Resistible Grace or Sinless Perfection? A Call For Theological Precision in The Calvinist Accounting of Monergistic Conversion

 A recent question in the ??Questions?? thread reminded me of an issue I raised long ago [1].  I thought it would be beneficial to raise this question again in more detail and maybe get some feedback from any Calvinists out there that may be able to come up with a satisfying answer.

The question has to do with why, in Calvinism, the newly regenerated sinner necessarily turns to Christ in faith [2].  Calvinists tend to bristle at the suggestion that the newly regenerated sinner chooses Christ in such a way that the choice cannot be considered free.  Most Calvinists still want to speak of the process in terms of freedom.  They tell us that such a person, once regenerated, will be motivated by the new nature created within and as a result recognize the beauty and value of Christ in such a way that this person will freely, in accordance with the new desires produced by regeneration, turn to Christ.  Calvinist John Piper illustrates the point,

The most immediate and decisive work of God in the new birth is that the new life he creates sees the superior value of Jesus over all else. And with no lapse of time at all, this spiritual sight of the superior value of Jesus results in receiving Jesus as the Treasure that he is. (source)

My question pertains to how this faith response can be a theological certainty given the remaining presence of the sinful nature?  Unless the sinful nature is wholly overcome or eradicated, what is to prevent the regenerated sinner from yielding instead to the desires and motives still remaining in the sinful nature, and reject Christ?

Many Calvinists seem comfortable with the idea that the sinful nature is at least wholly overcome when the sinner is regenerated.  This would explain how the regenerated sinner might be said to “freely choose” Christ without the possibility remaining of the desires of the flesh interfering in the process [3].  But if that is the case, why is it that the sinful nature is able to overcome the godly desires of the regenerated nature and produce sin in the regenerate post conversion?

It seems to me that for the Calvinist to be consistent, he should hold to a view of sinless perfection from the moment of initial regeneration onward, a view of entire sanctification that would even make the strictest Wesleyan uncomfortable.  There should never again be a moment when the regenerated believer chooses again in accordance with the sinful nature.  If the sinful nature and its desires are wholly overcome at the point of initial regeneration, why should that change?  Unless the believer ceases to be regenerated, there should be no reason for the believer to ever sin again [5].  Sin should no longer be possible.  But Calvinists do not believe this.  It is contrary to both Scripture and reality.

This is likely the reason why some Calvinists are even comfortable in saying that while initial conversion is monergistic, sanctification is synergistic (which creates further difficulties for both Calvinist theology and Calvinist polemics: see here and here).  But I have yet to see an explanation as to why this should be the case, given the Calvinist assumptions on how the newly regenerated nature apparently operates to guarantee the person will “freely choose” Christ.

So it seems to me that the Calvinist has some issues to work out.  If the newly regenerated nature does not wholly overcome the sinful nature, guaranteeing a positive response to Christ, then it can only be said to enable the sinner to choose between competing motives.  If that is the case, then Calvinism will quickly find its accounting of initial conversion to have no practical difference from that of  Arminian prevenient grace.  Irresistible grace suddenly becomes resistible, in which case we gladly welcome the Calvinist to the Arminian camp.

On the other hand, if the Calvinist wants to maintain that the regenerated nature eradicates or wholly overcomes the sinful nature, they need to explain how or why this should suddenly change after initial regeneration so that the regenerated nature’s desires are often overcome, evidenced by the sinful choices that believers still occasionally make after conversion [6].  If the Calvinist answer is to make sanctification synergistic, then the Calvinist needs to also explain how synergistic sanctification isn’t sanctification “by works” in accordance with the Calvinist charge that Arminian synergistic conversion amounts to salvation “by works”? 

Conclusion

In light of the above questions and potential inconsistencies created by the Calvinist accounting of the conversion process, there is need for theological precision on the part of the Calvinist regarding the specifics of the claim that regeneration causes faith in the sinner.  There is especially need for precision regarding the claim that regeneration causes the sinner to “freely” embrace Christ. It is not that this issue, in general, necessarily presents an impossible or fatal problem for Calvinism (though the specific claim that we can “freely” choose something that has been predetermined or necessitated is incoherent, see footnote # 3 below), but it does mean the Calvinist has some explaining to do as to how their view makes sense, and at the very least, exposes a need for Calvinists who make such arguments to be more careful and precise in explaining how and why regeneration causes faith in the sinner, as well as explaining how and why this process should change post conversion.

[Note: Some necessary revisions have been made in the conclusion since its original posting.]

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[1] See the last two paragraphs of my post, Fletcher on Being “Dead in Sin” Part 2

[2] I refer to the person as a “regenerated sinner” for the sake of illustrating that we are speaking of the regenerated person logically prior to coming to faith.

[3] See my post, The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture, for why I find the language of choice to be wholly incompatible with Calvinist determinism.

[4] Here it is proper to speak of the regenerated person as a believer rather than a sinner since we are now focusing on the person’s state after regeneration has produced faith.  Strangely, if my observations are correct, the Calvinist might be forced to view the will of the regenerated “unbeliever” as stronger than the will of the regenerated “believer”.  This makes one wonder why faith should not be considered a detriment to the person’s ability to resist sin, which is obviously in sharp disagreement with the testimony of Scripture (e.g., Eph. 6:16; 1 John 5:4; Acts 26:18).

