Another Nice Short Post on Problems in Calvinism and the Calvinist Use of Language

Janis Joplin, Calvinism and More Words w/ Multiple Meanings

Excerpt:

I think Jonathan Edwards & Co are looking too much to the hard sciences to explain spiritual realities and therein lies their mistake. They also would deny God the sovereign prerogative to delegate the power of contrary choice to everyone born in sin. In this regard, it is the Calvinists who would “limit” divine sovereignty and resist God’s right to be God. If the LORD wants to delegate the power (or ability) to believe, or reject, the Gospel to lost sinners, then who are we to object? A truly sovereign God can delegate authority as He sees fit. We know that God gave Adam the ability to choose sin even though he did not have a sinful nature, so why can’t He give the rest of us the ability to repent, even though we have a sinful nature?

HT: Dale Wayman

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Craig L. Adam’s on Calvinism’s Use of John 6:44

Calvinism and John 6:44

Related posts and articles:

Various Thoughts on the Use of John 6 and Related Passages From John’s Gospel to Support Calvinism

Daniel Whedon on John 6

The Order of Faith and Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep

John 6:37 (Richard Coords)

Does John 6:44 Teach Irresistible Grace?

Is The Drawing of John 12:32 Universal or Particular?

 

Various Thoughts on The Use of John 6 And Related Passages From John’s Gospel to Support Calvinism

I have been meaning to do an extensive post on John 6 and related passages for some time, but have not gotten around to it yet.  In the meantime, I thought it would be helpful to post various comments I have made about John 6 and related passages in John’s Gospel.  These comments mostly come from previous posts and comment threads, so it can feel like coming into the middle of a conversation at times.  Still, it shouldn’t be too hard to decipher what is being discussed.  At the end are some links to other posts and articles on John 6 that take similar approaches (though not necessarily drawing all of the same conclusions).

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“However, I do think the issue of why the Jews specifically rejected Jesus is a main concern for John. John’s gospel was written very late at a time when the church was shifting heavily to being primarily a Gentile church. I think John is addressing a major concern taking place at the time of his writing. The concern for the Jews would be to help them see why the Jews who knew Jesus rejected Him, which also explains why many Jews at the time of John’s writing were still rejecting Christ as their Messiah. No doubt many Jews were wondering why, if Jesus was the Messiah, did the Jewish leaders largely reject Him? Likewise, Gentiles would also be wondering why, if Jesus is the Jewish Messiah, did the Jewish leaders reject Him, and why are so many Jews still rejecting Him? Is their rejection an indictment on Christ’s claims?

If that is the case, then John is very focused on showing that the Jewish leaders and many of the Jews who encountered Christ rejected Him, not because He wasn’t from God, but because they (the Jews) were not “of God.” They pointed the finger at Christ saying that He was not of God, but the reality was that Christ was of God (one with Him, in fact), and the reason they didn’t recognize it was because they didn’t know God (were not in right covenant relationship with God). I believe that is the primary issue being addressed in Jesus’ confrontations with the Jews in John (chapters 5, 6, 8, and 10 especially). Look at this verse,

“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.” (John 3:20, 21, NASB)

If we interpret this as Calvinists (and some Arminians) do as a simple passage on depravity, we run into a serious problem. The text says that “whoever does what is true comes to the light”.

Coming to the light, in this context, is coming to Christ, i.e., putting faith in Christ. So this text is saying that those who “practice truth” come to Christ. That doesn’t sound like a biblical description of someone who is depraved. Someone who is totally depraved in the Calvinist sense is not someone who can be characterized as “practicing truth.” But if John’s point is the same as being described in John 10 (as well as in John 5, 6, and 8) that those who know the Father come to Christ, and those who do not know the Father reject Christ, then this passage makes perfect sense.

But if we universalize this passage to all people we run into the same difficulty. How is it that Gentiles who know nothing of God can be characterized as “practicing truth” prior to coming to Christ? It doesn’t really fit with that paradigm. But it does fit with the idea of faithful Jews submitting to the claims of Christ because they already know God (have a relationship with Him). It could, however, extend to Gentiles like Cornelius who knew God as well, prior to hearing the message preached by Peter. But his faith was based on his knowledge of God from the Jews. He was one of those “other sheep” who already knew God and would automatically recognize the Shepherd and His voice (which is the voice of the Father as well).

Another good one is John 7:17,

“If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself.”

Here we see this principle being plainly described by Christ. The one who truly wishes to do the will of the Father (i.e. truly knows the Father and thereby “practices truth”) will immediately recognize that Jesus is speaking the words of the Father. Such people will be given, by the Father, to the Shepherd as His sheep. They recognize His voice, listen to Him and follow Him, just as they followed the Father.

The secondary application is simply that those who are willing to hear from the Father (however He may teach them) will be drawn by the Father to Christ. In our situation, this happens by the conviction of the Holy Spirit and the preaching of the gospel. The principle is similar, but it is a different time and a different situation. We come to the Father through the Son, while in a very real sense the Jews of Jesus’ time came to the Son through the Father and were then able to take part in the new dispensation when only those joined to the Son can remain in right relationship with the Father. Here are a few things I wrote on drawing that might help shed light on what I am saying (how there is both a primary and secondary application),

“Not of God” [in John 8] simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims. Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45). As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45).

None of these passages say anything about an unconditional eternal election being behind the description of these Jews as “not of God.” Such an idea is only read into these passages by Calvinists…. Second, as mentioned above, their inability to hear was not because God wasn’t working, but because they were resisting that working. Clearly, Jesus is still trying to reach them (8:27-31, 36, cf. John 5:44; 10:37, 38), which would be senseless if He viewed them as hopeless reprobates. This is especially evident in Christ’s statement to the same sort of resistant Jews in John 5 where Christ both declares their inability and yet tells them, “…not that I accept human testimony, but I mention it that you may be saved”, vs. 34. This is especially relevant to my point since the “testimony” Christ refers to is the prior testimony of John the Baptist. Christ then points them to other “testimonies” like His miracles, the Scriptures in general, and Moses, obviously implying that through the acceptance of these testimonies they may yet be enabled to “come to” Him and be “saved”, cf. vss. 39, 40; Luke 16:27-31).

Jesus’ method of discourse is actually a rather common teaching technique used for the purpose of admonishment in order for the “students” to fully realize their situation with the hope that in realizing it (coming to grips with this important revelation) they will be spurred on to change (i.e. repentance). I work in schools daily and see this type of teaching technique used all the time. It is similar to a Math teacher saying, “how can you expect to do division when you haven’t even learned your times tables? You can’t do division while you remain ignorant of multiplication.” Such instruction is not meant to highlight a hopeless state. It is not meant to express that the student can never do division. Rather, it is intended to get the student to re-examine the reality of their current state and how it makes further progress impossible, with the hope that they will learn what is required in order to move forward (e.g. John 5:41-45).

Likewise, Jesus is actually using much of what He says for the purpose of getting those who are listening to re-examine their present relationship to the Father and thereby realize that they are not in a proper position to be making such judgments about Christ and His claims, with the hope that they will yet “learn” from the Father so that they can come to a place where acceptance of Christ and His words is possible (e.g. John 5:33-47; 10:34-39, cf. John 6:45, etc). Had they already learned from the Father (been receptive to God’s grace and leading through the Scriptures, the prophets, the ministry of John the Baptist, the miracles of Christ, etc.), they would have immediately recognized that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, Shepherd and King of God’s people, and been given to Him. Yet, not all hope is gone, for they may yet learn if they stop resisting the Father’s leading.

Christ’s teaching on drawing in John 6:44, 45, therefore, is not just descriptive, but for the purpose of admonishment, that they might be careful not to spurn and resist this drawing and miss eternal life and the promise of resurrection. God’s working in prevenient grace and drawing can be complex and operate in different ways depending on the person and the situation. God approaches us from a variety of angles. These passages illustrate that. Yet, we dare not assume that because the operation of prevenient grace on the human heart and mind doesn’t necessarily reduce to a simple equation or formula, God is not still working. Indeed, God is always working (John 5:17).”

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“The Calvinist might object that verse 25 [of John 10] is not in harmony with the above interpretation due to the fact that Jesus tells the Jews that they do not believe because they are not His sheep. It could be argued that verse 25 refers to a predetermined and unconditional election: The sheep are those who were elected by God prior to creation and then given faith to believe in Christ. The problem with this suggestion is that there is nothing in the text to indicate that Jesus is describing a pre-temporal election of certain individuals for salvation. Such an eternal decree must be first assumed and then read into the text.

A more plausible interpretation is to understand Jesus’ words in John 10:27-29 in the context of the unique historical situation taking place at the time of His ministry with regards to the transition from the old dispensation to the new. The passage has a secondary application to believers of all ages (as described above) but the primary application concerned only the Jews who were alive during Christ’s ministry and were specifically being addressed in this and other similar chapters in John (John 5:24-27; 6:37, 40-44, 65; 8:12-59). The “sheep” in this context are the Jews who are currently living in right covenant relationship with the Father during the time of Jesus’ ministry. The Jews that Jesus is addressing in this discourse and others like it throughout John’s gospel are not in right relationship with the Father during the time of Christ’s ministry. Since they do not know the Father (are not “of God”) they cannot recognize the perfect revelation of the Father in the Son (Jn. 7:16, 17; 8:19, 42-47). They reject the Son and refuse to trust in Him because they have rejected the Father. Therefore, they are not Christ’s sheep and cannot be given to the Son (John 6:37). If they had known the Father they would have recognized the Son as their Messiah and would have been given to Him.

So the primary application still addresses the issue of faith but not in the same way as we would tend to apply it today since our situation is different from that of the Jews and we are not living at a critical time in history where the faithful Jews were being given, by the Father, to their Shepherd and Messiah. For them it primarily involved the transition from one sphere of believing (in the Father) to another (in the Son). Those faithful Jews recognized the Father in the Son and as a result listened to Him and followed Him as their long awaited Messiah. In either case the “sheep” are those who are “listening” and “following” and the passage gives no indication that one cannot cease to be one of Christ’s sheep by later refusing to listen and follow.”

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Other helpful posts and articles:

The Oder of Faith and Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep

Daniel Whedon on John 6

Benson on John 6

John 6:37 (Richard Coords)

Calvinism: John 6

Tim Warner Responds to James White on John 6 Part 1

Tim Warner Responds to James White on John 6 Part 2

Tim Warner Responds to James White on John 6 Part 3

 

Does Jesus Teach Unconditional Eternal Security in John 6:37-65?

John 6:37, 44, 65

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out…No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day…And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted by My Father.

We dealt briefly with the context of this passage above when discussing John 10:27-29.  Jesus is speaking to Jews whose hearts are not right with God.  They are not faithful Jews and do not know the Father.  Because they are not in right covenant relationship with the Father, they cannot recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son.  Since they are not willing to do the Father’s will they cannot properly discern the truth of Christ’s words (John 7:17).  Those who know the Father will recognize the truth of Christ’s words and be “drawn” to Him (6:44, 45, cf. John 3:21).   They will be given to the Son and come to faith in Him as a result (6:37).  To them alone has the Father granted access to the Son (6:65).

The passage has to do with the Father giving the faithful Jews to their long awaited Messiah.  It has nothing to do with a pre-temporal unconditional election of certain sinners to come to faith in Christ.  This is a conclusion that many have read into this passage according to a prior commitment to a theological system without any contextual warrant.

