Where Calvinism Gets Romans 9 Wrong: “Not of Works” means “No Conditions”

10 And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac
11 (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),
12 it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.” [quoting Genesis 25:23]
13 As it is written, “Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated.” [quoting Malachai 1:2-3]
(Romans 9:10-13)

The Appeal

The typical Calvinist treatment of the text quoted above goes something like this:

…Paul chooses the twin brothers Jacob and Esau as a case study in divine election. Paul sets out to prove that election to salvation flows solely from God’s will and purpose

Furthermore, in order to make it absolutely clear that election has nothing to do with human merit or choice, Paul says that God chose one to salvation (Jacob) and one to reprobation (Esau) before they were even born; before either had done good or evil.

(Schwertley, Brian; “Chosen by God: The Doctrine of Unconditional Election”)

The standard apologetic for Calvinists is to frame the analogy of Jacob and Esau as representative of elect versus non-elect individuals, then go on to interpret Jacob’s election being “not of works” as being an analogous expression of, “nothing a man does or chooses can have anything to do with whether he’s elected/saved”– AKA “Unconditional Election.”

The Catch

As we’ve noted before from the context of the passage, the contrast being given in the Jacob vs Esau analogy isn’t meant to reflect the difference between John M. Elect and Joe D. Reprobate, but between national Israel and the true Israel of God (the Body of Christ), which illustrates God’s choosing of those who walk by faith over those who live under the Mosaic law.

Since Paul isn’t contrasting individuals, but the corporate bodies of national Israel and those who are true children of Abraham through faith, there is very little basis to interpret the statement that election and salvation are “not of works” to mean that “no conditionality is involved.” A far more fitting interpretation is that the “works” he’s referring to are the works of the law that national Israel attempts to keep. That is to say, election isn’t based upon how well one keeps the law given at Sinai, which partially explains why many in Israel are not among the chosen (which is what Paul is explaining in the chapter, note verses 1-8). This interpretation also fits the context much better in that it correlates precisely with the point Paul makes in his conclusion of the matter at the end of the chapter (verses 30-33),

30 What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith;
31 but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness.
32 Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.
33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” [quoting Isaiah 8:14 and 28:16]
(Romans 9:30-33)

Israel has not obtained righteousness because they sought it not by faith, but by the works of the law. This goes hand-in-hand with the fact that being chosen unto righteousness is not of works, but rather of God who has rejected those who rest in the law in favor of the those who follow in Abraham’s footsteps of faith, and calls us into fellowship with His Son. The analogy of one being chosen over the other before they’d committed any good or evil is very fitting then, both in highlighting the irrelevancy of the law in terms of our salvation, as well as in a more literal sense, for the sacrifice of our Lord and the redemption to which we are called to in Him were planned from the very beginning (Eph 3:9), even before any law had been given.

Bottom Line:

The scriptural teaching that election is not of works doesn’t preclude conditions to salvation (such as faith, which is not a work), but rather indicates that the choice of to whom God shows His mercy isn’t based upon adherence to the works of the Mosaic law.

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73 Responses

  1. Sounds like this arminian interpretation actually benefits from the New Perspective(s) on Paul writings, to a certain degree.

    Do you find that more and more arminians adhering to the general principles of the NPP?

  2. I have to admit I am totaly confussed. You state, The standard apologetic for Calvinists is to frame the analogy of Jacob and Esau as representative of elect versus non-elect individuals, then go on to interpret Jacob’s election being “not of works” as being an analogous expression of, “nothing a man does or chooses can have anything to do with whether he’s elected/saved”- AKA “Unconditional Election.” However the verse actually says, for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls),. Now I must admit, I am not very smart, and I am certainly not a theologian. However the text seems to be saying, exactly what you are saying it is not saying. I believe it clearly says, that God chose before the children were born and before they had done any good or evil. And what is the stated purpose? So that God’s election might stand, so then its not of works but of Him who CALLS. You also state, that Paul is not saying that no conditions are involved here, you then go on to say that faith is a requirement, to which I agree, but doesn’t Paul tell us that faith like salvation are gifts given to us by God? What is the requirement then? And what requirement did Jacob meet that Esau did not? Let me just say this, and I will wait eagerly for a response. Most christians believe the main difference between reformed and Arminian theology is predestination, and it is to an extnent. However I believe it runs deeper than this. I believe the main difference is a man centered theology vs. a God centered theology. Arminian theology focuses on what man does toward salvation. It also focuses, on what man has to do to keep salvation. Therefore, Arminian theology’s focus will be law, (telling us what we have to do). Reformed theology’s focus is on God, and what He has done. Now this does not mean we do not preach law. However our preaching of law is to demonstrate just how far we have fallen, and that there is nothing we can do, no laws we can follow that can possibly come close to attoning for our sin against God. We preach the law to drive people away from themselves, and their own efforts, to the cross of Chrisrt. We call this the Gospel, or Good News, and we believe this Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. We also believe it has the power to do what it says it will do, and that is, it has the power not only to save, but also to change lives. Therefore we preach Christ and Him crucified. In other words we tell people what God has done through Christ, and we believe when people hear this Gospel, and cling to Christ for their salvation, it frees them from the law, to rather serve God out of love and gratitude, knowing that they will fail along the way, but even when we fail, we cling to Christ and continue to serve. We truly believe that the Gospel alone has the power to change lives, and cause people follow the law of love from the new heart God has given. As I have conversed, with many of my Arminian brothers and sissters in Christ, it seems to me that they just cannot believe that simple good news alone can do this. Therefore they have to add to it. What is added of course is our obligation, what we need to do, in other words law. However I believe the Bible is clear that law cannot save only the Gospel can. Thanks your brother in Christ

  3. Hello JC,

    Thanks for writing this. In the past when I worked with Walter Martin and dealt with non-Christian cults it was easy to see who the “good guys” and “bad guys” were. The “good guys” were the true believers that taught and believed that we are justified by faith alone. The “bad guys” were the non-believers who taught various works saved you and attacked justificatiom by faith.

    Now with the emergence of the new calvinism, I have regularly seen calvinists who profess to be Christians attack justification by faith. How is this done? When it is pointed out that we are saved through faith, and this faith is a freely made choice on our part in response to the preconversion work of the Holy Spirit. Some of these fanatical and misguided folks are so zealous about their conception of monergism. That they end up arguing that the initial faith that we have, if it is our choice, if it is freely made, IS A RELIGIOUS WORK THAT SAVES US AND THAT WE MIGHT TAKE PRIDE IN. In this way, initial saving faith, is attacked, minimized, mocked and even ridiculed by these people.

    This is extremely sad, and this means the “bad guys” are not just cultists who want to argue for justification by works and attack justification by faith. It is also professing christians/calvinists who are misguided by their commitment to calvinist theology so that they end up themselves attacking the biblical doctrine of justification by faith. I never thought I would see this day when Christians would attack justification by faith by claiming our initial saving faith is a religious work by which some may boast.

    The Reformers understood that our initial saving faith is necessary in the process of salvation, though our faith in itself did not save or justify us before God. if the Reformers saw these attacks upon justification by faith by contemporary professing Reformed people they would turn over in their graves.

    Robert

  4. Jonathan,

    I’m not sure what you’re takling about. I have only a cursory familiarity with NPP and no theological commitment to it.

  5. Jack,

    I agree that the text states that God chose Jacob over Esau before they’d done any good or evil acts. The post built upon a previous post (linked to above) that showed why Jacob and Esau don’t represent specific individuals, but national Israel and spiritual Israel.

    @doesn’t Paul tell us that faith like salvation are gifts given to us by God? What is the requirement then? And what requirement did Jacob meet that Esau did not?

    Faith is given by God in the sense that He enables sinners to believe in spite of their fallen nature. One freely believing is, however, distinct from being granted that he may do so. The analogy need state nothing about requirements: the fact that Jacob represents those who believe, as opposed to those who rely upon the law (Esau), implies that faith is already a given in the former. The analogy’s statement that God’s choosing is “not of works” is expressing the irrelevance of the Mosaic law in God’s choice.

    @I believe the main difference is a man centered theology vs. a God centered theology. Arminian theology focuses on what man does toward salvation.

    Calvinism portraying God as being like a nepotistic uncle who does everything to obtain salvation for His favorites seems far more man-centered than Arminianism’s view of God as the sovereign King who rewards those who willingly obey His gospel. In the latter view, you and I aren’t unconditionally special, because we aren’t the focus: God’s will and the gospel are.

    @It also focuses, on what man has to do to keep salvation. Therefore, Arminian theology’s focus will be law, (telling us what we have to do).

    You seem to be confusing the law and the gospel. Arminians reject the idea that law-keeping is necessary for salvation. The law isn’t simply anything that’s commanded, otherwise believing itself (which is commanded, Mark 1:15) would be just another form of law-keeping (contradicting Gal 3:12). Faith itself doesn’t atone for our sins, but it’s rather how we obtain forgiveness through Christ. As far as the gospel message entailing obligation on our part, that’s quite evident throughout scripture:

    “…[God] ‘will render to each one according to his deeds’: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness–indignation and wrath….” (Romans 2:6-8)

    “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.” (1 Tim 4:16)

  6. Robert, indeed. I’ve noted that the way most Calvinists argue against “works” and “human effort” would logically entail eternal justification (being justified apart from faith, with faith only coming as a later symptom).

  7. Hi Jack,

    I would agree in full with JC’s response and I just wanted to add a personal observation. What I noticed in your response is that you didn’t seem to address the “corporate vs. individual” point in the post (maybe I missed it?). I’ve spent a lot of time in discussions with Calvinists and the one most consistent thing I notice is the rush to the ” man centered theology vs. a God centered theology” rhetoric. IMHO, this simply amounts to a philosophical view of the argument. There is nothing in Arminianism, from a theological perspective, that is “man-centered”. By calling it “man-centered”, the way I receive that is you’re making a judgment on my intent. In a way, you’re saying that I’m trying to give myself credit and stealing God’s glory. This is one of the reasons why Calvinist’s are often viewed as being arrogant.(http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/be-a-kinder-calvinist). I’m not saying you’re being arrogant. I have good friends who are Reformed/Calvinistic. But I thought you should be aware than when this “man-centered” point comes up, that is often how it is received.

  8. Thanks so much for the responses. I plain to respond, but I am working 12 hour shifts. I will do my best to respond by Friday 2-24. Thanks for your patience.

  9. Okay, I am off today and ready to respond. Thanks for your patience. First, I would like all to know that I am not attempting to win an argument here, rather I am truly seeking understanding. I was raised in a church that was basically Arminian. I was taught the biblical stories, and told, I needed to be like Moses, Noah, Daniel, King David, and so on. This eventually lead me to despair, because I realized that although, externally I may be better off than some, and maybe even most, internally, I am in ruin. In other words, I have never commited adultry, however I cannot control lust, I can stop it once it starts, but its too late. I have never committed murder, however I cannot control hate. These are just 2 examples. After coming of age and leaving the church for a good number of years, I began to read the bilble for myself, and it was then that I began to believe, that what I was taught in my youth was at best inncorrect. Later, after studying Martin Luther I clearly understood what he went through, and the joy he had once he came to the understanding that we are justified by faith alone. I would now like to first respond to J.C. you say Jacob and Esau do not represent individuals but rather national Israel vs. spiritual Israel. While I agree the choice of Jacob involves spiritual Israel, I also believe the choice of Jacob includes national Israel, because Esau was neither. The nation of Israel came into being with the 12 sons of Jacob, which excludes Esau. Esau is neither a member of spiritual, or national Israel. And on what basis? The basis according to the passage cited, is God’s choice. God said Jacob I have loved, Esau I have hated. What is the reason for God’s love for Jacob, as opposed to His hatred for Esau? God chose one nation, the nation of Israel, and what was the reason for this? Was it because they were faithful? No, He chose them before their existence. And he chose Jacob over his twin brother for what reason? Another question I would ask is, how would Esau, represent those who rely upon the law? Esau was not a part of Israel, and he, nor his ancestors recieved the law. So how is it, that Esau represents those who depend on the law? And if, as you seem to acknowledge, we are not to depend on the law, then what is it we need to depend on? What is it that we bring to the table as far as our justification is concerned? Now I agree that Jacod and Esau represent two distint peoples, Jaccob national and spiritual Israel, and Esau those outside of both. In other words those who are later referred to as gentiles. This seems to me to fit well with what Paul is saying, in other words, there is no desire or effort, on the part of either in the choice. In the same way there is no desire or effort on our part. In reality it seems to me Esau did absolutely nothing wrong, however, on the other hand Jacob was a deciever, liar, and skimmer, but God chose Jacob in spite of himself. Okay let me say there is so much here, I’d love to respond to, but obviously, I cannot possibly do it here so I’ll have to choose. J.C. states, Calvanist, (and by the way I would never refer to myself as a calvanist) make God out to be a nepotistic uncle doing everything toward salvation for His favorites. This is a complete misunderstaning, at best, a complete misrepresntation at worst. Paul tells us that all in the human race have become worthless, because of our sin. This means, God could wipe the whole race completely out. However, God chose to save His creation, and found a way to be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. He does this through the elect. The elect desrve, the same fate as those who are not elect. Now there are those that will say this is not fair. My question is, do you really want God to be fair? I certainly do not, because I realize, that I fairly deserve death. Therefore I am not one of God’s favorites, He has no reason to love me. Paul tells us, it took a mighty power from God to raise Christ from the dead. He goes on to tell us, as for you, you were DEAD in trespasses and sins. However God raised us up with Christ. In other words the same mighty power it took to raise Chrst from physical death, is the same power it took to raise us from spiritual death. Paul also tells us the natural man does not understand spiritual things, nor can he. He cannot because he is spiritualy dead, he does not have the spirit of God, and has not been born from above. Let me ask this question, how are we born again? Notice the question closely. It is not, how do you born yourself again? It also is not what do you have to do to be born again? This is the dilemma Nicadimas found himself in. Do I go back into my mother’s womb? Think of it this way, what did you do in your physical birth? What discessions did you make? Did you choose where you were born, to whom, or your birth date? No, and it is the same with those born of the Spirit. The wind blows where it may you can’t control it. Okay last response here to Taran. I hope I have responded to your point of corporate vs. individual. As I said earlier, its hard to respond to all points. Now let me repond to the arrogant charge. I do believe I was most arrogant at the point in my life, when I compared myself with others, and believed that I was somehow morally better than some, and therefore deserving of salvation. Examples are, I once despised gays, drug addicts and pushers, abortionists, just to name a few. However I have come to realize I am no better than they. Therefore I no longer despise them, but rather I have compassion, hoping that as I share the Gospel with them, that the Holy Spirit will be at work to save. If this is arrogance, then I am guilty. Well listen I am certainly sorry for the length, and let me say that I consider us all kin in Christ seeking understanding from one another, and this is truly the reason for my conversation here, faith in search of understanding. Your brother in Christ. To God be the glory

  10. Jack,

    Did the choosing of Jacob guarantee the Salvation of all that came from him (Israel)? Why is it that so many Israelites commited attrocities and were destroyed as evildoers after God had chosen Jacob? I though that they were chosen regardless of anything that they did. Why did God turn and reject so many of his own people?

    And how do you explain this passage in regards to Esau?

    “Pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord: looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled; lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no place for repentance, though he sought it diligently with tears.” Hebrews 12:14-17

    Also, I responded to your post about 1 Cor. 15 and am curious to know some of your answers to my questions.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/01/23/1-corinthians-15-and-the-claims-of-calvinism/

  11. Jack,

    Thank you for responding. Please note in my response I was not saying that you were being arrogant. I specifically referenced your “man centered vs God centered” point. That will always come across as arrogant to a non-Calvinist, even if that was not your intention. You say Arminians focus on what man does, but this again is pure philosophy, not theology. What you see as “man-centered” is actually how Arminian theology interprets God’s interactions with his creation. And I personally believe it is the better interpretation.

