Some Excellent and Concise Comments on Free Will, the Bondage of Sin, and Prevenient Grace

Overall, the following comments by F. Leroy Forlines are an excellent representation of the Arminian viewpoint:

“Freedom of will is a freedom within a framework of possibilities.  It is not absolute freedom.  Man cannot be God.  He cannot be an angel.  The freedom of a human being is in the framework of the possibilities provided by human nature.  Also, influences brought to bear on the will have a bearing on the framework of possibilities.

Before Adam and Eve sinned, it was in the framework of possibilities within which they operated to remain in the practice of complete righteousness, or to commit sin.  After they sinned, it no longer remained within the framework of possibilities for them to practice uninterrupted righteousness.  The same is true of fallen man now (Rom. 8:7, 8).  If anyone [takes] freedom of the will to mean that an unconverted person could practice righteousness and not sin, he misunderstands the meaning of freedom of will for fallen human beings.  Romans 8:7, 8 makes it clear that Scripture does not teach this.

Jesus makes it clear that it does not fall within the framework of possibilities for a sinner to respond to the gospel unless he is drawn by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 6:44).  The influence of the Holy Spirit working in the heart of the person who hears the gospel brings about a framework of possibilities in which a person can say yes or no to the gospel.  If he says yes, it is his choice.  If he says no, it is his choice.  To say less than that is to raise serious questions about the existence of real personhood after the fall.  If a human being is not in some sense a self-directed being, he or she is not a person.  The self-direction may have a degree of dependence at times, but it is still self-direction.  As has already been made clear, I am not suggesting that fallen man can choose Christ without the aid of the Holy Spirit.  In fact, I strongly reject such an idea.  I am saying, however, that no matter how much or how strong the aid of the Holy Spirit may be, the ‘yes’ decision is still a decision that can rightly be called the person’s decision.  After all, one can say no….”

“Faith can be called a gift in the sense that it would not have been possible without divine aid.  It is not a gift in the sense that it exists outside the person and is given to him, nor is it a gift in the sense that God believes for the person.  The person himself does the believing by divine aid.

I think Calvinism errs in its understanding of ‘dead in trespasses.’  Cornelius Van Til explains the Calvinist interpretation:

It was only as a creature of God, made in his image, that man could sin.  So, when a sinner, and as such ‘dead in trespasses,’ unable of himself even to stretch forth his hand to receive salvation, Scripture continues to deal with him as a responsible being.  He is called to faith and repentance.  Yet faith is the gift of God.  Lazarus lay in the tomb.  He was dead.  Yet Jesus told him to come forth.  And he did come forth.

The above interpretation interprets ‘dead’ in ‘dead in trespasses’ (Eph. 2:1) as meaning lifeless.  The dead body of Lazarus had no life in it.  It was capable of no action until it was made alive by Jesus.  If ‘dead in trespasses’ means dead in the same way, the logic of Calvinism follows.  The sinner would be both deaf and speechless.  He would know nothing about God, sin, and salvation until God made him alive through the new birth.  Then and only then would he be able to hear and to speak.

I think that ‘dead in trespasses and sins’ or spiritual death means that man is separated from God, dead in relationship to God.  There is no communion and no fellowship with God.  The principle is similar to that spoken of by Paul when he said, ‘By whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world’ (Gal. 6:14).  Both Paul and the world were alive in the sense that they were not lifeless.  They were not alive so far as a functioning relationship between them was concerned.

Spiritual death, if this be the correct interpretation, refers to the fact that the sinner is cut off from communion and fellowship with God.  This is true both because a holy God demands that it be so until sin is taken care of, and also because the bias of the sinner’s heart is against God.  The fact the sinner is not in communion with God does not mean he is totally deaf to God’s communication.  If that were the case, the sinner could not even distort the message of God. You cannot distort that to which you are totally deaf.  That a person is a sinner does mean he does not hear well.  He tends to resist and oppose the Truth and distort the Truth.  The gospel has to go forth against great opposition.  The Holy Spirit must work before there can be a successful communication of the gospel to the sinner and before there will be conviction and response from the sinner.  This approach recognizes the seriousness of sin, the necessity of the enlightening and drawing power of the Holy Spirit, and the personhood of the sinner.

