An Arminian Response to John Hendryx on the Meaning and Implications of Spiritual Death Part 1: What Does it Mean to be “Dead in Sin?”

Calvinist John Hendryx takes a “synergist” to task in an article entitled Can We Make an Exact Analogy Between Unbelievers’ who are “Dead in Sin” and Believers who are “Dead to Sin”?(Excerpts From Debate in Which Synergist Attempts to Overthrow Doctrine of Total Depravity).  We will use this exchange as a basis for interacting with Hendryx’s main arguments concerning the unique Calvinist understanding of what it means to be “dead in sin” and the theological implications thereof.  The portions of John’s article will be marked by block quotes.  My interactions will follow.

Synergists often claim that since believers are “dead to sin” but can still commit sin that we can draw a direct corresponding analogy which says unbelievers who are “dead in sin” are thus morally able to believe the gospel, apart from the grace of God alone. The following are excerpts from a debate when we “rabbit trailed” on to this issue. The synergist I was debating brought this up as an attempt to prove that when the Bible speaks of a [sic.] those who are “dead in sin” it does not mean “dead” to the same extent that the Reformed view believes it to. In other words it is an attempt to debunk the doctrine of total depravity (That is, to disprove the doctrine that by his fall, man has made himself incapable of obedience unto life since he cannot convert Himself without the transforming work of the Holy Spirit):

John is off to a bad start here.  First, it is not primarily an issue of “dead” being to the “same extent” as Calvinists believe, but what “dead in sin” is actually supposed to mean in the Biblical record.  So it is not so much the extent, but the proper meaning of the phrase “dead in sin” that is at issue here.  John Hendryx assumes the standard Calvinist line that “dead in sin” has specific reference to the inability of a physical corpse.  Unfortunately for Hendryx, the Bible nowhere draws such a correlation.  The Bible never speaks of deadness in sin in the context of inability.  So from the start, Hendryx is question begging in an unbiblical manner, relying on Calvinist definitions rather than Biblical ones.

Secondly, challenging the Calvinist meaning of “dead in sin” does not necessarily equate to “an attempt to debunk the doctrine of total depravity.”  Nor does it amount to the claim that “unbelievers who are “dead in sin” are thus morally able to believe the gospel, apart from the grace of God alone.”  Arminians (like myself) fully affirm the doctrine of total depravity and the need for God’s preceding (prevenient) grace while rejecting the Calvinist insistence that regeneration precedes faith.  That is the issue at stake here.  The Calvinist understanding of “dead in sin” is the fundamental basis for their claim that regeneration must precede faith.  This is based on the belief that to be dead in sin means that one is as incapable of performing any action as a physical corpse.  Just as a corpse cannot see, hear or respond to anything, those who are dead in sin supposedly cannot hear the gospel, see Christ or respond to the gospel in faith until they are first resurrected to new life (regenerated).  Only after this spiritual resurrection can the person respond to the gospel in faith (and in Calvinism this response of faith is guaranteed and caused by regeneration).

While Arminians affirm inability to respond to the gospel outside of God’s enabling power and grace, we do not see that enabling power as regeneration for two important reasons.  First, the Bible clearly places faith before regeneration in the order of salvation (the ordo salutis).  Second, Calvinists have inaccurately portrayed the implications and meanings of the Biblical phrase and concept of deadness in sin (or spiritual death).  It is this second issue that is being addressed by the visitor.

The call for Biblical accuracy with regards to the meaning of the phrase does not mean that one is challenging total depravity or inability, nor does it mean that one denies the necessity of God’s grace in enabling sinners to believe the gospel.  Rather, it is only challenging the Calvinist understanding of “dead in sin” and the implication that total depravity can therefore only be overcome through regeneration (raising the “dead” to life).  Hendryx seems to fail to grasp this distinction throughout his response, wrongly conflating any challenge to the Calvinist understanding of deadness in sin with a denial of total depravity and the corresponding necessity for God’s enabling grace.

(John)
OK now I wanted to make just a few comments on your missive on the analogy between unbelievers who are “dead in sin” and believers who are “dead to sin”

First the visitors comments are within the dotted lines and my answer follows:

—————————————————
(Visitor)

{The] unbeliever’s death in sin is somehow more complete than the believer’s death to sin (which, I think, you’d be hard-pressed to prove).
Dead is dead, right? “How do men “dead to sin” choose pornography, marital infidelity, etc.? In other words, I think monergists take the “dead in sin” phrase too far. The unregenerate man is helpless, hopeless, and hostile, to be sure.