  12. Thanks again for your responses. I’ll attempt to answer these 2 responses here and return to the other post to answer JPC. However, as I’m sure you all can see, I am not a very good communicator, or writer, and I’m certainly not a typer, therefore it takes me some time. Because of this I ask for your patiences. First to JPC’s response, no the choosing of Jacob did not guarantee the salvation of all of Israel. Before Jacob, God had made a covenant with Abraham Gen.15. This covenant, God made with Abraham was a unilateral covenant, meaning this covenant depended on God alone. Usually a covenant is made between to parties, with both sides promising to keep the stipulations, (if you will do this, I will inturn do this.) It is very simular to what we refer to today as a contract. The way in which we seal a contract today is with our signature. However in the times of Abraham it was not uncommon for the ritual described in Gen. 15 to occur. where the corspe of dead animals were placed on the ground, and the 2 parties would then walk between them, signifing, if either of the 2 broke the covenant the fate of these animals would fall on the one who broke the covenant. However as you can see in this particular covenant God walked through the pieces Himself, calling on the curses to fall upon Him alone if the covenant was broken. Later God made a covenant with all of Israel at Sinai, this covenant, however was a bi-lateral covenant. God gave them the law, and the agreement was do this and live. And the people said all this we will do. However as we all know they failed miserably, as we all have, and continue to do. This is why I am so grateful, that the church I attend has the confesstion of sin, where we all stand together to confess we are sinners and recieve God’s promise of forgiveness. Therefore there are 2 convenants in scripture, the covenant of promise made to Abraham, in which we grab a hold to God’s promise that He alone is mighty to save, the other covenant is the covenant of law, all this we will do. This means that only those who were of the faith of Abraham were the true Israel, that is those who believed God and it was credited to them as righteosness. In other words faith alone in Christ alone, to God be the Glory alone. Now as for the passage in Hebrews, you refer to, it seems to me to be making the same point. As I stated earlier, Jacob was a liar, deciever, and skimmer, yet he was excepted. Esau on the other hand seems to do nothing wrong, besides allowing his brother to decieve him, and even then he seeks repentance even to the point of tears but is rejected. Now allow me to attempt to respond to Taran. Again let me state, I do not now, nor have I ever refered to myself as a calvanist. However, as I look across this web site, even at the title of this post Where Calvanism Gets Romans 9 Wrong, I can see where this may come across as arrogant, and I can also see how some calvanist may be offended by this. However, I do not take offense, and I do not believe the author of this post or any other author on this site is speaking out of arrogance, even though most are speaking against that which I believe. It is my hope and belief that all are truly seeking the truth. Therefore I cannot take offense, or accuse someones postion as being arrogant, no matter how forcefully they make their case. In fact I truly appreciate when someone tells me they believe I’m in error. This is why I do not understand the arrogant charge. In other words if I am in error, how can any one express this without coming across as arrogant? On the other hand if I am correct, in my stance, should I keep quiet, in order not to come across as arrogant? Again let me say how much I appreciate all of this, because I believe it keeps us all sharp and thinking. It also allows me to get outside my comfort zone where everyone holds my views. For this I am thankful. Now as for your point that the man centered is pure philosophy. I have to disagree, however I will concede, that both sides have theological, as well as philosophical arguments. At the risk of sounding arrogant here, let me say that most Arminians I engage, seem to me to have mostly philosophical arguments. In fact I recently read reviews of the book, Why I Am Not A Calvanist, and the reviewer seem to me to be Arminian, however he stated he was disappointed, in that most of the book was a philosophical, rather than exegetical argument. I encourage you to read the reviews of this book. Well again I cant express how much I appreciate all of this, and may God bless your, brother in Christ.

  13. Jack, I disagree on the issue of the believer and sin. Hatred and lust are always temptations, but believers are not powerless against them (1 Cor 10:13).

    @I also believe the choice of Jacob includes national Israel, because Esau was neither. The nation of Israel came into being with the 12 sons of Jacob, which excludes Esau.

    @…how would Esau, represent those who rely upon the law?

    I wasn’t speaking of literal descendents or implying that Esau himself was a law-keeper. Esau only represents national/law-keeping Israel by way of analogy. Paul employed a similar analogy comparing the unbelieving Jews to another non-ancestor: namely, Ishmael in Galatians 4.

    “Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children.” (Gal 4:25)

    Ishmael was likewise neither a law-keeper nor member of the house of Israel, but he and his mother were nonetheless used analogously to show the inferiority of the old covenant. Both of these analogies are drawing comparisons, they’re *not* directly identifying the heads or members of what they represent.

    @he chose Jacob over his twin brother for what reason?

    I don’t think the specific reasons behind the choice were Paul’s point, it was more related to the fact of divine prerogative.

    @What is it that we bring to the table as far as our justification is concerned?

    We believe, and are thus justified by faith. Believing is distinct from justification (the former we do, the latter God does), but is a precondition.

    @I agree that Jacod and Esau represent two distint peoples, Jaccob national and spiritual Israel, and Esau those outside of both. In other words those who are later referred to as gentiles.

    That would imply that the law-keeping Jews were saved and the Gentiles were without hope, subverting Paul’s explanation of why many Gentiles obtained mercy while many Jews did not.

    @In the same way there is no desire or effort on our part.

    That interpretation is party based upon a doubtful translation.

    @it seems to me Esau did absolutely nothing wrong

    JPC addressed that pretty adequately below.

    @J.C. states, Calvanist, (and by the way I would never refer to myself as a calvanist) make God out to be a nepotistic uncle doing everything toward salvation for His favorites. This is a complete misunderstaning, at best, a complete misrepresntation at worst.

    Alright, then let’s see if your description shows mine to be inaccurate….

    @God could wipe the whole race completely out.

    No disagreement from anyone there.

    @However, God chose to save His creation, and found a way to be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. He does this through the elect.

    AKA His favorites.

    @The elect desrve, the same fate as those who are not elect.

    Again, no dispute.

    @Now there are those that will say this is not fair. My question is, do you really want God to be fair?

    Which is beside my point.

    @I fairly deserve death. Therefore I am not one of God’s favorites, He has no reason to love me.

    That doesn’t follow: you deserving death has nothing to do with whether you’re one of the favorites. A person behaving nepotistically often gives his favorites benefits they don’t deserve.

    @the same mighty power it took to raise Chrst from physical death, is the same power it took to raise us from spiritual death.

    True, but also beside the point. In your counter, you’ve thus far not demonstrated how my comparison (of Calvinism portraying God nepotistically) is inaccurate or misrepresentative.

    @how are we born again?

    By the operation of the Holy Spirit through faith.

    @what did you do in your physical birth?

    I turned so my shoulders could fit out of the birth canal (seriously- http://weber.ucsd.edu/~dkjordan/resources/clarifications/HumanBirth.html), and apparently tucked my chin (http://spinningbabies.com/baby-positions/flexion-or-a-tucked-chin). Contrary to popular myths among monergists, birth is typically quite a synergistic process. As pertaining to spiritual things, I did not bring myself to life, but was brought to life by the Spirit through faith. The operation of the Spirit is not to be confused with what was required by God before the Spirit so worked.

    @What discessions did you make? Did you choose where you were born, to whom, or your birth date? No, and it is the same with those born of the Spirit.

    You’re over-stretching the analogy: even if true, no decisions preceding physical birth doesn’t imply no decisions preceding being born from above.

    Also, Abraham’s covenant was bilateral. God explicitly stated that He so blessed Abraham because he obeyed (which he did by faith):

    “…and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son– “blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies.”In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” (Genesis 22:16-18)

    Hebrews also implies that he obtained the promise through faith and patience.

    “…so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.” (Hebrews 6:12-15)

  14. JC I believe you are incorrect in your analogy of Hagar and Ishmael. Remember, God had promised Abraham a son, through Sarah, after waiting for the promise, and it not forth coming, Abraham and Sarah decide to help God out, in other words do something for God. Therefore, they come up with the plan to have Hagar bring forth this son using their own efforts. However God had promised, and therefore it would be God who brought forth the son of promise. This fits well with Paul’s analogy. Isaac is the son of promise, Ishmael is cast out. Therefore we can not obtain what God has promised through our own efforts. @he chose Jacob over his twin brother for what reason?
    I don’t think the specific reasons behind the choice were Paul’s point, it was more related to the fact of divine prerogative. Here you seem to be making my point for me. I just looked the word prerogative up, and a synonym for prerogative is the word choice. Therefore it was God’s choice in choosing Jacob over Esau.
    @What is it that we bring to the table as far as our justification is concerned?
    We believe, and are thus justified by faith. Believing is distinct from justification (the former we do, the latter God does), but is a precondition. As I’ve stated earlier, Paul tells that our faith is a gift from God. Either, you are someone else responded, that faith being a gift, means that Faith is given by God in the sense that He enables sinners to believe in spite of their fallen nature. Now I can only believe then, that you are saying that He gives all sinners this ability. If this is in fact the case, would I not therefore have room to boast? If in fact He gives all this ability, and some use this ability to reject and I use mine to accept, I could say I obtained it through my desire, that God enable me with while others were not as smart. I would also ask, what of those who never hear the Gospel? @I agree that Jacod and Esau represent two distint peoples, Jaccob national and spiritual Israel, and Esau those outside of both. In other words those who are later referred to as gentiles.
    That would imply that the law-keeping Jews were saved and the Gentiles were without hope, subverting Paul’s explanation of why many Gentiles obtained mercy while many Jews did not. I have responded to this in former response, explaining the 2 covenants, the covenant of promise vs. the covenant of works or law. You seem to be placing the elect in a higher regard than God’s creation. He did not save the elect because of His favorites, but rather to save His creation. It was the same with Noah and his family, God saved the human race through one family. I really cannot see how you are saying I’m stretching the analogy of birth from above, when Jesus specifically, uses the analogy of the wind blowing where it may, and its the same with the Holy Spirit. Well I’d love to continue but have time restraints, at this time. Again thanks so much

  15. Dear Jack Hanley,

    Jack Hanley, on February 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm said:
    “Before Jacob, God had made a covenant with Abraham Gen.15. This covenant, God made with Abraham was a unilateral covenant, meaning this covenant depended on God alone. Usually a covenant is made between to parties, with both sides promising to keep the stipulations, (if you will do this, I will inturn do this.)”

    My statement is directed at your perception above that the Gen. 15 covenant with Abraham was “unilateral” in contrast to some other covenants which you indicate were bilateral.

    I have heard seminary graduates speak in similar terms, but I usually cringe when I hear that kind of assertion about covenants with Abraham, because I personally do not perceive any of the covenants with Abraham to have been one-sided (unilateral). From a microscopic perspective I can agree with your statement, but from a macroscopic perspective I do take exception. Please consider my point of view below.

    My understanding of covenants in Scripture is that very often a later covenant is the result of a previous covenant. In the case of Genesis 15, that covenant (from my perception) is an expansion of the Genesis 12 covenant which the Lord made with Abram. The Genesis 12 covenant, Jack Hanley, I would assume you would agree is bilateral, because Abram’s covenantal role was to leave Ur and travel to the land the Lord showed him (Gen. 12:1). Abram, we discover, believed the Lord and some years later did travel to the land the Lord showed him. Abram fulfilled his part of the Genesis 12 covenant which was to believe the Lord by following Him to the land of Canaan. The consequence of Abram’s belief would be that he would become a great nation (Gen. 12:2). The Genesis 15 covenant appears to be an expansion or explanation of the clause in the Genesis 12 covenant that Abram’s believing obedience would result in his becoming a great nation. Abram did not fully understand the terms of the Genesis 12 covenant concerning his own patriarchal role for the great nation, especially in light of his own childless condition. It appears to me that Genesis 15 expands or clarifies the terms in the Genesis 12:1-3 covenant which Abram had already fulfilled. Genesis 15 expands or explains the covenantal clause in Genesis 12:2 concerning Abram’s role for the great nation, clarifying that Abram would be the patriarch of that great nation through a biological son (Gen. 15:4).

    In summary, the Genesis 15 covenant, from my perspective, expands and clarifies Abram’s role as a biological progenitor for the “great nation” Abram was informed about in the previous covenant in Genesis 12:2. Since Abram had fulfilled the terms of the Genesis 12 covenant, the Genesis 15 covenant explains how the “great nation” clause had originally been intended to be understood by the Lord.

    So I repeat, that from a microscopic perspective the Genesis 15 covenant was unilateral, as you stated, but from a wider macroscopic perspective it appears to have been bilateral, with Abram having already fulfilled his personal covenantal role in the Genesis 12 contract which would include (in the divine plan) the later clarifying terms of the Genesis 15:4 covenant which the Lord had originally intended, but which had been given without explanation in Genesis 12:2.

    The Scriptures included at the conclusion of J.C. Thiodaux’s comments above I believe reinforce a macroscopic perspective (Genesis 22:16-18, Hebrews 6:12-15).
    J.C. Thibodaux, on February 25, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    Jack Hanley, may the Lord bless you as you pursue His truth.

    Paul W.

  16. I notice that both sides of this discussion are using the term chosen to refer to the people God had chosen to be His people, whether it be because of Him showing “favor,” which I see as an incorrect term because God does not show favor or have favorites but shows mercy on those who deserve death and graciously gives them life. But both sides use the term chosen to refer to those who are His people both because of “favor” and because of the faith which they show they have in God, but in scripture God always chooses those who are lowly poor and weak, even the nation of Israel was nothingbefore God uplifted them. God chooses these people to show how great and mighty He is, and He chooses us for the same reason, to site that He isthe sovereign God and no thing nor person can change His will, if He wants Israel to win in battle they well win, and if He desires and has it planned beforehand that you and I are to come to Christ, there is nothing we can do to help our case or hurt it because God is sovereign and has control over all, He decides on whether we take another breath or not, why can He not choose whether or nit that breath goes on for eternity? He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” Paul quotes this in Romans and Paul realizes the great compassion and mercy that God showed him on that road to Damascus, when Paul who was out to destroy the church and kill the Christians had a dramatic change and decided to pursue and follow Christ wholeheartedly. That kind of change of heart does not happen without divine intervention and God Himself through the Holy Spirit changing the heart and mind of whom He desires. And because God is sovereign and can choose whomever He desires, He could very easily choose everyone but if He did that He would no longer be just but He chooses some of this wretched human race who do nothing but sin daily against Him and saves them making the mercy and the compassion He shows even greater.

  17. Dear Jack Hanley,

    Jack Hanley, on February 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm said:
    “As I’ve stated earlier, Paul tells that our faith is a gift from God. Either, you are someone else responded, that faith being a gift, means that Faith is given by God in the sense that He enables sinners to believe in spite of their fallen nature. Now I can only believe then, that you are saying that He gives all sinners this ability. If this is in fact the case, would I not therefore have room to boast? If in fact He gives all this ability, and some use this ability to reject and I use mine to accept, I could say I obtained it through my desire, that God enable me with while others were not as smart.”

    This is a reply to your above comment which was posted previous to my previous post to you. You may find some replies to your comments in the “Faith” section of another blog ( http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=taxonomy/term/29 ).

    The two links below particularly address some issues in relation to your comments above concerning faith.

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=sea.Is-Faith-a-Work-Created-by-Man

    http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=thibodaux.The-Fallacies-of-Calvinist-Apologetics.Fallacy10.Wait%2C-Now-Faith-is-a-Work

    You raise an issue I have not myself seen dealt with, specifically the issue of desire:

    “If in fact He gives all this ability, and some use this ability to reject and I use mine to accept, I could say I obtained it through my desire, that God enable me with while others were not as smart.”
    Jack Hanley, on February 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Your comment above about desire suggests to me that you may believe human individual desire originates from some decree by the Lord concerning which individuals have little personal choice, and that double predestination is the result of personal desire decreed for each individual by the Lord Himself. That kind of view would suggest to me we are talking about robots, or computers, or artificial intelligence, not about moral human beings, if I am interpreting your implications properly.

    May the Lord bless your pursuit of truth.

    Paul W.

  18. Jack,

    @I believe you are incorrect in your analogy of Hagar and Ishmael.

    It was Paul’s analogy, not mine. And if you read the context of Galatians 4, responding to those who want to put Christians under the law, he clearly is comparing the old and new covenants (along with their members):

    “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar….” (Gal 4:21-24)

    @I just looked the word prerogative up, and a synonym for prerogative is the word choice.

    The sense of the term I was using was, “an exclusive right, privilege, etc., exercised by virtue of rank, office, or the like: the prerogatives of a senator.” (src: dictionary.com) No one’s arguing that God didn’t choose Jacob.

    @Now I can only believe then, that you are saying that He gives all sinners this ability.

    I’m not sure how that would follow from my statements.

    @If this is in fact the case, would I not therefore have room to boast?

    Even if He enabled all, no, because one’s faith is of no intrinsic value, and therefore not boastworthy.

    @If in fact He gives all this ability, and some use this ability to reject and I use mine to accept, I could say I obtained it through my desire, that God enable me with while others were not as smart.

    I’ve noted this fallacy before….

