Five Part Series Responding to C. Michael Patton’s “The Irrationality of Calvinism”

A while back I did a five part series responding to a post by C. Michael Patton entitled, “The Irrationality of Calvinism.” I recently noticed that some of the posts in the series did not have links at the bottom directing the reader to the next post in the series, leaving the impression that there were only two parts to the series, rather than five. I have gone back and added in those links to the bottom of those posts. I will also post links to all five parts below:

Part 1: The Set Up

Part 2: Theological Imprecision and Misrepresentations 

Part 3: False Assumptions and Question Begging

Part 4: Returning the Favor (Reversing the Argument)

Part 5: Taking the Mystery Out of Mr. Patton’s Strange Arguments

Muppet Calvinism

A puppet representing Calvinist thought seems about right to me…

MUPPET

Better than TULIP?

Richard Watson on “Who maketh thee to differ from another?” as an Argument for Calvinism

1 Corinthians 4:7, “For who maketh thee to differ from another?”

The context shows that the apostle was here endeavouring to repress that ostentation which had arisen among many persons in the Church of Corinth, on account of their spiritual gifts and endowments. This he does by referring those gifts to God, as the sole giver, — “for who maketh thee to differ?” or who confers superiority upon thee? as the sense obviously is; “and what hast thou that thou didst not receive?” Mr. Scott acknowledges that “the apostle is here speaking more immediately of natural abilities, and spiritual gifts; and not of special and efficacious grace.” If so, then the passage has nothing to do with this controversy. The argument he however affirms, concludes equally in one case, as in the other; and in his sermon on election he thus applies it: “Let the blessings of the Gospel be fairly proposed, with solemn warnings and pressing invitations, to two men of exactly the same character and disposition: if they are left to themselves in entirely similar circumstances, the effect must be precisely the same. But, behold, while one proudly scorns and resents the gracious offer, the other trembles, weeps, prays, repents, believes! Who maketh this man to differ from the other? or what hath he that he hath not received? The Scriptural answer to this question, when properly understood, decides the whole controversy.”

As this is a favourite argument, and a popular dilemma in the hands of the

Calvinists, and so much is supposed to depend upon its solution, we may somewhat particularly examine it.

Instead of supposing the case of two men “of exactly the same character and disposition,” why not suppose the same man in two moral states? For one man who “proudly scorns the Gospel” does not more differ from another who penitently receives it, than the same man who has once scoffingly rejected, and afterward meekly submitted to it, differs from himself; as for instance, Saul the Pharisee from Paul the apostle. Now, to account for the case of two men, one receiving the Gospel, and the other rejecting it, the theory of election is brought in; but in the case of the one man in two different states, this theory cannot be resorted to. The man was elect from eternity; he is no outcast from the mercy of his God, and the redemption of his Saviour, and yet, in one period of his life, he proudly scorns the offered mercy of Christ, at another he accepts it. It is clear, then, that the doctrine of election, simply considered in itself, will not solve the latter case; and by consequence it will not solve the former: for the mere fact, that one man rejects the Gospel while another receives it, is no more a proof of the non-election of the non-recipient, than the fact of a man now rejecting it, who shall afterward receive it, is a proof of his non-election.

The solution, then, must be sought for in some communication of the grace of God, in some inward operation upon the heart, which is supposed to be a consequence of election; but this leads to another and distinct question.

This question is not, however, the vincibility or invincibility of the grace of God, at least not in the first instance. It is, in truth, whether there is any operation of the grace of God in man at all tending to salvation, in cases where we see the Gospel rejected. Is the man who rejects perseveringly, and he who rejects but for a time, perhaps a long period of his life, left without any good motions or assisting influence from the grace of GOD, or not? This question seems to admit of but one of three answers. Either he has no gracious assistance at all, to dispose him to receive the Gospel; or he has a sufficient influence of grace so to dispose him; or that gracious influence is dispensed in an insufficient measure. If the first answer be given, then not only are the non-elect left without any visitations of grace throughout life; but the elect also are left without them, until the moment of their effectual calling. If the second be offered as the answer, then both in the case of the non-elect man who finally rejects Christ, and that of the elect man, who rejects him for a great part of his life, the saving grace of God must be allowed so to work as to be capable of counteraction, and effectual resistance. If this be denied, then the third answer must be adopted, and the grace of God must be allowed so to influence as to be designedly insufficient for the ends for which it is given; that is, it is given for no saving end at all, either as to the non-elect, or as to the elect all the time they remain in a state of actual alienation from Christ. For if an insufficient degree of grace is bestowed, when a sufficient degree might have been imparted, then there must have been a reason for restraining the degree of grace to an insufficient measure; which reason could only be, that it might be insufficient, and therefore not saving. Now, two of the three of these positions are manifestly contrary to the word of GOD. To say that no gracious influence of the Holy Spirit operates upon the unconverted, is to take away their guilt; since they cannot be guilty of rejecting the Gospel if they have no power to embrace it, either from themselves, or by impartation, while yet the Scripture represents this as the highest guilt of men. All the exhortations, and reproofs, and invitations of Scripture, are, also, by this doctrine, turned into mockery and delusion; and, finally, there can be no such thing in this case, as “resisting the Holy Ghost;” as “grieving and quenching the Spirit;” as “doing despite to the Spirit of grace,” either in the case of the non-elect, who are never converted, or of the elect, before conversion: so that the latter have never been guilty of stubbornness, and obstinacy, and rebellion, and resistance of grace; though these are, by them, afterward, always acknowledged among their sins. Nor did they ever feel any good motion, or drawing from the Spirit of God, before what they term their effectual calling; though, it is presumed, that few, if any of them, will deny this in fact.

If the doctrine, that no grace is imparted before conversion, is then contradicted both by Scripture and experience, how will the case stand, as to the intentional restriction of that grace to a degree which is insufficient to dispose the subject to the acceptance of the Gospel? If this view be held, it must be maintained equally as to the elect before their conversion, and as to the non-elect. In that case, then, we have equal difficulty in accounting for the guilt of man, as when it is supposed that no grace at all is imparted; and for the reproofs, calls, and invitations, and threatenings of the word of God. For where lies the difference between the absolute non-impartation of grace, and grace so imparted as to be designedly insufficient for salvation? Plainly there is none, except that we can see no end at all for giving insufficient grace; a circumstance which would only serve to render still more perplexing the principles and practice of the Divine administration. It has no end of mercy, and none of justice; nor, as far as can be perceived, of wisdom. Not of mercy, for it effects nothing merciful, and designs not to effect it; not of justice, for it places no man under equitable responsibility; not of wisdom, for it has no assignable end. The Scripture treats all men to whom the Gospel is preached as endowed with power, not indeed from themselves, but from the grace of God, to “turn at his reproof;” to come at his “call;” to embrace his “grace;” but they have no capacity for any of these acts, if either of these opinions be true: and thus the word of GOD is contradicted. So also is experience, in both cases; for there could be no sense of guilt for having rejected Christ, and grieved the Holy Spirit, either in the non-elect never converted, or in the elect before conversion, if either they had no visitations of grace at all; or if these were designedly granted in an insufficient degree.

It follows, then, that the doctrine of the impartation of grace to the unconverted, in a sufficient degree to enable them to embrace the Gospel, must be admitted; and with this doctrine comes in that of a power in man to use, or to spurn this heavenly gift and gracious assistance: in other words, a power of willing to come to Christ, even when men do not come; a power of considering their ways, and turning to the Lord, when they do not consider them, and turn to him; a power of praying, when they do not pray; and a power of believing, when they do not believe: powers all of grace; all the results of the work of the Spirit in the heart; but powers to be exerted by man, since it is man, and not God, who wills, and turns, and prays, and believes, while the influence under which this is done is from the grace of GOD alone. This is the doctrine which is clearly contained in the words of St. Paul, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God that worketh in you both to will and to do, of his own good pleasure;” where, not only the operation of God, but the co-operation of man, are distinctly marked; and are both held up as necessary to the production of the grand result — “salvation.”