The main point here is that “dead” can be understood in ways other than the inability of a corpse to see, hear or respond to anything.  The fact that those who are dead to sin are still able to sin illustrates this.

I propose that “dead in sin” means something less than living “as a walking cadaver in a spiritual graveyard” whose “ear is deaf to any word from heaven” (Sproul). I’ve read monergistic articles that say things like man is no more capable of responding to God’s offer of salvation than a corpse is of responding to an offer of a fine meal. I am saying that this is “extreme.” Yes, “Paul provides a graphic description of our spiritual impotence prior to regeneration” (Sproul) in Ephesians 2. But what does “dead in sin” really mean?

The visitor starts out discussing the extent of this death but ends up where the discussion really needs to take place, the actual meaning of the Biblical phrase and concept.  Even his comments on the extent seem to have the intent of properly defining the meaning of the Biblical phrase (in pointing out that the inability of a corpse doesn’t really fit with the similar phrase of being “dead to sin”, pointing us towards a different way of understanding “dead” in both phrases).

In the context of a series of verses that sounds much like Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul says that the Gentiles are “excluded from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18). “Excluded” could also be translated “alienated.” I propose that “dead to sin” means that man is alienated, hostile, separated from God, powerless to save himself, and void of eternal life. As the apostle John wrote, “He who has the Son has the life; he who has not the Son has not the life” (I John 5:12). To be dead in sin means to be separated from God (and, thus, His life).

This is a solid Biblical description of being dead in sin.  The Biblical testimony could be extended to demonstrate that separation is the key feature of being dead in sin, and that being joined to Christ (the source of life) is the only solution.  Consider Colossians 2:11-13,

In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ [i.e. in union with Christ].” (Emphasis mine)

There are several important things to note in this passage that directly contradict Hendryx’s understanding of deadness in sin and uphold the “visitor’s” definition of a state of separation from God and Christ.

It is “in him” that we are circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature.  Only in Christ do we have His blood applied which is the basis of our forgiveness and right standing with God (Col. 1:14; Eph. 1:7).  Only “in Christ” do we become a new person, a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17; Eph. 2:10).  Notice how Paul correlates our uncircumcised sinful nature with being dead in sin.  The solution is the same for both, to be joined to Christ (“in him”) and “raised” with Him (cf. Eph. 2:5).

How does this resurrection to new life that remedies our deadness in sin take place?  It takes place “through faith in the power of God.”  Here we have a very plain scripture describing both the deadness of sin and the solution to that deadness being the result of the faith that joins us to Christ (cf. Eph. 1:13, where the Spirit seals us in Christ through faith).  This is “death” to John Hendryx’s interpretation.  Hendryx wants to maintain that regeneration precedes faith and is necessary for faith to take place in accordance with his correlating deadness in sin with the inability of a corpse to do anything.  However, the text before us plainly teaches that our spiritual resurrection is the result of being joined to Christ and His resurrection, and this all results from our “faith in the power of God.”  Look at Eph. 2:4-10,

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions- it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus…for it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this not of yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast .  For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared beforehand for us to do (emphasis mine).

Even in the Ephesians passage, the only other text that uses “dead in sin” terminology, it is clear that we are raised up with Christ in new life through being joined to Him (“alive with”, “raised up with”), and all of this is “by grace…through faith”.  This parallels what we already saw in Colossians where we were said to transition from being dead in sins to attaining the new life in Christ by being raised with Christ “through faith in the power of God.”  Likewise, in Ephesians, we see that we are made alive and raised up “with Christ.”  We are also “created in Christ Jesus” just as we are new creations “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17), and all of this is the result of being joined to Christ, which is, again, by faith (Eph. 1:13).

We will leave this for now, but Hendryx’s interpretation is continually contradicted by Scripture while the Arminian interpretation is upheld.  Hendryx’s understanding of “dead in sin” is simply not in harmony with the Biblical record.  That is big trouble for the Calvinist ordo salutis.

(The visitor continues) Death is separation. Not simply a termination or cessation of life. Physical death is the separation of spirit from body. The body ceases to live and decay begins, but the spirit continues to exist.