    @I would also ask, what of those who never hear the Gospel?

    You’ll have to be more specific.

    @You seem to be placing the elect in a higher regard than God’s creation. He did not save the elect because of His favorites, but rather to save His creation.

    I’m not sure what you mean. The elect (per Calvinism/Monergism) are God’s unconditional favorites, and He saves them while letting all others perish eternally without offering them even a glimmer of genuine hope.

    @It was the same with Noah and his family, God saved the human race through one family.

    Noah walked by faith in God (Hebrews 11:7), his neighbors did not. Hardly the picture of unconditional election.

    @I really cannot see how you are saying I’m stretching the analogy of birth from above, when Jesus specifically, uses the analogy of the wind blowing where it may, and its the same with the Holy Spirit.

    I not sure what Christ’s analogous comparison of being born of the Spirit to the wind blowing has to do with justifying the idea that physical and spiritual birth must be identical in terms of choices. Our being brought to spiritual life is compared to birth because we are new creations in Christ, trying to make the two phenomena fit perfectly much farther beyond that is akin to trying to find “spiritual amniotic fluid” and “spiritual Braxton Hicks contractions.”

    To underscore my point of the ridiculousness of such analogy-stretching even further, from what we now know of the human birthing process, it’s actually hormonal changes in the child that trigger birth, not the mother.

    “Although the exact mechanism of the onset of labor, the sequence of events that leads to birth, is not well understood, scientists know that changing hormone levels in the developing fetus initiate this process.” (Alters, S.; “Biology: Understanding Life” [3rd Ed.], pp. 524)

  19. Hayden,

    @whether it be because of Him showing “favor,” which I see as an incorrect term because God does not show favor or have favorites but shows mercy on those who deserve death and graciously gives them life.

    Which He does to some, but not others on an entirely (according to Calvinism) unconditional basis. Also known as “playing favorites.”

    No one is arguing against God’s sovereignty. God being Sovereign (and thus having prerogative in His choices) doesn’t imply that He chooses unconditionally.

  20. Okay, I am certainly not going to attempt to respond to every point here, that would be impossible for me. On top of this it seems apparent ,that we would continue on and on until Christ returns. First allow me to respond to the Gen. 12 passage referred to above. After this I will simply attempt to explain my understanding of how we are justified. The reason we are dealing with the Gen.15 covenant, is because it is here that God takes all the stipulations of the covenant upon Himself, not only this He also calls upon the curses to fall upon Him, and Him alone. This demonstrates, the fulfillment of the covenant depends on God alone, it did not in any way depend on Abraham, Abraham did not participate in the ritual, he was only a witness. Now even if you reach back to Gen. 12 to what you seem to be referring to as the works of Abraham, and the part that depended on him, this would not overthrow the fact, that here in Gen. 15 God is taking on the full responsibility for the promise of fulfillment apart from Abraham. The reason for referring to this covenant, was to answer the question as to whether, the choosing of Jacob ensured the salvation of all of Israel. From here I went on to explain the covenant with all of Israel at Sinai, and how this was a bilateral covenant, meaning the fulfillment of this covenant depended on both God and the people of Israel. The people of Israel failed, as we all have. The reason for this is that, WE are not promise keepers, rather, we are promise breakers. There is only One Promise Keeper, which is God. This means any covenant, that depends on our promise will fail. Even if the small little thing I add is faith, because at times my faith is great at other times my faith is weak, therefore I have to look away from myself and my own efforts, and cling to the One and Only True Promise Keeper. This is what I believe Paul is saying in Romans and Galatians. In other words the Jews who depend on their works of the law, or the fact they were physical descendants, are not the true Israel, rather the true Israel are only those who have the faith of Abraham, which is faith in God as the Promise Keeper. This faith is then credited as righteousness. Now this account that God credited this righteousness to, was empty until it was credited by God. Therefore I do not want to be clothed with a righteousness of my own, rather I want to rid myself of my filthy rags and be clothed with the righteousness that is of Christ alone from first to last. I can add nothing to the finished work of God through Jesus Christ! Anything I would add would be rubbish, which is really a nice way of putting it. Now as I have conversed, and read the responses, on this site, I believe I have gathered, that none would say that we are saved by works. I have asked then, what is it that we bring to the table as far as our justification is concerned? Unless I have missed it the only response I can recall is faith. Surely by now, you all realize, my next question would be, does this faith merit our salvation? Which I am sure the answer would be no. Also I believe (and someone correct me if I am wrong) that we all agree, that no one can come to Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore it seems to me the dividing question will be how do we obtain faith? Now as I’ve stated in an earlier response, I do not believe our problem is free will. Our problem is our condition, and I believe that our condition, according to Paul and other passages, is that we are dead to spiritual things, before our salvation. Now if this is true then, we cannot possibly do anything in this condition toward our salvation, not even faith. A dead person cannot have faith. Therefore we need to understand as we preach the Gospel to unbelievers, that we are preaching to the dead, and our message will have no affect unless God through the Holy Spirit raises the dead. I believe we serve a God that raises the dead, I also believe we serve a God who creates out of nothing. This being said, I do not believe we need God’s help toward our salvation, rather what I believe we need, is Divine rescue. This means I do not believe we bring anything to the table as far as our justification is concerned, not even faith. Because I believe when God raises us to spiritual life all these things naturally come with that new life God has given. As the hymn writer states, “Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling, naked look to the for dress, helpless look to thee for grace, foul I to thy fountain fly, wash me savior or I die. Amen

  21. Okay, as I said, I cannot respond to every point, however, I am compelled to respond to J.C. here on this one point. You say, It was Paul’s analogy, not mine. And if you read the context of Galatians 4, responding to those who want to put Christians under the law, he clearly is comparing the old and new covenants (along with their members):
    “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar….” (Gal 4:21-24)

    However, if you remember I was responding to an earlier post you had made, in which you say,

    Ishmael was likewise neither a law-keeper nor member of the house of Israel, but he and his mother were nonetheless used analogously to show the inferiority of the old covenant. Both of these analogies are drawing comparisons, they’re *not* directly identifying the heads or members of what they represent.

    Now, I surely understand that this was Paul analogy, however, this is not where I believe the error occurs. I believe, the error, is in the fact that Ishmael, and Isaac, are the head of those they represent in this analogy. Ishmael, does represent those under the law, in that he was conceived, by human effort. In other words Abraham, and Sarah attempted to bring about the promise through their own efforts, which represents the law. However, God is the only one that can bring about this promise, therefore Isaac is the child of promise, and represents those who are not enslaved to their on efforts i.e. law, but rather are those who grab a hold to the God of Promise. This is what the verse you quote actually says, But he [who was] of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. Now I take the phrase born according to the flesh to mean, human effort.

  22. Jack,

    For starters, what you’re inferring from Genesis 15 isn’t supported by any clear, textual evidence. Secondly, whatever its significance is, it cannot contradict what is clearly conveyed in scripture. It’s already been cited from Hebrews 6 that Abraham had to endure patiently to obtain the promise. In other words, the covenant wasn’t strictly unilateral. Quoting again:

    “…so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.” (Hebrews 6:12-15)

    @This means any covenant, that depends on our promise will fail. Even if the small little thing I add is faith, because at times my faith is great at other times my faith is weak….

    This downplays God’s work through the Holy Spirit in enabling us to follow God. It seems a bit absurd to claim that even a person given strength to endure by the Spirit will necessarily fail to abide in Christ.

    @therefore I have to look away from myself and my own efforts, and cling to the One and Only True Promise Keeper.

    Also known as “faith.” Your logic so far is proving self-defeating.

    @does this faith merit our salvation?

    Obviously not.

    @Also I believe…that we all agree, that no one can come to Christ apart from the work of the Holy Spirit.

    Correct.

    @according to Paul and other passages, is that we are dead to spiritual things, before our salvation. Now if this is true then, we cannot possibly do anything in this condition toward our salvation, not even faith.

    By God’s grace, yes, we can believe despite our fallen nature.

    @A dead person cannot have faith.

    But indeed he can if God enables him. If what you said were true, then no spiritually dead person could be brough to life, for it’s through faith that we are raised to new life with Christ. Paul states this point in Colossians.

    @This means I do not believe we bring anything to the table as far as our justification is concerned, not even faith.

    That’s unscriptural: justification plainly is by faith. Having faith is synonymous with believing. God enables us to believe, but we do the believing, God doesn’t believe for us. So we are doing something to be justified no matter how you slice it.

    @Ishmael, does represent those under the law, in that he was conceived, by human effort.

    That is plainly incorrect, the analogy doesn’t reflect human effort in general, Hagar and Ishmael clearly represent the law of Moses and those who put their confidence in it. The context of the passage (and much of the book for that matter) is obviously in reference to Mosaic law, and Paul explicitly identifies Hagar with the covenant as Sinai, (“For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar….”) not with general human attempts to be righteous (which existed long before the Sinaitic covenant).

  23. so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. For when God made a promise to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore by himself, saying, “Surely I will bless you and multiply you.” And thus Abraham, having patiently waited, obtained the promise.” (Hebrews 6:12-15)

    You seem to continue to make my argument for me, the verse is clearly saying here God swore by Himself, since their was no one greater. In other words the promise depends on Him. And this is referring, (I might add) to Gen 15.

    @This downplays God’s work through the Holy Spirit in enabling us to follow God. It seems a bit absurd to claim that even a person given strength to endure by the Spirit will necessarily fail to abide in Christ.

    I have not said we will fail to abide in Christ, what I actually said is sometimes my faith is great, sometimes my faith is weak. Now if there are those who have obtain a faith that is always continually strong, I can do nothing but congratulate. However, I have not yet reached this plateau. Therefore, I continue to struggle. I not only struggle, with a faith, that is sometimes weak and, other times strong, I also continue to find myself struggling against sin. These sins I struggle with are not only acts I find myself committing, but are also things I leave undone. Therefore I find myself eagerly awaiting the return of Christ, because I hope for something I have not yet obtained.

    @Also known as “faith.” Your logic so far is proving self-defeating.

    It seems to me that your argument is self defeating, I believe you have said, God enables us to believe, but we do the believing. This statement seems to me to be completely self defeating. Surely, God enables us to believe, and we do the believing, but we believe, because God is enabling us.

    @ But indeed he can if God enables him. If what you said were true, then no spiritually dead person could be brough to life, for it’s through faith that we are raised to new life with Christ. Paul states this point in Colossians.

    This is another point that seems self defeating. As I have already stated, certainly God enables the spiritually dead to believe, He does this by raising them to spiritual life. One then, that has been raised to spiritual life, also receives, all things pertaining, to this life including faith. In other words a person who is spiritually dead cannot possibly have faith. On the other hand, a person who has been raised to spiritual life will have faith, because it is not possible to be spiritually alive without faith being given.

    @ By God’s grace, yes, we can believe despite our fallen nature.

    Again, self defeating. We can only believe by God’s grace, if this grace is taken away we cannot believe. So then it is only by God’s grace that we believe.

    @That is plainly incorrect, the analogy doesn’t reflect human effort in general, Hagar and Ishmael clearly represent the law of Moses and those who put their confidence in it. The context of the passage (and much of the book for that matter) is obviously in reference to Mosaic law, and Paul explicitly identifies Hagar with the covenant as Sinai, (“For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar….”) not with general human attempts to be righteous (which existed long before the Sinaitic covenant).

    It seems relevant to me that you start out here by saying, “This is PLAINLY incorrect” then go on to say, “the analogy doesn’t reflect human effort in GENERAL. However, your analogy, to your own admission, does not allow the heads to fully represent those it is intended to, neither in this analogy nor the analogy you use for Jacob and Esau. However the analogy I have presented allows these heads to fully represent those intended. Here in this analogy Ishmael and Hagar both represent the out come of those who depend on human effort,(referring to the Mosaic law) to bring forth a promise only God can supply.

  24. Jack,

    God swearing by Himself doesn’t contradict the fact that Abraham had to patiently endure to obtain the promise. You are focusing on only one portion and missing the point of what was said concerning Abraham. The assertions that the spiritually dead cannot believe, or that God brings them to life that they may believe have no scriptural basis.

    @I have not said we will fail to abide in Christ

    There’s not much other way I know to take the phrase, “This means any covenant, that depends on our promise will fail. Even if the small little thing I add is faith”.

    @I believe you have said, God enables us to believe, but we do the believing. This statement seems to me to be completely self defeating. Surely, God enables us to believe, and we do the believing, but we believe, because God is enabling us.

    I’m sorry Jack, but your statement here is completely incoherent. You’ve not even remotely shown how God enabling us to believe is somehow “self-defeating” if we do so.

    JCT: By God’s grace, yes, we can believe despite our fallen nature.

    JH: Again, self defeating. We can only believe by God’s grace, if this grace is taken away we cannot believe. So then it is only by God’s grace that we believe.

    You’re really not making a lot of sense here either. I said nothing about grace being taken away, and already acknowledged that we believe by grace. For you to say that is self-defeating is simply nonsensical.

    @However, your analogy, to your own admission, does not allow the heads to fully represent those it is intended to

    Incorrect, I never stated anything even remotely akin to the idea that they don’t reflect who they’re intended to.

    @Here in this analogy Ishmael and Hagar both represent the out come of those who depend on human effort,(referring to the Mosaic law) to bring forth a promise only God can supply.

    No, in his explanation of his analogy Paul doesn’t equate Hagar/Ishmael with general “human effort,” but to the Mosaic law specifically. As I pointed out above, he explicitly identifies Hagar with the covenant at Sinai.

    “For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar….” (Galatians 4:24)

    Trying to stretch it into something other than the law is textually unwarranted.

  25. Incorrect, I never stated anything even remotely akin to the idea that they don’t reflect who they’re intended to.

    I wasn’t speaking of literal descendents or implying that Esau himself was a law-keeper. Esau only represents national/law-keeping Israel by way of analogy. Paul employed a similar analogy comparing the unbelieving Jews to another non-ancestor: namely, Ishmael in Galatians 4.

    Ishmael was likewise neither a law-keeper nor member of the house of Israel, but he and his mother were nonetheless used analogously to show the inferiority of the old covenant. Both of these analogies are drawing comparisons, they’re *not* directly identifying the heads or members of what they represent.

    These are all your comments

  26. Jack, of course they’re my comments, and you’ll notice that neither one indicates anything remotely like Esau and Hagar/Ishmael not analogously reflecting who they’re supposed to.

    Esau, in Romans 9, analogously represents national Israel in its dependence upon the law, as the contextually apparent subject matter greatly implies (cf vs 1-8, 27, 30-32); and Hagar in Galatians 4 is representative of the Mosaic law, as Paul explicitly states (vs 24-25). Who/what the figures used in analogies are supposed to represent is determined by context, not your preconceived notions.

  27. Jack,

    When you write a long post, could you break it up into paragraphs please? It makes it easier to read and respond to.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  28. It seems curious how your first statement reads

    @Incorrect, I never stated anything even remotely akin to the idea that they don’t reflect who they’re intended to.

    In the statement, here today, you have inserted the word analogously, which is exactly my point. If you will notice my exact statement was

    JH. your analogy, to your own admission, does not allow the heads to fully represent those it is intended to.

    Now the only difference I see here, is that I used the 2 words fully represent, whereas you would rather me say, your analogy only analogously reflects, those intended. But I do not see how getting hung up on terminology is beneficial to the conversation. In fact it seems to be a tactic to divert the conversation from the original topic. At any rate this will allow me to restate my point, being careful to use the correct terminology.

    Your analogy to your own admission, allows the heads, to only analogously, reflect those intended, whereas the analogy I have presented allows these heads to fully represent those intended. Jacob fully represents, national, and spiritual Israel. Esau, fully represents those outside. True Israel are only those who have the same faith, as Abraham. Those who are not true Israel are those who depend on human effort through the law. Those outside of both national and spiritual Israel, represented by Esau, who have the same faith as Abraham, are now being allowed into the covenant and are considered children, by the faith God has given. In the same way Hagar fully represents the old covenant, in that the child she bore was by human effort, i.e. law, whereas the child Sarah bore was the child of promise.

  29. Jack,

    @Your analogy to your own admission, allows the heads, to only analogously, reflect those intended

    No kidding. I’m just crazy enough to think that analogies usually portray things analogously.

    @the analogy I have presented allows these heads to fully represent those intended.

    Except you’ve only asserted what you think the intention should be without evidence, which is pointless in terms of your view’s persuasiveness, since analogies by definition aren’t perfect reflections of what they represent -otherwise they’d be identities.