It will appear, then, from these observations, that the question, “Who maketh thee to differ?” as urged by Mr. Scott and others from the time of Calvin, is a very inapposite one to their purpose, for,

First, it is a question which the apostle asks with no reference to a difference in religious state, but only with respect to gifts and endowments. Secondly, the Holy Ghost gives no authority for such an application of his words, as is thus made, in any other part of Scripture. Thirdly, it cannot be employed for the purpose for which it is dragged forth so often from its context and meaning; for, in the use thus made of it, it is falsely assumed, that the two men instanced, the one who rejects, and the other who embraces the Gospel, are not each endowed with sufficient grace to enable them to receive God’s gracious offer. Now this, we may again say, must either be denied or affirmed. If it be affirmed, then the difference between the two men consists, not where they place it, in the destitution or deficiency on the one hand, or in the plenitude on the other, of the grace of GOD; but in the use of grace: and when they say, “it is God which maketh them to differ,” they say in fact, that it is God that not only gives sufficient grace to each; but uses that grace for them. For if it be allowed that sufficient grace for repentance and faith is given to each, then the true difference between them is, that one repents, and the other does not repent; the one believes, and the other does not believe: if, therefore, this difference is to be attributed to God directly, then the act of repenting, and the act of believing, are both the acts of GOD. If they hesitate to avow this, for it is an absurdity, then either they must give up the question as totally useless to them, or else take the other side of the alternative, that to all who reject the Gospel, sufficient grace to receive it is not given. How then will that serve them? They may say, it is true, when they take the man who embraces the Gospel, “Who maketh him to differ but God, who gives this sufficient grace to him?” but then we have an equal right to take the man who rejects the Gospel, and ask, “Who maketh him to differ” from the man that embraces it? To this they cannot reply that he maketh himself to differ; for that which they here lay down is, that he has either no grace at all imparted to him to enable him to act as the other; or, what amounts to the same thing, no sufficient degree of it to produce a true faith; that he never had that grace; that he is, and always must remain, as destitute of it as when he was born. He does not, therefore, make himself to differ from the man who embraces the Gospel; for he has no power to imitate his example, and to make himself equal with him; and the only answer to our question is, “that it is God who maketh him to differ from the other,” by withholding that grace by which alone he could be prevented from rejecting the Gospel; and this, so far from “settling the whole controversy,” is the very point in debate.

This dilemma, then, will prove, when examined, but inconvenient to themselves; for if sufficiency of grace be allowed to the unconverted then the Calvinists make the acts of grace, as well as the gift of grace itself to be the work of God in the elect: if sufficiency of grace is denied, then the unbelief and condemnation of the wicked are not from themselves, but from God. The fact is, that this supposed puzzle has been always used

ad captandum; and is unworthy so grave a controversy; and as to the pretence, that the admission of a power in man to use or to abuse the grace of GOD involves some merit or ground of glorying in man himself, this is equally fallacious. The power “to will and to do,” is the sole result of the working of God in man. All is of grace: “By the grace of God,” must every one say, “I am what I am.” Here is no dispute; every good thought, desire, and tendency of the heart, and all its power to turn these to practical account by prayer, by faith, by the use of the means of grace, through which new power “to will and to do,” new power to use grace, as well as new grace, is communicated, is of GOD. Every good act, therefore, is the use of a communicated power which is given of grace, as the stretching out of the withered hand of the healed man was the use of the power communicated to his imbecility, and still working with the act, though not the act itself; and to attempt to lay a ground of boasting and self sufficiency in the assisted acceptance of the grace of God by us; and the empowered submission of our hearts to it, is as manifestly absurd as it would be to say, that the man, whose arm was withered, had great reason to congratulate himself on his share in the glory of the miracle, because he himself stretched out the invigorated member at the command of Christ; and because it was not, in fact, lifted up by the hand of him who, in that act of faith and obedience, had healed him. (From: Watson’s Theological Institutes, Volume 2)

 See also: Does Paul Support Calvinism’s View of Irresistible Grace in 1 Corinthians 4:7?

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

“So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.”  Romans 9:16 (ESV)

“But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” John 1:12-13 (ESV).

Piper’s further, detailed argument for 9.16 as speaking of unconditional bestowal of divine mercy founders on both fundamental presupposition and its particulars. For the former, Piper assumes that the language of 9.16 is incompatible with God bestowing his mercy on a condition sovereignly determined by himself. But our exegesis has found this to be a false assumption. As for the particulars, appeals to 9.11-12 and Exod. 33.19 are contradicted by our exegesis of these texts as well as of 9.16, and the reader is directed to the relevant portions of the present volume. Curiously, Piper’s final main argument invokes Phil. 2.13 (because of the somewhat similar language of ‘willing’ (τὸ θέλειν) and ‘working’ (τὸ ἐνεργεῖν)) as somehow ruling out any condition for the bestowal of God’s mercy. But that text does not particularly talk about God’s mercy (except insofar as any blessing of God can be considered mercy) and it does not indicate anything about God’s bestowal of mercy, or any divine action, being unconditional. Piper seems to be overreaching here, and we conclude that Phil. 2.13 is largely irrelevant to Rom. 9.16 and the question of the conditionality of the mercy it mentions.

Piper, 154 n. 3, notes one further reference, cited by Sanday/Headlam as an analogy to 9.16 (though Piper mistakenly refers to 9.6): Jn 1.12-13. This reference actually works against Piper because the regenerating act of God there, performed by God alone, is presented as the divine response to human faith (cf. justification in Paul’s thought, which is performed by God alone in response to human faith). John 1.12 indicates that people become children of God by faith. That is, upon believing, God gives them the right to become something that they were not prior to believing – children of God. John 1.13 then clarifies that they become children of God not from human ancestry (that is the significance of ‘not of blood, nor of the desire of the flesh [which equates to sexual desire that might lead to procreation], nor of the will of a husband [who was thought to be in charge of sexual/procreative activity]’), but from God, describing their becoming children of God as being born of God. ‘Becoming children of God’ and ‘being born of God’ are parallel expressions referring to the same phenomenon (it would be special pleading, and a desperate expedient at that, to argue that becoming God’s child and being born of him are distinct in the Johannine context or that the text would allow that a person could be born of God and yet not be his child), so that God’s act of regenerating believers, making them his own children, is a response to their faith.

The parallel with Rom. 9.16 is significant and quite supportive of our exegesis. Both contexts make the point that elect status (which equates to sonship; cf. Rom. 9.8) is not bestowed by human ancestry, but by God, whose will is to choose as his own those who believe in Christ. Even if one were to deny that reference to θελήματος σαρκός or θελήματος ἀνδρός is to human ancestry specifically and insist that it refers to human willing in general, it would not make the divine action of regeneration any less a response to human faith and hence any less conditional on it. Nor would this be inconsistent with Jn 1.13’s attribution of the act of regeneration to God. The text indicates that God is the one who grants the right to become children of God and the one who regenerates. His doing so in response to faith is a matter of his discretion and would not somehow make the human choice to believe the source of regeneration instead of God any more than it makes it the source of justification. (Excerpt from footnote #153 on page 191 of Paul’s Use of the Old Testament in Romans 9.10-18: An Intertextual and Theological Exegesis, by Dr. Brian Abasciano, paragraph breaks added for easier reading)

Does Paul Support Calvinism’s View of Irresistible Grace in 1 Corinthians 4:7?

