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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

—————————————————
(Visitor)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phillips continues:

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

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

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

Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

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

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

Does Erwin Lutzer Offer False Hope to Calvinist Parents?

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

 

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

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

Be sure to check out the full post here

Related:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Addressing the Calvinist Claim That God Can Irresisitibly Cause (Make) People to “Freely” Love Him

Below is a recent response to a Calvinist in a discussion forum which addresses the oft repeated Calvinist claim that while God works in the elect irresistibly, the elect still freely come to Christ in such a way that their free will is not violated. In other words, Calvinists often say that it is a misrepresentation of Calvinism to suggest that God saves people “against their will”, while it seems that their theological claims cannot actually avoid that logical conclusion.  This is a part of a conversation I recently had with a Calvinist that made this claim:

Calvinist: “My wife made me willing to love her the first time I saw her. She was so appealing to me I knew that I had to have her. That is what the Lord does to His people. He makes us willing by showing us our desperate need of Him and then the beauty of His salvation. He makes us willing by giving us a new heart to know our need and to see the wonder of the truth of the Gospel as it is in Christ.”

Me: “But prior to that we were God haters who wanted nothing to do with God, so the analogy fails. And we didn’t want a “new heart” prior to God giving us one (in Calvinism, since in my view the new heart is clearly and Biblically the result of faith, and not the cause). It would be like someone using a mind control device in someone who hated broccoli and controlling the mind in such a way that it suddenly found broccoli irresistibly attractive. Would we say that the person then freely chose to love broccoli? Of course not.”

Calvinist: “That is why Christ said that you must be born again in order to even see the kingdom of God. The new nature must come before faith. God making us willing is not mind control in the sense that you describe it but giving us a new nature and a new mind. Of course the analogy isn’t perfect but it does illustrate the fact that we can be made to love without it being against our will.”

Me: “No it doesn’t. If we were God haters that wanted nothing to do with Christ prior to His irresistible act of “giving us a new heart” that “makes us willing”, then it was certainly “against our will” because our will was to hate and reject God prior to His irresistible working in us. It would be like a man meeting a girl at a bar and the girl doesn’t like him and wants nothing to do with him. In fact, she finds him repulsive. So the man slips a pill in her drink that removes her inhibitions and causes her to begin to find him attractive, even to the point of “making her willing” to sleep with him. Now if this incident was brought before the court, would the court say that the man is not liable for violating the woman against her will, since the pill he put in her drink “made her willing”? Of course not. Nobody would say that she freely chose to be with the man under such circumstances, and no one would say that her will was not violated.”

“As distasteful as this illustration might be, it illustrates the exact same principle behind your claims that while God “makes us willing” this making us willing by “giving us a new heart” is not a violation of the person’s will. Instead of dropping a pill into our drink, God drops a “new heart” into our God hating chest. The only difference would be that in your view of how God works, the “effects” of the “drug” would never wear off. But that doesn’t change the fact that a person’s will has been obviously violated in the process.”

“It really is pretty simple. If God’s working faith into us is not resistible, but irresistible, then it certainly violates freedom and the will. That is so obvious, it shouldn’t even need to be pointed out. If you want to say that God irresistibly brings sinners to faith and love and devotion to Him (by irresistibly removing their “hate God heart” and putting in a “love God heart”) because you think the Bible teaches that, then fine. But trying to then claim that God does this in such a way that we freely come to him in such a way that our wills are not violated is clearly incoherent. You can’t have it both ways. Sorry.”

Related posts:

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

The Reality of Choice and the Testimony of Scripture

No Real Choice in Calvinism

Is The “New Heart” of Ezekiel 36:26-27 a Reference to Regeneration Preceding Faith

The F.A.C.T.S. of Salvation vs. The T.U.L.I.P. of Calvinism

While Calvinists like to play with flowers (or MUPPETS?), Arminians prefer to deal with the FACTS.  For an excellent and detailed summary of what Arminians believe and why, be sure to check out The FACTS of Salvation: A summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace!!

I just wanted to share some brief notes about my article, “The FACTS of Salvation: A Summary of Arminian Theology/the Biblical Doctrines of Grace,” recently published here at the website of the Society of Evangelical Arminians. It comes to about 25 pages and is a summary of Arminian theology with substantial scriptural support using the acronym FACTS. It is meant to be a positive presentation of the Arminian position and so does not typically get into debate over the various Scriptures appealed to, but mostly assumes a particular interpretation of them.

We occasionally get requests for Scripture citations to support our statement of faith. We have never felt it necessary to add Scripture references to our statement of faith since the website is largely dedicated to giving scriptural support for the distinctive elements of Arminian theology. But this FACTS article now provides that in a substantial way in one article. May the Lord use it to bless his church and advance his truth. [link]

Is Philippians 1:6 A Good Proof Text For Eternal Security?