    @Jacob fully represents, national, and spiritual Israel. Esau, fully represents those outside.

    Which completely violates the context of Paul’s discussion about many Jews not receiving the promises, as I’ve already pointed out. Further, if Jacob represented national Israel as well, then all national Jews would also be saved even if they didn’t believe in Christ, so your interpretation is beyond absurd.

    @In the same way Hagar fully represents the old covenant

    But Hagar wasn’t under the old [Mosaic] covenant. There goes your “fully” representative analogy.

    @in that the child she bore was by human effort, i.e. law

    Your attempts to twist the Mosaic law into meaning any kind of human effort have no logical or scriptural support whatsoever. You’re simply imposing unbiblical concepts onto the text, as I’ve repeatedly demonstrated.

  30. JC, in an early commented you argued that technically, your own birth was synergistic. Do you really think that was the context Christ was hoping people would understand in John chapter 3?

  31. Dear Jack Hanley,

    Jack Hanley, on February 28, 2012 at 6:50 am said:
    “Therefore it seems to me the dividing question will be how do we obtain faith? Now as I’ve stated in an earlier response, I do not believe our problem is free will. Our problem is our condition, and I believe that our condition, according to Paul and other passages, is that we are dead to spiritual things, before our salvation. Now if this is true then, we cannot possibly do anything in this condition toward our salvation, not even faith. A dead person cannot have faith.”

    The point I am attempting to address in your comment above is your perception about the state of a dead individual and their inability to do anything.

    I am uncertain as to your persuasion concerning the state of the soul at death. It sounds as if you hold to the doctrine of “soul sleep” which teaches that the soul is in a suspended state of unconsciousness after physical death. Paul taught that if we are absent from the body we are present with the Lord. During the state of death souls are completely conscious and are able to perform many functions, according to Scripture. Consider the story Messiah told about the rich man and the beggar in Abraham’s bosom. Notice the rich man was in torment and wanted some relief and requested that relief. Consider also the souls under the altar at the fifth seal in Rev. 6:9-11. They had been slain so they were dead, but their souls were completely conscious, and they requested to be avenged.

    Jack, if you are an adherent to a group that teaches the soul is unconscious at death, please consider the Scriptural evidence that souls are completely conscious and capable of decision and desire, even in the midst of a condition where their bodies are in the grave.

    To attempt to teach that “soul sleep” makes it impossible for those dead in sins to be capable of anything is not biblical, as the Scriptures above will attest. Dead people are capable of many things, including desire, and their souls are completely conscious, despite the fact their bodies may be in the grave, and even may have decayed!

    May the Lord bless your pursuit of truth.

    Paul W.

  32. I think from reading that Jack’s position is very clear. I’m sorry Paul, but as a bystander I simply see your comments as arbitrary, tangental, and thus not overly helpful in regards to furthering the discussion.

    There is an overarching agreement between both sides: the individual prior to God’s enabling is spiritually “dead.” Therefore they cannot understand the gospel correctly, as to make a saving decision about it (i.e., respond correctly in faith and repentance). In other words, they will not respond correctly to the gospel because they can not. This is manifested in a clinging to sin and a determination to reject Christ and His gospel at the expense of their soul. It is not that a person can do nothing at all, but rather that they never do what they are supposed to do.

    Then, there are two opinions to how this issue is solved. 1) does God save the sinner through regeneration so that they can (and will) finally understand, repent, believe, and cling to Christ. or 2) does God grant a quasi-regeneration, or, partial regeneration, so as to enable (or “liberate”) the person to finally make a decision for Christ. If the decision is correct, they are then fully reborn, if they continue to reject, the partial-regeneration is taken away and they remain in their deadness. (until perhaps the gospel is preached again so that they are granted another partial-regeneration and thus another option to believe / repent or not).

    J.C. compared the later, which is the position of this site, to a mother giving birth. The mother’s birth is synergistic, as the baby “tucks its chin” and “turns its shoulders” to help the mother birth him. In the spiritual birth, faith and repentance (which lead to the new birth) are being likened to a the baby “tucking its chin” and “turning its shoulders.” In the spiritual birth, the result is God blessing and granting the new birth based on these actions. In the human birth, the result is that the (well informed) mother should bless her son / daughter by saying something along the lines of, “Thank you dear, I really couldn’t have done it without you. Even though you are just a baby, you truly can tuck you chin and turn your shoulders with the best of them.”

    Now, is that really what Christ was trying to get across in Jn3 w/ the new birth? “Listen up Nicodemus, you know how a baby tucks its chin and turns its shoulder, so likewise you must choose me and repent. This is why the wind blows where it wishes…” It appears to me that this might be a case of an individual “forcing their theology” on the text, something that calvinists, like myself, are continually accused of doing.

    Nevertheless, I’m interested to hearing more about this analogy, who knows it may be the determining factor that leads me to arminianism.

  33. Dear Jack Hanley and SavedByGrace,

    A correction to my description of “soul sleep” in my previous post is needed. I should not have described “soul sleep” as a “suspended state of unconsciousness” but rather as “suspended state of consciousness” or as “a prolonged state of unconsciousness” to be correct.

    SavedByGrace, on March 1, 2012 at 4:53 am said:
    “Therefore they cannot understand the gospel correctly, as to make a saving decision about it (i.e., respond correctly in faith and repentance). In other words, they will not respond correctly to the gospel because they can not.”

    I wish to respond to your “inability” premise above. Jack and you, SavedByGrace, appear to share what I consider to be an incorrect interpretation of Ephesians 2:8-9 in which you both apparently interpret “faith” to be the subject which is the “gift” of God. I have always interpreted “saved” as the gift of God. It is true that God has given to every man a measure of faith, and there is the gift of miraculous faith whereby miraculous works are performed, and faith does come by hearing the Word of God. But the subject appears to me to be “saved” which is the gift of God, and “saved” appears to me to be the subject which is described as “not of works, lest any man should boast” in Ephesians 2:8-9.

    If it is “saved” which is the “gift” in Ephesians 2:8-9, then like all “gifts” the gift of salvation can be accepted or rejected. It is God who offers the gift, and there is no merit in accepting a freely offered gift. Accepting an offered gift is simply trusting or having faith in the genuineness of the Offerer. What makes a person accept the offer? It is what Jack Hanley so aptly addressed, desire. If someone is offered forgiveness, I do not care what kind of dunce they are spiritually, everyone knows what forgiveness is if they have lived on earth for any length of time! Some people relish forgiveness, and some maybe could care less. The one who accepts offered forgiveness is counted by the Lord as righteous.

    May the Lord bless your pursuit of truth.

    Paul W.

  34. I believe the paragraph you quoted of mine is common ground between arminians and calvinists. Unless you are a pelagian, both sides believe that man, in his natural state, is unable. What we differ on is how God addresses this natural problem.

    RE: Eph2:8-9, many greek scholars, including William D. Mounce (author of “Basics of Biblical Greek”, Zodervan, 2009), say that actually, the pronoun in that verse refers to the whole of salvation, which includes faith (see pg. 3n2). In the sentence structure, the pronoun is a neutered demonstrative, the proceeding nouns (“grace” “saved” & “faith”) are all gendered with either a male or female gendering. In this sentence construction, the whole list that proceeded is the author’s (Paul’s) intended target for that pronoun. This is in line with William Mounce’s interpretation, and many other scholars. Furthermore, not one relevant noun in that chapter is neutered. (But I’m sure many people on this site will find 102 reason why they disagree with this. Nevertheless beware, this is the same approach that turned Acts 13:48 on its head (“When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed”). The result of which was the “correct” mistranslation for Acts 13:48 being only in line with the New World’s Translation (which is the Jehovah’s Witness Bible). Yes, some arminian scholar’s translations of Acts 13:48 does not fit ANY Christian Bibles, but is only in line with the Jehovah’s Witness bible).

    Paul, do you think the context of Rom. 12, “God has given each a measure of faith” refers to every single person on earth? Especially considering that this is at opening of the section of that letter that deals with practical application for the Christian’s life. In other words, dealing with those people that are already converted. If God has given every single person a measure of faith, why would anyone go to hell? We are justified by faith. How do you find a way to determine that the faith spoken of in Rom. 12 is not saving faith?

    And if I took your view of faith, then only the smartest people would be saved. “Some people relish forgiveness, some people do not.” Some people are smart, some are not. Some feel guilty for sin, some do not. Some are spiritual, some are not. If this isn’t a position that glorifies man, i don’t know what is. This is certainly not in line with 1Cor1:26-31: “For consider you calling brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, “Let him who boasts, boast in the LORD.”

  35. Paul asked: “What makes a person accept the offer?”

    The calvinist would say that being regenerated of the Spirit of God makes a person accept the offer, which is the natural response to the gospel for a person who has been born again. As John Bunyan said in his very last sermon, as a baby come out of the womb crying, so a new born Christian comes out of the womb crying, “What must I do to be saved?”

  36. @SBG,

    Your interpretive method of reading merely to support your biases while ignoring authorial intent is starting to wear thin. I wasn’t trying to draw a meaningful correlation between the baby’s part in the birthing process and coming to faith synergistically. I was quite obviously showing the folly of drawing endless parallels between physical birth and spiritual (which Jack was attempting to do). If you’d bothered to try and grasp the point of what you’re reading rather than merely scrounging for “ammunition,” that would have been readily apparent. Quoting me,

    Our being brought to spiritual life is compared to birth because we are new creations in Christ, trying to make the two phenomena fit perfectly much farther beyond that is akin to trying to find “spiritual amniotic fluid” and “spiritual Braxton Hicks contractions.” [emphasis added]

    I then went on to cite the synergistic aspects of physical birth to demonstrate how drawing such unwarranted parallels is certainly no aid to Calvinism either. Seriously, did you still not get a clue even when farcical terms like “spiritual amniotic fluid” were dropped? You then ridiculously twisted my words to insinuate that I was trying to draw comparisons between physical birth and spiritual to prove synergism -the very methodology that my observations were to disprove.

  37. Dear SavedByGrace,

    You are returning to an issue I raised with Jack Hanley. I appreciate the fine effort you placed in your posts above. I have been described as “verbose” in the past, so I will not respond to all issues you have done such an admirable job of raising, and I also am unwilling at this time to do all of the research to respond properly to all of the issues you have raised. I will revive one of my previous comments to Jack Hanley which reviews one of his statements, and which you seem to be particularly interested in.

    Paul W., on February 26, 2012 at 9:51 pm said:
    You raise an issue … specifically the issue of desire:
    “If in fact He gives all this ability, and some use this ability to reject and I use mine to accept, I could say I obtained it through my desire, that God enable me with while others were not as smart.”
    Jack Hanley, on February 25, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    “Your comment above about desire suggests to me that you may believe human individual desire originates from some decree by the Lord concerning which individuals have little personal choice, and that double predestination is the result of personal desire decreed for each individual by the Lord Himself. That kind of view would suggest to me we are talking about robots, or computers, or artificial intelligence, not about moral human beings, if I am interpreting your implications properly.” (Paul W.)

    I have a question for you, SavedByGrace.

    Were Adam and Messiah the only moral individuals with moral choice in earth’s history? That is how I understand your view of Calvinism, SavedByGrace. If being regenerated is required to enable individuals to exercise faith, as you suggest, I see little difference between that point of view and software coding added as a directive to some artificial intelligence program which “redirects” its purpose. If, on the other hand, before regeneration a moral choice or evaluation is possible on the part of an individual (desire) to accept or reject an offered gift, then we have other moral beings truly capable of decision besides Adam and Messiah. Then we have true personal accountability for personal moral choices (desires).

    To my way of understanding, the beatitudes point to the individual whose desires lead to acceptance of a freely offered gift, and therefore they are described as “blessed” ones. Their “choice” begins with a moral evaluation about what is really desirable. The beatitudes appear to address the individual who desires and finds worthwhile the spiritual values addressed in the beatitudes. The person whose individual desires settle upon the values in the beatitudes is the one who eventually is willing to accept the freely offered gift of forgiveness. The acceptance of a free gift is not in itself meritorious, for a free gift is at the expense of the Giver, not the receiver, although free gifts may at times be very costly to a receiver (for example, accepting a brand new automobile worth $50,000 may require payments to the IRS, in addition to very costly insurance premiums).

    Faith, I believe, precedes regeneration. Trust in the character of the Offerer who presents a free gift I believe precedes the acceptance of the gift. The gift offered by the Lord is forgiveness. Accepting forgiveness results in one’s status as being reckoned as righteous (saved, justified, regenerated).

    Does faith precede regeneration? Or does regeneration precede faith? I subscribe to the former, you, SavedByGrace, to the latter. I suggest that Scripture pictures faith as preceding regeneration in explicit passages like Hebrews 11 where faith is the basis for approval (11:1-2, 39) and the basis for approaching the Lord (11:6). Regeneration appears to follow faith in an explicit passage like Luke 7:50.

    Even evil people can recognize good things (Matt. 7:11, Luke 11:13), so Satan was not totally untruthful when he told Eve, “…you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Satan could probably say that because of his own experience. If evil people can recognize good things as the Messiah Himself stated, cannot evil people recognize the value in a freely offered gift of forgiveness? Cannot evil people desire the spiritual values embodied in the beatitudes although they may be powerless to attain the righteousness those values lead to? This is not the glorification of man. This is recognizing man’s moral character because he is made in the image of the Lord, and that image has not been completely destroyed by sin. Yes man’s moral nature which is made in the image of the Lord has been greatly marred and damaged by sin, but it was never erased by sin. So people who are made in the Lord’s image possess the moral ability to evaluate good and evil. Even evil people can discern good and evil, and they can desire good gifts not only for their children, but for themselves as well. Accepting a freely offered gift of forgiveness is not a meritorious act, but it is the mark of a moral person made in the image of the Lord who can recognize good and evil and has settled upon desiring a good gift (Matt. 7:11, Luke 11:13).

    May the Lord bless your pursuit of truth.

    Paul W.

  38. Well I believe I have found something we can all agree on, and it is that this conversation has run its course. However I would like to make just a few more comments before my departure from this conversation.

    First to Paul W. I would also like to point out a passage of scripture to you concerning the dead. Eccl. 9:4-5 which reads,

    But there is hope for whoever is joined with all the living, since, a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.

    Also in reference to your citing of Luke 16 concerning the rich man and Lazarus, I believe Jesus was telling a story here to make a point, in other words this was not a report of actual events. Also notice, after the rich man asked that his friends be warned, he was told even if someone were to raise from the dead they would not believe.

    Now to J.C. I do not see how your accusation, that someones point of view, has no logical or scriptural support whatsoever, is beneficial to the conversation. I believe we have both cited scripture, and have come to completely different understandings, and I could make the same argument, in other words I could say your point has no logical or scriptural support. However even if I were to believe this, I do not see how saying this would be beneficial. Said differently, just because I were to say this would not make it so. This type of comment will only kill what might have otherwise have been a beneficial conversation for all. It seems to me this was the intent, to kill the conversation.

    Having said this, let me close out my side of this conversation by saying, whenever I am in conversation, it is always my attempt, to use phrases such as, “it seems to me” or “I believe”. I endeavor to stay away from dogmatic phrases such as “you are wrong” or “that is incorrect” or “your point has no scriptural support what so ever.” Allow me to give a couple of examples. I may say, “I believe you may be in error” or “it seems to me you are incorrect.” The reason for this is not because I am not sure what I believe, but rather I realize I do not have a corner on the truth, and that it is certainly possible I could be in error myself. Therefore I attempt to keep the conversation open, desperately, seeking to understand others points of view, and also attempting to see how they are reaching this view. I certainly understand your position, because I have held the same position myself. In fact I remember saying to my dad, that if I ever found the doctrine of predestination correct, I would never darken the doors of a church again. However I have come to embrace the doctrine I once despised.

    Now this does not mean, that I believe I am now correct, and there is no way I could be in error. I certainly realize, the possibility of my being in error, even now. This is why I attempt to read a wide variety of material, even those materials that speak against that which I now believe. Because of this, when I happened to run across this site, I was eager to read some of the post. I also hoped, that joining the conversation might be helpful.

    I would like all to know that I have come to my position by what I believe to be careful and pray full study of God’s word. It is also my belief and hope that all here, have reached their position in the same exact way. Therefore I continue to struggle, not only with my brothers and sisters, but also myself.