The following is a comment I made in response to a Calvinist appealing to 1 Cor. 4:7 to show that unless faith is an irresistible gift from God, it would give us reason to boast.  Links to the original debate are provided below.

Real quick. This post is in response to what I would call some irresponsible proof-texting of a passage, on the part of Dominic, in order to get the passage to say more than it actually does. It seems to me that you are doing the exact same thing with 1 Cor. 4:7,

“For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you did not?”

First, in the context of the passage, Paul is addressing those at Corinth who thought they were more spiritual than others, when, in fact, they were not (as discussed in 1 Cor. 2). They were, in fact, proving to be unspiritual and unable to move onto maturity due to their quarreling and favoritism (1:10-12, cf. 3:1-5). Some thought they were better than others due to the fact that they believed they had gained deeper revelation from a certain apostle that others had not received. In that context, Paul is probably speaking of receiving revelation from certain apostles and not “faith” from God.

Much more could be said concerning context, but it is clear from that alone that this passage does not give you what you want from it. It might be better to focus on what it does not say. Nowhere does Paul speak of the gift of faith in this passage, or the gift of salvation. Nowhere does Paul correlate the inability to boast with the reception of an irresistible gift. Rather, Paul actually points out that they are boasting, though they have no grounds for boasting. This is important because faith (though not specifically addressed in this passage) excludes boasting, not because it is impossible to boast, but because one cannot legitimately boast in faith, since faith is simple trust and the receiving of a free and unearned gift (Rom. 4). So too, these Corinthians had no legitimate grounds for boasting, though they were indeed boasting.

So it is not an issue of “can you boast” but “can you legitimately boast” or “do you have proper grounds for boasting?” Paul’s answer in both cases is “no”. And why is that? Because it is senseless to boast in something that we receive freely from another as an unearned and undeserved gift. On that basis alone, boasting is excluded. If you didn’t earn it, or deserve it, then you have no legitimate grounds for boasting (and faith doesn’t earn or merit anything). Paul never goes beyond this simple point, and neither should we. Yet, Calvinists insist on things that go far beyond what Paul says here and in Rom. 4 concerning faith, boasting and works (and in the process turn faith into a work, contrary to Paul’s simple definitions). The fact that faith is simple trust in another (Christ) to do what we cannot do for ourselves (save us), and is for that reason the receiving of a free and unearned gift, excludes boasting. Period. No more is needed to explain the nature of faith and its antithesis (works).

So Paul is simply stating in 1 Cor. 4 that the Corinthians have no grounds for boasting over each other, since whatever they have has been received and not earned. And if it has simply been received then all legitimate grounds for boasting are cut off (cf. Rom. 4). Period. But you are reading your Calvinistic presuppositions into Paul’s words, rather than allowing Paul to speak for himself on the matter. You are, in a sense, going “beyond what is written” (1 Cor. 4:6), in order to support your doctrines of irresistible grace and unconditional election. Thankfully, there is nothing in Paul’s words, or definitions of faith and works, to support such doctrines

Addressing Dominic’s Response to the Purpose of Regeneration in Calvinism

Responding to Dominic’s Second Rebuttal on Regeneration Preceding Faith 

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

Related Fallacies:
Equivocation

John Hendryx, who we’ve noted has employed numerous fallacies in defense of Calvinism and distortions against Arminianism, is at it yet again. This time he’s trying to prove that it’s conditional election, not unconditional election, that makes God into a “respecter of persons.” Before I address his points, I believe that the idea that God is impartial has to be defined and qualified carefully: God being impartial does not mean that He treats everyone exactly the same in every respect, nor does it imply that He gives the same circumstances or blessings to everyone. Scriptural references to God’s impartiality appear to refer primarily to how He makes His judgments of men’s hearts and actions, and how He accepts people who fear Him. It doesn’t imply God having some kind of warped, hyper-egalatarian mentality where He ensures everyone’s lot in life is exactly on par. Having examined the issue myself, I think it would be difficult to make a solid case for either conditional or unconditional election violating the principle of God’s impartial judgment in scripture, since election isn’t really the same thing as judgment. However, Hendryx seems to think this does make a good case against Arminianism, and so he tries to paint Arminian doctrine as making God into a respecter of persons, while exonerating his own doctrine. As we shall see, this is one of the worst possible maneuvers, and backfires on him badly.

Redefining Partiality

Hendryx cites Leviticus 19:15, Proverbs 24:23, 1 Peter 1:17, Acts 10:34, Romans 2:11, and James 2:1-9 among others, to prove that God is impartial. Quoting him,

They are clearly warning the believer against showing favoritism or partiality, because they declare that God Himself does not show partiality or favoritism. And. most importantly, in each of these instances it means neither we nor God give special treatment to a person because of his position, merit, wealth, influence, social standing, authority or popularity. Thus ‘respecter of persons’ means we are not to favor one person over the other because of ANY superior personal trait in the one favored, and likewise we are not to show prejudice toward those who lack these characteristics.

Hendryx’s definition of “respecter of persons” is too narrow: to show respect to persons extends beyond just showing favoritism due to superficial personal traits, it implies special treatment based upon any unobjective, uneven or irrelevant criteria. Let’s give an example: Suppose a judge renders his verdict in a case, but bases his decision not upon guilt or innocence, but upon how much he personally likes the plaintiff and defendant. Is that showing partiality? It most certainly is. Keep that in mind as we continue….

So when God unconditionally elects a person in Christ does he first determine who he will choose based on their position, wealth, good looks, influence etc? No.

We’re agreed on that point.

By definition unconditional election means unconditional. It is not conditioned on ANYTHING in us or potentially in us.

This is also technically correct. Judgments are to be based upon what is actually done (guilt, innocence, or other objective criteria pertaining to action), not personal traits.

God does not stand to gain from currying anyone’s favor … even those who are in high positions … because God gave them that position, wealth, authority or social standing to begin with. The Bible unambiguously teaches, therefore, that God is no respecter of persons in election. Those who are chosen are chosen “in Christ” not because God is thinking about what he has to gain by helping them over others.. God has no need for such things, so, by definition, his choosing us cannot be tainted with such a motive.

This is something of a non-sequitur: having a motive of personal gain is one way to show partiality, but is by no means the only way. Proving that God has need of nothing and that He doesn’t judge on the basis of material gain or influence doesn’t automatically establish impartiality. Looking at our example of the judge above, if asked why he rendered the verdict that he did, which responses would indicate partiality or impartiality?

“The evidence that came out in the proceedings made it overwhelmingly clear.” – impartial
“Multiple eyewitness accounts establish this beyond reasonable doubt.” – impartial
“The argument was logically sound and airtight.” – impartial
“I rendered judgment strictly as the law dictates.” – impartial
“I scratch his back, he’ll scratch mine!” – partial (motive of personal gain; but there are plenty more than just this)
“He looked guilty.” – partial
“I just had a feeling.” – partial
“He’s my nephew.” – partial
“The other guy made his case much more eloquently.” – partial
“I don’t like his type.” – partial
“I just wanted to do it that way.” – PARTIAL

Note that the last example is unconditional, a verdict rendered simply by arbitrary fiat (hereafter, just “fiat”). It is not objective, and it therefore doesn’t really matter what other reasons he has for declaring one guilty and the other innocent in such a case, such a ruling is partial. Hendryx refers back to the quote from James 2:1-9,

James question is rhetorical, of course. Because yes indeed God HAS chosen the poor of the world … i.e. those who are spiritually bankrupt who have lost all hope in themselves… S0 God is not looking to benefit from those who are already full, but shows special care those who are empty or impoverished. … So according to the Bible, showing special favor to the poor is the very antithesis of what it means to show favoritism or respect of persons.