[5] In fact, it is often Calvinists who tend to emphasize the Christian’s weakness as a sinner (e.g., see the typical Calvinist interpretation of Romans 7).  I have often interacted with Calvinists who claim that Christians sin “a thousand times a day”, or something similar.

[6] See my post, Sanctification by Works?   It should also be noted that Calvinists seem to view resistible grace as no grace at all.  For this reason, Calvinists say that Arminians deny salvation by grace because Arminians see such saving grace as resistible.  But if the Calvinist holds to synergistic sanctification then the Calvinist must admit that resistible grace is no less grace than irresistible grace.  If that is the case, the Calvinist insistence that Arminianism does not teach salvation by grace is shown to be completely baseless.  Sadly,  Calvinists seem to keep ignoring such obvious inconsistencies and continue to libel Arminiansm as a system of “works salvation.”

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33 Responses

  1. It’s a mystery.

    Lol.

  2. Would it make sense to say that the regenerated will is such that it irresistibly chooses Christ for salvation but may still at times disobey His commands?

    I think “4-point” Arminians would say this about our post-conversion life.

  3. Easy. Because the Bible says so. The Bible clearly represents monergistic regeneration, but also holds that we still sin after re-birth. Anything beyond that is speculation.

  4. Tom,

    You are probably correct. Strange that God would irresistibly preserve our faith, but not irresistibly cause our obedience.

  5. I don’t think that Tom’s suggestion makes too much sense. It might be logically possible, but it sounds like special pleading. Why would the regenerated will have such a character as to irresistibly cause obedience to the gospel charge, but not any other command of God?

    As for 4 point Arminians, they do not necessarily say the same thing about post conversion life. They hold that people can freely begin to believe in Christ, but believers cannot turn away from the faith because God won’t let them. I think Ben is right to observe, “Strange that God would irresistibly preserve our faith, but not irresistibly cause our obedience.” But that is still different than saying that the regenerated nature irresistibly causes them to choose Christ for salvation but not for other things. In the 4 point Arminian scheme, disallowing them to turn away is God’s action. It is different than saying the new nature irresistibly overcomes the old nature to believe but not for any other obedience. 4 point Arminians who would chalk it up to the new nature rather than additional, specific action of God might find themselves in the same trouble as Calvinists on this question.

    That being said, let me say that it is nonsense to speak of being irresistibly caused to choose Christ (or anything), since in the case of irresistible causation, there is no choice.

  6. “In the 4 point Arminian scheme, disallowing them to turn away is God’s action. It is different than saying the new nature irresistibly overcomes the old nature to believe but not for any other obedience.”

    That makes sense more sense than what I was suggesting. Thanks for the response.

  7. Jon,

    What do you mean by monergistic regeneration? I hold to monergistic regeneration in the sense that God alone is the one who regenerates us (we do not regenerate ourselves), but that does not mean that God’s act of regeneration isn’t conditioned on faith. If you mean that God irresistibly and unconditionally regenerates us unto faith, then to say the Bible “clearly represents” that view is quite wild in my opinion. I certainly have never seen such a concept “clearly” represented in Scripture. Not even close.

    If your answer to the rest is “I don’t know, and I don’t need to know”, then that is fine with me. You are just not interested in the theological precision this post calls for. As for speculation, in another thread you asked me why saints cannot apostatize in heaven. You do know that is largely a matter of speculation right?

    God Bless,
    Ben

  8. Here are my thoughts.

    Question 1: How can a faith response be a theological certainty given the remaining presence of the sinful nature?

    Answer: According to Determinism, God scripts all thoughts (past, present and future), as part of the “total plan” of an immutable, comprehensive eternal decree, without which, the C-God could not possess infallible knowledge of all things yet to be.

    Question 2: What is to prevent the regenerated sinner from yielding instead to the desires and motives still remaining in the sinful nature, and reject Christ?

    Answer: Because their thoughts are allegedly scripted. Everything is predestined…thought, word and deed, throughout eternity, and hence, it is an *extremely controlled environment,* with the divine illusion of freedom, all for the purpose of displaying a variety of divine attributes.

    You wrote: Initial conversion is monergistic whereas sanctification is synergistic.

    That would actually be an illusion created by the deterministic paradigm, as it only appears synergistic, when yet everything is monergistic, even sin, and hence, the charge that C is the author of sin: stands. (This is where a clever C will “prove” that 1+1=3 and show that the C-God is not the author of what He scripts.)

    I don’t believe that any of this reflects the true God of the Bible, but merely represents the pagan philosophy of Determinism superimposed on Scripture.

  9. 100% of all your objections to Calvinism (collectively) is that you are implicitly trying to hang on to the same creature and save that creature. You don’t have any actual regeneration going on, just a change of ‘salvation status’ of the same creature with the same heart, same mind and same speech ( the speech that God broke up at the tower of Babel).

    Additionally, you have a false concept of predestination and election that you call ‘determinism’. The determinism of philosophy and which is spoken and understood by the mind that thinks the speech God broke up at Babel can understand God has nothing to do with Christ Jesus or new creation. You are all standing outside regeneration, pontificating about what it might be like if you, supposedly in freedom, ‘choose’ to do …whatever is necessary for a free willed entity to do to be reborn. You can’t regenerate yourself. Period.