    Again, let me apologize for the length here, but please allow me to make one last point. I have stated a number of times that I do not refer to myself as a Calvinist. I also do not believe I will ever consider myself Lutheran, Wesleyan, or place myself in any other camp, besides, Christian. If I were pushed into a corner the most I would say is that I am reformed, in that I believe in the cause of the reformation, and also hold to a good portion of what the reformers taught. The reason I would not put myself in any of these other camps, is because, I believe once you do this, you have painted yourself into a corner. Therefore, it would seem to me that you would no longer be in the position to search for truth, but rather be in the position, to only defend your position

    Well I certainly thank all for this opportunity your brother in Christ

  39. Jack, you can’t rightly raise the same accusastion because it wouldn’t comport with facts. So far you’ve presented absolutely no evidence for your “Mosaic law/human effort” conflation, which is a far cry from my demonstrating who Hagar/Esau represent from the passages’ contexts (the former being explicitly identified).

  40. Dear Jack Hanley and SavedByGrace,

    Thank you both for your input and replies. I have some concluding thoughts for both of you to consider in answer to your individual comments.

    Jack, thanks for your shared views concerning Luke 16 on the rich man and Lazarus. Apparently you consider the narrative to be “fiction,” if I have rightly understood the inference I derive from your statements. Since you do not accept that narrative as a basis for fact, I would like to suggest some other passages for you to consider as a second witness for the consciousness of the dead, and would like to comment on Eccl. 9:4-5.

    Jack Hanley said:
    “I would also like to point out a passage of scripture to you concerning the dead. Eccl. 9:4-5 which reads,
    But there is hope for whoever is joined with all the living, since, a live dog is better than a dead lion. For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing.”

    Concerning Ecclesiastes 9:4-5 I would point you to the commentary by John Gill, a Calvinist commentator who interprets the verse similarly to a footnote in my study Bible. The issue seems to be about dead persons and their knowledge, not about their inability to know because of any state of unconsciousness or soul sleep. John Gill the Reformed commentator states the “righteous dead know much.”

    Since the issue appears to be about knowledge, we can ask the question, “What is it that the dead do not know?” John Gill and my study Bible both suggest it is the current realm of existence where the living abide about which the dead are currently ignorant. My study Bible suggests context is crucial. Solomon’s context is repeatedly stated throughout the book of Ecclesiastes as being the sphere of existence “under the sun.” The wicked and righteous dead, it appears, are so preoccupied with their own spheres of existence, they are ignorant of current affairs “under the sun.” John Gill’s reformed comments can be viewed here:

    http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/ecclesiastes-9-5.html

    In addition, since you do not accept the implications in Luke 16 concerning the Rich Man and Lazarus, nor the account as actual, and apparently are holding out for a “soul sleep” type of interpretation by apparently interpreting the narrative on the order of pseudepigraphal stories, I would suggest you consider Messiah’s transfiguration (Matt. 17).

    Messiah spoke with Moses at the transfiguration. Moses, as you may remember, was buried, apparently by the Lord, in Moab. The Lord is apparently credited with the burial Himself, but I would suggest Moses was buried by the angel Michael who contended with Satan over the body of Moses. Since Michael was one of the Lord’s angels, the Lord may have instructed Michael to bury the body. Often, the work of servants or employees is attributed to the master or employer. Just as Solomon probably never personally laid one stone of the Temple, but is credited with building the Temple, so the Lord may be credited with the task of burying Moses because the Lord’s angel Michael may have been instructed to carry out that task by the Lord Himself.

    Moses was fully conscious and awake at the transfiguration (Matt. 17), and was conversing with Messiah, despite the fact his body had apparently already decayed in Moab. That provides a second witness to the consciousness of the dead, if you reject Luke 16. Moses, the man whose body was buried at Moab, was conversing with Messiah at the transfiguration.

    In addition, as you may recall, Messiah was questioned by Sadducees about which of seven husbands would have the woman as wife in the resurrection. The Sadducees didn’t believe in the resurrection, so this was a “stumper” question. Messiah should have replied, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the sleeping.” Instead, Messiah replied, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” I believe the inference is clear, the dead are conscious, not sleeping.

    To you, SavedByGrace, I thank you for your quotation from Mounce. Concerning the Acts 13:48 passage in which you seem to suggest Arminians derive their translation from the New World Translation published by the Watchtower, I would suggest the truth is the other way around. Actually it may have been the Watchtower which derived their translation from Arminians. I can provide compelling evidence for this, but not any formal documentation. Please consider the following data.

    Information I derived from the John Ankerberg website several years ago indicated the names of the Watchtower “translators” were known to insiders. Those “translators” of the Watchtower Bible are not identified by the Watchtower, possibly because of a very embarrassing reason: none of the “translators” was ever formally trained in biblical languages!

    In doing research on the book of Revelation almost two decades ago, I came across a Watchtower volume in a library. I was curious about a particular issue. I examined the Watchtower volume, and to my surprise, there in print was the identical interpretation I had discovered among very few early futuristic interpreters of the Apocalypse. I was mystified. Some months later, while doing further research in another library, I discovered a volume in which the author identified one of the Watchtower’s leaders as an ardent student of a prophecy book authored by Joseph Seiss, a Lutheran minister! I suddenly realized the truth, the Watchtower leader had concealed his source of information, and had adopted a Joseph Seiss interpretation of the Apocalypse into a Watchtower volume.

    As you may know, Watchtower people are discouraged from reading any other religious literature other than official Watchtower dogma, yet Watchtower leaders are often guilty of violating the rule they require for their members. So I would suggest that the real truth is the other way around, the Watchtower “translators” borrowed from Arminians.

    May the Lord bless your pursuit of truth.

    Paul W.

  41. Just a casual observer here: Can I ,or am I able, to decide to trust in Jesus Christ after I am pronounced dead by the local authorities?

  42. To you, SavedByGrace, I thank you for your quotation from Mounce. Concerning the Acts 13:48 passage in which you seem to suggest Arminians derive their translation from the New World Translation published by the Watchtower, I would suggest the truth is the other way around. Actually it may have been the Watchtower which derived their translation from Arminians. I can provide compelling evidence for this, but not any formal documentation. Please consider the following data.

    That is a wild claim to say the least. SBG apparently got this from White’s debate with Dave Hunt in the book, “Debating Calvinism” in which White accuses Hunt of using the NWT in order to explain Acts 13:48. Hunt apparently did this in his book “What Love is This?” I can’t be sure since I do not own that book and have not read it. I do own the “Debating Calvinism” book where White makes that claim against Hunt. Now, if Hunt did indeed appeal to the NWT, that was a terrible mistake on his part since that translation is unreliable and was “translated” by JWs who were ignorant of the dead languages. However, as you rightly point out, this does not imply that Arminians follow that translation and it is a huge leap in logic to make the claim that SBG does based on that blunder by Hunt (who I wouldn’t even personally call an Arminian). If SBG has something else in mind besides Hunt’s blunder, he really needs to document it or cease making such wild sweeping statements.

    Acts 13:48 has been examined by many Arminian and non-Arminian scholars who know Greek very well and come to very different conclusions regarding the meaning of the passage. Here is a helpful link to two good articles on the pasage: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/acts-1348-two-non-calvinist-views/

    God Bless,
    Ben

  43. Dear exarmi,

    exarmi, on March 3, 2012 at 5:27 am said:
    “Just a casual observer here: Can I ,or am I able, to decide to trust in Jesus Christ after I am pronounced dead by the local authorities?”

    To respond to your question, Calvinists who press the analogy of being “dead” do so, I believe, in an incorrect manner similar to a group that believes in soul sleep. The problem is that they confuse the immaterial part of man with the material part of man, ascribing unconsciousness to the soul which should actually be ascribed to the dead body.

    Can you trust in the Messiah if you are dead in trespasses and sins? Many Calvinists who use what I would call a “soul sleep” illustration would say you must be regenerated first, then you will be able to believe and exercise faith after you have been spiritually resurrected, and you will be then sovereignly appointed faith which allows you to believe unto salvation. That is their understanding of the Bible.

    I do not know if you are speaking of yourself hypothetically or whether you are someone who is actually considering accepting the Lord’s forgiveness, but I can suggest an analogy which, I believe, explains my own point of view which is derived from the Scriptures. My analogy would be Passover. As you may know, Passover began in Egypt after nine of the ten plagues had taken place. In order to protect Israel from the tenth plague, which would be the death of the firstborn throughout Egypt, the Lord provided a spiritual antidote which would be the slaying and consumption of a lamb according to certain specifications. In the Newer Covenant, the apostle Paul in 1 Cor. 5:7 stated that Messiah our Passover has been sacrificed. Paul was writing, presumably, to Gentiles in Corinth who were not Jewish, although there may have been some of Jewish descent among them. Passover pictures a synergistic, or cooperative relationship, yet at the same time also indicates a salvation from sin. Messiah was also called the Passover Lamb Who takes away the sin of the world.

    If Israelites or Egyptians failed to use the prescribed antidote (a Passover Lamb slain and eaten according to specifications) the result would be the death of the firstborn in the household. The firstborn of each household symbolically represented the entire nation. The Lord named the nation of Israel as His firstborn son. No resurrection was required to use the Passover antidote. The antidote was used if people believed. If people did not believe the Lord, they could decide not to hold a Passover. There was action on both sides: the human side and the divine side. The people had to believe the antidote was real if they were going to take the trouble of holding a Passover. The Lord would send the death angel, but blood on the doorposts would signify the faith of the people inside. Faith preceded deliverance from death. I believe faith precedes deliverance from sin that brings death. So from the Passover perspective, I would say yes. I believe anyone whom the Lord is dealing with can trust the antidote is valid and then accept the Lord’s antidote for deliverance from the bondage of sin, which He freely offers to all. This is often called the Arminian view, where the individual participates in accepting the freely offered forgiveness from the Lord.

    In the Messiah,

    Paul W.

  44. Dear Exarmi,

    I used to think the same thing. In other words I once thought that being dead in trespasses and sins, meant that we were totally and completely dependent on God for our salvation. However, this must not be the case, because as you can see the dead are not completely helpless. This does cause one to wonder though, does God actually save, or does He only make salvation possible?

    But what do I know, because I also thought that the Passover as recorded in the Old Testament was Israel’s deliverance from earthly Egypt which prefigured our deliverance from sin onto salvation, as we put our faith in the True Passover Lamb, which is Jesus Christ. In other words I guess I use to think we were to look back to the Old Testament Passover as symbolic. And God had nothing to do with the Israelites putting their faith in Him, just as He had nothing to do with hardening Pharaoh”s heart.

  45. Jack,

    Your comments are full of non-sequinturs. Here’s a good one: “This does cause one to wonder though, does God actually save, or does He only make salvation possible?” The answer is that He does both. Do you really believe that Arminains do not believe that God actually saves anyone? How is it that you came to the conclusion that if God saves in a conditional and resistible manner rather than an unconditional and irresistible manner that this somehow means he does not “actually” save anyone? Please explain that logic so we can understand how your point is valid.

    Likewise, No one said we are not completely dependent on God for salvation. It is like you just ignore everything we have said and just continue with your Calvinist talking points and misrepresentations. That is unfortunate. And what is your point with the comments on the Passover? And who here, including exarmi, ever suggested that God has nothing to do with our putting faith in Him? In fact, if your comments were meant to address Paul W., how did you miss the fact that he said faith was a response from those “the Lord is dealing with.” So again, where do you get the idea from anyone here that God has nothing to do with the Israelites putting faith in Him? Maybe you are in the wrong thread talking to the wrong people or something.

  46. Gentlemen, brothers, I must submit an admonishment here after following this thread and a few others: I encourage you all to avoid the use of sarcasm in your apologetics. It does not serve one another in edification,persuasion, or heart-felt search for the truth. I say this as one who struggles with sarcasm, believe me I am a ‘master sarcaster’!

    My question was not addressed to anyone specifically. I just wanted to get a yes/no response to the question frankly to understand how yall interpret Paul’s use of it i.e. ‘dead in trespasses and sin’. Did he really mean dead? or is that word mis-translated?

    Now I do have to suggest that any mention of soul-sleep here is off on a tangent! I just don’t get that! Thats a whole other discussion for which I am not convinced one way or the other.

    I will testify here that as my handle implies I identify myself as ex-arminian in that I once bristled with the notion of election,depravity etc. I followed my elder family members’ teaching to the contrary from childhood to late adulthood. I had the utmost respect for their learned study. Then came the situation where I was finally tasked to once and for all put a stake in the heart of this Reformed doctrine stuff! I prayed that I would seek the truth no matter where it led and started reading the scriptures, admittedly some for the first time. The more I read the less I could continue defending a faith without first regeneration. I must admit that my first ‘understanding’ of salvation was based on a presupposition of the character of God that I deemed to be just and my ‘reading’ of scripture was going to fit that presupposition. I started seeing the preponderance of evidence in scripture tearing down all that I had been taught and had invested in. Yes it was embarrassing, depressing, and even disappointing, in that the people I loved and respected most (and I still do of course!) had misinformed me. But alas! on the other side of this discovery is joy and humility and a compassion for the lost.

    What it boils down to is I just didn’t want to believe that God would choose some over others for salvation…It just ain’t fair! Then I am reminded of Job 38:3 “Dress for action like a man I will question you, and you make it known to me.” and Romans 9:20 “But who are you O man, to answer back to God?
    I had to come to grips with God is God, he is sovereign, he decides what is just…..get over it!
    Soli Deo Gloria!!

  47. I would certainly like to continue this conversation, and I may at a later time. However at this point I would rather, like to acknowledge the comments here, of exarmi, and fully admit to using sarcasm in my last response. I have to confess that I have fell into a trap that I have accused others of. I would also have to admit that I deceived myself into thinking this was the best way to respond. However, looking back I now realize, that this was the easiest and most effortless way. For this I sincerely, apologize, and ask for forgiveness.

    I will also say, that it is my belief, that there are very intelligent, logical, and God fearing people, on all sides of the discussion. This having been said, let me thank you for the admonishment, and I will strive to my utmost, to stay away from such things in the future.

  48. exarmi,

    You wrote,

    Gentlemen, brothers, I must submit an admonishment here after following this thread and a few others: I encourage you all to avoid the use of sarcasm in your apologetics. It does not serve one another in edification,persuasion, or heart-felt search for the truth. I say this as one who struggles with sarcasm, believe me I am a ‘master sarcaster’!

    Good advice.

    My question was not addressed to anyone specifically. I just wanted to get a yes/no response to the question frankly to understand how yall interpret Paul’s use of it i.e. ‘dead in trespasses and sin’. Did he really mean dead? or is that word mis-translated?

    Yes, no Arminian would say that he did not really mean “dead”, nor would we say Paul is “mis-translated.” However, that does not mean that in using the word “dead” Paul was making reference to the inability of a physical corpse as Calvinists suppose. Such a correlation is nowhere to be found in those passages. Rather, Paul is speaking of the spiritual result of separation from Christ. Indeed, in his culture being “dead” had primary reference to the separation of the soul from the body. It did not focus on the functions of the physical corpse that remained. Likewise, the lake of fire is called the “second death” because it is the place of final separation from Christ. The remedy for spiritual death is to be joined to the source of life- Christ. That is clear from the contexts where Paul speaks of being “dead” spiritually. Since we are joined to Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13), we can be sure that the spiritual life that resides in Christ alone can only be enjoyed by faith.

    To suggest that regeneration precedes faith is to assert that one can have spiritual life prior to being joined to Christ and prior to receiving the Spirit of Life, which is received by faith (Gal. 3:2, 4, 14). That is theologically absurd and Biblically indefensible in my opinion. I would suggest you take a look at some of the numerous posts under the following category on this site:

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/category/ordo-salutis/

    I would especially recommend these posts to start:

    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/

    Now you may certainly disagree with the content and conclusions of those posts, but you should at least come away from them understanding why Arminians like me do not find the Calvinist arguments for the priority of regeneration persuasive or Biblically defensible.

    I will testify here that as my handle implies I identify myself as ex-arminian in that I once bristled with the notion of election,depravity etc. I followed my elder family members’ teaching to the contrary from childhood to late adulthood. I had the utmost respect for their learned study. Then came the situation where I was finally tasked to once and for all put a stake in the heart of this Reformed doctrine stuff! I prayed that I would seek the truth no matter where it led and started reading the scriptures, admittedly some for the first time. The more I read the less I could continue defending a faith without first regeneration. I must admit that my first ‘understanding’ of salvation was based on a presupposition of the character of God that I deemed to be just and my ‘reading’ of scripture was going to fit that presupposition. I started seeing the preponderance of evidence in scripture tearing down all that I had been taught and had invested in. Yes it was embarrassing, depressing, and even disappointing, in that the people I loved and respected most (and I still do of course!) had misinformed me. But alas! on the other side of this discovery is joy and humility and a compassion for the lost.