Hendryx again displays a misunderstanding of what impartiality is. The quote he cited above from Leviticus declares,

“You shall do no injustice in judgment. You shall not be partial to the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. In righteousness you shall judge your neighbor.” (Leviticus 19:15, NKJV)

Which plainly indicates that it is partiality to show favoritism in judgment to a poor man simply because he is poor. I would instead interpret James as referring to correlation and contrast: people are seldom granted riches in both spiritual and material possessions. Hendryx also unwittingly argues for conditional election in stating,

“[So] God is not looking to benefit from those who are already full, but shows special care those who are empty or impoverished.”

If God elected on that basis, that would still be conditional election, since being empty and impoverished would be a condition to being elect.

So far, Hendryx’s major errors have been in equating partiality as being based upon,
1.) personal traits
2.) motive for personal gain

And in concluding that judgment that isn’t for personal gain must be impartial (which is not necessarily true, since judgment based upon fiat is also partial).

Redefining Synergism

…it is actually those who defend CONDITIONAL election who make God a respecter of persons. This is because, if it were true that meeting some condition prompted God’s decision to elect his people then His choice of them would be based on their wisdom, prudence, sound judgment, or good sense to believe. He would therefore be looking at the character or merit of that person and choosing them because of it.

This is entirely incorrect for one simple reason: election based upon whether one does (or will) believe is not rooted in traits, but action: belief in Christ. Hendryx’s reasoning falls completely apart when applied to actual cases of judgment. If a judge discerns from the evidence that a man is innocent, and declares him “not guilty,” is he showing favoritism because of the man’s “good sense not to commit the crime?” Not at all, his judgment is based upon action, not character. Whether the man is smart, stupid, sensible, foolish, etc, is irrelevant. A just and impartial verdict is based upon the objective criteria of his actions.

The Bible, on the contrary, declares that we are all ill-deserving and, as such, God reserves the right to have mercy on whom he will, which is not based in any way on the will of the flesh (John 1:13; Rom 9:15, 16).

Simply having the right to do what one wishes doesn’t make on impartial, those are separate issues (as supreme power allows for fiat). God is both sovereign and impartial (and therefore doesn’t rule by fiat).

If God is basing his election on who will have faith then this would, in fact, make God a respecter of persons because these persons are meeting God’s criteria in order to be chosen.

In synergism God’s love for his people is not unconditional but is given only when someone meets the right condition… i.e. whether someone has faith or not. He chooses them only if they believe in him. Isn’t that favoritism?

Here is Hendryx’s third major error: basing decisions upon objective and relevant criteria (such as action) is not showing favoritism. Complaining about objective criteria as a basis for decisions is directly analogous to (and exactly as ridiculous as) accusing a judge of partiality in his rulings because he’s “biased in favor of the innocent.” Decisions based upon objective conditions (rather than merely who the persons involved are) are the very epitome of impartial judgment. In labeling that as “favoritism,” Hendryx has the issue completely and totally backwards.

God loves his people because he loves them. Is there some better reason OUTSIDE or ABOVE God that should make him do so? The Arminian would have us think so.

This is also a bit strange, nothing makes God love anyone; He does so freely, and extends saving grace to those who freely believe. And Arminians don’t believe in anything “above” God, so Hendryx seems very confused in his verbiage at this point.

Redefining Conditionality

It is the synergist who believes God shows favoritism or partiality because it is based on whether or not that person meritoriously meets the condition God gives him.

To define believing as a “meritorious” act goes completely against the theology of all major Synergists. Something being a condition does not make it meritorious, as even demeritorious things can be conditions (sin is a condition for damnation). As orthodox Synergists maintain, faith is a condition to salvation, but is of itself of no intrinsic worth or merit. Hendryx is in such a fervor to promote his Calvinist agenda that he’s stooped to badly misrepresenting Synergist theology.

Redefining Context

Hendryx drones on with his ridiculously Westernized canard about parents unconditionally loving their children and making sure they don’t get hit by oncoming traffic (apparently while making sure that the children they don’t like do get run over). He tries to use this analogy to establish that God’s love for His children isn’t conditioned upon things like faith. This is countered easily enough: first, God does love all men in the world unconditionally, which is why Christ was sent (John 3:16, which also specifies the condition of faith for eternal life). Secondly, trying to frame God’s relationship to His children as being strictly analogous to the relationships between human parents and our children is fatally flawed: none of us (apart from Christ) are His children in any sense pertaining to salvation, but we’re rather children of wrath. But the scriptures declare,

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26)

So faith is a condition to even being His child to begin with; Hendryx’s analogy, contrary to Galatians 3, incorrectly assumes that the elect are God’s children in some special sense apart from faith.

So now God is partial?

He leads into this with some minor issues, noting that God is not obligated to save anyone and his choices are always good (I agree). He cites people’s varying circumstances and stations in life, people treating their own children differently from their neighbors, Jesus’ selective healings & resurrections of the dead (e.g. Lazarus), and so on, to prove that in actuality, God does show favoritism. As I pointed out at the beginning, God’s impartiality is descriptive of His judgment and acceptance, trying to twist it to mean that people should have identical circumstances in the world is stretching it well beyond its intended meaning. Nonetheless, we now start to see a subtle shift in Hendryx’s argument: he was just arguing that condtional election (as opposed to his view of unconditional election) makes God out to be playing favorites, but now he’s actually acknowledging that he believes God is showing favoritism, and that he extends it to election as well. He argues,

…everyone is born equally guilty in Adam and so it is perfectly just that not all get the same benefits in this life when they are born. If this is true of everyday life why is it such a stretch to carry the same idea into eternity? it is hypocrisy not to recognize this inconsistency.

The question really is not whether God shows favorites but IN WHAT SENSE does God not show favorites because God chose Abraham out of all the people’s of the earth, not because he saw something good in him, nor because he earned God’s favor, but because God chose to.

I agree that not everyone gets an equal lot in this life; I don’t believe that’s what the Bible’s teachings about God’s fairness and impartiality are in reference to. But Hendryx has turned it into a problem for himself: No sooner has he finished arguing that conditional election implies God playing favorites, than he takes supposed examples of God’s “favoritism” in regards to people’s life circumstances and tries to extend them to election. As the saying goes, “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.” It’s a stunning display of cognitive dissonance for him to condemn one view of election for allegedly being partial (and therefore inferior to his view), then holding up alleged examples of partiality, and proceeding to use those to promote his own view of election! This inconsistency is Hendryx’s fourth major error. First he tries to blast conditional election for making God partial in His choosing, yet now he’s backpedaling and making the claim that God is partial in His choosing, He’s just partial in a different way.

If God doesn’t satisfactorily explain to you the good reasons He has for what he does, do you thereby condemn Him for it?

No one’s arguing that God needs to explain all of His reasons, we’re discussing how God’s revelation of His impartiality relates to divine election. Despite his decrial of condemning God based upon not understanding His reasons, Hendryx himself is quick to condemn the Arminian understanding of God as partial, and he does so without even understanding what partiality in judgment means.

Sanity Check

The issue of people having different circumstances in life doesn’t necessarily denote God being partial at all. As a counter-example, if I give my children different chores according to their ability, different bedtimes appropriate to their ages, different gifts to fit different interests, and different rewards and punishments fitting for differing behavior, I’m not playing favorites. However, if both are equally guilty of willfully disobeying a rule that carries a standard penalty, it would be playing favorites and partial judgment for me to unconditionally punish one and unconditionally pardon the other. The last major underlying error apparent in Hendryx’s reasoning is the idea that everyone being guilty makes God’s choosing some unto salvation impartial. Everyone being guilty of offending the supreme God would make His treatment, at the very least, equal to or less than what we deserve. I must stress though that this is not the same thing as impartiality. The issue is not fairness to just an individual, but partiality between individuals.