When Paul says, “The wages of sin is death,” he is not simply referring to the cessation of corporeal existence, is he? Therefore, spiritual death is better understood as separation from God and not in terms like, “spiritual cadaver” or “spiritual corpse.” If you use terms like that, then you have to refer to a “walking cadaver.” In other words, you’ve got to have a cadaver who still functions somehow. It’s better to just go with “separation from God.”

Separation from God and the resulting spiritual state.  Since God is the source of spiritual life, our alienation from Him both results in spiritual death and describes spiritual death.  Being dead in sin would seem to have reference to both the absence of relationship (like Paul being dead to the world and the world being dead to him, and the severed relationship between the prodigal and his father who considered his son to be “dead” during that time of separation), and the resulting state of spiritual death that naturally results from that relational separation and alienation (since our spirits can only truly live “in Him”).  As noted above, the solution to spiritual death is to be joined to the source of spiritual life (Christ), which comes by faith.

(Visitor) If unregenerate man is cadaver-like and incapable of hearing from God and believing in Him, then why aren’t regenerate men cadaver-like with
respect to sin, Satan, and this world?

Here the parallel is drawn.  The point of the parallel is primarily to show that there is something fishy about the Calvinist understanding of the word “dead” in “dead in sin.”  But John Hendryx seems to think that there is a fatal flaw in the visitor’s reasoning with regards to the illustrative comparison between “dead in sin” and “dead to sin.”  That will be the focus of our next post.

Does Arminian Theology Suggest That We Depend on Ourselves Instead of Christ for Salvation?

From the late R.C. Sproul’s Ligonier Ministries we find a short article “praising” limited atonement by Richard Phillips.  For the purpose of this post we will be focusing in on a section that promotes a critique of Arminianism that has been common among Calvinists for a long time and has been expressed in many different ways:

Second, if we grasp how personal in its application and how efficacious in its effects is the cross of Christ, we will find solid ground for our assurance of salvation.

There can be no assurance if the ultimate cause of our redemption is found in ourselves. The Arminian concept of a universal atonement, Packer remarks, “destroys the Scriptural ground of assurance altogether… . My salvation, on this view, depends not on what Christ did for me, but on what I subsequently do for myself.”

These comments by Packer, quoted favorably by Richard Phillips, represent just one of many Calvinist talking points that relies on a total misrepresentation of Arminian theology.

Since Packer and Phillips see this as a valid critique of Arminian Theology, it is worth addressing.  Thankfully, it is so easily shown to be false that this response won’t need to be very long.

Let’s start by looking at some of the language Packer uses here.  He says that in Arminianism, salvation does not depend on Christ but on us.  It depends on what we “subsequently do” for ourselves.  Since I do not have the full quote, I can only assume he is talking about our response of faith to the provision of the atonement.  Never mind that the Bible plainly teaches that the benefits of the atonement are received by faith (Rom. 3:25), the main issue here is the claim that if it is up to us to put faith in Christ (or His “blood” as Rom. 3:25 says), then suddenly salvation “depends not on what Christ did for me, but on what I subsequently do for myself.”

Really?  Putting faith in Christ and His atonement is an exercise in self-dependence?  Does he really not see how it is exactly the opposite?  Put simply, if we could save ourselves, we would not need to trust in Christ to save us.  If we could atone for our own sins, we would not need to trust in His blood to receive the benefits of His atonement.  Indeed, to say we need to trust in Christ to save us is the same as saying we need to “depend” on Him to save us.  Trusting in Jesus is an act of dependence.  That is why faith is the perfect non-meritorious condition for receiving the free, unearned and undeserved gift of salvation (cf. Rom. 4).

Let’s just look at a simple statement that all Arminians and Calvinists should readily agree with: “We need to trust in Christ to save us.”

Not controversial, right?  Now let’s ask a simple question regarding that statement: Who does the saving in that statement?  Is it the one who trusts in Christ?  Of course not.  Christ does the saving.  Again, that is why we need to trust in Christ to save us because we cannot save ourselves.  If we could save ourselves, we would not need to trust in Christ to save us, now would we?  That we need to trust in Christ to save us proves that we are powerless to save ourselves.  It is so painfully simple and obvious it is hard to understand how Calvinists can so easily miss it.