    You may be interested in some testimonies of those who came from the other direction: https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/x-calvinist-corner/

    What it boils down to is I just didn’t want to believe that God would choose some over others for salvation…It just ain’t fair!

    It may surprise you to know that many (if not most) Arminians do not primarily reject Calvinism because it may seem unfair (though that is certainly a factor), but because we find it unbiblical. I often here Calvinists talk about what a spiritual struggle it was to finally come to accept the teachings of Calvinism. It seems strange to me that not many seemed to consider the possibility that the struggle may have been the result of the Holy Spirit trying to steer them away from Calvinism.

    Then I am reminded of Job 38:3 “Dress for action like a man I will question you, and you make it known to me.” and Romans 9:20 “But who are you O man, to answer back to God?

    Great passages of Scripture, but they do not teach Calvinism; nor should we use them as an excuse or reason to accept a certain doctrine. Mormons could appeal to the same passages when we reject Mormonism, etc. We need to base our decisions on what the Scriptures teach as honestly as we can. I am sure you agree with that.

    I had to come to grips with God is God, he is sovereign, he decides what is just…..get over it!

    All Arminians believe God is sovereign. We just do not wrongly equate sovereignty with exhaustive determinism; nor do we deny God the sovereign right to give His creatures a measure of free will and hold them accountable for their actions.

    Soli Deo Gloria!!

    Ben

  49. Again, I could certainly leave a lengthy response here, and I would love to respond to several of your points. However, let me simply say that it seems to me that the question initially posed by exarmi has yet to be answered, which was,

    Can I ,or am I able, to decide to trust in Jesus Christ after I am pronounced dead by the local authorities?

    I think his question is legitimate, in other words it seems after reading through these discussions, and hearing, that there are those who believe the physical dead are capable of many functions, including an ability to make choices, I believe he is asking can he at this point decide to trust in Christ, or is there some reason that it would then be to late?

    Paul W. responded to exarmi. by simply repeating what had already been stated “the dead are capable of many functions.” Kangaroodort seems also to have failed to answer the question and the closest he came was by saying

    “Yes, no Arminian would say that he did not really mean “dead”, nor would we say Paul is “mis-translated.” However, that does not mean that in using the word “dead” Paul was making reference to the inability of a physical corpse as Calvinists suppose.”

    Now to be clear, I do not believe exarmi is speaking of the dead corpse responding, rather I believe his point is, since the dead are capable of many functions, is it possible for them at this point to receive Christ?

  50. Now to be clear, I do not believe exarmi is speaking of the dead corpse responding, rather I believe his point is, since the dead are capable of many functions, is it possible for them at this point to receive Christ?

    How about we allow exami to explain what he means before we speak for him? It seems to me that exarmi was arguing in the standard Calvinist line that since a dead body cannot respond to anything without first being resurrected, then a spiritually dead person cannot respond to God without being first spiritually resurrected. If that is what he meant, then that has been answered by us. If he meant something else, he needs to make that clear himself. To be fair, his comments were a little ambiguous.

    Also, before you ask for answers from all of us to a question you didn’t even ask, you might want to review your previous comments and our responses and ask yourself how many times you directly answered our challenges to your own view of things. I think you will find that you left quite a few legitimate questions unanswered.

  51. Jack, you said “Again, I could certainly leave a lengthy response here, and I would love to respond to several of your points.”

    Are you trying to intimidate people here by referencing your ability to write lengthy responses? It’s not working. If there is one thing that Calvinists are not lacking, it’s the abundance of material that has been written in support of their erroneous doctrine. We all know this. It does not make them right. There is also a lot written in support of Arminianism. If you have so much to say then you should consider starting your own blog. It’s free!

    You said “Can I ,or am I able, to decide to trust in Jesus Christ after I am pronounced dead by the local authorities?”

    Well, this is an easy one. In the Scriptures it says “that it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment”. So if someone was pronounced dead by the authorities then they have already passed their opportunity to trust in Jesus. It’s too late. Unless, of course, the local authority was not trained properly and the person was actually still alive. In that case, when the person regains consciousness he can still trust in Jesus, provided that they don’t bury him alive based on the faulty conclusion of said local authority.

    I will answer what I think your really getting at in the post about faith preceding regeneration…..

    http://tinyurl.com/6uobnxk

  52. @How about we allow exarmi to explain what he means before we speak for him?

    It appears to me, (and I absolutely could be wrong) that you all are reading into my comments, a tone I do not intend. Now this could be my fault, if so then I certainly apologize. Then again, I maybe reading into your comments something you do not intend. At any rate, I do not believe, the question posed by exarmi was ambiguous, as you say, and by reading the last sentence from JPC here, I believe he understands the point being made by exarmi.

    @ I think you will find that you left quite a few legitimate questions unanswered.

    You are correct in making this statement, however, if you were to look back you will see that on several occasions, I stated, that it would be impossible for me to respond to every point. In fact here are 2 exact statements.

    JH Okay, I am certainly not going to attempt to respond to every point here, that would be impossible for me.

    JH Okay let me say there is so much here, I’d love to respond to, but obviously, I cannot possibly do it here so I’ll have to choose.

    @Are you trying to intimidate people here by referencing your ability to write lengthy responses?

    You are defiantly reading something into my comments here, that I do not intend. And again this could be my fault, in that my communication skills, are not very good. I hardly think that I could intimidate anyone, with my knowledge or writing ability, seeing as how I barely have a high school education, and this, from one of the poorest academic high schools in my area. I have spent the last 30 years working in a paper mill. One of my favorite pass times is reading and studying scripture, and discussing with fellow brothers and sisters, to the point that it gets me in trouble with my wife in that it takes up so much time. Therefore this was my point. In other words I was saying I would have loved to respond to some of the other questions, as kangaroodort, has pointed out here that I have left unanswered, But I chose to refer to what I believed to be a glaring question, by exarmi that was left unanswered. At any rate if you truly thought I was attempting to intimidate, I apologize, and I am certainly glad it didn’t work.

    I have another point I would like to make, however at this time I am off to the paper mill, and will attempt to make this point on my return.

  53. Hey folks, I’m back..I find it something of a mystery that we can all obviously speak the same language, live in the same day and time and still have the struggle of understanding what we write to one another…just sayin’. I believe Paul is using ‘dead’ to refer to a ‘will’ or ‘spiritual’ inability at least ‘trapped’ or ‘imprisoned’ that would necessarily have to be ‘revived’, ‘resurrected’, ‘freed’ in order to have ‘life’ or ‘freedom’ of the will or spirit. I would suggest that this passage be placed in evidence to support a reformed view. I would also submit for evidence Phil 1:29 (ESV) “For it has been GRANTED to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only BELIEVE in him but also suffer for his sake….” (emphasis mine) is this only applicable to the Philippians or is this universal to all believers?

  54. Dear Exarmi and Ben (kangaroodort, on March 8, 2012 at 3:46 pm),

    Ben, I thought you gave a superb response to Exarmi in your above noted and dated reply. I found those links which I took the time to examine in your list extremely helpful and interesting and very well done. Exarmi did not acknowledge examining the following link which you apparently authored and suggested for his reading, Ben, which decimates, in my opinion, the Calvinist view of applying the physical death experienced by the body to a “soulish” death concerning the will which Exarmi seems to have totally ignored:

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

    exarmi, on March 10, 2012 at 1:41 pm said:
    “I believe Paul is using ‘dead’ to refer to a ‘will’ or ‘spiritual’ inability at least ‘trapped’ or ‘imprisoned’ that would necessarily have to be ‘revived’, ‘resurrected’, ‘freed’ in order to have ‘life’ or ‘freedom’ of the will or spirit.”

    Your above interpretation of death, Exarmi, seems to center on the Calvinist idea of “inability” for the Apostle’s analogy of “death” in Paul’s depiction for the state of sinners. Ben and the links he referred you to distinctly suggest and illustrate the idea of “alienation” better fits the definition of “death” used by the Apostle because it better harmonizes with the totality of the Scriptures.

    In particular, I found this statement at the above link ( Richard Coords, on June 20, 2008 at 12:11 am ) of particular value in determining the way “death” was sometimes viewed in first century Israel (which seems to be usually foreign to Calvinist culture). Please notice, Exarmi, the definition of death which is found in the parable of the Prodigal Son which was given by no less an authoritative personage than Jesus the Messiah, God incarnate:

    Luke 15:22-24: “… and let us eat and celebrate; for this son of mine was DEAD and has come to LIFE again…” (Paul W.’s emphasis added).

    Obviously the Prodigal son never physically died, so what type of death did the Prodigal son experience in relation to his father? The best way to define the Prodigal son’s “death” is as “alienation” from his father, in my opinion. The “alienation” definition of “death” apparently used by the father in the Prodigal Son parable is the definition of death I believe better fits the tenor of Scripture concerning Paul’s usage, than the “inability” definition favored by Calvinists, which you favor Exarmi. The Prodigal son’s problem does not appear to be “inability” in the parable, but “ability.”

    Notice also the Messiah’s use of resurrection in the parable, Exarmi. Since the Prodigal son never was physically resurrected, what type of resurrection was Messiah speaking of in the parable? Was the resurrection an “enablement” or a resurrection of “ability” for the will of the Prodigal? “Ability” and “enablement” seem to have constituted the greatest part of the Prodigal son’s problem, from my analysis of the parable. I interpret the Prodigal son’s resurrection to be a resurrection of “relationship” or a “restoration” from the previous state of “alienation.”

    Also of note in Ben’s link was Ben’s following quote:

    “The Bible plainly teaches that those who are dead in sin resist the Holy Spirit.  Now have you ever seen a corpse resist something?  Of course not.  So if we adopt the implications of the Calvinistic definition of “dead in sin” then we must deny that anyone who is dead in sin can resist the Holy Spirit or reject the gospel (Acts 7:51; 2 Thess. 2:10; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 10:21).  Corpses can’t resist or reject anything any more than they can see or hear anything.”

    The idea of resistance to the Holy Spirit in the above Scriptures does not, in my opinion, fit the “inability” definition for death you seem to have centered on, Exarmi. Rather, “ability” seems to be the theme behind the resistance of sinners. “Ability,” or “enablement,” also appears to be the problem exemplified in the parable of the Prodigal Son. The Prodigal son’s “resurrection” (restoration to his father) also appears to have been preceded by the Prodigal son’s faith and repentance found in Luke 15:17-19. The son’s faith and repentance (Luke 15:17-19) both appear to precede the son’s later “resurrection” (restoration to his father) at the end of the parable in verse 32.

    Concerning Phil. 1:29, Exarmi, perhaps you could elucidate on why those who favor synergistic salvation should be threatened by that verse?

    Thank you for your input, Exarmi.

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

  55. Jack,

    You write,

    It appears to me, (and I absolutely could be wrong) that you all are reading into my comments, a tone I do not intend. Now this could be my fault, if so then I certainly apologize. Then again, I maybe reading into your comments something you do not intend. At any rate, I do not believe, the question posed by exarmi was ambiguous, as you say, and by reading the last sentence from JPC here, I believe he understands the point being made by exarmi

    JPC actually had to entertain quite a few possibilities in his response which it seems to me is quite obviously due to the ambiguity in exarmi’s initial short question. And if you are correct that JPC totally missed his point in his earlier response, that is further evidence that exarmi’s initial question was ambiguous, don’t you think? So I find it strange that you are now appealing to JPC to show that exarmi was actually being very clear in his meaning.

    You are correct in making this statement, however, if you were to look back you will see that on several occasions, I stated, that it would be impossible for me to respond to every point. In fact here are 2 exact statements.

    JH Okay, I am certainly not going to attempt to respond to every point here, that would be impossible for me.

    JH Okay let me say there is so much here, I’d love to respond to, but obviously, I cannot possibly do it here so I’ll have to choose.

    The reasons you give for your lack of answers is really beside the point. The point is that exarmi asked the question and if he is to be properly understood against any apparent confusion, then he is really the only one who can clear it up. Yet you decided to speak for him and tell us that we all totally missed his point and didn’t even come close to answering him at all. In that, you seemed to challenge us that the question, as you understand it, needs to be answered by us. My response was to point out that you are really not in a position to be requesting any of those things since you cannot be sure yourself what exarmi meant, and you have left many questions unanswered (for whatever reason). There comes a point where it does get a little frustrating to keep fielding and answering questions, which takes time for all of us, from someone who does not return the favor, for whatever reasons. This is especially true when persistent questions seem to entirely ignore the answers that have already been given as if nothing has been said at all.

    So it is not really a matter of misunderstanding tone, but of trying to have a balanced and productive discussion that is not a waste of time for any of us.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  56. Listen please do not feel you have to respond to anything I say are ask.

  57. Dear Ben,

    Concerning SavedByGrace’s inference that Dave Hunt borrowed from the Watchtower, a criticism which you suggest SBG may have picked up from a White/Dave Hunt debate in a criticism of the volume “What Love is This?” by Hunt, I have taken the time to reexamine Dave Hunt’s volume “What Love is This?”

    The Scripture Index in Hunt’s volume indicates two pages address Acts 13:48 (p. 54 and p. 210). On page 54 Hunt gave an Arminian favorable translation in quotes without a source, but he stated the verse would be examined at more length later in the volume. On page 210 the unreferenced quote given by Dave Hunt on page 54 is referenced on page 210 as belonging to Dean Alford, who was Henry Alford, DD; Dean of Canterbury from 1863 to 1878.

    Justin Taylor, who I believe co-authored a volume with Dr. John Piper (I am going by memory), indicates Dr. Piper has an extremely favorable relationship with Alford’s Greek New Testament ( http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2008/05/28/heny-alfords-greek-nt/ ). As you know, Dr. Piper is known to favor a Calvinistic view on Total Depravity.

    There are no Watchtower references in Dave Hunt’s volume concerning Acts 13:48, but Hunt references several Greek authorities concerning Acts 13:48 which include Alford, T. E. Page, and A. T. Robertson. In addition, Hunt indicates that T. E. Page’s work from 1897 was referenced by Hunt. None of these sources, as far as I am aware, have had any Watchtower affiliations, unless the Watchtower had people examining those sources for reference.

    It appears to me that White may have been making a misguided attempt to undermine Dave Hunt’s extraordinary and outstanding volume, “What Love is This?” With the exception of Hunt’s view on perseverance (I believe he subscribes to an eternal security position), I have never seen such an outstanding compilation of Arminian favorable data in one single volume! The only sources more complete than Hunt’s volume are the Arminian websites (including this one) which I discovered much later than Hunt’s volume.

    It seemed appropriate to share this, Ben, since you indicated you do not have that book.

    Interestingly, something I had previously failed to notice, Hunt quotes Cook’s Commentary (1895) as indicating the KJV (Authorized Version) followed the Latin Vulgate rendering for Acts 13:48 (which is a rendering favorable to Calvinism) rather than the Arminian favorable rendering of the Greek which can be found in Josephus (Hunt, p. 210).

    Thank you for your insights, Ben.

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

  58. In regards to the Jehovah Witnesses translation of Acts 13:48, which fits with the way Arminians interpret this verse I look at the resource you posted Ben. It did not really change anything, just establish what I already said. The only published Bible that agrees with the arminian position is the Jehovah’s Witness Bible, which should tell everyone (including arminians) something…

    Here is Acts 13:48 from the Jehovah’s Wittnesses’ Bible (NWT): “… and all those who were rightly disposed for everlasting life became believers.”

    From the resource you posted: Arminian Abasciano: ” A better translation of the passage is, “as many as were set in position for eternal life believed” or “as many as were disposed to eternal life believed.”

    And Cotrell: “we can see that the statement in 13:48 can quite validly be taken thus: “As many as arranged themselves unto (eis) eternal life believed,” or “As many as turned themselves toward eternal life believed,” or “As many as disposed themselves toward eternal life believed.”

    Thank you for posting the link Ben. I found that they match the Jehovah’s Witness translation quite nicely. Now lets look at how credible Bible translations (and Bible translators for that matter) print the text:

    New American Standard: “and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

    ESV: “and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”

    KJV: “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

    NIV: “and all who were appointed for eternal life believed.”

    ASV: “and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed.”

    The Message: “All who were marked out for real life put their trust in God” (Yes, even ‘The Message’ gets it)

    HCSB: “and all who had been appointed to eternal life believed.”