I believe that saving faith is a gift of God in the sense that the Holy Spirit gives divine enablement without which faith in Christ would be impossible (Jn. 6:44).  The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic.  In both cases it is synergistic.  Active participation in faith by the believer means it must be synergistic.  Human response cannot be ruled out of faith.  Justification and regeneration are monergistic.  Each is an act of God, not man.  Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic.”

F. Leroy Forlines, The Quest For Truth: Answering Life’s Inescapable Questions, pp. 158-160 (emphasis his)

Related posts: 

What Can the Dead in Sin do?

The Arminian and Calvinist Ordo Salutis: A Brief Comparative Study

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16 Responses

  1. You believe that prevenient grace is applied to everyone. And that it raises a framework of possiblities, but in then end when its applied to two people, Why is it that one believes and one doesnt? Im guessing you’ve heard the argument before, but i would like to know your answer.

    You wouldnt say that it was an abundance of grace or more aid by the Holy Spirit. So wouldnt that point to some mental advantage that one person had over the other?

  2. Evan,

    Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to read the post. Your wrote,

    You believe that prevenient grace is applied to everyone. And that it raises a framework of possiblities, but in then end when its applied to two people, Why is it that one believes and one doesnt? Im guessing you’ve heard the argument before, but i would like to know your answer.

    Yes, I have heard it before. It simply begs the question of irresistible grace and determinism. People believe for a variety of reasons and people resist for a variety of reasons. Regardless of why someone believes, faith is not meritorious since it does not earn anything. Rather, faith receives a free and unearned gift (Rom. 4:4, 5).

    You wouldnt say that it was an abundance of grace or more aid by the Holy Spirit.

    Right, because that would beg the question of irresistible grace or determinism.

    So wouldnt that point to some mental advantage that one person had over the other?

    No. Trust is not the result of mental advantage. Anyone is capable of trust. Trust is not a matter of I.Q. Here is a similar question for you to ponder:

    Two believers are tempted to sin. God gives abundant grace for both believers to resist that sin and overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13; James 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:2-10). One believer resists temptation while the other falls to it. Now if God gave sufficient grace to both, according to the Scriptures, then why did one fall while the other resisted? Wouldn’t that point to some mental advantage that the one believer had over the other? Could the one believer who overcame temptation through God’s grace then boast over the one who fell to temptation? What do you think?

    I look forward to your answer.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  3. “People believe for a variety of reasons and people resist for a variety of reasons.”

    But what is their reasoning? Libertarian freedom is the power of contrary choice. In the end regardless of the factors or reasons, doesnt one have the power of contrary choice to choose against ones greatest inclination? That would lead to a unreasonable choice, and make no real connection between the circumstance and the actual choice that is made.

    But what is the reasoning behind their trust? Their trust is a result of their spiritual understanding of the gospel. And if both were given prevenient grace, and the same spirtual understanding, why does one believe and one not, or one trust and one not. If both are givent the same grace with the same semi regenerated nature, and given the same spiritual understanding of the gospel, Why is it that one believes and one not?

  4. Hello Evan,

    RE: THE NECESSITY OF CHOICE

    It seems to me that the reason persons choose differently is because every person is his own necessary cause, even as God is His own necessary cause. When I say “necessary” I mean that there is nothing behind the choice causing it except the person himself. Thus every person brings his choices ex nihilio (out of nothing).

    If this were NOT the case with every person, then would not all causes be of God, with ‘man’ an empty term?

    I think one clarification is needed here. Although every person makes their own choices, God creates and sustains the FORM, (i.e., ability, power of Choice in every person. But God does NOT make the choice itself. Put another way, God does not create the CONTENT. And so there is FORM, but there is also CONTENT. Again, if the case were otherwise, if God created your CONTENT, then there would be no “you.” We could speak and write of “you,” but “you” would have become an empty term, or else be considered a synonym for God.

    One further note here. to understand the necessity for this distinction between FORM and CONTENT, consider what God did when he created the universe. He created it out of nothing. That is, he did not take His “shoulder,” so to speak, and create the universe. If He HAD done so, then the universe would be part and parcel of God, and so there would be no final distinction between the Creator and the creation.

    Even so must a separation between God and human choice exist, or else no meaningful distinction between the Creator and the creature can be maintained. Indeed, did not Christ say “ye are gods,” i.e., (along with whatever else might be implied with that word), the creators of our own content? And are we not told elsewhere that man was made in the likeness of God?