Are we responsible to trust in Christ?  Yes.  But that in no way means we save ourselves.  It is still Christ who does all the saving.  Trusting in Christ to save is depending on Christ to save.  If we are depending on Christ to save us by trusting in Him, how can Packer not see how false it is to claim that Arminianism teaches that “salvation, on this view, depends not on what Christ did for me, but on what I subsequently do for myself”?

Arminianism in no way teaches that salvation depends on us.  It teaches that salvation depends wholly on Christ and His atoning work on the cross.  Because we are powerless to save ourselves or atone for ourselves, we must trust in Him to do what we cannot do.  Arminianism cannot be rightly charged with promoting self-salvation or salvation by works.  We fully believe in salvation by grace through faith, while rejecting the unBiblical idea that if we are not irresistibly caused to trust in Christ, that faith is somehow a work.  Paul didn’t think so, nor does logic demand such a conclusion.  So why do Calvinists persist in libeling Arminianism in such a way?

And of course, in Arminianism, we are not even able to trust in Christ in the first place without the prior intervention of God’s enabling grace to overcome our depravity and make faith possible.  Not only do we need to trust in Christ to save us (proving we are powerless to save ourselves), but we are also fully dependent on His grace to even be able to trust in Him to save us.   So the charge of Phillips and Packer against Arminianism is seen to be completely without merit.

The “ultimate cause of our redemption” is not found in us, it is found in Christ, which is why we need to trust in Christ to redeem us.  The fact that we need to trust in Christ to redeem us in no way means that we are the cause of redemption.  That is like saying that if we receive a free and unearned gift from someone, even though we could just as well have rejected the gift, that we are then somehow the “ultimate cause” of the gift.  Freely receiving a gift from someone does not mean we earned the gift.  It does not mean we bought the gift.  It does not mean we contributed to the gift.  It does not mean we caused the gift, and it certainly does not mean we gave the gift to ourselves.  All of that is plainly absurd and yet that absurdity forms the basis of this Calvinist argument against Arminianism.  Behind this argument also lies the bizarre assumption that a gift cannot truly be a gift unless it is given irresistibly or unconditionally. It is truly hard to understand how many Calvinists still find this line of reasoning compelling.

Phillips continues:

This is why assurance of salvation is a field of theology and Christian experience plowed only by the Reformed. Murray notes, “It is no wonder that the doctrine of assurance should have found its true expression in that theology which is conditioned by the thought of the divine atonement or effective redemption, the irreversibility of effectual calling, and the immutability of the gifts of grace.

It is when you realize that even your faith is the outworking of Christ’s saving death for you, by the electing will of the Father, as applied by the Spirit, that you know the solid ground on which your salvation stands. If you truly believe–and the Bible gives you tests to determine whether you do–you can rest your heart in God’s sovereign grace and begin looking forward to an eternity of glory in the kingdom that you are now called to serve.

Actually, many of the fundamental claims of Calvinism work to severely undercut Biblical salvation assurance, rather than bolster it.  For more on that see:

Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

An Important Admission on Salvation Assurance From Prominent Calvinist C. Michael Patton

A Telling and Ironic Tweet by John Piper on “Waking up in The Morning” as a Believer 

Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?

The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism Part 3: Who’s Really Holding the Daisy?

 

Brian Abasciano’s Article on 1 John 5:1 is Now Available!

Dr. Brian Abscaiano’s article critiquing the Calvinist claims on the use of 1 John 5:1 to support regeneration preceding faith is now available online.  While it was initially posted online, it was later  removed because the Journal it was published in did not grant permission for public posting.  However, after a year those rights revert back to the author.  Sadly this was not known initially, or it could have been posted publicly many years ago.  Well, better late than never!  This is a must read article on this important passage that Calvinists have wrongly used as a prooftext for their ordo salutis for many years.  The article is now available at the SEA site: “Brian J Abasciano, “Does Regeneration Precede Faith?  The Use of 1 John 5:1 as a Proof Text”

 

Great Quotes: J.C. Thibodaux on Faith and Boasting

Whether you freely believe in Christ or not makes a difference only in what you obtain, not what you deserve. But since what you obtain is only what you’ve freely received from God, the One who makes you differ from those with no hope is God, for without His grace and mercy, you’d be no better off than demons who believe. Therefore no flesh can legitimately boast in His sight. (emphasis mine)

Be sure to check out the full post here

Related:

Brian Abasciano: Addressing the Calvinist Challenge, ‘Why Did You Believe and Your Neighbor Did Not?’