    In Christ, we are free FROM that problem. In the speech God broke up at Babel, you are not. Freedom FROM sin is just as important as freedom TO DO good. You poke fun at Calvinism because you are slaves to the speech that is not Christ AND you think your speech, the speech which cannot create anything, is the only speech in total reality. You are effectively equating the speech God broke up at Babel, human speech, with Christ ..which is the unforgiveable sin.
    Granted, all men do that by default as a consequence of being fallen in the speech of the serpent, the speech God broke up at Babel. But you have hope in Christ to be non-metaphorically born again as a new/different creature and the committing of the unforgivable sin attributed to the old creature. That, and the separation from sin is WHY you must be born again.

    As of your last post, you are just going around in circles, making sense to yourselves and on your way to the lake of fire. You didn’t get this far and complicated in your objections against Christ and new creation for yourselves and never hear the real gospel.

    Question: How does an arminian get out of/escape human speech? He/she doesn’t. They don’t want to. Human speech and the common sense of a non-creating paradigm is the only speech in which arminianism/free will makes sense.

    Your speech makes sense to you. Christ as Word of God makes sense to those of us who have actually been born again by hearing the Word of God.

    Luke-54 11:52 Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered. And as he said these things unto them, the scribes and the Pharisees began to urge him vehemently, and to provoke him to speak of many things: Laying wait for him, and seeking to catch something out of his mouth, that they might accuse him.

    In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen

  10. ccr,

    I am sorry, but I just can’t make any sense of your comments. Like you say, your speech may make sense to you, but to me it is incoherent. That is too bad coming from someone with a moniker of “christianclarityreview”. We will just have to agree to disagree since it is clear to me that we simply will not be able to understand each other. However, I would strongly caution you against saying I am going to the lake of fire, etc., just because we disagree on Calvinism/Arminianism. Just curious, is their anyone out there besides you who knows the “real gospel?” You can consider that a rhetorical question.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  11. Richard,

    I agree. It was more of an exercise in showing that their claim that we choose Christ “freely” after regeneration is inaccurate.

  12. Kangaroo,

    You said: “What do you mean by monergistic regeneration? I hold to monergistic regeneration in the sense that God alone is the one who regenerates us (we do not regenerate ourselves), but that does not mean that God’s act of regeneration isn’t conditioned on faith.”

    Where in Scripture do you find that REGENERATION is conditioned on faith? How could a spiritually dead person choose to place their faith in God? How could a dead person see the light?

    And if you say prevenient grace, I will simply ask why you chose God and not your neighbor. If you were wiser, humbler, etc., then you believe you merited your salvation somehow.

  13. Jon,

    Thanks for sharing this novel Calvinist argument. I have never heard it before (wink, wink). Would you like me to direct you to the numerous posts at this blog that address these comments?

    Let me briefly address the last part. You say that you hold to synergistic sanctification. Is that correct? So how is it that synergistic conversion means we merit salvation (according to you), but synergistic sanctification doesn’t mean we merit sanctification? Does everyone progress in synergistic sanctification the same way? Suppose you are more sanctified than a fellow brother who got saved at the same time you did. Is that because you are wiser, humbler, etc.? If two believers have the grace to endure temptation (1 Cor. 10:13) and one gives in while the other stands strong, does the one who stands strong have reason to boast over the one that fell? Was it because he or she was more wise, humble, etc.?

    Anyway, you said the Bible clearly taught that regeneration precedes faith. So the burden of proof is on you. Just where exactly is that “clearly” taught? And while you are at it, please show me the Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse.

    Thanks,
    Ben

  14. Jon,

    Regarding your last point, the Bible never makes a rebuke against those who claim that since they freely believed in Christ (apart from monergistic preemptive regeneration) have thusly established their own “merit.” This is an extra-biblical, philosophical argument, super-imposed upon Scripture by those who have an extra-biblical agenda. No offense. I’m just saying that your point is not Scripturally based.

    Regarding your first point, you correctly answered Prevenient Grace.

    Regarding your second point, in terms of why one person chooses one way, while another person chooses another way, why do you believe that Adam & Eve (two perfectly sinless creatures) choose to misuse their freedom and fall? Why did the woman first choose to disobey, and then her husband second? They did not have total depravity. So how do you account for their free choices, apart from the same type of free-will that Arminians espouse?

  15. CCR,

    You wrote: “Additionally, you have a false concept of predestination and election that you call ‘determinism’.”

    You asserted that your view of predestination was unlike the philosophy of determinism, but making that assertion is all that you did. You never explained how you can distinguish the two.

    Note: you cannot say that whereas Determinism in philosophy is devoid of God, Predestination in Calvinism is based upon God, since the early Determinists absolutely affirmed God’s hand in Determinism (see Aristotle, Plotinus, the Gnostics, ect., all who affirmed divine causation. These were not evolutionists.)

    Arminians would like to know how Calvinists distinguish their theological Predestination from philosophical Determinism. Both systems have “God” doing the predestining and determining, and both systems believe that nothing is left *un-determined.* So where is the difference between the two?

    Further, if you believe that one must become a Calvinist in order to become saved, then you have added something extra to the gospel, and which the Bible says will surely bring a curse. So do you wish to clarify?

    P.S. Your comments on “Babel” did not make a shred of sense. It was totally incoherent.

  16. Richard,

    How would you distinguish your indeterminism from that of pagan philosophy?

    (Ps. of course I don’t agree with ccr on Arminians being unsaved.)