Take for instance a judge who is rendering his judgment against two men who have been proven to be equally guilty of the same crime. If he unconditionally shows leniency to the one, but condemns the other, his judgments are at worst, what the men deserve, but they are not impartial, as he is showing favoritism to one over the other. While this example pertains to judgment, not election, it is nonetheless exactly analogous to the Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election. Hendryx condemns conditional election as making God partial, yet himself proposes a scheme of election that is partial by definition. By that token, conditional election would be akin to the judge offering both men an opportunity for acquittal: say he offers that if one or both of them will sign a pledge of loyalty and service to their rightful ruler that apologizes for and renounces their evil acts, then the judge will show undeserved leniency to whoever signs it. One signs it and goes free, the other does not and is condemned. Was the judge showing favoritism in giving a different verdict? Not at all. The conditions were laid out; he judged them worthy of condemnation by the same standard to both, and showed undeserved leniency (or not) based upon the same objective (yet non-meritorious) condition to both. This is likewise analogous to how election is conditional per the Arminian view, and plainly demonstrates that God shows no respect of persons, but rather shows leniency based upon the objective standard of faith in Christ.

If God’s impartiality does apply to election, then unconditional election will invariably be shown wanting. The only options when choosing impartially are,

1.) Everyone is chosen unconditionally.
2.) No one is chosen unconditionally.
3.) Only some are chosen, but upon an objective basis.

The only way for God’s choosing to be impartial is if only some are chosen unconditionally, AKA unconditional election. If God is impartial in election, and only some are elect, then conditional election is the only game in town.

Bottom Line:

* The impartiality that the Bible attributes to God has to do with His righteous judgments and acceptance of righteous men; it doesn’t follow from this that everyone will have identical life circumstances.
* Hendryx’s definition of partiality is too narrow. There are more ways to be partial than simply judging based upon personal traits or for personal gain.
* The act of choosing one over another by fiat is, by definition, showing favoritism.
* That all men are guilty of sin is irrelevant to the issue of God’s impartiality: choosing one over another unconditionally is still being partial.
* God choosing according to one’s belief is not basing His choice upon a personal trait.
* God choosing based upon objective and relevant criteria (like faith) is not showing personal favoritism.
* Something being conditional is not the same as it being obtained by merit.
* If God’s impartiality does extend to election, then conditional election is the only impartial method by which some (not all or none) can be chosen. Thus such an argument ultimately backfires on the Calvinist.

Is Faith a Work Created by Man?

Check out this excellent and concise post at SEA on the nature of faith and why the Calvinist view is problematic.  Here is an excerpt:

It also has a logic problem, because from a Calvinistic perspective, we have to wonder what was the point of the faith/works distinction in the first place. In other words, if we cannot boast in our faith because it is predestined by God, then we also cannot boast in our works because they are predestined by God. But the Bible specifically says that salvation is by faith rather than works, lest any man should boast. Paul’s explanation is not very meaningful if free-will, not works, is what gives us a reason to boast.

Is Faith a Work Created by Man?

“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.

Paul Washer’s – “Doctrine” of Election: An Arminian Critique

I have been frequently referred to Paul Washer’s video discussion, “Doctrine” of Election.  I found the video transcript and decided it would be beneficial to interact with this apparently influential accounting of Calvinist election.  The sections of the transcript are marked by block quotes with my comments in between.  A copy of the transcript can be found at: http://www.scribd.com/doc/21411721/Paul-Washer-Video-Transcript 

Student:  I got a question, I don’t understand.  I’ve been raised Southern Baptist my whole life and I’m searching for the Truth really hard in my life right now.  I’m in seminary and I want to understand the doctrine of election and things like that.  And my roommate’s a Calvinist and he’s been kind of trying to teach me a little bit but I just want to know the Truth and they tell me that you’re the guy, you know.  Is there any way that you can, you know…anything that you can…[say to help me understand this more clearly?]

Paul Washer:  If you will go to my pastor’s website, Anchored in Truth, he has a series of sermons called “Election: Plain and Simple.”  Some of the best you’ll ever hear.

Student:  Anchored in Truth.org?

Paul Washer:  Anchored in Truth.org.

Student:  .org?

Paul Washer:  “Election: Plain and Simple.”  What it all comes down to is this.  You only have to answer one question:  Is man radically depraved? That’s the only question you have to ask.  Because if he is, if he’s truly dead in his sin, if he truly hates God, if all men are equally evil (and they are), then the question is, how are you standing here right now believing God while some of your friends who are more moral than you still hate Him?  What happened?  If you say you opened up your heart, I’ll say no you didn’t because the Bible says God [unintelligible] opened any man’s heart.  If you say you repent, well repentance is an evangelical grace [unintelligible] confession, it means it comes from God as a gift.  You say, well I believe (pause) Ephesians 2 – that also is a gift.

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.

Student:  I know that the Bible says that no man come to God unless [unintelligible].  I know that, but my question is, is the grace, the offer of salvation for all men or did God say back in eternity, say it’s for you, you, you, you, and you, you, you,

The student asks a great question here.  The student is not questioning election, but whether or not that election needs to be unconditional.  The student is not even questioning whether or not inability is a reality; rather, the student wants to know if God only overcomes the inability of some rather than all.  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;).  The student has actually just cut the legs out from under the framework on which Calvinist Paul Washer wants to build unconditional election.  This is evident in Washer’s laborious attempt to draw a logical connection between inability and the necessity of unconditional election as if God could not enable all who hear the gospel to respond favorably to it (in faith).

Paul Washer:  See, first of all your problem is this.  Let’s say there’s no election.  None at all.  Alright?  Let’s just start fresh.  No election.  Alright.  Now.  Let’s say that men really are radically depraved and no man can come to God unless God draws him.  So God comes down to every man and says, “Anyone who will bow their knee to me, anyone who will accept My Son as their Saviour will be saved.”  Since every man is radically depraved, they all hate God, they all blaspheme Him, turn around and walk away and go to hell. The whole world goes to hell.  Is that God’s fault?

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.  This includes the thoughts, emotions, desires, wills and actions of His creatures.  Furthermore, God’s foreknowledge is entirely based on His decree.  God can only foreknow what He decrees.  God has prior knowledge of an event only because God will make that event happen in time in accordance with His unchangeable and irresistible decree.  God’s foreknowledge is therefore based on the fact that all that will ever happen will happen only because God will cause it to happen in accordance with His eternal decree.  This again includes every thought, desire, and action of every person who will ever live.  This included the first sin (and every subsequent sin).  How did God foreknow that Adam would sin?  He foreknew it because He decreed it and irresistibly brought it about in accordance with that decree.  Adam could no more resist the eternal decree to rebel against God than he could create a universe. [2]

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.  God controlled Adam’s desires and will to sin (it is useless to retort that Adam sinned “willingly” since his will was controlled by God in accordance with His unchangeable eternal decree).  With this backdrop in mind we can see how Washer’s comments do not fit with the theology he is trying to defend.  When the exhaustive decretal determinism of Calvinism is in view, questions like, “Is that God’s fault?” should be answered with “Yes”.  How can it not be God’s fault when He controlled and orchestrated the fall and the hatred and rebellion of every one of His “depraved” creatures?  Washer actually has to temporarily forget or ignore his fundamental theological assumptions in order to make such appeals. He basically has to temporarily work from Arminian assumptions in order to argue for Calvinism, since only on Arminian assumptions is it reasonable to say that God is not at fault.