Jesus assures anyone who would come to Christ in faith that they will not be rejected.  They will be accepted in the Beloved One of God (6:37).  The Father will not fail to give all the faithful Jews to Christ and Christ will not fail to receive them to Himself.  Christ will “raise them up at the last day.”  These Jews can be sure that their destiny is secure in Christ.  However, the promise is only for those who are presently and continually “eating”, “drinking”, “believing”, “coming”, “listening”, “following”, and “beholding.”   Only those who persevere in saving faith will be raised up at the last day (6:40).  There is no promise here for those who stop believing and no guarantee that those who begin to believe will inevitably endure in that faith.  The “all that” in verse 39 is the sum total of believers.  It is the corporate body of Christ and that body will certainly be “raised up at the last day” because that body is comprised of those who are presently and continually “believing” in the Son (vs. 40).

From: Perseverance of the Saints Part 12: Examining Passages Commonly Appealed to by the Advocates of Unconditional Eternal Security

“Saved by Grace”- Through Faith

Not surprisingly, a Calvinist has taken issue with my recent critique of Paul Washer’s arguments for unconditional election.  This Calvinist, who goes by the moniker, “Saved by Grace” (SBG), left a very lengthy and detailed comment after reading my post, rebuking me for misrepresenting Calvinism and for failing to rightly interpret numerous passages of Scripture.  Since SBG’s comments were very long, and a careful and detailed response will go a long ways towards dealing with common Calvinist proof texts, as well as clearing up charges of misrepresentation, I thought it best to make a post out of it.  SBG’s comments are designated by “SBG” in block quotes.  My responses are in between these block quotes.

SBG: Your first problem that you approach Mr Washer’s teaching from an unbiblical position of election by works.

This could not be more inaccurate.  No Arminian believes in election by works.

SBG: You first combat unconditional election:
When you say: “So rather than look to what the Bible actually says about election, Paul Washer wants to take the student on a philosophical journey of the Calvinist conception of inability in order to “teach” this student why he should hold to the Calvinist unconditional election view.”

More specifically, I was arguing against Washer’s approach to establishing unconditional election via the claim that inability logically necessitates an unconditional election view.

SBG: Election is not conditioned on faith:
John 6:29: “This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom He sent.”

We can see that the work God requires is faith. Either you accept from this verse that belief is God’s work into a man (the calvinist position) or belief is the work God requires from man for not only for initial salvation but also continued salvation.

Not really.  Jesus is just explaining that what God requires of them is faith (i.e. faith is the God ordained condition for receiving eternal life).  He is not speaking of “working” in the Pauline sense of faith vs. works.  You say that the Calvinist position is that this means not that man works, but that God “works [faith] into a man”.  But this contradicts the way Christ uses the word in verse 27 when He introduces the concept.  The idea of God “working” faith into man cannot make sense of the way Christ uses the concept in verse 27.  So the Calvinist interpretation (though I don’t think that many Calvinists interpret this as you do) is highly unlikely.  But it is important to add that Arminians do not necessarily object to the idea that God works faith into people.  They only object that God does so irresistibly.

I think the main idea here is simply for Christ to re-direct their focus to what matters most.  These men actually “worked” (labored) to find Jesus after He fed them (John 6:22-24).  Jesus doesn’t want to discourage their effort in coming to Him and seeking Him out.  Rather, Jesus wants to discourage them from coming to Him for the wrong reasons. The end result of their effort should be to believe in Jesus and receive from Him the bread that will create spiritual life in them.  Christ’s words might possibly have secondary application to be understood in the sense that in order to do the “works” God requires, these works can only be done in the context of a relationship with Christ, through which we gain the life and power to truly “work” for God (i.e. the work of God can only be done through faith, cf. Rom. 8:3-17).  Therefore, Christ points them to the need for faith, since this must be the beginning of any opportunity to do the works that please God.  There is work to be done, but this work must be the result of faith in God and a desire to serve Him, not just a desire  for God to take care of our physical needs (cf. John 4:4-38, esp. verses 31-38). It is also interesting to note that Jesus is clearly reaching out to them here, which contradicts the typical Calvinist understanding that these Jews were reprobates without any hope of truly coming to Christ in faith (more on that below).

However, since you seem to equate receiving eternal life with election (in your use of this passage as a counter to conditional election), you have essentially conceded that election is by faith as the Gospel of John repeatedly testifies that eternal life is received by faith.

SBG: Romans 9:11-12: “(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), it was said to her, “The older shall serve the younger.”

Why should this passage contradict election by faith?  It only says that election is not of works.  It isn’t even addressing individual election unto salvation, but God’s choice of the covenant head through which the covenant people will be named and thereby receive the covenant blessings, which ultimately include salvation.  That God is speaking of the covenant people as a corporate entity through the choice of the covenant head (Jacob) over Esau, is plain from what God said to Rebecca while they were in the womb,

“Two nations are in your womb, and two peoples from within you will be separated; one people will be stronger than the other, and the older will serve the younger.”

The quote from Malachi (Rom. 9:13, Malachi 1:2, 3) also makes this very clear (along with the fact that the individual Esau never personally served Jacob). If you want to better understand the corporate view and why these passages actually support conditional election, see the articles I linked to by Dr. Abasciano in the endnotes.  You can find those articles as well as links to several other good articles on corporate election here.

SBG: 2 Tim 1:9: “who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began,”

Again, election is expressly not by works. But Christ clearly says that belief is a work. The basis of your view of election is therefore not Scriptural.

Again, no Arminian would ever say that election is by works.  Also, if Christ meant that belief is a work in the way you seem to want to describe it, then your “Calvinist” interpretation of John 6:29 given above must be false.  As I said before, Jesus did not mean that faith is a work in the Pauline sense, only that it is the God ordained condition for receiving the free gift of eternal life (and possibly, in a secondary sense, that the works of God can only be done through faith).  When Paul speaks of works vs. faith he is speaking of the difference between trying to earn or merit salvation (by works), and receiving salvation as a free and undeserved gift from God (by faith).  This is very clearly explained in Rom. 4.  That is not what Jesus is speaking of in John 6.  Jesus also makes it very clear that salvation is a free gift from God, received by faith, throughout John’s Gospel (and John 6, cf. verses 32-35, 51, etc.).

SBG: Next you say:
“The student seems to rightly recognize that inability alone cannot really decide the matter in favor of unconditional election since God could draw all to Himself (John 12:32), enabling all to believe and become the elect if that were how God sovereignly chose to do things (John 16:7-11; Titus 2:11; 1 Timothy 2:1-6;).”

Firstly John 12:32 needs to be addressed: “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.”
The word “draw” needs to be understood before a person can understand what this text is saying. Draw is from the greek word “Helkuse” which means to drag, or draw in the sense of drawing water from a well first, It denotes force. First example:

Surely, you understand the difference between using a word to describe purely physical interactions with inanimate objects (as in most of your examples) like swords or nets (or even people who are being physically overpowered), and interactions between persons in reference to their emotions, wills, and other spiritual components?  You can see this in normal English usage just as well as in Greek.  In English, if I say that water was “drawn” from the well, it would be obvious that this would be in the sense of forceful pulling with the bucket having no power to resist that pulling force.  However, if I said that someone was “drawn” to strong drink, that would not mean that the person could not possibly resist that drawing.  It would be nonsense for me to use the example of drawing water to argue that if someone is drawn to alcohol it must likewise mean that the drawing is irresistible.  People immediately and quite naturally understand the difference based simply on the fact that the first example deals with purely physical interactions, while the second takes into account the human element that goes far beyond just physical components.  That is why no translation has “drag” in John 6 or 12, since “drag” does not fit the context.  L. Leroy Forlines makes this point well when he writes,

“I have no problem with the idea that the drawing spoken of in John 6:44 is a “strong drawing.”  But I do have a problem with speaking of it as a “forceful attraction” [quoting Calvinist Robert Yarbrough].  A word used literally may have a causal force when dealing with physical relationships.  However, we cannot require that that word have the same causal force when it is used metaphorically with reference to an influence and response relationship.  John 6:44 [and 12:32] speaks of a personal influence and response relationship.

For John 6:44 to aid the cause of unconditional election, it must be understood in terms of cause and effect.  The verse plainly says that no one can come to Christ without being drawn by the Father.  But there is nothing in the word helkou that would require that it be interpreted with a causal force.  In fact, if we keep in mind that the relationship between God and man is a personal relationship, the use of helkou in this verse is better understood in terms of influence and response rather than cause and effect.” (Classical Arminianism: A Theology of Salvation, ed. J. Matthew Pinson)

SBG: John 6:44 uses the same word and we see that, just as in ever other use of the word (examples given), irresistibility is depicted.
“No one can come to Me unless to the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day.”

So now you know from the word “Draw” that it is not a simple wooing, because that is never how the Holy Spirit uses this word in the Bible.

Sure He does, in John 6 and 12 where the word is not being used to describe purely physical interactions, but interpersonal interactions between the Spirit of God and the spirit of man.

It is especially important to note that the LXX uses the same Greek word in Nehemiah in the context of God working to bring Israel back to Him, and Israel resisting that work (drawing),

“And many times You rescued them according to Your compassion,
29 And admonished them in order to turn them back to Your law. Yet they acted arrogantly and did not listen to Your commandments but sinned against Your ordinances, By which if a man observes them he shall live. And they turned a stubborn shoulder and stiffened their neck, and would not listen.

30 “However, You bore with them (literally, “drew” them, the same Greek word used in John 6 and 12) for many years, And admonished them by Your Spirit through Your prophets, Yet they would not give ear (which proves that this drawing was not irresistible). Therefore You gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands.

31 “Nevertheless, in Your great compassion You did not make an end of them or forsake them, For You are a gracious and compassionate God.

This really destroys your entire argument as it is clear from this passage that the Greek word for “draw” does not always convey the idea of irresistible drawing or dragging (I am indebted to a New Testament scholar for pointing this out to me).

SBG: Further, the pronoun “him” being used twice reveals that ever “him” that is “draw[n]” is also the same “him” that is “raise[d]… up” I have never heard a convincing argument to why a person should separate the obvious connection in this verse between the two uses of the pronoun “him.” Everyone drawn is also raised up. This is why Jesus says “All that the Father gives Me will come to me… This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given me, I should loose nothing, but I should raise it up at the last day.” (John 6:37,39).

I think you meant to quote verse 44.  The verses you quoted use the plural in verse 37 and neuter singular pan (denoting the whole of all that are given) in verse 39.  Those verses are focused on the whole of those given.

In John 6:44 it is clear from the language that no one can come unless drawn (i.e. drawing is necessary for coming) and that the one who “comes” as a result of that drawing will be raised up.  That is all that the language dictates and that is the most natural reading.  The problem for your claim is that the passage does not say that the drawing guarantees the “coming”.  That is something that you must read into the passage.  All it says is that no one can come unless drawn.  It then says that the one who comes (as a result of this drawing, since the necessity of drawing is clearly implied) will be raised up.  It nowhere says that all who are drawn also come. The one who is “raised up” is the one who is both drawn and comes, but since the passage never says that all who are drawn come, your interpretation is a very forced and unnatural reading of the text.  So the burden really is on you to do the “convincing”.

SBG: Your use of John 16:7-11 is questionable not only becuase it is unraveled by the exposure of the error in John 12:32, but also from the very next chapter (John 17:9-10), “I pray for them, I do not pray for the world, but for those whom you have given Me, for they are yours, and all mine are yours and yours are mine and I am glorified in them.” Further, all those who are given receive eternal life from Christ, this is why He has been given authority over all flesh. (John 17:2-3).