  17. Richard,

    You said: “the Bible never makes a rebuke against those who claim that since they freely believed in Christ (apart from monergistic preemptive regeneration) have thusly established their own “merit.” ”

    Well, of course not, since it never assumes unregenerate people choosing God! Your statement is pure question-begging. You insert your definition of people believing and then say the Bible never rebukes it. But see, the Bible says that we are saved by faith ALONE, apart from works. It also says that the entire package of salvation, including saving faith, is a GIFT of God (Eph. 2:8). But if your system is true, then you can claim some merit in salvation since you chose God while your neighbor rejected him (a point Kangaroo conveniently ignored).

    You can push the question back to the fall all you want (and we can talk about the fall and how Arminianism doesn’t explain it), but that it not the issue. We are not talking about unfallen beings here. We are talking about totally depraved persons who are spiritually dead. How in the world can a pagan DESIRE God? Especially in light of Romans 3 and Romans 8:7-8.

  18. Kangaroo,

    You said: “So how is it that synergistic conversion means we merit salvation (according to you), but synergistic sanctification doesn’t mean we merit sanctification?”

    Because sanctification doesn’t MERIT anything – it was never meant to. Only Christ can merit our salvation and we receive this by faith when his righteousness is imputed to us. After we are born again and joined to Christ through faith, THEN we will live lives of progressive holiness. This holiness is not the GROUNDS of our salvation, our justification is. You must distinguish between justification and sanctification, and the roles of each.

    PS. Yes, I would love you to show me where my first question has been answered.

  19. Jon,

    1) Actually the Bible does assume “unregenerate people choosing God.” See Paul’s sermon to the pagan Athenians at Acts 17:26-27: “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, ***that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us***.” That is the norm, and based upon that norm, no Bible writer ever raised the Calvinist objection, which tells me that the Calvinist objection is an extra-biblical fabrication.

    2) My definition of “people believing” is simply the natural reading, whereas the Calvinist reading is that people must be “in Christ” in order to believe in Christ.

    3) The Bible says that we are saved by faith alone, but…without ever saying that faith “can be a meritorious work if we believe that faith comes apart from irresistible, secret regeneration.” Calvinists like to try to equate faith as a “work” if done apart from irresistible grace, but again, that’s an extra-biblical objection. Did the apostles simply not have time to address it?

    4) At Eph 2:8, salvation is the “gift” of God, through faith, just as eternal life is the free gift of God: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

    4) While you repeat that I can claim some merit, I repeat that this is a fabricated objection, since no Bible verse ever raises your objection.

    5) Arminianism beautifully explains the Fall, which Calvinists like RC Sproul has admitted that he cannot explain why Adam fell. RC Sproul: “But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.” (Chosen By God, p.31)

    6) You wanted to know why a pagan would ever desire God, and 1) I would point to the power of the Gospel, and 2) the Holy Spirit’s kicking and goading upon the unregenerate heart, just as Paul described at Acts 26:14.

    7) Regarding indeterminism, I cite the church fathers in opposition to the Gnostic determinists, in which Irenaeus (30-200 AD) quoted Matthew 23:37: “This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God…And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice…If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things and to abstain from others?” (Against Heresies XXXVII, Book 4, Ch. 37) Furthermore, I would cite Matthew 25:41 as a basis for indeterminism, because Jesus said that Hell was made for the devil and his angels, with no mention of any alleged “non-elect” people, so I can say that on the authority of Jesus that this means that Hell was not *determined* for man, but that according to the context, man will go there too, if man rebels against God like the devil and his angels did. That’s indeterminism.

    I cannot convince you, though, because committed Calvinists absolutely love and revere Calvinism, and they loathe any kind of Savior who does not predetermine “whatsoever comes to pass.” Calvinists have described the Arminian concept of God and Jesus to me as a “pitiable wimp,” “cosmic bellhop,” “great grandfather in the sky,” “incompetent,” “unhappy” and who “waits impotently at the door of a man’s heart.” So if that’s what you think too, then what can be accomplished here?

  20. I wonder to what degree that God has called Christians to argue over theology. The Bible says to give a defense for what you believe, and I do not accept the witness of Calvinists regarding Calvinism. I think it’s Satan’s masterpiece, and I wouldn’t wish Calvinism on my worst enemy, let alone my Christian brothers. I think that at some point, you need to just state your testimony & defense, and leave it at that, and anything more than that is evil.

  21. Jon,

    You wrote:

    You said: “So how is it that synergistic conversion means we merit salvation (according to you), but synergistic sanctification doesn’t mean we merit sanctification?”

    Because sanctification doesn’t MERIT anything – it was never meant to.

    Somehow you have seemed to entirely miss the point. If synergism in sanctification does not equate to sanctification by works, then synergism in intitial conversion (we believe as God enables us) does not equate to salvation by works. In other words, if we can be sanctified synergistically (and sanctification is by faith), and it not be of works, then we can be converted synergistically, and it not be of works. To say “sanctification doesn’t merit anything-it was never meant to” does not address the inconsistency. Likewise, I can just say “faith doesn’t merit anything-it was never meant to.” And that is correct. But you have asserted that if salvation is conditioned on faith, it must be of works (merit). Why not apply that assertion to sanctification?

    Only Christ can merit our salvation and we receive this by faith when his righteousness is imputed to us.