Notice also how Washer doesn’t even deal with the main issue the student rightly pointed to, whether or not inability can be overcome in such a way as to enable all to respond.  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.  Therefore, his whole argument is an exercise in question begging.

OK.  Let’s say that really is the reality.  Let’s say that the Bible’s true and that men hate God that much. So who’s going to get saved?  Absolutely no one.  And if God saves no one because everyone is evil and rejects Him, is God wrong in doing that?  No.

Again, if fundamental Calvinist assumptions are in view (i.e. exhaustive determinism), the answer has to be “Yes.”

So that’s what you’ve got without election—you’ve got the whole world hating God and going to hell.  That’s it.  And the other option is this:  among these evil men, for His own glory and to demonstrate His own kindness before the foundation of the world, He chooses a group of men out of there to demonstrate His glory in them.  Is that wrong?

It would certainly seem to be wrong if Calvinist assumptions are granted.  It would certainly seem to be wrong according to the concepts of justice described in Scripture for God to irresistibly cause all of His creatures to hate Him and rebel against Him just so He could select some to save from the sin and rebellion that He caused in them while eternally punishing the rest for sinning and rebelling in perfect conformity with God’s irresistible eternal decree.  It is also unclear how God making some that He caused to hate Him suddenly love Him would demonstrate His glory.  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.  God punishes those He causes to hate Him with unimaginable eternal punishment while blessing those He causes to love Him with unimaginable eternal joy.  In what way can we possibly say this is “glorious” or praiseworthy?  Nor could we call such an election gracious if God caused them all to be hateful sinners in the first place.

But still, there is yet a third “option” that Washer refuses to consider, the option that the student brought up concerning the possibility that God could enable all God haters who hear the gospel to respond positively to it.  That option would simply say that God makes it possible, by His Spirit and His word, for every depraved God hater to respond positively to the gospel message, yet without irresistibly causing a positive faith response.

That “option” would also make sense of the fact that God holds sinners who reject the grace God offers rightly accountable for their sin and rejection, rather than just punishing them for doing exactly what God irresistibly decreed for them to do.  That “option” would also ruin Washer’s desperate attempt to make unconditional election a necessary result of inability, and is therefore ignored.

Did He rip the other men off? What did He do?  You’ve got two choices.  God saves a group of people by His own sovereignty or everybody goes to hell—everybody.  Because men are that evil.  See your problem – see what you need to realize is this, if God right now would throw open the door of hell and say, “Everyone who wants out of hell, the only thing you have to do is bow your knee to me and recognize my Lordship,” they’ll slam the door and stay in hell.

This may be true, but given fundamental Calvinist assumptions such a hopeless despising of God is the unavoidable result of an irresistible eternal decree.  And again, the student never denied inability or depravity.  The student only questioned the logic that God’s enabling grace needs to be irresistible or restricted to only some.

See what you don’t realize, because of the humanistic Christianity inAmerica, you don’t realize men are really evil—they really are evil.  I’ll give you an example.  Any of you seen the Lord of the Rings?  Saurus…Sauron makes these Orcs, they come out of the ground—evil.  Evil.  Alright.  Aragorn, all the heroes in the movie, slaughter them like they were – you know—insects.  Slaughter them.  And every time an Orc gets killed, what do you do?  Yeah (cheering movement).  Why? Cause those Orcs really are evil.  They are evil.  There’s your problem.  You don’t think men are.  Men really are evil.  Men really deserve hell.  They really do. [3]

Student:  And I believe that.  I know that.

The student tries again to help Washer see that the issue is not whether or not men are evil or whether or not men need God to overcome their depravity to make faith possible.  The student doesn’t deny that man is evil.  The student doesn’t deny that depravity must be overcome.  The student only questions the Calvinist claim that God’s gracious enabling need be irresistible or given only to some.  Unfortunately, Washer is too worried about telling the student what his  “problem is” and what the student supposedly “doesn’t realize” to actually listen to the student and grapple with the actual question.  Instead, the student only gets the usual cookie cutter Calvinist brain washing techniques (no pun intended).

Paul Washer:  Alright.  So… it says – you know we talk about the doctrine of inability – that men cannot come to God – Jesus said that.  Alright?  Men cannot come to God.  Now.  If you say men can’t come to God, how can God judge them?  That’s like judging a blind man because he can’t read.  If men can’t come to God, then man’s not a culprit, he’s a victim.  Here’s what you have to understand, men cannot come to God because they will not come to God and they will not come to God because they hate Him and, therefore, they’re responsible.

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.

This includes His creature’s desires, wills, and therefore “hatred” of God.  When we keep this in mind we immediately see that the “…therefore, they’re responsible” doesn’t follow as Paul Washer seemingly wants us to believe.  Washer’s statement, “That’s like judging a blind man because he can’t read.  If men can’t come to God, then man’s not a culprit, he’s a victim”, is completely accurate in light of Washer’s theology and Washer seems to plainly recognize the problem this would create for his position.  However, he can offer no real solution because in Calvinism those who “willingly” hate God do so because God irresistibly controls their wills to hate Him.

Men are evil.  God is good.  So, men hate God, they hate His law, they hate everything about Him.  OK?

OK, but how did they get evil?  According to Calvinism they got evil because God irresistibly decreed for them to get evil.  If the Calvinist wants to say they chose to be evil, this solves nothing since God decreed for them to “choose” to be evil as well.  And again, Washer can’t stop long enough to realize that the student never denied that man was evil in the first place.

It says of Joseph’s brothers, they could not speak to him peaceably.

And why not?  Because God decreed this for them (according to Calvinism).

Now they spoke [unintelligible].  Why couldn’t they speak to him?  They could not speak to him peaceably because they hated him.  Alright?

Again, why did they hate him?  Because God decreed this for them from all eternity. 

That’s why no man will ever come to God.  If God comes down and says, “Alright everybody make their choice.” No one’s coming to God.  Why?  They hate Him.  And that’s why they’re judged for their inability because their inability’s moral.  They really hate God.

But notice how Washer keeps skirting the issue and keeps talking like an Arminian.  He wants to establish moral accountability but can’t do this without ignoring fundamental Calvinist assumptions. “Choice” doesn’t even make sense in Calvinism.  Aren’t our desires, thoughts, wills, and actions all under the meticulous sovereign control of God?  If God decreed from all eternity that they would reject and hate Him, then in what sense can we possibly say they had a “choice” in the matter? [4]  Again, Paul Washer has to temporarily shelve his fundamental Calvinist assumptions and adopt Arminian assumptions in order to morally defend his Calvinist doctrine of unconditional election.

So you’ve got a whole human race – everyone of them’s fallen, everyone of them hates God, God comes down and says, “Who wants to be saved?” Everybody blasphemes the name of God and walks into hell and slams the door.

…in perfect conformity to the irresistible and unchangeable eternal decree of God of which they have no more power to resist than to create a universe.  Washer just keeps saying the same thing over and over.  Man is evil.  Men hate God.  Men are depraved.  None of which the student has denied and all of which the student gladly agreed with.  So why is Washer working so hard to convince the student of something the student already accepts?

That’s what you’ve got – because men really are evil.

Just as God irresistibly decreed for them to be, with no power to be anything other than “really evil”.

And out of that, God says, “But for My own glory, I am going to redeem a people and give them to My Son.  By My own choice, by My own sovereign election.”  He’s done wrong to no one.