    Amplified Bible: “and as many as were destined (appointed and ordained) to eternal life believed ”

    NCV: And the people who were chosen to have life forever believed the message.”

    I guess I could keep going, but I think the point is clear.

    The point is that zero credible Bible’s agree with the arminian writers, Ben, Abasciano, Cortell, or any other. The only Bible that agrees with the Arminian is, not a Christian Bible, but the Jehovah’s Witness Bible. I guess people will do a lot to cling to tradition. As for me, I guess I’ll just believe that all who were chosen for life did indeed believe.

  59. SBG,

    It is too bad you find this line of reasoning convincing. Translations are often interpretive and often tend to follow certain precedents, for better or worse, that have already been set (which is significant in light of Beza and the Vulgate). It can take a while for translations to make necessary changes. However, none of that means that the Greek word cannot be understood as Cottrell, Abasciano, and many Greek authorities and Grammars suggest. It is more than a matter of listing translations.

    Maybe you remember our discussion on John 6:44 and the word “draw”. You said it should be understood as “drag”. I pointed out that no translation has “drag” instead of “draw”. You brushed that off as insignificant. Obviously, you thought that while no Bible rendered helkou as “drag” in that passage, there were still good reasons to understand it in the sense of drag rather than draw. The same is true here as well. And even ordained and appointed do not really force us to understand this passage in a Calvinistic sense. Those terms can be understood differently than Calvinists want them to be understood, and context really needs to dictate how those terms should be understood. On that score, the Arminian view makes better sense of the context as both articles pointed out.

    Again, when it comes to scholarly exegesis, translations are very often challenged, because translations are not authoritative. If a Greek word can be understood in a way that better fits the context, it shouldn’t matter if translations render the word differently. There are many examples of this in scholarly works and commentaries. Calvinists do this all the time, whenever they encounter a passage that challenges their presuppositions. How many translations do you know of that have “the elect” instead of “world” in John 3:16? How many translations do you know of that have “some” instead of “all” in the many passages that speak of the universal provision of the atonement or God’s desire to save all? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  60. BTW, your use of the Message as a credible translation (it is a majorly interpretive paraphrase) is about as bad as any appeal to the NWT as a credible translation.

  61. SBG,

    @The only published Bible that agrees with the arminian position is the Jehovah’s Witness Bible, which should tell everyone (including arminians) something…

    1.) That’s incorrect. The Zondervan interlinear renders Acts 13:48 as, “And as many as were disposed to eternal life, believed.” (“The Interlinear Greek-English New Testament”; Zondervan Publishing House)

    2.) The “were disposed” translation isn’t unprecedented, as it’s supported by various commentators and scholars (such as Alford and Robertson that have been cited). Matthew Henry also seems to support this rendering in his commentary: “As many as were disposed to eternal life, as many as had concern about their eternal state, and aimed to make sure of eternal life, believed in Christ, in whom God has treasured up that life, and who is the only Way to it; and it was the grace of God that wrought it in them.” (Henry’s commentary on Acts 13:48)

    3.) Ditto to Ben’s point about translations not being authoritative in the first place.

    4.) To conclude that certain concepts are wrong simply because of who promotes them is genetic fallacy. Quoting Fallacy Files: “…the Genetic Fallacy is committed whenever an idea is evaluated based upon irrelevant history.”

    5.) To think there’s any significance to a coincidental agreement with the JWs on a specific point is also an association fallacy. “Eating sugar is bad! HITLER ATE SUGAR!!” (So do many Jehovah’s Witnesses)

    6.) You categorize “The Message” as a “credible” translation? Seriously?

  62. We should probably mention that Henry took a very Arminian approach to this passage, despite his Calvinism:

    http://www.eaec.org/faithhallfame/matthewhenry.htm

    That is a credit to him and his attention to context which makes this passage so problematic as a Calvinist proof text. His comments deserve to be quoted again as they fit the context so well and highlight that “were disposed to” is hardly a novel or strictly Arminian view of the Greek,

    “As many as were disposed to eternal life, as many as had concern about their eternal state, and aimed to make sure of eternal life, believed in Christ, in whom God has treasured up that life, and who is the only Way to it; and it was the grace of God that wrought it in them.” (Henry’s commentary on Acts 13:48)

  63. P.S. I like sugar too.

  64. Dear SavedByGrace,

    The following abridged excerpt is from Adam Clarke’s commentary on Acts 13:48 ( http://www.godrules.net/library/clarke/clarkeact13.htm ). Clarke deals with the Greek dictionary or lexical meaning and definition of the Greek word translated “ordained” in that verse:

    Verse 48. “As many as were ordained to eternal life believed.” – This text has been most pitifully misunderstood. Many suppose that it simply means that those in that assembly who were fore-ordained; or predestinated by God’s decree, to eternal life, believed under the influence of that decree. Now, we should be careful to examine what a word means, before we attempt to fix its meaning. Whatever tetagmenoi may mean, which is the word we translate ordained, it is neither protetagmenoi nor proorismenoi which the apostle uses, but simply tetagmenoi, which includes no idea of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind. …what does the word tetagmenov mean? The verb tattw or tassw signifies to place, set, order, appoint, dispose; hence it has been considered here as implying the disposition or readiness of mind of several persons in the congregation… Though the word in this place has been variously translated, yet, of all the meanings ever put on it, none agrees worse with its nature and known signification than that which represents it as intending those who were predestinated to eternal life: this is no meaning of the term, and should never be applied to it. … Those who wish to see more on this verse may consult Hammond, Whitby, Schoettgen, Rosenmuller, Pearce, Sir Norton Knatchbull, and Dodd.

    SavedByGrace, you gave me a reference to some comments by Mounce on Eph. 2:8-9 which I appreciated. You even went so far as to explain some of the Greek parsing for the words involved in the verse, and how Mounce suggested that the entire trio of words (“grace” and “saved” and “faith”) might be referenced by the Greek pronoun because the Greek “pronoun is a neutered demonstrative” (SavedByGrace, on March 1, 2012 at 7:56 am). Although the trio of words in that verse all have male or female genderings, because the pronoun was in the neuter gender, Mounce felt the entire trio of words was referenced. By this explanation, I assumed you possibly might have had some formal Greek training.

    Personally, I have had two years of formal Greek studies, so while I am somewhat familiar with the Greek language, I am definitely not an authority nor an expert. Your explanation made sense to me, from my own studies in Greek, although you may be aware that several interpretations do actually exist concerning the verses in Ephesians 2:8-9, and another view supposes the neuter applies to the overriding principle in the verse (“saved”). I can live with either view, Mounce’s or the subsequent one mentioned above. Mounce’s has logical validity, so I can accept it as a legitimate interpretation of the Greek, but the primary word of contextual significance in the trio is still, according to an analysis of Ephesians, the word “saved,” although the trio may still be referenced by the neuter pronoun as Mounce suggested.

    On lexical dictionary grounds, if one is handicapped, and one is not trained in the Greek, one can examine the Strong’s Concordance and discover the word translated “ordained” in Acts 13:48 is the Greek word numbered 5021 in Strong’s Concordance ( http://www.eliyah.com/cgi-bin/strongs.cgi?file=greeklexicon&isindex=5021 ):

    5021. tasso tas’-so a prolonged form of a primary verb (which latter appears only in certain tenses); to arrange in an orderly manner, i.e. assign or dispose (to a certain position or lot):–addict, appoint, determine, ordain, set.

    The point I am trying to make, SavedByGrace, is that you sound as if you could have had some Greek training (please correct me if I am wrong). If you have had formal Greek training, SavedByGrace, then in addition to understanding Clarke’s lexical dictionary argument (or by using Strong’s Concordance as I have just demonstrated), you should probably also be able to understand the following Greek technical information about the potential case mixup in the translation of the word “ordained” in Acts 13:48, which in the KJV is rendered as a passive voice. One or more Greek expert commentators I have consulted in the past pointed out that the Greek form is ambiguous for the word translated “ordained,” because according to the Greek, the actual case for that particular Greek word actually falls into two potential categories and it could potentially also be rendered as a middle voice.

    What makes this particularly significant is that in Greek the middle voice has the subject acting on ITSELF. This means the persons are SELF-“disposed” or SELF-“inclined” or SELF-“appointed” or SELF-“ordered” or SELF-“assigned” or SELF-“addicted” or SELF-“ordained.” If one is attempting to render the middle voice in Acts 13:48, it becomes obvious that SELF-“addicted” or SELF-“disposed” or SELF-“inclined” are the better renderings for the Greek word.

    If you do understand Greek, SavedByGrace, you have absolutely no reason to deny the potential legitimacy of the Arminian translation of the verse on any grounds, other than because of your own theological preconceptions favoring a Calvinistic interpretation. If you do NOT understand Greek, SavedByGrace, then it is understandable why you have been reasoning in the fashion you have followed, but the Greek allows either the passive rendering (favored by Calvinists), or the middle rendering (favored by Arminians).

    In any case, Clarke believed that tetagmenoi “includes no idea of pre-ordination or pre-destination of any kind,” because “it is neither PROtetagmenoi nor PROorismenoi which the apostle uses, but simply tetagmenoi, which includes no idea of PRE-ordination or PRE-destination…” (emphasis mine). In other words, because “tetagmenoi” lacks the Greek prefix “pro,” Clarke believed one could not insert the concept of pre-ordination into the meaning of the word “tetagmenov.”

    If “pre-ordained” determinism is NOT the meaning to be found in Acts 13:48 in the word “tetagmenoi,” then the middle voice by default is a much more legitimate option for rendering the Greek (which favors the Arminian position).

    If you, SavedByGrace, can demonstrate from the Greek that “tetagmenoi” in other Bible verses does indeed uncontrovertibly mean “pre-ordained” determinism in an explicit manner, you will have a much better chance of maintaining a semblance of legitimacy for the Calvinistic point of view in Acts 13:48, and your reasoning will be much more logical. Uncontrovertibly demonstrating from other Greek Bible verses that “tetagmenoi” does indeed explicitly mean “pre-ordained” would also demonstrate the potential for the Calvinist favored passive rendering of Acts 13:48 as being as legitimate an option as the Arminian favoring middle rendering is now. I believe the middle rendering of Acts 13:48 (which favors the Arminian view) is uncontrovertibly preferable if “tetagmenoi” does NOT mean “pre-ordained” determinism due to its lack of the Greek “pro” prefix as Clarke maintained.

    On page 210 of Hunt’s volume “What Love is This?” Hunt claims to list all of the passages with “tasso” (of which tetagmenoi is a form) to examine them for a possible rendering indicating a divine decree (deterministic predestination). Hunt’s conclusion is that none of the Bible passages demonstrate the Calvinistic view.

    If you, SavedByGrace, were to suppose the Greek “pro” prefix to tetagmenoi is inconsequential, I would suggest, for example, examining the English word “noun” with the Greek prefix “pro” attached which yields the word PROnoun. While pronouns do indeed function similarly to nouns in a sentence, PROnouns are a completely different category of word than “nouns” (which becomes obvious by the added Greek prefix). To minimize the absence of the Greek prefix “pro” for tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 (as Calvinists apparently do perhaps unwittingly), would be to engage in the commission of a logical fallacy, which may be the point Clarke was attempting to make. I have very little training in formal logic, but the logical fallacy may be the fallacy of ambiguity, which is a category of fallacies. The “fallacy of division” may be the fallacy which particularly addresses this mixup ( http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/division.html ).

    May the Lord bless your pursuit of truth, SavedByGrace.

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

  65. Paul W.,

    The middle voice is possible and Cottrell, I believe, argues for the middle voice. However, the passive does nothing to harm the Arminian interpretation, as it could have been Paul’s preaching, the Holy Spirit’s work, or their prior relationship to the Father under the old dispensation that “disposed” them to respond favorably. This is the view primarily held by Abasciano (see the post I linked to above). The passive, does not, however, indicate that the Gentile’s were being acted upon in an irresistible manner, which is what Calvinists need to make their case here. The bottom line is that the Grammar simply cannot decide the matter in favor of Calvinism. Not even close. And when it comes to context, the Arminian interpretation makes far better sense.

    Also, as you well point out, there is nothing in the text or the language to suggest that the “appointment” is pre-temporal (or from eternity). The language and Grammar simply does not support that at all. It needs to be read into the text based on preconceived presuppositions (or “traditions” as SBG likes to call them). This is the same mistake Calvinists make with John 6 in assuming that the “giving” to the Son from the Father is necessarily from eternity. Again, such an idea is not present in the text, but forced into the text by Calvinists based on their traditions. So Calvinists like James White and those who swallow his arguments (like SBG) are allowing their traditions to dictate how the passage should be understood, and then faulting Arminians for clinging to tradition. Truly wild.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  66. Dear Ben,

    Thank you again for your insights. I had formerly read the article by Abasciano rather quickly, but not very carefully. I did not realize he had been arguing for the passive, but assumed as soon as I read the word “disposed” that he, like others, were arguing for the middle voice.

    My lack of attention caused me to miss his point which I would summarize as equivalent to arguing for prevenient grace which “disposed” (in a passive sense) Paul’s hearers to believe (in an active sense). I can see that the passive voice would make complete sense from that viewpoint.

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

  67. Regarding the passive, here is an excerpt from Abasciano’s article:

    No agent of the action is identified for the passive verb, meaning it could be another agent like God that prepared the subjects for eternal life, or Paul as the preacher of the gospel, or the preaching of the gospel itself, or even the subjects of the passive verb themselves (akin to saying, “as many as were set for the test passed it”),[2] or most likely, a combination of these and other factors. It would be too involved to present an exegesis of this text in this setting; the matter deserves a whole article of its own. But suffice it to say here that Acts 13:48 fails to establish Dan’s point. Moreover, it is worth noting that Friberg’s lexicon lists “as many as had become disposed toward eternal life” as a possible translation.[3] Similarly, distinguished grammarian Max Zerwick indicates “who had been set (in the way)” as a possible translation in Zerwick and Grosvenor’s well known A Grammatical Analysis of the Greek New Testament. And the most authoritative lexicon for New Testament studies (abbreviated BDAG) does not take the verb in question to mean “appoint,” but construes it under the meaning of “to put in place.”[4] It is not surprising, then, that the distinguished biblical scholar Henry Alford argued for the rendering, “as many as were disposed,” in his well respected 4 volume work, The Greek Testament. (John Piper of all people sings Alford’s praises thus: “When I’m stumped with a . . . grammatical or syntactical or logical flow [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford mostly answers-he . . . comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions.”) Alford’s treatment of Acts 13:48 can be found in this volume available online.

    https://arminianperspectives.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/some-very-important-comments-on-acts-1348-from-an-arminian-perspective/

  68. Dear Ben,

    As a quick correction, I should have stated I would summarize Abasciano’s view as equivalent to arguing for prevenient grace which “disposed” (in a passive sense) Paul’s hearers to potentially believe (in an active sense).

    Paul W.

  69. Dear Ben,

    The more I think about the problems with the passive voice in Acts 13:48, the more I lean back to the middle voice. I can see the point Abasciano was making, and I do not like to disagree with the distinguished grammarians, but it seems to me the middle voice may have fewer problems from my own perspective. I will have to consider both voices in more depth and the accompanying issues and potential problems with both viewpoints before being fully convinced by the passive voice position. It seems to me that the passive voice leads indirectly back into the Calvinist view.

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

  70. Dear Ben,

    I have spent some time considering a passive voice translation for Acts 13:48 and have concluded that you are correct in stating, “the passive does nothing to harm the Arminian interpretation. …The passive, does not, …indicate that the Gentile’s were being acted upon in an irresistible manner, which is what Calvinists need to make their case here. The bottom line is that the Grammar simply cannot decide the matter in favor of Calvinism. Not even close. And when it comes to context, the Arminian interpretation makes far better sense” ( kangaroodort, on April 12, 2012 at 6:14 pm ).

    After considerable evaluation, I concede that your statement above is correct. Another issue which had bothered me was that Acts 13:48 seems to suggest that only those who were “ordained to eternal life” actually believed, which seemed to me for awhile to favor the Calvinist view of unconditional election (“as many as were disposed to eternal life believed”). My resolution to this situation is that the Arminian can counter, “Only those who were being dealt with by the Lord through prevenient grace for this particular occasion believed. This says nothing about unconditional selection.”