    So then, God created FORMS, both material and immaterial, but only a person can create his own CONTENT. I think in the end, the definition of personal being is personal choice. Anything else runs the risk of conflating the Creator with the creation.

    Le

  5. Evan,

    You wrote:

    But what is their reasoning? Libertarian freedom is the power of contrary choice. In the end regardless of the factors or reasons, doesnt one have the power of contrary choice to choose against ones greatest inclination?

    That would depend on how you define “greatest inclination.” If you define that as the actual choice one makes, then we obviously cannot choose against our choice. That’s nonsense. The question that must be addressed is how does our greatest inclination become our greatest inclination? Do our desires and motives have a weight all their own, or does the agent assign weight to them?

    That would lead to a unreasonable choice, and make no real connection between the circumstance and the actual choice that is made.

    Not at all. No one denies that we choose in accordance with influences or motives or desires. No one is saying that we do not choose for “reasons”. We do not choose in a vacuum. This was clearly brought out in the post by Forlines (you did read the post, right?). But there is no reason to believe that these influences, motives, desires, etc, hold irresistible sway over us.

    But what is the reasoning behind their trust?

    It could be as varied as the people who are faced with the choice.

    Their trust is a result of their spiritual understanding of the gospel.

    Yes, but not irresistibly so.

    And if both were given prevenient grace, and the same spirtual understanding, why does one believe and one not, or one trust and one not.

    Because spiritual understanding alone does not guarantee faith. Why would it? Most people who smoke have a very good understanding of the potential consequences of smoking. Yet many continue to smoke despite this understanding. Again, you beg the question of irresistibility and determinism.

    If both are givent the same grace with the same semi regenerated nature, and given the same spiritual understanding of the gospel, Why is it that one believes and one not?

    Because they have the God given capacity to make a choice. The human will is a complete and adequate cause needing nothing outside of itself to cause it to act. Basically, what you are saying is, “If nothing besides your will causes your choice, then what causes your choice?” Don’t you see how your premise begs the question of determinism?

    Also, no one said anything about a “semi-regenerated” nature. You would probably do well to read this 5 part series by J.C. Thibodaux:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics/

    And notice that you completely ignored my very relevant counter-question to you. Here it is again in case you missed it:

    “Here is a similar question for you to ponder:

    Two believers are tempted to sin. God gives abundant grace for both believers to resist that sin and overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13; James 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:2-10). One believer resists temptation while the other falls to it. Now if God gave sufficient grace to both, according to the Scriptures, then why did one fall while the other resisted? Wouldn’t that point to some mental advantage that the one believer had over the other? Could the one believer who overcame temptation through God’s grace then boast over the one who fell to temptation? What do you think?

    I look forward to your answer.”

    When you can adequately answer my question, I think you will find the answer to your own question.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  6. “Not at all. No one denies that we choose in accordance with influences or motives or desires. No one is saying that we do not choose for “reasons”. We do not choose in a vacuum. This was clearly brought out in the post by Forlines (you did read the post, right?). But there is no reason to believe that these influences, motives, desires, etc, hold irresistible sway over us.”

    I would agree that its not the influences, motives, and desires that cause the choice, but its how are nature responds to those given factors. Now i would say that since God has exhaustive knowledge of everything he knows how are natures would respond to every given set of reasons and factors, so yes the choice is happening within ourselves, and is not caused by the factors themselves.
    And if your talking about the link next to his name im sorry i did not. Usually when i post im at the computer lab in my highschool, so i dont always have the time to read everything. I should have the time to read it soon though.

    “Because spiritual understanding alone does not guarantee faith. Why would it? Most people who smoke have a very good understanding of the potential consequences of smoking. Yet many continue to smoke despite this understanding. Again, you beg the question of irresistibility and determinism.”

    I would agree but i believe that belief in God hinges upon more then on the will of man, but on the will of God. That when spiritual understanding is given its for more then to open a array or options, but its Gods sovereign will in election, and in already overcoming the resistance of man in regeneration, he is now continuing in his plan of salvation.
    That when its given for someone to believe God will sovereignly pursue his sheep. And that is was given to all like the jew in John 10:24-30 or Judas in John 6:64-65. Then when its Gods purpose to sovereignly save some one then none can resist his will.