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics- Fallacies #1: If We Have Libertarian Freedom, What Makes Us Choose One Way Or The Other?

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics- Fallacies #2: Arminianism Entails Salvation by “Inherent Ability”

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics- Fallacies #10: Wait, Now Faith is a “Work”?

The Fallacies of Calvinist Apologetics- Fallacies #14: Conditional Election Makes God a Respecter of Persons?

 

Calvinist Sleight of Hand: A Brief Arminian Interaction With Wayne Grudem’s Arguments Against the Compatibility of Foreknowledge And Conditional Election

A while back someone on the SEA discussion board referenced the following comments by Calvinist Theologian Wayne Grudem arguing against the compatibility of foreknowledge and conditional election.  Below is my brief interaction with this quoted material.

The idea that God’s predestination of some to believe is based on foreknowledge of their faith encounters still another problem: upon reflection, this system turns out to give no real freedom to man either. For if God can look into the future and see that person A will come to faith in Christ, and that person B will not come to faith in Christ, then those facts are already fixed they are already determined. If we assume that God’s knowledge of the future is true (which it must be), then it is absolutely certain that person A will believe and person B will not. There is no way that their lives could turn out any differently than this. Therefore it is fair to say that their destinies are still determined for they could not be otherwise. But by what are these destinies determined? If they are determined by God himself, then we no longer have election based ultimately on foreknowledge of faith, but rather on God’s sovereign will. But if these destinies are not determined by God, then who or what determines them? Certainly no Christian would say that there is some powerful being other than God controlling people’s destinies. Therefore it seems that the only other possible solution is to say they are determined by some impersonal force, some kind of fate, operative in the universe, making things turn out as they do. But what kind of benefit is this? We have then sacrificed election in love by a personal God for a kind of determinism by an impersonal force and God is no longer to be given the ultimate credit for our salvation. (Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: An introduction to biblical doctrine  p.589)

Grudem’s argument employs the usual Calvinist sleight of hand in an attempt to make foreknowledge causative in nature. He makes a subtle and unjustified shift from will be to cannot be otherwise. That is false. What will happen is not the same as what must happen, or what cannot be otherwise. It is just the same old conflation of certainty (what will be) with necessity (what must be) that has been refuted for ages. Here is how I would specifically respond to Grudem’s argument:

Grudem: “The idea that God’s predestination of some to believe is based on foreknowledge of their faith encounters still another problem: upon reflection, this system turns out to give no real freedom to man either. For if God can look into the future and see that person A will come to faith in Christ, and that person B will not come to faith in Christ, then those facts are already fixed they are already determined.”

Response: Actually, they are not already fixed, but they will be fixed and God foreknows how they will be fixed. The crucial question is who will fix them? The proper answer is that the agent will fix his choice when he makes it, and freely so. Foreknowledge doesn’t change that at all. 

Just think about it. Suppose there was no foreknowledge. There would still be one future choice (in this case) and not another. So how does adding foreknowledge change anything? It doesn’t. The future will follow one particular course of events regardless of whether anyone has foreknowledge of those events or not. That tells us nothing of the nature of future choices, whether they will be free or not.

And adding God’s foreknowledge, which simply mirrors that single course of future events, doesn’t tell us anything about the nature of those choices either. They can still be made by the agent with full power to do otherwise, even if God foreknows how the choice will go.

Grudem: “If we assume that God’s knowledge of the future is true (which it must be), then it is absolutely certain that person A will believe and person B will not.”

Response: Yes, absolutely certain (will be), but not necessary (must be).  This is where that distinction between certainty and necessity is crucial. Notice how he makes the subtle shift from certainty to necessity below, with no logical warrant for the shift, and no argument. He essentially just asserts that if something will be a certain way, then it must be a certain way. But that is just an assertion, nothing more; and this assertion assumes the very point in contention (and so is question begging)

Grudem: “There is no way that their lives could turn out any differently than this.”

Response: There it is, the unwarranted and subtle shift from certainly to necessity. What he should have said was “there is no way that their lives will turn out any differently…” And why is that? Because of the choices that they will certainly make. But they can certainly make free choices just as well as predetermined choices. Whether a choice is free or predetermined, it will still eventually happen. If they were to make different free will choices in the future then God’s foreknowledge would simply mirror that course of events instead.