    In favor of an Arminian view (on conditional perseverance) from a passive voice translation of Acts 13:48, since the word “believed” is an aorist, and the aorist does not address the duration of an action, the verse doesn’t really state those who believed kept believing until the end (which undermines the Calvinistic view of perseverance). The aorist leaves open the issue of the duration of their belief. Some of those who began believing potentially could have become apostates later. Calvinists could counter that the verse doesn’t explicitly teach apostasy.

    Calvinists might suggest that the passive voice in Acts 13:48 demonstrates what Calvinism has taught all along, that the Lord selects a person while they are depraved (that is, while they are will-less zombie-slaves to sin and unbelief) and that the Lord makes them able to believe. Some Calvinists might concede that Adam Clarke is correct (mentioned in an earlier post) that tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48 does not mean “preordained,” but they might reason that since the pattern in Acts 13:48 still fits the Calvinistic “elected before believing” position, one can infer a divine decree of predestined determinism despite the fact it is not explicitly taught (in concession to Adam Clarke’s dictionary argument). The Arminian could respond that the inference to a divine decree is an unreliable argument, especially since the lexical meaning of an explicit decree is lost because of Adam Clarke’s argument.

    It seems to me that, at best, the passive voice in Acts 13:48 amounts to a standoff, without clear resolution from the grammar for either Arminians or Calvinists, as you have inferred, Ben, which then essentially defers resolution of the Calvinist/Arminian debate to other Scriptures (if one follows the passive voice translation). When one considers the totality of the Scriptures, as well as the immediate context, “the Arminian interpretation makes far better sense,” as you have concluded in favor of the passive voice translation for Arminians.

    The Calvinist who concedes that Adam Clarke is correct in that the meaning of the word “ordained” does not mean pre-ordained (as previously mentioned in another post), still must contend with the fact that the Greek grammar legitimately allows a middle voice translation which would uncontrovertibly and effectively resolve the debate in favor of the Arminianian view, which should certainly seem to be a nagging issue in back of the minds of those Calvinists who really desire the truth.

    One of the reasons so many Greek trained Bible students may fail to consider the middle voice is that some standard Greek Bible lexicons apparently will only include Greek parsings used exclusively by standard translations of the Bible. That practice effectively excludes alternate Greek parsings which can potentially be viable options for Bible translation, like the middle voice for tetagmenoi in Acts 13:48. The rationale for this practice (which I heard of while a college student) was apparently for pragmatic reasons: to control the size of the lexicon and for cost effective printing and for concise teaching purposes. Cottrell suggests another possible reason: oversight.

    I examined your reference to Cottrell ( http://evangelicalarminians.org/?q=wayman.Acts-13.48-and-Calvinism-Dr.Cottrell-explains ) who stated, “What is often forgotten is that in the Greek language, often the passive and the middle form of verbs are spelled exactly the same way. That is the case here. The word tetagmenoi can also be the MIDDLE form of the verb. …

    What does this verse mean, then? The middle voice of a verb in Greek is sometimes used in a reflexive sense. The idea is that the action of the verb is something performed by the subject (not by someone else upon the subject), but in such a way that the action is directed back toward the subject or the self. Understanding that the verb means ‘to place, to set, to arrange in a certain order or position,’ we can see that the statement in 13:48 can quite validly be taken thus: ‘As many as arranged themselves unto (eis) eternal life believed,’ or ‘As many as turned themselves toward eternal life believed,’ or ‘As many as disposed themselves toward eternal life believed.'”

    One website ( http://www.preceptaustin.org/new_page_40.htm )indicated something is possible of which I was not aware concerning the middle voice: “The middle voice indicates the subject performs an action upon himself or herself (reflexive action) or for their own benefit.” (my emphasis). In other words, if this information is accurate, something I had failed to realize is that the middle voice can indicate something is being done for personal gain, personal benefit or for personal value.

    This suggests to me that in addition to the possible translations, ” …as many as inclined themselves, disposed themselves or addicted themselves to eternal life believed,” another possible way of translating the middle voice is: “And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were inclined for personal benefit or disposed for personal gain or addicted for personal welfare to eternal life believed.

    The middle voice from this latter (personal welfare) perspective clearly makes sense to me from the context of Scripture. The Gentiles had just heard Paul and Barnabas quote Isaiah 49:6, “I HAVE PLACED YOU AS A LIGHT FOR THE GENTILES, THAT YOU MAY BRING SALVATION TO THE END OF THE EARTH” (NASB). Out of the Hebrew Tanakh the gentiles learned the Lord had planned salvation for gentiles as well as Israel. No wonder the gentiles were glad: they had heard of something from which they could clearly benefit, eternal life!

    From a pragmatic view, if Calvinists are unwilling to consider a middle voice translation in Acts 13:48 (either the reflexive or personal welfare versions of the middle voice), then engaging them from a passive voice translation will certainly encourage dialogue, but it seems to me a middle voice translation effectively resolves the Calvinist/Arminian debate if one can persuade the Calvinist of its superiority (which might be extremely difficult in many situations).

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

  71. Paul W.,

    Thanks for the comments. The passive really does not support Calvinism in the least or lead to some sort of deadlock in my opinion. To say that they were “disposed” can easily be taken as being receptive to the message for various reasons. In other words, it is not just a matter of prevenient grace working on them, but their attitude of receptivity as a result of that working. The point is that these were already responding favorably to that grace, i.e., were not resisting that grace/message, in contrast to the Jews who were resisting that grace/message. This doesn’t mean that God was not working in the Jews as well. It means only that due to their pride and jealousy (as the text explains), they were resisting the message and God’s drawing. They were not willing to humble themselves to Paul’s message. That doesn’t mean they were unable to humble themselves. As Paul says, they considered themselves unworthy of the salvation Paul was preaching (which actually means that they thought themselves too good for it, or didn’t need it- they thought they were already in right relationship to God and Paul was wrong to tell them otherwise). They didn’t think they needed Christ. Their predisposition made them resistant, but not irresistibly so. In contrast, the Gentiles did not have the same hang-ups as the Jews and so were not resistant to God’s message and drawing. They were in that sense “disposed”. So to be disposed really means that they were already in a position of receptivity. There should be no wonder then why they actually received the message.

    So it is the combination of God’s working and their response of receptivity, non-resistance that is being convey in their being “disposed” to eternal life. It is like in John 6:44. Only those drawn can come, but there is more to the picture. John 6:45 says that all are taught, but only those who learn from that teaching (respond favorably, do not resist) actually come. All are taught/drawn (cf. John 12:32), but only those who do not resist that drawing will “learn” and “come” as a result. The Jews and the Gentiles had been taught in this passage, but only the Gentiles “learned” and as a result responded positively to the message.

    Another way to look at it is in the context of the move from one dispensation to the next. In John 6 and 10, for example, Jesus is drawing a distinction between Jews who are in right relationship with the Father under the old dispensation and those who are not. Those who were in right relationship with the Father (i.e. truly knew Him), would naturally recognize the Father in the Son (the perfect expression of the Father). Those who were not in right relationship with the Father would naturally resist Christ (the perfect expression of the Father). The Jews thought they knew God and for that reason knew Jesus was an imposter. Jesus makes it clear that the opposite is true. They see Jesus as an imposter because they do not presently know God. They do not know the Father/ are not in right covenant relationship with the Father. If they were they would “learn” from Christ (as He speaks the words of the Father) and come to Him as a result.

    So it becomes a matter of those who know the Father in the old dispensation/covenant being given to the Son under the new dispensation/covenant. The sheep are those who already were in right relationship to the Father and were as a result given to the Son/Shepherd. But Jesus said he had “other sheep” who were not of that pasture (were not Jews). In Acts 13 we see an example of those other sheep. These are Gentiles who are already in right relationship with the Father as Jewish proselytes. The only difference between them and these Jews is that they were in right covenant relationship with God and these Jews were not. So the Jews naturally resisted the message of Christ while the Gentiles naturally accepted it. In that sense we can be fully comfortable with “appointed”. The Gentiles who were already in right relationship with the Father under the old dispensation were appointed (as a result of that prior relationship) to eternal life under the new dispensation.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  72. Another issue which had bothered me was that Acts 13:48 seems to suggest that only those who were “ordained to eternal life” actually believed, which seemed to me for awhile to favor the Calvinist view of unconditional election (“as many as were disposed to eternal life believed”). My resolution to this situation is that the Arminian can counter, “Only those who were being dealt with by the Lord through prevenient grace for this particular occasion believed. This says nothing about unconditional selection.”

    This is possible, but not necessary if we see the disposition as I described it above, i.e., describing their receptivity as well as the working of God, or describing their disposition resulting from their prior right relationship to the Father. But in Calvinism it is difficult to explain how all who were supposedly “elect” responded at that time. That is not how Calvinism generally depicts things. They tell us that the elect often resist the message until at last God decides to act irresistibly on them. So we would need to believe that everyone who would ever believe actually believed at that moment (all of the elect present responded in that moment). The best the Calvinist could do is state things as you suggested Arminians should in saying that it must be as many as were ordained in that situation to believe actually believed. But then the Arminian can give the same response. A Calvinist could say that God orchestrated it so that all the elect responded favorably at that time, but then again that would be an extraordinary case seemingly being described here as the norm, against Calvinist arguments that the elect often resist the Holy Spirit and the message of the gospel.

    This actually gets me back to John 10 where Jesus is speaking about the sheep and how they will run away from the voice of a stranger. That doesn’t fit the picture of the elect in Calvinism who often resist the Spirit and most often live many, many years responding positively to the voice of the strangers. So the “sheep” cannot have reference to the “elect” as Calvinism depicts election. However, if our interpretation is correct that the sheep are those who already know the Father and are for that reason disposed to be receptive to Christ or the gospel of Christ; it makes perfect sense that they would recognize and follow the voice of the Son as opposed to the voice of strangers.

    God Bless,
    Ben

  73. Dear Ben,

    “The passive really does not support Calvinism in the least or lead to some sort of deadlock in my opinion. To say that they were ‘disposed’ can easily be taken as being receptive to the message for various reasons. “

    Ben, I had difficulty thinking of the word “disposed” in your statement as being used in the passive voice. I kept waffling back and forth thinking of the passive voice the way you described it, then thinking of the passive voice for a can of pop which was “disposed” into the garbage. It appeared to me the word was being used by you, and the other Greek experts, in the middle voice, rather than in the passive voice. I wondered if the word could be legitimately used in the passive sense of, “Their dispositions were modified so that they believed.”

    I had to do some research and came to the conclusion that “persuaded” might be a similar analogy for the word “disposed” as you and the Greek experts seemed to be suggesting for the manner of its meaning. I found “persuaded” in the passive voice in Greek, and it is similar to the way you and the Greek grammarians are using the word “disposed,” so it appears to me the word “disposed” could also be used in the passive voice the way you are describing as referring to peoples’ modified dispositions. One of the problems I have found in analyzing a translation is that the way words are grammatically used in English are not always the same way words are used grammatically in Greek. It still seems to me that many Calvinists will claim this passive voice rendering still fits the pattern they have taught all along.

    In interpreting the passive voice of the text, it would be improper to state, “Those who were ‘disposed’ potentially believed,” as I had falsely supposed Abasciano might have been inferring in a previous post. The potentiality, which seems to me to be required from an Arminian perspective, comes from the Aorist form for the word translated “believed,” which, as stated earlier, does not address the duration of their belief. The potentiality, from my own perspective, can come from the potential duration of the belief in those who responded. Some could have later in life stopped believing (like the plants in the parable of the sower which sprung up, but later withered and died because they had no root). Some who believed in Acts 13:48 could have become apostates later. This can be construed to undermine the fifth point in “TULIP Calvinism”, as well as also potentially undermining the “unconditional election/selection” view (the second point in “TULIP Calvinism”). The fact that the Aorist form of “believed” can be construed to undermine two points in “TULIP Calvinism” suggests that a possible “inference” to a divine decree of “unconditional election” is as unfounded as an explicit decree (due to Adam Clarke’s dictionary argument as previously mentioned in an earlier post sabotaging the explicit decree). The problem is that convinced Calvinists can claim these “inferential” arguments in favor of Arminianism from the Aorist are unreliable, and they can opt for their prior Calvinistic view because, as you have stated, “The bottom line is that the Grammar simply cannot decide the matter in favor of Calvinism,” (nor in favor of Arminianism, I would add) from a passive voice translation. Interpretation is required to persuade one in either direction from a passive voice translation, it appears to me.

    Ben, you have done an excellent job in your latest two posts of defending an Arminian position from a passive voice translation, especially with your examples and interpretations from other Scriptures (including John 10). From your approach, it appears to me that Arminians can very satisfactorily accept an appropriate passive voice translation on Acts 13:48 without conceding to a Calvinist view. As you have demonstrated in your expanded explanations in your last two posts especially, I believe you make a very persuasive argument for the Arminian position from the passive voice translation (using other Scriptures to support your interpretations). I personally would formerly have had difficulty doing anywhere near as well as yourself, without your preceding example.

    The point I am really attempting to make when I talk about a “standoff” or “deadlock” concerning the passive voice is in regards to what you yourself have already conceded about the passive voice: “The bottom line is that the Grammar simply cannot decide the matter in favor of Calvinism.” I would add to your statement that with a passive voice translation, the grammar cannot decide the matter in the favor of Arminians either concerning Acts 13:48. Interpretation is required to decide the matter in favor of Arminians from a passive voice translation of Acts 13:48, as you yourself have inferred, if I have properly interpreted you: ,“And when it comes to context, the Arminian interpretation makes far better sense.”

    It seems to me that Calvinists can resist the interpretations Arminians advance for Arminianism from a passive voice translation in Acts 13:48, no matter how persuasive those interpretations may be to Arminians, although I would concede that some Calvinists might potentially be persuaded by your expanded Arminian interpretations and explanations from the passive voice translation of Acts 13:48 as demonstrated by you most recently above, and probably a large majority of Calvinists might have to think twice about reverting to their prior theological persuasion if exposed to your Arminian interpretations of the passive voice for Acts 13:48.

    What I am very strongly suggesting, from my own personal experience in verbal dialogue with a Calvinist leaning interpreter, is that the grammar in a middle voice translation of Acts 13:48 alone decided the case in favor of Arminians (in that person’s own Calvinist leaning mind) without any additional interpretation being necessary at all on my part to explain the middle voice translation. Admittedly, he was trained in Greek.

    The problem with the middle voice translations (from this personal experience of mine) is in getting Calvinists (or Calvinist leaning interpreters) to even consider seriously the middle voice translations as worthwhile translations of Acts 13:48, because of the theological predispositions Calvinists and Calvinist leaning interpreters have against the grammar itself as translated by the middle voice. This Calvinist leaning interpreter verbally concluded (from my own personal experience in dialogue with him) that he rejected a middle voice translation outright, evidently favoring a passive voice translation of Acts 13:48. It was extremely obvious to me as to why he refused to consider the middle voice translation: the passive voice translation allowed him to continue in his own theological presupposition, but the grammar of a middle voice translation would not allow him to continue in his Calvinist leaning view at all. In order to maintain his integrity as a Calvinist leaning interpreter, he had no choice except to reject the middle voice grammar outright on a theological (not a grammatical) basis, or he had to convert to Arminianism on the spot. In a snap judgment he chose the former.

    I am simply attempting to describe a personal experience without naming names, which I suspect, would not end up being an isolated incident if I were given the option of repeating the process in similar circumstances.

    Persuasion is still needed in either case, the middle voice or the passive voice, but with the middle voice the debate is settled on the basis of grammar alone, from personal experience. Then the situation is to attempt to convince the Calvinist or Calvinist leaning interpreter that the middle voice should not be rejected on theological grounds.

    The Calvinist leaning interpreter who rejects the middle voice translations (because of their theological presuppositions) must then ask themselves, “Since the middle voice is a legitimate grammatical rendering of the Greek, if I reject the grammar of the middle voice, am I rejecting the intended meaning of the text, and am I thereby rejecting the Word of the Lord, since the middle voice translations are grammatically legitimate translations?” The Calvinist must deal with the issue as to whether he himself is “resisting the Holy Spirit” by possibly rejecting grammar which the Lord may have intentionally intended.

    It seems to me Ben, that if a Calvinist is going to reject the Arminian view in Acts 13:48, he must not only reject the legitimate grammar of the middle voice (which may be the Lord’s intended grammatical form which grammatically settles the debate in favor of Arminians), he must additionally reject persuasive Arminian interpretations from passive voice translations as well.

    Thank you for your additional input which has given me additional enlightenment, Ben.

    In the Messiah,
    Paul W.

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