    “He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand!” (Daniel 4:35).

    19You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For(A) who can resist his will?” (Romans 9:19)

    “Two believers are tempted to sin. God gives abundant grace for both believers to resist that sin and overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13; James 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:2-10). One believer resists temptation while the other falls to it. Now if God gave sufficient grace to both, according to the Scriptures, then why did one fall while the other resisted? Wouldn’t that point to some mental advantage that the one believer had over the other? Could the one believer who overcame temptation through God’s grace then boast over the one who fell to temptation? What do you think?”

    I wouldn’t say it was the power of contrary choice. But now having been given a new nature we have i guess i could say the ability to have the greatest inclination for good instead of being a slave to sin and wickedness. That its in us to be inclined to both good and evil. I would say its how each believers nature responds to the given factors and circumstance. Each person is given a measure of faith, and some by the grace of God have persevered in sanctification more than others. That when we overcome sin its not oweing to us but oweing to God who
    13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.(Philipians 2:13)
    And if we fall its oweing to the us. And our remnant of sin we are battling.

    I really enjoy reading your respones and Blogs. I just came across it. Im still a highschool student and over the past year ive gone though all the surface level arguements for calvinism and arminianism. As i pursue God i want to further my studies, and not just understand the view of reformed theology but understand the view of my Arminian brothers. Your knowledge surely surpasses mine.

    Evan

  7. Hey Evan,

    Thanks for writing back. The post I was referring to is the post above; the one we are supposed to be discussing in this comments section. For example, he wrote:

    “The freedom of a human being is in the framework of the possibilities provided by human nature. Also, influences brought to bear on the will have a bearing on the framework of possibilities.”

    You have probably noticed me saying you keep “begging the question” in your arguments. Since you are only a High School student you may not be familiar with what that means. In your case, you are assuming the truth of determinism and irresistible grace in your arguments against free will (which is actually very common among Calvinists). That is a circular form of reasoning and cannot possibly prove the point in question (it is what philosophers call a “logical fallacy”). If you do a Google search on “begging the question” you will see what I mean.

    I don’t have the time to respond to this today and probably will not get to it until Monday or Tuesday. In the meantime, if you are able, I would highly recommend you read through the five part series I linked to in my last comments to you. I think it will clear things up significantly for you. Each post is rather short so it shouldn’t take too long to read through them.

    May God bless you as you continue to seek Him,

    Ben

  8. Hello Ben,

    It has been interesting seeing how well you handled Evan the Calvinist who **started** by presenting the “who makes you to differ argument”. As you rightly answered, people have different reasons for both believing and not believing. In the Sower parable (Matt. 13:1-9, 18-23) when giving the explanation Jesus himself when discussing the three people who ended up not believing gave different reasons for each person’s unbelief. And while Jesus discusses some of the reasons for unbelief in that passage, that is not an exhaustive discussion of the topic. As you put it Ben: “People believe for a variety of reasons and people resist for a variety of reasons.” As you know I do a lot of evangelism with inmates and one of my favorite things to do is talk to people after their conversions and ask how it happened? And they give different stories and reasons for initially coming to Christ for salvation (as well as different reasons for not believing at first), so there is no one answer that fits every individual person.

    Ben I also like the way you turned the tables with your question for Evan:

    “Two believers are tempted to sin. God gives abundant grace for both believers to resist that sin and overcome temptation (1 Cor. 10:13; James 4:6-8; 2 Peter 1:2-10). One believer resists temptation while the other falls to it. Now if God gave sufficient grace to both, according to the Scriptures, then why did one fall while the other resisted? Wouldn’t that point to some mental advantage that the one believer had over the other? Could the one believer who overcame temptation through God’s grace then boast over the one who fell to temptation? What do you think?”

    That is a great way to bring out the problem with the “who makes you to differ argument”. We can (as you do in your example of dealing with temptation) apply the same reasoning behind that question to dealing with temptation (why does one believer succumb and the other resists? Is the one who resists more intelligent? More Spiritual? Better in some way?).