    Exactly! We receive the merit of His salvation by faith. By faith we receive a free and undeserved gift from God. That is why it is not of works, and that is why it excludes boasting. We do not earn it, we just receive the free unearned, undeserved gift through simple trust in Christ to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves- save us (Romans 4). Any nonsense about grace not being grace unless it is irresistible, or a gift not being a gift unless it is irresistible, is Calvinist philosophy imposed on the Bible. Nowhere does the Bible say such things.

    After we are born again and joined to Christ through faith, THEN we will live lives of progressive holiness.

    First, we are joined to Christ and His spiritual life by faith (Eph. 1:13). We recieve the Spirit of life by faith (Galatians 3:2, 5, 14; Rom. 8:1-16). The righteousness that imparts life is recieved by faith (Romans 5:15-21; 8:10). We are children of God by faith (Gal. 3:26-29; John 1:12, 13). Therefore, faith plainly precedes regeneration (new spiritual life; becoming God’s children).

    Second, is our progressive holiness synergistic? You said it was before. So do we progress in holiness by works, according to your own claims about synergism equating to works in conversion?

    This holiness is not the GROUNDS of our salvation, our justification is.

    I never claimed otherwise, but I would say it is more accurate to say that Christ is the grounds of our salvation. But it seems you have latched onto something important here, recognizing the importance of justification logically preceding holiness. We can’t become holy until we are forgiven and justified. Neither can we expereince new spiritual life while still in our sins and under the condemnation of the death that our sins cause in us. Sin must first be removed and the blood of Christ applied before new life and holiness can begin. In other words, justification must logically precede regeneration and sanctification. Since justification is by faith, it follows that faith must logically precede regenration.

    You must distinguish between justification and sanctification, and the roles of each.

    See above. You must distinguish between justification and regeneration and recognize the necessary priority of justification in the ordo salutis. When you do that you will see why claiming that regeneration precedes faith creates numerous theological absurdities.

    PS. Yes, I would love you to show me where my first question has been answered.

    Here are a few to get you started:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/03/17/the-arminian-and-calvinist-ordo-salutis-a-brief-comparative-study/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/what-can-the-dead-in-sin-do/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2007/07/27/does-regeneration-precede-faith/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/paul-washer%e2%80%99s-%e2%80%93-%e2%80%9cdoctrine%e2%80%9d-of-election-an-arminian-critique/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/03/10/parallel-passages-on-regeneration/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2008/02/19/examining-inconsistencies-in-calvinistic-monergism-part-2-sanctification/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/10/19/sanctification-by-works/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/synergism-as-a-model-for-gods-glory/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-%e2%80%93-fallacy-10-wait-now-faith-is-a-work/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-%e2%80%93-fallacy-9-faith-is-some-reason-to-boast/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/06/18/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-fallacy-2-arminianism-entails-salvation-by-inherent-ability/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2009/06/12/the-fallacies-of-calvinist-apologetics-fallacy-1-if-we-have-libertarian-free-will-what-makes-us-choose-one-way-or-the-other/

    That should keep you busy for a while.

    God bless,
    Ben

  22. But see, the Bible says that we are saved by faith ALONE, apart from works. It also says that the entire package of salvation, including saving faith, is a GIFT of God (Eph. 2:8). But if your system is true, then you can claim some merit in salvation since you chose God while your neighbor rejected him (a point Kangaroo conveniently ignored).

    Jon,

    First, you are not really in a position to be complaining about things being conveniently ignored, as you have conveniently ignored a great deal in our discussions so far (like how I had just asked you to produce a single passage of Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse).

    Second, I answered you with the same question regarding two believers who resist temptation or fall to it in order to get you to see how your question is problematic. Maybe you missed that part, or just conveniently ignored it. Let me try again. If one believer resists temptation while another does not, can the one believer claim some sort of “merit” in resisting temptation since he resisted while his fellow believer did not?

    For more on this, I left several links to posts (above) that address this in more detail.

  23. Kangaroo,

    Your posts are very long, so if I missed anything, it was not intentional. However, you took the time to scoff at my question, but never answered it, so it looked like you were ignoring it.

    As for your question on linking spiritual death with the inability of a corpse, this question is almost too obvious to answer. Aren’t you the one always touting taking the plain meanings of words? How many “dead” people have you seen get up out of the coffin and “choose” to love someone? Paul uses spiritual death for a reason in Ephesians 2. The onus is on you to show why death means slightly alive.

  24. It’s interesting that you quote Ephesians 1, one of the strongest election passages, to support your view. The very next verse after the one you quote speaks of God choosing us before the foundation of the world. Of course, you would say this is referring to a corporate body? But the text never indiacates that. It is talking about individual people who God has chosen for eternal life.

    Regarding your questions on justification/sanctification, here goes. Sanctification is synergistic, yet it is not of works because the Holy Spirit is working through us to empower us to do good works every step of the way. We work together, yet even the work we do is powered by the Spirit. So, I couldn’t boast to my neighbor because even the areas I may be more sanctified in (using our example) are due 100% to the HS. See, the Calvinist is not an either/or. He is not a indeterminist or a determinist (in the philosophical senses). He is a God’s Providencest :)

    In regeneration the Spirit is working completely by himself, apart from anything we do at all. He is making a dead man alive. Breathing life into our corpse. He gives us eyes to see and ears to hear. He turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. We cannot see until He opens our eyes. Regeneration MUST precede faith. “Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Rom 8:8 (In the flesh refers to the unregenerate.)