Again, just adding foreknowledge to the way things will be doesn’t change anything. It tells us nothing with regards to whether or not there is any real freedom in the choices that will be made. It does not magically change will be to must be. Calvinists like Grudem just assume and assert that it does change it, but they have no real proof or argument, just an assertion.

Grudem: “Therefore it is fair to say that their destinies are still determined for they could not be otherwise.”

Response: Again, notice the wholesale shift now from certainty to necessity. All he is saying is that because it will be a certain way it must be a certain way (could not be otherwise). That’s it. And again, that is nothing more than an assertion. Grudem just switched cards when nobody was looking and hoped nobody would notice.  I will just counter assert that the certainty of a future act does not make it a necessity. That was easy.  And notice how just tweaking his sentence changes everything:

“Therefore it is fair to say that their destinies are still determined [yes, but by who?] for they [will not] be otherwise.”

Just change “could not” to “will not” and there is no problem. Why? Because “will not” does not necessarily imply “could not”. And I can agree that their destinies are determined, but they are determined based on the free choices that they will certainly make, with full power to do otherwise (and God’s free response to those choices).

Grudem: “But by what are these destinies determined? If they are determined by God himself, then we no longer have election based ultimately on foreknowledge of faith, but rather on God’s sovereign will. But if these destinies are not determined by God, then who or what determines them?”

Response: This is all based on a false dilemma that Grudem has created by deliberately conflating certainty with necessity. There is no such problem with those who understand that crucial distinction between what will be (certainty) and what must be (necessity). And, as I said before, the future is determined by both God and people. People will make free will choices (many of which are direct interactions with God), and foreknowledge does not change that.

So we determine our destinies, though God foreknows those choices (and the end results of those choices). But God also foreknows his very real interactions with us that are yet future as well. He foreknows His own actions and responses, just as He does ours. But His foreknowledge of His future free actions does not mean He has no power to choose otherwise or no freedom to do so. It is just the same with us.

Grudem: “Certainly no Christian would say that there is some powerful being other than God controlling people’s destinies. Therefore it seems that the only other possible solution is to say they are determined by some impersonal force, some kind of fate, operative in the universe, making things turn out as they do.”

Response: Of course, this does not follow at all if one does not conflate certainty with necessity. We control our destinies based on the choices we make and the way we respond to God and His actions and interventions in our lives. God’s prior knowledge of that doesn’t change that truth at all.

Grudem: “But what kind of benefit is this? We have then sacrificed election in love by a personal God for a kind of determinism by an impersonal force and God is no longer to be given the ultimate credit for our salvation.” (p.589)

Response: Another huge leap in logic. There is no “impersonal force” necessary, only choices made by real persons. And if God has determined to make salvation conditional, then He is still the one who determines who gets saved and who doesn’t. Those who believe will be saved and those who do not will not be saved. That condition and His response to that condition was His choice, not ours.

The only choice we make is if we will meet the God ordained condition for receiving His salvation, but it is still God alone who saves, and for that reason God still gets all the credit for salvation. It is exactly because we cannot save ourselves that we need to trust in Christ to save us. If we could save ourselves, we wouldn’t need to trust in Christ to save us, now would we?

So the condition of faith (the fact that we need to trust in Christ to be saved) is what makes salvation all of God and all of grace, and it is why faith is the perfect condition for receiving salvation which by its very nature excludes boasting:

“What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation. However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.  (Romans 4:3-5, emphasis mine)

“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace.” (Romans 4:16, emphasis mine)

So conditional salvation/election and God’s foreknowledge of who will be saved are fully compatible.  Despite Grudem’s assertions, it does not follow that such a view (when properly understood) leads to a fate like controlling impersonal force behind God, and it doesn’t lead to the idea that we or any such non-existent force gets the credit for salvation rather than God.  Grudem’s argument is riddled with unwarranted assumptions, nonsequiturs and question begging, and for that reason is hardly persuasive.

_________________________

Related:

Dr. Robert Picirilli: Foreknowledge, Freedom and the Future

Thomas Ralston on Freedom of the Will Part 8: Can Free Agency be Harmonized With Divine Foreknowledge?

Calvinism on the Horns: The Problem of Divine Foreknowledge in Calvinism and Why You Should Be An Arminian

 

Dr. Brian Abasciano Answers, “Why Did You Believe And Your Neighbor Did Not?”