    From looking at Evan’s comments he seems to be parroting a lot of theological determinism without seeing the implications that follow from his assumptions. I thought this was also evident when Evan gave his answer to your question:

    “I wouldn’t say it was the power of contrary choice. But now having been given a new nature we have i guess i could say the ability to have the greatest inclination for good instead of being a slave to sin and wickedness. That its in us to be inclined to both good and evil. I would say its how each believers nature responds to the given factors and circumstance. Each person is given a measure of faith, and some by the grace of God have persevered in sanctification more than others. That when we overcome sin its not oweing to us but oweing to God who 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.(Philipians 2:13)
    And if we fall its owing to the us. And our remnant of sin we are battling.”

    Here I see two mistakes commonly made by Calvinists. He says that if the **believer** succumbs to temptation that it was “owing to us” and that it was “our remnant of sin we are battling”. This sounds as if “sin” is an agent inside of us causing us to do our sinful actions. That is not accurate. As believers who have the Holy Spirit in us, we are not controlled by an agent inside of us called “sin”, rather, when we sin, we freely choose to do so (against the dictates of the Spirit), and so we alone are responsible for our sinful action. Theological determinists tend to eliminate our personal responsibility by not laying the blame on us, upon our freely made sinful choices.

    A second common error that I have seen many Calvinists make and which appears in Evan’s words here is his explanation of what causes the believer to sin: “I would say its how each believers nature responds to the given factors and circumstance.” Notice here he speaks about our NATURE acting as a personal agent. That it is our NATURE that RESPONDS and causes us to sin. Again personal responsibility for sin is eliminated due to theology. Our NATURE is not a personal agent that causes anything to occur. We use the term “nature” to describe the properties of something. But that “nature” is not an acting agent. That “nature” is not a person, it does not cause anything to occur. To say that when we sin it is our NATURE that responds is to utter theology but not reality. At the final judgment God is not going to judge our NATURE he is going to judge US! And no one can say: “well my NATURE made me do it . . .” That is just an excuse, just an evasion of personal responsibility.

    And if you take the discussion of “nature” too far you end up with all sorts of strange questions. Such as: if the believer has a regenerate nature, then why does he still sin? Does his old nature overpower and overcome his new nature? Is the believer like a person possessed by two forces that seek to dictate his behavior (the new nature and the old nature)? If our old nature **causes** us to sin, then is it our old nature and not us sinning? Who is doing righteousness or sinning, is it us or our new/old nature? And if the nonbeliever only has an old nature then how do you explain that some nonbelievers are nicer people (e.g. Mormons are very nice people though their theology is flawed) than some professing believers? I mean, the questions just multiply when you try to blame things on your “nature” rather than on your own freely made choices.

    Robert

  9. “A second common error that I have seen many Calvinists make and which appears in Evan’s words here is his explanation of what causes the believer to sin: “I would say its how each believers nature responds to the given factors and circumstance.” Notice here he speaks about our NATURE acting as a personal agent. That it is our NATURE that RESPONDS and causes us to sin. Again personal responsibility for sin is eliminated due to theology. Our NATURE is not a personal agent that causes anything to occur. We use the term “nature” to describe the properties of something. But that “nature” is not an acting agent. That “nature” is not a person, it does not cause anything to occur. To say that when we sin it is our NATURE that responds is to utter theology but not reality. At the final judgment God is not going to judge our NATURE he is going to judge US! And no one can say: “well my NATURE made me do it . . .” That is just an excuse, just an evasion of personal responsibility.”

    Because we act in accordance to our own nature. Our nature is not something outside of of ourselves. Its some within us that we act in accordance with. Our nature isnt something outside of use forcing us or coercing us to act a certain way. Its from what our very choices and actions flow. Its within ourselves therefor we are fully responsible for those actions.

    18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.(Matthew 7:18)

    We act according to our natures. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannont bear good fruit.

  10. Evan wrote:

    “Because we act in accordance to our own nature. Our nature is not something outside of of ourselves. Its some within us that we act in accordance with. Our nature isnt something outside of use forcing us or coercing us to act a certain way.”

    Our human “nature” only sets limits or parameters on our range of choices, our “nature” does not cause us to do anything. For example the design plan for humans includes a nature that allows us to walk or run but not fly like a bird. So our nature limits our physical capabilities when it comes to movement(we can only choose to do what lies within our possible range of motion, our nature fixes that range of motion but does not cause the physical movements that we choose to make).

    Evan admits that our “nature” does not force us to do anything (“Our nature isn’t something outside of use forcing us or coercing us to act a certain way”), so our nature plays no role in the actual causation of our intentional actions.

