Christian terminology as well. They do not mean what we mean even though they use the same terms that we use.”

    I am very wary of the way Christian terminology is used and defined; in the terms of the Calvinism-Arminianism debate both are in error in the way they refer to grace. Scripture does not categorize different types or applications of grace (irresistible, prevenient or otherwise). At the most scripture describes ABUNDANT grace and even SUPER-ABUNDANT grace, but those are expressions of generosity and not descriptions of particular active qualities.

    Regarding my comments on the issues of regeneration you said:

    “You are right, regeneration is referred to in only a few places in scripture, while FAITH IS ALL OVER THE PLACE, most notably in the book of Romans.”

    As far as I can recall there is only one record of Jesus referring to the need to be “born again”, yet how many times did HE speak of the need for faith? And how many times did HE commend “unregenerate” men & women for their faith? And how many times did HE criticise people (including his own disciples) for their lack of faith?
    Was Jesus confused or ignorant in His over-emphasis on faith and His under-emphasis on regeneration?

    “The calvinist argues that regeneration precedes faith in order to argue for his false doctrine of unconditional election.”

    It’s that old story –start with a faulty foundation (the doctrines of unconditional election/limited atonement) and whatever you build upon it will be faulty. When someone starts with a lie they often have to continue with more lies to cover up the mess they’ve created with that initial lie. It’s a process that intensifies and results in greater error until the lying stops and the truth is admitted.

    “The bible presents that salvation is conditioned upon a person having faith (or put another way: God chooses those who freely choose to trust Him to be His people).”

    Very true, and why can’t those who make so much about God’s sovereignty see that God has the sovereign right to determine that this should be the means of obtaining salvation? That God has the sovereign right to achieve HIS ends through His sovereignly ordained salvation plan. That God has the sovereign right to admit a WILLING people to His family. That he wants a WILLING bride for His son and not a stepford wife.

    “People just studying the bible for themselves will not become necessatarians, they must be indoctrinated into it first, must be taught the system first (that is why calvinists in talking about their “coming to calvinism” sound just like people telling their conversion stories, and they are conversion stories, not conversion to Christianity but conversion to calvinism).

    That is the case with all false doctrine; it is LEARNED first and then read into the scriptures through the application of proof-texts. And yes it quite often seems that Calvinism is more important to some that Christian discipleship. I’m sure many will say that they are the same thing, but it seems that Calvinism is given more “glory” than Christ.

  69. Hi Ben,
    It may be that you and I have somewhat different views of what Calvinism is. But before I address that, I wanted to mention that the free online dictionary seems to give a different definition for “panentheism” (as opposed to “pantheism”) than what you gave in parenthesis in your last post to me, and so I am unclear about what you mean about my leap from panentheism to pantheism. The reason I looked up “panentheism” is because, frankly, I was unfamiliar with the word. The free online dictionary gives the following definitions for “panentheism” and “pantheism”:

    panentheism
    the belief that the world is part, though not all of God. — panentheist, n.
    pantheism
    the identification of God with the universe as His manifestation. — pantheist, n.

    If I’m reading your post correctly, your definition of “panentheism,” i.e.,–“(everything is just an expression of God’s thoughts and personality- He is the only true personality in the universe)”–seems to basically be that of pantheism, not panentheism (though I might add that in pantheism the concepts of God as “true” and “personality” would be different than in Christianity). However, granting the online dictionary definition of “panentheism,” and your statement (in effect) that I saw Calvinism as an expression of it, I should at least admit that I probably should have qualified more clearly in my earlier post what I meant by the Calvinist position being “monism.” I should have restricted that term to the world of thoughts and of choices, not the whole world, which would include material creation. Perhaps that is what you meant by my describing Calvinism panentheistically?

    But as for whether Dominic “fully affirms” his definitions, I think I would say that he does fully affirm them BETIMES, but not ALL the time. This is what I was trying to say in my last post. And I say “not ALL the time” because he follows the traditional path of dialecticism, or what philosophers sometimes call “irrationalism.” (I mention these terms basically for the sake of readers ‘listening in’ who may be unfamiliar with them; I assume you are fairly familiar with these terms.) To review, in the dialectical method two premises are stated that common sense (and Bible precept) tells us are diametrically opposed to each other; yet the dialectician claims that both statements are equally true. For example:

    (1)The ball is red.
    (2) There is no such thing as a ball, and no such thing as red.

    So then, in dialecticism (irrationalism), each of two mutually exclusive statements that would make the other impossible are nevertheless claimed to be true. Calvinism too expresses its two premises dialectically, though more subtly and sophisticatedly than the above example. Therefore I would not prefer to say that Calvinism “leads to” a conclusion that depersonalizes the individual, but that it IS this conclusion. That’s what I believe Calvinism is, either the extinction of man, or his exaltation, depending on how we wish to express man’s subsumation within God. So again, I believe that Calvinism does not LEAD TO dialecticism but IS ITSELF the dialectic. And Dominic demonstrates his Calvinistic dialectic in classic fashion, with two premises that are diametrically opposed to each other. His two subheadings under “The argument defended” are as follows. (Please note especially the word “alone” in the first premise.) Dominic states:

    ***Premise 1: Anytime anything is real, God alone instantiates it in reality
    ***Premise 2: a human choice is real
    (Incidentally, according to the free online dictionary, the word “instantiates” means “To represent (an abstract concept) by a concrete or tangible example.” I mention this because the word “instantiates” was also unfamiliar to me, and is perhaps unfamiliar with other readers.)