  25. Richard,

    1) Actually the Bible does assume “unregenerate people choosing God.” See Paul’s sermon to the pagan Athenians at Acts 17:26-27: “He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, ***that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us***.”
    Brother, this is simple question begging. You are reading your theology into the text and then concluding your theology is correct. Yes, people seek God! The Calvinist gladly agrees with this! The question is WHO seeks God and WHY? The answer is those who the Spirit draws to him. They seek him because God has opened up their eyes and given them hearts that desire him. If this is the “norm” that keeps you from considering Calvinism, then you need to rethink that.

    2) My definition of “people believing” is simply the natural reading, whereas the Calvinist reading is that people must be “in Christ” in order to believe in Christ.

    No, this is not what the Calvinist says. The Calvinist does not believe you are “in Christ” until you are joined to him by conversion (faith). However, you will never believe while you are spiritual dead. You must be made alive first.

    3) The Bible says that we are saved by faith alone, but…without ever saying that faith “can be a meritorious work if we believe that faith comes apart from irresistible, secret regeneration.” Calvinists like to try to equate faith as a “work” if done apart from irresistible grace, but again, that’s an extra-biblical objection. Did the apostles simply not have time to address it?

    Actually, the apostles addressed justification being by faith alone many times. No, they may not have addressed every particular future instance that men would devise. But ANY WORK is a WORK and not faith by definition. If you believe that your faith causes God to regenerate you (or causes him to choose you as most Arminians (but not Kangaroo) believe), then you believe in salvation by works.

    4) At Eph 2:8, salvation is the “gift” of God, through faith, just as eternal life is the free gift of God: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23)

    Salvation is the entire package. Faith is one component of this package. The whole package is a free gift.

    4) While you repeat that I can claim some merit, I repeat that this is a fabricated objection, since no Bible verse ever raises your objection.

    5) Arminianism beautifully explains the Fall, which Calvinists like RC Sproul has admitted that he cannot explain why Adam fell. RC Sproul: “But Adam and Eve were not created fallen. They had no sin nature. They were good creatures with a free will. Yet they chose to sin. Why? I don’t know. Nor have I found anyone yet who does know.” (Chosen By God, p.31)

    Richard, please tell me how Arminianism beautifully explains the fall.
    6) You wanted to know why a pagan would ever desire God, and 1) I would point to the power of the Gospel, and 2) the Holy Spirit’s kicking and goading upon the unregenerate heart, just as Paul described at Acts 26:14.

    But isn’t the gospel equally powerful for all in your system? So why did you choose, but not your neighbor? Are you smarter, humbler, better, wiser, etc.?
    7) Regarding indeterminism, I cite the church fathers in opposition to the Gnostic determinists, in which Irenaeus (30-200 AD) quoted Matthew 23:37: “This expression, ‘How often would I have gathered thy children together, and thou wouldst not,’ set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free (agent) from the beginning, possessing his own soul to obey the behests of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God…And in man as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice…If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things and to abstain from others?” (Against Heresies XXXVII, Book 4, Ch. 37) Furthermore, I would cite Matthew 25:41 as a basis for indeterminism, because Jesus said that Hell was made for the devil and his angels, with no mention of any alleged “non-elect” people, so I can say that on the authority of Jesus that this means that Hell was not *determined* for man, but that according to the context, man will go there too, if man rebels against God like the devil and his angels did. That’s indeterminism.

    No, that’s not indeterminism. Indeterminism means there is literally no reason, no cause to be exact, for a given effect. So you might choose Jesus even if you don’t want to. Or you might choose hell even if you love Jesus. That is literally what indeterminism means. If you don’t believe me, look it up. It is a philosophical construct that does not cohere with reality.

    I cannot convince you, though, because committed Calvinists absolutely love and revere Calvinism, and they loathe any kind of Savior who does not predetermine “whatsoever comes to pass.” Calvinists have described the Arminian concept of God and Jesus to me as a “pitiable wimp,” “cosmic bellhop,” “great grandfather in the sky,” “incompetent,” “unhappy” and who “waits impotently at the door of a man’s heart.” So if that’s what you think too, then what can be accomplished here?

    Richard,

    I cannot convince you, though, because committed Arminians absolutely love and revere Arminianism, and they loathe any kind of Savior who does predetermines “whatsoever comes to pass.” Arminians have described the Calvinist concept of God and Jesus to me as “evil” and “Satanic” and “cruel” and “unfair” and “unjust” and “unloving”. So if that’s what you think too, then what can be accomplished here?

    Richard, does the reversal of the argument show you its absurdity? I am open and willing to be convinced of your system if you can simply show me that it is Biblical. Honest. I am not in love with Calvin (though he was a great theologian). I am in love with Jesus. I love that he saved me from first to last and didn’t just make my salvation a theoretical possibility. Are you willing to even consider that you may be mistaken on this important issue?

  26. Richard,

    Pursuing truth is not evil. Perhaps this attitude is what has lead to an anti-intellectual mood among evangelical Arminians. Jesus is the truth. This is important stuff. Don’t give up. You don’t have to talk to me, but keep reading and studying up on it. Have you ever read a book by a Calvinist? “Chosen by God”, by RC Sproul is a good place to start.

  27. Jon,

    You wrote,

    It’s interesting that you quote Ephesians 1, one of the strongest election passages, to support your view.

    It is interesting that you just assume this passage supports Calvinist unconditional election. That is question begging.

    The very next verse after the one you quote speaks of God choosing us before the foundation of the world.