    “Its from what our very choices and actions flow. Its within ourselves therefor we are fully responsible for those actions.”

    Our choices do not flow from our natures (our “natures” are not actual entities that cause anything to occur), our choices result from our deliberations and then the choices that we freely choose to do.

    Evan then appeals to a stock Calvinist **proof text** to show that our nature necessitates our actions:

    “18A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.(Matthew 7:18)
    We act according to our natures. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannont bear good fruit.”

    Theological determinists such as Evan often appeal to this passage ***as if it says*** that our “natures” dictate and necessitate our actions (i.e. so a good “nature” means we have to do and can only do good and a bad “nature” means that we have to do and can only do bad). But this is simplistic and naive. Evan explicitly states that “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” implying that the nonbeliever (theological determinists such as Evan take the “bad tree” to be referring to the unbeliever) the supposed bad tree can **only sin** and the believer the supposed “good tree” can only do righteousness. But this is not true. I assume Evan is a believer, a “good tree” and yet Evan STILL SINS, CORRECT? I also know some nonbelievers, some firemen for example, who do some very good things. This means that believers/good trees can still do bad and nonbelievers/bad trees can still do good. If we are going to describe people as “trees” then the believer is both a good and bad tree, or as Luther famously put it “simul Justus peccare” (simultaneously good and bad).

    A believer can both do righteousness and sin as a nonbeliever can both do good things and bad things (though our good works cannot justify us before God). What determines whether or not the person does good or evil? The choices that he makes. A believer can choose to do the right thing or choose to do the wrong thing. A believer can choose to resist temptation with the grace that God provides or a believer can resist God’s grace and choose to give in to the temptation. Your character then becomes what you consistently choose to do.

    Robert

  11. Another thing to keep in mind is that the tree analogy is not meant to be absolute, but a general principle and guideline. James uses the same basic image to say that godly people should not speak i nan ungodly way *even though they often do*!

    8 But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of adeadly poison.
    9 With it we bless aour Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, bwho have been made in the likeness of God;
    10 from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.
    11 Does a fountain send out from the same opening both 1fresh and bitter water?
    12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, produce olives, or a vine produce figs? Nor can salt water produce fresh.
    (Jam 3:8-12 NASB)

    While good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, godly human beings can bear bad fruit and ungodly human beings can bear good fruit, especially with God’s help. The principle, while not absolute, holds generally enough for one to be able to tell false teachers by their fruit. That’s the purpose Jesus uses the figure for, not to teach something about human will.

  12. Arminian wrote:

    “Another thing to keep in mind is that the tree analogy is not meant to be absolute, but a general principle and guideline.”

    Exactly. And the general principle in context is that you can discern false teachers by the fruit they produce.

    “ James uses the same basic image to say that godly people should not speak in an ungodly way *even though they often do*!”

    This was my point as well: believers are not completely righteous nor are we completely sinful. Instead, as believers, we really have a choice of whether we choose to do the right thing or not. This is why Paul urged the believers in Rome (cf., Romans 6:12-23) to present their members as “slaves of righteousness” (it is a choice that believers must engage in daily in order to live lives that are pleasing to the Lord, similar to Jesus’ command to “pick up your cross DAILY” Lk. 9:23).

    “While good tree cannot bear bad fruit and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, godly human beings can bear bad fruit and ungodly human beings can bear good fruit, especially with God’s help.”

    And the good fruit the believer does choose to do results from following the leading of the Spirit (cf. Phil 2:13).

    “The principle, while not absolute, holds generally enough for one to be able to tell false teachers by their fruit. That’s the purpose Jesus uses the figure for, not to teach something about human will.”

    Agreed, and particularly your last line, Jesus was using figurative language to discuss false teachers, his point was not on whether or not people have free will.

    If Arminian and I are correct, then the theological determinist who goes to the tree analogy to **prove** things about the human will is proof texting, his presupposition is seeking some sort of biblical support. This is not the proper way to interpret scripture. Rather than seeking biblical support for our preconceived presuppositions and notions, we ought to derive and develop our presuppositions and notions from what scripture properly exegeted yields.