First, you have exposed no error in John 12 except the error that you have made in wrongly assuming that “draw” must mean irresistible “dragging”.  Second, John 16 is in no way “unraveled” by John 17:9-10 as those passages are a specific reference to Christ’s disciples.  This is clear from the language of verses 7-18.  It is especially clear from verse 12, “While I was with them, I protected them and kept them safe by that name you gave Me.”  This is clearly a specific reference to the disciples alone.

But it gets worse for your interpretation in the second part of the verse, “None have been lost [of those you gave Me] except the one doomed to destruction so that Scripture would be fulfilled.”  Here we clearly have Jesus saying that one “given” Him by the Father was lost. But it even gets worse as later Jesus does pray for the world, that the world would be saved through the disciples and their teaching (vss. 20, 21).  This is in perfect harmony with the Spirit’s universal work of convicting the world of sin and unbelief (John 16:7-11).  So my interpretation is confirmed and strengthened by John 17 rather than “unraveled” by it.  This illustrates the potential problem with stringing together lists of proof texts.  All one has to do is examine the language and context to see that these passages are being misused by you.

SBG: Further the Apostle in Hebrews 2:13: “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me”

This says nothing about whether or not such were given conditionally or unconditionally.  Faith as a condition for belonging to Christ (and remaining in Him) is all over Hebrews, and it is only through being “In Him” that we are “elect” (Eph. 1:4 cf. Hebrews 3:3-6, 14).

SBG: Titus 2:11: “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men”

A couple things to remember is that in the first century a major problem was the Jews arguing that Gentiles could not receive salvation without being a Jew first. This was the argument of the Judaizers (Gal) and the overarching sediment of non-christian jews. The greek word “All” can either mean all as in head for head or all as in some of all types.

Rev 5:9: ” You are worthy to take the scroll,
And to open its seals;
For You were slain,
And have redeemed us to God by Your blood
Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,”

I am sorry, but I don’t see the word “all” in your quote of Revelation.  You are going to need to do better than that to prove that “all” in Titus 2:11 actually only means “some of all types.”  Do you really think that Paul meant, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to some of all types”?  It is telling that you need to draw from a passage in Revelation to try to make your point, since there is nothing in the context of the Titus passages that would restrict “all” to “some of all types”.  If there were, we probably wouldn’t see you jumping to an unrelated passage in Revelation to try to make your case.

SBG: If it is not all in the collective sense, then it would have to be head for head, which is an impossibility because millions of people even today have never heard the gospel so that they could believe.

Neither have “some of all types” or “all tribes” heard the gospel so they can believe it (in accordance with the typical Calvinist claim that unreached tribes serve as support for unconditional election against Arminianism).  A better interpretation is to see that God’s gracious revelation is given to all, though the extent and function of that revelation leading people to Christ depends on certain factors.  Not all are immediately presented with the gospel (for a variety of reasons), but this does not mean that God is not at work to lead everyone to the possibility of receiving and responding to the gospel.  If they respond positively to whatever measure of grace they are exposed to (whether through natural revelation or otherwise), God will continue to work in them, drawing them closer still, even ultimately leading them to an encounter with the gospel by which they might be saved (through missionary work, visions, etc.).

Part of this also entails God working through the example and testimony of those whose lives have already come to fully share in God’s grace through faith (Rom. 5:1, 2).  For this reason, Paul focuses on God’s grace being revealed to all to remind Timothy and those he will teach that the grace of God that has been revealed and that believers have received should result in a holy life (vs. 12).  Those who have received God’s grace must live in harmony with the revelation of God’s grace to all, so that none that God is reaching out to with His universal grace will be made to stumble by our example (Titus 2:10, 12-15).

SBG: Romans 10:14-15: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?…” I have heard that Wesley because of his errant views of Scripture thought that God would draw people through general revelation, but such an idea is severely foreign to Scripture. (Also see Ecc 8:16-17 clearly teaches that general revelation will never lead a person to a true knowledge of the God of the Bible. But rather only enough to condemn: Rom 1:20)

Rom. 1:20 doesn’t say “only enough to condemn”.  Rather, it says that because of God’s universal revelation, those who reject it are “without excuse”.  Why are they without excuse?  Because they could have accepted it instead and potentially been led to repentance as a result (Rom. 2:4-16 cf. Acts 17:26-28).  Rom.2:4 is another powerful testimony to God’s resistible prevenient grace since it is clear that the kindness of God described there is for the express purpose of leading to repentance.  However, this grace can be finally resisted by showing contempt for this grace and coming under the ultimate wrath of God in divine judgment (vs. 5).

SBG: Further, the passage you display in from Titus actually teaches the effectual work of Christ, which contradicts your view grace and potential atonement.
Titus 2:14: “who did give himself for us, that he might ransom us from all lawlessness, and might purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; ”

There is nothing here about atonement being made only for some and nothing that contradicts the universal provisional nature of the atonement that is expressed in 1 Tim. 2:1-6.  It is perfectly natural to move from the universal to the particular.  This in no way implies that the particular limits the universal (forcing the universal language to be understood in extremely strained ways that are contrary to the natural reading).  The grace of God (in the specific provision of atonement) that has appeared to all has special application for us who have received this grace by faith (as I explained above).  Likewise, in 1 Tim. 4:10, God is the Savior of all men (provisionally), but “especially of believers” who have had this universal provision applied to them through faith.  It is the simple difference between provision and application, an important distinction that seems so obvious and yet is so difficult for Calvinists to recognize.

SBG: Not only does the passage you quote denote the work of Christ on the cross as a “ransom” which is a full payment for a slave to be free. It also displays Christ’s intent, to purify a peculiar people. The book of Hebrews and the correct doctrine of atonement, (which starts with His office of High Priest not proof texts that use the world “all” and “world”)

Are you really suggesting that when trying to determine the scope and extent of the atonement, we should not look to passages which specifically address the scope and extent of the atonement?  The passages that specifically address the extent of the atonement all use universal language, yet you are saying that we should discount that due to passages that do not even address the scope and extent of the atonement, but rather focus on the application of the atonement to believers. Surely you see what a backwards hermeneutic that is?

SBG: The work of the High Priest in Leviticus is composed of two parts, oblation (propitiation) and intercession. This is when the high priest would slay the animal (oblation) and then sprinkle the blood before God at the Mercy Seat (intercession). We see from the true doctrine of atonement, which is the office of High Priest that intercession is no more than a display of the oblation. Therefore the intercession bestows the gifts of the oblation cannot be of greater scope than the intercession and vice versa.

This conclusion here doesn’t follow.  Neither the oblation nor the intercession was effective for those who were outside of a covenant relationship with God (through faith).  But this doesn’t mean that nobody outside of the covenant community could join the covenant community and thereby come to enjoy the benefits of the atonement.  Indeed, foreigners could join God’s people and come to enjoy all the benefits promised only to God’s covenant people (e.g. Isaiah 56:3-6, which, by the way, further shows that election is primarily corporate and individuals only become “elect” by being joined to the “elect” body, which is only by faith in the new covenant.  Likewise, those who are members of the elect body can be cut off from that body and become “non-elect”, cf. Rom. 11: 16-25).

Again, it is simply the difference between application and provision (and even in the OT, there was a universal aspect to the atonement, since it was possible for non-Israelites to “become” Israelites, as explained above).  You conflate the two aspects of atonement while Scripture recognizes the difference.  Hebrews specifically addresses Christ’s atonement in the context of His ministry as a high priest, and yet Hebrews has no problem describing Christ’s provision of atonement in universal language (Hebrews 2:9).   That is because there is no conflict between Christ’s high priestly work and the universal provision of atonement, despite your attempts to create one.

For the record, I don’t have a problem with the nature of atonement being primarily penal-satisfaction either (I hold to the penal-satisfaction view).  As you point out, these passages have to do with the benefits of the atonement for those who are partakers of the new covenant; yet, we become partakers of the new covenant by faith.  So again, you have confused passages that speak of the application to those who are in the covenant, with passages that speak of the universal provision of that atonement.  It is the universal provisional nature of the atonement that makes it possible for anyone (and everyone) to enjoy the benefits of the atonement by becoming the covenant people of God (the elect) through faith.  For more on this see my series on Provisional Atonement .

SBG: Last text you presented was 1 Tim 2:1-6 has the same problems. The same problem is displayed. A lack of context and a view of atonement that is not based on Christ’s office as High Priest as presented in Hebrews and Leviticus 16, but instead based on proof texts and the word pas, pamos, pan. The High Priesthood of Christ establishes the doctrine, not the word “all” because “all” has an ambiguous meaning and has nothing to do with any of Christ’s offices.

This is just another example of your backwards hermeneutic in action as explained above.  “All” does not have an “ambiguous” meaning in those passages which specifically address the extent of the atonement.  Rather, its meaning is very clearly universal.  Any ambiguity would seem to lie squarely in your reluctance to accept what these passages are plainly implying, due to your prior commitment to unconditional election.  God’s intent and desire to save all is also clearly expressed in passages like 1 Tim. 2:1-6 (this is why even many who call themselves Calvinists reject limited atonement).  John 12:47 is especially damaging to your claims,

“As for the person who hears my words but does not keep them, I do not judge him.  For I did not come to judge the world, but to save it.”

Here Christ plainly says he came to save the world and that those who do not keep His word and reject Him (verse 48) are among those He came to save (i.e. they are specifically identified with the world He came to save).  Big, big trouble for Calvinism!

SBG: In the next section I think this is worth responding to:
“It is if Calvinism is true. If Calvinism is true then God irresistibly caused these people to hate Him. Now, Calvinists may not want to own such blunt language, but the above statement is in perfect harmony with traditional Calvinist thought [1]. In Calvinism, everything is controlled by God.”

First, God irresistibly makes people hate him, is certainly not representative of the calvinist position. I think you make a straw man with the hyper view, their are differing views among Calvinist about this issue, you should not be so general and then present it as fact.
The Bible teaches that Natural men are haters of God because the are children of the devil after the fall in the garden. (Psa 51:5)

This is not the hyper view.  The traditional Calvinist view holds to exhaustive determinism and bases foreknowledge entirely on God’s irresistible decree.  I explained this in the post. Those who reject this are not rejecting hyper Calvinism, but traditional Calvinism.  Did God decree the “fall in the garden” or not?

SBG: John 8:44: “You are of your father the devil and the desires of your Father you want to do…”

(Also I would just say as a tangent thought John 8:47 clearly refutes prevenient grace. “He who is of God hear’s God’s word, therefore you do not hear, because you are no of God.”

“Not of God” simply means that these Jews were not in right covenant relationship with the Father when they encountered Christ and His claims.  Since they didn’t know the Father they naturally would not recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son, nor would they recognize the Father’s teaching in the Son’s words (John 8:19, 20, 42, 54, 55, cf. John 5:37-40; 7:16, 17 12:44, 45).  As long as they reject the Father and refuse His teaching, they will reject the Son and His teaching (which is also the Father’s teaching, John 12:49, 50) and will not be given to the Son (John 6:37, 44, 45).  None of these passages say anything about an unconditional eternal election being behind the description of these Jews as “not of God.”  Such an idea is only read into these passages by Calvinists.  For a detailed exegesis of these various passages in John against the typical Calvinist view, see Robert Hamilton’s essay, The Order of Faith and Election in John’s Gospel: You Do Not Believe Because You Are Not My Sheep

SBG: The prevenient grace view says they should have been able to hear and then decide because prevenient grace frees them from their natural ignorance of spiritual things (1 Cor 2:14), but the reality is that they where still “of their father the devil” which is the reason why they are not “able to hear” (John 8:43). Jesus says they are not able to hear even though Jesus is preaching and the Spirit is working.