See comments above about how this could hardly be considered gracious or glorious given Calvinist assumptions.  It is also hard to imagine how it could be said that God has “done wrong to no one” in electing some of those He caused to hate Him for redemption while holding the rest He caused to hate Him accountable for the hate God decreed for them to have from all eternity.  One would really need to redefine “right” and “wrong” to make such a claim given such Calvinist assumptions.

And now, how does He save a man?  Here’s a question?  Are you spiritually dead prior to conversion?  Well then how do you come to Christ?  If you’re spiritually blind, how do you see?

Student:  He draws men unto Him. 

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.  But Washer must make a logical connection between inability and unconditional election.  He now resorts to the usual Calvinist tactic, the misunderstanding and misapplication of the Biblical concept of being “dead in sin”

Paul Washer:  But you’re a dead man.  If some of it has to do with you, you’re a dead man.  If God calls your name, you hate Him.  You’re not going to come.

Unless God enables you to come.

You’re going to run farther away from Him.  That is why in all of the – listen very carefully – in all of the Christian confessions, the old Christian confessions, in the Reformation, early Baptist confessions – you have been raised on this, if you believe in Jesus, you can be born again.  All the early Baptist confessions say you must be born again in order to believe in Jesus. That’s the difference!

That’s the unbiblical difference.  And is Washer truly saying that “all of the Christian confessions” put regeneration before faith?  That is certainly inaccurate.  It is true that many “Reformed” confessions do this, as well as many “Reformed” Baptist confessions, but that is a far cry from saying that all Baptist confessions and every Christian confession puts regeneration before faith (unless Washer is actually claiming that only “Reformed” Baptists are true Baptists and only “Reformed” Christians are true Christians, which is also grossly inaccurate).

Because if I tell a dead man, “Look, you’re dead. There’s a hospital over here.  We can put some electrodes on you so get up and follow me on over to the hospital.”  It’s not sensible.  He’s dead.  If he can get up, he doesn’t need to go to the hospital.

And there it is, the unbiblical attempt to make “dead in sin” mean “the inability of a physical corpse.”  The Bible nowhere defines “dead in sin” in such a way.  Rather, “dead in sin” is a description of the spiritual separation of the sinner from the spiritual life found only in Christ.  Below is an excerpt from a post I wrote on the subject long ago:

Calvinists are fond of comparing spiritual death to physical death.  This gives them the framework with which to press their theological conviction that regeneration precedes faith.  If being dead in sin means that we are as helpless as physical corpses then we are told that we certainly can no more ”hear” the gospel or “see” our need for Christ than a physical corpse can hear or see.  But is there any justification for such a strict parallel between the spiritual and the physical? 

Nowhere in Scripture is such a strict parallel drawn.  To be dead in sins means that we are cut off from the relationship with God that is necessary for spiritual life.  Our sin separates us from a holy God and causes spiritual death.  This is both actual and potential.  The sinner is presently “dead” because, in the absence of faith,  he is not enjoying life giving union with Christ.   The sinner is potentially dead because if he continues in this state he will be forever cut off from the presence of the Lord in Hell (2 Thess. 1:9).

Calvinists will often mock Arminians by saying that it is as useless to expect the dead in sin to respond to the gospel as it is to expect a bunch of corpses in the morgue to respond to the gospel.  The only way that corpses could hear such preaching is for them to first be given life.  In like manner, we are told, the only way that someone who is “dead” in sin could respond to the gospel would be if they are first raised to spiritual life.  This supposedly proves the need for regeneration before faith.

But this leads to absurdities and demonstrates that pressing this parallel between those who are spiritually dead and physically dead is unwise and without Scriptural support.  If the analogy is accurate then spiritually dead people should not be able to do anything more than corpses can do, which is plainly absurd.  A single example will suffice.

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

Much more could be said, but for now I would only add that the very passages that speak of being “dead in sin” make it clear that the solution is to be joined to Christ, the source of spiritual life (John 5:26, Cf., Col. 2:11-13; Eph. 2:4-9).  This confirms that the phrase makes reference not to the inability of a physical corpse (to see, hear, believe, etc.), but to the absence of spiritual life that naturally results from being separated from God.  The solution is to be joined to Christ and one is joined to Christ by faith (Eph. 1:13; Gal. 3:26-29).  If one can only cease to be dead in sin by coming to be joined to Christ, and one can only be joined to Christ by faith, then it is Biblically inaccurate to suggest that “dead in sin” means the inability to believe without regeneration.

[Washer continues] When Jesus looked at Lazarus and said, “Lazarus come forth,” Lazarus is dead.  How does he hear the command?  The command not only must be given but the moment the command is given, Lazarus must be resurrected to be able to even hear the command to respond.

Again, there is no Biblical reason to connect “dead in sin” to the inability of a physical corpse to do anything without first being brought back to life.  The story of Lazarus is not a spiritual object lesson on how unbelievers come to faith.  In the same gospel Jesus said “An hour is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live.” (John 5:25, emphasis mine)  This is the “hearing” of faith (verse 24, cf. Gal. 3:2, 5, the same passages, along with verse 14, which make it clear that the Holy Spirit is also received by faith).  So Jesus says that the spiritually dead will “hear” (with the hearing of faith) unto spiritual “life”.  Paul Washer says that one must be spiritually alive in order to hear, the exact opposite of what Christ said! 

The apostle Paul says that the new covenant “promise” that “imparts life” is given “through faith in Jesus Christ” (Gal. 3:21, 22).  Paul Washer says that God must first impart life for us to be able to have faith in Christ, the exact opposite of what the apostle Paul says!  John says that one must receive Christ by faith in order to “become” a child of God (John 1:12, 13) and the apostle Paul says that we become sons of God “through faith” (Gal. 3:36).  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!

The apostle Paul says that it is through “faith in the power of God” that we move from spiritual death to spiritual life by being joined to Christ and subsequently “raised” to spiritual life “in Him” (Col. 2:11-13).  Paul Washer says we need to be raised to spiritual life in order to have “faith in the power of God”, the exact opposite of what the apostle Paul said!  Examples like these could be easily multiplied.

Washer has put the weight of his entire argument for unconditional election on the teaching that one must be regenerated in order to believe.  Since the Bible contradicts him and says that regeneration results from faith rather than causes it, his main philosophical basis for unconditional election collapses.  In the end, the student was correct to question the Calvinist commitment to unconditional election based on the doctrine of inability.  There is simply no logical or Biblical reason to believe that God cannot graciously overcome man’s depravity in such a way that all who hear the gospel can either respond in faith or choose to remain in unbelief (which is exactly what Arminianism and the Bible teaches).  Neither is there any Biblical basis for claiming that God can only enable a faith response through regeneration.  In fact, the Bible clearly puts faith before regeneration. But Washer won’t give up so easily.  As a last resort he appeals to personal experience to establish his case:

That’s why when you probably heard the gospel for many, many years and you were sitting there and you didn’t care, no big deal, maybe you made a confession of faith – nothing – and then, one day, the Gospel’s preached and you’re like [WHOOSH] – the blinder’s taken off and not only that, you want Him.

Unfortunately, our present theological convictions can easily color how we interpret a past conversion experience.  I remember desiring to live for God many times before I was willing to finally let go of those things I valued more than God.  I also remember sensing in that moment when I did finally fully surrender to God that I had full power and ability to reject Him once again and remain in my sin instead.  It felt like a real choice to me.  Did I feel God’s conviction very strongly?  Yes.  Did I sense that He was drawing me?  Absolutely.  Would I say that I was powerless to resist?  Not at all.  At the very least then, my experience alone renders Washer’s argument invalid.

Because some people say what God does is He draws us all to a certain point and then gives us a choice.