Matt O’Reilly takes a corporate view of the passage and concludes that Paul did not intend to teach individual eternal security in Philippians 1:6

The Question of Perseverance in Philippians 1:6

For a post I wrote a while back that takes a slightly different approach, but also concludes that Philippians 1:6 fails as  proof text for eternal security see:

Does Paul Teach Unconditional Eternal Security in Philippians 1:6?

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

Calvinist John Piper recently gave the following Tweet:

 I fall asleep quietly confident that I will be a believer in the morning not because of my free will but God’s free grace. 

This is an obvious attack on Arminianism and those that reject Piper’s Calvinistic presuppositions, though it is misplaced.  While Arminians do believe that our will plays a part in our continuing to trust God and remain a believer, it is inaccurate to suggest that Arminians believe our wills are the only factor.  Our wills must be continually empowered and enabled by God’s grace in order for us to continue to trust, obey and remain in Christ, for without Him we can do nothing (John 15:5).  Thankfully, God has provided us with everything we need in order to continue to trust in Him and strengthen our faith so that we will not “stumble.” (2 Peter 1:2-11).  But it is also true that God’s empowering us to believe and continue to believe can be resisted.  While we cannot believe or continue to believe unless God empowers us, we are still capable of walking away and resisting the abundant grace He provides.

Piper seems to see this fact as some sort of reason for insecurity.  But that is not the case at all.  It is similar to the security that would accompany any relationship that involves a level of commitment.  Marriage is a prime example.   I acknowledge that I need to guard and protect my marriage by the choices that I (freely) make that will either strengthen that relationship or weaken and harm it.  I must concede that it is possible for me to neglect that relationship, even to the point of infidelity.  It would be presumptuous to assume such a thing were not possible.  However, I don’t live in fear and terror and insecurity over my marriage, always thinking about how it might not last, and I certainly don’t go to bed at night fearing that I might wake up and no longer love my wife or want anything at all to do with her.

Does Piper really think that those who fall away go to bed believers and suddenly wake up “in the morning” as hardened unbelievers?  It is hard to even imagine such a case.  Such a scenario presents a rather silly, simplified and unrealistic way of speaking about  someone leaving the faith.  Nobody who falls away just wakes up one morning an unbeliever after having gone to bed a believer.  The road to unbelief is gradual, at least to some degree, and it typically involves many (free) choices along the way.   But of course, since Piper rejects the possibility of apostasy from genuine faith, he can only hold that deluded hypocrites can go to bed thinking they are saved and that their faith is real only to apparently wake up in the morning in a more honest frame of mind, finally embracing their unbelief instead of clinging to their false fleshly hypocritical faith that was never real in the first place.  And that leads us to the most problematic difficulty in Piper’s trite little Tweet: As a Calvinist, John Piper can have no assurance that he is saved when he goes to bed or assurance that he will be saved when he wakes up!

Calvinists, like Piper, believe that those who have been truly regenerated will inevitably persevere to the end in saving faith.  But how does one know that he is regenerate?  The only true test is to persevere to the end in saving faith.  If one fails to persevere, that person only reveals that while he may have thought his faith was real, it was only a case of self deception, or even worse, divine deception.  John Calvin called this divine deception “evanescent grace”.  It was his answer to the problem of so many real life cases of those who lived for many years seemingly loving and trusting in God and producing godly fruit, only to eventually fall away and abandon the faith.  According to Calvin, God gave such people a delusion that made them think they were saved, and even feel like they were saved, only to eventually remove this fleeting grace and reveal that they were just deluded hypocrites that God had never regenerated and whose faith, while it seemed very real to them, was not real faith at all.  For a more detailed look at Calvin’s evanescent grace and the way that Calvinism undercuts Biblical salvation assurance, see the first link given at the end of this post.

So for Calvin and Piper, confidence of perseverance is tied up in being regenerate, and it is not at all clear how one can be sure she is regenerate unless she perseveres (to the end) in the faith (a problem of circularity that effectively kills assurance).  So the bigger problem for Piper is that he cannot be sure that he will wake up every morning as a believer because his faith may, in fact, be spurious.  The only way that he can have confidence that his bedtime faith is not spurious and that he will wake up each morning as a [true] believer is if he in fact wakes up each morning as a [true] believer.  So he can have no real confidence at all that he will wake up tomorrow morning, or any other morning, as a believer.  In short, he is guilty of wishful thinking and nothing more. Again, the main problem for Piper is how he can know that he is even going to bed a true believer and not a deluded hypocrite.   There is simply no way to be sure of this if Calvinism is true.

The irony is obvious.  While the Arminians that Piper wanted to discount can have significant salvation assurance while going to bed and in day to day life, Piper’s theology effectively undermines and makes such assurance impossible and, in so doing, nullifies the promises of Scripture that we can indeed know that we presently have eternal life (1 John 5:13).  While the Arminian could rightly say what Piper says in his tweet, John Piper cannot.

For more on the problems with Calvinist assurance in contrast with the strong basis for assurance that Arminians possess, see the following posts:

Perseverance of the Saints Part 13: Salvation Assurance

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

Does Believing Apostasy is Possible Lead to Insecurity, Lack of Assurance and Anxiety?