First, 1 Cor. 2:14 is addressing infants in Christ (3:1) who are acting worldly because they are resisting the Spirit’s work that would bring them to spiritual maturity so that they might understand the deeper spiritual teachings that Paul wanted them to receive.  Instead, they were caught up in quarreling over who their favorite apostle was (3:1-4).  It is not describing the inability of depraved unbelievers.  They are already saved.  However, it does highlight that God’s gracious efforts can always be resisted, even by believers.  It is also wrong to assume that being free from ignorance means that one cannot still resist that thing that has been revealed.  Many persist in using alcohol, drugs, and tobacco with full knowledge of the harmful and potentially dangerous consequences.

Second, as mentioned above, their inability to hear was not because God wasn’t working, but because they were resisting that working.  Clearly, Jesus is still trying to reach them (8:27-31, 36, cf. John 5:44; 10:37, 38), which would be senseless if He viewed them as hopeless reprobates. This is especially evident in Christ’s statement to the same sort of resistant Jews in John 5 where Christ both declares their inability and yet tells them, “…not that I accept human testimony, but I mention it that you may be saved”, vs. 34.  This is especially relevant to my point since the “testimony” Christ refers to is the prior testimony of John the Baptist. Christ then points them to other “testimonies” like His miracles, the Scriptures in general, and Moses, obviously implying that through the acceptance of these testimonies they may yet be enabled to “come to” Him and be “saved”, cf. vss. 39, 40.

Jesus’ method of discourse is actually a rather common teaching technique used for the purpose of admonishment in order for the “students” to fully realize their situation with the hope that in realizing it (coming to grips with this important revelation) they will be spurred on to change (i.e. repentance).  I work in schools daily and see this type of teaching technique used all the time.  It is similar to a Math teacher saying, “how can you expect to do division when you haven’t even learned your times tables?  You can’t do division while you remain ignorant of multiplication.”  Such instruction is not meant to highlight a hopeless state.  It is not meant to express that the student can never do division.  Rather, it is intended to get the student to re-examine the reality of their current state and how it makes further progress impossible, with the hope that they will learn what is required in order to move forward (e.g. John 5:41-45).

Likewise, Jesus is actually using much of what He says for the purpose of getting those who are listening to re-examine their present relationship to the Father and thereby realize that they are not in a proper position to be making such judgments about Christ and His claims, with the hope that they will yet “learn” from the Father so that they can come to a place where acceptance of Christ and His words is possible (e.g. John 5:33-47; 10:34-39, cf. John 6:45, etc).  Had they already learned from the Father (been receptive to God’s grace and leading through the Scriptures, the prophets, the ministry of John the Baptist, the miracles of Christ, etc.), they would have immediately recognized that Jesus was the Son of God, the promised Messiah, Shepherd and King of God’s people, and been given to Him.  Yet, not all hope is gone, for they may yet learn if they stop resisting the Father’s leading.

Christ’s teaching on drawing in John 6:44, 45, therefore, is not just descriptive, but for the purpose of admonishment, that they might be careful not to spurn and resist this drawing and miss eternal life and the promise of resurrection.  God’s working in prevenient grace and drawing can be complex and operate in different ways depending on the person and the situation.  God approaches us from a variety of angles.  These passages illustrate that.  Yet, we dare not assume that because the operation of prevenient grace on the human heart and mind doesn’t necessarily reduce to a simple equation or formula, God is not still working.  Indeed, God is always working (John 5:17). There is much more that could be said on this, but this alone is sufficient to overturn your objection to prevenient grace based on these various passages in John.

SBG: Again you say: “So God caused Adam to sin and then punished Adam for perfectly fulfilling the decree of God in such a way that Adam had absolutely no power to resist. ”

But this is unscholarly rant and a poor representation of the view you are trying to refute. Again, your refute a straw man and not the real thing. Most Calvinist believe that Adam had ability to either sin or not sin.

Sorry, but this is simply false.  Are you really suggesting that most Calvinists believe that Adam had libertarian free will?  John Calvin sure didn’t and he had no problem saying that the fall was decreed by God, calling foolish anyone who disagreed.  Was John Calvin a hyper Calvinist?  Likewise, the traditional Calvinist position has always been that God’s foreknowledge is based on His eternal decree so that God can only foreknow because He decreed it.  This was also Calvin’s position.  So if Adam could have “not sinned” (as you claim) then, according to traditional Calvinism (and John Calvin), God could not have foreknown Adam’s sin since God cannot foreknow libertarian free will choices, but only what He has decreed to happen.  So the traditional Calvinist accounting of foreknowledge means that God could only foreknow the fall because He decreed it.

Surely, you are not suggesting that Adam could have acted contrary to the eternal decree of God, are you? If not, then your defense and rebuke is groundless and all that I have said necessarily follows. If you don’t think that God decreed the fall then you are not a traditional Calvinist.  That’s fine, but you can’t fault me for slandering or misrepresenting Calvinism just because you personally disagree with a major traditional tenet of Calvinism.

SBG: Adam’s sin was not caused by God, this is just blasphemous and a lie / misrepresentation.

Again, if God decreed the fall, and foreknew the fall only because He decreed it, then the cause of Adam’s sin was certainly God’s decree, which Adam was powerless to resist.  If you don’t like it, maybe you should not be a Calvinist.

SBG: God was not involved in the fall, He left Adam to himself, surely God could have applied grace and protected Adam, but He did not see that as fit.

Are you suggesting that God denied Adam the grace to resist temptation, making it impossible for Adam to keep from sinning?  If that is the case, then how can you say that Adam had the power to “not sin”?  He had the power to resist a temptation that he was powerless to resist?  What?

SBG: But while you kick against the goads of Scripture, I suggest one text that clearly presents God’s sovereignty:
Eph 1:11: “In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will”

I never denied God’s sovereignty.  Rather, I fully affirm it.  I affirm that God has the sovereign right to give His creatures a measure of free will and to hold them accountable for the choices they make.  I affirm that God has the right to make salvation and election conditioned on faith, and I affirm that this is exactly what Scripture teaches.  If you want to deny God these sovereign freedoms and divine rights, that’s on you.  Just because I deny the false Calvinist claim that sovereignty = exhaustive divine determinism, doesn’t mean that I deny God’s sovereignty.  I only deny the bizarre Calvinist definition of sovereignty.

Your quote of Eph. 1:11 does nothing to help your case.  Eph. 1:11 is big trouble for Calvinism.  Calvinism says that we are predestined to faith, but Eph. 1:11 locates predestination “In Him” and Eph. 1:13 says that we come to be “in Him” through faith.  Likewise, Eph. 1:4 locates election “In Him”.  Since election is “In Him” (since through identification and union with Christ we share in His election) and since predestination is “In Him” (since through identification and union with Christ we share in His predestined inheritance), and since we come to be joined to Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13), then it follows that one becomes elect and predestined by faith, the Arminian view exactly!

SBG: Again you say: “When the exhaustive decretal determinism of Calvinism is in view, questions like, “Is that God’s fault?” should be answered with “Yes”.”

This is again a baseless suggestion and a straw man. Most Calvinists believe in a soft determinism called compatiblism. This is clearly taught in Gen 50:20:
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”

Compatibilism is still determinism.  It simply means that free will is supposedly “compatible” with determinism.  So it is still true that God predetermined everything, including every sin that would ever be committed in such a way that those sins could not have possibly been avoided.  Appeals to compatibilism do nothing to solve the difficulty.  I actually addressed compatibilism in the post, since in compatibilism the will is still controlled by God.  All compatibilism does is redefine free will so that it means the freedom to do what we want or desire.  But since our wants and desires are still controlled by God (even according to compatibilism), it doesn’t solve anything.  The will is still completely determined by desires that the person has no control over.  So I wasn’t fighting any straw men and my claims were not baseless.

To say that God purposes to bring good out of evil, or that God can use even behaviors that do not please Him to accomplish His ultimate purposes (which is all that Gen 50:20 is expressing) does nothing to prove “compatibilism”.  Passages like this can just as easily be understood from the view point of libertarian free will.  One must read the concept of compatibilism into these texts.  Therefore, while they may not necessarily contradict a compatibilist view, they cannot be used to prove it.  In other words, compatibilism is not “clearly taught” in such passages, despite your assertions.

SBG: And very strongly in Isaiah 10:5-16 when God first raises up Assyria to punish Israel and then punishes the nation that He uses to punish another because of what is in their heart. Here is the text:

““ Woe to Assyria, the rod of My anger
And the staff in whose hand is My indignation.
6 I will send him against an ungodly nation,
And against the people of My wrath
I will give him charge,
To seize the spoil, to take the prey,
And to tread them down like the mire of the streets.
7 Yet he does not mean so,
Nor does his heart think so;
But it is in his heart to destroy,
And cut off not a few nations.
8 For he says,

‘ Are not my princes altogether kings?
9 Is not Calno like Carchemish?
Is not Hamath like Arpad?
Is not Samaria like Damascus?
10 As my hand has found the kingdoms of the idols,
Whose carved images excelled those of Jerusalem and Samaria,
11 As I have done to Samaria and her idols,
Shall I not do also to Jerusalem and her idols?’”

12 Therefore it shall come to pass, when the Lord has performed all His work on MountZionand on Jerusalem, that He will say, “I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks.”
13 For he says:

“ By the strength of my hand I have done it,
And by my wisdom, for I am prudent;
Also I have removed the boundaries of the people,
And have robbed their treasuries;
So I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man.
14 My hand has found like a nest the riches of the people,
And as one gathers eggs that are left,
I have gathered all the earth;
And there was no one who moved his wing,
Nor opened his mouth with even a peep.”
15 Shall the ax boast itself against him who chops with it?
Or shall the saw exalt itself against him who saws with it?
As if a rod could wield itself against those who lift it up,
Or as if a staff could lift up, as if it were not wood!
16 Therefore the Lord, the Lord[a] of hosts,
Will send leanness among his fat ones;
And under his glory
He will kindle a burning
Like the burning of a fire. ”

Several things to point out. First, there is no autonomy in this passage. There is a compatibalism between the will of the Assyrians as wicked sinners with evil hearts (Gen 6:5 & 8:21) and the righteous justice of God with His sovereign decrees.

I can basically agree with the second sentence in your conclusion here, but this does not mean that the Assyrians had no free will in a non-compatibilist (libertarian) sense.  In other words, just as with your other quote, passages like this are just as “compatible” with the Arminian view (and I would argue, more compatible).  See below.

SBG: Particularly notice verses 5-7 and then 13-15. The point is clear that God is absolutely sovereign and man is full responsible.

Again, all these verses show is that God can use the intentions of others to accomplish His purposes.  Arminians wholly agree with this.  It is not even contrary to Arminianism to say that God sometimes controls the wills of people to accomplish His purpose or to execute judgment (surely, it was not Nebuchadnezzar’s will to lose his mind and act like an animal, Daniel 4:28-37).  Arminians only hold that God gives man a measure of free will.  Man’s will is not unlimited, nor does it operate in a vacuum.  Free will, when rightly understood, operates within a framework of possibilities.  See this post for a good description of the limits of free will from an Arminian perspective.