    Now, it ought to be plain that if God ALONE represents and examples the abstract concept of all things real, including “human” choice, then Dominic is showing no real distinction (individuation) between the concept “God” (on the one hand), and the concept “human” (on the other), despite his use of the word “human”. Indeed, nothing can be left of “human” if God ALONE represents choice. Now, doubtless, most readers will SUPPOSE Dominic supports individuation, but this is only because these readers (and society at large) know instinctively that the meaning of “human” is not synonymous with the meaning of “God,” and so naturally readers suppose that Dominic knows this as well.

    BUT, in fact no such conclusion granting the individuation of “God” and “man” can be INFERRED from the way Dominic himself uses language. This is why I have noted elsewhere (in effect) that Calvinists have their own special-pleading dictionary which they follow, which has nothing to do with the way words are understood by society at large. (Another example would be found in the Calvinistic statement “Man has freedom but he has no choice.” Note that it is impossible for us to infer what “freedom” or “choice” means in this statement.) So, I agree with Onesimus that Calvinism is a system in which contradictions are upheld with more contradictions. This is why, for example, “evil” is claimed by Calvinists to be merely the diminishing of good, having no ontological being. In other words, it would certainly be a problem for Calvinists to grant the being of evil, since then God would be responsible for it as the Decreer of all things. So, to escape this problem the Calvinist claims that evil is the diminishing of good, having no ontological being, i.e., that “evil” is a thing, yet not a thing. This way “evil” is NOT a thing when the Calvinist asserts the exhaustive determinism of God, but IS a thing when the Calvinist asserts that man is the one to be blamed for sin. Put another way, the Marionette pulls all the strings, but the puppet gets all the boos. The point here is that the Calvinist lies about the nature of God, and so he has to lie about the nature of evil.

    But to return to this matter of inference, I have discussed at length in my last post about the non-Reformed Christian’s tendency to make unwarranted inferences of Christian content in Calvinistic statements. So let me just summarize by saying again that the only reason we non-Reformed Christians suppose that Dominic is maintaining a distinction between “God” and “man” is because we assume his terms contain Christian content, when in fact his statements DO NOT EXPRESS ANY CONTENT, WHEN TAKEN AS A WHOLE. Does Dominic himself in his own mind BETIMES hold to the idea that “God” and “man” are separate things, and that “God” is holy and that “man” is a sinner as the Bible defines these things? I do not doubt it. Yet I do not and cannot come to this conclusion based upon Dominic’s writings themselves but only on what I know in general about Calvinists and what I myself was like when I was a Calvinist. In fact, I would argue that Dominic’s written statements actually define as synonyms the words “sinner” and “God,” with the result (if we maintain any individuation of terms at all) that the “sinner” is the incarnation of God, since the “sinner” is “human” and since “God” ALONE represents “human” choice.

    Personally, the thing I find most fascinating is how much longer Dominic’s explanation of Premise 1 is, compared to his Premise 2. This shows the classic method of the Calvinistic rider, e.g., leaning heavily forward on the rocking horse of dialecticism with a long explanation about exhaustive determinism, then followed by just a quick, backward rock about “human choice” to make his readers (and himself) think that he holds to individuation. Of course, he doesn’t hold to individuation, or rather, I should say, his STATEMENTS do not.

    I believe that unless we grant that man forms thoughts and choices that are autonomous in their content, we cannot properly separate God and man in their Being. That is, while God upholds the FORMS of the human mind and the human will, He never determines their CONTENT. And I think unless we properly recognize Calvinistic STATEMENTS to be dialectical (insofar as it can be said that “statements” can be made in a dialectical system) we will fail to see what Calvinism really is—mere philosophical irrationalism dressed up in Christian-speak.

  70. Dan,

    Thanks for the clarification. Yes, I was trying to make a distinction between God being everything, including the physical universe (pantheism) and God only being all that exists in the spiritual realm, i.e. all thoughts and “personailities” are essentially His thoughts and expressions of His personality (panentheism). Now panentheism could be understood in different ways, (which part is God and which part isn’t?), but saying that all personality is just an expression of God’s personality is a form of panentheism (though not the only possible form of panentheism).

    But even panentheism may not be the best word (perhaps we need a new word) since the basic definition of panentheism can include the physical universe as well (the universe is not God, but an expression of God). Anyway, I do think that pantheism is hard to attach to Calvinism (Calvinism does not necessarily lead to the conclusion that the universe is God, but does lead to the conclusion that at least those things that constitute personality are expressions of God), while panentheism does seem to fit the bill.

    As far as what Dominic believes, I was just trying to go by what he wrote in his post and not trying to figure out what he thinks. There are some Calvinists out there who do not rock much on the horse, but keep it permanently pointed forward. Cheung is such a Calvinist, and Dominic seems to admire and follow after Cheung’s reasoning. But you did point out that the words he uses do not comport “fully” with the determinism he seems to hold. I think you did an excellent job, both here and in your book, demonstrating Calvinist double-speak.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  71. […] Go to the follow-up post: “Responding to Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith” […]

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