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

There’s only a problem.  If God only illuminates the mind of the sinner, then the more the sinner sees God, the more he’s going to hate Him.  So, He not only illuminates the mind, He changes the heart and with the new heart for the first time you love Jesus, you can say, “I love Him, I’m irresistibly drawn to Him, and I want Him more than anything.”

Again, if God enables us to love and trust Him, then we do not have to continue hating Him.  To say that we would just keep hating Him is simply to deny that God has enabled the person to love Him, which is plainly question begging.  Either God has enabled the response of faith and love, making it a possibility, or He has not.  If Washer grants the Arminian concept of divine resistible enabling, then he can’t say that we would just keep hating God anyway.  That is just denying the very thing that was supposed to be granted.  The “new heart” of Ezekiel is a promise given to those who enjoy the blessings of the new covenant, and the new covenant promises (which include the promise of a new heart) are received by faith.  Therefore, a new heart is received by faith and does not cause faith (for more on that see my post Is The New Heart of Ezekiel 36:26-27 a Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith?).

Summary

This interaction is very instructive in how Calvinists often come to their conclusions regarding election and how Calvinists primarily go about indoctrinating people into the so called “Doctrines of Grace” (which should be called “Doctrines of Grace for a Lucky Few” or “Doctrines of Limited Grace” or something similar, if we were to be truly honest about what this little self assigned catch phrase for Calvinism represents).

The student has a question about election, but Paul Washer doesn’t look to what Scripture says about election.  Rather, he goes on and on about depravity and tells the student seeker that his “problem” is simply the need to understand that “men are evil” and “hate God.”  There are passages in Scripture that teach on election and there are passages in Scripture that teach on depravity, but the Bible does not say, “Once you understand depravity, then you can understand election.”  That is not to say there is not some connection between these doctrines or any number of various doctrines, but if we really want to understand a doctrine, we should first look to what the Bible specifically teaches on that doctrine.  Paul Washer doesn’t do that here.  The truth is that unconditional election cannot be found in Scripture.  No passages expressly teach that election is unconditional. [5]  That may very well be the reason why Calvinists like Paul Washer typically lead people around in such ways.  First you need to understand depravity (as defined by Calvinism to mean that regeneration alone can enable [that is, “cause”] a faith response), and then you will see how the logic of depravity leads us to unconditional election, etc.

We have also seen how hard it is for a Calvinist to describe unconditional election as being something that should not be seen as capricious or unjust without temporarily abandoning fundamental Calvinist assumptions in favor of Arminian assumptions.  I am convinced that Calvinists so often talk like Arminians when trying to defend unconditional election because Calvinism, with its exhaustive determinism, simply cannot provide a satisfying framework for moral accountability or theodicy in general.  It is too bad that these same Calvinists do not pause long enough to take note of these practical inconsistencies (in the way that they still tend to think and talk about these issues) and re-evaluate their undergirding philosophical assumptions that make it so difficult to meaningfully communicate or explain issues of justice and moral accountability [6].

Lastly, we have seen yet another example of a Calvinist not really understanding or rightly grappling with the Arminian solution to depravity: resistible prevenient grace.   Rather, Paul Washer engages in blatant question begging in claiming that only irresistible grace can make faith possible, even to the point of immediately denying what he seemed to grant for the sake of argument.  Put simply, if God has overcome the sinner’s depravity, enabling the response of faith and love, then the sinner can respond in faith and love; therefore, it is by no means necessary for the sinner to continue hating God as Washer claims.

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[1] Appeals to “permission” only make sense when determinism is denied and libertarian free will is affirmed.  Appeals to “secondary causes” likewise fail since God controls even secondary causes.  God controls everything.

[2] On this Arminius astutely observes:

“If any one acknowledges that this is indeed true [that the decree of predestination presupposes the fall and considers men as sinners], but says that God has arranged this, as an occasion for Himself, by decreeing that man should fall, and by carrying forward that decree to its end or limit, we ask the proof of that assertion, which, in my judgment, he will be unable to give. For that sentiment is at variance with the justice of God, as it makes God the author of sin, and introduces an inevitable necessity for sin. This I will prove. For if that decree existed, man could not abstain from sin, otherwise the decree would have been made in vain, which is an impious supposition.  For “the counsel of the Lord standeth forever.” (Psalm 33:11). We remark also that the human will would have been circumscribed and determined by that decree, so that it could not turn itself except in one direction, in which there would be sin; by that act its freedom would be lost, because it would move the will, not according to the mode of freewill, but according to the mode of nature. Such an act it could not resist, nor would there be any volition in that direction, indeed, there would not be the power to put forth that volition on account of the determination of the decree. (“An Examination of the Treatise of William Perkins, Part 1” pp. 264, 265 from The Wesleyan Heritage Collection, CD)

[3] The example of the Orcs is instructive because it actually corresponds with the fundamental assumptions of Calvinist theology that Paul Washer seems to ignore or forget when trying to explain why God is just in passing over so many of His creatures and denying them the salvation He gives only to the ones He unconditionally chooses from the fallen and depraved mass of humanity.

Assuming these Orcs come out of the ground “evil” by nature, having no ability or desire to do anything other than that which we would call evil, then it would be wrong to hold these Orcs morally accountable for their “evil”.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they shouldn’t be destroyed.  We could say that they should be destroyed because they are dangerous and harm others.  We could say they should be destroyed because “evil” should be eradicated.  However, we could not say they “deserve” to be destroyed in a moral sense.  We can’t hold creatures “morally accountable” for just being what they are by nature, anymore than we would hold a Lion morally accountable for attacking its prey (or for just being a Lion).  But this is what is at the heart of Calvinism, the idea that God rightly “punishes” (not just destroys) creatures who can no more help being what they are or doing what they do than an Orc can presumably help coming out of the ground “evil.”  In the end, we are saying that God holds His creatures morally accountable for being just as He intended for them to be, with no power or ability to be otherwise, and then punishes them for being just what He intended them to be.  Therefore, God essentially punishes His creatures just for being His creatures, and this is supposed to bring Him glory?

[4] For more on why Calvinist determinism makes nonsense of the language of “choice”, see my post, The Reality of Choice and The Testimony of Scripture.

[5] The problem for the Calvinist is that no passage of Scripture teaches that election unto salvation is unconditional.  There are passages that do not explicitly state a condition in reference to election, but the lack of a stated condition does not necessarily imply that the election being described is unconditional.  In fact, in most cases (if not all) a condition is either stated or implied in the immediate or surrounding context.  For a concise treatment of the corporate election view (which I hold to be the strongest Arminian view of election) along with some links to some very good articles on corporate election, see here.  Among the articles listed, I highly recommend the two by Dr. Brian Abasciano, Corporate Election in Romans 9: A Reply to Thomas Schreiner and Clearing up Misconceptions About Corporate ElectionFor a strong defense of the traditional Arminian view of election, I recommend F. Leroy Forlines’ excellent book, Classical Arminianism.  You can see my review of the Forlines’ book here.

[6] See this slightly abridged series by Thomas Ralston for a strong critique of Calvinist determinism and the many problems it creates for moral accountability and theodicy, as well as a strong defense of the Arminian accounting of free will.  For a more comprehensive listing of resources that challenge Calvinist determinism, see here.  Daniel Whedon, in his devastating critique of Edwards’ necessitarianism, The Freedom of the Will: A Wesleyan Response to Jonathan Edwards, summarizes the problem well,

“From all this, there results the conclusion that without free volition there can be no justice, no satisfying the moral sense, no retributive system, no moral Government, of which the creature can be the rightful subject, and no God, the righteous Administrator…If there is a true divine government, man is a non-necessitated moral agent.” (352)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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