However, this passage does not address the idea of God controlling someone’s thoughts, desires and actions and then holding that person accountable for the desires, thoughts and actions that God irresistibly controlled.  The passage actually teaches the opposite.  The Assyrians became an instrument of wrath in God’s hands against Israel because they were already bent on conquest.  Therefore, they were already perfectly suited to be the rod of God’s wrath and correction.  God used them to punish His people, but He had no need to irresistibly cause them to.  He did not control their desires and wills to go against Israel.  There desire was already to conquer other nations (verse 7).  God simply directed the Assyrian’s attention towards His people, a people that God had, up to that point, protected from such a devastating conquest.  But God did not control their desires.  Indeed, their intentions in attacking Israel are displeasing to God (verse 7-11)

Their intentions are especially sinful because they attack in arrogance, not even believing that YHWH is a true God.  So God will punish His people through the Assyrian invasion, but also punish Assyria for their arrogance in thinking that their conquest was due only to their superior strength in believing that the God of Israel was no different than the false gods of the other nations they had conquered.

Now why should any of this contradict the idea that man has libertarian free will and yet this in no way prevents God from accomplishing all that He plans?  God is not threatened by free will.  He isn’t so small that He cannot be sovereign over a world where there are wills that He does not directly control. Nothing in this passage suggests that God irresistibly controlled the wills of the Assyrian people and then held them accountable for what He caused them to do.  Rather, God punishes them because their wills are not in harmony with God’s ultimate purpose (to punish His people).  Instead, their wills are bent on mocking God in their arrogance, believing that the success of their conquest was because there was no God inIsrael (verses 8-11).   It is for that reason alone that God punishes them.  So again, there is nothing in these passages that force a compatibilist interpretation.  Therefore, they do nothing to prove compatibilism.  Indeed, they make more sense from a libertarian viewpoint.

SBG: You say: “Rather, he just assumes throughout his discourse that God cannot enable all depraved God haters to turn to Christ without needing to do so in an irresistible manner. ”

But the problem you don’t seem to understand is the Mr. Washer starts and ends with the Bible. He doesn’t start with imported philosophical values and doctrine that makes the Bible contradict itself. God could enable all men to come to Christ, He could have even used resistible saving grace. But the problem is that the Bible does teach this, that’s why Washer doesn’t teach it.

Well, obviously I disagree.  All you have done here is made an assertion.  I counter assert that Paul Washer’s understanding of election and Scripture was indeed influenced by imported philosophies (just as I repeatedly pointed out in my post).  I further assert that he did not start and end with the Bible, but with unfortunate theological assumptions that the Bible doesn’t really support at all.

SBG: In the next section you say: “What kind of glory would that be exactly? Those who hate God do so only because God caused them to, and those who love God do so only because God caused them to. ”

But again you are just ranting.

No.  I am just pointing out the obvious given fundamental Calvinist assumptions.

SBG: You are battling the same straw man that has no weight. God doesn’t need to make anyone hate Him, natural men are already very good at that. (Romans 8:7-9, Col 1:20-21. etc, etc.)

But you are just parroting Washer here and ignoring the fact that I already addressed this very argument.  It is not enough to just lay the blame on “natural man” without considering how this became man’s natural state in the first place.  As I repeatedly pointed out (even in the sections you have already quoted of my argument), if decretal determinism is true, then man never had any control over his state or over his thoughts, desires, wills, or actions.  At some point you need to deal with the heart of the problem and the heart of the problem lies in the ultimate fundamental Calvinist assumption: Exhaustive determinism.

SBG: Your battle is against a straw man of “hard determinism” which is referred to many calvinists as the hyper view. Your whole argument against calvinists here is based on a straw man fallacy.

As I already pointed out, so called “soft” determinism is no less deterministic than so called “hard” determinism.  Calling it “soft” doesn’t change the fact that God still exhaustively determines everything.  The only difference between “hard” and “soft” determinism is that hard determinism realizes that the compatibilist redefinition of “free will” is a ruse and embraces the obvious: there can be no real free will in a universe that is exhaustively determined by God.

SBG: You say: “Again, Paul Washer can’t help talking like an Arminian in order to defend his Calvinism. He seems to quickly forget that at the heart of Calvinism is the fundamental assumption that God sovereignly controls everything, creating serious problems for his claims of personal accountability for hating God.”

Again, this is your straw man. A hard determinist position and Infralapsarianism versus Supralapsarianism. This is a debate in house, but you are not fair to the audience in the way you beat up straw men instead of speaking honesty in love.

What is really “not fair” is how Calvinists try to hide the reality of their views behind “softer” language.  But when pressed, even “soft” determinists admit that God has determined everything.  Exhaustive determinism in Calvinism isn’t an “in house debate” at all.  It also isn’t fair that you bring in “supra” verses “infra” as relevant to the point.  It isn’t.  Both supralapsarians and infralapsarians hold to exhaustive determinism (determinism is not the point of contention between them, but the “order of decrees”).  Both supralapsarians and infralapsarians believe that God “sovereignly controls everything”, so they are both in the same boat when it comes to the points I am making.  I have in no way been dishonest, nor have I beat up any straw men.

SBG: Your idea about the “heart of Calvinism” is just silly and proves my point. Please see Isaiah 10 for help that you may better understand the biblical teaching of God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility.

Please see my response to your use of Isaiah 10 above.  I don’t even disagree that it presents the biblical teaching on God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility, but that is only because it actually supports the Arminian view, rather than the Calvinist view.  But you are wrong if you are truly claiming that exhaustive determinism is not at the heart of Calvinism, for it surely is.

SBG: You say: “Again, why did they hate him? Because God decreed this for them from all eternity.” referring to Joseph and his brothers. Here it becomes obvious that your rant is mainly emotional rather than logical and Biblical.

Look at Genesis 50:20: “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”
We can see that God sovereignly decreed it but the brothers are judged for what is in their heart. This is the same as what is clearly taught in isaiah 10:5-19.

I already addressed this above.  This passage can be understood from an Arminian perspective in the same way that Isaiah 10 can.  The Arminian view is not “incompatible” with these passages and these passages do not prove Calvinist compatibilism (they don’t even imply it).

SBG: You say: ““Choice” doesn’t even make sense in Calvinism.”

This is your straw man again. To you it doesn’t make sense. That is why you seem so hot in your approach to this rant. But the Bible clearly teaches compatibilism as already shown. Calvinists do say people don’t make choices, you build up the hyper view and then destroy it. But even Calvinists hate the hyper view…

I did not deny that Calvinists claim we make choices (I assume you meant “Calvinists don’t say”…, rather than “…do say…”).  I only claimed that the language of choice doesn’t make sense in Calvinism, despite their using the word.  If God controls our thoughts and wills, then we never have any real options to “choose” from.  Therefore, we never have any choices (and again, even “compatibilists” admit that God controls our desires and wills.  They locate “freedom” only in the power to act in accordance with our desires, without ever denying that God controls these desires.  That is why compatibilism solves nothing.  It makes fee will “compatible” with determinism by redefining “free will” in a deterministic sense.  In the end, compatibilism means only that determinism is compatible with determinism- brilliant!).  If you are still confused about why “choice” doesn’t make sense in Calvinism, see my post The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture.

SBG: You continue: “Again, the student nails it. God must draw us, but there is no reason to assume that this drawing cannot be resistible, rather than irresistible. There is likewise no reason to assume it cannot enable all who hear to believe.”

I have already shown why your view of grace is not Biblical.

See above for why your claims against my “view of grace” have not been successful.

SBG: But again. Jesus says in John 8:43 that the reason they do not hear is because they are not “able” to listen to His words. If prevenient grace as you hold diligently to was true Jesus would not have said this. If your view is true, prevenient grace would have enabled them to believe and Christ would have said something about their refusal to believe out of their own autonomy. But, this is not what jesus says. Instead, although the preaching was present and the Spirit working, they were still not “able.” Your whole argument is based on an imported idea that is not only foreign to the Bible but also not supported by the texts where you would expect it to be supported.

Likewise, I already dealt with this above.

SBG: You say: “And there it is, the unbiblical attempt to make “dead in sin” mean “the inability of a physical corpse.”

A person actually doesn’t need to go to Eph 2 to describe inability. Mr. Washer chose this passage, but there are many other passages that say the same thing. Not only John 8:43-47, which reveals that its not about prevenient grace because even with preaching they were not “able.” instead it is because they are still natural and in the flesh, “You are of your father the devil…” (v. 44) and then verse 47:

1. He who is of God hears God’s words
1. You do not hear
2. Therefore, you are not of God.

Again, I already dealt with this above.  I also showed in the post that Jesus plainly says the spiritually “dead” will “hear” unto salvation, which completely undermines Washer’s argument.  Also, I never claimed that inability was not a Biblical concept.  I never claimed that it was not taught elsewhere in Scripture.  What I denied (and Scripture denies) is that this inability is comparable to the inability of a corpse so that only regeneration can make faith possible.  That is a conclusion wrongly drawn from the Biblical concept of being “dead in sins.” I made this very clear in my post.

SBG: It’s not about prevenient grace and a man rejection even though they had the ability. Jesus clearly teaches that this has nothing to do with it. Therefore He says… again… “because you are not able to hear…” this is denoting ability not the decision of the human will. 1 Cor 2:14 is also helpful.

Again, please see my comments on the John passages above (as well asHamilton’s excellent essay).  Please see my treatment of 1 Cor. 2:14 above as well.

SBG: You say: ” Paul Washer says that one must become a child of God (be born again) before one can put faith in Christ, the exact opposite of what John and the apostle Paul taught!”

Your problem is a lack of distinction between regeneration and adoption.

The burden of proof is on you to show a distinction between becoming “children of God” and becoming “sons of God.”  Are you saying that one can be a child of God and yet not be a part of God’s family?  Or are you saying that one can be adopted into the family of God without becoming God’s child?  Both are by faith and becoming a child of God is no different than becoming His son (or daughter).  If there is some important distinction to be made here, you haven’t shown what that is.  Regardless, John 1:12 is definitive by itself,

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”

The right to “become children of God’” is given only to believers who have received Christ by faith.  The passage could not be any clearer in teaching that faith precedes “becoming” a child of God, and even Calvinists admit that becoming a child of God in this passage refers to the new birth/regeneration (as verse 13 makes clear).  But you think that verse 13 contradicts this when you write,

SBG: You make becoming a child of God depending of the decision and will of man but John clearly says
John 1:13: “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”

How can it be that they were born not of human decision but your say that its all about God enabling men to make a decision? this is hopelessly contradictory.

Let’s look at the entire passage:

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name (which simply clarifies how we receive Him, i.e. by faith), he gave the right to become the children of God– children not born of human descent (literally, “of bloods”), nor of human decision or a husbands will, but born of God.”

Verse 13 makes it clear that how one becomes a child of God is based on God’s prerogative alone.  It is not the automatic result of Jewish heritage or ancestry. Rather, the new birth is a supernatural act of God (rather than the result of a natural birth, by the “will of the husband”) given only to those who believe in His Son. If the Jews were left to decide the condition of salvation, they would leave it in their heritage (which is proven by the fact that most Jews refused to “receive Him”, verse 11) but the decision as to how one becomes God’s children is God’s alone, and God has decided that only those who receive His Son by faith will become His children.  God is the one who decides and has made the condition faith in His Son.  Being a Jew is not enough (which, by the way, is the same basic issue being discussed inRom. 9, esp. see verse 16)

So there is nothing in verse 13 that would undermine my interpretation of verse 12, nor anything that would force us to understand verse 12 in a way that would make nonsense of the specific and deliberate language being used (that one becomes a child of God through faith).  Verse 13 isn’t saying that there is no decision involved in the condition for receiving Christ (faith).  Rather, it is saying that God alone is sovereign over the decision regarding who will become His children, and He has sovereignly decided to that only believers will be His children, without regard to heritage or ancestry.