    Oops, you forgot the “in Him” part. That creates big problems for your interpretation here.

    Of course, you would say this is referring to a corporate body? But the text never indiacates that. It is talking about individual people who God has chosen for eternal life.

    You obviously do not know much about the corporate election view. That is probably because you have only read about it from Calvinist misrepresentations. I recommend the following articles to help you gain the proper perspective on corporate election and the proper interpretation of Ephesians 1:4,

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Corporate-Election-in-Romans-9:A-Reply-to-Thomas-Schreiner

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/Abasciano-Clearing-Up-Misconceptions-about-Corporate-Election

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/glynn.Dr.Brian-Abasciano-Responds-To-Dr.Dan-Wallace-On-The-Issue-Of-Corporate-Election

    Regarding your questions on justification/sanctification, here goes. Sanctification is synergistic, yet it is not of works because the Holy Spirit is working through us to empower us to do good works every step of the way. We work together, yet even the work we do is powered by the Spirit. So, I couldn’t boast to my neighbor because even the areas I may be more sanctified in (using our example) are due 100% to the HS.

    Sorry, that cannot be accurate if you are “working together.” Look at the following copy of your above paragraph with my additions:

    [Faith] is synergistic, yet it is not of works because the Holy Spirit is working through us to empower us to [believe] every step of the way. We work together, yet even the work we do is powered by the Spirit.

    A nice description of Arminian prevenient grace working to bring us to faith, but not irresistibly so.

    See, the Calvinist is not an either/or. He is not a indeterminist or a determinist (in the philosophical senses). He is a God’s Providencest

    Sorry, I can’t make any sense of this. Feel free to elaborate.

    In regeneration the Spirit is working completely by himself, apart from anything we do at all.

    I agree, but that does not mean it cannot be in response to faith, as the Scriptures everywhere testify.

    He is making a dead man alive. Breathing life into our corpse.

    I agree, but again this is in response to faith and is the result of being joined to Christ (through faith), Who is the source of spiritual life.

    He gives us eyes to see and ears to hear. He turns our heart of stone to a heart of flesh. We cannot see until He opens our eyes. Regeneration MUST precede faith. “Unless a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” John 3:3. “Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.” Rom 8:8 (In the flesh refers to the unregenerate.)

    See the following posts on John 3 and Ezekiel 33,

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/john-3/

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/ezekiel-3626-27/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. Jon,

    I think you have misread Richard. I wouldn’t doubt it if he has read more from Calvinists than you have. Here is his website which interacts with numerous Calvinist writings, including Sproul’s.

    http://www.examiningcalvinism.com/index.html

    On a side note, how many Arminian books have you read?

  29. Jon,

    You wrote,

    As for your question on linking spiritual death with the inability of a corpse, this question is almost too obvious to answer. Aren’t you the one always touting taking the plain meanings of words? How many “dead” people have you seen get up out of the coffin and “choose” to love someone?

    How many corpses have you seen “resist” anything? How many corpses have you seen “reject” anything? Yet those who are dead in sin reject the gospel and resist the Holy Spirit all the time.

    I wonder what the father of the prodigal meant when he said his son was “dead?” I wonder what Jesus meant when he said the hour has “now come” when the dead “will hear” unto life (John 5:24)?

    Please see some of the posts I linked to above concerning the problems with the Calvinist understanding of “dead in sin”.

    Paul uses spiritual death for a reason in Ephesians 2. The onus is on you to show why death means slightly alive.

    Yeah, and where do you see that reason being the inability of a physical corpse?

    I will take your response as a rather “obvious” concession that you cannot produce a single passage of Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse.

  30. Kangaroo,

    “Oops, you forgot the “in Him” part. That creates big problems for your interpretation here.”

    How? All Calvinists believe we were elected IN Christ.

    “Sorry, that cannot be accurate if you are “working together.” Look at the following copy of your above paragraph with my additions:”

    Why not? Unless, of course, you beg the question, which is what you’re doing.

    “I agree, but again this is in response to faith and is the result of being joined to Christ (through faith), Who is the source of spiritual life.”

    Please provide Scriptural backing. So, let me get this straight: We are joined to Christ, who is the author of life. We gladly choose him. So. . . why do we need to then be regenerated? What is the point? If we are already joined with Christ, wouldn’t we be alive? Are you saying that dead corpses join themselves to Christ?

  31. “How many corpses have you seen “resist” anything? How many corpses have you seen “reject” anything? Yet those who are dead in sin reject the gospel and resist the Holy Spirit all the time.”

    Right. The point is that the person’s SOUL is dead. He is dead in the sense that his eyes are blinded and his ears are deaf. He is dead in sin and trespasses. Because the person’s soul is dead, he willfully rejects and resists the gospel.

    Your only answer as to why dead men believe is prevenient grace. There’s only one minor problem with PG though – it’s not in the Bible.

    “I wonder what the father of the prodigal meant when he said his son was “dead?” I wonder what Jesus meant when he said the hour has “now come” when the dead “will hear” unto life (John 5:24)?”

    It meant that God had changed his heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ez. 11:19). It did not mean that they changed their own heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

    “Please see some of the posts I linked to above concerning the problems with the Calvinist understanding of “dead in sin”.”

    Will try to read them.

    “Yeah, and where do you see that reason being the inability of a physical corpse?
    I will take you response as a rather “obvious” concession that you cannot produce a single passage of Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse.””