Brian Abasciano addresses this oft repeated Calvinist argument against conditional salvation here:

Brian Abasciano, “Addressing the Calvinist Challenge, ‘Why Did You Believe And Your Neighbor Did Not?'”

Great Quotes: Merrill C. Tenney on John 1:12-13 And Faith Preceding Regeneration

This provides the initial definition of ‘believe’ by equating it with ‘receive.’ When we accept a gift, whether tangible or intangible, we thereby demonstrate our confidence in its reality and trustworthiness. We make it part of our own possessions. By being so received, Jesus gives to those who receive him a right to membership in the family of God.

‘Become’ indicates clearly that people are not the spiritual children of God by natural birth, for we cannot become what we already are. This verb implies a change of nature. The word children (tekna) is parallel to the Scottish bairns– “born ones.” It emphasizes the vital origin and is used as a term of endearment (cf. Luke 15:31). Believers are God’s ‘little ones,’ related to him by birth.” (The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, pg. 32)

The implications are obvious.  The new birth is received by faith and we become God’s children through faith.  John 1:12 simply cannot be made to comport with the Calvinist claim that regeneration precedes faith.  Indeed, it proves that contention false.

Related:

Dr. Brian Abasciano on the Conditionality  Implied in Romans 9:16 and its Connection to John 1:12-13

The Arminian and Calvinist Ordo Salutis: A Brief Comparative Study

Does Jesus Teach that Regeneration Precedes Faith in John 3:3, 6?

Highlighting an Important Series Critiquing The Calvinist Interpretation of Romans 9

Back in 2010 J.C. Thibodaux started what would eventually become a four part series on Romans 9, with special focus on the problems inherent in the typical Calvinist interpretation of Romans 9. This short series was slow going as it did not conclude until 2012.  For that reason it can be hard to follow the series by just looking through the site.  Since it is a very good and concise critique of the typical Calvinist approach to Romans 9 as a proof-text for unconditional election, and because these posts continue to get a lot of traffic, I thought it would be good to highlight them together in one post:

Romans 9 in Context: God’s Just Prerogative in Confounding All Confidence in The Law of Works

Where Calvinism Gets Romans 9 Wrong: Prerogative Equals Unconditionality

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

Where Calvinism Gets Romans 9 Wrong: Proof-Texting From a Translation of Choice

 

Does 2 Thessalonians 2:13 Support Calvinism?

Since this passage often comes up in discussions of election and is often put forward as evidence for the Calvinist view, I thought I would share this brief Q & A from the ??Questions?? page,

Question: Can you tell me how you view 2Th 2:13? Thanks.

Answer: That passage comes up as supporting Calvinism some times, but I think a careful reading of the language supports Arminianism better than Calvinism (as is so often the case). First, Paul says that they were “chosen” through…belief in the truth. That would most naturally be understood as faith being the means through which they were chosen (just as we are saved by grace through faith). So basically, we have a passage that says they were chosen “through faith” which is exactly what Arminianism claims, and is counter to the Calvinist view that we are chosen unto faith.

Now Paul also says they were chosen through sanctification, but we know that sanctification and the reception of the Spirit that sanctifies us is also by faith in Scripture (Acts 26:18; Gal. 3:2, 5, 14). We are “set apart” to God and marked out as belonging to Him through the reception of the Spirit of promise, and all of this is through faith.

The other issue is “from the beginning” in this passage, which probably has reference to the beginning of Paul’s ministry among the Thessalonians (there is no reason to take it as a reference to eternity or the beginning of time as Calvinists often do). It would be like saying. “from the very start, you were receptive to God’s working among you, receiving God’s salvation and becoming His people through faith and the sanctification of the Spirit.” There is also a textual variant issue at play in this passage which has “chosen as first fruits” rather than “from the beginning” here, which might convey the same basic idea of them being the first to embrace the Gospel in Paul’s ministry in that area.

Determinism and Regrets

From SEA:

Star-Wars-Regret-300x249

 

Regrets are problematic in determinism as they often presuppose belief in free will (though that is not necessarily true of all regrets).  I touched on this same topic long ago in this post: Struggling With Regrets.  Another related post I hope to expound on in more detail sometime soon is Sacrifice and the Nature of Human Freedom.  A great article that touches on some of these issues and many others with regards to the presuppositions inherent in a coherent reading of Scripture is Glen Shellrude’s  Calvinism and Problematic Readings of New Testament Texts, Or Why I Am Not A Calvinist.