SBG: Also, it should be said that in the Greek “tekna” which means “children” does not appear in John 1:13. Instead it uses a pronoun to describe why the people received Him.

This isn’t really relevant.  “Children” is supplied by some translations because it is obvious that the pronoun refers back to “children” in verse 12.

SBG: John 8 is very clear. But also in John 10:26:

“But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep.”
Jesus says the reason people do not believe is the result of them not being His sheep. He does not say they are not sheep as a result of their unbelief. Your position is the exact opposite of what Christ said not only hear but also in John 8.

Again, see my comments above and Hamilton’s essay on the order of election in John’s gospel.

SBG: You say: “In fact, the Bible clearly puts faith before regeneration.”

Not only does John 1:13 contradict you because faith is a decision it is the will. John clearly says people are not born of the will.
John 3:3: “Unless one is born again he is not able to see thekingdom ofGod.” How can a man choose and put saving faith into an object if he can’t even see it…

John 3:6: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
First notice that the flesh only ever brings forth flesh. But you seem to think that the flesh can be the factor that brings forth spiritual life… Further it is the Spirit who brings forth a man’s spirit.

On John 3:3, 6 see my post, Does John 3:3, 6 Teach that Regeneration Precedes Faith?  As far as the flesh and the spirit, no one ever claimed that it is not God alone who regenerates by His Spirit.  We meet the God ordained condition of faith to receive life, but God alone is the one who gives us life in response to our faith.  We cannot regenerate ourselves.  Faith is total dependence on God to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.  That is why faith doesn’t “earn” anything and is the perfect condition for receiving the free and undeserved gift of life and salvation from God (Rom. 4:4-8).

SBG: John 6:63: “It is the Spirit who gives life, the flesh profits nothing…”
But if two people are brought forth by prevenient grace then still in their flesh and one chooses and another refuses…. it is actually that man’s flesh that profited everything.

I think you are missing the point of this passage as well. Just as in John 3, John 6:63 is simply saying that God alone can give life by His Spirit. Jesus goes on to say that His words are spirit and life (i.e. they spiritual and life giving).  Therefore, only by receiving His words can we attain life.  It was the Jews’ misguided focus on the natural that prevented them from seeing the spiritual implications of what Jesus was teaching them (about eating His flesh and drinking His blood).  This is why Christ directed them to the fact that His words are spiritual and give life.  He is trying to get them to refocus (rather than seeing His words in purely physical ways- literally eating His flesh, etc.) so that they can learn the spiritual implications of what He has been teaching them.  As mentioned before, this is just another example of Christ continuing to reach out to those that Calvinism would have us believe were hopeless reprobates.

SBG: 1 Cor 2:14: “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.”

Your whole argument is bases on imported views, ie prevenient grace which has already been refuted. John 8, though the Spirit was present and Christ was preaching the people were not “able” to listen… John 8:43… the implications are obvious.

You say: “Rather, God’s drawing is what enables a faith response and thereby makes a “choice” possible.”

But the Bible says; “children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.” Not of the will of the flesh (NKJV).

Just like Washer, you seem to think that just repeating the same thing over and over is somehow sufficient to prove your point.

SBG: I didn’t mean for this to be so long,

Well, now we are even.  If we discuss this further, let’s stick to one or two points and dramatically shorten our comments.  I would also suggest starting your own blog where you can make long responses like this outside of the confines of a discussion thread and just leave a link to your comments that people could follow if interested.

 SBG: …but its not right for people to read something like this and not sympathize for those who may be misled by the saturation of errors.

This is exactly why I felt I needed to respond to Washer’s misguided teaching on election.  It bothers me how many have potentially been led astray by his erroneous arguments.

SBG: Also, your problem with evil is refuted by the Book of Job.

How so?

SBG: Job’s friends’ rebuke is your rebuke.

Not at all.

SBG: When God appeared what did He say? He didn’t even tell them why bad things were happening to Job, He simply declared His sovereignty and made them repent.

True, but irrelevant.

SBG: Further Chapter one clears up that satan was on God’s leash

Satan was on “God’s leash” only so far as God set limits on what he could do to Job.  This is a far cry from what is implied by Calvinist determinism, which would force us to see God controlling even Satan’s desire and will to attack Job and challenge God in the first place.  It is the difference between “being on a leash” (which is far more in line with the Arminian view) and being a hand puppet (which is essentially the Calvinist view based on the unavoidable implications of the doctrine of exhaustive determinism).  You may also be interested in this post I wrote on Job a while back.

So while I appreciate your zeal for truth, I don’t see that your comments and objections to my interactions with Washer’s discussion on election really hold up.  In fact, it seems that many of the points you have made actually serve to further undermine the Calvinist view of election and support the Arminian view instead.  Of course, I will not be surprised if you continue to disagree.  I respect your opinion; I just think it is wrong.  However, I am proud to consider you a brother in Christ and I trust that God will continue to lead you into truth as you seek Him.  May we both be very careful in how we approach Scripture so that we do not find ourselves missing what the Spirit of God is trying to communicate to us.  All of us have misperceptions and none of us have perfect theology.  That is all the more reason to rely on His Spirit in allowing Him to correct those misperceptions, whatever they may be.

Daniel Whedon on John 6

37. All—It is remarkable that this word is in the Greek neuter. It expresses not so much a person as a nature, a thing, a character: The whole sort that the Father giveth me. These gross men did not belong to those given, because, entertaining nothing but hopes of mercenary gain from Christ and his miracles, they truly believed not, as in the last verse is said. See note on verse 26. So in verse 45 it is more fully explained; it is only every one that hath learned of the Father that cometh unto me. The Father, finding the willing soul, teaches by his law; attracts, convinces, and convicts by his Spirit; but when the soul has perfectly obeyed all their influences with a living faith, the Father does not himself save, but He draws and hands him over to Christ. Thither coming, and embracing Christ with a full faith, the man is not cast out but accepted and redeemed. But the Father giveth none to Christ who reject his teachings and drawings; none who do not freely consent to be given and go to his Son. Such is the great scheme of salvation.

Shall come unto me—Will come unto me. It is the simple future; the shall expresses no authority or securement of the coming. Every one who freely yields to the teachings and drawings of the Father, is, by the Father, given, and comes to Christ. Such a person coming to Christ will be accepted. For the Father gives none but such as will freely come. The giving by the Father is consequent upon the obedient learning; not the learning upon the giving. See notes on verses 44, 45, and 65.

38. Not to do mine own will—Not to separate myself by personal self-will from the Father, but perfectly to cooperate and carry out his scheme of redeeming mercy.

39. Of all which he hath given me—Namely, all who fully obey the Father’s drawings and come to Christ. I should lose nothing—There will be no erratic self-will in Christ, darting off from the divine plan; no remissness, no oversight, no failure. All who perseveringly believe in him, he will as faithfully and powerfully save as the will of the Father can require. Raise it up—From the dead. At the last day—The day that closes the series of human history and inaugurates the final judgment.

40. Believeth on him—So long as he performs the condition, so long is he heir of the salvation. When he ceases to be a believer he loses all claim to the divine promise, and all interest in eternal life. That he has once believed no longer secures him heaven, any more than the fact that he has once disbelieved secures eternal death.

41. The Jews—Used in an adverse sense, as opposers of Christ. Murmured—The character and destiny he has assigned them (36-40) now elicit their hostility. Down from heaven—The popular view of the coming of the Son of man from heaven, was doubtless modeled on the scene described in Daniel 7.

42. Whose father and mother we know—These Jews therefore were familiar with Nazareth. Their terms are not now, as before, Rabbi and Lord. They have discarded from their memory the miraculous feeding, and so, doubtless, they carefully forget the Davidic descent of his parents, and all reference to his miraculous birth. They scout the idea of his having come down from heaven.

43. Murmur not—There is the stern authority of a future judge in this supreme silencing of the mutter of these unhappy men. He hushes them as reprobates condemned already.

44. No man can come to me—Men are by nature so depraved and lost that they have no power to attain salvation, but for a gracious ability bestowed. (John 1:4, 5.) That ability consists in a great degree of those special drawings purchased for them by the atonement. Except the Father… draw him—That is, attract him; shed drawing influences upon him, and inwardly empower him to a full obedience; but not obliging or securing that obedience. Nor will that drawing avail unless the man freely use his natural and grace-given power to obey.

45. The prophets—That section of the Old Testament popularly styled the prophets. The quotation is probably from Isaiah 54:13: All thy children shall be taught of Jehovah. This teaching is part of the great system of the Father’s drawing to Christ. Hath heard Hath willingly listened. Hath learned—Hath applied his powers to know. Such a man has complied with the Father’s drawings. Cometh unto me—He is assigned by the Father to the Son for salvation. He exercises repentance toward God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. To this class belonged not these Jews.

***

65. No man can come… except—Men, apart from the guidance and aid of the Father, furnished by the Spirit and the various means of grace, are hemmed into sin. They can neither will nor do acceptably to God. The Father first enables, but not obliges. For grace used, he adds more grace. For drawings obeyed, he adds more drawings. And when they so obey his drawings as to be ready for Christ, he gives and they come. But unless they use his grace and obey his drawings both will be withdrawn. But none ever missed the drawing of God who has not misused it. Given… of my Father—And it was not given in consequence of their not having obediently learned and accepted previous grace, and having sunk themselves into gross hardness. So that because of their primary willfulness the drawing could not reach them, and for want of those drawings it was not given them to come. See notes on verses 26, 37, 38, 39, 44, and 45.

Whedon pp. 324-326, 330, 331, Wesleyan Heritage Collection CD

Perseverance of the Saints Part 12: Examining Passages Commonly Appealed to by the Advocates of Unconditional Eternal Security

Having examined the primary passages that teach apostasy we now examine the passages that the advocates of unconditional eternal security believe clearly support their doctrine:

John 10:27-29

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

The first thing that needs to be noted is that there is nothing in this passage to suggest that the security being described by Christ is unconditional.  This is one of the greatest weaknesses of the Calvinist position.  One will look in vain for a passage of Scripture that explicitly makes salvation security unconditional.  The best that can be produced are passages which do not explicitly state a condition, but the absence of a stated condition does not necessitate the absence of a condition (e.g. Hebrews 13:5, cf. Deut. 31:6, 8, 16-18; 2 Chronicles 15:2; Joshua 24:19, 20). This is especially true since there are numerous passages which do state conditions and warn of defection from saving faith (as we have seen in parts 2-11 of this series).