    So, let’s walk through your logic here: There is no where in Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse, ergo, spiritual death must mean spiritually alive! Makes perfect sense! I don’t know why I never saw that.

    But as an Arminian, don’t you believe in total depravity, just as Roger Olson does? Doesn’t that mean you also believe in spiritual death? (And not spiritual death interpreted to mean spiritual life).

  32. Jon,

    Have you bothered to read any of the posts I linked too? I don’t really have time to keep going back and forth with you on this, especially when those posts address so many of your points. You wrote,

    “Oops, you forgot the “in Him” part. That creates big problems for your interpretation here.”

    How? All Calvinists believe we were elected IN Christ.

    So you were “in Christ” from eternity (the foundation of the world)?? You don’t see the problem there? Paul says there is “no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”. If the elect were “in Christ” from eternity, then they were never under condemnation. Is that what you believe?

    “Sorry, that cannot be accurate if you are “working together.” Look at the following copy of your above paragraph with my additions:”

    Why not? Unless, of course, you beg the question, which is what you’re doing.

    No, I am working with standard definitions of things like cooperation and not allowing you to say nonsense is rational, just because you say so. If you are OK with your view being irrational, then you cannot appeal to rational arguments to make your point against me.

    “I agree, but again this is in response to faith and is the result of being joined to Christ (through faith), Who is the source of spiritual life.”

    Please provide Scriptural backing. So, let me get this straight: We are joined to Christ, who is the author of life. We gladly choose him. So. . . why do we need to then be regenerated? What is the point? If we are already joined with Christ, wouldn’t we be alive? Are you saying that dead corpses join themselves to Christ?

    You really need to do some reading. Scriptural backing for what? That we are joined to Christ by faith? Eph. 1:13, for starters. Do you also need Scriptural support for Christ being the source of life? I hope not. Again, this has been covered in great detail in the posts I referred you to. You said you would be happy to read any if I provided the links, but it is obvious you haven’t.

    Spiritual corpses do not join themselves to Christ. First, the whole “spiritual corpses” language is not representative of what it means to be dead in sin, and you have yet to provide any “Scriptural backing” that it is. Second, the Holy Spirit joins us to Christ when we believe (Eph. 1:13).

  33. Jon,

    You wrote,

    How many corpses have you seen “resist” anything? How many corpses have you seen “reject” anything? Yet those who are dead in sin reject the gospel and resist the Holy Spirit all the time.”

    Right. The point is that the person’s SOUL is dead. He is dead in the sense that his eyes are blinded and his ears are deaf. He is dead in sin and trespasses. Because the person’s soul is dead, he willfully rejects and resists the gospel.

    But resisting the Holy Spirit and rejecting the gospel are spiritual things with spiritual consequences. We resist and reject with our soul and spirit. But you say our soul is dead, like a corpse. So again, how many corpses have you seen resist or reject anything?

    Your only answer as to why dead men believe is prevenient grace. There’s only one minor problem with PG though – it’s not in the Bible.

    Sure it is. We already played this game. But it is strange that you reject PG because it supposedly is “not in the Bible” but you compare spiritual death to the inability of a physical corpse without the least bit of Scriptural support. Likewise, you place regeneration before faith, when the Bible never does. Furthermore, I assume you hold to limited atonement, a doctrine that even many Calvinists admit is void of any Scriptural support.

    “I wonder what the father of the prodigal meant when he said his son was “dead?” I wonder what Jesus meant when he said the hour has “now come” when the dead “will hear” unto life (John 5:24)?”

    It meant that God had changed his heart of stone into a heart of flesh (Ez. 11:19). It did not mean that they changed their own heart of stone into a heart of flesh.

    Did you read my post on Ezek. 33 I referred you to? Still, you miss the point entirely. Jesus says the dead will “hear” unto life. You say the dead can’t hear. The spiritually dead are “corpses who can’t hear” remember? So who’s right, you or Jesus? The prodigal’s father really meant that the son had a heart of stone and needed a heart of flesh? Talk about reading your theology into a text where it doesn’t belong. Rather, it is quite obviously a reference to a severed relationship, and then that relationship being restored (he was “dead”, now he is “alive”). It has nothing at all to do with inability.

    “Please see some of the posts I linked to above concerning the problems with the Calvinist understanding of “dead in sin”.”

    Will try to read them.

    That would be helpful.

    “Yeah, and where do you see that reason being the inability of a physical corpse?

    I will take you response as a rather “obvious” concession that you cannot produce a single passage of Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse.””

    So, let’s walk through your logic here: There is no where in Scripture that correlates spiritual death with the inability of a physical corpse, ergo, spiritual death must mean spiritually alive! Makes perfect sense! I don’t know why I never saw that.

    It obviously does not mean spiritually alive, but there is no support for your contention, at all. There is tremendous support for my contention that it has reference to the results of a severed relationship (as in the prodigal) that leaves us devoid of spiritual life. The solution is to be joined to Christ, and we are joined to Him through faith. It really is not that complicated. Maybe if you get around to reading some of those posts, you will see that.

    But as an Arminian, don’t you believe in total depravity, just as Roger Olson does?

    Indeed, I do.

    Doesn’t that mean you also believe in spiritual death? (And not spiritual death interpreted to mean spiritual life).

    I absolutely believe in spiritual death. I just define it Biblically (that is, I let the Bible define what it means rather than a Calvinist theologian).

    God Bless,
    Ben

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