    Robert

  13. Robert,

    The key thong about my post, or perhaps what it added to what you said is the specific biblical support that James uses the same basic image to say that godly people should not speak in an ungodly way even though they often do. So James uses the same figure in reference to the phenomenon that people do in fact produce good and bad fruit, thus showing that the principle is not absolute or rigid, but general. The principle as Jesus used it really is, you can tell false teachers by their actions (and I suppose implcitly, you can tell good teachers by their fruit, and even, you can tell godly vs. ungodly people by their actions).

  14. Key “thong”? Oh man. Key thing. Thing, thing, thing. No wisecracks!

    While I am at it, it should have been “implicitly in the parentheses too.

  15. Hello Arminian,

    Thanks for your clarification that:

    “The key thing about my post, or perhaps what it added to what you said is the specific biblical support that James uses the same basic image to say that godly people should not speak in an ungodly way even though they often do. So James uses the same figure in reference to the phenomenon that people do in fact produce good and bad fruit, thus showing that the principle is not absolute or rigid, but general.”

    You make a good point that James was clearly speaking of believers and saying they are not purely righteous nor purely sinful, but capable of doing both: depending upon which way they choose in a particular situation.

    This brings out another major problem with Calvinism/theological determinism: the scriptures which speaks about the believer explicitly says the believer faces real choices, urges the believer to make the right choices, says the believers sometimes makes the wrong choice and so needs forgiveness, does not excuse the believer’s sin due to their “sin nature” necessitating their sin, and is full of exhortations for believers to choose to do the right thing. None of any of this makes any sense if our actions are completely predetermined and we never ever have a choice.

    Another way to put it is that the theological determinist may claim to believe or even espouse his exhaustive determinism in discussions, but when living in the real world, when doing sermons or teaching bible studies they act and sound just like a non-Calvinist. In other words when dealing with real life they have to borrow from the non-Calvinist’s views, which are in fact the views presented in the bible. Their views then are inimical with the daily reality of living the Christian life. And watching them claim one thing in their espoused philosophy/theology, and then live something completely differently in daily life can even be quite comical. 🙂

    Robert

  16. The comments by F. Leroy Forlines are excellent and worth considering and contemplating, and I agree they overall are “an excellent representation of the Arminian viewpoint.”

    For the purposes of clarification on some of the statements by Forlines above, I believe it is important to state the perspective from which a person is speaking, as Forlines does state in the excerpt above. I cannot find fault with what Forlines has stated from his perspective, but I would like to reconsider his conclusion in the above excerpt from another perspective. The specific quotation I would like to re-examine is the following:

    “The difference between the Calvinistic concept of faith and my concept of faith cannot be that theirs is monergistic and mine is synergistic. In both cases it is synergistic. Active participation in faith by the believer means it must be synergistic. Human response cannot be ruled out of faith. Justification and regeneration are monergistic. Each is an act of God, not man. Faith is a human act by divine enablement and therefore cannot be monergistic.”

    These statements are perceptive and stated well from what I would call the “micro” perspective Forlines has taken by splitting up saving faith and regeneration, and by examining them as separate components in the salvation process.

    While I agree with the way Forlines has made his statements, I usually take what I would call a “macro” perspective concerning these separate events, and often classify “saving faith” (or “regenerative faith”) with the divinely monergistic act of “regeneration” due to the fact that the divinely monergistic act of “regeneration” is not possible without the presence of “regenerative faith” in the human subject.

    From a “macro” perspective, where one lumps “regenerative faith” with the divinely monergistic act (as Forlines has noted) of “regeneration” the resulting macro perspective allows one to classify the macro view of regeneration ( 1. “regenerative faith” + 2. divinely monergistic “regeneration”) as synergistic. This macro view is simply a different perspective then the micro view Forlines has taken where he dissects and classifyies regenerative faith (in the individual) as isolated from the divinely monergistic act of regeneration.

    I believe it is permissible to view these components as isolated from each other (as Forlines has done) or as integral to each other (the macro view). The difference is the micro view can call “regenaration” as divinely monergistic, but the macro view of regeneration (which adds “regenerative faith” in the human subject to the equation) can be called synergistic.

    I believe the differences in classifying regeneration as “monergistic” or “synergistic” depends on whether one is speaking of “regeneration” from a micro view or macro view, but the opposing classifications for “regeneration” are not in opposition to each other, but simply the result of taking different perspectives in the way one views these components (as isolated or dependant).

    Paul

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