In the case of John 10:27 we can even argue that a condition is stated, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.”  The verbs “listen” and “follow” are present active indicative in the Greek describing continual action.  The “sheep” are characterized by their “listening” to and “following” of Christ.  They are the listening and following ones, and only those who are listening and following can rightly be called Christ’s “sheep” and lay claim to the promises stated in John 10:28 and 29.  In other words, the sheep are believers who are presently believing.  It is to these believers alone that the promises are made.  Surely, those who are listening to and following Christ are secure in His arms and cannot be snatched out.  They also possess the eternal life that resides in Christ since they are in union with Him by faith (vs. 28).  There is nothing in the passage, however, to suggest that the sheep can never stop “listening” or “following” and no promise given for those who might indeed cease to do so.  The passage is only speaking of those who are presently listening and following.  It is a powerful promise to believers that as long as they are believing they are secure in Christ.  F. Leroy Forlines comments on this security in The Quest For Truth:

The teaching is simply this:  The believer’s relationship with God is a personal one between him and God.  Though all the powers of the universe were to combine against the believer, they could not take the believer away from God.  Some would add, ‘Neither can the believer take himself out of the body of Christ.’  Yes, that is true.  But, it is also true that he could not place himself into the body of Christ.  However, upon his faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit placed the believer into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).  If the believer renounces his faith, God will take him out (Jn. 15:2, 6).  There is no contradiction between the statements ‘No man can take us out of Christ’ and the statement ‘God the Father takes those people out of Christ who turn from Christ in unbelief.’ (pg. 275)

The passage does not state that faith cannot be renounced nor does it state that any such promise of security is given to unbelievers.  The promise of security in Christ described in John 10:27-29 is for believers who continue to believe and for them only.  The question then becomes, “Can believers cease to believe?”  The answer to that question cannot be resolved in John 10:27-29 and for that reason it fails as a proof text for inevitable perseverance.

Special Contextual Considerations for John 10:27-29

The Calvinist might object that verse 25 is not in harmony with the above interpretation due to the fact that Jesus tells the Jews that they do not believe because they are not His sheep.  It could be argued that verse 25 refers to a predetermined and unconditional election:  The sheep are those who were elected by God prior to creation and then given faith to believe in Christ.  The problem with this suggestion is that there is nothing in the text to indicate that Jesus is describing a pre-temporal election of certain individuals for salvation.  Such an eternal decree must be first assumed and then read into the text.

A more plausible interpretation is to understand Jesus’ words in John 10:27-29 in the context of the unique historical situation taking place at the time of His ministry with regards to the transition from the old dispensation to the new.  The passage has a secondary application to believers of all ages (as described above) but the primary application concerned only the Jews who were alive during Christ’s ministry and were specifically being addressed in this and other similar chapters in John (John 5:24-27; 6:37, 40-44, 65; 8:12-59).  The “sheep” in this context are the Jews who are currently living in right covenant relationship with the Father during the time of Jesus’ ministry.  The Jews that Jesus is addressing in this discourse and others like it throughout John’s gospel are not in right relationship with the Father during the time of Christ’s ministry.  Since they do not know the Father (are not “of God”) they cannot recognize the perfect revelation of the Father in the Son (Jn. 7:16, 17; 8:19, 42-47).  They reject the Son and refuse to trust in Him because they have rejected the Father.  Therefore, they are not Christ’s sheep and cannot be given to the Son (John 6:37).  If they had known the Father they would have recognized the Son as their Messiah and would have been given to Him.

So the primary application still addresses the issue of faith but not in the same way as we would tend to apply it today since our situation is different from that of the Jews and we are not living at a critical time in history where the faithful Jews were being given, by the Father, to their Shepherd and Messiah.  For them it primarily involved the transition from one sphere of believing (in the Father) to another (in the Son).  Those faithful Jews recognized the Father in the Son and as a result listened to Him and followed Him as their long awaited Messiah.  In either case the “sheep” are those who are “listening” and “following” and the passage gives no indication that one cannot cease to be one of Christ’s sheep by later refusing to listen and follow.

Romans 8:35-39

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?  Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?  As it is written: ‘For you sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’  No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Again, the promise and security presented in this passage of Scripture is only for believers (“us” in verse 35).  None of these things are true of unbelievers and nothing in the passage suggests that faith cannot be abandoned or that love for God cannot grow cold (Matt. 24:12).  This passage gives assurance to believers who are suffering persecution that such sufferings should not be interpreted as indicating that God no longer favors them or loves them.  No amount of persecution or opposition can overwhelm the believer since the believer always has the victory in Christ.  Neither the turmoil of this life nor death itself can separate the believer from Christ’s love.  Through Him and because of Him we are more than conquerors despite any obstacle or battle that we may encounter.  However, just as in John 10:27-29 there is nothing in the passage to suggest that God’s saving love is unconditional or that believers cannot separate themselves from the love of Christ by abandoning Him during trials and persecutions.  The one who remains will certainly triumph but there is no such promise of victory for the one who shrinks back in unbelief (Hebrews 10:38; Matt 10:22, 28, 32, 33).  Indeed, the Scriptures admonish believers to remain in God’s love (Jude 21) and Christ’s love (Jn. 15:9).  If the promise of Romans 8:35 was unconditional then such passages as Jude 21 and John 15:9 would be rendered nonsensical. Forlines observes:

It is my opinion that this passage does not deal with the question of whether a saved person can ever be lost again.  Rather, it teaches that a person who is a child of God can never, at the same time, be separated from God’s love.  In other words, the believer is never to interpret hardships as meaning that God does not love him.  Instead, he should recognize that God’s love is still with him and should say with Paul, ‘Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us’ (Rom. 8:37)…Suppose the passage does deal with the matter of security.  It would be explained the same way as the statement of Jesus when He said, ‘Neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand’ (John 10:28).  Paul would be saying as emphatically as human language can make it that our personal salvation is a matter between the individual and God.  He would be saying that neither tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, peril, sword (verse 35), death, life, angels, principalities, powers, things present, things to come (verse 38), height, depth, nor any other creature viewed collectively or singularly can take a believer away from Christ.  I believe that. What Paul says in these verses in no way contradicts the viewpoint that if a believer turns away from God in defiant, arrogant, unbelief that God will take him out of Christ (Jn. 15:2, 6). (ibid.)

Some believe that verse 39 gives just such an unconditional promise, “…nor anything else in all creation [or “any other created thing”], will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  They reason that since the believer is a “created thing” then it follows that even the believer cannot remove himself from God’s love.  This appeal is problematic on many fronts.

First, it ignores the context of the passage which is dealing with persecutions and tribulations that are brought to bear on the believer (forces, circumstances, and influences outside of the believer).  Verse 39 is still speaking about these things and therefore cannot have reference to the believer himself.  Indeed, this seems like a very awkward and unnatural reading of the text and I am fairly confident that one would never think to read it that way if they weren’t driven by a prior commitment to unconditional security, and trying to find support for the doctrine in this passage.  Grant Osborne captures this truth well when he writes, “Outside pressures can’t separate us from Christ’s love, but inward apostasy can (Grace Unlimited, pg. 179).

Second, the suggestion that the believer cannot separate himself from the love of God stands in contradiction to passages like Jude 21 and John 15:9 as noted above. Third, while there is a sense in which the believer can separate himself from the love of God in Christ by abandoning the faith, it needs to be remembered that according to Scripture the believer does not ultimately separate Himself from Christ (the sphere of God’s special and saving love) as Forlines pointed out above.  When a believer abandons the faith and becomes an unbeliever God Himself separates that person (now an unbeliever) from His Son (Jn. 15:2, 6), and God is not a “created thing.”

1 John 2:18-19

Little children, it is the last hour and as you have heard that the Anti-Christ is coming, even now many anti-christs have come, by which we know that it is the last hour.  They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were of us.

This passage has been held up by Calvinists as teaching a universal principal of what “apostasy” constitutes.  Remember, apostasy in Calvinism means only that one rejects the gospel.  It is not a falling away from true faith.  True faith endures since God infallibly preserves it and if one should seem to fall away it only proves that the person never possessed genuine faith and had never been regenerated.  It is impossible, according to Calvinism, to fall away from true faith.  One can only fall away from a false profession of true faith and prove that one was always just a hypocrite.  Calvinists believe that this single passage of Scripture proves their strange definition of apostasy to be the Biblical definition.

John speaks of false teachers (anti-christs) who went out “from us” (the true gospel teachers) and thus proved by their going that they were not “of us.”  Does John then teach the Calvinistic definition of apostasy?  Not at all.  The passage simply does not say what the Calvinist needs it to say for several reasons.

First, John is not laying down a universal principle concerning what it means to be an apostate.  John is specifically speaking of false teachers leaving the company of the true gospel teachers and proving by their leaving that they are not in harmony with the true gospel.  Had they continued in the truth they would have no reason to leave but since they had abandoned the truth they could no longer keep company with the true gospel teachers and went out from them to spread their heresies.  By doing so they proved that their authority is not from God, and their teachings should not be trusted. This is John’s primary point in this passage.

Second, the passage says nothing of the false teachers’ prior spiritual condition.  It only tells us that at the time of their going they were not “of” the true gospel teachers.  They were committed to false doctrine when they left and left for that reason, but we have no way of knowing whether or not they had at one time genuinely embraced the truth.  The passage does not address their spiritual condition prior to their leaving, and this is exactly what the Calvinist needs the passage to do in order to support their doctrine.  The Calvinist needs the passage to say, “They went out from us, but they were not [ever] of us; for if they had [ever] been of us, they would have continued with us; but they went out that they might be manifest, that none of them were [ever at any time] of us.”  The “ever” must be read into the text.  It is simply not there and the Calvinist must beg the question to assume that this is what John meant to imply.  For this reason alone, this passage fails as a proof text for Calvinistic apostasy.

Third, the context of the epistle argues for the view that these false teachers were indeed saved prior to their defection and left only after embracing false teaching and thereby apostatizing from the truth they once embraced.  One of the main issues being addressed throughout 1 John is how one can determine whether or not one is truly saved (“born of God”). The Gnostics (i.e. anti-christs) were teaching that there was no connection between behavior and salvation. They believed that the human spirit was incorruptible and could in no way be affected by the sins of the flesh. John directly opposes such teaching numerous times in his epistle (1:5-10; 2:1, 3-6, 9-11, 15; 3:4-11, 15, 17, 18, 24; 4:7, 16, 20, 21; 5:1, 2).  John is primarily encouraging his readers to reject the false teachings of the “anti-christs” who are teaching that one can sin with spiritual immunity, and helping them to understand the true characteristics of God’s children.

Now for us to believe that the anti-christs who left the company of the true gospel teachers were never true believers would suggest that John and the true gospel teachers were not able to detect their hypocrisy while they kept their company.  This runs contrary to one of John’s main concerns in the epistle, that one can discern the difference between true followers of Christ and unbelievers by character and behavior.  To believe that John was incapable of detecting their hypocrisy prior to their actual defection is out of harmony with one of the most prominent themes of the entire letter.

John 3:16

For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Some emphasize the fact that eternal life is eternal.  It is claimed that if we could forfeit salvation, eternal life would then cease to be eternal.  This fails to recognize the important truth that there is no eternal life outside of Christ (John 1:4; 5:26; 6:35; 11:25; 14:6; 1 John 1:2; 5:11; Col. 3:3, 4; 2 Pet, 1:4), and we share in his life only as we remain in Him through saving faith (those “believing” in this passage).  Eternal life does not cease to be eternal if we fail to continue in saving faith, we will simply cease to participate in the eternal life which resides only in the Son of God.  Eternal life will continue on just fine without us, if we fail to meet the condition of faith.

Robert Picirilli comments:

Those passages, especially in the Gospel of John, which contain strong promises of (final) salvation to believers and are therefore thought to imply necessary perseverance can not be used for that purpose lest they ‘prove too much.’  In other words, to say that those promises require the impossibility of a changed situation places too great a burden on the syntax of the statements.  And this can quickly be seen by comparing similar promises, using the very same syntax, to unbelievers.  For example:

John 5:24

He that believes shall not come into condemnation.

[and]

John 3:36

He that believes not shall not see life.

Grammatically, if the first means the condition of the believer can not be changed, then the second means the condition of the unbeliever likewise can not be changed.  In fact, neither passage is even speaking to that issue.  The unbeliever can leave his unbelief, become a believer, and see life- thus escaping from the promise made to the unbeliever who continues in his unbelief.  Likewise, the believer can leave his belief, become an unbeliever, and come into condemnation- thus escaping from the promise made to believers who continue in faith.  Each promise applies with equal force to those who continue in the respective state described.  (Grace, Faith, Free Will, pp. 200-201)

Romans 6:23; 11:29

For the wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord….For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Many see here a strong assertion of unconditional eternal security based on the fact that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (NAS), and that eternal life is a gift (Rom. 6:23; Eph. 2:8, 9), therefore, they reason, eternal life must be irrevocable.  God is always faithful to his promises (both pleasant and terrible, e.g. Joshua 23:15, 16), but his promises are not without conditions.  God’s gift of salvation is irrevocable so long as the condition is met.  Paul was speaking of Israel’s final restoration in Rom.11:29, but he was giving no assurance to those branches that had been broken off in unbelief (verse 20), and sternly warned that those who were now standing by faith, could yet be broken off through unbelief (verses 20, and 21).  God’s divine gift (of life) is always and only for believers!  God does not revoke his gift, for it cannot exist outside of Christ.  Only believers are “in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).  If we fail to meet the condition for union with Christ, we can have no claim on the gift (see Jn. 3:16 and 10:27-29 discussed above).

Eph.1:13, 14; 4:30

In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation- having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory….Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

Much has been made of the “sealing” of the Holy Spirit by defenders of unconditional eternal security.  The “sealing” of the Holy Spirit is clearly conditional since we can “grieve”, and eventually “insult” the Sprit of Grace, which constitutes total apostasy without remedy (Eph. 4:30, and Heb. 10:29). The Holy Spirit is received by faith (Gal. 3:2, 14) and can only seal us as we remain in Christ through faith. We are, in fact, sealed in Christ, by the Holy Spirit, as a direct result of faith (Eph. 1:13). The sealing of the Holy Spirit presupposes the possession of the Holy Spirit, and only believers can possess the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9).  He is therefore the guarantee of an inheritance for believers and not unbelievers.

There may be a parallel with circumcision which was also a “seal” for those under the old covenant (Rom. 4:11). We know that that seal was broken and guaranteed nothing when those who were circumcised broke the covenant and were cut off from the people of God (Rom. 2:25). The seal was conditioned on continued faith and obedience (2:26-29). The Holy Spirit marks us as children of the new covenant through faith in Christ, but if we abandon the faith then the Spirit of God no longer remains in us and we are no longer sealed in Christ (partakers of the covenant blessings that are found in Him alone- Eph. 1:3, 7, 10,11).  Only those that continue in obedient faith remain sealed (Acts 5:32, Jn. 14:15-17; Rom. 8:5, 6, 9).

Notice that the sealing of the Holy Spirit is coupled with a warning not to “grieve” Him in Ephesians 4:30.  This would seem to indicate that there is danger in grieving the Spirit who seals us and the reference to sealing may be for the primary purpose of reminding the Ephesians that to grieve the Spirit is to grieve the one who unites us to Christ.  This makes the warning far more emphatic and cautions the believer to watch how he lives lest the sins which grieve Him lead to unbelief through which the seal is broken and the Spirit is finally “insulted.” The sealing of the Holy Spirit, therefore, applies only as long as we do not “grieve” (Eph. 4:30), and finally “insult” (Heb. 10:29) the “Spirit of Grace” through continued disobedience, culminating in outright apostasy.

There is no Biblical reason to see the sealing of the Holy Spirit as unconditional or irrevocable, while there are plenty of reasons to see it as conditioned on continued faith. Indeed, warnings against apostasy alone imply the conditionality of the seal.

Romans 8:28, 29

And we know that God causes all things to work together for the good of those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the first born among many brethren; and these whom He predestined He also called; and these whom He called He also justified, and these whom He justified He also glorified.

The claim is that this passage presents an unbreakable chain from predestination to glorification.  The problem is that the passage nowhere claims that such a journey is a guarantee from start to finish.  The passage is speaking of those who have already been glorified and describes the process by which they reached that goal.  Who are these whom God has glorified?  Verse 28 tells us that it is those who love God and have been called according to His purpose.  Those who love God (believers) are called and predestinated to become conformed to the image of Christ (the ultimate “purpose” of God for the believer).  The passage is not addressing unbelievers but believers.  It is not telling us that God has predestined certain unbelievers to become believers.  Rather, it is describing the final destiny of those who love God.

The Calvinist interpretation errs in two important areas.  First the Calvinist assumes that the “calling” of verse 29 is a “calling” unto salvation.  The way that “called” is used in verse 28 would suggest otherwise.  In verse 28 Paul seems to be using the word with regard to the purpose of God to be accomplished in believers (those who love Him).  Part of that calling is to endure hardships and persecution for the sake of the gospel.  Peter uses this same language, “But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.” (1 Pet. 2:20-21)  This is exactly Paul’s point.  Believers are called to follow in Christ’s steps (which includes suffering) whereby they will be conformed to His image.  The calling is of believers to endure suffering for the sake of Christ and be conformed to His image.  To this they were predestined, for God had determined from eternity that believers would fulfill this calling in Christ (Rom. 8:17-18).  This interpretation harmonizes perfectly with the contextual emphasis of verses 28-39 (see treatment of verses 38-39 above).

Second, the Calvinist interpretation assumes that predestination is the first step in this process but Paul makes sure to emphasize that those whom God predestined are those He “foreknew.”  Again, this supports the idea that believers alone are in view throughout this passage, for God can ‘previously and affectionately regard as His own’ no sinner unless He has foreknown him in Christ, and looked upon him as a believer in Christ” (James Arminius quoted by Robert Picirilli in Grace, Faith, Free Will, pg. 78).  Election and predestination are in Christ and only believers come to be in Christ (Eph. 1:4, 5, 11, 13).  Even if the calling of verse 29 was a calling to salvation it would not indicate that all who are called are also justified and glorified for Paul has only in mind believers who persevere (enduring hardships and persecution) to glorification (Rom. 8:17-18, cf. Philippians 1:29).  Nowhere does the passage suggest that all who believe will inevitably persevere to final salvation (glorification).  Just like so many Calvinist proof-texts for inevitable perseverance the absence of a stated condition does not necessitate the conclusion that the process being described here is unconditional.

John 6:37, 44, 65

All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out…No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day…And He was saying, ‘For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted by My Father.

We dealt briefly with the context of this passage above when discussing John 10:27-29.  Jesus is speaking to Jews whose hearts are not right with God.  They are not faithful Jews and do not know the Father.  Because they are not in right covenant relationship with the Father, they cannot recognize the perfect expression of the Father in the Son.  Since they are not willing to do the Father’s will they cannot properly discern the truth of Christ’s words (John 7:17).  Those who know the Father will recognize the truth of Christ’s words and be “drawn” to Him (6:44, 45).   They will be given to the Son and come to faith in Him as a result (6:37).  To them alone has the Father granted access to the Son (6:65).

The passage has to do with the Father giving the faithful Jews to their long awaited Messiah.  It has nothing to do with a pre-temporal unconditional election of certain sinners to come to faith in Christ.  This is a conclusion that many have read into this passage according to a prior commitment to a theological system without any contextual warrant.

Jesus assures anyone who would come to Christ in faith that they will not be rejected.  They will be accepted in the Beloved One of God (6:37).  The Father will not fail to give all the faithful Jews to Christ and Christ will not fail to receive them to Himself.  Christ will “raise them up at the last day.”  These Jews can be sure that their destiny is secure in Christ.  However, the promise is only for those who are presently and continually “eating”, “drinking”, “believing”, “coming”, “listening”, “following”, and “beholding.”   Only those who persevere in saving faith will be raised up at the last day (6:40).  There is no promise here for those who stop believing and no guarantee that those who begin to believe will inevitably endure in that faith.  The “all that” in verse 39 is the sum total of believers.  It is the corporate body of Christ and that body will certainly be “raised up at the last day” because that body is comprised of those who are presently and continually “believing” in the Son (vs. 40).

Romans 8:1

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This promise applies only to those that are presently “in Christ Jesus”, and are no longer “controlled…by the sinful nature but by the Spirit.” Rom. 8:9.  As long as we remain “in Christ” we cannot be condemned, but if we fail to remain “in Christ”, by giving the sinful nature control (Rom. 8:12-14), we will certainly perish (Rom. 8:13; Gal. 6:7, 8; Jn 15:5, 6; James 4:4).

Philippians 1:6

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it in the day of Christ Jesus.

Does this verse then teach that one who begins in saving faith will inevitably continue in that faith until the “day of Christ Jesus?”  The advocates of unconditional security are trying to squeeze far more from this verse than was intended by Paul.  Paul was confident in the work of God being completed in the Philippians to whom he writes because he had every reason to believe that they would endure in the faith.  Paul explains why he has such confidence in them:  They have participated in the ministry of the gospel from the “first day until now.” (1:5) They have shared in grace with Paul in supporting his ministry and supporting him while in prison (1:7; 4:18, 19).  Paul is also confident that God will complete his work in them because he is praying for them and trusting God on their behalf (1:3, 9-11).

Since Paul has every reason to believe that they will continue in the faith based on their track record he can express his confidence that God will continue to work in them since God cannot fail to work in believers.  All believers who continue in the faith will see God’s work completed in them on the “day of Christ Jesus.”  Paul is not guaranteeing that they will make it to glory but only expressing his personal confidence in them based on his own experience of their commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. However, Paul’s confidence is seen to be a cautious confidence in that he warns them to continue following his example of single minded commitment to the gospel of Christ lest they begin to focus instead on the things of this world and become enemies of the cross (3:17-19).  Paul still expresses concern that he may yet return to them and not find them standing firm in Christ, and for that reason encourages them to continually conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (1:27).  In verses 12-13 we see that Paul has grounds for confidence in them since they have “always” obeyed, and yet he admonishes them to continue to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” (2:12) If their destination was guaranteed there should be nothing for them to fear (cf. Rom. 11:19-22).  Yet they must continue to “work out” their salvation by yielding to the working of God within them (2:13).

Philippians 2:12-13 gets to the heart of the matter and provides the primary context by which we should understand Paul’s comments in 1:6.  God will complete His work in them but only as they continue to yield to that “working” within them.  If they continue to yield to the work of God within them God will certainly bring that work to completion (perfect it) on “the day of Christ Jesus.”  We cannot do this work in ourselves, God must do it.  We cannot even yield to the work of God in us on our own, but we can do “all things through Him” who strengthens us.  We are still called on to fearfully submit to God’s work and there is nothing in Paul’s words that would suggest that we cannot resist that work and fail to see it brought to perfection in us.  In fact, Philippians 2:13 suggests just the opposite.

Conclusion

In this series we have examined the primary passages that teach the possibility of apostasy and found that the Arminian understanding of perseverance best harmonizes with the teachings of those passages.  There are many other passages which could be called into service in support of the Arminian position but we have limited this study to those passages which speak most clearly on the subject.  We have also examined the primary passages that are commonly appealed to in support of unconditional security and found that they do not contradict the Arminian view of conditional perseverance.  It seems safe (and necessary) then to conclude  that the Arminian view of perseverance is the view that best harmonizes with the Biblical data and is therefore the Biblical view.

In our next and final post in this series we will argue that the Arminian view gives the strongest grounds for Biblical assurance as well despite contrary claims by those who hold to inevitable perseverance.

Go to Part 13

Go to Part 1